The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Jason Franks

Scott – Your online bio mentions that you’ve lived in South Africa, the USA, Japan, and now Australia.  With that in mind, I’ve got to ask:  Which place did you like best and why?

 

Jason – I’ve lived most of my life in Australia, and I guess I like it best here. My immediate family is based here now and I just like the low-key culture to which we aspire. Australians are casual, vulgar, and will ruthlessly mock anyone who we think is putting on airs.

 

I also love Japan. When we got married, my wife and I did consider living over there for a time, but it didn’t work out with the global economy the way it was.

 

 

Scott – Aspiringly low-key.  I like that.  How would you say that your past travels have had an influence on your literary work?

 

Jason – Hugely. I didn’t really consider myself an Australian until I had lived in the US for a few years. When Americans asked me where I was from, I’d say ‘Australia’, just to make it simple, and eventually, I realized it was true. In Australia, when people ask, I have to say South Africa . . . but I haven’t lived there since I was 10 and I don’t feel like a South African any more.

 

Travel’s not just about seeing the sights or getting away from the things you take for granted. I love being in transit, at least on the outbound side of things. As stressful as airports can be, it’s great to just be able to put aside your everyday concerns and just concentrate on getting to where you are going. I really do feel a weight coming off my shoulders when I finally sit down in a departure lounge and know there’s nothing I have to do but wait for my flight to be called. And then, once you arrive….

 

Being an outsider in a strange place is frightening and alienating and wonderful. It’s addictive.

 

I like to set stories in places I have visited. Sometimes I will visit places if I want to write about them. I am just now finishing up a new novel about a hitman whose employers send him to on missions to places that don’t exist — but who is really only in the game for the travel opportunities.

 

 

Scott – Having travelled quite a bit as well, I know what you mean about simplifying things to make it easier for everyone.  However, when it comes to writing, it seems like you’ve got your fingers in a little bit of everything!  I’ve talked to writers with English degrees and writers who came to the craft after years on the theatrical stage.  How did you end up writing novels and teaching workshops?

 

Jason – Writing is something I’ve always done for pleasure; ever since I first learned how to make the alphabet. It’s something I always wanted to do. I did do a one-year graduate diploma in creative writing and I took classes at the local writing centre, and that lead directly to my first publications. That I think was fifty percent due to the skills I learned in class and fifty percent due to me feeling like I was not only qualified but obliged to spend more time writing and to start submitting stories to publications. In particular, the workshops I did with Jack Dann taught me not just craft of writing, but how to go about actually selling stories.

 

Writing grew out of that. I found that I wanted to tell longer stories or to write more stories about the same characters, and it was just a matter of trying until I found out how to do it. My first (awful, unpublishable) novel was basically an exercise in seeing if I could write a complete story about a group of characters (government agents and roaming psychopaths) in a situation (a serial killer—with mind powers!) that would go to novel length.

 

(Told you it was terrible.)

 

I never planned on teaching workshops. The first one I did was at the request of the Australian Society of Authors—they cancelled it at the last minute, and I admit I was relieved. But then the Australian Comic Arts Festival asked me to do one, and I figured I’d give it a shot. I was surprised that it went off well and, when Comics Mastermind approached me about working with them, I figured I could do it regularly.

 

 

Scott – You know, you say that’s a terrible plot for a novel, but I’ve seen what’s on television….  Speaking of serial killers, though, you prefer to explore the darker elements of speculative fiction.  It seems like you prefer fairy tales to Lovecraftian horror or weird fiction.  What’s so interesting to you about that niche?

 

Jason – I think there are a couple of things at play here. First is my desire to tell stories that are a bit different. Good triumphs over evil, the hero finds eternal love (or perhaps some momentary sexual gratification), there’s a big parade where someone important hands out medals? You’re not going to see that from me unless I am taking the piss. The darker spaces—horror, noir, weird fiction—give you license to do stories that don’t have happy endings.

 

Secondly, I’ve always more interested in the bad guys than the goodies. They take initiative, and they come up with clever plans and awesome machines. I’d much rather watch them do their thing than follow the steroid-jacked hero blunder around ruining all that work. I like to write villains, monsters, thieves, rock stars. If I’m having a good day you might get an anti-hero. I don’t need to make the characters sympathetic. Long as they’re interesting enough to keep you reading, I feel like I’ve done my job.

 

 

Scott – I read one of your short essays that you find Ged, the main character in Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea to be quite relatable.  That was back in 2013.  Do you still feel the comparison is apt and, if so, where are you in your journey to ultimate power?

 

Jason – A Wizard of Earthsea has been my favourite book since I was nine years old. It’s a book for children, but I’ve read it many times and I always learn something new. And I guess what I like about Ged is that, for all his amazing deeds, the biggest problem he has to deal with is a personal one. He has to come to terms with his own weakness in order to overcome it.

 

I am a long way from ultimate power! Like every author, I want to publish more books, and I want to see them in more bookstores and on more shelves and to hear more people talking about them. My writing career is almost old enough to drive a car and it has yet to bring me fame or fortune, but every year I feel like my position improves and that’s really all you can plan for, I think. Maybe I’ll stumble into a lucky break, but if not, I’ll just keep grinding away at it.

 

 

Scott – Who knows.  Maybe ultimate power is right around the corner!  Your latest creation, Faerie Apocalypse, is a tale about mortals crossing into the realm of the Fae.  What kind of research did you have to do for this piece?

 

Jason – I went to fairyland with a camera and a notepad. The camera didn’t work.

My research for this was reading a lot of other books in which the characters go adventuring in fairy land, or some facsimile thereof. I learned to read on this material (Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree books), so I think I know my way around the genre pretty well by now.

 

Faerie Apocalypse is about how stories grow across genres and media and culture, from the writers to readers (writers are also readers) and how this process makes them real in a way that is remarkable for a pack of lies. I also did a small amount of research into UK geography—I travelled there a couple of times! — which Alan Baxter then kindly corrected for me.

 

 

Scott – Learning to read while learning about fairies sounds like a good way to gain ingrained knowledge.  That’s surprisingly common in speculative fiction authors.  I see that you’re in the graphic art space as well.  The Sixsmiths is a graphic novel about Satanists who’ve fallen prey to the global recession.  How did you get into graphic novels, and what does the creative partnership between yourself and J. Marc Schmidt look like?

 

Jason – I got into comics as a reader pretty late—I think I was seventeen or eighteen. At that point, I already knew that I wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be an artist, although not to the same degree. Comics at that time were full of fresh (to me) new voices and stories for a while there I found I was enjoying them better than I was prose fiction.

 

I first encountered J. Marc while messing around on some comics web forums in the early 2000s. J. Marc wanted to draw something short and I had a script I’d been messing with and the next thing you know, the pages arrived in my mailbox. I was living in the US then, and Marc was in Germany. I didn’t even know his real name until the pages arrived. And those pages were amazing! I’d never really thought about writing for another artist before that but I was immediately hooked.

 

  1. Marc was my primary collaborator from 2003 until 2010. Usually, we worked in a pretty traditional way—I’d write a full script and he’d take it away and draw it. Then I would letter (and sometimes colour) the work and prep it for print. Sometimes, we worked Marvel Method. Occasionally he’d just send me pages and ask me to write dialogue for them. Still others, he’d write dialogue as well, and I’d just edit it and drop it into lettering. J. Marc sold a couple of solo graphic novels before I had any real published comics work and is more than capable of writing his own material, so I very was lucky to have the chance to work with him.

 

 

Scott – It sounds like lurking around forums and searching for the secret to life might just pay off for all of us, one day.  Speaking of, I always ask:  What kind of advice would you give to writers looking to get their work out there?

 

Jason – Just to stick with it. Occasionally, someone gets lucky and gets huge immediately but for most writers – myself certainly included – it takes a long time to get good enough and a long time to find recognition, much less success. If you’re not prepared to go the distance you’re probably wasting your time.

 

There are a lot of shortcuts you can take. Anybody with a word-processor and an internet connection can publish a book these days but, regardless of whether you are a traditionally published author or an indie, or something in between, you still have to do the work. Learn the craft, write the book, edit and polish it. Learn to talk about it in a professional way.

 

Also, while it’s important to pay attention to the market, it’s just as important to have some fun. You’re not going to stumble into the next monster hit by doing what everyone else does. Don’t be afraid to go your own way.

 

 

Scott –  Good advice.  From amateur author to present, what did your writing journey look like?

 

Jason – It feels like my whole career has been on the repêchage if I can use a sporting analogy. I tend to flub the opening rounds of the competition and then have to fight my way back into contention the hard way. I’m the John McClane of Australian genre fiction.

 

I started out a prose writer and then made a shift into being primarily focused on comics. Then it swung back to being about fifty-fifty and now I’m writing mostly prose again. This is based on personal circumstances as much as on opportunity—I have a young child and that has eaten up the time I have for the kind of project management overheads needed to make comics. With prose, I can usually just sit down and write.

 

 

Scott – Suddenly, writing sounds like more of a “yippee-ki-yay” situationDo you have a daily process to keep you motivated when you sit down to write?

 

Jason – I’ve never had a daily process. Right now, I’m so time poor that any free moment I get for writing is a precious commodity — no additional motivation required.

 

When I was younger and had actual free time, my trick was to have two big projects going at once. I would switch between them whenever I felt myself flagging. That kept me fresh and I think made me at least fifty percent more productive than I would have been otherwise.

 

Nowadays I have less time, and I have ten projects competing for attention and wearing me out. I’m currently trying to streamline all of my processes in the hope that one day I’ll be able to sleep again.

 

 

Scott – I’m imagining you as one of those plate spinners that I’d see in a circus.  You seem to collaborate with other authors and artists frequently.  You recently worked with Greg Vondruska to put together a collection of stories.  You were interviewed in the Beyond the Words podcast.  How do you find those opportunities?

 

Jason – Greg is an old friend and that collaboration happened because we were working on the same project with a big group of others — completing the autobiographical graphic novel written by the sadly missed Ed Siemienkowicz, a mutual friend. That went really well, and Greg and I are now working up something bigger together. It’s a crime-noir comic called Quick. But originally, that just came out of community networking. I met some local comic creators when I was living in the States and Greg was a friend of theirs (and so was Ed).

 

Holly from Beyond the Words approached me to be on the podcast — I guess she read about Faerie Apocalypse somewhere or heard about it from a friend. Once you’ve been around for a while, people start to know who you are. I got some coverage in The Guardian when a reporter saw me speaking at a convention. So really, just get out into the real world, not just the virtual, and make yourself known.

 

 

Scott – So not just the internet forums, then!  In closing, what’s one excerpt from your work that you feel most defines you as an author?

 

Here’s a bit from Faerie Apocalypse. While this book is quite stylistically distinct from most of my prose fiction, which is pretty lean, I think this little sequence gives a good look at the kinds of characters that I like to write. Here we meet the Queen of the Ore-lands, who is one of my favourite characters in the book. A monstrous character who fills out her role as the story requires–but you can see the straining to contain her. She is, I think one of the few characters in the book who is genuinely worthy of sympathy.

 

The Queen of the Ore-lands was tall and slender and pale. Her raiment was cast from a dozen different metals, secured to her flesh with chains and welds and rivets. The skin of her cheeks had been peeled-back and secured with wire stitches, revealing too many rows of silver teeth.

 

The Queen shook out her iron-grey hair and rose from her throne. When she grinned, he could see her teeth from three orifices. “Mortal man, you have been granted audience.” Her voice was like a hammer on an anvil.

 

The mortal put down his rucksack and bent to one knee. “Majesty.”

 

The Queen’s gauntleted hands clattered as she brought them together. “My time is valuable,” she said. “What do you seek?”

 

“Majesty, I seek the most beautiful thing in the world,” he said, keeping his gaze fixed on his bootlaces.

 

The Queen raised one ring-pierced, chain-threaded brow. “Indeed?”

 

“Indeed, Majesty.”

 

“In what form, pray tell, do you expect to find this… object?”

 

“She is a Queen of the Faerie.”

 

The Queen’s smile did not waver. “Well? Have you found her?”

 

“The intricacy and skill of the work that has been wrought upon your Majesty is a marvel—”

 

“Answer the question,” said the Queen, through her hideous grin. “Am I the most beautiful thing in the world?”

 

He looked right into her ball-bearing eyes and said: “I find your Majesty to be profoundly ugly.”

 

The Queen threw her head back and laughed; so long and so loud that the walls of the throne room resonated in sympathy. Her minions smirked amongst themselves.

 

When she had recovered herself, the Queen of the Ore-lands brushed the hair from her eyes with a movement that was fetching in its economy. She licked her lips and shook her head and said: “I like you, mortal. Ask of me a boon, and I will grant it.”

 

 

Scott – Where can people go to follow you and find out more about your work?

 

Jason – I am very easy to find on the internet:

 

Website: http://www.jasonfranks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FranklyOperational/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/jasefranks.

 

Please don’t come follow me to my actual house or work; the police are already suspicious of me.

 

 

The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with KT Wagner

Scott – In ten seconds, what do we need to know about you?

 

KT – I’m a Canadian sci-fi / horror writer living in the lower mainland area of British Columbia. I enjoy organizing and hosting events for writers, including a monthly workshop at a local theatre, and I’m attempting to organize a Metro Vancouver chapter of the Horror Writers Association. However, horror writers are not common in my part of the world. Either that, or they are good at hiding from me.

 

Scott – Well, part of horror (and writing) is lurking, right?  They could be around there somewhere.  From reading your bio, I understand that you grew up reading speculative fiction.  Who were your major sources of inspiration?

 

KT – Growing up, I spent a lot of time in libraries. Fortunately for me, the science fiction and fantasy sections were well-stocked. When I was quite young, my mom took my sister and me to the library every two weeks.

 

I read everywhere, including while I walked to school, and I sat at the back of class and hid novels in open textbooks. The books that have stayed with me are Stephen King’s The Stand and Salem’s Lot; Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and Jamaica Inn; John Bruner’s The Sheep Look Up; Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land; Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series; William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist; Walter Miller’s A Canticle of Leibowitz; Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber series; and Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf.

 

I credit my mom with my love of reading.

 

Scott – Quite a list!  But you also wear a nonfiction hat from time to time by penning essays and editorials, right?  How did you get started in that?

 

KT – I started writing nonfiction articles and editorials as a teenager. I worked on the school newspaper and yearbook. My first published piece was a letter to the editor of The Globe and Mail newspaper in which I expressed an opinion about the province of Quebec and my hope for a united Canada.

 

I currently write a monthly op/ed column for a local newspaper called Citizen’s Ink. Previously, I wrote a bi-weekly column about public education for five years.

 

Scott – I read some of that column.  You have a passion for literacy, and public education policy and reform.  Can you give us the short version?

KT – Writers and their readers are among the most literate members of society.

Because we tend to surround ourselves with those who share our interests, it is not always obvious to us that a large number of adults have minimal reading and writing skills and are unable to read for pleasure. This makes me very sad. A majority of adults never read another novel after they leave high school, and many have trouble reading and comprehending simple instructions, such as prescriptions.

Our prisons are filled with illiterate, functionally illiterate and low literacy individuals. Social status and job prospects are tied to literacy levels and close to 40 percent of North American adults suffer because of low literacy. At the same time, education research has shown that more than 90 percent of children reach full literacy with the right supports and teaching methods, so where is the disconnect? It’s not an easy answer. I’ve been advocating for reform since the early ‘90s and by-and-large, our public schools have only changed by minute degrees.

The political inertia and institutional complexity is incredibly frustrating. We can and should have a public education system that prepares students for the challenges of the 21st century. Full literacy is a minimum. Writers have a stake in this, for obvious reasons. If we each devoted even a little time and resources to this issue, I believe we could affect significant change.

 

Scott – Given all of that, how did you end up writing speculative fiction?

 

KT – I love the what-if aspects of science fiction.

 

I’ve always enjoyed extrapolating change, particularly the unintended effect of legislation, scientific advancements, and inventions. The constant is human nature—that doesn’t change, but it’s endlessly fascinating.

 

I’m also drawn to the what-ifs of history and enjoy writing alternate history.

 

Scott – Yes, human nature does tend to get in the way, sometimes.  What are some of the common, recurring themes in your novels and short stories?

 

KT – Isolation, family relationships (particularly between women), unintended consequences, tribalism, man’s-inhumanity-to-man, and environmental challenges. I often write about older protagonists, and I like twisting current issues into myth and fairy tale retellings.

 

Scott – Those are some heady topics.  It seems like it would be difficult to wrap your head around them.  What do you feel are the most difficult aspects of writing?

 

KT – For me, it’s writing an initial draft.

 

All of the possibilities can feel overwhelming at times. I tend to write from character with only a rough idea of the plot. I admire writers who can write a detailed outline and then follow that script, but it hasn’t worked for me. I discover the story in the first draft, so my process is likely much longer than it needs to be.

 

Scott – You know, that’s pretty common with the writers I talk to.  You’ve got some who can just engineer their plot and their characters, but many stumble through their first draft purposefully and learn the broad strokes of the story as they go.  If that’s the most difficult aspect for you, what’s your favourite and least favourite part of the writing process?

 

KT – Writing an initial draft is my least favourite part of the process. I don’t even call it a first draft until the second stage. It’s more of a discovery process. I love researching so usually I have to force myself to stop that part and get down to putting actual words on a page.

 

Once I know my characters and have a rough idea of plot, I’m much happier and the process becomes enjoyable. (The first part is satisfying but not particularly fun.)  I also write my first drafts in longhand and I find that helps, but it’s never easy.

 

Once I have an initial handwritten draft, I then type it into my computer. I revise as I transcribe, and I consider that draft my first draft. I love editing and revising. It’s a nurturing, sculpting process and the only part that frustrates me at times is how long it takes.

 

Scott – Wow.  A handwritten drafter?  I haven’t seen that as part of the process in a long time!  That just goes to show that there’s more than one way to write.  What advice would you give someone just started out?

 

KT – Keep at it.

 

It’s incredibly frustrating to have characters and a story in your head when it just doesn’t translate to the page. Writing fiction is an art, but it’s also largely a craft with a skill set that must be learned and practiced.  Work hard and be patient and open to feedback.

 

Don’t let your ego get in the way, and you will improve over time.

 

Scott – One interesting thing to note:  You primarily write short fiction.  Why did you choose to go this route, rather than novel writing?

KT – About six or seven years ago, when I first turned from writing nonfiction to writing fiction, I spent a year writing and revising a novel. It taught me a fair bit, including how much I still had to learn. Taking classes and workshops introduced me to short story writing.

Short stories provide an opportunity to try different genres and styles without committing to tens of thousands of words and at least a year of my time for each effort. I also started reading short fiction, and I now love the form.

Scott – That’s a different take than many writers I hear from, where the novel is the goal.  What advice would you give for someone looking to break into the short story market?

KT – First, always make time to improve your craft.

There are many excellent resources available: podcasts, online articles, array of writing books, and some excellent workshops and programs available both on-line and in-person. For the latter, I recommend LitReactor.com, Richard Thomas’s workshops and Carina Bissett’s classes at The Storied Imaginarium.

Try something like the Ray Bradbury Challenge:  for one year, write a short story every week and read a short story every day. It was a great experience. I didn’t quite manage to keep up, but I ended the year with more than forty new short stories.

Submit!  A lot! Aim for one hundred rejections a year. Resist the urge to submit early drafts and only submit your polished pieces.

Scott – Great advice and resources!  I think the rejection grind is what steamrolls newer authors, but even seasoned veterans get rejected before getting a piece through.  On that note: What’s next for you on the writing career path?

 

KT – I’m primarily a short fiction writer, but I’d like to complete something longer, if only to challenge myself. Writing a novella seems like a logical next step, so this summer I’m focusing on writing and revising a novella to the submission stage.

 

Scott – What’s one excerpt from your work that you feel most defines you as an author?

KT – I like to write a bit of a satirical edge and the older characters in my stories are almost always doing something interesting. I think “Grandma Heloise”, published at Daily Science Fiction, is a good example of this.

Here’s the first paragraph:

“Grandma’s glow-in-the-dark geraniums were harmless and kind of cute. However, the family nominated me to speak to her after she cloned her dead cat, Gerald, three times. Grandma raised me after my parents were killed in a car crash, and I’d always been her favorite grandchild.”

Scott – Where can people go to follow you and find out more about your work?

 

KT – My website, http://northernlightsgothic.com, includes a publication list and many stories are available to read for free. I also have a blog, which I need to pay more attention to.

 

I’m also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/northernlightsgothic/ and Twitter @KT_Wagner

 

Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit about myself and my writing.

The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Naomi Rourke

Scott – From reading your bio, I know that Naomi isn’t your name, but our readers may not.  What’s the story there?

 

Naomi – I learned my love of reading and writing from some very strong women and take my pseudonym from them. I was adopted and my adoptive mother’s maiden name was Frances Rourke. My grandmother’s maiden name was Katherine Brett. Sadly, neither of these women are alive anymore. My grandmother, a feisty Liverpudlian, read to me for hours every day.

 

My mother, Frances, read fiction. She had a sewing room where all her books lived in shelves across three walls. I went in there and picked book after book — mysteries, horror, The Godfather. So now we have Brett and Rourke, where did Naomi come from?

 

In 1999, I had the thrill of meeting my birth mother, Sylvia Gullikson Brackebush. She told me that if she had been able to keep me, she would have named me Naomi. This was another brave and strong woman, although she would be the first to say she wasn’t. I honor these women with my choice of a name: Naomi Brett Rourke. It’s a mouthful.

 

Just call me Naomi.

 

 

Scott – Naomi, it is!  Your background isn’t only literary.  It’s theatrical.  You’ve directed several full-stage productions, many of them classics.  How did you end up in theatre?

 

Naomi – I have always been a little theatrical. The first play I was in was the Christmas play when I was in kindergarten, I think. I was the Christmas Angel.

 

I decided I wanted to be an actress very early and I acted, sang, and danced whenever I could in school. I wanted to major in Theatre Arts in college but my father told me to go into computer programming. I went into the bookstore and picked up the textbook – Linux or DAS or some such thing – opened it, read a couple of lines, and said, “nope.” I closed it, put it back, and signed up for Theatre and English. Dad wasn’t happy but he eventually got used to it.

 

I acted on stage for years, for television, and film – nothing big. I directed plays in my community and for the local mall and senior centers. It was rewarding, and I finally decided I wanted to teach. I double-majored in English and Theatre Arts so I was a perfect pick for a school with a Drama program. I directed a straight play in the fall and a musical in the spring, with a night of scenes – three or four productions a year for ten years and I did almost everything on my own. I loved working with the kids but when I developed pneumonia three times in one year, it was time to quit. After I got better I was amazed at the amount of time I had, so I started writing. As they say, there is a time for every season…. It’s my season for writing, which I will probably do until I keel over.

 

Scott – Pneumonia three times in one year?  No thanks!  But with a decade of teaching, you probably have more than a few takeaways to share.  What’s the one thing all of us could do to learn about writing or the stage?

 

Naomi – Writing? Oh, so much. I have to laugh at the writing of high schoolers right now. They have been on social media practically since they’ve been born and I see things creeping into their writing like “I’m going 2 the store” or “I’m @ the mall now.” It drives me crazy. Also, I wish people could learn the difference between “their,” “there,” and “they’re.” Although, I’m a nice one to complain – I skip personal pronouns all the time. I say, “driving there now” rather than, “I’m driving there now.” Maybe it’s a California thing.

 

I love teaching English because it keeps me on my toes for my own writing. I’m constantly telling my students about imagery, subject/verb agreement, and “show don’t tell” and everything else, and it stays in my mind when I sit down to write. I still need a good editor though. I think everyone does. At least I’ve managed to identify my most common mistakes so I can avoid them. Most of the time, anyway.

 

Stage? One quote from Alexander Pope: “Act well your part; there all the honor lies.” I believe this on stage and off.

 

 

Scott – Duly noted.  I understand that, on top of everything else you do, you’ve got a huge family.  Children, step-children, grandchildren, three cats and a dog.  And a tortoise — which I’m sure takes up the lion’s share your time.  How do you find time to write among all the other things you do?

 

Naomi – Well, they are all adults so only one daughter and one grandchild are in our house right now. They are moving in September, though, so my husband and I will be empty nesters…again.  It happened once before and some of them came back! We love our children and will always make room for them if they need a place. I think, I hope, most parents would.

 

That said, when my daughter started working at home, she took over my office.  With all the people in the house, there’s usually a television or music playing somewhere. It can be challenging to find a place to write. Sometimes, I just have to put on my headphones and bear it. Natural noise works well – wind, rain, crashing waves, frogs…all the things I don’t hear much in my corner of the city.  I find little moments to write: waiting for the grandson to get out of dance class, lunch times, and odd moments when no one’s around. Summer vacations are the best time for writing.
 

Scott – Writing on summer vacation?  That’s what reading is for.  And you’ve got to read!  Every writer does.  What authors and stories really draw you in?

 

Naomi – I love mysteries, thrillers, crime, and horror, so most of what I read comes from authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz (his novel Intensity is the most frightening book I have ever read,) Michael Crichton, and the like. Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction is compelling and perfect beach reads. Tony Hillerman’s Native American novels are fun reads. I just read a story by Rebecca Roanhorse, a Native American author, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work. When I was younger I was a big fan of Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney. I think Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy is still one of the best things I’ve ever read. When I finished reading Crichton’s Timeline, I went right back to the beginning and read it again immediately. If I like a book I’ll read it again and again.

 

I read mostly fiction but Stacy Schiff is wonderful with nonfiction and I’ve read her The Witches and Cleopatra. And, of course, I’m always reading weird stuff like true crime to propel my writing. I recently found out that Jack the Ripper’s last victim was pregnant so that sparked a storyline for me.

 

 

Scott – That last bit there, about Jack the Ripper and sparking a storyline.  That’s not something that happens to every reader.  In fact, many readers never even think about becoming writers.  What prompted you to take up the craft?

 

Naomi – I wanted to become a writer when I was young and my father always said I would be a wonderful writer. I wrote horrible poetry. In college, a poetry professor said my writing was “schizophrenic.” I was crushed and stopped writing after that.

 

The next time I wrote fiction was after I had a stroke at 37 years old. I lost a lot of my vocabulary. Years after the stroke, I was trying to improve my vocabulary to what it had been before and I wrote a humorous nonfiction story. My husband read it and suggested I send it out for publication. I scoffed but did anyway.  No one bought it, but the fire was lit. On a whim, I wrote a horror short story and sent it off and it was purchased almost immediately by a London horror magazine. I continued writing from there on out.

 

By the way, that initial nonfiction short story? That sold and has been reprinted twice.

 

Scott – Congrats!  That kind of success is definitely a huge motivator.  How does your love of theatre play into your writing?

 

Naomi – Theatre is a big part of my writing because of all the character work that goes into making a good character onstage. I was already well-versed in character study and motivation and those skills make it onto my pages. Character arcs and the three-act structure help. Having a good imagination when you read plays helps.

 

One of the things I mourn is the lack of imagination in our high school students. It’s as if the video games and the internet have taken all their natural imagination away; everything is provided for them. I hear students say that they don’t like to read and don’t like to read plays. It takes imagination for both. Although, give me students and Shakespeare and I’ll make believers out of them!

 

 

Scott – You mentioned character arcs and three-act structures, which means it’s time to ask:  Start to finish, what does your writing process look like?

 

Naomi – It varies. Once I had a very complex dream and I woke up, told my husband, and wrote it down. It came on the page almost exactly as I dreamed it. I knew when Tim was crying at the end that it was good. If I’m writing for a client, of course, I’ll take the events that they want and craft a story around that, but mostly I write when I’ve got an idea for a story that won’t go away, and I’m not too picky about genre. I mix genres all the time.

 

I can’t watch TV or listen to music with lyrics when I write. If it’s too loud in the house, I get testy. Normally I write when it’s quiet. I need that to listen to the “voices in my head.”

 

 

Scott – It sounds like you have a set of preferences when you settle in to write.  No TV or lyrical music.  You mentioned earlier that natural sounds – waves, forests, etc. – work for you.  But what about habits?  What are a few key habits any writer should strongly consider?

 

Naomi – Write every day and have a schedule for your writing. I’m trying to do this – not succeeding every day – but I’m trying. I’m so new to writing that I have a hard time telling anyone what to do but I will say to take as many workshops and go to as many conferences as you can. Take every speck of information and use what works for you.

 

I took a workshop from Jack Ketchum called “Writing from the Wound.” It was enlightening, and I’m so sad he’s gone. Loren Rhodes told me at a conference, “If you’re uncomfortable with your writing, it must be good.” I think a lot of people are afraid of going all the way. I’m afraid sometimes and I’m trying to push through. We’re all afraid of what people will think, what people will say. We’ve got to be true to ourselves and speak our truth, however that may ache.

 

Lastly, Steven King wrote a nonfiction book called On Writing and he’s got much better suggestions than I could ever have. In her book Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott has, too.

 

Scott – Good advice, and great books on writing to boot.  What’s the one thing you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out?

 

Naomi – Never to pay attention to someone who denigrates your work and believe in yourself. However, take constructive criticism and learn from others. Ask for help if you need it. Get a mentor. Join a writing society and participate in a writing group in the same genre in which you are interested. Writers are the most giving of people and are more than willing to share their knowledge with you. Take the rejections and keep on writing.

 

Scott – You mentioned earlier that murder mystery and horror are your favorite genres, but your published work veers more toward the supernatural side of speculative fiction.  One of your more recent stories, “Coyote” was published in a Western anthology.  Do you have a preferred genre, or do you just go where the story takes you?

 

Naomi – “Coyote” was in a Weird Western anthology so that counts as speculative, right? To me, “Coyote” is a supernatural horror story first, and a Western after. I love writing about Native Americans and have three stories so far (two are published, one is trying to find his forever home) and I’m planning a collection in the future, but again, most of my Native American stories are speculative and supernatural.

I write whatever comes into my little head and sometimes that’s a wonderful thing and sometimes it’s a really dark place. The Jack the Ripper piece I’m working on now—dark and scary. My horror is more “Twilight Zone” horror. I don’t really go in for body horror or splatterpunk or that type of horror. I like a calmer, gentler type of horror, if that exists.

 

Scott – Let’s talk about the publishing industry for a moment.  You describe yourself as an up-and-coming author.  Give us the roadmap that took you from beginner / amateur author to where you are today.

 

Reading, reading, reading.

 

I originally wanted to be Edgar Allan Poe so I tried to write like Poe. It failed. No one is Poe except Poe. But I wouldn’t have recognized that fact unless I had read so many of his, and other authors’, works, to have been able to see the difference. I always wanted to be traditionally published and I have been so, but now I am meeting so many self-published authors, I’m rethinking that. I have two short story collections that I’m planning of self-publishing, but I’m still pursuing traditional for my novels.

 

Scott – From your Twitter account (@NaomiBRourke), I saw that you recently attended the LA Creative Writing Conference.  Any big takeaways there?

 

Naomi – I attended GenreLA through GLAWS (Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society) and I found wonderful things about characters, traditional vs. self-publishing, and more. I always take away great information from any conference. I go to as many conferences as I can afford every year. In the next couple of years, I hope to attend MileHighCON and the Ghost Town Writers Workshop in Colorado. I don’t know what it is but Colorado has more writers’ workshops that any other town I’ve seen. Maybe it’s the altitude.

My husband and I went to Comic-Con for years before I noticed that they had writing workshops available.  I spent the next couple of years going to back-to-back workshops while my husband attended the big movie premiers. I saw him at breakfast and dinner.

 

 

Scott – Would you say that it’s worth it, these days, to attend conferences in the first place?

 

Naomi – Conferences are great.

 

You get to meet your peers, hobnob with your friends, and introduce yourself to new readers. Panels and classes are informative. I had the honor of hearing panels and attending workshops with the late, great Jack Ketchum, George R.R. Martin, R.L. Stine, Jonathan Maberry, and so many others. I love conferences and conventions whether I work them or sell at them. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this in my down time at FOGcon in Walnut Creek, California, where I’m selling in the Dealer’s Room.

 

 

Scott – What’s next for you on your writing career path?

 

Naomi – I’m trying to finish my first novel. The first draft will be finished early this year. It’s a mystery and I have plans to make it a series. That’s taking up most of my writing time right now.

 

I’m thinking of self-publishing two collections of short stories, but I’m pretty technologically impaired so I’d have to hire someone to help me or ask tons of favors from friends. I don’t think we’d be friends afterword, though. I’m sure even my webmaster scratches her head at some of the questions I ask, and my children think I’m still in the Stone Age where computers are concerned.

 

I also have another novel halfway written. It’s a supernatural horror story and it’s been a lot of fun to write. The two collections will be one of twisted fairy tales and one of Native American speculative/supernatural stories. I have a finished screenplay but its future is uncertain. I don’t know that much about writing for film and the learning curve would be tremendous. I might keep that for a time and decide what to do with it later. And, of course, I’m still writing short stories and anything else that catches my interest.

 

 

Scott – What’s one excerpt from your work that you feel most defines you as an author?

 

Naomi – “Cocheta. Real pretty name,” she chatted, trying to get a smile out of the girl. “Cocheta. What does that mean, anyhow?”

The girl raised her head and smiled mirthlessly, her eyes glittering. Hetty felt suddenly that the girl was old, older than her years, older than her grandfather and the hills and valleys surrounding the town. She shivered. She’s just a little girl.

“Your name,” she stammered. “What’s it mean, darlin’?”

“The Unknown,” the girl replied.

I love the unknown.

 

 

Scott – Okay, last thing.  Where can people go to follow you and find out more about your work?

 

Naomi – I’m glad you asked. I can be found at www.naomibrettrourke.com. I’m on Twitter at @NaomiBRourke, Instagram at naomibrettrourke, and people can reach me at [email protected]. I’m also on Facebook at @naomibrettrourke.

 

I’m going to be at USC for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 21st and 22nd. I will be at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) booth on Saturday from 4-6 pm. On Sunday, you can find me at the Mystery Writers of America/Sisters in Crime booth from 3-4 pm. I’ll probably be at the Horror Writers Association booth at some time too. I’ll be at WorldCon in August, only on Thursday, and San Diego Comic-Con, but I’ll be dressed at General Leia.

 

If you see me, come up and say hi!

 

Scott – Thank you for your time, Naomi!

The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Andy Cull

Scott – Author.  Filmmaker.  Photographer. You’re a man of many hats.  Tell us a little about how you got started doing what you do. 

 

Andy – Well, my wife says I have too many tabs open in my brain. I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment. I’ve always been a big believer that if you really want to do something you should just get out there and give it a go. When I was at Uni I wanted to direct, so I started my own theatre company and wrote and directed for them. I was really green, making it up as I went along, but I learned a huge amount and absolutely loved every minute of it. I was lucky; I had a great team of actors and crew around me. We got good reviews and things snowballed from there. We toured around the UK for a couple of awesome years. My plays were dialogue heavy, soundtrack driven, Hitchcock inspired, black comedies. By the end of our third tour, I realised that I was trying to cram my feature ideas into a theatrical format. It seemed like a natural progression to try and make the move to film.

 

I adapted one of my scripts into a screenplay and began sending it out to agents, in the hope that someone would pick it up. I was hugely lucky and someone did.

 

I spent the next few years writing for TV and film. That was a fantastic, but also frustrating time. When you write for TV and film you develop a lot of ideas that’ll never see the light of day. A lot of projects fall through.  Producers can’t raise the money.  Companies come and go.  A lot of the time, what you write remains on the page and doesn’t get made. I found that more and more frustrating, to the point where I cracked and decided to do a full project myself. That was the Louise Paxton mystery.

 

The reception we received for the Louise Paxton series of videos was amazing. I still get fan mails about it now. When I set out to do Louise Paxton it was to prove that I could direct for the screen and to show that the ideas I wanted to explore would work and scare an audience. In some ways, it was a proof of concept for my feature The Possession of David O’Reilly [DOR] (UK title: The Torment).

 

Shooting the Louise Paxton mystery helped to get a producer on board for DOR and to raise the funds to shoot the feature.

 

About a year after I finished DOR, I got married and moved out here to Australia. That presented me with a whole new set of opportunities. I’ve been storing up ideas for books for years and now I’ve got more time to explore them.

 

 

Scott – I see what your wife means about having too many tabs open.  That sounds like a challenge that never goes away. What do you do when you’re not shooting movies and writing novels?

 

Andy – Mainly I’m planning what movies I want to shoot and what stories I want to write next. I keep a big list of all the ideas I have for projects. It’s spread across several sheets of A4, stuck to the wall of my garage. It’s got everything from flash fiction through to features and documentaries. At the moment, there are twenty-six projects on the board. Each time I complete one, I cross it off the list. Normally, I’ve added two or three more during the course of writing any given story.

 

I don’t really take a great deal of time out from my work. I genuinely love what I do, and so there’s always something I want to be doing. When I do take a break, I run and am training in Taekwondo. I also play and shoot videogames.

 

Scott – I think most writers are like that.  It’s hard to turn away from what you find fun.  But there’s a lot of effort involved, too. Which brings us to horror.  It’s your genre of choice.  What got you into it, and what kept you engaged with it?

 

Andy – I’ve loved horror for as long as I can remember. I was the kind of kid who stayed up late on school nights reading ghost stories with a torch, under the covers so my parents wouldn’t know I was still awake. I’ve always enjoyed the creeping chill of a good ghost story.  I love suspense. I love the build-up, and the exhilaration of a good scare.

 

When I was a kid holidaying in the UK, we spent a lot of time indoors watching it rain. That never worried me. Each county used to have these true ghost story books: Haunted Norfolk or Ghosts of Suffolk, that sort of thing. Wherever we went, I collected those books. I read them cover to cover and then cover to cover again. In those books, I first found my love of the paranormal. That’s a love that’s been with me, and it’s been a huge influence on my writing ever since.

 

In my opinion, horror is the most exciting genre to write in. There are so many different facets to the genre and so many avenues to explore with your writing. It’s a genre that actively promotes breaking the rules. Horror fans embrace innovation and invention. It’s a fantastically exciting genre to work in and an amazing community to be a part of.

 

 

Scott – You mentioned Hitchcock earlier.  Who are your idols in the horror genre?

 

Andy – My idols are a mix of writers and directors. Hitchcock would have to be in there as having had the greatest influence on my career. He really was a master of his craft. There hasn’t been anyone who has matched him since. Watching his movies as a teenager had an incredible effect on me. I was lucky enough to watch Psycho without knowing what was going to happen. I wanted to learn how to direct because of his movies.

 

I vividly remember the first time I read Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I love how it explores the nature of fear and horror. It’s a beautifully written, multi-layered ghost story. She’s a fantastic writer.

 

John Carpenter is definitely one of my idols. He’s directed many of my all-time favourite horror movies; The Thing, Halloween, The Fog, They Live, In the Mouth of Madness. That’s an incredible career. I love the fact that he’s written, directed and scored many of his movies. That shows how complete his vision is when he’s directing.

 

I could talk for hours about the directors and writers I admire. Sam Raimi, Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, MR James, HP Lovecraft — it’s a long list! As well as someone who writes and directs horror I’m a huge horror fan.

 

Scott – Stephen King often mentions that there are three types of horror:  The Gross-Out, the Unnatural Horror, and Terror.  Do you agree with that estimation and, if so, which type of horror actually tingles your spine?

 

Andy – For me, the best horror is in touch with reality, there’s a sense it could really happen. I love stories that linger, that creep into our minds when we reach to turn the light out at night. I’m a big fan of the paranormal in horror. I grew up enthralled by Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World. Although I’m a healthy sceptic nowadays, stories that retain plausibility will always scare me more.

 

Scott – I noticed on a recent blog post that you were captivated a ghost story about the haunting of 50 Berkeley Square.  I’m going to guess that this is where the plausibility factor comes into play.  What fascinates you (then and now) about a haunted house in Central London?

Andy – I first read about 50 Berkeley Square in a book called something like The 100 Scariest True Ghost Stories. I was 11, on school summer holidays. I’d borrowed the book from our local library. I read the whole thing in an afternoon. Now, I love ghost stories (did then, still do now) and it’s one thing to read about glimpsed ghostly figures and noises in the night, but when you stumble across ‘The Most Haunted House in London’ well, that was incredibly powerful. It’s the ultimate ghost story! I guess, when I was reading about all these ghosts, you wonder about the hierarchy, the systems behind the stories. What makes one place more haunted than the next? Why that location specifically? What incredible power lurks in the most haunted house in the world?

 

I still love the story of 50 Berkeley Square. It’s got everything that makes Victorian ghost stories great. It’s got a ‘thing’: a terrifying dark shape, possibly a demon; that can drive you to insanity just by witnessing it. It’s got people dying of fright. It’s got drunken sailors (the toughest of the tough) stumbling into the domain of ‘the thing’ and not living to regret it.

 

I’ve actually been to the site of 50 Berkeley Square, although I haven’t been inside the building, yet. Of course, the whole story is likely just a myth, but what if it isn’t?

 

 

Scott – You’ve also mentioned a particular interest in Spring Heeled Jack.  Both Jack and 50 Berkeley Square are Victorian-era legends and supernatural horrors.  Does that specific time period play a major role in your modern work?

 

Andy – Yeah, I love the Victorian era. There’s a huge sense of possibility about the period. The Victorians were great innovators and inventors; they genuinely believed they were on the cusp of the future. It was an era of science. And yet, coupled with that, you got the rise of spiritualism and a deep belief in the supernatural.

 

So, you’ve got a period of time that sees the invention of the telephone and, alongside that, you’ve got people who believe that this new invention will allow them to talk to the dead. Even Tesla and Edison both worked on ‘spirit phones’ to communicate with ghosts. So you have a period, very different from now, where science and the supernatural often went hand in hand. It’s an era where stories like Spring Heeled Jack and 50 Berkeley Square were both headline stories in the top newspapers. There was a sense that, while science was propelling us forward, the strange things that lurked in the darkness beyond the reach of the city’s gas lamps were very real. To a young ghost hunter (and even a considerably older writer) that’s incredibly exciting.

 

While I haven’t written a piece that’s directly set in the Victorian era, that sense of the supernatural being close at hand is definitely apparent throughout my writing.

 

 

Scott – So, Victorian-era spooky.  Ghost stories.  Other horror writers, filmmakers, and genre masters.  What other sources are major sources of inspiration?

 

Andy – Train rides, long walks, and an uncanny knack for being able to see the worst possible case scenario in any given situation.

 

Scott – That’s a ton of names and titles to run with.  Say that I’m new to horror and known little about the genre.  What’s a good place to start?

 

Andy – I’d lend you one of my copies of The Haunting of Hill House, and get ready for you to come back the next day and raid the rest of my library.

 

Scott – That sounds like the process most creatives follow.  They start out as fans, as part of an audience, and then start telling their own stories.  On the subject of writing: Start to finish, what does your writing process look like?

 

Andy – Where I start in a story varies from project to project. Most ideas begin as a seed, often a scene, sometimes a few lines of dialogue, which could fall at any point in the story. Sometimes that’s a conflict, sometimes it’s a scene I think would be funny, maybe suspenseful. I’ll jot that down in my phone or often just carry it around in my head. That can go on for a few weeks while the idea fills out. More scenes might come, more conversation, a better sense of a greater plot. When I feel I’ve got an idea that works, I’ll sit down at my laptop or my plotting board, and commit it to paper.

 

My plotting board is central to my writing. Giving it a name makes it sound a bit more impressive than it actually is. The plotting board is a long piece of board (about 130cm / 52in long.) On the board, I stick a series of sheets of A4 paper. Then I start at a point in the story (not necessarily the beginning) and I work the plot through until I have an A to Z (a full outline of the plot from beginning to end). This is one of my favourite parts of the writing process. Working the plot out for me is like watching a good trailer for a movie. It’s all the most exciting moments in a short space of time. It’s the bones, but with that bit of dialogue that I really like, or that suspenseful scene I know is going to work well — the twist reveal, the moment the characters first see the monster, the action, the laughs — all slowly coming together as I work the board.

 

I very rarely start to write until I’ve got an outline I’m happy with, that I know works. Now, one of the reasons for this is that if you’ve got a great idea but you’ve no idea where that idea is going to take you, then you’ve no idea how to pace that story. I’m speaking broadly here. A lot of what I write will have a reveal sequence within it: a key moment of plotting that will reveal a twist or a sharp turn in the plot. I know some writers like to write by the seat of their pants, but I prefer to do that for dialogue and description rather than plot. That’s not to say that I don’t change things as I write. I’ll often return to the plotting board as I’m working through a project but I don’t tend to start until I know where I’m going.

 

Once I’ve got an outline, I’ll hit the laptop. I’ll often work from the morning until the evening writing. I don’t have set hours or a specific amount of time I’ll write for. I’m not very scientific about it. I just write until the story is completed. The amount of time that takes depends on the project. My novel Remains, which is due out this October, took me 18 months to write. Hope and Walker took two weeks. I can produce a feature script in about three months, but prose generally takes longer.

 

I’m not a writer who rushes through a first draft and then goes back to work that draft into shape. I can’t continue to another scene unless I’m happy with how the proceeding scene has worked out. That’s the same for film and books. So, I’ll write a scene, and if I’m not happy with it I’ll write it again. I’ll do that again and again (depending on the scene) until I’m happy with what I’ve got and can move on. I’ll keep all those revisions in the draft (beneath the main body of the text) in case there’s something in there I might want later on. My last novella was around 24,000 words long. To write it, I wrote over 50,000 words. That extra 26,000 is drafting within the draft. By the time I get to the end of my first draft, I’m where some writers are by their fourth. When I worked with my last agent, we used to put DRAFT 4 on the front of my feature scripts even though they were my first draft. There’s a weird idea in the industry that if you haven’t redrafted your work several times it can’t be any good.

 

Scott – So plotting, rather than pantsing.  Got it.  Do you apply that process regardless of project, or do you treat film scripts different than, say, novel drafts?

 

Andy – The process for my writing is the same for feature scripts and novels. The only time it changes is when I write flash fiction. For flash fiction, I’ll walk around with the idea in my head for a few days before hitting the laptop and hammering the idea out in a single session of writing.

 

Scott – I read in one of your bios that regardless of the piece or the length of the narrative, you strive to write character-driven horror.  What does that mean to you?

 

Andy – Horror sometimes gets a bad name for using characters that are a bit 2D — characters with cookie cutter traits who just feel like they’re there to serve a plot point. I remember, when I first wrote The Possession of David O’Reilly. I wrote it in part as a reaction to a lot of the movies I was watching at the time which were populated with unlikeable characters that you couldn’t wait to get an axe in the head. It seemed to all be about the gore or the clever plot twist and not about the characters. Horror was becoming a cold and calculated experience. I wanted to change that. I wanted my viewers and readers to relate to the characters (I think horror’s a lot scarier if you do). I want people who watch my movies and read my books to care about what happens to the characters in my stories. The characters always come first for me.

 

Scott – In some respects, it sounds like you isolated a trend in horror – that the genre was becoming cold and calculating – and used your work to push back against it.  You’ve also mentioned that there was some luck involved in getting your work picked up.  That being said: What are the greatest challenges you find yourself up against in the industry markets today?

 

Andy – Things have changed a lot since I started out as a writer, and generally for the better. Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to get your work to an audience. The challenge then becomes getting your work seen in the crowd, and it’s a very crowded marketplace. That said, I’m all for the meritocracy of an audience deciding what they like the most, rather than an out of touch agent or producer who, years later, admits they turned down JK Rowling.

 

I’ve always hated how elements of the industry were old boy’s clubs, places where it was more important what family you were from than the quality of what you write. Film has always been rife with that. If greater access leads to less nepotism then I’m all for that.

 

Scott – For someone looking to break into the world of horror, what advice would you give them?

 

 

Andy – Get out there and give it a go. One of the greatest hurdles to overcome is getting started. Don’t for a moment think that you can’t do it. You can. You definitely can. I made Louise Paxton for less than £500, and it raised the funding for my feature The Possession of David O’Reilly. How many people do you think told me it wouldn’t work, that it wasn’t worth it? I think I proved those people wrong. You can too.

 

Do you have an idea for horror novel? All you need is a laptop and time. What’s stopping you giving that a go? Send me your novel when it’s done. I’ll read it. In fact, I look forward to reading it. If you want it badly enough, and you’re prepared to put in the hard work, because there’s a lot of that, one day you’ll get to where you want to be.

 

Scott – In the meantime (between reading all the novels that are about to land in your inbox), you were recently featured in a PC Gamer article as a screenarcher — essentially a video game photographer.  Tell us a little about that.

 

 

Andy – Being a screenarcher is a hobby I’ve had for a couple of years now. It started when I first began writing and modding for Skyrim. I began taking promotional shots of my characters for when I released them. I discovered that I really enjoyed doing character portraits. I set about trying to achieve the most photo-real portraits I could within the Creation (Skyrim) engine. Over time, that grew to become a love of shooting game characters and worlds. Now, I find I can’t play a game if I can’t shoot it.

 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve shot a lot of games. Skyrim is still my all-time favourite. I think I’ve produced my best work within it. Recently, I shot Hellblade, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ghost Recon Wildlands. My favourite game from last year, as both a game to shoot and to play, would have to be The Last of Us. What an incredible game that is! If I could pick any game to adapt as a movie, that would be it.

 

The PC Gamer article showcased my best shots from 2017. As a gamer, it’s a bit of a dream come true to be featured on PC Gamer. Yeah, that was pretty cool.

 

I have a Flickr page where I upload my video game shots: www.flickr.com/andrewcull. I try to update it whenever I’m shooting something new.

 

 

Scott – What’s one excerpt from your work that you feel most defines you as an author?

 

Andy – That’s a really tough question! Here’s a couple that I like:

 

“Way I look at it, you get to a point in your life when you turn a corner and realise that’s about all you’re gonna get. If you can face down that knowledge and not crack open a bottle, well, you’re a better person than I am. If I make it to eighty I intend to start smoking again.” – Ellie Ray, Knock and You Will See Me.

 

“Being scared’s good,” Grandpa Walker had told me once. “Stops us from doing stupid things.” It hadn’t stopped me. ― Em Walker, Hope and Walker

 

From Knock and You Will See Me:

 

Death is silence. It’s not the crying and the grieving. It’s not the condolences or the pastor’s patronising words. It’s not the pain, like a heart attack, that seizes you in the dark when you close your eyes. No, it’s the never-ending, fucking silence of it. It’s never hearing their voice again. Not a word.

 

Not a sound.

 

Not ever again.

 

 

Scott – Where can people go to follow you and find out more about your work?

 

Andy – I blog most days of the week on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/officialandrewcull

That’s where I post first about what I’m writing or shooting.

I’m also on Twitter @andrewcull.

Follow me on my Flickr if you like my videogame photography: www.flickr.com/andrewcull

 

Thanks very much for having me on the Horror Tree!

 

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