Friday, April 17, 2009

Horror Blog Fest - A chat with Joseph D'Lacey

Mark and I are very chuffed to have met Jospeh and his partner in crime...uhm, horror, Bill Hussey, this weekend past at Eastercon. But before even then we were fans of them both. Confession: it is because of their LOVE for the horror genre that I dreamed up this two month horror blogfest on MFB. And it also so happens that both Joseph and Bill's books are released during this time...cunning ploy or mastermind marketing...or pure coincidence...I'll let you decide!

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about you and your writing career.

My name is Joseph D’Lacey – author of MEAT, Garbage Man and forthcoming novella The Kill Crew. I love writing short fiction and have always written poetry, even though I never admit to it in these kinds of interviews.

It’s taken twelve years from that whimsical moment when I decided I’d like to be a ‘real’ writer to arrive where I am now. I keep thinking it’s going to get easier but it never does.

MEAT was my full-length debut. It’s been translated into German, French, Hungarian and Turkish at the last count and I’ve just printed off the first draft of the movie script. It arrived attached to an email from the screenwriter just now!

I co-curate Horror Reanimated with Bill Hussey and Mathew F. Riley. The site is dedicated to exploring and promoting the genre.

What is your most recent novel about – if you are allowed to tell us?

I’d be delighted to tell you about it (them!).

Garbage Man (7th May, Bloody Books) deals with what happens to all the rubbish we bury in landfill – also the burial of secrets and the past. In the novel a huge, filthy dumping ground is struck by lighting, animating the trash and triggering an apocalypse. There’s a lot of Gaia theory in there. Like MEAT I’d label it ‘eco-horror’. There’s an ensemble cast again, each character trying to find his/her own way through a battle with zombie trash.

The Kill Crew (10th August, Stone Garden Publishing) is a survival horror tale. Two hundred survivors of an unknown ‘event’ have barricaded themselves into a single city block. Every night the ‘changed’ inhabitants of the city attack them. A daily lottery decides the seven members of The Kill Crew whose job it is to leave the safety of the barricade after dark and destroy as many of their assailants as possible. The heroine is a shotgun-toting lady called Sheri Foley – she kicks arse!

What do you think makes the horror genre so fascinating to readers and writers?

Whoa! That’s a big question! – one we try to answer on the Horror Reanimated blog all the time.

From a writer’s perspective, the genre allows me to explore all manner of weird stuff, which I love. Stories without an element of the unusual or bizarre tend not to interest me. Very occasionally, I do write straight fiction or humour but even that will tend to be skewed in some way.

For readers it’s a different thing. We all live with the threat of ‘extremity’. A sense of fear or worry over what may happen to us is always at the back of our minds. Horror seems to give vent to that fear. Like catharsis or therapy – as with a rollercoaster – a perfectly safe moment of terror. I doubt the genre would go down too well in a war zone where people face real horrors every day.

For some people, the pursuit of that kind of extremity is purely a thrill ride and nothing more. For others there’s an obsession with dark subjects; they can’t leave horror alone. For me, when I discovered horror at a very young age, it was like finding a new world. The stories were about things people never talked about, things you never found in ‘normal’ books: other worlds; horrible deaths; evil beings; twisted sex; boxed-in terror!

I never picked up an Enid Blyton title again!

As a horror writer / fan, what sells a story / concept to you?

As a writer, it might be as whimsical as phrase that comes to mind. I wrote The Kill Crew because I liked the sound of the title. I had no idea what the story itself would be about – certainly no idea that I’d be writing a female protagonist in the first person! Otherwise, I just ‘know’ when an idea is odd enough to keep me interested for as long as it takes to finish.

As a reader, what sells a story to me is story in the first place. If it’s a great story, if the writer steps back out of the writing to let the story take you, that’s a good start. It doesn’t have to be horror, either. I loved the ‘voice’ of the narrator in DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little – the voice pulled me through that novel like a fish on a hook. Or it can be the high concept behind the story that draws me in and keeps me. I just read Thomas Ligotti’s My Work is not yet Done and in that case it was the mix of concept, flowing story and voice that made the novella such a great read.

What movies / books influenced your development as a genre writer? Similarly, what books, movies, comics, get you excited as a fan?

Movies: The Thing, Alien, Aliens, Blade Runner, Liquid Sky, Dark Star, Angelheart, Jacob’s Ladder, The Matrix, Robocop. There are bound to be others I haven’t remembered and I haven’t mentioned any movies which aren’t genre-related.

Books: The Rats, The Fog, The Stand, Night Shift, The Great and Secret Show, Tales of the Unexpected.

These days, I’m reading to catch up. I’ve read almost no ‘new’ horror in the last ten years. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road blew my mind – so bleakly beautiful. I rarely read comics; nothing against them but I can’t justify the time. Movies – anything where SF and Horror meet tend to give me the fix I need.

Who do you go all fan-boy about when it comes to the horror genre? Have you ever met anyone more famous than yourself and how did you react?

I think my postman is more famous than I am.

Pre-empting your next question a bit, I’d like to meet Stephen King. I read his books from an early age and was inspired. When he read and blurbed MEAT, I almost fainted with pride – I still can’t quite believe it. The man is a phenomenal story-teller. It has been suggested that a meeting is a possibility. Rest assured I’ll take the opportunity if it comes up.

If you had a chance to invite any horror legend, be it actor, writer, director, author (living / dead / undead) over for some tea, who would you choose and why?

I’d go for the dead ones, I think. Poe, Lovecraft and Kafka would make for a very giggly tea party.

Lights on or off when watching horror flicks?

Off, of course! With a family of venomous spiders roaming the house.

Which do you prefer: Romero originals or remakes?


What is the best advice you ever received from someone about horror writing?

The best advice, for any writer, I suspect: “Write the first million words…” I tried to find out who originally said this but I can’t find any reference to it. Perhaps someone made it up just to terrorise hopeful writers! It sounds trite but there’s a lot of truth in it. It gives a realistic idea of the commitment and consistency necessary to ‘do the job’.

The horror genre has seen many incarnations over the past few years – what do you think the future holds for the genre?

It’s my hope that the genre will continue to develop in depth and complexity, even in revisiting old horrors and monsters. Fear is a rich seam of creativity and it’s far from being exhausted. In mining that seam, I believe we learn a lot about ourselves. Not only that, we live in a world where new fears arise every day; fears about the overuse of technology and the price of worshipping in the temple of science, fears about our own planet dying. Those fears point the finger very firmly back in our own faces – we’re responsible for all of it. Horror exploring these themes will be the horror our children will fondly remember. Assuming they live long enough.

Do you have a zombie apocalypse survival plan – apart from going to hide in the Winchester, that is! – and will you be able to implement it?

First of all, Liz, no-one’s going to make it. However, I understand your ironic use of the term ‘survival plan’.

The important thing to remember when facing the inevitable and imminent zombie apocalypse is this: you can die running or you can die fighting. It’s a matter of right and wrong. I’m darn sure that people who get eaten because they were hiding under the bed will NOT go to heaven.

In every room of my house, I have easily accessible weaponry for exactly this purpose. The combat will be necessarily close-quarters and projectile weapons won’t be much use. Therefore, Brain-damaging or head-removing equipment is the order of the day (of judgement) – swords, axes, crow-bars, pick-axe handles etc. We have them all. I’ve even got a plastic hammer for the baby to use.

Are there any “how to” books on your bookshelf you would recommend to aspiring authors?

I have tons of such books but the ones I found most useful and inspiring were The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and On Writing by Stephen King. The Artist’s Way restarted my creative engine about twelve years ago and I haven’t looked back. On Writing gives me a refuel when needed.

**Competition News**

Joseph's publishers Bloody Books (Beautiful Books) kindly agreed to give THREE copies of GARBAGE MAN away to three lucky people. Now, if all goes well, you'll get these before the release date which is, to be honest, very cool. Here's what to do: email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) with your name and contact details (address only, no mobile numbers required) with Garbage Man in the subject. We'll announce the winners on...24th April 09 - so there's a week. And, as usual, this is UK entrants only.

1 comment:

Suzanne McLeod said...

'With a family of venomous spiders roaming the house.' Remind me *never* to watch horror movies at your place!!!

Thanks for a great interview Liz and Joseph - and sorry Joseph we didn't get more chance to chat at Eastercon . . . next time for definite :-)