I always sit comfortably, thank you! Well, except for the times I sneak out of bed to my study at 3 am and forget to put any clothes on first: leather chairs are quite cold at 3am, you know. At least it concentrates the mind (as well as parts of the body!) and I get my inspiration noted down as quickly as possible! Yes, The Showing is based on my childhood experiences in my Grandfather’s house. The book has a great deal of fact in it – so much so that in fact writing it was a hard experience. The book twisted and fought back every step of the way. I even had to keep copies of the file on two separate external memory sticks as the draft kept deleting itself from the laptop’s hard drive overnight. The result was worth it, though, as I’d feel that a lot of the fear I had of that house comes through in the book.
Portrait of a Girl is different though. Whilst some of the same characters from The Showing come back out to play, the story itself is entirely fiction. At least, I hope it is: who knows what some of these strange art galleries contain? Whilst writing one of my other fantasy books (Have Frog, Will Travel – book 6 in The Banned Underground collection), I spent a day in Glastonbury doing some research. Whilst in the shops there, I took note of some of the darker side of the things available. Then, online, I came across an image of a painting called ‘Lucy Brydges’. There were some oddities in that portrait, and an idea came into my head. What if…
The main characters are back again in The House Next Door, about a demon possessed – no, I’ll keep it under wraps for a bit longer as it isn’t quite frightening enough just yet. Suffice it to say that it’s aimed at a late spring release. With added gore.
Oooh, gore! My favourite!
Portrait is released just before Christmas. There’s a bit of a tradition of Christmas ghost stories. Would you like to speculate on why this is?
I’m actually a big fan of the ghost stories of M R James. His classic ‘Oh Whistle, and I’ll come to you’ is sometimes quoted as being one of the best ghost stories ever, and has been both rewritten and filmed a number of times. James originally devised his stories to be read aloud at Christmas, at night and in front of a roaring fire, with the wind raging outside. Of course, he picked up on a much older tradition, when our ancient ancestors gathered around their fires to keep out the winter cold, and told stories of the horrors that lurked in the darkness that hung outside the mall circle of firelight, the terrors that waited for them in the wild wood, and so on. Very pagan, very traditional, great fun for all. There’s nothing like sending people to bed terrified of the dark, is there?
I saw a version of ‘Oh Whistle’ on telly many years ago. Scared me, I can tell you!
Your earlier works are humorous fantasy and you definitely have a serious sense of humour (can I say that – hell, it’s my blog!). What made you turn to horror?
I take my jokes very seriously. So, unfortunately, do others which probably explains why they don’t laugh in the right places. I actually have a stand up comedy routine I sometimes gig, based on the gags I’ve written through The Banned Underground series and it is quite instructive seeing how different audiences laugh at different things. For example, I once told the gag ‘I used to tell my husband to think for himself – until I saw what happened when he did’ to an audience largely made up of middle aged ladies, and not one of them even sniggered. Can’t win them all.
It was my experience doing stand up comedy that drew me to Horror, I think. It’s a different way of causing fear and alarm in an audience. Actually, I sometimes tell some of the short flash fiction horror stories when I do some traditional story-telling locally, and they work well as a change. Of course, a lot of traditional stories – like Grimm’s original fairy tales – are very dark and scary, so that is probably an influence too. My girlfriend tells me I have quite a dark imagination, but I’m not sure that she means it in a positive way. During the last storm we had I made up a piece about thin fingers scratching at a window, seeking a way in and she complained it kept her awake for ages. Hope I’ve got that one written down for use somewhere, actually…
I have to confess I enjoy writing the suspense. One of my favourite passages in Portrait of a Girl is one in which absolutely nothing happens. But in a very scary way.
Sounds like my life story…
You’ve also got a couple of children’s books to your credit, which I have to say, my grandchildren loved – especially the grizzly bits! Do you have any other genres you’re itching to tackle?
I’m really glad your grandchildren love the Snort & Wobbles books. I rather hope mine will when they are a little older, too. I have a historical fiction, with a healthy dose of romance, about half planned, too. Maybe it will turn into a bodice-ripper? Although I have to say that if my ex were to be told that I was writing a romance, I would achieve my secret ambition – someone would fall out of their chair laughing. It’s based in the Presceli hills close to where I live, and takes place in pre Roman Britain. That is partly because I’m drawn to that period of pre history, and partly because I’m bone idle and since it is set before written records were the norm, research is a lot easier! There’s another Romance planned in a lot of detail too, called The Last Viking which I do plan to write into draft in the Spring, after I’ve finished writing the climax of the current horror novel (The Curse of Cliffe House) and the next in The Banned Underground series, which is provisionally called Working Title.
As you know, I also write quite a lot of flash fiction, and have a small collection planned for re issue soon, and I do write and perform poetry on a regular basis. In fact there is some cross-over here, as much of the poetry can be a bit dark, and so I can be very ecologically sound and recycle it into the horror books.
And finally, as you’re a vegetarian, can I ask what you’re having for Christmas dinner?
Ha! I’ve been a vegetarian of sorts for over forty years, so I’m used to cooking differently at Christmas. I do eat fish, so the centre piece will be salmon, with plenty of other trimmings. I’m assured that I can actually cook quite well, and I usually do make an effort at Christmas. This will be my first year without children turning up and demanding to be fed, so I’ll have to be careful with the quantities for once. Maybe not with the chocolate, though…
Thanks, Will. Good luck with Portrait of a Girl.
You can find Will's Amazon page here with all his book details.