Monday, November 23, 2015

Publishing and Interview News: T.E. Grau signs publishing deal with This Is Horror for new work in 2016, sits down for This Is Horror Podcast interview

Now that the cat is well out of the bag and skittering down the street, I may as well formally announce that I recently signed a publishing deal with This Is Horror for one, and possibly two, novellas to be published in mid 2016.

As for my reaction to the news, I think my quote available in the article says it best:
"I’m incredibly excited to announce my commission by This Is Horror to write a new work of fiction under their proud banner. 
In writing this book, I get the opportunity to work with Michael, Dan, and the whole This Is Horror crew, an outfit that seems to have exploded onto the scene with world-class works of contemporary horror fiction. Joining a roster that includes such names as Nathan Ballingrud, Ray Cluley, Gary McMahon, and Stephen Graham Jones is quite the honor, and I’m delighted by the opportunity. 
This will be my first release of new fiction after my debut collection The Nameless Dark, and I’m hoping my new work lives up to the incredibly high standard set by This Is Horror, with the aim of entertaining – and hopefully unsettling – the hell out of their readership."

In related news, I conducted an interview with Michael David Wilson and Dan Hovarth of the famed This Is Horror Podcast a few weeks back, and it just went live this afternoon. Follow this link and give a listen.

We covered a lot of ground, including my journey from fantasy to dark fiction, the horror of screenwriting, judging a book by its cover, the state of speculative fiction, my recent collection and upcoming works, the pros and cons of technology, why wives make the best editors, simplistic writing advice, the importance of reading Lawrence Block, Flannery O'Connor as literary Azathoth, and my unabashed love for most things British. And maybe a couple of other bits.

Give it a go if you have a spare hour, seven minutes, and forty-four seconds.

I'm excited and grateful to be hooked up with This Is Horror in 2016, and hope readers dig the new work. Stay close for more details as they become available.

In this podcast T.E. Grau talks about The Nameless Dark, screenwriting, technology, dark fiction and much more.

Show Notes:

[01:50] Interview start
[02:15] Initial interest in horror
[06:35] Screenwriting’s influence on fiction writing
[08:22] ‘Expat’
[10:10] Crossing genres
[15:00] The release of The Nameless Dark
[17:45] Cover art
[35:50] Writing process
[38:10] Best piece of writing advice
[43:50] Best things happening in dark fiction today
[53:20] Advantages and disadvantages of technology for writers and readers
[56:50] British scene
[58:10] New T.E. Grau release in 2016
[01:02:25] Connect with T.E. Grau
[01:03:00] Writers that intimidate Grau
[01:05:50] Competition time

Monday, November 9, 2015

Punktown Goes Ultra Graphic - The signature world of Jeffrey Thomas to be adapted into comic book anthology VISIONS OF PUNKTOWN as we enter final days of Kickstarter campaign

As I've written about before (so pardon my redundancy), I very much appreciate an author who gifts the universe with brand new real estate, carved out of the void and made real, then populated with a proprietary DNA all its own. Distinctive laws of nature, history, creation stories, creatures, physical laws, etc. This sort of hard won creative conjuring makes the space around us a wider and wilder place, and is one of the highest forms of literary achievement.

Acclaimed horror writer Jeffrey Thomas has given us the gift of Punktown, a far flung, interstellar outpost where Mythos and madness, crime and punishment, and no end of horrors collide amid a fragile society built up from the rock of the planet Oasis. Human colonizers have thrown in with strange aliens races, mutants, androids, and replicants to fashion a megalopolis balanced precariously on the cusp of understood space. This is a seedy, violent, universe that shows Thomas' love for cosmic horror, cyberpunk, Noir, science fiction, and the dankest of dark fantasy. This is Punktown, and it's a place like no other, where anything - and everything - is possible.

Dozens of stories and at least six novels have been written in the Punktown universe, and now, thanks to the vision and efforts of writer Christopher Taylor (Creepy, Eerie, Hellraiser: Bestiary), Punktown will soon be realized as a comic book anthology, and I couldn't possibly be more excited.

The eight stories and their respective artists for VISIONS OF PUNKTOWN: VOLUME 1 are as follows:

WILLOW TREE -- Sinclair Klugarsh
FORGE PARK -- Eric York
MONSTERS -- Dug Nation
PRECIOUS METAL -- Stéphane De Caneva

This is the melding of singular fiction with world class artwork from eight different sources. This is a goddamn exciting project.

Jump on this Kickstarter, right now. Immediately. You only have a week left to support the project. You truly don't want to miss this special project, and those pledge rewards.

Hüseyin Özkan
From the company press release:

Adapting the critically acclaimed Punktown stories of author Jeffrey Thomas.

Writer Christopher A. Taylor (Creepy, Eerie, Hellraiser: Bestiary) and eight phenomenal artists have taken to Kickstarter to raise funds to complete the first volume of Visions from Punktown. The campaign runs until November 20th, 2015.

Jeffrey Thomas’s Punktown stories have spawned several collections and novels. Here is what some peers and critics have said about his Punktown works:

“For a wild ride...readers will be hard-pressed to find a better vehicle than Thomas's bizarre multiverse; fans of cyberpunk noir and Lovecraftian horror will find much to enjoy in this messy, bravura hybrid.”
Publishers Weekly starred review of Jeffrey Thomas’ DEADSTOCK

“Punktown is searing and alien and anxious and rich, and it is humane, and it is moving. Jeffrey Thomas has done something wonderful.”
-- China Mieville, author of EMBASSYTOWN

“A dazzlingly complex and detailed future vision as poetic as it is horrifying, full of insights and images that cling to the mind.”
-- Ramsey Campbell

“Jeffrey Thomas sounds like no-one else precisely because he writes of a place no-one else has been, yet which can feel like home.”
Michael Marshall Smith, author of ONLY FORWARD

Dug Nation

The city known as Punktown is a melting pot of alien cultures on the planet Oasis. Cloning is an art form; creatures straddle dimensional rifts; robot musicians deal drugs at a jazz club; buildings hum with souls; trees do not stay rooted to the earth; and many more bizarre and terrifying scenarios

In adapting Thomas’ popular creation, Christopher Taylor handpicked a group of eight artists who could uniquely capture the variety of characters and setting. The stories of Punktown are not limited to any one genre, stepping comfortably from cyberpunk, to horror, into science fiction, noir and more. Each artist reflects a unique quality in translating these stories from Taylor’s scripts, to mirror the diversity of Punktown’s citizens and settings.

Dug Nation
Those artists are: Rafa Garres, Hüseyin Özkan, Sinclair Klugarsh, Steven Russell Black, Eric York, Stéphane De Caneva, Dug Nation, and Frank Walls.  Please click on their names to see their art. Also see below for some artwork from Visions from Punktown.

The artists, along with Taylor, are working closely with Jeffrey Thomas in order to faithfully adapt his work. In eschewing producing the project with major publishers, all the creators have complete control over the work, allowing for more flexibility and freedom.

This is what Kickstarter allows creators to do: work unhindered by the rigid structure of corporate and editorial oversight that can often stifle creativity and  the free flow of ideas and communication.

Visions from Punktown needs your help in bringing this project to life. Please see the Kickstarter, and the Facebook pageJeffrey Thomas’ Amazon Author page here.

For interviews or additional information, please contact Christopher Taylor at:
Twitter: @PunktownerChris
Instagram: @visionsfrompunktown

Thank you for your time!

--Chris Taylor

Stéphane De Caneva
Free Jeffrey Thomas fiction!

If you aren't familiar with Jeffrey's work, this is your chance to read a story for FREE, as well get a good look at the scripting process.

Link to "Precious Metal" here

You don't need a Dropbox account to view or download this file on a PC or Mac. But you will need the free Dropbox app to see it on a mobile device.

The PDF also includes some previously published work by my collaborator on the adaptation, Stéphane De Caneva! You can see how incredible the finished product will look!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

TC Review & Interview: Hailed as 'Britain's answer to Stephen King,' author Adam Nevill reinforces place amongst horror elite with HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS, while new novel LOST GIRL officially released worldwide today

We read horror fiction - and watch slasher films, and gruesome documentaries, and online terrorist videos, and accident footage, etc. - because of what Joseph Conrad called "the fascination of the abomination." We like to view things that disquiet us, don't we? We hope that we see something that isn't meant for innocent eyes. Death revealed - and dodged - is as exhilarating as it is horrifying. Our minds sometimes can't take it, but also can't willingly turn away. We seek out the abominations, because we are fascinated by them. We can't help it, apparently, due to a misfire in our individual development, or the natural condition of the human brain. I'm not sure which is to blame, as I'm a fiction writer, not a goddamn psychiatrist.

Abominations are on full and varied display in Adam Nevill's House of Small Shadows, and I as a reader of this exceptional novel am incredibly fascinated. It was as if Nevill was ordered to craft a contemporary Gothic novel twisted inside out - and sewn back up again - that incorporated all the things I find spooky as shit, including but certainly not limited to:

- Small forgotten towns
- Incredibly old houses, owned by incredibly old people
- Antique dolls
- Puppet shows/marionettes
- Non traditional taxidermy
- Ritualistic parades
- Secretive groups

Throw in circus clowns and unnamed creatures with impossibly long appendages (which do not, to my memory, appear in House of Small Shadows, although the lighting is pretty dim in some of those scenes, so you never know), and you've run the full gamut of my own personalized Creep List.

As it stands, House of Small Shadows contains enough of the truly terrifying to make it a landmark read, and an unforgettable exercise in horror imagery that has not dimmed since regrettably finishing the book a few months back. It's all still there, raw and vibrant, like a fresh coat of paint on a wooden puppet face. The places, the lighting, the sounds and smells are still raw in my brainpan, and threaten to stay that way. Probably more impressive still is Nevill's ability to sustain suspense and dread throughout nearly 400 pages, starting very early with the arrival of our protagonist Catherine Howard, an appraiser (a "valuer" in British parlance) for estate auctioneer Leonard Osberne, who is sent to an aged Gothic manse in the English countryside known as Red House, which lies just outside the mostly deserted town of Magbar Wood. The interior of Red House lives up to its name in terms of sumptuous decor, and Catherine discovers that each of the numerous rooms of the house serve as staging areas for impossibly intricate dioramas of World War I horrors played out by stuffed and positioned rats, as well as a bedroom populated by half animal, half human marionettes tucked into a tiny bed like sleeping children. The entire collection Catherine was sent to appraise for a possible career-making and record-setting estate sale was created by secretive genius M.H. Mason, who was once a man of the cloth until the blood and mud of trench warfare stained that holy fabric, twisting him away from God and into the arms of utter seclusion at Red House, where he devoted his sizable talents and the rest of his life to the creation of tiny, static horror shows, and the recreation of Medieval "cruelty plays" acted out by marionettes for live audiences, and eventually a BBC camera crew. Footage of the latter never made the airwaves, as the imagery was too disturbing, too bizarre even for the notoriously eccentric British.

This is the set-up for Catherine, and for us, and as we get the sneaking suspicion of what is to come for our hard luck protagonist, we can't help but sit back and watch, breathless and silent and squirming with claustrophobia, as she is forced to confront all sorts of weird, out-of-the-way, and mostly forgotten places, bringing her face to face with a litany of weird, out-of-the-way, mostly forgotten things. Old traditions, based on older knowledge of arcane wisdom blotted out of human memory for a reason. But things linger in the quiet places untouched by modernity. Eyes look out, and prayers are whispered to ears that don't belong to god or beast. Catherine has come to escape her past, avoid her present, and secure her future, and these powerful urges give her the courage to remain on site and finish her work, lest it all unravel for her. Unfortunately, as this is horror fiction we're talking about, it unravels for her anyway, in a multitude of unsettling ways.

Nevill's language is perfectly balanced, clean with a perfect dusting of melody, and his ability to build atmospherics is masterful. We're in those rooms with Catherine, dealing with these incredibly lifelike dead things. We can see the clothing and wig and skin and teeth and wheelchair of Edith Mason, the elderly niece of M.H. who now oversees Red House and the weird, multi-million dollar installations that clog the place. We can hear the heavy footsteps of Maude, the mute maid whose inscrutable expression hints at deeper mysteries surrounding this family and their strange house. And those marionettes... We're inches away from them as they are arranged in their tiny beds, facing away from us, grotesque hair covering the backs of their misshapen heads. We don't want them to turn around.

That expectancy, that impending doom, all blossom organically from the foundation Nevill lays like black soil, so fertile it literally pops and fizzes with potential life. And we as readers are caught in it up to our necks, our chins. Something very bad will happen, and happen soon. But when? And where? Will it be as bad as you imagine? Will it be worse? We scream for Catherine to leave the house, for her unfit boyfriend Mike or her boss Leonard or even her backstabbing coworker Tara to show up and wake her from the nightmare, but things are never as simple as that, and Nevill deftly spins a web that invisibly traps Catherine from the beginning, giving her just enough twine to allow her a frantic run at hope, at escape, before reaching the end of the sticky tether, and winding it back up again, slowly and determinedly, drawing the moth to the spider waiting at the center of the beautifully constructed latticework nest.

House of Small Shadows reads like one unbroken, spellbinding tracking shot capturing places that you never want to see where things happen that you that you never thought possible, Nevill's grainy camera picking up details along the way, hinting that something terrible can and probably will occur in the next frame. Martyrs will be torn to shreds, and parades will begin in the streets. A booming voice track begins, narrating the spectacle, as the images become more and more unspeakable. And we just sit and watch. Fascinated.

Thank you, Adam, for taking the time to consider and answer these questions.

Thanks for having me, Ted.

I always like to start out with a bit of relevant background, to set the stage. When did you first realize that you had a talent for, and probably would be pursuing, writing as a viable undertaking? Were you a big reader as a child? What books first drew you in?

My Dad started it. He read to my brother and I most evenings when we were boys, even until we were around twelve. Hundreds of books, from Twain to Tolkien. But the author who really stirred and then directed my imagination in a particular direction was M R James. Those stories had a real impact, deep and long lasting. I feel his spirit in most of what I write now.

But I spent most of my boyhood outdoors in New Zealand, playing sports and roaming the bush and coastline with friends. I wasn't a bookworm as such. We went to the library every week as a family, though, so I did read a fair amount of adventure fiction, military historical fiction, and fantasy initially, and even my mother's Famous Five books. Plus, I lived in a house that resembled a library, so books were a constant and alluring presence. I had all sorts of reading phases and enthusiasms as an older child, with Robert E Howard's Conan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, even westerns. The really more intense reading for me started, oddly, when most young people drop books, around the ages of fourteen to seventeen. And that was when I started reading in a voracious way that has never stopped. I burned through Lovecraft at the same time as Shakespeare's tragedies and the modernists, and that interest in the best genre fiction and the classics continues. I've never been a reader that sticks to one thing; I've always read widely, though I have a vision for my own fiction that is quite singular and strange, at least to me.

All of my directionless imaginings and perpetual daydreaming found a purpose for itself in my mid-teens. That's when I first knew that I was going to take writing seriously, at some point. The book that actually changed my direction in life was Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I had little adult life experience. I was 16. But that book, though Joyce exercised some irony (that I missed) does include a map of artistic development from infancy to maturity, and it was the first book I read in which I was assisted in understanding what was going on inside me - most of which I'd been ashamed of and had longed to be a simpler person. But following its ideas, even guidance, I consciously decided to collect experience, to read a lot more than I had already read, and to take an English degree after school in order to further my goals formerly in an artistic direction. Besides a few early fragments, I only really committed myself to writing as a purpose for life around the age of 25. And because I'd waited so long, I just couldn't stop once the sluice was opened. I went off like a geyser.

I was not an exceptional student at school, or anything like that. There were even concerns about my attention span too, in junior schools. But I think that is key, because what was often mentioned as a cause for my inattention was my tendency to stare out of the window. As a child my imagination used to entirely consume me, and it still does. I think most of my conscious life is still spent there, daydreaming. I found routine jobs as an adult, and many subjects at school, to be near physically painful if they inhibited that need to daydream. I think my writing is just a more formal approach to daydreaming.

When and how did you first discover dark literature or material?

The need had been created by my Dad, through reading us James as I mentioned, Collier, Saki, Del la Mare and many others. But writers like C S Lewis and Tolkien and Stevenson were full of things that filled me with a euphoric dread too.

What do you consider your "big break" that ushered you into big press publishing? When did you know you'd probably be able to quit your day job?

That was my eleventh novel, Apartment 16 in 2009. I'd had ten novels published by that time, including my first horror novel, Banquet for the Damned, by PS in 2004 (though I'd finished it many years before that). So I'd been cutting my teeth for years and been a professional writer around full-time education and various jobs since my mid-twenties. But my break into the bigger international publishers arrived at the age of forty. After I'd finished Banquet I'd either fastidiously worked on Apartment 16 and The Ritual, or just tinkered with subsequent drafts for years, around life and work. But those two books ended up in a publishing auction in London at a time when horror became the new black again, in 2009. Apartment 16 had been on submission for some time too.

Two hours after the book deal was agreed, I was made redundant from my position as Fiction Editor of Virgin Books. I'd held that position for five years, so the next step was decided for me. I could have gone full time as a writer then, in 2009, and stayed full time until now. But I decided to continue working part time for various publishers because they offered interesting work, and I still do work two to three days a week as an editorial director. The rest is spent writing and living in equal parts. My wife and I also started a family around the time the first book deal happened and that's also why I keep working at two incomes. And that has often been hard, maintaining two professions as well as being a parent. I've worked part or all of every day since 2009, but it's provided a good life for us by the sea and I have additional impetus and motivation because of my daughter's future. Being in this position as a writer, and being a parent, was unimaginable for me before 2009. I don't take a day of it for granted.

No less than The Guardian dubbed you "Britain's answer to Stephen King," which - based on King's label as the king (sorry) of horror - is very high praise indeed, both from a critical and commercial standpoint. Does this level of acclaim effect your writing? Do you feel an extra layer of expectation in each new book, and more beholden to the machine, or just as creatively free as always?

It was flattering, but the King is also the benchmark that all of us in horror are measured against, in the mainstream media. That's the main reason my name was even mentioned in relation to the King; I was one of a few horror writers given a shot beyond the small presses, and who else are we ever compared to? But any critical acclaim hasn't changed what I am writing, but it has served as a huge motivational boost. Good notices still take me by surprise. Motivational, and good for morale for sure, though I remain driven by my own dissatisfaction and frustration. I think resting on one's laurels is catastrophic for writers.

I've also been extremely lucky with my editor, Julie at Pan Macmillan, in that she let me write what I wanted to, and in the way that I wanted to. She made plenty of good suggestions about what I delivered, but they weren't requests. Had I been a big front list writer with more at stake for the publisher, things may have been different. Or if the first two books had tanked. But the first two were successful and that may have bought me more trust. There has never been any pressure from my publisher, though, to write something else, or to write differently. A blessing, and it's given me an opportunity to start building a body of work at the rate of a book each year, and to even push into my own deepest strangeness with novels like Apartment 16 and House of Small Shadows, with a big publisher and a wider audience.

What I feel most acutely as a kind of unceasing pressure, is the bigger picture, and over that I have no control. This covers the business of publishing of which I am constantly aware, book selling, and the digital revolution. But I've never broken a sweat over editorial strong-arming because there never has been any.

Where did the central ideas and themes of House of Small Shadows originate? What are you trying to impart with the book?

It all came out of images I'd carried around from childhood and that continued to amass into adulthood. Curiosities and grotesque things that I'd remembered and that affected me in a particular way - paintings, objects, old television shows for children, historical artifacts, wax museums, houses I had visited, places I had worked, odd people I'd come across, all kinds of disparate things that struck strange chimes in my imagination, or little detonations. As a child, my reaction to some of these images and artifacts was a combination of terror and enchantment, and a lingering sense of that childlike imaginative state I have retained. I wanted to explore those enduring feelings and memories at novel-length, and to see if I could sustain them and preserve them as age took its toll. I began writing scenes and most of the story grew out of the act of writing. That pretty much happens every time too.

With its strange rural villages that can only be understood by a local, The House of Small Shadows seems to be partly autobiographical, if only in terms of geography. How much of your own upbringing is in this book?

I've spent most of my life in cities - Birmingham, Auckland, Worcester, London - but have often stepped outside of them and into the rural as a tourist. I think House of Small Shadows came from a sense of what was unfamiliar and incongruous to a city boy, and therefore charged with a peculiar magic. Had I grown up in the countryside I doubt I'd have written the book in the same way.

The sense of detail and historical touches relating to dolls and puppetry - and 19th century houses - is impressive in House of Small Shadows. You list the numerous resources you used as research for the book. How much actual research did you do (instead of general knowledge you already possessed), and did it involve hours sitting amongst the stacks in libraries? (I'm hoping like hell your answer is "yes" to the latter)

Yes. In a local library in London, that must have been frequented by actors, drama students and theatre designers, I actually sat beside a section on puppetry the first time I went in there to order books on fashion and Gothic Revival architecture that I'd found in an online catalogue for London libraries, and I'd needed a local library to make the inter- library loans for me. I went to order the books and also to find somewhere quiet to sit and work, because we had a baby in the house. While there, I found the stuff on puppets and theatre next to my table, and then discovered that they had a restricted section on taxidermy behind the counter ... that was uncanny. I'd wanted to include all of these things in my story and had bought some rare second hand books on animal preservation already. I had sat in the right chair in the right library. Or did small hands guide me?

You credit Thomas Ligotti as an inspiration for House of Small Shadows. What about Ligotti's writing sparked the idea, or informed the novel? 

With Ligotti, it was the sense of combining a gaudy aesthetic of puppet theatre and animated false bodies, a kind of neglected, grotesque carnival that both mocked and said something poignant about existence; a commentary on fate and our insignificance. I liked the idea of something old, but childlike and damaged that was a witness to a dreadful truth. Ligotti lit a path that I walked, on my own rickety wooden legs.

In doing my own research, I couldn't find any information on the "martyrs" discussed in the book, nor the cruelty plays. Are these lost bits of historical knowledge, or something you created?

All of it is a collision of fact and my own imaginings, and what my imagination did to fact. I'd struggle to unravel it all now. But I became really interested in holy relics and Christian martyrdom while reading for Last Days, and even went to see the biggest collection of holy relics ever assembled in one place - at the British Museum - and in the same timeframe I visited an incredible museum of childhood. It was like an overdose. It all made me giddy. But I adapted what I knew of morality plays and Jacobean and Elizabethan tragedies into a new form of drama - the cruelty play, but performed by puppets. At one point puppet theatre was probably the biggest form of street entertainment in England, but the dramas weren't ever written down and recorded. Some character names survived and titles of plays, but not much else. I imagined they must have been ghastly dramas, and perhaps seditious.

What is your writing routine, if a routine exists? Is consistency and ritual important  - putting your ass in the chair, as Joe Lansdale espouses - or is a writer better served to wait until the Muse hits, and then follow the Coleridge interpretation of art ("a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions")?

It's changed so much as my life has changed. Being single in my twenties and not responsible for much beside myself was a very different experience to writing around a full time job as a publisher of 85 books each year, and that took over my existence for five years. That too was different to writing as a self-employed man with a family across the last six years, but the latter has undoubtedly become my most productive period - more stability, more security, and more time.

In the twenty years in which I've been going, I have had to write in many different ways and routines enforced by circumstances and situations - evenings, mornings; all day every day at times when I took breaks from careers; just when I felt like it while really stressed and mentally tired; sometimes when I couldn't stop and it was like a madness; or only during Sunday afternoons; two hours before midnight; and in all kinds of compromised environments - that has been a constant until now. So I'm never very helpful when I am asked this question. I just never gave up; if I wasn't physically writing I was mentally writing; the two things joined up often enough and consistently enough for me to finish books. I've never given up on a book but have felt like burning them all at some point during composition.

For the first time ever, at the age of 46, I now have my own office too - a dedicated work space. And in it I try and write at least four days each week. The days change, life can take over, but I'm flexible. I've had to write in so many environments. I have never had the luxury until now of being able to guarantee silence, privacy, even a proper desk. The Ritual was mostly written on someone else's computer on a kitchen table, in a noisy shared house. No wonder people not only die in it, but are eviscerated.

Keeping your head in a novel is the most important thing, even if most of your work on it is conducted in the imagination. Starting something and completely ignoring it at first draft stage can be catastrophic. Even if you are scribbling notes long hand, or thinking through possible scenes, or just imaging the characters talking, you are at work on your book. But that can't just keep on going; you do have to sit down and go. My intention is to do something every day, be it virtual or actual. At times I pull off twelve hour sprees, though only usually when rewriting these days. At other times I produce nothing new in an entire day. I don't word count. My only hard rule is to try and complete a scene if I start it on a particular day. Keep your head in it and maintain the voice and it will get written, eventually. My head is always in the current book, and working around the next one too in a side room. The next one always seems more exciting because ideas are exciting and near effortless, but in there lies a cautionary tale. Nearly everything you write will be hard work, and should be. If you think something was slam-dunked on a first draft, read it three months later and try not to self-harm.

And yet, somehow, I've completed 16 books in twenty years. The urge, the compulsion, the desire, the sense of purpose, has surmounted the many disruptions.

I've begun to ask others this question, as I have recently asked it of myself: What do you think it is about the dark, the weird, uncanny, and the horrifying that draws you/us in, that appeals to us, that almost - odd to say - makes us happy? This query is especially pointed to individuals - such as you - who seem to be well adjusted, positive, and living happy lives. 

Why thank you. That's a great question about why we do it too. I'd suggest, without examining it too deeply, it is an attraction forged from a range of things. As so much is. As a rule, I don't tend to think of one explanation for anything anymore in a world obsessed with "nailing it". Everything is just too complex. Indecision and being unsure is better than being completely wrong. Uncertainty and mystification is often part of a long process of consideration that gives, at least, a half truth, or something approximating an understanding of what we are trying to figure out. It's often the best that we can hope for.

So for this question, I'd have to say it's a combination of things for me - temperament and sensitivity and formative experiences, nature and nurture, and how those things then reacted to the world and its art, and formed a kind of voice, or presence inside me, that keeps creating my version of enchantment and terror. I suspect I may be a writer of the grotesque, more than a writer of anything else that is subdivided within the fiction of the fantastic. I'm inspired by the grotesque as much as by beauty. Comfort, peace, beauty, health; all of these things I adore, but running at a constant parallel is my ability to be aghast. And I suspect most horror writers are also writers of some form of protest, even if it's against themselves, most definitely other people in my case, society, or the entire human condition, maybe of actual existence and our place within it. I am aghast and I protest and horror is the residue. Why isn't everyone writing horror?

As one of the standard bearers for horror fiction in the mainstream marketplace, how do you feel the genre is received and discussed in relation to "literary fiction?" Based on how it is viewed at present, do you ever see a time when this perception will change?

Literary fiction is an odd opponent for horror. But a common foe for many, or so I often see cited. In terms of status and respectability, the contributors to each may often look upon one another with contempt too. Though literary fiction is probably as much of an endangered species as horror fiction, and I think the fields share a great deal of other common ground. Literary fiction is full of horror and the weird; horror and the weird are full of literary stylists. Ramsey Campbell and Peter Straub write horror but are great literary stylists; Ian McKewan and John Burnside write literary fiction but are great writers of horror (see Glister, A Summer of Drowning, The Devil's Footprints from Burnside).

Both fields struggle commercially and seem prey to capricious zeitgeists in commercial publishing. One has an establishment of erudition, academia, cultural respectability and specialist imprints behind it; the other has none of that besides the specialist imprints and S T Joshi as a critic, but horror fiction has a vast and enviable bedrock of popular culture endorsing and sustaining it in the public consciousness; this wider horror culture may eclipse the literary wing, but it also restores it, and draws nutrition from the books. I look upon horror as a culture now, and an ecosystem that sustains itself; the broader culture of horror still needs the literary wing to provide ideas (even if they are often exhausted into tedium in the other media). Look at Ligotti in True Detective. Who saw that coming? Horror is a very clear and powerful cultural form and force, no doubt in my mind. I am part of a vast and wriggling mass, a network.

For many, the bottom line will persist for the fiction declared to be horror: that it is pulp, juvenile, sensationalist, perhaps even unhealthy. We can all find the low hanging fruit to endorse that point of view too. But that is the view of the ill-informed and the poorly read (and of older readers and writers, I find, if I am honest). The view that literary fiction is unreadable, exclusive, pretentious, and boring is equally as ill-informed a point of view. I read as much of the literary as I do horror. I also try to combine my influences from both fields.

I think perceptions have changed for horror too. I find less disapproval these days too, because horror culture is dominant and has been for years, maybe not in books, but in comics, gaming, television and the cinema. Younger people in my experience, under thirty, rarely criticize horror. They seem smitten with it, and have embraced it in some form (television has given horror an incalculable boost in recent years). Within horror culture, horror fiction is mostly mentioned in the past tense to me by older readers - "I used to read Herbert and King ..." and so on, but not by the young in this way. But the literature is always going to be a harder sell for all generations, though, than the other pictorial media, because fiction requires a more active concentration and the gratification is not instant and immediate; it also requires time and that's in ever shorter supply. The more sophisticated the writing, the greater the demand made on the reader too.

In a pictorial age in which choice is bewildering and cognitive overload is at its peak, that is not going to change - sit down and read a horror novel or watch the new series of The Walking Dead, or play a multi-player computer game in which you shoot waves of the undead? I don't fancy the odds of books. But some, who love reading, and the comforts and confirmations and special pleasures it provides, will keep us in books and horror, at some level.

The value of any fiction to publishers is mostly monetary, because it's a business. If it sells it is lauded. The writers I tend to read, place a different value upon horror that is not dependent on market forces.

At the risk of irritating either your hometown team or your readers across the pond, do you think there is a difference in the British interpretation - and creation - of horror fiction, than that produced in the United States?  If so, why do you think there is a difference?

I couldn't conclusively define the differences between the horror of the two schools, because most writers seem to be constantly expanding and diversifying. But I can offer comments on the writing I have read.

You have faucets and we have taps ... But seriously, I think both territories have produced some extraordinary work within the slough of despond the fiction suffered, and right into its recent peak, and perhaps because horror was out of vogue our respective horrors had an underground renewal. As a very broad brush stroke, perhaps, more Brits may still lean more toward the Gothic tradition, and the impact of early Clive Barker; more of the Americans and Canadians may lean more to the cosmic horrors of Leiber and Lovecraft and Ligotti. But that is a big simplification. Many of us are bonded too by the King, and to degrees by Straub, Simmons, Campbell, Herbert and Barker - there is more common ground than difference.

At the speculative end in the UK, Ramsey Campbell and M John Harrison may have given us a British DNA of the speculative that Aickman really started in earnest. Joel Lane, Nicholas Royle, Conrad Williams and others have done something extraordinary with the weird and horrific in the everyday, that reminds me of M John Harrison, early Clive Barker, and Ramsey Campbell, and that tone seems peculiarly British at times. Writers like Gary McMahon, Simon Bestwick, Simon Kurt Unsworth recently seem to be forging a social realism in their horror, that has a distinct regional Northern quality. Then you have Frank Tallis, Reggie Oliver, Sarah Waters, Mark Valentine and John Howard, who are all class acts, and may do more to maintain the spirit of the classic British Victorian and Edwardian masters than most. Sarah Lotz and Sarah Pinborough prove increasingly versatile in expanding the borders of the hellish in all kinds of directions, and through the thriller and crime mediums of which John Connolly and Michael Marshall are masters (in my eyes Connolly is one of the great modern horror writers, as well as one of the great modern mystery writers).

Across the water, you're doing the same with your own regional influences. The cosmic, occult and strange horrors of writers including Laird Barron, Simon Strantzas, Brian Evenson, Richard Gavin, John Langan, Jonathan Thomas, Linda Rucker, Paul Tremblay, Matt Cardin, Nathan Ballingrud, Gemma Files, to name a few, suggest a new movement to me in North American literary horror, with more and more of you appearing and seemingly each month, like yourself, Josh Malerman and Scott Nicolay even more recently. You are all, literally, spoiling us. Caitlin R Kiernan's vision has permeated deep, as has Kathy Koja's, Poppy Z Brite's, the genre defying Steve Rasnic Tem and also Brian Hodge.

Both sides have had key specialists in Romero's vision - David Moody in the UK and Jonathan Maberry in the US. If no one read Alden Bell's books, do so.

There are so many more writers that I should mention, and a great many I haven't even read yet; the fact that there are so many authors creating genuinely startling and refreshing work, all of the time, is a wonderful sign. I defy anyone to read deep into the modern anglosphere of horror and claim they only see pulp. What I am more keen on pointing out is the quality on both sides of the Atlantic and the special friendship we share. I think as writers we all read each other as much as we can, but the national preferences I tend to encounter more in readers, because of where the books are available and have the most presence.

What would be your advice to beginning writers eager to embark on a career in horror fiction?

Read as widely in the field as possible, from the masters and classics to the moderns. Soak it up. But make sure you read widely beyond horror too. You will learn just as much elsewhere, or you should do.

Get good advice on the craft, on your actual use of language, before you get tied up with characterization and plotting. Start with the actual language you're using and how you arrange it - that almost seems lost at times. If you don't acquire enough craft you may remain a literate adult and never become a writer ... I'd also say that unless you feel manifestly driven to write, don't bother. I've spent ten years reading slush piles.

But if this is for you, start allowing your own deeps to overflow, unrestrictedly, to find your own voice, your own thing, your own innate strangeness. Once that spring is bubbling you can find ways of creating stories out of the raw imaginative material. Looking for what to write about should be the easiest thing of all, but how you write about it is then key.

All of these things take time and application; don't rush, or be too eager to start publishing, as hard as that temptation may be these days.

In terms of music (and totally, selfishly, off topic), I know you're a big metal fan. What bands do you really dig, now and going back to the origins?

If you saw how many CDs and vinyl records are in my office, you'd understand how difficult that is to answer. Currently, I'm heavy. I'm playing a lot of Lamb of God, Slipknot and metalcore. Bathory and Sanctuary are enjoying a revival in my space. For a time before that it was doom and industrial: Trouble, The Skull, Ministry, NIN, and my punk faves.

I cut this with folk rock, classical and some ambient noise.

There's not been a subgenre of heavy rock or metal that I haven't appreciated in part.

What's next for you, in terms of releases, and those projects on which you are currently working?

Lost Girl is out October 2015. A thriller and a near future disaster scenario as much as it is a horror novel. I began that book in 2013 and delivered the book in November 2014. Since then, the story has started to become uncannily relevant.

My next novel is due for 2017 and I've been writing that since late last year, my working title is Yellow Teeth, and it's a kind of unconnected companion piece to Last Days, a move into psychic terror after bludgeoning myself with No One Gets Out Alive and Lost Girl.

I've also written five short stories this year and they should be out next year. And on that note, I may have another surprise next year too.

Thank you so much for your time, Adam, and much luck and success in your future endeavors.

Thanks for having me, Ted. I appreciate your absorption of me into the nameless dark of the Cosmicomicon.

Pick up Lost Girl TODAY, to celebrate it's official global launch by Pan Macmillan, at Amazon or at your local retailer of fine books that dwell on incredibly dark things. I've started reading the book, and it's a grim, dark, worrisome treat, centered around a father's desperate journey to find his kidnapped daughter amid a world reeling from the early stages of a global societal collapse, based on climate change and the resultant lack of fresh water, erosion of arable land, and general overpopulation. This is real world horror on so many levels, set in a time not so distant that it doesn't resonate, and scare the shit out of you. Grab a copy from that box below, if you don't mind losing a few fingers. Nevill's got claws.

Find Adam LG Nevill lurking just below the placid surface of his website here, listening to metal and contemplating the slow, ignominious unraveling of humanity.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Blog About a Blog: Random-Ass Interview with Sean M. Thompson now live on horror site Spooky Bloggery

"Spooky Sean" Thompson of Spooky Bloggery, as well as Miskatonic Musings and From the Nether Regions fame, recently interviewed me, and took it live this morning.

Check out the Random-Ass Interview here, and tag that Spooky Bloggery joint for future interviews, reviews, news, and posts from around the weird-o-sphere. Sean is a stone cold Horror Hound, and a swell fellow, and I thank him for the interview invite.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review News: Publishers Weekly reviews THE NAMELESS DARK, pre-orders discounted through Lethe Press site as release day nears

I'm very happy to report that Publishers Weekly gave a lovely review of The Nameless Dark, beginning the piece as such:

"The dark fiction in Grau’s first collection is nicely twisted, with stories that play on the best of eldritch horror, creating a sense of dread and the unexplained instead of overt malevolence."

(please click here for the full review from the PW site)

It's a good feeling to know that the goal of your writing was achieved, at least in the eyes (and brain) of this particular reader. This review, combined with the truly astonishing run of blurbs the book has received, makes me incredibly happy, humbled, proud, and excited as we approach the official release date for the collection in late July.

Also, The Nameless Dark is now available for pre-order through the Lethe Press website for $15.00, which is three dollars less than through Amazon, and a pretty swell deal for 275 pages of fiction. Aside from the lower price, it's always the better move to buy direct from the publisher, which relies upon each and every order to keep operations going.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Guest Blogger: Weird Fictionista David Anderson brings us 'ELDRITCH ESPIONAGE: LOOKING BACK AT HARRISON PEEL'

It's been a while since we have had a guest blogger around these parts, but as we all know too well, that is not dead which can eternal lie... Our very own The Cosmicomicon can eternally lie with the best of them.

And now, over to David Anderson, who sent TC a piece on author David Conyers and his renowned Harrison Peel book series.

by: David Anderson

Out in deep space, past the distant, dancing stars of the Milky Way, there may or may not lurk horrors from beyond. However, most ‘sane’ individuals like to think that, YES, these super-powered alien gods exist (by sane I mean genre enthusiasts). Or they at least enjoy fictional stories about them, and can suspend disbelief long enough to have some fun. And that, I think, is what may have originally ensnared readers into H.P.’s imagination – it seemed somehow plausible, like the tales were an almost first-hand account at times. This isn't news to the experienced Lovecraft fan, I know, but worth talking about anyway.

For me, as a reader of Lovecraftian fiction, both of the pulpy action kind found in tomes like CTHULHU UNBOUND or the straight, Joshi laces of BLACK WINGS, I look for the writer of a particular story to pull me into the world as ‘plausibly’ as possible, providing either science or official sounding ‘made up data’, whatever sells me on the fact that these beings from beyond could indeed travel among us. But I also look to be entertained, and a scholar bumbling along or even a story told through a series of letters can get boring (mind you some are fantastic!). I’ll ashamedly admit that I like a few guns to be fired off, an exotic babe to entice me, and explosions. I like to see these punk-ass Lovecraftian entities get a taste of whoop ass directed at them, even if it is like shooting the T-1000 liquid metal terminator with small arms fire (which was comically pointless but did slow the thing down).

I’m always screaming at the TV during horror movies, proclaiming “just shoot the damn thing” or “punch Michael Myers in the face, just try it”. And along came Harrison Peel, a character which at the time (I’ll get to that) had a complete monopoly on my attention and Lovecraftian book stack. Peel, a fictional Australian intelligence operative with a complicated resume of American intelligence ties (I’ll try and tackle that later) instantly became my ‘voice’ in the Mythos Universe. “Shoot the fucking Shoggoth, for Christ’s Sake!” was now not an unanswered utterance, but something I could use as a rallying cry for future readings.

“James Bond versus the Cthulhu Mythos” has been the crude, boiler plate ‘blank versus blank’ template explanation used to sum up Peel to the masses, and it works, to an extent. Bond’s world, or his ‘fictional universe’ is a lot less realistic and candy coated compared to the harsh, ultra real world of HARRISON PEEL. In Peel’s world, sometimes innocents die. Children get killed, just like in real life. Horrible tortures are performed by cruel men, just like in real life. And horrors from beyond EXIST, which may or may not be just like real life. Peel’s cohorts can be killed at any second, and often suffer at the hands of the cruel world that David Conyers (oh yeah, he’s the author of THE HARRISON PEEL SERIES) faithfully renders out, looking to our own for the template. Essentially, James Bond would have bled out, and shit his pants after he died in literally the first paragraph of his potential ‘Peel-verse’ adventures. This isn't your Grandma’s Mythos, if you need a fun catch phrase.
Peel is often in Third World Countries, embroiled in war zones that almost, ALMOST, match the horrific nature of the cosmic entities he ultimately has to do battle with. Realistically, insane governments and terrorists alike would love to get their hands on “cosmic, violent entities of extreme power”, and naturally, use them as weapons. Most of the time, mankind ends up unleashing the very things it has to, itself, stop (through heroes like Peel).

So, how did I come across Peel, and how is this a ‘look back’? Come with me into my DeLorean and let us go back to the year 2008. I had just moved into my new house, got my first mortgage, and had just left a really crappy job for a new, better one. The one benefit of the past crappy job, though, was an ample amount of web surfing time during the job. I found a website called DAGONBYTES that proclaimed it had Lovecraftian stories, free to read. I’m not sure how I came about the site, but there I was, being exposed to Lovecraft for the first time (I was a late bloomer). I quickly, over the course of a few weeks, read almost all of Lovecraft’s works, or at least the major, popular ones. AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS was an amazing tale, and reading it unspoiled for the first time was amazing.

After emptying out my chest of free-stories, I decided to go looking for more that maybe weren’t listed online. I then discovered that OTHER authors had taken up Lovecraft’s mantle, and soon I was at the Amazon page for TALES OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS, a paperback that changed my reading world but one I also lost before I could finish. I bought that along with THE SPIRALING WORM by John Sunseri and David Conyers.

Amazon had recommended THE SPIRALING WORM to me, and the descriptions of the stories had me foaming at the mouth. I was a huge fan, as I mentioned earlier, of AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, so the modern day military RETURNING to Antarctica armed with guns and bombs intrigued the hell out of me. I ordered both books to qualify for super shipper savings or whatever, and thus began the tedious wait to receive these awesome books.

After merely samplings TALES (at least I read the story STICKS, what an awesome yarn!) it was lost after a co-worker stole it from me. I’d be mad about that, but if it created a new fan of the genre, I consider it a book well lost. I ended up reading a lot of those stories in later anthologies, anyway. Warmed up from my excursion into other writer’s take on the mythos, I decided to crack open THE SPIRALING WORM. All of the sudden, I was dumped into an action packed world where the Mythos were ‘real’ and these entities were being seen, out in public, in daylight! Gone from the shadows, and snarling in our reality, these cosmic horrors take on a new dimension especially bolstered by the fact that Conyers goes into the science behind all of it. We learn that some entities inhabit our dimension and others simultaneously, allowing them to see the future because part of their bodies exist outside of our sense of time. Being manifested ‘in the flesh’ into our world means that these horrors aren't impervious to damage, and that adds to the detail.

We, the reader, learn that extreme heat from thermite or a nuclear explosion CAN ‘destroy’ the vessels used by the invincible entities from beyond, although these dark gods become merely delayed, not stopped. Conyers does a great job of conveying that you cannot STOP these things, but you might be able to send some Shoggoth back to Antarctica in a body bag though, if you have the right equipment. There are also plenty of human adversaries Peel faces off against too, and Conyers never skimps out on the relationship developments. It isn’t just mindless action, although the action written is so superb I want other writers to read some of this author’s work and take note of the fluid execution of these scenes. Conyers also has a great knowledge of military tactics and equipment, and his education as an engineer only helps further sell the realism of the dynamic situations Peel gets in.

Peel himself is a bit of an enigma, and I may pack-peddle a bit on trying to explain his backstory! Peel has worked for American and Australian military and intelligence organizations, but also has gone on personal, unofficial missions and has ‘friends’ outside the intelligence agencies. One of the fun parts about this series is that we are constantly jumping around the timeline (while still building themes that carry the overall story forward) so we get “young Peel” stories and “old Peel” stories, if that makes sense. Older Peel is dealing with stopping the end of the world, while young Peel is just encountering these horrors for the first time.

So I ended up burning through WORM, partially because it was the only Lovecraftian book I had, and partially because it was damn amazing! One of the most exciting thing that has happened to me in my newer reading experiences was when I got CTHULHU UNBOUND volumes 1&2, and found out there was a PEEL tale called STOMACH ACID.  Co-authored with Brian Sammons who would go on to invent his own character within David Conyers’ universe. I had no idea that the adventures of Peel would extend beyond The Spiraling Worm, so getting to see Peel in action again was thrilling. And boy was it a great story! This ended up getting me hooked on the world of Harrison Peel, and I eventually contacted Conyers and began a fruitful string of correspondences about the next Peel tales and where they would be published. Conyers really helped Peel get around, the spy appearing in numerous publications. Eventually Conyers decided to do a ‘soft reboot’ of the series, revamping older stories to better fit in a grand, new timeline and adding in tons of new content.

The Harrison Peel files was an indie effort by Conyers and self-published to Amazon, albeit with an amazing production quality to it. Conyers released 4 volumes, collecting and polishing his work as he went along, creating the first ‘cycle’ of the Harrison peel series. Unbridled by the fact he had no publisher in the way (granted, most of the material was previously published), Conyers crafted an amazing saga that is sorely underrated. Marathon reading the series is a truly amazing experience, blowing away even the most action packed blockbuster or brainy tech-thriller.

What’s great for the prospective reader is that Conyers has collected all of this work into an omnibus called THE SHOGGOTH CONSPIRACY. With the best cover to ever grace the Peel series and an introduction by well-known author Peter Clines, it’s a great time to get into Peel. I suggest you dive right in if you’re a fan of the Mythos.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Editing News: T.E. Grau Steps Down as Fiction Editor of STRANGE AEONS Magazine

It is with a heavy heart that I type this brief announcement:  I have stepped down as Fiction Editor of Strange Aeons magazine.

It wasn't an easy decision, but after thinking long and hard, and weighing my professional and personal priorities with my integrity as an editor, I decided it was in everyone's best interest that I leave the magazine as Fiction Editor.

With the release of my first collection, I will be eyeing larger and more ambitious writing projects going forward, and to do them (and my family) justice, I need to focus all of my energy and available free time on writing fiction. After two years, I have found that my path in fiction doesn't necessarily include editing, although I am incredibly proud of the stories I was able to secure for the last eight consecutive issues of the magazine (exactly half of the run), which included the phenomenal, all-fiction Special Lost Issue #13 released in conjunction with the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival Portland 2014.

Through it all, I've been lucky enough to have worked with some of the best writers - and people - working in dark and speculative fiction today, and want to thank them all for being so gracious, patient, and obscenely talented. Also, working with Kelly Young, Rick Tillman, Nick "The Hat" Gucker, and the rest of the SA crew has been a wonderful experience, and I cherish the friendships created while doing the work, and especially while not.

Strange Aeons will move on, as the brand is strong and the logo just a few years shy of being iconic, but can only do so properly with a Fiction Editor. As such, if you or anyone you know has an interest in the position, and feel up to the task, please contact Kelly Young at Bring your A, B, and C game. Make me proud. Make the magazine great, better than I could have ever done. It deserves it. You do, too.

And so, I wish Strange Aeons and its lovely readers a sweet, sad goodnight. For now.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

TC Review & Interview: The Professor Is In - John Langan teaches and terrifies with second fiction collection THE WIDE CARNIVOROUS SKY & OTHER MONSTROUS GEOGRAPHIES

Cover artwork by Santiago Caruso

Every insular creative scene has its personalities, its movers, its stars. It's like the cover of Tiger Beat magazine.  Or a boy band... covered by Tiger Beat magazine. These personalities have labels: The Shy One. The Flirt. The Bad Boy. The Heartthrob.

As mainstream publishing occasionally—and grudgingly—accepts while also further insulates indie press Weird fiction (not an easy bit of cultural gymnastics), a brighter light is being shed on the personalities in this scene, as well. The boy (and girl) band members. While others can hash out who is who and whom is whom, I have my own labels. And in this issue of Tiger Beat, John Langan is The Professor. Or, The General. But mostly The Professor.

You see, Langan actually is a professor in his workaday life, and seems to be naturally suited to the proud vocation, as he can't help but teach us—his students—with each and every one of his layered, finely crafted, incredibly interesting stories of horror and the strange, which are on full display in his latest collection of short fiction The Wide, Carnivorous Sky & Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus Press, 2013), a title I muchly dig, splayed over a cover featuring art by the renowned Santiago Caruso.

When I write "teach" I don't mean "preach," as his work is not preachy in the slightest. Didactic, yes, but I enjoy didacticism, as I'm a huge fan of stylistic writing, unique voice, and guiding subtext. In the case of The Professor, the teaching comes from his deconstruction of the supernatural tale, tearing it down, showing us the parts, and then building it back up in front of our wide, wondrous eyes. There is a deftness in the way he plays with tropes, a celebration, and even at times a wink and a nudge to the reader while he turns them inside out, shining light on a new angle of something you thought you already knew. This is an expert at work within genres, archetypes, and iconic monsters that he clearly loves, and his enthusiasm for the subject matter is infectious, which translates to the reader as a good professor does with an interesting, or even a complex, lecture. One gets the sense of learning while being entertained, or moved, or horrified. That is not an easy thing to do. Hence, my clumsy metaphor above. Hence, Langan as The Professor.

The analogy is set from the first pages of The Wide, Carnivorous Sky & Other Monstrous Geographies, as "Kids" takes place in a classroom, a setting to which we are returned two stories later, in "Technicolor." The former is a piece of flash fiction written from a viewpoint you'd imagine is quite common amongst teachers forced to deal with the smallish nightmares birthed into the world and hustled off into the local schools, while the former is a mesmerizing rumination on Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death," in which the reader gets a glimpse of what The Professor might sound like when standing in front of his assembled students. An arcane history of Poe's famed short story and the details surrounding its creation are reeled off by an instructor in loving homage and as a bit of slight of hand, while something else is happening just outside the schoolhouse. This is a dazzling info-load couched inside historical and dark literary fiction, wrapped up by a Weird mystery tale. EAP would be incredibly proud.

In between these two pieces is the meaty, strong-limbed "How The Day Runs Down," which is a zombie tale unlike any I've previously read. Not that I've read a lot of zombie fiction, mind, but I love the theatrical, shattered fourth wall way that Langan structures this tale, and inside of this armature of a narrated stage play, his overall rendering of a zombie apocalypse touches on the often random nature of total societal collapse and those who will survive. Terrifying, heartbreaking, and boldly experimental, this is—as are other stories in this collection—a piece of meta horror fiction that evidences a writer who can look at stories in three, and sometimes four, dimensions when deciding how to tell them.

The titular tale arrives next, shifting gears into an action-packed Gulf War story detailing the decimation of an American platoon by something that swoops down from the sky, told in both the present and through flashback, as the survivors prepare to deal out some payback against a cosmic bloodsucker that apparently hasn't read any of the old, tired vampire yarns about what it can and cannot do, and when. This is grim, grisly, totally fun stuff, reminiscent of the Pulps, and reflects Langan's love of comic books and Robert E. Howard.

"City of the Dog"—in addition to being a story about canine monsters prowling the more ancient parts of 1990's Albany—struck me as a powerful tale about cowardice, and other emotional failings of selfish people trying to hold onto relationships, and ultimately save themselves, at a very selfish age. "The Revel" deals with similar beasts, but in a much different way, walking the reader through the commonplace steps of your classic werewolf film while not telling that same reader that the camera was never rolling.

At this point in the collection, we've seen the author give the Langan Treatment to zombies, werewolves, and vampires, while also discussing, in detail, the work of Edgar Allan Poe. Not many writers can jump strata with such a deft, confident touch, or with such a sense of enjoyment.

Veering left is "The Shallows," which shows us backyard Lovecraftian horror drenched in the bizarre. Dread and loneliness and grief and madness now live in a world that has changed forever, while something incredibly large is moving out in the water... The story had what can only be described as a psychedelic effect on me while reading it, as I imagined the scene dotted with colorful strobes and that weird soundtrack music of early 70's experimental film while the narrator puttered around his property and garden, accompanied by his trusty crab.

"June, 1987. Hitchhiking. Mr. Norris." is a quick, jarring tale of a serial killer answering to a higher calling, intent on making a spitfire named "Laird" his next victim, written for an online ribbing/tribute page to fellow horror author Laird Barron. The creep-out factor of the antagonist balances well with the reader cheering on the protagonist, who obviously knows what to do when he has a knife in his hands. Blades ain't just for slicing sled rope, bub.

"Mother of Stone" is saved for last, which is fitting, as this big, intense work of investigative supernaturalism grabs up the reader and shoves them inside a very real world where things aren't as they appear, and dark forces from outside are at play in the most common of places. This story of a headless statue of mysterious origin and the skeptical writer who tracks down the truth could have easily served as the anchor text for a full novel, so well drawn are the characters, so vibrant is the setting. The crescendo created by "Mother of Stone" struck the perfect note to finish off the symphony.

Following the fiction, I loved the story notes section, as my inner fanboy geeks out on background and inspiration info related to stories I enjoy. The early edition ARC I received unfortunately didn't include the afterword by Laird Barron, as I'm always interested in Barron's take on writing in general, and specific writers in particular. His close friendship with Langan would have made for epic reading.

Last year I read Langan's previous collection, the outstanding Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters, and upon finishing The Wide Carnivorous Sky & Other Monstrous Geographies, I can see the growth of a writer in terms of narrative scope and guiding structure, in the confidence and audacity. One can sense newfound freedom in these nine tales. This is a powerhouse collection, large and deep, both familiar and innovative, at times heartrendingly tragic and other times giddy fun. John Langan is a writer working at the leading edge of horror fiction, tipping his hat in respect to the landmarks behind him while helping map the new terrain ahead. The genre is in good hands while The Professor is drawing up tomorrow's lesson plan.

What brought you into writing, and if you can recall, was there a moment of clarity in your life where you thought that you could move beyond just reading books and possibly become an author yourself?

Storytelling has always been present in my life, in one form or another.  I can remember writing my version of King Kong vs. Godzilla when I was in first grade; admittedly, so I could draw the accompanying picture of the two monsters squaring off.  When I got in trouble for something in the third grade (I can’t remember what), and my father told me he wanted me to write him a story as part of my punishment, I wrote my own version of the latest issue of Marvel’s Supervillain Team-Up, in which Dr. Doom fought the Red Skull on the moon.  (As you might imagine, this was not what my father intended, but to his credit, he accepted it.)  And when I was in the sixth grade, I wrote and read to my English class a Halloween story about a kid’s encounter with what was essentially one of Tolkien’s Nazgûl.  I think that may have been my first inkling that I had some ability as a writer.  I can remember the feel of the other students’ attention, the quiet that descended on the classroom as they listened to the story.  My freshman year of high school, I would write a horror story that won first place in the school’s Christmas writing contest, and was published in the school newspaper, and I suppose I could point to that as the moment of clarity as regards to my writing future.  But reading a story about a confrontation with a monster—a fundamentally literary monster—to my classmates may have been my first hint of the direction I’d eventually go.

Now that we've squared that away, what drew you to the darker side of the literary ledger?

That’s the question, isn't it?  My childhood was punctuated by moments of trauma, from getting a sliver of metal in my right eye when I was two and a half (which required surgery) to my father suffering a pair of heart attacks pretty much consecutively when I was thirteen.  That awareness of the contingency of experience, of the way in which the bottom can drop out from under you without warning, combined with a deeply Catholic upbringing, in which the supernatural, both good and bad, was an active part of existence.  If you look closely enough at any writer’s life, I suppose their choice of material will seem overdetermined.  Certainly, I’m aware of that in my case.

In a similar vein, who (or what) do you consider an influential force on your writing? What writers do you most (professionally) admire, and read the most?

I can’t overestimate the importance comic books had for me as a developing reader and writer, especially the Marvel titles of the sixties, seventies, and eighties.  Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Doug Moench, Chris Claremont, all played an important role in the formation of my writing, as did Robert E. Howard, to whose fiction I was led by Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian adaptation, and Lloyd Alexander and J.R.R. Tolkien.  The writer who first galvanized me, however, who made me feel as if I’d been touched by the Hand of God and set on a mission to do this same thing, was Stephen King, whose Christine I read in paperback the fall of my freshman year of high school, and from which I never looked back.  In the three-plus decades since then, I've encountered a few writers who have had a similar impact:  Peter Straub, Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner, Henry James, more recently Dickens and Robert Browning.  These are the names that come to mind when I think about the writers I’d like to re-read once again.  Heaven knows, a number of my contemporaries have evoked a similar response, too, from Laird Barron to Paul Tremblay to Glen Hirshberg to Michael Cisco.

What is your normal writing schedule? 

I try to write every day, and to produce at least a page during those one or two hours.  I used to get up early in the morning to do this; now, I stay up late into the night.

With echoes of the classroom throughout The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies, how has your work as a teacher effected your writing and the stories you choose to write?

“Teaching,” was the answer I gave to my parents when they asked me how I intended to support myself as an adult (since “writing” was never taken seriously as an option).  Initially, I planned to teach high school English, but the English professors I had when I started my undergraduate education at SUNY New Paltz convinced me that I should pursue a degree in English, as opposed to education.  To be fair, I didn't take much convincing.  From the start, I was infatuated with college, and the prospect of remaining in that environment, to pursue literary study and to teach at that level, appealed to me more than I could say.  When I began studying for my Master’s degree, also in English, also at New Paltz, I was accepted into the English Department’s teaching assistant program.  I was assigned a section of Freshman Composition 1, which I took through fifteen weeks of writing the college-level essay.  At the same time, I took a class in and attended weekly meetings dedicated to teaching at the college level.  Still, talk about on the job training…  Since then, I've taught pretty much every year, with the exception being two semesters I took off when I started taking classes at the CUNY Graduate Center, where I did work towards a Ph.D.  I've moved from teaching freshman writing to teaching introductory literature classes, then to teaching more advanced literature classes, and then to teaching creative writing classes.

All of which is to say that teaching has been a crucial, even fundamental, part of my adult life.  It’s allowed me to return to certain texts and writers over and over again, and to discuss how a novel such as Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier works with a room full of bright, motivated people.  It’s helped me to remain aware of the possibilities of style and form available within fiction.  The classroom and larger college campus have also served as settings for a number of my stories and my novel, House of Windows.  There’s a great diversity of students and faculty at a public university like SUNY New Paltz, a great number of stories swirling around.  There are the same conflicts of the human heart that you encounter in any community, any workplace.  From the standpoint of setting and character, it’s fertile ground, one that permits me to write about pretty much any type of character or situation I choose.

What is your favorite story in this collection? What is the most personal to you?

It’s funny:  I've never thought of the stories in this book in this way.  There are things in each of them that I’m pleased with.  I do have a soft spot for “The Revel,” because its earliest version marked my return to writing horror fiction after a long time away.  I decided to pull out all the stops in writing it, to go for broke, to bring together everything I knew about writing fiction with everything I knew about horror narratives.  I read it to my wife, then my girlfriend, when I visited her at Penn State, where she was completing her dissertation.  It was the middle of a hot summer, and her apartment had no air conditioning and no TV.  She would take breaks in her work, and I would read the next installment to her.  I suppose it was part of our courtship.  In any event, reflecting on that story returns me to the humid air, the voices of the golfers playing the golf course across the street, the clack and snap of the keyboard.

At 68 pages, the harrowing investigative piece, “Mother of Stone,” could have easily hopped and skipped its way to becoming a novel, and - with the general industry perception that "the novel is king" - I can see a temptation to pad it up a bit to release it as such. What led you to include it in a collection of short form fiction?

The simple answer is, I needed a new story for my collection, and I thought I’d finish this one, which had begun as my intended contribution to Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas’s Haunted Legends anthology.  I knew it was going to be long, but it never occurred to me that it might be a novel—possibly because I was already thinking of it as a story.  I have written things that have turned out longer than I expected—to be honest, this is true of pretty much every story I've finished.  Even the short short pieces turn out longer than I’d planned.  And this is how I came to write my first novel, House of Windows, and my (as yet unpublished) second, The Fisherman.  Both started as stories that continued to grow.  So upon reflection, I suppose “Mother of Stone” could have grown to novel length, but it would have had to do so organically, which, as things turned out, it didn't.

You wink at the true location of several of your tales set in the fictional town of Huguenot.  Does the historic - and in many ways, unprecedented - nature of the Huguenot settlement in New Paltz inform any of your work?

Initially, I wrote about New Paltz and its surroundings because I was following the lead of writers like Stephen King and especially Faulkner.  I figured if William Faulkner could find sufficient material for a library shelf’s worth of novels and stories in what he called his postage stamp of soil, then so could I.  When I began to read H.P. Lovecraft’s work in a more serious way, I recognized that he was employing setting in a similar fashion to Faulkner.  For both writers, the evocation of their specific places helps to ground their narratives in a realistic context.  This helps (I think) the events of each writer’s stories to seem more realistic, themselves, as if they've borrowed some of the belief their settings have evoked in the reader.  At the very least, the settings give Faulkner and Lovecraft’s narratives additional resonance.  For both writers, setting has a temporal dimension, too, and that sense of history really resonated with me.  (My single favorite example of this kind of writing may be William Kennedy’s great novel, Ironweed.)  It may be due to growing up in what, for the United States, is one of the older parts of the country.  It may also be due to having parents who were from Scotland, and who took the family to visit our relatives there, several times, when I was a kid, and exposed me to a much older culture.  And it may have something to do with having been raised Catholic, in a religious tradition with a long and storied history.  Probably, it’s for all of these reasons, and more, besides.  But even when I think back to my youthful readings of the Conan stories, I remember being fascinated by the conceit that these stories were set in an incredibly ancient version of our world (ditto Tolkien).  So while I haven’t (yet) done much with the Huguenots per sé, the history of the region continues to be very important to me.

Keeping with geography, New England and areas north and east of New York City seem to have spawned a library full of supernatural fiction over the years, and most of your stories vibrate with the local topography. What is it about this aesthetically beautiful area that inspires such dark and haunted interpretations? The people? The land? The time period of European colonization?

You might answer, “All of the above.”  At the risk of sliding too much into my professor voice:  The northeast coast of the United States is among the first parts of the country to be densely settled by European colonists, which means it’s also among the first literary centers of the emerging country.  It’s settled in part by people who have an especially grim and frightening view of the world, and who leave that viewpoint as a legacy to subsequent generations.  It’s home to many of the writers who comprise the first great movement in American letters, the American Renaissance (which is the American version of the Romantic movement whose English exemplars included Coleridge and Keats).  One of the greatest writers of that movement, Nathaniel Hawthorne, writes dozens of brilliant stories and a couple of novels that make use of the New England setting and bring it together with elements of the supernatural.  Through an accident of geography, H.P. Lovecraft is born in roughly the same area about two generations after Hawthorne’s death.  Of course, Lovecraft was born into a culture whose literature now included Hawthorne.  In turn, when Stephen King was born in approximately the same region, he was born into a culture that now included Hawthorne and Lovecraft.  And so on.  I was born into a culture that included Hawthorne, Lovecraft, and King.  There’s a kind of process of literary accretion at work, I suppose.  Nor is this unique to the northeastern U.S., anymore:  both the American south and California strike me as places that have developed their own considerable traditions of weird fiction.

Five years passed between the publication of your first collection, Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters, and The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies. In an impatient age where some writers put out several books a year and readers often demand new material tomorrow, this can be considered a protracted period of time.  Was this break between collections deliberate, and/or do you consider yourself a deliberate writer?

It’s a little of column A, a little of column B.  I do like to take my time with my writing.  When I decided to write seriously, in my mid-twenties, I set myself the goal of completing one page a day.  Once I started publishing, I set myself the goal of completing one story per year, which I would have accepted for publication by the time last year’s story appeared.  Both of these goals were intended to keep me writing by making the process of writing manageable.  They also allowed me time to linger and labor over my fiction, which I did.  After I completed my third published story, “Tutorial,” I began work on a story that would become my first novel, and the writing and re-writing of that narrative occupied me for the next several years, which removed from what little audience I’d attracted.  I assumed House of Windows would be my first book because, as you pointed out above, there’s a great deal of emphasis placed on the novel as the pre-eminent length for fiction.  It took longer to find a publisher for the book than I’d anticipated, however, and in the meantime, Prime Books had a slot open in their publication schedule for a new collection of fiction, and both Nick Mamatas and Paul Tremblay gave them my name as a possibility.  The result of all this was that, just as I was starting to publish short fiction, again, I had two books appear within less than a year of one another, my collection and then my novel.  After this, my story writing really started to pick up, as more and more invitations from more and more editors to be part of more and more anthologies found their way to my e-mail’s inbox.  Somewhat quickly, I had enough stories for a second collection, which my agent sold in 2011 but which various delays on my part kept from appearing until 2013.  As this was going on, I finally finished my second novel, which I’d put off completing in order to write stories.  The novel proved to be as hard to sell to the big houses as its predecessor—once again, my agent received replies complimenting the literariness of the book, and explaining that this was why it wasn't going to be published.  Which is not to say we've given up on it, only that it will be a bit longer still before it appears.  And while I've been focused on selling my next novel, I've continued to write shorter fiction, with the result that I now have enough stories published and forthcoming for another two and a half collections.  I’m hopeful the next collection will appear sometime in 2016, and then we’ll see about the others after that.

I guess the point of all this is, I've taken a somewhat scattershot approach to book publication.  I’m hoping to be a bit more consistent in that regard, especially when it comes to novels.  On the other hand, years after each of my books appeared, they continue to receive notice.  There’s a tendency among a lot of writers, especially newer writers, to fret over the fate of their book if it doesn't make a big splash when it’s published, or if it doesn't make year’s best lists, or if it isn't nominated for the relevant awards.  I know because I've worried over all these things.  Yet my limited experience thus far assures me that, if you do good work, people will find their way to it.  Maybe not as quickly as you’d like, but it will happen.  So I try to remember that, and keep on writing.

Was the artwork from the always excellent Santiago Caruso commissioned for Carnivorous by Hippocampus, or was it selected by you?

Santiago’s cover was commissioned by me for the book with Hippocampus’s blessing.  I owe my discovery of Santiago’s work to the folks at Night Shade Books, who tapped him to do the cover for House of Windows.  This led me to his website, which featured a generous sampling of his stunning work.  I loved the way his art reached back to someone like Goya, while also invoking the surrealists.  I wanted very much to work with him again, so when Derrick Hussey asked me if I had any thoughts on cover artists for The Wide, Carnivorous Sky, I immediately thought of Santiago.  To be honest, I think he knocked it out of the park with that cover.

How did you rope Laird Barron into writing the afterword for your collection?

I've been friends with Laird longer than pretty much any other writer I know.  I’m pretty sure it was Gordon Van Gelder, who had published my first story in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, who told me to check out Laird’s first story in the magazine, which appeared the month after mine.  Laird and I started corresponding, based on our mutual appreciation of and esteem for one another’s work, and have grown to be good friends since.  Laird is the real deal.  He’s immensely talented, and restless to take that talent in ever-new directions.  He’s one of the hardest working artists I know, and that’s saying something.  Predicting the literary future is a mug’s game, but I’ll play it anyway and say that I’m pretty sure Laird’s fiction is going to stand the test of time as well as that of anyone else writing now.  So, naturally, I decided to piggyback on his success by asking him to write the afterword to my second collection.  Some folks have no use for such things, but I've always loved them, for the glimpse they offer into the writers’ lives, for the insights they can bring to a reader’s understanding.  I’ll admit, Laird took the piece in a direction I was not anticipating, much to my delight.  But his friendship means the world to me, and I’m happy he was able to be part of the book.

What is your involvement with the Shirley Jackson Awards, and explain to those who might not know how the awards were launched, and why?

With Brett Cox, JoAnn Cox, Sarah Langan, and Paul Tremblay, I’m one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards.  To describe the awards, I could do worse than quote the official webpage:

“In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.

“The Shirley Jackson Awards are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors. The awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories:  Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.”

Basically, the awards were founded because there’s a tremendous amount of great dark fiction being published at all lengths, and it seemed appropriate to us to have another means of recognizing it.  The nominations lists are up at the award website, and you could do worse than read through their contents.

As part of our fundraising efforts for the award, we've also partnered with the LitReactor website the last few years to put together a four-week, online class in writing horror fiction.  It’s taught by four instructors—one per week—each of whom tackles a different aspect of writing horror.

What is you take on the modern state of horror and Weird fiction? Do you think that a proliferation of avenues to print publication - in additional to the rise of self and electronic publishing - has helped or harmed contemporary speculative fiction?

It seems to me that, in many ways, horror fiction is doing as well as it ever has, maybe even better.  You have writers such as King, Straub, and Campbell, continuing to produce vibrant and exciting work.  You have writers such as Laird Barron, Sarah Langan, and Paul Tremblay, who are starting to come into their own as powers in the field.  And you have newer writers, such as Mike Griffin, Usman Tanveer Malik, and Molly Tanzer, who are making a real splash.  It also seems a bit easier for work in the horror field to be taken seriously by a wider audience.  A lot of the fiction that has been important to the field is being brought back into print by presses like Valancourt and Tough Times.  Due to the internet, it’s easier for writers working in the field to communicate with one another.  If there’s one downside to the present moment, it’s that the major publishers remain cautious about publishing horror fiction in the way that they used to.  From that perspective, the smaller houses have played an important role in allowing writers such as Chesya Burke, Michael Cisco, and Livia Llewelyn to find a home for their work.

I count you as one of the most inspirational figures working in Weird fiction today, as I always feel positive and fired up to create after hearing or reading one of your interviews. Not to put you on the spot, but any words of advice for writers, both new and veteran? Any advice for readers?

For writers, I’d offer two pieces of advice:  write, and practice patience.  Specifically, work on your fiction.  If you’re doing anything else—posting on Twitter, posting on Facebook, blogging, engaging in lengthy online debates—you aren't writing fiction.  Fiction takes time, and is challenging.  Social media is quick, and is easy.  The temptation to indulge one at the expense of the other is obvious.  Resist it.  You don’t want to fall into the trap of confusing having an active presence on social media with having a writing career.  What’s more, it takes a while, sometimes a long while, for a story or book to find its audience.  (I talked about this above.)  Don’t lose heart.  Keep writing.  Eventually, good work finds its way to its audience.

For readers, I’d ask you to continue to try to read writers who are new to you.  I know that money can be tight, and there’s already so much to read by writers you know and like, but once in a while, take a chance on something unfamiliar.  And whatever you read, when you like something, please let other people know.  For me as a writer, there’s still no bigger thrill than seeing folks recommending my work to other readers.

What's next for John Langan? What new projects do you have cooking, or possibly on the horizon?

My third collection will be forthcoming from Hippocampus Press in (I think) early 2016; the working title for it is Sefira and Other Betrayals.  My agent continues to work on finding a home for my second novel.  I’m wrapping up a number of story commitments, and hope to begin work on my next novel over the summer.

If this matters to you, and not to be morbid, but what do you want to leave behind as your legacy as a writer (or as an individual)?

I would like my wife and sons to know that I loved them, and that I tried to be the best husband and father I could be.  I would like my friends to remember me as loyal and kind.  I would like my readers to continue reading and talking about my fiction, and I would like it to continue to engage and entertain them, to reward their time.

Thank you so much for your time, John.

Thank you, Ted, for such fine questions, and to you and your readers for reading them.