Tell us about your novella The Shelter?
The Shelter is a horror story, about a group of boys in the 1980s, trying to find and break into an abandoned WW2 air raid shelter. I doubt it will spoil it for anyone if I say that things don't go too well when they do.
It's based partially on real-life events, and it's one of the first stories I ever wrote, over fifteen years ago. Recently I dug out the manuscript - it was dreadful obviously, all clichés and stilted language. But I found I quite liked the plot, so I decided to rewrite it from scratch, and try and combine some of that youthful enthusiasm with the better grasp of craft and language I (hopefully!) have now...
When writing Feed the Enemy did you have any concerns of accessibility for readers? Would you agree truly reflective stories regarding terrorism can be difficult to market?
Well when I wrote it I wasn't thinking about market or commerciality at all; I was completely unpublished and clueless at the time. Nevertheless I wouldn't change it; the only concession I think an author should make to commerciality at the point of writing is to write the best story you can. Something original and true to yourself will sell better than a pale imitation of someone else.
More specifically, I don't think Feed The Enemy is actually about terrorism; at least not in the action and heroic bomb disposal squad sense. Rather it's about the psychological effects that constant distortion of the terrorist threat by certain sections of the press and government might have on someone.
Wow, it sounds even less commercial when I describe it that way!
The Other Room is a collection of your short stories. Is there a common thread between them?
There's no common thread in terms of narrative; I hope that all the stories have the same feeling and tone - I enjoy the unexplained, the psychological, and the ambiguous in my weird fiction, and that is the kind of story I try and write.
How do you personally separate the horror genre from weird fiction?
I guess the horror genre is a broad church, encompassing gore and entrails, the traditional ghost story, and... weird fiction. Which I guess I classify as those horror stories where the horror isn't just a monster or knife-lunatic running amok, but that horrible creeping feeling that something is wrong with reality or perception itself. Lovecraft's messed up geometry; the ambiguity of whether the ghost even exists in Turn Of The Screw; the total strangeness of Ligotti's tales.
What is the process you use when crafting your tales?
I'm not sure to be honest - "process" is a pretty strong word for the stumbling, haphazard way I get a story down on paper. I always write my first drafts with a pen rather than on a word processor - it's less distracting that way, and I write way quicker than I type. Then I'll typically leave it a few months, and then do a second draft, again by hand. Then wait another few months, and then type it up and make final changes.
Because I mainly write short stories I have a kind of production line of stories in first, second, and third drafts that I'm working on simultaneously.
What are your future writing aspirations?
Artistically, I just want to write the best I can. Commercially, I have no driving ambition to become the next big thing; I think my writing is likely to be more of a niche/cult thing. What I hope for is to build up a core audience who like what I do, and are enthusiastically waiting for the next story or whatever. People who think like I do when there’s a new book from an author I love – “Wow, there’s a new James Everington out!”. It would be pretty great to know even just a few people felt like that.
What author do you feel most influenced you? How?
It would have to be Ramsey Campbell - I bought a second-hand collection of his short fiction at an impressionable age, called Dark Feasts. It made quite an impression - both that a so called 'genre author' could have a prose style equal to anyone's, and that short stories were such a natural fit for the horror genre. Those two realisations are probably what made me the writer I am, for good or for bad,
What is the most influential literary character to you personally? Why?
Well, for a fancy dress party I once dressed as Billy Casper with his kestrel from A Kestral For A Knave. And I do like his stoicism and working class pride in that book; I have a picture from the film Kes (which was based on the book) in the room where I write.
It was a quite last minute costume, so it basically consisted of a washing up glove tied on my wrist with a shoelace, with a cardboard kestrel I coloured with felt-tips. I couldn't get my coat off over the top of it so I spent half the party sweating.
If you could take the reins of writing for any existing franchise, which would you choose and why?
Honestly, from an artistic point of view, none at all. I don't think it's particularly healthy from a creative point of view to obsess about another writer's work, and I'm not a massive fan of the current commercial trend that seems to want every book to be part of a series.
If I have to pick one, I'll say Dan Brown's books. I'd "take the reins" by simply not writing anymore of 'em.