I had the pleasure of interviewing writer Graeme Reynolds. We talked about werewolves, love lorn vampires, and why the loss of creature comforts could mean the end of us all. Keep reading and sample a taste of Graeme’s classic horror for the twenty-first century.
LT: Tell us a little about your novel in progress, High Moor.
GR: High Moor is a traditional werewolf story. The protagonist returns to the town that he grew up in when he realises that it’s under attack by a werewolf. However, as the only survivor of the attacks twenty two years earlier, he is also a werewolf, and his presence may make matters worse. The first arc of the story is set in 1986 and is a twisted coming of age tale, where the second part of the story deals with the main characters return to High Moor and his attempts to track down the creature, while having to deal with his own affliction.
It’s based loosely around some events that happened when I was growing up. We had a “big cat” roaming the area, attacking livestock. The police gave talks at school, telling people not to go into the woods alone and as kids do, our imaginations ran riot. It had quite a big effect on me at the time, and I have been playing with the plot for this one for years.
LT: Are werewolves your favourite creatures? What other monsters would you like to write about?
GR: There is something about werewolves that really appeal to me. I remember a book I had as a child that had an absolutely terrifying picture of one in it – just looking at it used to scare the hell out of me. You have a monster that is pure animalistic rage, teeth and claws that can run faster than you can and can track you by scent. Now that’s scary!
I have become increasingly annoyed with the way that current trends in literature have taken classic monsters and turned them into romantic, reasoning and sympathetic characters. I don’t want my werewolves changing when they feel like it, or retaining their human thoughts and emotions when they turned – I want them to be cursed tortured souls that kill indiscriminately every full moon.
I think its time to reclaim the classics, lose all of the emotional baggage and make them frightening again. Vampires are next on my list I think. I touched on them in Dave but I think that it’s still possible to drag some scares out of the old bloodsuckers yet – the likes of Stephanie Myers and Anne Rice have done a hell of a lot of damage to them over the years, but I don’t think that its gone too far just yet.
LT: I loved your short story, Picnic. If you could do a re-telling of a classic fairy tale/children’s story, which one would it be and how would you change it?
GR: Picnic was a funny one – I did it in response to a challenge on one of the writing forums that I use and I wrote it in an hour flat. It was one of those flashes of inspiration that happen oh so rarely but that every writer lives for, where the words just fly from your fingers. It ended up being one of my favourites.
If I was going to do another one, then it would have to be something unremittingly cheerful that I could twist into something very wrong indeed. Dick Whittington might be a good candidate – have him arrive in London, get mugged and finish up living on the street as a male prostitute with a heroin habit. To be honest though, a lot of fairy stories and kids tales are quite messed up anyway – they don’t need any help from me.
LT: What’s been the biggest obstacle to your writing?
GR: Time and energy, without a shadow of a doubt. I get up every morning at 6am to go to my day job, and by the time I get home in the evenings, cook the evening meal and clear up it’s usually about 20.30. The temptation to just collapse in front of the TV can be quite strong sometimes, especially if it’s been a difficult day. If my mind is too burned out to be creative, then I force myself to go over my stories and edit them, or jot down some ideas for my next story – or collapse in front of the TV with a couple of beers.
LT: What’s been the biggest pleasure?
GR: I love it when I get feedback from someone that has read and enjoyed one of my stories. I have not been doing this long and still find it amazing that anyone actually reads them, let alone that I can scare them, or make them laugh with what I write.
The converse is also true. It surprises me that sometimes I can scare myself. When I wrote the end of Fears of a Clown, I was freaking myself out when writing about the clown’s face appearing through the frosted glass. That story actually started with that image and I spent weeks trying to make a story fit around it. It was one of the hardest ones I have had to write, but I think it was definitely worth it in the end.
LT: Are you planning to do a collection of your short fiction?
GR: Not anytime soon. I don’t think my back catalogue is anywhere near big enough just yet. I have about twenty stories of various lengths written, but it would still only come out at around 150 pages at most.
I would have to self publish it, if I went down that route and it’s probably not worth it for the two copies I would sell (one to me and one to my parents). All of my stuff ends up on my website eventually anyway, so in some respects that is my short fiction collection.
LT: What have you seen, heard or read lately that got your creative juices flowing?
GR: I get inspiration from the strangest places. It can be anything from a line of a song (When the Man Comes to Town grew from a deliberate misspelling of the Johnny Cash song for example), to something that I see in life – I am currently working on a story called The Unclean that came from seeing people making an obvious detour around a homeless guy on the street.
A couple of the writing sites that I frequent have weekly flash challenges that I love getting involved with as every once in a while they spark something that I can really have fun with – Trans-Antarctica came from one of these challenges, where the prompt was “Train”.
I love Stephen King’s analogy that stories are already there, waiting for us and we just need to locate the bones before we can start to excavate them. It really does feel like that sometimes.
LT: A few of your stories have an apocalyptic theme (Statues and When the Man Comes to Town in particular). What attracts you to this theme?
GR: The apocalyptic theme fascinates me. The first time that I really encountered it was when I saw Dawn of the Dead as a child and it blew my mind. As a race we have gotten so used to our creature comforts that we would be completely unprepared if something were to happen that stripped all of this away. We have forgotten so much that our parents and grandparents took for granted, like growing your own food and simple things like keeping warm in the winter.
I wrote a short flash tale a while back called Pulse that involved a massive electromagnetic pulse from the sun knocking out all our electronic devices, and that’s one that I am itching to get back to, because I didn’t do the subject justice the first time around. Most apocalyptic stories involve having the population wiped out, but I like the idea of the population levels being initially unaffected but we lose our communications, utilities and transport infrastructure in one hit, and everything goes to hell from there.
LT: What writers do you like to read?
GR: I read a lot. One of my favourite parts of the day is the journey to and from work, because I can just sit on the bus and lose myself in a novel. I go through about two a week.
Stephen King, when he is on form is without a doubt the best horror writer working in the field today. Some of his books can be a bit self indulgent, but as far as I am concerned; the guy has earned the right, because for every Cell, he produces an absolute gem like Duma Key.
Some of my other favourites are Brian Keene, China Mieville, Raymond E.Feist, Terry Pratchett, David Gemmell, Julian May and Simon Clarke.
There are also some newer authors that I have been really impressed with. Thomas Emson’s Maneater, Sarah Langan’sVirus, and Conrad Williams One are all fantastic and I would recommend any of those books without reservation.
LT: What kind of books/movies would you like to see that don’t seem to be around lately?
GR: I love movies, but am getting increasingly dismayed by the current trend of making inferior remakes of things that don’t need it. While some have been entertaining enough, like Zach Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, some have just been absolutely awful, like The Fog or Rob Zombie’s Halloween. I hear that some genius has decided to redo American Werewolf in London, which really annoys me as it’s probably the first modern horror movie that I saw and still stands up without anyone tinkering with it. There are so many fantastic stories being written that there really is no need to keep retreading old ground.
One project that I am excited about though is that Jonathan Mayberry’s Patient Zero has been optioned as a TV series. If you have not read that one, it’s basically 24 with zombies. The book is excellent and I am hoping that the series, when and if it arrives, can do the concept justice.
LT: Which story of yours is your girlfriend’s favorite?
GR: It’s slightly embarrassing to admit it, but she’s not a fan of my work and has only read two of my stories. To be honest that’s more a consequence of the fact that most of my current stuff is flash fiction and shorts. She is someone that loves to lose herself in a story and really get into the characters and situations. She finds short stories are over too soon and she does not get the chance to really engage with the characters, which I can’t really blame her for. Hopefully she will like my novel when I finish it. She is still very supportive of my work, but I have not yet managed to convince her to let me give up work and write full time. One day maybe.
LT: Where can our readers go to keep up with you and your stories?
GR: I keep my website reasonably up to date:
GR: Is there anything that you’d like to add?
GR: It’s been an incredible year for me. My first story was published in February this year and in the following six months I have written around twenty short stories, being accepted as an affiliate member of the HWA and have seen one of my stories in print in the Mausoleum Memoires anthology. Hopefully I can maintain the momentum and can keep writing stories that people will want to read.
I would like to thank everyone who leaves comments on my stories or emails me to say that they enjoyed something that I have written, because without that encouragement I probably would have given up and done something else with my spare time. I would also like to thank sites like Flashes in the Dark who give new authors a chance to see their work published, and the people that help me workshop my stories on sites like Zoetrope.com and Writewords.org.uk. Without their help, the finished tales would not be half as good.
©2009 Lori Titus