Today I have a guest poster in the form of Daniel I Russell as part of his blog world tour, which he’s undertaking in the run up to the release of his novel, Samhane.
Hi Dan, pull up a chair and let’s kick off. Can you give us a bio to let people know a little about your good (or not so good) self:
I’m a horror writer in my twenties (for the next five days, at least!) from Wigan in the UK but I moved out to Australia a few years ago. I’m the science head at the local high school and have three children. I’m also the associate and technical editor at Necrotic tissue and work with Bandersnatch Books. As you can probably tell just from this, I’m a geek with very little personal time.
So how long have you been writing for, and what made you choose horror?
I’ve been writing since about 2004, which doesn’t look like too long, but feels like an age, perhaps because things have changed so much. It’s always been horror for me from day one, be it He-Man when I was four (come on, some of those guys were pretty freaky!), endless horror movie marathons through my teens or now, trying to churn them out onto paper while living a relatively normal and suburban life out in the country. Whenever I try to write something that isn’t horror, it always seems to sneak back in. Like Robert Englund says in New Nightmare, just because it’s a romantic comedy, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a decapitation or two!
Any real life horror stories to share?
We all have to deal with real life horror every day. Thankfully, (and that’s a thanks to you, media!) we’re all pretty much habituated to it now. Touch wood, apart from a few family natural deaths I haven’t had to deal with anything too harrowing. There’s a distinct lack of crazed killers and torture in my life. I’ve had the odd weird and spooky moment, and I think most people have, no matter how much they deny it. I think the closest I’ve come to real life horror was when I worked for a law firm. Some of the injury reports were appalling, knowing that the mangled limb you were looking at was an actual person and not an effect. Plus, some of the files including young children were heartbreaking.
If you were stuck on a desert island, who would you like to be stranded with?
I suppose the answer I’m supposed to give is my son, but never in a million years! How the hell would he survive with me in charge? On a desert island? No, I’d prefer him to be safe and sound at home with his mum. Someone with plenty of meat on them would be handy, you know, in case we ran out of coconuts or something. When it comes right down to it, and simply for survival, I’d have to say Bear Grylls, but I ain’t drinking my own piss.
Aside from writing, you edit for Necrotic Tissue. Has wearing two hats helped or hindered your own writing?
Time wise, severally hindered. If I agree to do something, and other people are depending on you doing that job, it comes before any of my own stuff. So if Necrotic Tissue business is to be done, it gets finished before I open up the latest novel or short story. With the submissions process and then technical edits, yes, it’s a big undertaking four times a year, but I enjoy doing it. Knowing how much work the other staff and I put in each quarter, when I have the finished magazine on my shelf I’m as proud of it as anything featuring my own work. It does help my writing as, with reading so many submissions, I think (hope!) it helps with writing twists. Many, many stories try to include a twist, and it’s educating to see what works and what doesn’t. Oh, and if any potential contributors are reading, if a character turns out to be a vampire or werewolf and that’s the entire point of the story, write something else!
Tea or coffee?
Coffee in copious amounts! I think that you have to have an addictive personality to be a writer. Some like booze. Some like drugs. Some like Tae Kwon Do. I’m a caffeine freak! My writing mug is like a bucket with a handle. Sweet, milky tea is nice on the stomach after a heavy night on the beer.
I imagine as an editor, you see the good, the bad and the ugly of the writing world. Any stories to share?
It’s more the technical and business side of things. You get to learn the game more, and spot the bad players. It’s that title of ‘editor’. What makes an editor? We see so many writers who, after little success, suddenly open their own magazine or ezine. Anything to get their name out there, you know? But if you’re a bad writer, you’re going to be a bad editor. I’ve read work by editors of a few ezines on their sites or blog, and it has been terrible. Yes, you may think that is just my opinion, but incorrect grammar and spelling, bad syntax and shitty composition is not my opinion, it’s simply bad, incorrect writing. To think that these people are, as editors, advising new writers what’s right and wrong, is simply a joke. Add into the mix the number of markets that don’t pay their writers or offer a token payment, and then charge the earth for a copy of the Lulu anthology the writer is in? For me, it’s these used car salespeople of the small press that piss me off the most. Not to say all small press ezines and editors are like this! Most are legit and a pleasure to work with.
On the good side, we receive submissions and guarantee a few comments on why we made that choice. Again, this might just be that editor’s opinion, but as a writer, I always prefer a reason over a form rejection. The good side for us is when we receive emails stating that the writer has taken our advice, submitted it somewhere else and made a sale. Kinda makes us feel we helped and gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
Having emigrated to Australia, do you see cultural differences with regards genre fiction?
Fantasy seems to be the prevailing spec choice for the genre loving Australian. And vampires. Fucking vampires! The country is still obsessed with the sparkly Bold and the Beautiful. Hopefully when the novelty has worn off, and horror can reclaim some of the shelf space it’s lost, we’ll see a big resurgence. The Australian horror scene is incredibly passionate, a little because I think it knows it has to work hard to make a name for itself against the more established US and UK markets. The magazines I have appeared in over here, namely Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and Midnight Echo, and the books produced, such as anything from Brimstone Press or Tasmaniac Publications, are top notch. I now count myself as part of the Australian horror scene, and I’m among great and passionate company.
And with that in mind, do you think emigrating has helped your writing?
I live in a lovely little picturesque town in the country of Western Australia. While I now have a family and a more demanding job, the general atmosphere I think has helped. Life is less hectic than when I lived in the UK, and it seems like there’s more hours in the day. Travel broadens the mind as they say, and Australia offers more ideas on characters and settings, as well as things like myths and legends.
Do you prefer subtle horror or more gore?
Variety is the spice of life (full of clichéd sayings today). I used to write gore regularly, but it gets repetitive quite quickly, or at least it feels that way. Blood can only ejaculate so many times. A mix is always better. One of my more successful stories, Broken Bough, which appeared on Pseudopod, has no gore whatsoever, but still has that high tension, whereas readers enjoy Samhane because of its explicit gore. Yeah, twelve of one and half a dozen of the other and I’m happy. At the end of the day, it’s a game of two halves.
What do you think of the state of horror fiction today?
Equilibrium is shifting, and I think the big changes, and it’s been building for a while now, are about to come. Whether this is going to be good or bad for the horror genre, only time will tell. Horror fiction just isn’t fashionable enough for the mainstream at the moment. It’s always been up and down. Hopefully it will on the rise again soon.
What are your aims and hopes for the future with regards your writing?
I’m always aiming for the next step. I think this last one was a big step: work with a good publisher who wants to get your book in the hands of readers. It sounds like common sense, but I guess a good number of people in the industry know different. Working with Stygian Publications, Skullvines Press and Voodoo Press, I know that the editors will be promoting as hard as I will to reach new readers. I think from now on, the aims will pretty much be to increase my readership and continue to produce books they’ll enjoy.
Favourite sexual position?
On, under, to the side, inside, perpendicular or parallel to my general vicinity.
And finally to Samhane. What’s it about and more importantly, where can potential readers find a copy?
The back cover blurb can put it better than I ever could:
"For weeks, I have tossed and turned in my bed in turmoil over whether to publish this. But the people of this town must be warned. Everyone must be aware of the Danger lurking in the dark, waiting."
Samhane. Just a sleepy town in the rolling hills of northern England. A nice place to live.
Few people know the truth.
Donald Patterson travels to Samhane in pursuit of a sadistic murderer and rapist. Unless Donald reaches Orchard House by midnight, his fiancee will be the star of the next torturous broadcast....
Brian Rathbone and his son are already in Samhane, hired by the mayor. Specialist exterminators, their talents have helped to deal with the 'little problems' that have begun to massacre the residents. But as events take a more sinister turn, Brian wonders about the true reason they are there....
Blood and carnage. Pain and suffering. Desire and sweet chaos.
Welcome to Samhane.
The book will be available through Amazon, etc, and direct from the publisher via the magazine store at www.necrotictissue.com later this month. The German edition is available now on preorder at amazon.de and www.voodoo-press.com.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, and good luck with your writing.
Cheers Shaun! Thank you for having me.