With your latest novella you take readers to a small, seemingly isolated, small British town. I find that a setting can have a huge effect on a piece of horror fiction, as atmosphere can make or break a story. What drew you to this type of setting?
I was born and raised in a village very similar to the one in ‘Black Star, Black Sun’, and I’ve always loved horror/weird stories set in small communities. The sense of dread and isolation seems to work well in those stories, especially when combined with Lovecraftian themes. I spent twenty-seven years of my life living in my home village, so the idea that I could take that small village mundaneness and add some cosmic horror themes to it was very appealing to me.
Black Star, Black Sun is a novella, and is your second book to be published. Your first, The Last Plague, is a much longer work. Do you find the novel length or novella length to be more challenging?
The novel, definitely. It’s a long road and I seem to put more pressure on myself with a novel.This leads to bouts of anxiety and stress punctuated by moments of relief after a good day’s writing. I’m a bit fucked up, I suppose. The novella holds a different challenge in that its brevity compared to a novel demands a leaner, more streamlined plot, but at the same time needs some meat on the bones. At the moment, I feel more drawn towards novellas, but that may change in the future - I’m still a rookie and I’ve got a lot to learn.
Besides Lovecraft, what other authors and pieces of fiction lent inspiration for Black Star, Black Sun?
I’m a big fan of Adam Nevill, and while I think his writing is not particularly Lovecraftian, it was a great inspiration to me when I was working on the novella. Also, Laird Barron’s work has influenced me greatly and continues to do so. I first read ‘The Imago Sequence’ about two years ago, and it floored me. It’s fantastic.
Growing up, were you always a reader of dark fiction? What draws you to these types of stories? Do you have any personal favorites (stories, novels, authors)?
Not always. I began reading horror/sci-fi/dark fiction in my early teens, but as I grew older, into my late teens and early twenties, I stopped reading any sort of fiction due to a greater interest in alcohol, women and sports. That was until my mid-twenties and I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s ‘Pet Cemetery’, and I rediscovered my love of horror fiction. King, in turn, led me to Lovecraft and contemporary writers, and ten years later my house is full of books.
I’m not sure what draws me to horror. I’m quite pessimistic, if that matters. I was a strange child. Horrific things have always intrigued me. If I’m honest, I think I find comfort in horror.
As I said above, the works of Adam Nevill and Laird Barron are great favourites of mine. Other writers whose work I admire greatly are Gary McMahon, MR James, Tim Curran, David Moody, Wayne Simmons, Conrad Williams and Nathan Ballingrud.I would advise anyone who hasn’t read their work to check it out.
And Lovecraft, of course…
As an author of dark fiction, what is it you hope most to accomplish with your work? What do you want readers to take away from your stories?
At the moment I’m just trying to build a portfolio of work and see where it takes me. I’m not writing for the money (or lack of it); I write because I have to, I think. It’s a strange feeling. I couldn’t even tell you why I started writing stories in the first place.
I’m just grateful that some people are reading my stories. If I can scare, unsettle or even affect them in some way, I’ll be overjoyed.
As of the time of this writing I haven't had a chance to read The Last Plague yet. Does it draw any parallel with Black Star, Black Sun?
Not really. There are undertones of cosmic horror in The Last Plague, but I never intended it to be overtly Lovecraftian, and it’s a different story in many ways. They are both very bleak stories, however, so they’ve got that in common, and they both deal with humanity’s helplessness against alien horrors.
Any future writing projects that you would care to tell readers about?
I’m currently working on the sequel to The Last Plague, set some months after the events of the first book. Once that’s done I have an idea for a horror novel about religious fundamentalismand missing children.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Thanks for inviting me over, Justin. It’s been a pleasure.