The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Eric Ian Steele
Stacey – Welcome to The Horror Tree, Eric. It’s great to have you. Tell us a little about yourself?
I am a screenwriter and novelist from Manchester, England, having written the scifi feature film “Clone Hunter” and the thriller feature film “The Student”. I’m also the author of two horror fiction novels, “The Autumn Man” and “Experiment Nine”, and a short story collection titled “Nightscape”. As well as that, I’ve had short stories published in numerous print and online magazines and anthologies.
Stacey – What first drew you to screenwriting?
Looking back, I think it was a culmination of a long process. I’ve always been fascinated with movies since seeing “Flash Gordon” at the cinema as a kid. I was amazed by the cinema’s power to draw you into a completely different world for an hour and a half. A lifelong love of comic books has also given me a very visual imagination. I used to write screenplays based on my favourite books and comics, without ever thinking that they might lead to anything. Maybe I was subconsciously honing my art. But it wasn’t until I had been writing prose fiction for quite some time that I seriously considered screenwriting. Then the Internet happened, and all of a sudden getting scripts to people in Hollywood was a possibility. The people I sent my scripts to seemed to actually like them… and it just happened from there.
Stacey – What is your favourite holiday spot?
Easy. The USA. It beats everywhere else, hands down. I’ve been to Florida, the Keys, New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Los Angeles and New Orleans. Every time I go somewhere new in the States it surprises me. The USA has such incredible diversity of culture. I recently went to New Orleans and that was a blast, touring the cemeteries, seeing the Garden District mansions and the French Quarter was superb. I can still taste that food…
Stacey – What’s one place real or imagined that you’d love to travel to?
Hmm. Maybe I should say the Planet Mongo. I really don’t know. There are so many places, even in the real world, that I’d like to see. I’ve always wanted to drive Route 66. Maybe one day…
Stacey – Which author living or dead inspires you?
My favourite prose author is Charles Dickens for his fantastic characters, his vitality, his imagination and his empathy with all manner of people, rich and poor, good and wicked. I’m also a huge fan of William Blake, the poet, both for his incredible visionary style and also for his insights into the human consciousness. In terms of genre authors, as a scifi and horror writer I’d have to say HP Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Clive Barker and Philip K Dick. Oh, there’s so many…
Stacey – Do you draw inspiration from real life experiences?
Sometimes. I spent twelve years in law enforcement. Those experiences do inform my “real-life” writing when I need to insert some believable details, such as when I’m writing thrillers or characters who work in the law. Other times I’ll walk past a creepy house and put that in a story. My werewolf novel “The Autumn Man” was set in a fictional town very much like Stalybridge in Greater Manchester, where I used to work. Many of the places in that novel are based on ones I walked past every day. So I’m a bit of a sponge in that respect. However, “Project Nine” is set in places I’ve never been to, such as Iowa and Kansas. I’ve also had some stories, such as “Cycle” in my collection “Nightscape”, that came to me fully formed in a dream. And I guess all our characters are drawn from aspects of our own psyche. So the short answer is: sometimes, to an extent.
Stacey – Do you find anything particularly challenging about writing? Do you write daily?
Making a living from it! Seriously, though, I do try to write daily, although I don’t always succeed. I don’t believe in writing “rules”, so I don’t believe that you absolutely have to write every single day. Why should you? Nor do I believe that you should wait for inspiration to strike. Instead I follow the Jerry Seinfeld method: every day try to do something that furthers your career in some way. If you can do that at least you know that you are moving forwards.
Stacey – Where do you write? Indoors? Outdoors?
Indoors. With as few distractions as possible.
Stacey – Do you need music or complete silence to write?
I can write in silence but I prefer music. Usually, I select a piece of music for each story and every time I sit down to write I put that music on in the background. Ambient noise is good. I’m a big Tangerine Dream fan, so it’s usually something from them. But when I was writing a murder mystery set in 1980s Hollywood I had a big list of 80s rock tracks that I played over and over! Anything that helps evoke the mood and atmosphere you are after works for me. That way when I sit down to write the music helps me get back into the story.
Stacey – What’s the best writing advice you could give someone just starting out?
Finish what you start. So many people talk about writing without having finished a single story. You have to finish it — whatever “it” is. If you can do that, then you are by definition a writer.
Stacey – Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish reading? Which book and why?
A few. There are some books that I started and then had to stop and then I went back to them later and finished it, such as Jack Ketchum’s “The Girl Next Door”, which is pretty rough going, and PK Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, because it was so different from the film that at first it threw me. But I came back to them both. I’m not a fan of enormous, hard sci-fi novels that read like dry, academic textbooks. If I haven’t finished a book, it’s probably one of those.
Stacey – What’s the last horror movie you watched?
Ha ha. Easy: “Re-Animator”. I watched it last night on the big screen at Grimmfest in Manchester then went to a Q&A with one of its stars, Barbara Crampton. And yes, I still enjoyed it.
Stacey – What scares you?
Real life. People. Death. The usual.
Stacey – Do you believe in writers’ block?
I’ve never suffered from it so I don’t know. It’s like ghosts and aliens; enough people have encountered them to make me think there’s something to it. If anything I have too many ideas and not enough time to write them down. Sometimes I’ll struggle to find out how best to start a story or to continue it, but if I sleep on it and go write something else or maybe take a long walk the answer will come to me in the end.
Stacey – What are 5 things you cannot live without
Stacey – What are you working on at the moment?
A couple of things. Screenplay-wise I’m currently re-writing a small-town thriller script for a YA audience. I’m also working on a scifi TV pilot. And I’ve just been asked to adapt a bestselling crime novel for the screen. Novel-wise I have a supernatural horror project that’s been ongoing for a while, that’s partly set in the 1980s and partly set in the present day. And of course there’s also the short stories…
Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?
You can read a complete section of my latest novel, “Experiment Nine” for free on Amazon, here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-uk=B07F6S2YSZ
Or you can read a shorter excerpt on my blog at https://ericiansteele.com
Thank you so much for your time Eric! If you would like to find out more about Eric and his writing endeavours, check out the links below.
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