Down Under Horror Interview
Updated: Mar 15
G'day Mark, and welcome to the Chair of Chaos.
Bloody brilliant day for a barbie. I appreciate you traveling to join us here on the West Coast.
- Yes I know, it is a socially distanced interview. Only about 5000km. Anyway please make yourself comfortable on our Chair of Chaos.
Do you want some Tim Tams? Caroline Angel left us some.
Rightio let's get crackin'
From what part of this sunburnt country do you hail? And what is your modus operandi with the blood-soaked pen?
Originally from Yorkshire, England, I now reside in Clifton Springs, a tranquil little coastal town about twenty-five minutes outside of Geelong in Victoria. Mostly a mix of retired and semi-retired folk, nothing much happens by day, but under cover of the moon, residents gather in the streets, performing all sorts of debauchery in the blood puddles of dead tourists.
I write all sorts of horror but currently have a weird predilection to dark comedies, specifically along the lines of old-people horror. Anything old school floats my boat, too, that is stories with a twist, ones that carry a sucker punch to the guts. I’ll write anything but splatterpunk, firmly believing the scariest scenes are the ones we play out in our heads.
If there was one thing you could change, improve about your writing or writing process, what would it be? More coffee and less cake are not acceptable answers.
Patience. My writing time is minimal, so I often feel the urge to rush stories to a conclusion to get on with the next. I always feel like I’m working against the clock, likely down to only starting this journey three years ago at the ripe old age of forty-five. I’m getting slightly better, sitting on work for a while before submitting, but my trigger finger is constantly twitching. I was particularly guilty of it in my early days, and looking back on previously published work often makes me cringe. I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling, though.
You have a choice of five people to invite to a barbie. Any five in life or beyond? Ok, make that four because it is a given you will invite yours truly. Four friends plus me to your barbie. Who are they, and why?
I’m going to skip this one, Lee. Too stressful. If you like horror, and like to talk about it, you’ll likely get an invite.
From the isolation of endless horizons to the fascinating deadly creatures that crawl, slither and swim upon this land of sand and fire, what is your greatest Aussie horror?
Sharks. When I first arrived in Australia, I was in the water at 6 am with my surfboard, chasing waves until my arms felt leaden. I’d often surf at dusk, too, without a second thought for what creatures swam beneath. For some reason, over the last couple of years, possibly brought on by increased media coverage of attacks, my visits to the water have become few and far between. It’s the patches of darkness, the ripples, the ominous feeling when the sun disappears behind the clouds. The eyes begin to play tricks, and you start second-guessing. And just the thought of those teeth sinking into my flesh! I used to be fearless, possibly a side effect of depression, but discovering writing has renewed my fear of death. I have things I want to achieve and dreams to fulfil.
Where did you discover your love for all things that go bump in the night, or splat on the walls?
I must have been ten, maybe eleven. My parents went out for the night, leaving me with our Dutch neighbours who thought it would be a good idea to let me stay up and watch Psycho. Enough said. I never stayed there again and didn’t sleep for weeks. But it’s safe to say I was hooked from that point.
Creepshow triggered another series of sleepless nights. You know, the one where the cockroaches burst through that guy’s chest. For weeks afterwards, I used to think I could feel them tunnelling under my skin, working their way to the surface. Fun times, just lying there in the dark, waiting for them to explode through.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Australia and life on this island/continent?
That we are all boomerang-carrying, beer-guzzling, snake handling, kangaroo boxers. We have snakes as big as donkeys and crocodiles lining the streets, all wearing shades for disguise, ready to drag their prey into the sewers.
Other than this groundbreaking interview, what are you currently working on?
I’m focussing on short stories for the next few weeks. I find them incredibly refreshing and love seeing them pop up in various anthologies and to hear them performed on cool podcasts (such as No Sleep, Chilling Tales for Dark Nights, etc.). They give me the freedom to explore new ideas and techniques, all with minimal risk. If it all turns to ash, I’ve wasted a few hours at most. And occasionally, big ideas grow from these smaller seeds.
On that note, I finished only yesterday a draft of a 4,000-word story called ‘Puddles. This was conceived on a rainy day’s stroll the previous weekend. Don’t be deceived by the title; I like to lull readers into a false sense of safety.
I have a few novellas in the pipe for 2022/2023, including Nature’s Perfume from Journalstone, to be released in March. April then sees my second foray into old people/dark comedy horror, ‘One Last Shindig’ from D&T Publishing. I’m really excited for readers to spend time with that remarkable group of seniors.
In November, we then see the release of ‘The Naughty Corner’ from D&T Publishing. Without a doubt, my craziest yarn yet, and I can’t wait to get this one out there.
2023 is already filling nicely, including my third instalment of old people terror, ‘The Generation Games.’ Again, I can’t wait for readers to tuck into that one. The year will also include the release of my short story collection, ‘There’s Something Wrong With Aunty Beth’ – essentially a best of the best collection of shorts (mostly new) that I hope will blow people away.
See how I turned that question into a cheap plug?
Where is one place in Australia where you haven’t been, but would love to go?
Northern Territory. I love hiking/bushwalking and would love to tick off some of their cool trails. I have a reputation for getting lost, so I could likely do with someone who knows what they are doing.
Who are your favourite Aussie authors?
Oh, dear. I am hiding behind the couch right now. I feel ashamed and awkward. I will pledge right here, right now, to put that right. Damn! Seriously, I’d love to see the horror market in Australia explode. Most of my readers are US or UK-based.
With that said, I did read most of the stories in the recent anthology ‘Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies’ from Deborah Sheldon. Kaaron Warren, Sean Williams, Matt Tighe, Ash Tudor - some cracking stories!
All unmentioned Australian writers have just nominated Mick Taylor to take you for your Northern Territory trek. He knows exactly where he is going ;O)
Do you keep your writing strictly Aussie in style or spelling or do you find yourself acquiescing to the tastes of the Northern hemisphere?
I’ve developed an odd hybrid of Australian English, British English, and American English. I make sure I avoid using some specifically UK/Australian terms such as car boot, brass monkeys, bloody oath, and a bunch of fives. Apart from that, I try not to overthink it, assuming people will likely not even notice if they’re engrossed enough in the story. From an overall style point of view, it still lends itself very much to the cheeky British lad within. I’ve always been able to get away with a lot, pushing the envelope under the guise of dark humour, blaming it on my Yorkshire roots.