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Laird Barron: Primeval Horrors

” ‘Out there’ is a relative term, it’s closer than you might think. Oh my, the great Dark is only as far away as your closet when you kill the light…as your reflection when it thinks you aren’t looking.” (Laird Barron)

My latest post is about an author who is definitely my kind of writer-  Laird Barron, an intriguing practitioner of weird fiction.  Barron has a similar thematic approach to H.P Lovecraft, as he writes in the realms of cosmic supernatural horror. The likes of Lovecraft, Poe, and Arthur Machen are his principal influences. His monsters and antagonists are ancient horrors originating from the primal soup of our planet’s past- although these alien, demonic entities tend to exist in other dimensions of existence, and occasionally outside linear time/space (the title story, “The Imago Sequence” from the collection of the same name is a good example of this). However, they have the power to manifest in our own reality, or only to certain individuals. These ancient entities pre-date all modern religions and are of primordial or inter-dimensional origin, although they are the source of many legends and myths. Their existence is only hinted at in ancient pagan rites, and discredited occult and arcane knowledge. Similarly yet again to Lovecraft, Barron’s short stories and The Croning are all set in the same malevolent universe and are part of a cycle concerning these evil entities who are known by several names or identities, such as the ‘beings that live in the cracks’.

The human characters in Barron’s stories, such as Don Miller in The Croning, are usually the victims of such evil entities; the agents of these beings (whether unwitting or manipulated into being so); sometimes these human characters are transfigured or transformed by malevolent forces.

The settings for Barron’s stories are usually the remote forest, lake and mountain areas of Washington State. The wildernesses of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States are to Barron as the New England of the 18th-early 20th century is to Lovecraft, and Maine is to Stephen King. There are many references to temples, stone mounds, megaliths and dolmens, evil sites and locations such as the Mima Mounds, Crescent Lake, Ransom Hollow, Slango, the Broadsword Hotel, – some anachronistic or incongruous to the modern North American setting; and it is heavily implied that said traditions and rites have historically been brought from Europe by the original settlers and colonists; or have manifested themselves through supernatural means.


Barron has written and published three short story collections (The Imago Sequence, Occultation and The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All) two novellas (The Light in the Darkness, Xs for Eyes), and one full length novel,The Croning. The Croning reminded me of T.E.D Klein’s The Ceremonies in terms of evil entities manipulating human behaviour, remote settings and dark evil conspiracies. It uses the fairytale of ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ as a point of origin. The phrase ‘The croning ‘refers specifically to a type of ritual described in the novel; it also refers obliquely to the masked evil and the gradual transformation of the central character’s wife, linking her to witchcraft. There’s a particular sinister description in the novel when Don Miller’s son tells a story about a supernatural experience he had with a frightening entity that materialised, a manifestation of the evil that is hovering around the family, and threatening Don.

There are certain locations and particular mysterious characters that re-occur and re-appear throughout Barron’s fiction, in different stories. Sometimes they are mentioned in passing or are central to a particular story.  Crescent Lake is mentioned in passing in several stories, and is central to the narrative of ‘The Redfield Girls’ in The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. Characters that re-appear and are prominent in particular stories include Dr Toshi Ryoko (mentioned in The Croning, several short stories and appears most prominently in ‘The Forest’ (Occultation); Boris Kalamov; Phil Wary (who also goes by the name Helios Augustus in ‘Hand of Glory’ –The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All– and is a black magician). There’s also a mysterious book filled with dark, arcane occult secrets called the Morderor de Calginis which re-appears in several stories, and most prominently in ‘Mysterium Tremendum’ (Occultation). It’s an evil volume whose text is constantly in flux, similar in concept to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. Also a curious party game called ‘Something Scary’ is mentioned on numerous occasions in Barron’s fiction. Barron also refers to conspiracy theories and historic mysteries such as the disappearances on Roanoke Island, and MK-Ultra in his fiction.

I found that Barron’s novellas The Light in the Darkness and Xs for Eyes are not typical of the rest of his work; and instead are written in a form of hyper-reality/fantasy/alternate history, similar to comic book fiction, but with horror and speculative fiction elements. I enjoyed both novellas but felt they lacked the depth and sinister atmosphere of his shorter stories.

My favourite Barron short story is ‘Hallucigenia’ (from The Imago Sequence); it begins with the wealthy protagonist, Wallace, and his younger wife being driven by their chauffeur through the Black Hills; their car breaks down near a remote farmhouse; and then the story takes unexpected and disturbing turns.

There are notable differences with Barron’s work compared to Thomas Ligotti, who I wrote about in my previous blog article. Unlike Ligotti, Barron’s protagonists attempt to fight back and resist the powerful evil forces which they are forced to confront. Barron’s central characters are usually younger and more vigorous men and women of action, rather than Ligotti’s paranoid, flawed and helpless characters and unreliable narrators. In fact, in the case of the novellas, Barron’s central characters possess unusual , or superhuman powers. I prefer his short stories to the novellas, but his novel The Croning is as strong as anything he’s written so far. It’s an excellent horror novel, as frightening and brilliant as any novel I’ve read in the genre. I’m looking forward to more wonderful stories from Laird Barron.


Thomas Ligotti: Dreams are Doorways

I wanted to publish a blog post about one of my favourite authors at the moment: the American author of supernatural/horror/weird fiction, Thomas Ligotti. I should point out at this juncture that so far I’ve read four volumes of Ligotti’s work: the short story collectionsSongs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe (re-published together in one excellent edition by Penguin Classics recently); another collection of short stories, Teatro Grottesco; My Work is Not Yet Done (a novella and two short stories); and The Spectral Link (two novellas, ‘Metaphysica Morum’ and ‘The Small People’). So that means that I haven’t yet read Noctuary, The Nightmare Factory (two more short story collections), The Conspiracy Against the Human Race or any other little bits and pieces. In fact, Ligotti has published only sparse amounts in the past three decades, since his first collection Songs of a Dead Dreamer was originally published in the mid-1980s.
Funnily enough, I only discovered Ligotti’s work two or three years ago, and it was not through any literary links: I had enjoyed the first season of the American television detective drama, True Detective. I read somewhere that the show’s creator and writer, Nic Pizzolatto, had been influenced by the unsettling writings of this author, Thomas Ligotti. I researched Ligotti and discovered he’d received much literary acclaim- he’d been compared with some giants in horror fiction, and was regarded as one of the great modern writers of supernatural and weird fiction. So of course, I was compelled to investigate further and make myself familiar with his work. I should also admit that after reading some of his stories, his style influenced one of my own- ‘The Vacancy’, which was published in my collection Echoes and Exiles, and in KZine 13.
I want to encourage people reading this blog article of mine to also read Ligotti, so as with previous blog posts I don’t want to give too much away about the plots of Ligotti’s stories and ruin them beforehand (no spoilers) However there’s some room to analyse aspects of his writing without giving too much away.
Firstly, how to define his style? Ligotti is able to create a sense of the bizarre and strange even in the most routine and mundane contexts. His fiction is dreamlike and eerie; both illogical and surreal. The novella ‘The Small People’ in The Spectral Link is one example representing Ligotti’s sense of the uncanny, in terms of the narrator’s idiosyncratic perception of reality as he relates his confessional monologue. The link with dreaming or nightmares is fundamental- I think Ligotti owes his success as a writer due to his ability to tap deep into the subconscious and connect with the deep irrational fears that are most peculiar and disturbing. However, although morbidity is one of his inherent traits as a writer, his stories are also laced with a dark twisted humour. I found his dry humour and black comedy most evident in the corporate satire of My Work Is Not Yet Done. His protagonists are frequently outsiders, those on the fringe of society or those who are paranoid and disaffected. Oh, and labyrinthine might just be his favourite word.
Come here if you’re interested in a selection of quotations from Ligotti’s work. I tend to find Ligotti’s fiction/storytelling more interesting than what might be described as his mission statements. This is why I haven’t been attracted to reading The Conspiracy Against the Human Race and why I wasn’t such a fan of his deconstructive approach to the horror story in ‘Notes on the Writing of Horror: a Story’ and ‘Professor Nobody’s Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror’. I think these wittily sarcastic pieces perhaps might appeal to (or, hopefully, annoy) anyone who is more inclined to be a critic of fiction.
The earlier collections owe a great deal to HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and I suppose the gothic tradition of supernatural fiction. By Teatro Grottesco, it seemed clear to me that Ligotti had perfected an eerily morbid, bleak and ominous style which works to unsettling effect.
Songs of a Dead Dreamer, favourite stories: ‘Les Fleurs’; ‘Dream of a Manikin’; ‘Dr Voke and Mr Leech’ (like a dark, sinister Laurel and Hardy); ‘The Sect of the Idiot’; ‘The Music of the Moon’ (eerie and surreal, like a nightmare)
Grimscribe, favourite stories: ‘Flowers of the Abyss’ (reminded me very much of HP Lovecraft); ‘In the Shadow of Another World’; ‘The Cocoons’; ‘The Glamour’ (a hideous witch story); ‘Miss Plarr’ (very mysterious and eerie)
Teatro Grottesco, favourite stories: ‘Purity’, ‘The Town Manager’, ‘My Case for Retributive Action’, ‘The Bungalow House’ , ‘Our Temporary Supervisor’ and ‘Gas Station Carnivals’.
Themes and tropes in Ligotti’s fiction
·        Protagonists who roam dark, mysterious streets and find themselves in danger. This occurs in a number of stories- My Work is Not Yet Done, ‘Notes on the Writing of Horror’, ‘The Troubles of Dr Thoss’, ‘Masquerade of a Dead Sword’, ‘The Music of the Moon’, ‘The Journal of JP Drapeau’, ‘Vasterien’ (Songs of a Dead Dreamer), ‘The Last Feast of Harlequin’, ‘The Dreaming in Nortown’, ‘The Cocoons’, ‘The Night School’, ‘The Glamour’ (Grimscribe) and ‘Purity’, ‘The Town Manager’, ‘The Clown Puppet’, ‘In a Foreign Town, in a Foreign Land’, ‘Teatro Grottesco’, ‘Severini’ and ‘The Shadow, the Darkness’ (Teatro Grottesco)
·        Locations such as crumbling and ominous factories, mansions, warehouses, mausoleums, sanatorium, or decaying old buildings in general. Again, many examples- the derelict warehouse in My Work is Not Yet Done; ‘The Lost Art of Twilight’, ‘Dr Locrian’s Asylum’, ‘The Sect of the Idiot’, ‘The Music of the Moon’ (Songs of a Dead Dreamer); ‘The Last Feast of Harlequin’, ‘Flowers of the Abyss’, ‘In the Shadow of Another World’, ‘The Cocoons’, ‘The Night School’, ‘The Glamour’ (Grimscribe); ‘Purity’, ‘The Red Tower’, ‘Our Temporary Supervisor’, ‘The Bungalow House’, ‘Severini’ and ‘The Shadow, the Darkness’ (Teatro Grottesco)
·        Small town gothic: gloomy, mist-wreathed small towns with dark secrets; bleak places in the middle of nowhere. Stories with this feature include ‘The Small People’ (The Spectral Link), ‘The Frolic’, ‘Dr Locrian’s Asylum’, ‘The Sect of the Idiot’, ‘The Greater Festival of Masks’ (Songs of a Dead Dreamer); ‘The Last Feast of Harlequin’, ‘Flowers of the Abyss’, ‘The Dreaming in Nortown’, ‘The Shadow at the Bottom of the World’ (Grimscribe); and ‘The Town Manager’, ‘My Case for Retributive Action’,  ‘Our Temporary Supervisor’, ‘In a Foreign Town, in a Foreign Land’ (Teatro Grottesco)
·        Flesh and decay; degeneration/corruption: My Work is Not Yet Done; ‘Alice’s Last Adventure’, ‘Dream of a Manikin’, ‘The Nyctalops Trilogy’, ‘Notes on the Writing of Horror’, ‘The Lost Art of Twilight’, ‘The Troubles of Dr Thoss’, ‘The Sect of the Idiot’ (Songs of a Dead Dreamer); ‘The Spectacles in the Drawer’, ‘The Cocoons’, The Glamour’, ‘The Library of Byzantium’, ‘The Shadow at the Bottom of the World’ (Grimscribe), ‘Purity’, ‘The Red Tower’ and all of the stories in the ‘Damaged and Diseased’ third section of Teatro Grottesco.
·        A hidden fourth dimension underlying or parallel to the real world if we are prepared to ‘lift the veil’: My Work is Not Yet Done; ‘The Frolic’, ‘Les Fleurs’, ‘Dream of a Manikin’, ‘Dr Locrian’s Asylum’, ‘The Sect of the Idiot’, ‘Vasterien’ (Songs of a Dead Dreamer); ‘Nethescurial’, ‘The Dreaming in Nortown’, ‘The Mystics of Muelenberg’, ‘In the Shadow of Another World’, ‘Miss Plarr’ (Grimscribe); ‘The Shadow, the Darkness’ (Teatro Grottesco) The existence of a fourth dimension or ‘other worlds and dimensions of existence’ may be implied in other stories too.
·        Transformations– can take the form in Ligotti’s fiction as characters who are tortured, possessed, disfigured or transfigured by evil entities, or transform physically in a supernatural sense of their own volition or caused by extraordinary events. This appears in stories such as My Work is Not Yet Done; ‘Les Fleurs’, ‘Dream of a Manikin’, ‘The Nyctalops Trilogy’, ‘The Christmas Eves of Aunt Elise’, ‘The Lost Art of Twilight’, ‘Masquerade of a Dead Sword’, ‘The Sect of the Idiot’, ‘The Greater Festival of Masks’, ‘The Music of the Moon’ (Songs of a Dead Dreamer); ‘The Last Feast of Harlequin’, ‘The Spectacles in the Drawer’, ‘Flowers of the Abyss’, ‘The Dreaming in Nortown’, ‘In the Shadow of Another World’, ‘The Cocoons’, ‘The Glamour’, ‘The Shadow at the Bottom of the World’ (Grimscribe), ‘My Case for Retributive Action’, ‘In a Foreign Town, in a Foreign Land’, ‘Severini’ and ‘The Shadow, the Darkness’ (Teatro Grottesco)
·        Evil entities/presences/demonic forces– these are in nearly all of Ligotti’s stories, and so there are too many to list, there is no point. Sometimes these entities take shape and appear prominently. Sometimes Ligotti only suggests, implies or hints at their presence and their manipulation of events, and of both dreams and reality. Sometimes they manifest with shocking clarity within a story. Sometimes they may be a figment of a damaged or ill character’s mind.
·        Carnival, masks, clowns, dolls, simulacra or shrunken versions of people, puppets and mannequins/manikins– very common features of Ligotti’s work. Sinister ‘miniature people’ are central to the plot of ‘The Small People’ in The Spectral Link. The ‘manikin hands’ of My Work is Not Yet Done are another mention of this theme. More obvious examples are ‘Dream of a Manikin’, ‘The Nyctalops Trilogy’, ‘The Greater Festival of Masks’ (Songs of a Dead Dreamer); ‘The Last Feast of Harlequin’; ‘Nethescurial’ (Grimscribe), ‘The Clown Puppet’ and ‘Gas Station Carnivals’ (Teatro Grottesco)
·        Witches and witchcraft– referred to obliquely in a majority of stories, but Ligotti has written two stories in particular where an evil witch and witchcraft feature, which I like: ‘My Case for Retributive Action’ in Teatro Grottesco; and ‘The Glamour’ inGrimscribe.
·        Mysterious, sinister doctors or doctors as vital characters: a long list, starting with Dr O. in ‘Metaphysica Morum’ (The Spectral Link); the narrator of ‘The Small People’, also in The Spectral Link, relates his monologue to an unseen doctor. Dr. David Munck is the central character of ‘The Frolic’; Dr Thoss in ‘The Troubles of Dr Thoss’ (a Dr Raymond Thoss also appears in ‘The Last Feast of Harlequin in Grimscribe); Dr Voke in ‘Dr Voke and Mr Leech’; Dr Locrian and his descendant in ‘Dr Locrian’s Asylum’ (all Songs of a Dead Dreamer); Dr N. in ‘Nethescurial’; Dr Dublanc in ‘The Cocoons’ (Grimscribe); Dr Klatt and Dr Zirk in ‘In a Foreign Town, in a Foreign Land’; Dr Groddeck in ‘Teatro Grottesco’; Dr Fingers, a sideshow act in ‘Gas Station Carnivals’ (Teatro Grottesco)
·        Dreams/Nightmares: Dreams are doorways, providing contact with beings and entities outside reality/the waking world. Or ironically, dreams in Ligotti’s fiction provide lucid exposition that reality fails to do. Ironically, reality is fog while sleep offers clarity. The role of The Dealer in ‘Metaphysica Morum’ (The Spectral Link) is an example of a plot working in this way. Dreams are obviously a central theme ofSongs of a Dead Dreamer and ‘The Dreaming of Nortown’ in Grimscribe.
·        Evil clowns– if you suffer from fear of clowns (coulrophobia) then Ligotti is the writer for you (or perhaps not!) His fearsome clowns are the equal of anything in weird/horror fiction, perhaps even more sinister than Pennywise in Stephen King’s It. See the short stories ‘The Clown Puppet’; the Showman in ‘Gas Station Carnivals’ (Teatro Grottesco) and ‘The Last Feast of Harlequin’ (Grimscribe)

Staccato House- latest novel published

Staccato House Lulu

I am very pleased to announce the publication of my latest novel, Staccato House. It is available to buy at Amazon as a paperback here:
and also in Kindle format here:

I started writing Staccato House a long time ago- as far back as 2004. The basic premise initially was about a central male character who was taken to a stately mansion and where various entertainments and staged theatre were being acted out for his benefit- while secretly he was being manipulated and could not trust a single person he met there. Just as those he encountered were ‘puppets’, so was he. The antagonist was the sinister ‘puppet master’ who was behind it all.

As the story and plot evolved over the years, I added ‘thriller’ genre elements rather than surreal ‘fantasy’ elements- for example the link to organised crime with a loan shark; I also introduced references to popular conspiracy theories and the occult, so it became an allusive piece of ‘weird fiction’.

I completed a novella version of Staccato House in 2011 which was short-listed for Contact Publishing’s Page Turner prize for thriller fiction, before I adapted it into a novel. I suppose there are three main influences on this book: The novel The Magus by John Fowles; the film Eyes Wide Shut directed by Stanley Kubrick; and the website Vigilant Citizen with its periodic updates and explanations of popular conspiracy theories and secret cults. It’s unlike Fowles’ novel or Kubrick’s film but nevertheless these shaped what Staccato House became. While being my own original work (the essential plot and the novella version was written in 2011 even before I discovered the Vigilant Citizen website, for example)- it would be impossible to deny these influences and inspiration, primarily in terms of these themes: secret societies and hidden cults, a narrator or central character manipulated by unknown mysterious forces.

On a surface level, Staccato House is about a freelance journalist who stumbles across a mystery, and when he investigates further, his life spirals out of control. The reader can enjoy the story and take it at face value as an occult thriller and mystery/psychological novel, and an entertainment.

It’s important at this stage to state that Staccato House is a work of fiction, based entirely on the imagination of the author, but that the ‘logic’ or ‘structure’ that is behind the workings of the plot, derives from numerous urban myths, conspiracy theories, and arcane occult knowledge that can be found in libraries or on the Internet. That’s not to say they are universal truths- esoteric lore and arcane knowledge does not tend to be studied in schools or taken too seriously by most people, and such ideas or beliefs have of course not gone unchallenged. Staccato House is a novel that includes some of those concepts as plot elements. If you’re interested in reading further for a richer understanding of my novel, then let me introduce some of them. Should this pique your interest, then here is a list should you wish to delve deeper- although it is not exhaustive by any means-but please do not assume the author subscribes to any of them, or is himself part of any such ‘secret organisation’! I found these ideas and theories intriguing and simply used them to enrich the details of my fictional novel:

First, the very famous example of the ‘Illuminati conspiracy’: and

The Illuminati and the ‘Mothers of Darkness’; also the so-called ‘Mothers of Darkness’ castle, the Chateau des Amerois in Belgium: I borrowed the name ‘Amerois’ and slightly altered it for the name of a character in my novel.

The Monarch and MK-Ultra conspiracy theories: and

The Kabbalah (discussed in my previous post):

These will give you the main background, but here are more obscure references and allusions in Staccato House and links for starting points for reading further should you wish:


The Eleusian Mysteries=

The Green Dragon Society of Japan=

Adrenochrome (drug)=

Baphomet/ Goat’s Head of Mendes=

Enochian Magic=

The phrase ‘Ordo ad Chao/Order out of chaos’, the slogan of the 33rd degree of Freemasonry=

The phrase ‘As above, so below’=

Cultural hegemony=


The Sacred Book of Liber Primus/ the ‘Cicada’ internet conspiracy/hoax=

Also a reference to the usage of the word ‘cicada’=

The ‘Nephalim’ or ‘Nephilim’, various spellings=

Antonin Artaud and ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’=

The central character in my novel is a ‘Gemini’=

“Weaving Spiders Come Not Here”, a quote from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ and motto of the Bohemian Grove=

The Denver International Airport conspiracy theories and mysteries=

“Energy never dies”- a scientific principle as well as spiritualist=

The Double-headed eagle in Freemasonry=

O.T.O, or Ordo Templi Orientis and link to Aleister Crowley=

The Georgia Guidestones=

The Alchemical process of transformation=

Khabarovsk war crimes trials=

A few additional links as starting points about Nazi Germany, the Thule and Vril Societies and Nazi research into the occult=

Urban myth: a message from the future

You can find sources of inspiration for fiction anywhere. Sometimes even, amongst the trolls and supercilious commentators, on internet forums. I saw this interesting discussion about a so-called ‘message from the future’ while I was browsing online, researching conspiracy theories and I noted it down. It falls into the category of urban myth, or a televisual hoax that fooled people. I don’t necessarily doubt the veracity of the person who is relating what he saw, it’s just that most likely it was a advertising gimmick, a promotion for an upcoming television series or film. Nevertheless, it makes an intriguing story and perhaps the starting point for the premise of a separate work of fiction:

I remember this, at least I remember an incident such as this. This is what I recall.

It was on Channel 4 and it was an advert break. In the middle of one of the advertisements the television made a bizarre noise with interference, not like simulated interference but I recall the television itself making a low pitched buzz.

There was a woman in black standing on a platform with the camera panning in and out, and side to side. It was similar to when they have remote control cameras attached on ropes to four sides of a football stadium roof, that physically focuses in to where the action is.

I recall the last words she said was something like “We will leave you to your future”, the television made the same strange buzz/interference and the broadcast resumed in the middle of an Audi advert.

I can understand the flippant replies as it sounds a far fetched tale but it had quite a profound effect at the time. I too had Googled for other people who had seen this or similar incidents and this is the first time I have found anything.

Regarding dates, I can’t be precise but I saw this in a house that I lived in between 1986 and 1992.

Here is the original link for this post that intrigued me, and the forum thread:

Publication News: “The Prodigal” at Inner Sins Webzine

Inner Sins cover2

My short story “The Prodigal” has been published in the dark fiction webzine Inner Sins. I had the original idea for this story many years ago. In fact, two things I have written sprang from this singular idea.

This idea concerned a boy who was running from something unknown, and who then met an older man who sought to help him. In the first case- a boy running through a remote alien forest, away from mysterious pursuers- this became the opening chapter of my Fantasy/SF novel Copper Moon Rising. In the second version of the idea, the boy who was pursued became somebody who was much darker, a little nastier. In this particular tale, the boy on the run was not a victim, or heroic in any way, like the banished orphaned prince in Copper Moon Rising. This boy was evil, he had done something very bad, and his pursuers were seeking vengeance. This boy had returned from the dead, although he was not a ghost- for his flesh and blood had been preserved for his torturous punishments, and his enemies are supernatural entities.

This is the premise for my dark supernatural short story “The Prodigal”, which you can read here in Issue 18 (Fall 2014 edition) of Inner Sins. I hope you enjoy reading it:

My Interview with Inner Sins Webzine

Inner Sins cover


The dark fiction webzine Inner Sins selected me as their featured writer in the Issue 18, Fall 2014 edition which went live on 1st October. They asked me to do an interview, which you can read here:

Inner Sins is an American webzine, and my answers were edited for their readers. Additionally, I thought I’d share the transcript of my original replies to their questions here on my blog:

What prompted you to become a writer?
Before wanting to become a writer myself, firstly I was an avid reader. Imagination comes in handy, and sometimes a fantasy world is more vivid and attractive than the mundane aspects of real life. I would like to think I still possess a child’s sense of wonderment and pleasure in ‘making stuff up’ even though I am in my 30s now. I never idolised any particular writers, but in my teens I hit a moment of self-realisation that I wanted to create worlds of characters, conflicts and plot, similar to my favourite authors in horror, speculative fiction and fantasy genres. When I started trying to write, I realised that I got a buzz from it and I enjoyed the feel of crafting a story, making images with words, searching for my own style. I simply thought I had struck upon something that I might be good at. It’s nothing to do with finding a way to make money or trying to be famous.

Who were the authors you read in your youth?
The writers I read as a kid evolved from children’s authors like Enid Blyton – who wrote excellent adventure stories that would be classed as YA today- to my horror/SF/fantasy favourites such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean R Koontz (the Big Three). I also liked, in no particular order, J.R.R Tolkien, Raymond Feist, Tanith Lee, Ursula Le Guin, Dan Simmons, Peter Straub, Brian Lumley, and Philip K.Dick. Too many to mention. I also loved comics, particularly 2000AD. I also enjoyed the graphic novels of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore.

Favourite authors now?
In recent years I’ve discovered a lot of fascinating writers that I didn’t read in my youth. A good example is Thomas Pynchon. I picked up Gravity’s Rainbow as a teenager and tried to read it, and couldn’t make head nor tail of it. I tried reading it again a few years ago, and finally I ‘got’ Pynchon and the weird, baroque, humorous, and garish cartoon-ish style he’d perfected in that novel. I’ve discovered different SF authors, such as older classic material by H.G Wells, Aldous Huxley, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. I enjoyed reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I really liked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. Everyone has discovered George R R Martin’s writing now, through watching the Game of Thrones series. I just hope he can stay ahead of the TV adaptation.

Where do your ideas come from?
For horror fiction, I think a writer has to reach deep into their subconscious and early memories to tap into their childhood fears: it might be the sound of the wind shrieking in the chimney, the ominous creaking of the floorboards, a weird rustling in the attic. The way the dim light from outside the bedroom window is distorted by the curtains; creating weird shadows, maybe a curious shape in the corner. Is something going to reach out and grab our foot if we leave it outside the covers? What might that thing be? It’s from these kind of impressions that ideas for creating weird fiction are formed. Every writer strives, or hopes for, originality in their work. It can be difficult to achieve that as we’re inevitably influenced and shaped by what we already read and see, and the culture that exists around us. We have to get in touch with our primal selves.

What time of day do you do most of your writing?
I am a night owl by nature. My imagination seems most rich and powerful in the late evening. I like to write from 9pm right into the early hours of the morning, if I have good flow. However, I’m probably most efficient and analytical, first thing in the morning. I’d say late night is the best time for me, for plotting and putting down a first draft. Early morning to noon is good for editing, proof-reading and refining the work. Afternoon and early evening is the best period for a break!

Do you have any peculiar habits or idiosyncrasies concerning your writing?
I have certain needs which I require for a good environment for writing. I appreciate Jonathan Franzen’s comments about killing the Internet connection and wearing sound-proof headphones to get totally into the creative process. I need peace and quiet to be fully focused on writing. Noise of any kind isn’t really helpful at all, particularly any kind of music which I find incredibly distracting.

What genre would you say most of your writing falls into?
It’s all horror, fantasy and SF- however I would use the term “speculative fiction” rather than “science fiction”. If I had to pick one, that would be the genre.

Can you remember the first thing you wrote?
There was a Fantasy thing, it was a miniature hybrid imitation of Stephen King’s Dark Tower 3: The Waste Lands and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I tried to write it in the early 1990s, but never finished it. I can’t remember too much about it, except there was a group of characters who inevitably ended up going on the inevitable quest and there was a dwarf called ‘Flatbit’ in it. It’s long since been destroyed!

Writers have many names for themselves; screenwriter, novelist, playwright, journalist, poet. What do you consider yourself?
Author. An author of novels and short stories.

What would you say to someone thinking of becoming a writer?
There’s a difference between being a writer of fiction, and a writer of non-fiction, which isn’t always acknowledged. Both require writing skill, but to write fiction requires extra qualities of imagination and inspiration. If you possess those, then it’s all about hard work and perseverance. Keep working hard and improving your stories. Both writers of fiction and non-fiction need to find their style, or their ideal approach to writing. The fiction writer needs to have the inner desire that they have stories worth telling, and they have to passionately believe in their work. I also think it’s about finding out what you’re good at in life, and what skills you naturally possess. Some of the best writers had no choice, they felt compelled to write. I also think the best writers write for themselves at the beginning, not for a projected readership or ‘market’. Success arrives for the lucky few as a by-product from that.