Ginger Nuts of Horror
Simon Kearns grew up in the North of Ireland and now lives in the South of France. His debut novel, Virtual Assassin (Revenge Ink, 2010), explores personal responsibility in a corrupt society. Dark Waves, about a powerful haunting and the rationalist determined to debunk it, is out now. He also writes experimental flash fiction, examples of which can be found on his website.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been writing since I started reading. I played bass in a number of bands in my teens, and still play guitar and piano, but I always knew I would spend most of my free time on writing. I chose to study philosophy at university, rather than Eng. Lit. thinking, why study books when I can just read them, I’ll go straight to the source of ideas.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I play guitar, piano, hang out with the family, watch movies, drink whiskey, or take long walks in the countryside. I live in rural south of France and it’s very easy to quickly escape all signs of human interference.
What’s your favourite food?
To the despair of my family and French friends, I’d have to answer, fried egg and chips. But I love all food, especially fresh, locally grown things. And good wine. And even better beer.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Pixies, for their energy, their weirdness, and their humour. JS Bach, for those times of calm reflection, and My Bloody Valentine for everything else. And some decent, raw funk for dancing.
Tell us a dirty little secret?
I spend far too much time on imgur.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Learn how to edit.
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
Not long ago, I was walking through a local forest when I decided to go off the track to try to get to the cliff face I had seen earlier. I arrived at the impressive precipice and enjoyed the view. Realising it would soon be dark, this was winter, I retraced my steps, only to find myself, after about half an hour, back at the cliff. Thoroughly spooked, I set out again, worrying I would have to spend a night on the hillside, trying not to entertain the idea I had slipped into some alternative reality. The forest was dense but by constantly verifying my direction, I eventually got back onto the track. I learnt a valuable lesson that day: even only an hour’s walk from the village, it is very easy to disappear in the wilderness.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
William Blake, J.L. Borges, Roald Dahl, Ian McEwan, Philip K. Dick, Alan Moore, Daniil Kharms.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I’ve just finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and that was very good. My last disappointment was Sweet Tooth by McEwan, his prose is as wonderful as ever, but his plot let him down.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
My favourite horror novel has to be Heart of Darkness by Conrad. Not exactly of the horror genre, but I think it so. And, I would say Apocalypse Now is my favourite film, but sticking to the horror genre, it is easily The Shining. That film scared the hell out of me when I first saw it aged about sixteen, and, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found new horrors every time I watch it.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would it be?
Which fictional character would be your perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
If our houses were far enough apart, my perfect neighbour would be Jay Gatsby; one would always be guaranteed a decent party to go to. My nightmare would be living in the neighbourhood of Freddy Krueger, I enjoy my sleep too much to be afraid of it.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
O’Brien, from Orwell’s, 1984. Despite wishing to rise above his practices, I would have him arrested and subjected to his own methods; the last victim of INGSOC before the revolution.
And if you had free range what fictional character would you like to write for?
Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. He’s basically godlike and that would be a fine challenge, finding something us humans can relate to.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
I don’t read much horror. I like books that are oblique with their dread. Chuck Palahniuk is a personal favourite. Will Self is consistently terrifying. For me, though, the real revelation in horror has come from recent low budget UK films, specifically Berberian Sound Studio by Peter Strickland, and the work of Ben Wheatley. Astonishing films.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing horror fiction right now?
Vampires and zombies.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
A mainstream review of my debut novel that was a hatchet job. Fair enough if someone doesn’t like my work, but to criticise a book for having a hypocritical protagonist is idiotic.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Working on the final drafts of a novel, trying to hold the entire piece in my head to gauge overall pace. That’s hard work.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I am determined not to write fiction about being a writer. I consider this navel-gazing.
What do you think makes a good story?
Familiarity combined with unpredictability. A very difficult thing to pull off.
How important are names to you in your books?
I’m very fond of etymology, and this naturally extends to proper nouns. My main characters generally have strong reasons for how they are named. That said, some characters spring to life fully formed, name included.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A very large dictionary with etymological explanations. Pen and paper at hand at all times. A place of quiet one can retreat to when necessary.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I’ve never really had the chance to speak to another author on craft, which is a great shame. If any authors out there want to offer some advice, feel free.
What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
Probably something I hear most often from people I haven’t seen in a while, “Are you still writing?”
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Forums, reviews . . . Honestly, I’m not very good at marketing, I’m usually head down into the next book. I need an agent.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
My favourite character from Dark Waves is probably Kelly, the young barmaid. She’s guileless, friendly, and more vivid than any minor character has a right to be.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
My least favourite character is probably a man known simply as “The Artist”. He’s a lecherous, old, self-important painter that I could easily turn into if I’m not careful.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
The piece I have just finished, another novella, I think is my best yet. Other than that, certain of my flash fiction are, if not perfect, as perfect as I could make them.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
I have a stack of old short stories that will never be read, and for good reason. But I won’t forget them, some of the ideas are worth revisiting.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
Difficult to say. This is only my second book, and it is very different from my debut. In terms of my ability to manage my prose, Dark Waves is closer to what I am trying to achieve.
What are you working on right now?
A play about William Blake. And, as ever, flash fictions. Also, as ever, about three or four plots that are simmering on the back burner.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
That’s a good question . . . What does it feel like when you are deep in the act of creation? And my answer? I couldn’t really say, for at that moment, I’m not really there. All I know is that when I return, I feel like I’ve been somewhere wonderful, and occasionally I bring back a little something to prove it.
There are those who believe that science can explain everything. John Stedman is such a man. As a sound engineer, he uses his expertise in subsonic resonance to debunk hauntings, and pursues the task with a missionary zeal. In the lead up to the launch of his book on the subject, he accepts a challenge from a journalist to investigate a particularly powerful haunting at The Dawlish Inn, a 15th Century tavern situated on the south coast of England. John is all set for a pleasant weekend in the country, good food, local ale, and interesting company. But beneath the cosy bar and gourmet restaurant, down in the ancient cellar of the inn, something is waiting for him, something his science can not easily explain, an encounter that will change his world forever.
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GINGER NUTS OF HORROR THE HEART AND SOUL OF HORROR