In a new monthly feature here on The Ginger Nuts of Horror, I get to know some fantastic authors by speaking to them in an informal, conversational setting, over the phone. There are no pre-written questions and the authors don't have time to make up their answers, so what they say is as honest and forthcoming as possible. My hope is that readers will be able to see through the horrific stories and deranged characters, and get to know their favourite authors in a way never before possible. I hope you enjoy this month's Up Close and Personal with April's author, David Owain Hughes.
David Owain Hughes is the author of fantastic extreme horror stories such as Wind-Up Toy and White Walls and Straightjackets, and features in the Number 1 best-selling anthology, Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers. After this conversation, I am more convinced than ever that he needs psychiatric help.
Hi, David. Thanks for being here and taking time out of your day to chat with me. Why don't we get the boring stuff out of the way and begin by telling us a little about yourself. You know, name, age, the usual.
Age? Aw, come on, man. Okay so, my full name is David Owain Hughes. I'm from South Wales in the UK, and I'm 34 years old. I've been writing for approximately 15 years. Would the interviewer like to know something quirky about me?
Please. The quirkier, the better.
Okay, all right. A little birdy told me that you were hoping to put me on the spot. Here's the most awkward question answered for you: It's six inches and it looks like a banana. Actually, it doesn't look like a banana cause it's not yellow. It's as fat as a banana, yeah, that's a good one.
Let's change the subject. What was the first story you ever wrote? I read in another interview that you liked to write stories that would freak out your teachers in school. What was the first?
Laughs Oh, man, that is so true. I actually remember two from my school days and I'm pretty sure I've got them lying around somewhere. My best friend teaches in the school we used to attend, and he came across my work when he was cleaning out the cupboards there one day. He gave me the stories and the one story in particular that I remember was a werewolf story, and it was about this guy who got trapped in this house, and this werewolf is in the house with him. Somehow, the hero manages to make silver bullets in the kitchen. I mean, I don't know how the fuck he managed it without a mould, but yeah, that's one of the first stories I remember and yeah. I'll always remember some of the comments of the teacher – something like, “good imagination” but it was filled with all sorts of red pen, but fuck yes, I was only young. The imagination was there, I suppose. Apart from that, the only other one I can remember is a Friday the 13th-style story where every fucker gets chopped up.
How old were you when you wrote that story?
I must have been quite young. I mean, I was watching the Friday the 13th films, so I'm going to say – ten, maybe eleven.
You wrote a slasher story when you were ten?
I did. I wrote that story when I was ten or eleven. I was heavily into the Friday the 13th films. I mean, I grew up on American eighties slasher films and horror flicks, so it was destiny.
You write extreme horror, but have you ever branched out and written anything in any other genre?
Do you know what? I don't think I have. Not for my own writing anyway. I may have done sort of small pieces here or there for university work when I studied my creative writing, but I wouldn't go out of my way to write anything other than horror. I love horror and I've loved it from such a young age that's it's been instilled in me. I think I'd find it hard, actually, to write something that didn't have a “fuck” or a “cunt” in it – or a knife or a pair of tits – I would find it hard.
You've collaborated with a couple of different authors. Are those books extreme horror?
The one I wrote with Sara Dale, that's not extreme horror, but the main character, the guy I wrote, Gerald, he's quite a naughty kind of guy, and he does some nasty things within the story, but you couldn't call the story itself extreme horror. It's more of a sort of espionage thriller but he's a stock Hughes character, I'd say.
Was that one fun to write?
Oh, yeah. It was extremely fun because this main character, this Gerald, he's just this psychotic hit man who doesn't care what he gets up to. So, yeah. Much fun.
Who has been your most popular character to date?
Laughs. We both know who that is, don't we? I think the reviewer's being a little bit coy.
I'll assume we're talking about Simone from Wind-Up Toy. Tell me where the idea from Simone came from. How did you create such a messed up character?
By looking in the mirror. Simone is pretty much – he's pretty much come from me. Obviously, I haven't got killing tendencies. I would never cut somebody and leave them in a fucking suitcase on the side of the road, although I have felt like it sometimes. But the rest of Simone is sort of – his sexual deviance and some of his personality – you'll find a lot of me in him. If you sat down and got to know me, I think you would say, “That's Simone, right there.”
Were you afraid to admit that to anyone?
Definitely not. In fact, I probably enjoy indulging in the fact that Simone is me. I love telling people that this guy is based on me. I don't know if people sort of wholeheartedly believe it – that this guy is actually part of the author. No, I love indulging in it. I love it. That's me, I suppose. I'm quite frank and open about shit. I don't kind of beat around the bush; I say exactly what I want to say. I dunno, some people can't fucking handle that. I think it's funny to catch somebody off kilter with something totally off the cuff, just to see the fucking expression on their face. I've got a nasty habit of being able to shock with the first few words out of my mouth.
We've been friends long enough for me to know you do that online. You try to shock people, but do you do the same thing in person? Try to catch people off guard?
Oh, definitely. It's even funnier to do it to people I've just met. I think some people just don't know how to take me. But, that's me. That's my personality. I've got a bit of a dark sense of humour.
I hadn't noticed.
Laughs Fucking liar.
You're now putting the finishing touches on the Wind-Up Toy universe and will soon say goodbye to this character. How has he and the world you've created been received by readers?
Readers love him. I think some of them like the fact that I have Simone's personality. I think they like the fact that they could be interacting with the person, even though he's a fictional character. I know it sounds crazy – it sounds crazy even fucking saying it, but, yeah. People seem to really like him. I'm writing a novella based on him as well, which is a lot of fun to write. I'm actually also writing a short story based on the guy. A fun fact, that you'll probably love, I've actually given him the birthday of June the seventh, my birth date.
Is this the first character you've written that is based on you?
I think every author will tell you that there's a bit of him or her in all their characters. Whether it's just subtle sort of personality quirks or what have you, but Simone is, I would say, that sort of represents me the most. Even his past, his broken upbringing, obviously mine wasn't as drab and as drastic as Simone's, but yeah, I grew up with parents that sort of fought, and I saw a lot of nasty shit when I was younger. Simone really does mirror me in a lot of ways. It may not be exactly the same, but our lives mirror each other. When I sat down to write him, it was almost, sort of a - I wanted to get it off my chest sort of thing.
I just wanted to pour myself into this book. Hand on heart, I think it's probably one of the best things I've ever written. I didn't even have to think about it, it just came to me naturally. And I don't know how, but I wrote it within six weeks, eight weeks tops. I didn't even draft it. I just sent it to the publisher and it just broke my arm off for it.
How did you feel when women started coming to you saying, “I love Simone!”
Obviously, I thought it was excellent. To be honest, if I'm gonna be truthful, I think I saw a gap in the market with 50 Shades of Grey and it was like, everyone's going crazy for this type of sex – this BDSM, so I just thought, “Hey, why not?” I combined that with my likes and fantasies, and that's what I came up with. Obviously it's great when people come up to me and say they love it, and they want to see more of him. But it's only the women! It's the women who seem to be the dirty fuckers, not the men. Laughs That probably appeals to me more, though because I get on with women a lot more than I do with men. I don't know if that's just my nature, or what. I have more women friends than I do male friends. I like women. I like interacting with women.
So you must really be enjoying this interview.
Laughs Oh, definitely. I love talking on the phone and I love chatting to people. I love making new friends. It's nice when somebody can converse with you too, not just sit and look at you like you're fucking stupid.
I do that. When you're talking, I look at my screen like you're stupid.
Laughs. Well, I am fucking stupid so...
What's next for you?
Once the Wind-Up Toy universe is done and dusted, I honestly don't know. I do have an idea in mind going back to that whole, “Have I written anything outside of extreme.” I've got a very interesting idea in mind – a private eye, and I don't think there will be anything horrific about it, certainly not extreme. I don't think there will be any splashes of horror. It's just going to be about a gumshoe who's down on his luck and he gets embroiled in a cat and mouse game. It's a bit like North by Northwest, where it's a bit of a case of mistaken identity.
I've always had this sort of passion about being a private dick. I've got the dick part right, but not the private. I think that's another sort of fantasy of mine that I want to play out on the page. I've always sort of wanted to be a private eye. I actually went for a private eye job last summer, but unfortunately I didn't make the cut, but here we are. I suppose I want to be a writer first and foremost, so it's probably for the best.
Let's get even more personal with a couple of questions. What are you wearing right now?
What am I wearing? Pyjama bottoms with animals on them. The top half is bare.
I'm glad you got dressed up for me.
Fucking right. If we're gonna do it, let's do it properly.
You have a baby on the way. Tell us about little Ruby.
She'll be here in about ten weeks time, which is quite scary. The time is moving along quite fast. I'm really, really excited about her coming along. I've always wanted a daughter. I've gone back to this whole female thing again because I always wished I had a sister as well so, there's something going on with the whole female thing there.
There's something quirky I can tell you about Ruby as well. So we decided on the name Ruby Storm. As you're well aware, I've got a black-cover book coming out with Matt Shaw publications entitled, Man-Eating F*cks. It's quite funny actually, the main girl in that story is called Storm and her best friend is called Ruby. Some pretty fucking awful things happen to these girls, including rape and death and everything else. I just want to state for the record that the story came many years before we thought of naming our baby girl Ruby Storm. We just happened to really like the names and it just coincides with this novel – which are both coming out at the same time. I think it's quite funny and I think people are gonna think, “What a sick motherfucker.” So I just wanna clarify right now that the story was conceived many years ago and it's just a total coincidence.
You've mentioned your black cover book, released by Matt Shaw. How did that relationship start?
It all started when the Easter anthology came out, Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers. I was aware of Matt at the time, but we didn't know each other. I got invited along to the anthology through sheer luck. He was looking for authors for the line up, and Duncan Ralston put my name forward, and the next thing I know, Matt Shaw is sending me a message asking me if I'd like to be in the anthology. And it just kind of went from there. It snowballed, really. I told Matt I'd send him a novel, prior to the Easter anthology and he dug for it in his email slush pile, and he liked what he read and sort of – the rest is history, as they say.
What did The Shaw say about your novel when he read it?
David: He's a great guy and he's totally invested in the story, which I was very pleased about. He suggested some edits and some cuts, obviously. I kind of remember his email saying, “This is a good story but it could be a great story.” I took his comments away and chopped the shit out of my story. I figure I cut it by about 20,000 words and generally just gave it a good tidying up. I haven't heard anything since, and I know he's busy, and I'm sure I'll hear back with more edit suggestions, but yeah. Everything's going well. I'm sitting here waiting to see what happens.
Since we're on the subject, what's Man-Eating F*cks about? Give us a little taste of what's to come.
Oh, really? Come on! I've been so vague with other interviews. I'll just sort of give you a bit of cheese to nibble on. It's about a young girl called Storm. She's a typical teenager; she's full of angst and her dad's a police officer. The mother's not on the scene, she left years ago. She's pretty pissed with her father because she wants to spend more time with him, but the job he does sort of keeps them apart. They decide to go to this heavy metal gig, but once again, her father lets her down due to a work commitment, so she decides to go on her own, and all hell breaks loose. Something comes up and starts playing havoc in the town she lives in. When this thing rolls out of the woods and attacks, it gets quite messy. That's all you get! I'm saying no more!
When does this novel come out?
It drops June 4th, but it is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and Amazon UK now, so people can go and grab it.
What's your favourite colour?
David: I don't know if you'll allow me to have black, but if not, it's probably purple.
That's a good one. I quite like earthy foods. I love potatoes and stuff like that. I like shepherd's pie. You guys in America probably don't have shepherd's pie. It's just basically mince and mashed potato. It's just good, old-fashioned earthy food. I love it.
Since you're from Wales, I'll assume you drink a lot of tea, but I'll ask anyway. Coffee or tea?
Definitely tea. I don't like coffee. I can't stand the stuff.
You don't like coffee? We can't be friends anymore.
Were we friends anyway? Okay, okay, I take it back. We are friends. Good friends.
What's your favourite song?
Oh, fuck. You can't ask me that.
I can and I did.
Yeah, I know, bitch. Fucking hell, this is hard. What an awkward question. Why don't you just put my balls in a vice and be done with it? I've got so many favourite songs. A song that I go back to continuously – Do you know what? I don't think I've got an answer to that one. I've got so many favourite songs.
When you write, do you have music playing or do you write in complete silence?
I can write with music. That doesn't bother me. I generally play my music rather loud as well. I listen to a lot of metal, a lot of rock and classic rock, just general fucking shit across the board then, you know? Rock, I'd say, is my favourite genre.
What are you listening to right now?
Just before you called, this is how random my music can be, I was actually listening to Camouflage by Stan Ridgeway and next on the list, if you're absolutely interested, is Big, Bad John, by Jimmy Dean, and straight after that is Disturbed. So, there you go. That's how crazy it is. That's how crazy it is inside my head.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of David Owain Hughes.
I'm pretty much in a routine at the moment. I've got a part-time job so I get up in the morning at ten past five. I go to work for six, I finish my shift at nine. I get back home and take Nicola, my girlfriend, down to work for half nine, and I'm generally back in the house then by about 10:00. By the time I do a bit of housework, I'm normally sat at my computer then until 6:00 in the evening, and that's pretty much my day. It's quite military, my style.
What do you do for fun when you're not writing?
David: Sorry, I can't compute that word. Fun? What does that mean? There's no fun in this house, woman. It's all work.
What's your favourite film?
Again with the favourites? This is quite an easy one, actually, because my favourite hasn't changed in about 20 years and it will always be my favourite film. My favourite film is Big Trouble in Little China. I watched it as a child and it's always suck with me. Always. I have to watch it once in a while, at least once a year, to get my fill. I just think that Kurt Russell is such an overlooked actor and the film is so cheesy and over the top; it's got everything in there. It just appealed to me when I was growing up.
I think you'd make a good actor.
Really? You think so? You mean in the porn industry? Yeah, yeah.
If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
I honestly don't know. No job has ever appealed to me and I know what I said about the whole private eye thing, but that's more fantasy than anything. When I was younger, I don't know why, but I always wanted to be a haulage driver. So, maybe that would be something I would look into. I think it's the whole sort of – freedom thing, but I don't think haulage is like it used to be. I think there's a lot of rules and regulations these days.
I was expecting you to say you'd be a serial killer.
Well, you never know, maybe I'll do that part time. You don't know shit about me. You're on the other side of the world.
If you could go anywhere on holiday, where would you go?
The States, definitely. I've got this love affair with America. I think it stems back to all the films, and I had such a huge intake of American culture when I was growing up that I've got a raging hard on for the place. I need to go there, I eat the culture up. I love American humour and American TV and it's just the way you guys do things. I've got to go there. It's on my bucket list. I'd think the one place I'd love to go is, first and foremost, I'd love to go down to Coney Island. I'd love to see Queens and Manhattan. I'd like to go to California as well. I'd love to go to Alcatraz and see the Golden Gate Bridge as well.
I see. You don't want to visit Texas?
Of course. I love Texas as well. I'd have to go down to the South. I love the South as well. I've got so many Southern American friends on social media that I'd love to go there. The whole southern culture fascinates me. The whole Civil War thing as well; it's just riveting.
I could spend a lot of time in America. Americans are some of my best friends.
If you come to Texas, we have to dress you up to match the culture here.
Does that include a 10-gallon hat?
Absolutely. You need a pair of cowboy boots, but you also have to wear one other thing.
I think I know what the one other thing is. Arseless chaps?
I thought so. They are so appealing.
Would you wear your chaps over your jeans or skip the jeans altogether?
I'd probably just skip the jeans altogether. Give the Texan folk something to sort of, talk about.
Is there anything else you'd like to discuss or should we end by giving people that mental image?
It's bugging me that I haven't given you a favourite song. Because I like so many songs, if it's a favourite song, it would be an Alice Cooper song, that's for definite. He's my favourite artist and he's the guy I go to when I need to calm and refocus. I just think he's a huge inspiration. That guy was breaking the mould back in his day. He's got so many good songs, if I had to pick one of my favourites, I think it might be Man Behind the Mask, the one he did for Friday the 13th. I think that's as good a pick as any.
Before we say goodbye, tell everyone how they can contact you on social media.
This is a short story. When John's wife Megan is murdered in a brutal attack, he goes out of his way to find and punish the killer.