Stacey – Welcome to The Horror Tree, James. It’s great to have you. Tell us a little about yourself?
James – Hi – thank you for the opportunity!
Well, I’m a Yorkshireman living in Houston – eight years and counting – I have a couple of offspring and a house full of animals, and I spend my time writing and managing HellBound Books Publishing along with my business partner, Xtina Marie.
Stacey – What is your favourite holiday spot?
James – I’ve been to the Dominican Republic a couple of times, I guess that’s kind of a favorite. Oh, and I love Vegas, and New Orleans!
Stacey – What’s one place real or imagined that you’d love to travel to?
James – I’m looking forward to visiting New York!
Stacey – Which author living or dead inspires you?
James – My first introduction to grown-up, modern horror was the late, great James Herbert; he was my first inspiration to write. I also enjoy King, Ketchum, Hill and a bunch of indie authors.
Stacey – Do you draw inspiration from real life experiences?
James – I think that all writers do – there’s a little piece of me in everything I write! The skill, of course, is discerning which pieces they are…
Stacey – Do you find anything particularly challenging about writing? Do you write daily?
James – I find the whole thing challenging; there is nothing quite so exhilarating – or terrifying – than facing that blank page with the sole objective of filling it with something entertaining. Yep, I write daily, even if it’s a few lines – keeps the old noggin active.
Stacey – Do you need music or complete silence to write?
James – All of my school reports, from the age of five onwards state just how easily distracted I am – if I were to try writing with music on, I’d wind up listening to that instead of working, or my brain would wander away with the lyrics, or the memories the tune evokes…
Stacey – What’s the best writing advice you could give someone just starting out?
James – Learn how to take criticism. Solicit it, take it on the chin, embrace it – and, most importantly of all, learn from it!
Oh, and learn the tools of your trade! Saying ‘I don’t really need to understand Word/grammar/punctuation/spelling’ is like declaring ‘I’m going to be a car mechanic – with a spoon’.
Stacey – Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish reading? Which book and why?
James – There have been a few – I do get bored rather easily, and if I’m not engaged within the first few pages, I give up. Life’s too short to plough through books that don’t catch the interest, right? I apply this to my work, and always aim to grab the reader by the short and curlies from the very first line.
To name and shame a recent one – it was one of Anne Rice’s! After twenty pages of description of New Orleans I was well and truly beaten!
Stacey – What’s the last horror movie you watched?
James – The Unfolding, a neat little indie film. It’s a found footage/haunted house movie with a neat twist.
Stacey – What scares you?
James – Nothing imaginary – I really don’t spook easily. What does frighten me is the thought of anything unpleasant happening to my offspring, but I guess that’s a given for any parent. And Donald Trump, now, he really scares me!
Stacey – Do you believe in writers’ block?
James – I do!
I’ve experienced it myself, and for me, it’s not just the inability to put the words down, it’s the mind-paralysing state of being unable to even think, which for a writer is pretty much creative death. Luckily it passes, although it could take days, weeks, months, even longer – and unfortunately, there’s no quick remedy to ‘snap out of it’.
Stacey – You run your own publishing company, HellBound Books? What’s that like?
James – I do – we are in our second year now, and doing well! It’s hard work, but, thanks to a great team, it’s fun. The best thing has been having the platform to take all of the lousy experiences – common to a great many authors – I’ve personally had at the hands of some indie publishers, turn them on their head, and provide an exemplary service to authors and readers alike.
We set out to do everything properly and professionally from the off – hence we’re a fully-fledged LLC – and have built up a formidable catalogue of fantastic titles, as well as a great reputation. And, we just launched our awesome, brand new website!
Stacey – I find radio to be an interesting medium? How did you get started and why did you decide to mix Horror and Comedy?
James – Yeah, it’s funny how things have come back around to radio again – many indie publishers have their own radio/blog/podcasts going on, it’s a terrific medium to reach readers and authors alike.
I stumbled into it by accident, I was invited onto a show as a guest by a publisher who took on my bizarro novel ‘The Erotic Odyssey of Colton Forshay’ and had such a great time that they asked me to co-present (everybody loves the accent!). Then, that publisher went south, and I kind of inherited the show. I rejigged it, added the fun bits, changed the show time, and the rest is history – that was 109 shows ago!
I am, at heart, a bit of a comedian – I’ve even written and performed stand-up, both in the UK and here (I’ve even performed at the world famous ‘Improv’!), and there’s always a fat grain of dark humor in everything I write. We wanted our radio show to stand out from the crowd, so we set out to make it fun and entertaining – the very antithesis of a ‘dry’ book show. So, we throw in a load of humor, some entertaining sound clips, ribald banter, and fun things for our guests (their most embarrassing story, for example, or our renowned ‘Eleven Questions’ segment which includes the question ‘would you eat human flesh, if permitted to do so’ – you’d be surprise at some of the answers!)
Oh, and we invested in an ASCAP licence too, so we have some phenomenal tunes to boot!
Stacey – What are you working on at the moment?
James – I typically have a handful of projects going on at any one time – I’ve just finished up my short story (The Swarm) for the HellBound Books’ upcoming anthology ‘Made in Britain’, as well as polishing up a short for ‘Shopping List 3’ (Revenge of the Mice Men), and working through the nth draft of my next novel, based upon a short story in my collection ‘Blood and Kisses’, which is entitled ‘The Silverado Springs Memory Care Posse’, it’s about a quartet of elderly dementia patients trying to discover who – or what – is killing off the residents at their care home before it gets to them…
Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?
James – Sure thing:
Lewis chewed on the last of his bacon. It was satisfying enough although it felt rough and salty in his mouth and split into slivers like shards of rubbery glass. As he munched, he contemplated the notebook that sat by his left hand. It was a pleasant, light gray Moleskine; half letter sized and with a broad strip of black elastic to hold it shut. The elastic reminded him of the suspenders his Grandfather used to wear to keep his pants up.
“I think it’s yours,” Constance told him.
“Why’s that?” Lewis said.
“Because it’s by your place at the table,” Constance replied before cottoning on to Lewis’s joke.
“He got ya good there, Connie, old girl!” Muldoon guffawed and almost choked on his slurp of tea.
Lewis winked at Constance and she pursed her lips at him to pretend that she was disgruntled. He picked up the notebook and was surprised that its covers felt velvety beneath his fingers, much as he would have imagined an actual mole’s would feel. Perhaps, he couldn’t help but wonder, they actually made the things from real moles?
Upon opening the book, Lewis discovered that there was a name written in neat, black ink on the inside cover. The handwriting and the name looked surprisingly familiar, but it took a minute or two for it to filter through his muddled brain cells that both belonged to him.
“It is mine,” Lewis informed his breakfast companions with a grin. “Look, it says Lewis Jones right here.” He lifted the book up and turned it around to show them his name and the writing below it that was in an altogether different hand.
Happy Birthday Grandpa.
A tear formed in Lewis’s eye and a sick lump rose up in the back of his throat. He was a grandfather, and therefore by default, a father too. He had family out there in the world and he couldn’t remember a damned thing, and at that particular moment, Lewis would have given anything to have had even the faintest glimmer of a memory of them.
Constance reached for Lewis’s hand and held it whilst he struggled with his emotions. It had been this same way every morning for as long as she could recall – Lewis discovering as if for the first time that he had a family. For Constance, the saddest thing of all – other than watch the man she cared for deeply facing the same pain anew every single day – was that Lewis’s loving son, daughter-in-law and three beautiful granddaughters visited him every week and he was always so incredibly happy in their company.
And Lewis’s cruel brain, in common with hers and Muldoon’s deteriorating gray matter, would misplace those precious memories overnight whilst he slept.
Which is why things were written down in that book, otherwise everything would have been forgotten.
Lewis flicked through the notebook, his eyes darting to and fro across the tightly written handwriting that filled almost two-thirds of the silken pages. His brow would furrow in a quizzical expression when he happened upon places where the occasional page or two had been torn out.
Muldoon peered across the breakfast table, slurping on his cold tea with all the finesse of a buffalo at the watering hole. “So?” he enquired. “What’s in the book, Lewis?” He strained his eyes to try reading the neatly printed words upside down. “And what’s that supposed to mean?” He jabbed a long, bony finger towards the book, to what he guessed was the title written in block capital lettering at the top of each and every page.
“The Silverado Springs Memory Care Posse,” Lewis read out loud the neatly printed words.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Muldoon wrinkled up his nose as if he’d caught a whiff of something particularly disgusting.
“I think it’s us.” Lewis looked his old friend straight in the eye. “Yeah, it’s us alright – look.” He spun the book around on the stained cotton tablecloth and pointed at one of its pages.
Muldoon and Constance leaned in to catch a better look. Constance had to lift up her chin to see through the bottom part of her narrow spectacles.
“Chuck Rifkin?” Muldoon looked perplexed. “Who the heck is Chuck Rifkin?” He nodded at a list of names in the center of the right-hand page.
“Janey Martinez, now that does ring a vague bell,” Constance mused and closed her eyes in order to search for the memory that she simply knew was skulking in some far corner of her head somewhere.
“Smiler’s name is on the list, too.” Lewis ran his finger down the half dozen names that were all written in meticulous cursive. “Whitey Muldoon – that’s you, I guess?” he said to Muldoon. “And this one is me.” Lewis appeared pleased to have recognized his own name for the first time, although he’d only just seen it a minute or so ago at the front of the book.
“And that one is me.” Constance was back with them, the fuzzy image of her erstwhile friend Janey Martinez still loitering on the periphery of her mind; pretty much all she could recall was that Janey had died, although that could have been years ago.
“So, why are those ones crossed out?” Muldoon reached over the table and poked a finger at the first three names on the list.
There were thin, straight pencil lines through the names ‘Chuck’, ‘Janey’ and ‘Smiler’ which looked as if they had been drawn with the aid of a ruler.
Thank you so much for your time James! If you would like to find out more about James and his writing endeavours, check out the links below.
- Epeolatry Book Review: In the Wolf’s Lair - October 3, 2019
- The Horror Tree Presents… an Interview with P.J. Blakey-Novis - September 28, 2019
- The Horror Tree Presents… an Interview with Isabella Hunter - September 21, 2019
- The Horror Tree Presents… an Interview with Ruschelle Dillon - August 3, 2019
- The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview With Bruno Lombardi - July 27, 2019
- The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Dave D’Alessio - June 22, 2019
- The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Meredith Anderson - May 4, 2019
- The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with K. Matt - April 20, 2019
- The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Margarita Felices - March 30, 2019
- The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Em Dehaney - March 2, 2019