When I was young, I had such love of horror. I was always impressed as to how horror special effects included so many props. We did not have the detail orientated special effects our modern-day movies offer us. It’s no different with horror books, I used to linger on every bit of rage, anger and gore horror offered. If you are looking to surround yourself with such gore and horror might I recommend reading the texts of Anthony Creane. Anthony’s ability to scare you is one that comes from an innate place, if you relish being scared you have to read his work. I’d like to take the opportunity to invite you all to follow Anthony Creane on social media via Instagram @terrorfiction and his website here.
AC: Badly (haha). I’ve very critical of myself, usually it’s worse before I start something and I feel better the further I get into something. It’s rare I’m completely happy with anything of mine, but then I think most artist – in whatever medium – never are. I don’t mean in the sense of “meh, that’ll do” and leave it, but you have to learn when to stop tinkering for tinkering’s sake.
Once I finish something, I’ve reached the point of knowing the story it what it is, I’m happy with it. I very rarely go back and pick holes in my work – should I change this word, that sentence – that would drive me mad if I did that.
Using my published collection as an example, I’m proud of all of those stories. I like some stories better than others, that’s only natural, but I wouldn’t change or swap any of them. And, if I do look at any of those stories, I can’t remember the actual inner critical thoughts I had while writing any of them.
Everyone has an inner critic, or self-doubt, often because we want to achieve perfection – write the perfect story, poem, song, paint the perfect picture, dance the perfect dance – but nothing is perfect. You create what only you can, nothing is perfect, it may not even turn out how you expect it to – which can be fun to go off in an unexpected direction – but what makes it unique, what people will be drawn to is your own individual, unique voice.
Some people find their inner critic almost crippling creatively, and they shouldn’t. Never lower your ambitions, aim for the stars – but never let your inner critic beat you down so your feet never even leave the ground.
That sounds incredibly artsy-fartsy, and I hate sounding like that, but hopefully that makes sense!
RMMW: Have you ever been creatively blocked if yes, how did you overcome it?
AC: My biggest issue that slows my writing down is deciding what to start next. I have a ridiculous amount of ideas in my head – well over a hundred – and I narrow down the ideas to handful and it can take a while to finally commit to one of those. It takes a while to shake off the “I should be working on that other idea” feeling. But if you do that all you end up with is half a dozen half finished things. Sooner or later you have to commit.
I once read an interview with the late Richard Laymon – American horror author, who was far more popular over here in the UK than in his home country, in case you haven’t heard of him – and something he said really stuck with me. What he said was along the lines of never stop writing one idea before it’s finished to start a “better” idea, because the idea you’re already writing could actually be your masterpiece.
That’s something I try to remember, new ideas always seem fresh and exciting, especially when you’ve been working on something for a while, but it really is a case of the grass isn’t greener. The idea you’re working on was once a new, exciting idea, and it still is – or will be for readers. It just seems less exciting for you because you’ve been living with it for a while. If you quit that idea for another newer, more exciting idea, the novelty will wear off with that one and you’ll go through the same thing and end up with piles of unfinished stories as you continue to chase the impossible idea – an idea that stays fresh and exciting.
Think of it like a joke. I hear the funniest joke I’ve ever heard; I laugh so hard I’m crying, my sides hurt, I end up doing that embarrassing pig snorting sound – you get the idea – but that doesn’t happen each time I remember the joke after that. I know the joke; the initial response has gone. It doesn’t mean the joke has stopped being funny, just how I connect with it. Every time I tell someone who hasn’t heard it, they will laugh hysterically – it still evokes that same reaction for other people. So, writing an idea, the idea may become a little stale or old hat to you, but remember readers will be experiencing it for the first time and (hopefully) they will find it as exciting as you did when the idea first hit.
If you mean “blocked” in the sense of writers’ block, I don’t believe in that, it’s another term for procrastination. If you get stuck, change the angle, write something else, just plough through it.
RMMW: Do you have any artist’s rituals before starting a new book?
AC: Other than finally committing to an idea, like I said above? (haha)
I don’t have any rituals, I’m not superstitious in the slightest.
RMMW: If you had a super power what would it be?
AC: Cold war Russia (haha)
RMMW: What do you enjoy most regarding horror writing?
One reason is there are no limits. I don’t class horror as a genre, it’s more than that. It’s a form of storytelling. Science fiction, historical, romance, westerns – these are genres. But I could write a ‘horror’ story set in the future, in the past, with people falling in love, in the Old West. Horror encompasses any genre you want it to. Horror has no limits.
Another reason is wanting to evoke a response in readers, spook them, disturb them, horrify them, make them feel disgusted, whatever – just try and get some sort of guttural reaction. That’s what horror does, when it’s done right.
And, it’s how my idea come – I guess it’s how I’m wired, I guess.
RMMW: What writers inspire you?
AC: Writers who I don’t consciously realise inspire me. Sometimes I read something and I’m thinking “I can do better than this”, or “I like how this is done”, but even if I think those stories are good, I’m still consciously seeing it as something I’m breaking down at some level.
What really inspires me is when an author just takes me away completely in the story, and I’m totally swept up in the story. Then, when I’m finished, I’m inspired to write something that does the same.
Obviously. I’m only talking about reading for fun – things like beta-reading and the like, you read in a different mindset and read more critically, so even great stories you don’t allow to fully sweep you away – you switch your brain to another mode.
RMMW: What is your favourite story written by you? What was it about?
AC: Only picking from stories that are published, so people have the chance to know what I’m talking about, I’d have to pick two.
The first one is “13th Storey”. That’s my personal favourite in the collection. It’s nothing more than two people having a conversation on a rooftop. I guess it could be argued it’s not out and out ‘horror’, but it’s a little dark with a little twist, so it works for me. I think I nailed it, the dialogue, the jokes, the feel. Yeah, I like that one.
The second one, that is my favourite as a “horror author”, from the feedback from people who have read it, is “Silence the Voices”. My favourite was being told it’s “a fucking disturbing story” and “disturbed and fucked up”. They were meant as compliments, and I definitely took them that way.
RMMW: What is it about horror that you find to be so attractive?
AC: I think I kind of touched on this before, just how unlimited it can be. And I don’t just mean in stories, but the way it can inspire so many other artistic mediums. Just the work on display on Instagram, people like (using Instagram names), the art of @vali_saurus, the sculpture and paintings of @the_murder_room, the SFX make-up of @bloody.jojo
And just so many accounts where people post horror themed stuff, when people like horror there tends to be a real passion behind it.
RMMW: Who is your favourite horror writer?
AC: Let’s get Stephen King out of the way. He’s an obvious choice, and with good reason. But it’s like saying “The Beatles” when asked who are your favourite bands. Both are pretty much universally popular, both deserving of it too.
Maybe it’s an age thing, but these days I don’t have favourite authors. I think it’s a more youthful trait to attached to an author, or band, and read / listen to their stuff constantly.
These days I just want a good story.
Authors that I’ll always have a soft spot for, for various reasons, are; Stephen King, Richard Laymon, Peter James, James Herbert, Ramsey Campbell, Shaun Hutson… Thomas Harris and Michael Marshall Smith – these two are often seen as thriller authors, but, again, because horror is more than a genre, I’m including them.
Just to add one more, who doesn’t have any horror elements, Lee Child. I’m a strong believer if you write horror, you should read more than just horror.
These days I also try and read more independent/small press authors, some of my favourites are Iain Rob Wright, Matt Shaw, Christy Aldridge, Edward Lorn.
RMMW: What inspires you?
AC: Anything. Sometimes I hear a song and something pops into my head – it could be a song I’ve never heard before, or one I’ve heard a thousand times. Something I see, something someone says. Twisting something into a “what if?” situation.
Sometimes things just pop in my head and I have no idea why or where they came from.
But I don’t believe in waiting around for inspiration, or having a muse. Not if you’re serious about writing. You can’t just lounge around waiting to be inspired, you have to just sit down and put the work in.
RMMW: Do you map your stories or write them as you go?
AC: Half and half.
How I write is differently to most people, from what I’ve heard. Generally, people seem to just hammer out a first draft, just to get it down, and pick up things like spelling and grammar in the second draft and begin revisions.
I try and nail it first time round. I will give something the once over and change a few things if needed, but as an example, a fair few of the stories in my published collection are first drafts. I would love to have an editor though, there’s always a typo or two that sneaks through.
Most of the time I write as I go, but with a rough idea of direction or ending in mind. Because I try and nail it first time when writing, I guess you could say I do I rough first draft in my head. I’ll spend time just thinking, going through the story, changing my mind, adding things, removing things, then once I feel good to go, I start typing.
Sometimes the story is exactly what I had in my head, other times it changes as I type, and I just let it go and see where I end up.
I know some people can’t understand how I work, getting it right first time, but personally I just can’t move on to the next page, or even the next sentence, knowing something isn’t right and needs editing or changing later.
So, most of any mapping done is in my head, but the novel I’m writing now I have one word “titles” for each chapter I think the novel will have noted down on my phone. These are just little pointers what each chapter should be, but I’m sure the story will change when I actually write most of those chapters. I have tow very clear endings in mind, I don’t know which one I’m aiming for until I get a real sense of the story as I write it.
RMMW: When did you start writing and were you always interested in horror?
AC: I read a lot growing up. My dad worked for Penguin books for years, at their head office. He would bring countless “pulp” books home. Most of these had no more than a creased cover, so they couldn’t be sent out to retailers, but to read they were complete. So, I spent a fair amount of my childhood reading books.
It didn’t occur to me to be an author straight away though, although, in a way, I was already writing. Up until I was about seventeen or eighteen, I wanted to be a comic book artist. I wanted to draw Batman for DC Comics, so I spent years “writing” the stories I drew. Some were of existing characters; some were my own. I even went to college to study art when I was seventeen.
It was then I realised that although I wasn’t bad as a comic artist, I wasn’t anything spectacular. I knew I wanted to do something creative though. So, I changed my college course from art to media studies and tried photography, film making etc., and while enjoying them all nothing really clicked.
And while I had pretty much stopped drawing comics – I had a few small press jobs to fulfil still – there were still ideas – stories – coming to mind. These stories, now having removed the superhero genre, were a jumble that I couldn’t make sense of.
Then, one day, one of the film making tutors, was discussing the three-act structure and told us an old urban legend – albeit at that age, one that the class hadn’t heard.
He was a great storyteller, every student hung on his every word, and by the end of the story I knew it had really got me. I looked around the rest of the students, and saw their faces and knew their reactions and feelings were similar to me. Like I said before, when it’s done right, the reaction to horror is almost visceral. It’s deeper than just liking a story, more than happiness or sadness. Sure, it takes a good story to make you laugh or cry, but horror gives you that feeling in the pit of your stomach.
I had read horror, watched horror, before this, and enjoyed it. Many of my stories already had a bit of dark twist, but after being told this story, realising that although I had put the comic art to one side, I was still getting story ideas, I tried writing, and writing horror.
All those jumbled ideas finally fell into place, they were horror ideas and suddenly they made sense. I don’t know if I would say I was meant to write horror, but what I will say is when I started to, the ideas fell into place and writing it felt “right”.
RMMW: What’s your favourite horror movie?
AC: This is easy, An American Werewolf in London. I know there are scarier horror films, more influential, arguably better films, but that’s the one for me.
For me, it’s the seminal werewolf film, and I think the werewolf is one of the classic horror monsters that is generally not used to its full potential or, written off as second tier to the likes of vampires and zombies – especially these days.
But An American Werewolf in London is one of the few times its been done right. The Howling series is hit and miss, but even the good ones aren’t up there with American Werewolf for me. One that gets pretty close, for me anyway, is Dog Soldiers.
But I digress. As I’m sure you’re well aware I do after reading my answers.
American Werewolf has the story, scary, atmospheric, there’s humour, characters that feel real and you care about. And, of course, those special effects.
But this film also connects with me on a deeper level. I originally watched the film when I was about six or seven, on home video. What I was doing at that age watching a film like that, I’ve no idea, but I don’t want to cast aspersions on my parents’ parenting (haha). I managed to watch it up to a certain point. I made it past the initial attack, the nightmares, even the first conversation with the corpse… but I had to stop when I watched the first change.
That freaked me out. As far as I was concerned, I had literally watched a man change into a wolf. I couldn’t go back to that film for a few years, it affected me so much.
I think, looking back, that was the first time I discovered the real power horror can have over people. The raw emotion it can create.
Growing up in the 80s, my childhood was filed with Star Wars, Indianan Jones, Goonies, Back To The Future, Gremlins – pretty much every big 80s film – and as much as I loved those films (and many of them I still do), none of them ever got me as deeply as An American Werewolf In London did.
That was something I discovered at an early age, but I guess I didn’t really fully understand what horror can achieve until that college tutor reminded me, or rather showed me what I already knew deep down.
An American Werewolf in London also showed me how humour can work within horror, and that’s something I try to incorporate in my work – where I can.
And yes, thinking the werewolf is often not given justice, I will do my werewolf novel one day.