Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you call home today? I know you write music as well as fiction and non-fiction books. Which came first? Why? If you could only choose one, which would it be?
I’m a horror and dark fiction author hailing from the north of England and a little-known part of the world called Cumbria, sometimes called Middlelandbecause it’s on the border between Scotland and England.
I’ve been writing stories since the age of eight when I would produce comic books inspired by Marvel and 2,000 AD. At the age of twenty-five, I attempted to write an epic fantasy novel called ‘Aukben’s legacy.’ This was very much a craft learning exercise and remains unpublished.
Since then I’ve taken a leaf out of Ray Bradbury’s book and written numerous short stories, but only recently produced my first full-length novel.
When I tell people I’m a Horror author, they always ask, Why Horror? Now let me ask you: Why horror and dark fantasy? What’s the draw to the genre?
One day I’m going to write an essay on this! So many horror authors have their own views on why they’re drawn to the dark side. Stephen King likened it to growing nails or hair – it’s just something that happens as a biological function of who you are. From Neil Gaiman – “If you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up.” Whereas Clive Barker stated “I don’t think I write horror. I am a man who invents worlds of dark, and light, and somewhere in between.”
For me, it’s part therapy. I don’t get so scared of death, the unknown or the future if I embrace the darkness. I get far fewer nightmares since I got into horror – now I inflict them on my readers! Another strand is the idea that great literature accompanies progress in developing civilizations. The reason? Great stories and characters help a reader to empathize, to put themselves into another’s shoes – very important if society is to accept others and improve the lives of all. Horror fiction takes the evoked emotions to an extreme level, so we are able to experience dread, terror, sense of loss as well as love in its variety of forms. There you are, we horror writers are providing a public service.
Describe your story-telling. What authors influence you? Who would you compare your writing to? What’s unique about your fiction?
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve found my definitive voice yet. I’m experimenting with different styles but trying to keep it consistent with a current work in progress. I’ve always been influenced by authors in the fantasy genre. So Tolkein was an obvious starting point, but I also read Stephen Donaldson, Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guinn, Madeleine L’Engle early on. I got into horror and the darker side of things in my late teens and devoured anything by Stephen King, James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon and Brian Lumley. All these have no doubt fed into my muse and I think I’m at the stage now where I’m moving away from mimicking anyone else’s style and being confident to be who I am. As to being unique? I’m not sure I am in terms of storylines or plot. I like to think I can create unique characters and settings, however; and I try to aim at giving an entertaining read. If I can provide a gateway for someone to escape the everyday pressures of the rat race, then I’ll consider I’ve done a good job. I guess I’ll let the readers be the judges!
Can you share your thoughts on the state of the horror genre today? What trends are you seeing in the genre? What do you like about today’s horror? What do you dislike (if anything)?
I think horror as a genre has always had a die-hard core of supporters and with the recent resurgence of interest in quality horror flicks, such as the Walking Dead and American Horror Story, it’s perhaps moving into a renaissance period. Whether this will spill over into books, I don’t know, but horror is the 5th most popular category in terms of sales at present. I’m discovering many new authors who are putting new twists on the genre and writing truly amazing tales. Recently I’ve been reading Nicole Cushing, Ralph Robert Moore, Ted E. Grau and Ray Cluley. But there are still some classic authors I need to delve into – like Jack Ketchum and Ramsay Campbell immediately come to mind. I also, like to experiment reading self-published authors. For example, Chris McLoughlin’s bringing out his book, Kobe, at the end of the month. He’s a fellow horror author on the website, Scribophile and writes breath-taking horror.
Do you self-publish or publish with a traditional press? What are your thoughts on the state of publishing today? Where do you see publishing in the next five years?
I’m no expert, but I did deliberate for at least a year before deciding to go down the self-publishing route. In the end, it came down to not wanting to wait around for acceptance by a publisher, only to have to wait another 12 months or more to be published and not have control over things like cover art and the genre one writes in. With the advent of so many platforms for authors, such as Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads, Smashwords and the possibilities of reaching an audience through social media, self-publishing became more and more attractive to me. Even traditionally published authors have to do a lot of self-promotion, so I figured – why not go the whole hog? I’m certainly sticking to it for the time being.
What were some early lessons you learned writing that could help other aspiring writers? What would you have done differently, if anything? What would you have done more of?
Having only given my earnest attention to writing fiction in the last two years, there’s so much I’ve had to learn. Writing stories is so different to writing non-fiction, which I have done for quite some time now. Apart from generally having confidence in myself and committing to finishing a project, one of the most revolutionary aspects of the writing craft I had to learn was ‘show not just tell.’ I didn’t even know this existed when I started writing fiction, but it’s so fundamental to bringing a reader into a scene you’ve created. I still have a long way to go, and when I read authors like Ray Bradbury and Craig Clevenger I contemplate hanging up my pen because they’re so good at it.
I wrote an attempt at a first novel back in my twenties, and it was rubbish. I needed to have a lot more life experience, read more, learn the craft – and there wasn’t the wealth of information back in the 80’s that the internet provides now. So I think I’ve benefitted from waiting. Some people are naturally talented from an early age and don’t need to put the years in. I wish I was one of them. One thing I’ll finish with is to never give up on your aspirations. Write, even if the world doesn’t offer any encouragement. Just keep doing it – eventually, the words will flow.
What are you working on now? Tell us about your latest work.
My dark fantasy novel, The Psychonaut, came out in e-book format on May 20th, so I’m in the throes of marketing it, preparing the print version and recording the audio book. It’s been an exciting ride penning the story and represents eighteen months’ work, so I’m very proud to have got it out there. It features a main character who is a skeptical atheist, yet possesses a supernatural power called Psychonautics – he’s kind of in denial about it at the start of the tale. From there, the whole plot expands to global and galactic proportions in true Tolkien style.
I’m just finishing off a novella entitled ‘Coffin Dodgers’ which is a sci-fi/horror hybrid, due out this Summer, and my next collection of short stories is just about completed too. So there’s plenty to keep me busy.
In a head to head battle, who would win and why?Bram Stoker’s Dracula vs The Vampire Lestat
I like both characters, but it would have to be Dracula, as he is the first and most ancient of the undead. Having been around a long time he knows one or two things about avoiding garlic, holy water, and crucifixes. Lestat was always a tad naive.
Leatherface vs Jason Vorhees
I must confess to not having watched the Friday 13th series – a sinful omission on my part. But it does mean I’m in for a binge of a treat one of these days. I saw Texas chainsaw massacre soon after it went to video. It was being shown at my local student union. I eventually had to leave the room before the end as I was crapping myself so much. So on the fear front, Leatherface truly delivers. It would be an evenly pitched battle, I think – as long as Leatherface left the chainsaw stuff to when he dismembers the body. They’re difficult to wield in a skirmish unless your opponent moves with the speed of a zombie.
Jigsaw (Saw Movies) vs Hannibal Lecter
It would have to be Hannibal Lecter as he’s so smart. He enjoys the kill but doesn’t let things go to his head. Jigsaw may be imaginative, but he lacks the cold, calculating streak that’s kept Lecter alive since the second world war.
Jack Torrence vs Norman Bates
Norman Bates. Our Jack spends half his time sozzled so he wouldn’t have the presence of mind to win out in a battle of peers.
The Thing vs Alien
The Thing wouldn’t stand a chance (I take it you mean the Thing from the old movies, not Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four.) The Alien and its offspring have aeons of evolution on their side. They’re the perfect killing machines.
Anything else you would like to add?
Just that I love connecting with horror aficionados – whether its film, reading, writing or music so feel free to introduce yourselves on any of these platforms:
My blog can be found at http://tomghadams.uk/
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