Join us as Nathan Robinson gets hold of horror writer Joseph D'Lacey for an interview for this fine day of HALLOWEEN.
NR- Mr D’Lacey, welcome to Snakebite. First an icebreaker. Favourite Film, Favourite Book, Favourite Band/music? Just so we can to get to know you a little better.
JD-Jacob’s Ladder, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts, Pink Floyd.
NR- Are there any writers in particular that you could name who first left an impression on you as a reader, not just as an author?
JD- I did that thing where you go from Enid Blyton to James Herbert in the space of a few weeks, aged ten or so. Thinking back, I was also knocked out by James Herriot’s vet books – utterly addicted, actually. I must have loved animal themes because, although I was mad for pulpy horror, I was really touched by James Herbert’s Fluke – read it in a single sitting. Other writers whose work has stayed with me since childhood include Roald Dahl (Switch Bitch, My Uncle Oswald, Tales of the Unexpected) Herman Hesse (Siddartha) and Khalil Gibran (The Prophet, Spiritual Sayings, The Broken Wings). Kind of an odd mix, looking at it like this, but it all seemed perfectly normal at the time.
NR-Describe the first time you came across horror as a genre, be it book/film etc. And what sort of effect did it have on you?
JD- Actually, the very first time was an older kid telling ghost stories at school. I was utterly traumatised, a gibbering wreck in fear of my soul. And yet, within a couple of years, I was all over horror like warts on a toad.
NR- If you could have written any novel, what would it be and why?
JD- The novel I really want to write is the one I’ll look back on in thirty years and still be pleased with. I simply want to be the best writer I can be, tell the most entertaining tale in the most engaging way I can. I’ll always strive to improve. If I can learn from others novels, I’ll do it in a heartbeat but I’ve never felt a conscious need to emulate anyone else.
NR- With a film version of Meat currently in production, given the budget, who would be in your ideal cast?
JD- After a three year option period, during which not a lot happened, I was delighted to get the rights back. I talked to a lot of people about what to do – Fraser Lee was particularly insightful – but after a while, the project went cold. We did, at least, come out of that phase with a great script by John Costello and I decided the only way to make the film we wanted was to do it ourselves.
About that time, the brilliantly talented and energetic Chud Brunner of Idion Films approached me – interested in directing the film and with a heap of new suggestions including a crowd-funding platform for the finance. He went mad for the script and, with new fire under the project we began to assemble a team to do the film ‘right’.
Around the same time, I was editing Blood Fugue for Proxima/SALT and had been approached by Timeline Books about a collection of short fiction – which has since become Splinters. I also had a submission with Angry Robot which, having spoken to Lee Harris, looked like it was going to be bought. I found myself in a position where there simply wasn’t enough time to do everything. I had to decide what was more important: wrangling a team of film-makers and being ready to field calls and attend meetings or do what I was built to do – write books. It was awful shutting ‘MEAT, the movie’ down but I’m glad I did. It feels right to be doing what I’m doing now. Frankly, the stress caused by the film, from the moment I first negotiated the option back in ’08, has been some of the worst I’ve ever experienced. I think someone else is going to have to make MEAT!
If there was an appropriate budget, I’d like to see MEAT made in the UK, with new British acting talent, by a production team that would consult with me to a reasonable degree. That’s what you call a wild fantasy, Nat.
NR- How did the Stephen King quote come about? And how far through the ceiling did your head go when you found out he was a fan?
JD- My wonderful and much-missed publisher, Beautiful Books, by pure luck, were working with a publicist who had organised Mr. King’s previous tour of the UK (sometime during or before ’07). They gave her a copy and she sent it to the man. And then, astonishingly, he read it. I was on a winter walking holiday with my wife when the text came through from BB. I sat down on the nearest bench and was rather quiet for rather a long time.
NR- It’s the end of the world; Giant Zombie Chickens/ Carnivorous Oil Spillages/ Robo-Hamsters are rampaging outside your front door so you need to leave in a hurry. You only have time to take one thing with you; what is it?
JD- My family.
NR- Any advice for any would-be-writers getting ready to tout their first novel, and what problems did you come across getting started in the industry?
JD- Where novels are concerned, don’t get old waiting for people to come back to you. Approach every agent that might be a match simultaneously, unless they state otherwise in their guidelines. If they state otherwise, approach them last. Meanwhile, submit your novel to every (appropriate!) publisher with an active slush pile. You never know. Despite a string of well-meaning agents, in the end I secured all my deals by myself.
I had a lot of problems getting noticed and for quite a long time. I don’t know what it is about my work that doesn’t sit well with editors. MEAT was my debut but it was the sixth novel I’d written. Even now, there are markets in the UK that reject every short story I send them. Sometimes, you have to be persistent enough to go around rejection. Some editor, somewhere, rightly or wrongly, will get the idea you’re a genius in the end – even if, like me, you’re not. And once your foot’s in the door, you have a better chance with everyone else.
I was doing okay after MEAT and Garbage Man but then Beautiful Books went bust. I found myself with no agent and no publisher, again, and thought it was the end of the road. Fortunately, by that time – simply by virtue of being previously published and, unknowingly, having some editors in my readership – I began to be asked for work. That was how Blood Fugue and Splinters came about.
Happily, I’ve left a lot of uncertainty behind me now, as I finally have a very tenacious and motivated agent who can’t do enough for me. It’s such a relief.
NR- What are your ideal conditions for writing?
JD- A laptop. Office space. Clean desk. Background noise is ok but not music. An agreed start time and an idea that won’t leave me alone. That’s about it.
NR- What would you say you prefer creating, the long haul of a full-length novel or the quick satisfaction of a short story?
JD- Honestly, sometimes novels are a pain in every sensitive part of the body and short stories don’t give the quick satisfaction one might hope for. It all depends on the idea and how much weight it has. Answering backwards, if I had to write a novel with a flimsy premise or cram a brilliant theme into a short story, I’d struggle. You know what I really like? Finishing any bloody thing at all. And selling it.
NR- What’s the best way to dispose of a dead body?
JD- A small but perfectly-aimed nuclear strike usually does the trick.
NR- If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing for a living? Or failing that, outside of writing what would your ideal occupation be?
JD- Well, I still haven’t given up acupuncture – and I won’t until I start making some coin from my books. Otherwise, a cage fighter. Or possibly some kind of wandering ascetic monk.
NR- Cheers for taking the time to talk to us and good luck in the future.
JD- Thanks. I hope there is one.
Joseph D’Lacey’s new novel ‘Blood Fugue’ is published on 14th November and is available from www.saltpublishing.com
A limited edition run of Splinters, his new and thoroughly fantastic short story collection will be published by Timeline books. Only 500 copies have been printed, however one lucky reader will win a treasure trove of D’Lacey goodies. Buy your copy at www.timelinepublishers.com
Ladies and Gentlemen, come sit down and listen as we meet Guy N Smith, a living legend of the pulp horror scene. Nathan Robinson: .Hello Mr Smith and welcome to Snakebite, first question. Favourite Film, Favourite Book, Favourite Band/music? Just so we can to get to know you a little better.Guy N. Smith:
Favourite film: ‘The Third Man’. Book: ‘Shane’ by Jack Schaefer. Music: Country & Western. Many favourites including The Wurzels.
N.R: Are there any writers in particular that you’d name who first left an impression on you as a reader, not just as an author.G.N.S:
Leslie Charteris, Edgar Wallace, Sapper. The only horror I read in my youth was by R Lionel Fanthorpe (Badger Books) who later became a personal friend
N.R: Describe the first time you came across horror as a genre, be it book/film etc. And what sort of effect did it have on you?G.N.S:
As above, Fanthorpe’s many books in the Badger Supernatural series. They were great fun. They were just about 40,000 words in length. I believe that short books have greater impact than long ones. A story simply told with no padding. N.R: If you could have written any novel, what would it be and why?G.N.S:
I have written what I wanted. I consider that my success has been due to having read very little horror hence I have not been influenced by the works of other authors.
N.R: Many other horror authors are now transcribing their novels into graphic novel form as an additional medium for fan’s to appreciate their work; and your back catalogue would be ripe for this given its graphic nature. You’ve worked with Charlie Adlard, illustrator for the ‘The Walking Dead’; would you ever consider bringing the entire ‘Crabs’ series in graphic novel form? Also any news on the ‘Crabs’ Movie?G.N.S:
If anybody wanted to adapt the Crabs books into graphic novels I would consider it. When I have any movie news it will be on my website.
N.R: It’s the end of the world; Mutant shrimp/ Cannibalistic Politicians/ Hybrid GM crops with teeth are outside your front door and you have to leave in a hurry and can only take one thing with you, what is it?G.N.S:
It would be my gun and cartridges. In addition to being able to defend myself I would not then go hungry.
N.R: What modern/new writers do you enjoy?G.N.S:
Most of my reading is pre-1960s books but I do enjoy reading Brooke Vaughn’s books, including ‘The Barn’. see: http://brookevaughn.wordpress.com/category/news/
N.R: What inspires you to write?G.N.S:
After I left banking I needed to write to survive, so I kept on writing.
N.R: What would your one bit of advice be for aspiring authors?G.N.S:
Never give up. The more you write the better you will become.
N.R: If you’d have never become a writer what would you have been?G.N.S:
I would have worked in the Birmingham gun trade. I had an opportunity when I was 17 but my banking family were shocked at the idea and talked me out of it. N.R:
Cheers and thank you for your time, it's been a pleasure.***
Guy N Smith's latest novel, The Eight Day, is available as and E-book http://www.guynsmith.com/the_eighth_day_guy_n_smith_B200.htm
. So far over 50 of his novels have been released as E-books and he's the same amount again to be released soon.
He doesn't believe in favourites, but likes old school monster movies and is one of the 66% percent of writers who would grab a gun before anything else in the event of an apocalypse. Ladies and gentlemen, come and join me whilst we have a chat with Mr Ray Garton. . . Nathan Robinson:
So Mr Garton, welcome to Snakebite, first question. Favourite Film, Favourite Book, Favourite Band? Just so we can to get to know you a little better. Ray Garton:
I’ve given up trying to answer “favorite” questions. Because a half hour after I do, I change my mind. I find it difficult to pick favorites. There are so many books and movies and writers and filmmakers and musicians who’s work I’ve loved, and whose work has influenced me in ways big and small, that I just can’t pick a favorite. I used to try, just for the sake of the interview, but I’ve given up. N.R:
Are there any writers in particular that you’d name who first left an impression on you as a reader, not just as an author. R.G:
As a reader, I look for a writer who can make me forget I’m reading, and there’s no shortage of those, fortunately. I never tire of the writing of Charles Dickens, Robert Heinlein, Angela Carter, John Irving, Elmore Leonard, David Martin, Ken Follet, Steven Spruill, James Newman, Sidney Sheldon, Oscar Wilde — the list goes on and on, which is why it’s so hard from me to pick a favorite.
As a writer, Richard Matheson was a huge influence and probably set me on the path to being a writer. Stephen King’s early novels taught me that horror stories can be as real and believable as a stroll through town. Richard Laymon taught me there really aren’t any barriers or taboos. Cornell Woolrich taught me the importance of making my readers suffer
as much as possible. But the fact is, everything I read influences me as a writer in one direction or another. N.R:
Describe the first time you came across horror as a genre, be it book/film etc. And what sort of effect did it have on you? R.G:
My first memory of it is catching William Castle’s 13 Ghosts
on TV when I was about four years old or so. It scared the hell out of me, but it was a fun and safe way to be scared and I was hooked. After that, I moved on to Dark Shadows
, the popular gothic horror daytime soap opera of the late 1960s, and Twilight Zone
and Night Gallery
and Outer Limits
and anything and everything I could find that fell within the genre. Then in 1971, Creature Features
premiered on KTVU in San Francisco with host Bob Wilkins casting aspersions on his first movie, The Horror of Party Beach
. After that, Creature Features
became an astonishingly important part of my life. Two horror movies every Saturday night, usually as bad as the host warned us they would be — then I’d spend a few days mulling over what I’d seen, and the rest of the week anticipating the two movies coming up on Saturday night. Even the worst
movies fired up my imagination. They were all new and fresh to me, so I didn’t always agree with Bob that they were bad. To me, it was this big buffet, and some of the dishes tasted a lot better than others, but it was always a good meal. And as a result of Creature Features
, there are bad movies that I love to this day. I know
they’re bad, but the attachment is sentimental. These days, I’m much pickier about the movies I watch, but even so, I can still watch movies like Blood and Lace
, starring Gloria Grahame and Vic Tayback, or Tower of Evil
(aka Horror of Snape Island
), or any number of silly monster movies and just enjoy the hell out of them.
My first exposure to horror fiction was the bible. I also have an early memory of my mother reading a book to me that we’d gotten at the library, from the children’s section. I was very small at the time, but this is a pretty vivid memory. The book was about a haunted orchard and it had beautiful illustrations. One of them scared the piss out of me. As I remember it, it was a picture of the orchard at night with creepy ghosts floating around in it. I don’t know why, but that really messed me up — so much that Mom didn’t finish reading it and took it back to the library right away. I wish I could remember the name of the book, but I can’t, and neither can she. If anyone has any guesses about what that book might have been, please pass them on to me! N.R:
If you could have written any novel, what would it be and why? R.G:
There’s no end to the novels I wish I’d written. In the horror genre, there are two in particular: Stephen King’s The Shining
and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story
. I think those books are as strong now as they ever were, and they’re not just great horror novels, they’re simply great American novels, period. Someone who normally doesn’t read horror fiction, or even avoids
it, could enjoy those novels in spite of their aversion to the genre. N.R:
So far I’ve only managed to read Trailer Park Noir
and The New Neighbor
, enjoying both immensely. You show us the dark side of the American Dream, the deceit, the lying, the murder. What inspires you to come up with such seedy storylines? R.G:
Just about everything around me. I never cease to be astounded by the things people are willing to do each other — and themselves
— to obtain some money, or some sex, or some power, or some drugs if they’re addicts, or to avenge some wrong, whether real or imagined, or any number of reasons. I go through periods where I have to avoid any kind of news — on TV, on the radio, online — just because it gets overwhelming. A man kills his wife because he’s tired of her runny eggs for breakfast, or some woman puts her baby in the oven, or a couple tortures the foster children they’re supposed to be caring for — it’s endless. We don’t need vampires or werewolves. We have enough monsters. The New Neighbor
has a supernatural element, and the characters are compelled
to do horrifying things to each other. Trailer Park Noir
, however, does not, and the characters do horrifying things to each other for all the human reasons people normally do them. I find that stuff more disturbing because it happens all the time. We don’t have to worry too much about a succubus moving in across the street, but the kind of people you encounter in Trailer Park Noir
are all around us. N.R:
It’s the end of the world; Aliens/Biblical Floods/Psycho Mutant Lesbian Rednecks are outside your front door so you have to leave in a hurry and one take one thing with you; what is it? R.G:
A gun. N.R:
Any advice for any would-be-writers getting ready to tout their first novel? R.G:
Develop a thick skin if you don’t have one already. Learn to listen to editors or readers or critics when they’re critical and be honest with yourself. If the criticism is useful, apply it and remember it in the future. If it’s not, accept it with a smile. Praise feels good, but good criticism is useful and extremely valuable because you can learn from it and get better. But if you’re too sensitive or thin-skinned to listen, it does you no good. Don’t whine about a bad review — keep in mind that you are being reviewed
. As Oscar Wilde wrote, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” N.R:
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing for a living? R.G:
I’ve often wondered that. Writing is, and always has been, such an integral part of my life that, if I weren’t a writer, I probably would be a radically different person. I might have ended up the psychologist that I thought, for a brief time in college, I wanted to be. Then again, I might have done something wildly
different and gone into some kind of business. I just cannot imagine myself doing that. But if you took out the part of me that’s a writer, you’d rip out big chunks of all the other parts, as well, so like I said, I would be a very
My website: RayGartonOnline.com
She listens to classical music, sleeps with a gun beneath her bed and clearly has a crush on Paul Bettany; ladies and gentleman please come and meet Eloise J Knapp . . .
Nathan Robinson - So Miss Knapp, welcome to Snakebite, first question. Favourite Film, Favourite Book, Favourite Band? Just so we can to get to know you a little better.
Eloise J Knapp -“I'm one of those people who never has a firm favorite anything, but off the top of my head... Pandorum for film, Plaguesville, USA for book, and I'm not huge into music (crazy, I know!) but I do listen to musicians like Patrick Watson and Philip Glass.”
NR- Are there any writers in particular that you’d name who first left an impression on you as a reader? Not just as an author.
EJK-“Definitely Bentley Little. His anthology "The Collection" really stuck with me. I remember his works more than any others. Not because it is stunning prose, but because the stuff he comes up with is so disturbing.”
NR-Describe the first time you came across horror as a genre, be it book/film etc. And what sort of effect did it have on you?
EJK-“I watched House on the Haunted Hill when I was 8. It traumatized me. Even if I watch it now, though it isn't that scary of a movie, I get freaked out and end up turning it off. It scared me but it made me like the feeling of being scared, which is why I like horror movies so much.”
NR- If you could have written any novel, what would it be and why?
EJK-“I wouldn't want to have written any novel, actually. If I wrote it, I wouldn't enjoy it...if that makes any sense. I don't reread my own novels for entertainment (I might look over them to see how I wrote something, or to learn from) but I can read other books repeatedly.”
NR- Your debut novel ‘The Undead Situation’ was released to great acclaim, gathering a growing army of followers as word of mouth spread. If it does reach cult status, how far are you planning to take the story of Cyrus V. Sinclair? Do you have a long term plan for him in the apocalypse?
EJK-“I have an army of followers?! YES! That is awesome. Honestly, Cyrus won't be around for more than 3 books. I'm not saying he will or will not die, but I've always had 3 books planned and I'm sticking with it.”
NR- Where did the inspiration for a character such as Cyrus come about? Is he based on anybody in real-life?
EJK-“Not based on anyone in real life, though he is my alter-apocalypse-ego. When I started reading zombie books I never liked how characters couldn't be tough or have the upper hand (never truly) and thought about what I would do. Or what I'd like to do. I started writing short clips with Cyrus in them and my inspiration took off from there.”
NR-If (and when) they make The Undead Situation into a movie, living or dead which actor would you like to see play Cyrus?
EJK-“Ooooh, I love this question! Mostly because I have thought about it extensively. The answer is Paul Bettany. He has the right complexion and also red hair sometimes. He also plays a mean post-apocalyptic character. I hope TUS gets made into a movie quick so he can be in it…”
NR-The zombie genre has had a resurgence of late, what are your thoughts on the market becoming saturated with 28 Days Later clones and eventually eating itself? Or do think that zombies are now mainstream Hollywood monster and here to stay?
EJK-“Zombies are here to stay. People keep writing books, people keep reading them. People make movies, people watch them. I don't see any decrease in that. Originality is running out, but that doesn't mean product won't be produced.”
NR- It’s the end of the world; RoboVamps/ Giant Zombie Chickens/ Carnivorous Oil Spillages are outside your front door so you need to leave in a hurry. You only have time to take one thing with you; what is it?
EJK-“Chapstick. Ha! That's the first thing I thought. Really though, I would take the .22 pistol under my bed and as much ammo as I could comfortably carry.”
NR-Do you really sleep with a gun under your pillow?
EJK-“Not under my pillow, but right under the bed actually! I have melee weapons hidden throughout the house. For real. Baseball bat, knives, and a machete. No matter what room I’m in I can defend myself!”
NR-Any advice for any would-be-writers getting ready to tout their first novel? What problems did you come across?
EJK-“My biggest problem was not being able to handle criticism. Writing the novel? No problem. Figuring out how to get it on Kindle? Easy. But reading reviews and email, or listening to friends and family, make suggestions or tell me something was wrong with the book... I'd be enraged. So here is my best advice: if someone doesn't like your book and has something negative to say, don't write it off as "Not everyone will like my book." Sometimes that is true, but other times they might have a legitimate point you need to address in your writing.
Go over your book at least twice yourself and have a third party read it before putting it up. This won't make it perfect but it is a start. Be willing to revise. Be willing to admit when you're wrong.
As for getting published...well, I got lucky. My plan was to self-publish on Kindle, build a fan base, and send the manuscript to Permuted Press. Sort of a, "Hey, I'm already popular, so publish me, k?" Three months later they sent me an offer. My plan worked, only they got to me first.”
NR- If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing for a living?
EJK-“I could never be a writer full time. Writer's block and I are best friends. In the real world I'm a graphic design student just finishing my junior year. I'm also getting a minor in creative writing. Makes sense, right? “
NR-Cheers for taking the time to talk to us and good luck in the future.
EJK-“Thanks so much for the interview.”
Our resident book reviewer Nathan Robinson had a chance to interview SUSTENANCE author Nate D. Burleigh, where we find out how he first discovered horror from his mother’s knee, how his first novel started as a biography and why he prefers music which starts with the letter ‘M’
So Nate, welcome to Snakebite, first question. Favourite Film, Favourite Book, Favourite Band? Just so we can to get to know you a little better.
– Thank you for having me as a guest. I'd have to say, hands down, my favorite film is The Godfather. I'm not sure why, probably because it's the first movie I can remember where a guy got riddled with bullets. That, and a little kid named Al Pacino, made me a lover of movies. There are so many great books, I don't know if I have one I love more than the rest. Perhaps Interview with a Vampire with Carrie as a very close second.
My affinity for music is innate. I began loving music at an early age and have been a musician since I was six-years-old. So, having one favorite band is nearly impossible for me to say. I always tell people that I'm an M through M music lover. That is, I love Mozart just as much as I love Metallica. If that makes any sense?
Are there any writers in particular that you’d name who first left an impression on you as a reader, not just as an author.
– Always the incomparable Stephen King as Carrie was the first horror novel I ever read. His imagination and fluidity in writing impresses me the most. I also love Anne McCaffrey, Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Ray Bradbury. Every one of these authors had a huge impact on me, not only as a writer, but as a lover of the written word.
Describe the first time you came across horror as a genre, be it book/film etc. And what sort of effect did it have on you?
– My mother loved the horror genre, especially movies. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on my mom's lap watching Creature Feature's, Twilght Zone and a plethora of scary movies. The most influential and frightening movie for me is the first horror movie I ever saw, Let's Scare Jessica to Death. I think from that moment on I became a horror fan for life. The exhilaration of watching Jessica drift deeper and deeper into madness, and witnessing the horrors that circled the drain with her, shaped my understanding of horror. Not only does it fuel our fears, it reveals our inner demons and ignites our darkest desires.
If you could have written any novel, what would it be and why?
– Although it is not my favorite novel, nor is he one of my favorite novelists, the choice would be Bram Stoker's Dracula. Because it is the mother of all vampire novels, movies, TV shows, and so on.
Your Novel ‘Sustenance’ deals with a powerful supernatural force that is older than Mankind itself. Where did the seed for this story first emerge in your imagination? And what inspires you to write?
– In all honesty, the story started as a biography. My life wasn't all that exciting, so I decided to throw in a supernatural element. I began toying with the idea of making my protagonist a traditional blood sucking vampire, but for the character, a blood lust wasn't in the cards, so I created something different. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll leave it at that. However, the force that pursues him is the oldest known demon on record, Lilith. I had read about her in a college English class and thought she would make a great nemesis in my story.
For your first novel you decided to target the Young Adult literary market, yet your short stories are traditionally aimed at more adult audience. (but hey! horror is for everyone). Was the triumph of other titles in the genre such as The Hunger Games, Twilight etc a reasoning behind this?
– Truth be told, I wrote my novel for the YA literary market to allow my children the opportunity to read it. I wouldn't suggest anyone younger than 16 read it, but my son is 14 and has helped me along the way which earned him the right to read it.
The triumph of other novels in the genre had nothing to do with it as I probably thought up “Sustenance” before either of these books were written. It was about 13 years ago while I worked at a boring job doing computer tech support. However, I didn't really dig in and finish until about 3 years ago. Since then I've written a second young adult supernatural thriller called Origin and am working on my third novel, which will target adult audiences and read more like my short horror stories.
It’s the end of the world; Zombie/Asteroids/Were-Sloths are outside your front door and you have to leave in a hurry and can only take one thing with you, what is it?
– In my eyes, the family unit as a whole is one entity. Therefore, I would bring my family. If I have to choose one household item, it would be a Leatherman tool. Everything a growing boy needs to face the apocalypse.
Any advice for any would-be-writers getting ready to tout their first novel?
– I would encourage them to stick with it. The only way to complete a novel is to sit down and write one. Give yourself a deadline for completion and complete a certain number of words per day or week. I would steer away from mapping out the story. While this works for some authors, I think it can stifle you creatively. Let the novel come to you chapter by chapter. You'd be surprised at where a story can steer you.
Stepping away from horror, what do you do in the 'real' world?
– I am a Long Term Disability Analyst for a fortune 500 insurance company. Not what I planned on doing as a child, but it's interesting work and pays the bills. My wife doesn't have to work and my kids get some of the things they want, not everything of course.
Cheers and thank you for your time
No problem. I appreciate you taking the time to get to know me better.
Now that THE DEAD has been around on DVD and BLU-RAY and with a behind the scenes book head your way very soon (watch out for the review of the book in the coming months) I have decided to repost my interview from 2010 with Jon and Howard Ford the directors of THE DEAD.
1) First off well done on such a fantastic film. How did you feel the world premiere went at frightfest?
HOWARD: Thanks a lot! It was amazing seeing the film on that 55ft screen and the reaction after was amazing. It was so gratifying to hear that so many people had understood what we were trying to do with the film and also felt the emotion we were going for. We are very grateful for the generous reactions we’ve been seeing emerge online. Someone alerted me to one comment about someone being so tense in some parts they were squeezing their partners hands harder than when they gave birth!. Ha. It’s an amazing thing to feel support from the true fans of the genre as Jon & I are fans too and that’s who we made the film for! It was also really weird being banded around in the press afterwards having cameras shoved in our faces and doing autographs etc. Bizzare!!
JON: Thank you very much! I felt the premier went really well! I was watching the audiences reactions and was very happy to see they jumped in the right places and seemed to be really involved in the story. Many people came up to me afterwards to say how surprised that they had became so emotionally involved in a Zombie movie! They just weren't expecting that!
2) When the creators of the Best Selling Computer game Resident Evil 5 decided to set the game in Africa they were barraged with complaints, Did you get any Criticism for also setting THE DEAD in Africa?
HOWARD: Great question and it’s a sad reality that even a small number of people might try and twist the sentiment of the movie like this. We have a great many friends in Africa, some were also involved in this project and in fact I recently mentioned the small amount of reaction we had had in this respect to them and they found it ridiculous and actually had a hard time believing that people could misunderstand the movie in this way. Luckily, everyone who has seen the film so far can see that we actually portray the African characters in the film as strong characters with high morals – more so even than our American lead who is more of a flawed character and learns good lessons from the African people he encounters.
JON: There are always going to be a small minority who complain and try to take the moral high ground about this sort of thing. The fact is pretty much everyone who has seen the film knows nothing could be further from the truth. The underlying theme of the film is about how people from different cultures can forget their differences and unite together for the good of all.The locals in Africa are proud people who were so pleased to be making a film that is purely about entertainment and doesn’t patronise them with the usual "look at the poor starving Africans" routine. They actually told me this on many occasions. They wanted the opportunity to show the world that they too could be part of a movie which can work internationally, and then maybe pave the way for more to be made over there, which would really help the local economy. HOWARD: Also, I must add that 2 of the most famous zombie films of all time – ‘Night of the living dead’ ‘Dawn of the Dead’ – set in the US of course – the lead male is Black and he happens to have to battle with lots of zombies, most of whom happen to be white. Of course there is absolutely nothing controversial in this unless you are someone who looks for that sort of thing – you can find negativity in anything if you are inherently negative. ‘The Dead’ happens to be set in Africa – it is set in Africa as we wanted a beautiful landscape in which to set our film – a place that was very open (traditional huts that are vulnerable and not with big cities where a situation like this can be contained) and an environment that is harsh, hot, dry and not so easy to survive unless you have a lot of supplies. It also makes dramatic sense that the main character is as ‘foreign’ as he can be to this land so it is unfamiliar to him in every way. Africa was the perfect place, and naturally Africa happens to contain many Africans and I hope that your readers agree that it would have been morally wrong for us to portray the African locals as anything other than black!
3) You seem to have gone back to the basic style of slow zombies, why did you decide to use slower zombies apposed to the more modern faster Zombie?
Jon: It's funny i always saw the modern running Zombie as the more basic one, because when the Zombies run it always becomes an action scene at the cost of suspense and ultimately horror. When the Zombies are creeping up on you there is a much greater scope for the tension to be really cranked up, Don't get me wrong i also like some of the running zombie movies but in my book the slow ones are much more scary. Besides if we all decided that vampires were now able to operate in the light and they no longer needed to be staked in the heart etc it would ruin the fun a bit by destroying the myth! In effect they would no longer be vampires at all. Howard: Also, we wanted ‘The Dead’ to be a journey movie that is also as reflective and poignant as it is horrific . Its party about loneliness and death stripping away all of the things that life has to offer us and the fact death is creeping up on all of us no matter how far away we think it might be and stylistically running zombies would have killed the mood to say the least! I remember having dreams as a child that must have been set off by hearing my heart beating whilst lying in bed – I would hear the sound as footsteps creeping up on me. I would imagine that I was far away from this ‘creature’ and be slightly comforted that it was at least moving slowly so I had some time but I also felt that if I slept for too long no matter how slow this thing was it would eventually catch up with me and it was a horribly terrifying thought!
4) You told the fans at Frightfest that during filming of THE DEAD you were faced by many dangers. What kind of dangers did you face? and how did this effect filming?
JON: The problems severely effected the filming! We all became ill especially the lead Rob Freeman who contracted full blown malaria. I myself was diagnosed with malaria, we were robbed by the local police on many occasions! Howard was mugged a knife point right at the start. The shipping company at Tilbury Failed to ship our equipment so we had next to nothing with which to make the film for the first five weeks! The set got hit by a tornado which destroyed one of our 35mm movie cameras! Then things rapidly got worse from there! Lol
HOWARD: Outside of the local African people we encountered in the villages who were such open and honest people, its hard to get into words how horrific it was trying to get ‘The Dead’ in the can. I also felt so personally responsible as Producer/Director and many times I felt the additional wrath of anger from a frustrated cast and crew who were so far out of their comfort zone it was unreal. After Rob Freeman got out of hospital, I even offered him a way out – he could fly home and we would re write the script so he died early on but he simply would not quit! He’s got to be admired for that! Everyone became ill at some point, including the African members of our cast and crew and they were as fearful and frustrated as we were when we were held up by police for money. Some people call what we faced corruption, some might say its people using their position to do what it takes to get food on their families table. I don’t know the answer but I can tell you that its incredibly inconvenient when you’re just trying to stay on schedule! Some of the things that happened have caused us to seriously consider that the production has been cursed and there was so much horror in making ‘The Dead’ that i am writing a book about it, documenting every single painful incident that happened. This will hopefully be released with the film.
5) How did you create such a harrowing zombie tale? and what films inspired you?
JON: Thank you! There are so many films that inspired us which include the more obvious ones ie Dawn of the dead, Fulci's movies, And a great almost unknown film from the mid seventies called Lost in the desert. There are many more but it'll be fun to see how many people spot the references.
6) What are you both working on next?
HOWARD There are a couple of other projects bubbling away nicely but to quote a cliché, we can’t tell you much more at this stage. Finally getting our zombie movie on screen has certainly been the realization of a dream but I believe we’ve got a lot more to offer the film world besides ‘The Dead’. Of course, it’s all hinging on how this one goes but our aim is to make films that are first and foremost, entertaining, but also can be enjoyed by an audience who like to explore subject matters with a deeper meaning than what appears to be on the surface. There is also talk of a follow up to The Dead and if the fans support this by viewing it on anything other than a pirate copy then firstly we thank them for their support but they should also know that this will pave the way for us to be able to deliver more and whilst we’re already overflowing with ideas on it, we’ll be looking out for feedback on what true fans of the genre would like to see! Thanks for talking to us.
Nathan's review of WOLF HUNT proved yet again that Jeff Strand is one of the best around at the moment so what better way of leading up to our review of his latest novella FAINT OF HEART then to re post an old interview we did back in 2010 with the man himself.Firstly I wanted to give you tons of praise for THE SINISTER MR CORPSE, what inspired the storyline?
The mental gestation period on that book was so long that I can't pinpoint any specific inspiration, but one day I started writing a screenplay where scientists were bringing a corpse back from the dead while a camera crew filmed them and reporters watched. One of the scientists had his fingers in the corpse's mouth, and I kept stretching out the gag where you KNEW the body was going to come back to life and bite his fingers off. It was about a page of prodding around in there before the inevitable happened.
I abandoned that script after only a few pages, but later I took that concept and changed it to live television. From there, of course, our zombie had to become a national celebrity, and I thought it would be funny to write a novel about a zombie who starts out as a complete jerk but learns to become a better person. The feel-good zombie novel of the year!Speaking to you previously I can tell you have a great sense of humour, have you passed some of your traits into the main character, Stanley’s persona?
I'd like to think that I'm nowhere near as obnoxious as Stanley. There's not much that he says in the book that I can imagine myself saying in real life. I tend to have a pretty dry sense of humour in person, and though I guess he has some of my sarcasm, Stanley's sense of humour is very much about covering for some big-time insecurity. I have spoken to many writers over the years about various writing styles, What kind of writer are you? i.e do you plot your work or go with the flow?
It varies a lot from project to project. With THE SINISTER MR. CORPSE, for example, I knew how things were going to work out in the last two chapters, and I had ideas for a couple of key scenes along the way, but most of it was just made up as I went along. DWELLER, on the other hand, had a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline. PRESSURE is divided into four parts; I knew where each part began and ended, but not much beyond that. WOLF HUNT had a full synopsis before I started writing. THE SEVERED NOSE was a 100% "go with the flow" book--I don't think I could have told you what was going to happen more than a page ahead. Generally, though, I like to have a vague idea of where things are headed and then leave myself open to all of the ideas that occur to me while I'm writing a book.I can’t interview without mentioning DWELLER (which without a shadow of a doubt was my favourite book of 2010). The relationship between the boy and his monster is a sad tale an unbreakable friendship but also the loneliness one person can feel inside himself, was the story based on some inner feelings or just a brilliant story that popped into you head?
It came from the concept of "A boy becomes friends with a monster, and the novel follows them throughout their entire lifetime, from childhood to old age." The whole "bullied kid has a murderous monster pal" has been done before, but I'd never seen that idea told in a way that covered a few decades. The book wasn't really based on any personal inner feelings; it was just about figuring out what kind of person WOULD form a lifetime bond with a big hairy clawed fanged creature in the woods. Toby, the main character, makes some pretty freaking awful decisions during the course of the novel, but my goal was to make sure the reader could understand his feelings, even if you're screaming "No! No! Don't do it!" at the page.What got you writing horror?
It's what I liked to read! I'd written horror as early as high school, but my first three published novels were all comedies. Then my novel GRAVEROBBERS WANTED (NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY) got me labelled as a "horror author," and I completely embraced that. With the closure of many book stores in both America and the UK how do you see the book trade going in the future?
Digital! I honestly think that a lot of the people who despise the idea of e-books would change their mind after five minutes with a Kindle. As much as I love browsing bookstores, there's something incredible about the fact that I can be sitting at home listening to a podcast, hear a recommendation for a book that sounds interesting, and have a free sample of it on my e-reader in 60 seconds. If I like the sample, I can have the full book in another 60 seconds.
I look back fondly at the several years I spent in the late 80's and early 90's desperately seeking a copy of Jack Ketchum's OFF SEASON. When I FINALLY found a copy in a used bookstore it was like a heavenly light shone down upon me while a choir sang. I loved the thrill of the hunt, and there's some nostalgia about the days of obsessively scouring bookstores for rare titles...but ultimately, I'd rather read the book than look for it.Are you more of a horror fiction or horror film fan?
I'd rather read a really good horror novel than watch a really good horror movie...but I'd rather watch a really bad horror movie than read a really bad horror novel.What is you favourite book and film?
My favourite book is BOY'S LIFE by Robert McCammon. My favourite film is SHAUN OF THE DEAD. WOLF HUNT has just been released can you tell our readers a little about the story?
George and Lou are a couple of thugs for hire who've been given a pretty simple job: to transport a man in a cage across the state of Florida. The man, they're told, is a werewolf. I wanted to call the novel THE MAN IN A CAGE WHO MAY OR MAY NOT BE A WEREWOLF BUT YOU'LL HAVE TO READ THE BOOK TO FIND OUT FOR SURE to avoid spoilers, but decided against it, so I'll reveal that yes, he is a werewolf. And he gets loose, leading George and Lou to go on a...WOLF HUNT!
After the bleak DWELLER, I was in the mood to write more of a "fun" book. I'm not sure I'd call it a full-on horror/comedy like THE SINISTER MR. CORPSE or BENJAMIN'S PARASITE...it's really more of an action/horror novel with lots of laughs and no lack of gore. What is next for Jeff Strand?
My next novel, FANGBOY, comes out in April from Delirium Books. It's a fairy tale and much more on the "comedy" side of the horror/comedy equation. Then I have a novella called FAINT OF HEART, which is much more on the "horror" side of the equation. It's a very dark suspense tale. That one isn't yet scheduled, but it'll be from Sideshow Press. Beyond that, I'm currently without a deadline at the moment, which means that I'm having fun working on lots of different projects at once. Even I don't know which one will be finished first!JEFF STRAND IS THE AUTHOR OF SOME BRILLIANT BOOKS. SOME OF THOSE BOOKS INCLUDE: DWELLER, THE SINISTER MR CORPSE AND PRESSUREFOR MORE INFO ON JEFF VISIT HIS WEBSITE: http://jeffstrand.wordpress.com/TO BUY A COPY OF JEFF'S NEW BOOK WOLF HUNT VISIT AMAZON: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wolf-Hunt/dp/B004RYVGQM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1300488935&sr=8-1
Hello and Welcome to Clare’s Crypt….I've just finished your short story 'the almighty penis god', found it absolutely fascinating, you call this genre 'bizarro', could you explain what this is? And more especially what this short means to you, because I get so many different layers and things going on in it?
I would classify my style as more weird than Bizarro. However, I do tend to utilize the genre at times to establish backgrounds and develop particular situations. There are some very great Bizarro authors out there and I pale in comparison. When people ask, I just say Bizarro because it’s easier to explain. Bizarro utilizes elements of absurdism and satire to create odd and fascinating worlds that are as weird as they are entertaining. It stems from a type of speculative fiction that embraces the avant-garde and surrealism. Really though, in my opinion, Eraserhead Press is the very root of Bizarro, creating a forum for authors to explore, create and evolve the genre.
Basically, for us thickos, explain what you are trying to say?
As for your second question, when I was writing The Almighty Penis God, I wanted to reflect humanities preoccupation with greed, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and happiness. But, above all else, I was just trying to create a story that readers would enjoy if they could just let go of the mundane and let their imaginations take them away. Stories should be fun and entertaining above all else, in my opinion.
Life is funny if you look at how absurd it really is. Nations are constantly in conflict. Religion fuels the flames of social unrest. To me, satire is the only way to go. Maybe if people realized how silly they were acting, they would take a step back; just take a moment and laugh at it all. How ridiculous is it when people judge one another by their sexual preference, religious views, or political affiliation? It’s downright absurd. And, to me, that’s where Bizarro fits in. It laughs at convention and bitch slaps the mundane. It’s the perfect medium. You've written some pretty ace titles 'A Goat by any other name is still a Fucking Goat' is a pretty good one, where do you get your inspiration, or for a less boring question, what makes you tick ?
Usually, my stories start on a whim. I think of something that is completely out of the norm and run with it. Also, I’m an avid reader, so by immersing myself in other people’s work, I get ideas and jot notes down as I read. Other than that, I like anything that questions convention: music, literature, art. Having grown up on a steady diet of punk and metal in the 80’s, I learned to extend my most primal finger to what society deems as the ‘norm’. As I’ve gotten older, I tend to laugh at most of what happens in life. Generally, it’s just not worth the energy I had expended in my youth. Now, if I have a problem with something in society, I’ll write it down, twist the hell out of it, and hope other people share in my disillusionment.
Who are your favourite authors? What scares you? What thrills you?
My favorite authors? Damn, that’s a hard one. I started reading the beat authors when I was a youngster after a small stint in college. I became absolutely fascinated with Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac, inhaling everything I could find. I had a mentor back then that introduced me to all of these amazing writers and I went from there. More recently, about in 2008, I found Z. A, Recht’s Plague of the Dead, and discovered Permuted Press and all of the great titles they have released.
What scares me? The government scares the f*ck right out of me. Real life is always scarier than anything we could ever try to produce, and those that are in power are the scariest ones of all.
What thrills me? Uninhibited sex… and cotton candy. I f*cking love
cotton candy! What do you have in pipeline in the future, what are you working on?
I actually just finished a novella which I’m trying to expand into a novel that is set in the ‘Goat by any other name’ universe. It involves dimensional travel, drugs and self exploration. Currently, it is in the hands of some very impressive proof readers. Once I get it back and expand on it a bit, I’ll be doing the hunt for a publisher thing that so many writers dread. I have a second book to that universe underway and plan on expanding the concept into a series. Beyond that, I’m still adding to my set of Zombie short stories that are on Amazon for Kindle. Waiting to die is just something I do on a whim from time to time when the feeling grabs me. And, when the mood strikes, I throw up some weird short stories on Amazon for 99 cents to see if anyone’s paying attention. What do you think of the current dearth of zombie literature, is it dying out now? What next for the horror genre, say fuck off to me if you don't have your crystal ball out?
I love Zombies, but the recent rash of stories that have been blown out (which I’m a part of) over the last few years is a bit much. That’s not to say there isn’t a load of great stories out there, quite to the contrary. But it seems that there are the heavy hitters like Iain McKinnon, Joe McKinney, David Moody, Max Brooks and J. L. Bourne that are still pounding out that good, good zombie lovin’ which so many of us crave. Another new name which everyone should be looking out for is, Matthew Darst. That guy can f*cking write! Check out Dead Things, boys and girls, you won’t be disappointed.
Werewolves seem to be making a bit of a comeback. Vampires have been hit pretty hard by the whole Twilight thing, but there are some pretty damn good books out there that prove the fad wrong. In my opinion, the entire Horror genre is over saturated to the point where I’ll only read new stuff from the tried and true authors that have made me smile from their depravity in the past. Thank you to the wonderfully accommodating Mr Cochran, whose works can be found at :- http://www.amazon.co.uk/Richard-Cochran/e/B005BBNNW0/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1http://authorrmcochran.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/this-is-just-quick-update.html?spref=fb I am always looking for “victims” who dare to enter my Crypt, I cannot promise you will get out alive but you will die happy ……. firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the last year i have had the chance to speak to some of best up and coming horror writers to enter the market, so while having a chat with FLU author Wayne Simmons a few months back, I had to ask him for an interview ahead of the release of his new books FEVER and DOLL PARTS. Lucky for me he accepted straight away.
Thank you for giving up the time to speak to us Wayne. For those who may not know much about you and your work can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got into horror writing.
Thanks, Mark. The pleasure’s all mine – very kind of you to invite me over to Snakebite.
I always say that my writing is an extension of being a fan of horror, and I think many of the people reading this interview – those who are writers or aspiring writers, at the very least – know what I mean by that; there comes a time when you get so immersed in something, so very obsessed by it, that you can do nothing but get involved.
I started out doing interviews and reviews and through that got talking to folks like David Moody, Bowie Ibarra, the late great Z Recht and Andre Duza. Reading these guys’ work got me more and more interested in writing myself. Especially Dave’s stuff: being set closer to home made the AUTUMN series particularly palatable.
My first dabble into horror writing came around 2005 or 2006, when I penned the short story, THE GIRL WITH THE FLAPPING EYES. It was an apoc-horror story about a guy who lived in a small village waking up one day to find everyone dead around him. He sets off to the local chip shop, where he finds the oddly well preserved corpse of a local girl he fancies. Those who’ve read DDG can guess the rest!
I sent the story off to Dave Moody to take a look at, and he was very generous with his time and said some very nice things about it. That gave me the confidence to try something else, hence DROP DEAD GORGEOUS.
Once written, I sent DDG off to Permuted Press. They suggested a few changes, which I made, and in November 2008 (after a year or so in post-production) DDG was released. The book has since been reworked rereleased in the UK via Snowbooks, with a special edition – including the first ever release of THE GIRL WITH FLAPPING EYES – to see release in the summer.
How did the idea for FLU and FEVER come about?
I started writing FLU halfway through the first draft of DOLL PARTS (DDG part 2). It was inspired by the so-called pandemic of Swine Flu: there was loads of footage on TV from South America, as I recall, showing masked cops herding people around as panic set in. It looked like the start of a zombie movie and so I jumped on the idea and started writing immediately. I had always wanted to write a post-Romero zombie novel, so this was the catalyst.
Had you always planned on writing FEVER or was it due to the popularity of FLU that you penned it?
Yeah, I had always envisaged FLU to be the first book in a series, probably a trilogy to start with. What happens after that will depend on the popularity of the first 3 books. I’ve been very fortunate to sell FLU’s translation rights to Spain, Germany and Turkey so far, and would like to broaden the story out to include those countries at some point, as a nod to the fans there. Who knows what the future may hold? It’s been a hell of a ride to date, that’s all I know!
Your novel FLU was a huge hit with zombie fans and horror readers alike. Is it hard to find fresh ideas within the zombie sub-genre with so many zombie titles coming out?
Thank you for saying so! I’ve been very humbled by the response to FLU – I never expected it at all.
I think, for me, the setting and characters maintain the freshness with FLU. The story itself is unapologetically post Romero, the zombies very familiar. But the characters are perhaps different to what you might normally find in a zombie novel; they’re gritty, damaged, not always likeable. In general, I try to write Noir-style characters with all my books; heroes that are fucked-up and heavily flawed; villans who don’t know they’re villans, that kind of thing.
Have you always been a fan of the zombie genre?
Hell yeah! But I’ll admit that the 2004 remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD drew me further into the sub-genre. I joined a very cool forum called ALL THINGS ZOMBIE around then, and, through that became exposed to lots of zombie books and films that I might not otherwise have heard about. It was as important a community to me then as MOODY’S SURVIVORS facebook group is to contemporary zombie and apoc-horror fans.
A question around the zombie genre subject: It is the end of the world, and the dead are coming back around you what five people (real or fictional) would you like in your team and why?
Ohhh, that’s a tricky one! It would have to be George A. Romero to start with: he may be a little on the senior side, but the dude knows zombies. David Moody: he’s a big lad and I’d say he’d do some serious damage with a baseball bat. Andre Duza’s another hack I’d like onside: dude has a collection of mele weapons that would make grown men weep. Rick from THE WALKING DEAD, of course. Flyboy from DAWN OF THE DEAD 78 would be useful too (or more accurately, his helicopter and anyone who could fly the damn thing).
As with all our interviews, and the fact that i know you like both, which is best FILM or FICTION?
I’m going to say fiction. It’s a very difficult question for me: I love films almost as much as books and go through a lot of them. My writing’s very visual and draws as much inspiration from the films I watch as the books I read.
If you could pick one BOOK and one FILM to recommend to our readers what would you choose and why?
AUTUMN by David Moody is the book. It’s simply the best zombie story, by the best zombie writer, out there.
MUTANTS is the film I’m going to go for. It’s a recent flick - French release by a UK director/ writer - that really blew me away. Definitely one of my top 5 zombie horrors.
What are your thoughts on the rising trend of E-Book self publishing and the rise of small publishing presses popping up over the internet?
I think it’s great to see the get-up-and-go attitude of successful writers like David Moody, Z Recht, JL Bourne and David Wellington inspiring new writers and publishers to spring up and put stuff out there. I’ve always enjoyed reading books by indie publishers, Deadite being one of my favourites these days. I do worry about the quality of material going out there, of course, but the proof is always in the pudding and consumers catch on very quickly to what’s good and what’s... not so good. If you’re a writer, whether self-published or trad-published, you owe it to yourself to put your absolute all into what you put out. Anything less is going to show and, ultimately, lose you readers.
Who are your idols within the business?
Fellow zombie horror hacks - David Moody, Andre Duza, Bowie Ibarra, Joe McKinney etc.
And then there are the masters of the horror genre in general: Stephen King, Shaun Hutson, Richard Laymon, Skipp & Spector, Richard Matheson etc.
In comics, it’s Warren Ellis and Robert Kirkman.
Movies: George A. Romero, Danny Boyle, David Cronenberg, Johannes Roberts (F) and Ti West (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL).
You have the DOLL PARTS hitting the shelves soon but what else is next for Wayne Simmons.
I’ve the special limited edition hardbacks of FLU and DDG seeing release in the Summer. There’s a tech noir sci-fi doing the rounds with my agent and I’m just about to start work on a vamp novel (think Skipp & Spector’s THE LIGHT AT THE END as opposed to TWILIGHT). I’ve also just kicked off a very special collaboration project with someone I’ve named in this interview. There’s also a hard boiled thriller half-written and a fantasy novel started. In short, I’m pretty busy.
SNAKE BITE: First off 13 HRS was fantastic and was one of my favourites from Film4 FrightFest in 2010. How did it feel to have the film’s premiere at the 2010 Film4 FrightFest and how did you find the reaction from the fans?
JonathanIt was a huge honour to premiere at FrightFest, everyone was so warm and welcoming and given that we were the festival under-dog, the reaction to the screening was amazing. I think the audience was a little uncertain at first and perhaps saw the set-up with Isabella and Gemma and thought it was going to be a teen-soap but they really seemed to buy into the seething undercurrents of a half-family torn apart by hidden secrets, resentments and class and if they didn’t at least we started killing off the posh-kids quickly. Actually, Gemma has a key scene in the film that had the best reaction I’ve had in a cinema ever! It was a brilliant moment and so much better than I’d ever hoped, so the audience and Frightfest will always retain a very special place in my heart.
Given the Success of 13HRS have you considered making a sequel?
I’d love to! Adam Phillips the writer of 13hrs came up with a fantastic premise that saw the story transplanted to India. His treatment was full of secrets, betrayals, twists and turns with the same claustrophobic atmosphere but in the light, heat and dust of the temples of India. If I was ever to return to the were-wolf genre it would have to be for something special and different like that.
For people who may not know much about your past work how did you first get into Directing?
When I was a kid, you could only see films at the cinema or when they got onto one of only three channels, so if you wanted to relive your favourite movies – you just acted them out with your toys. I was always the biggest movie fan anyway, Jaws and Star Wars were my thing, and when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, it blew me away and ‘the making of’ was on TV; that ‘making of’ was a self-contained film school, so aged 11, I borrowed a super 8mm cine-camera and a roll of film and made ‘Star Wars & The Empire Strikes Back’ with my mate Jason Hill and my toys in the back garden. It was 3 minutes long (the length of a roll of film), completely out of focus, badly framed but I was hooked! So I kept making films throughout my teens, and each film got bigger and more ambitious and I started winning awards for them, so that in turn just fuels the desire to keep on making them. So I progressed from Super 8mm shorts, to 16mm, Super 16mm and then produced my own independent feature on 35mm, that was ‘Summer Rain’. So basically, I got into directing by just doing it. That’s actually good advice, if you want to do something – do it!
Have you always wanted to direct horror?
Most of my short films tended to be psychological dramas, thrillers and adventures so really, I’ve always dabbled in all genres but leaning towards horror. Although that’s one reason I always admired Rob Reiner as he could do ‘Misery’, as well as ‘Spinal Tap’ and ‘A Few Good Men’ all brilliantly, like Richard Donner could do ‘The Omen’ and ‘Superman’. So I love horror but I’m hoping to try a little of everything, like I’m near an all-you-can-eat buffet.
You are following up the success of 13HRS with another film which, again, looks epic. How did the idea of STRIPPERS Vs WEREWOLVES come about?
The producer gave me the fantastic original script by Pat Higgins, it looked like it could be a lot of fun as it was irreverent, grind-house with some great dialogue and it just seemed such a crazy title that I had to do it. I just thought it would be fun.
How did you manage to bag such a big horror icon in Robert Englund? And what was he like to work with?
All credit for all the casting on SvW has to go to the producer. Obviously, I was very excited when I found out that Robert would be joining us and he was a total professional, very respectful as well as a thoroughly nice guy. I’d love to do another movie with him as he’s a superb actor with such an incredible on-screen presence.
How long did it take you to film STRIPPERS Vs WEREWOLVES? And were there any problems during filming?
27 days I think. The biggest problem was just physical logistics I think, I mean if it takes 4 or 5 hours to put the werewolf make up on, and you have a big cast of werewolves – obviously their appearances on set is going to be staggered, and that starts throwing up scheduling problems with scenes in which they all appear, especially if it then takes them a couple of hours to de-rig as well. It was really complicated, so I have to a lot of love and Kudos to Kristyan Mallett, Cesar Alonso and their whole effects make up team as well as my talented first assistant director James Nunn for making it work as well as it could.
You also had two of the biggest UK gangster film stars Martin Kemp (EASTENDERS, THE KRAYS) and Billy Murray (DEAD CERT) in the cast for STRIPPERS Vs WEREWOLVES, how was it working with them?
They were both very professional with lots of ideas and great input.
Your recent films, STRIPPERS Vs WEREWOLVES and 13HRS are obviously both werewolf films is this because you have a soft spot of them or is it just a coincidence?
Just a co-incidence, although if the 13hrs sequel had got green-lit at that moment, I’d still be here with two werewolf films back to back.
Who inspires you the most in the industry?
At the moment directorially it has to be Christopher Nolan, intelligent, thoughtful, blockbusters. I’m also a huge fan of Neil Marshall, how awesome is ‘The Descent’? I hope Neil goes on to have a huge success that matches his talent. Producer wise, I’d love to have the chance to work with Gareth Unwin as ‘Exam’ was fantastic… oh and he did a little film called ‘The King’s Speech’. I also have a soft spot for Kenneth Branagh, he’s a great talent, acting, directing, a nice guy and he really inspired me when I was in my early twenties.
You tend to use a lot of upcoming British actors and actresses in your films, for example former Hollyoaks actress Gemma Atkinson (13hrs) and Tom Felton (Harry Potter films) but is there anyone you would really love to work with in the UK?
The UK has so much talent, it’s hard to just isolate an individual or two. But… I was on set with Naomi Harris once and I thought she was an incredible actress, take after take the director asked her to do her performance in completely extreme ways, and she committed totally to each take, and although totally different, each take looked amazing. Emily Blunt is wonderful too and of course I’d love to direct Kenneth Branagh and rising stars like Joe Millson. Really, it’s hard to narrow the field down – just throw a stone at the Bafta’s and it’ll hit someone you’d love to work with! Oh, and I’d love to do another film with Marc Bayliss (who plays Carlos the punk in SvW)!
This wouldn’t be a Snakebite Interview without asking the following: Books or Films? What do you prefer?
I guess books, as books provide you with the cinema of the mind… so that’s a kind of cheat isn’t it? The distinction between books and films gets very blurred though as a lot of books just feel like screenplays with adjectives rather than committing to their own art form as novels. I enjoyed reading the Da Vinci Code, as it was a page turner but it really did feel like a screenplay not a novel (a very readable script though), so that’s not really a criticism.
If you could recommend one film to our readers what would you pick and why?
Just one film? There are so many great movies out there how can I recommend just one? Jaws is my favourite movie, but I guess you’d have seen that a few times already? So, just a bit left field one of my all time favourite movies is ‘La Reine Margot’, if you want to see a classy French movie about blood, betrayal and revenge with a huge amount of bloodshed and violence set against a historical backdrop… that’s the movie to see. Incredible cinematography, beautifully directed, amazing performances and a wonderful script, it’s a perfect movie to me.
What is next for Jonathan Glendening?
I’ve been very fortunate to have had three screenplays commissioned over the past couple of years, so I’m really hoping that one of those comes to fruition with me as director. Two of them are true stories and the other is an original sci-fi epic. I don’t want to talk too much about them as they’re all developing nicely and I don’t want to jinx them. Adam Phillips (13hrs) also has an exciting new screenplay that I’m attached to direct, we went to Pinewood with the producer the other day to look at potential sound stages which was very exciting. I’ve also just started writing a WWII true story screenplay set in the world of the Polish resistance. As you can tell, I’m working on a wide range of projects but I’m going to bide my time and really work hard to take my next film up to the next level rather than rush another movie out. Patience is the key…
Back in 2010 Film4 FrightFest premiered a film which, in my opinion, was one of the stand out films of the festival. 13HRS is still one of my favourite British horrors to date and when i was given the chance to throw some questions at the films director Jonathan Glendening I jumped at the chance. With his new film STRIPPERS Vs WEREWOLVES coming out this year and 13HRS making its UK TV premiere over on the Horror Channel we talk to Jonathan about his experience at Film4 FrightFest and his journey as a director.