The Re-Vamp project began in October of 2010, how did you and L.C. Hu go about setting this up?
DB – Me and LC had worked together before on various little projects and had always talked about doing a proper horror project together. We met online in a horror writing community and it was a shared love of the genre that first got us talking. One of the things we found ourselves talking about increasingly though was how sick we were of paranormal romance and the angsty teenage vampires and buff young werewolves that were pervading books and film. It seemed that the truly frightening monsters of old had all but disappeared under a sheen of Hollywood dazzle and that was what made us decide to try and resurrect them.
At first we intended to just write a story per month each, but as we kicked ideas back and forth and came up with having a bi-monthly monster theme and maybe keeping a work-in-progress journal, the idea snowballed until it became a full-on audience participation journal where we posted each story as it was written, ran polls and discussions and competitions and invited guest writers to contribute stories to the final anthology.
Was the response what you expected?
DB – I think the response was far greater than we ever expected! The journal was initially just for us and we thought a few friends might leave a comment or two, but people really engaged with it – especially our Choose Your Own Adventure story that we wrote week-by-week for the Werewolves section.
LCH -Though we didn't get stories from everyone we solicited (alas) we were actually bowled over by the stories we did receive, and by the fact that many of the authors even wanted to write for more than one theme. And the contest response was literally overwhelming; we expected a few stories from our friends and got many lovely subs from exciting authors we'd never met.
What do you think is the greatest success of the Re-Vamp anthology? What can readers expect from this collection?
DB – I think the greatest success is the final print book. It’s such a beautiful book, with it’s gorgeous cover by Leah Jay, it’s illustrations and the sheer quality of the writing in it – it would be an achievement by any standards but we’re particularly proud of the fact that it was self published and brought together writers and artists from right across the globe who would otherwise maybe have never had contact with each other. That aspect, and the year-long online project that preceded the launch of the print and e-book anthology, really created a sense of community that I think can be lacking in these days of sitting staring at a screen - which is ironic really considering a lot of the contributors have only had contact via electronic means!
LCH - The sheer variety of takes we got on the various monsters and the passion evident in all the works.
What do you think the common trait for timeless horror icons or creatures is? Why do they last through generations and various incarnations?
DB - That’s an interesting question and I think a difficult one, because there are so many different reasons that themes endure. The monsters we chose really are iconic creatures rooted in folklore but now made popular through books and film to the point where they’re ingrained in social consciousness almost. I think there are several common traits running between them – body horror, the fear of death and decay, or worse, decay before death with zombies and vampires. The fear of a loss of control – both in the sense of not being able to control yourself in the case of werewolves, but also the horror of the everyday world becoming an unknown quantity. There’s a fear of the unknown too, of things totally alien to our understanding.
LCH -I think they speak to shared fears, taboos and longings. For instance everyone's experienced creepy feelings they can't explain from time to time, or listened to strange moanings in the night, and inevitably started wondering what's out there. Ghosts and spirits seem as reasonable an explanation in the dark of the night as the house settling. And who among us doesn't have a part of themselves that is a little monster, a little uncontrollable burst of temper or a nasty impulse we want to disclaim--the secret werewolf?
What fictional character has had the greatest impact on you? How so?
DB – Wow, I’m not sure. In terms of horror? I’m having to really think about that - I do think that a lot of horror is situation rather than character driven, now I’m thinking about it. I think Nell from Shirley Jackson’s ‘Hill House’ is beautifully and subtly characterised, wishing for her own cup of stars. Her loneliness and desire to belong certainly stuck with me.
Likewise, Ambrosi from Susan Price’s ‘Ghost Song’ with his determination to be known by his own name, to follow his own dreams and to stick by those he loves despite all odds really struck a chord with me.
What was the first book you remember that truly frightened you? Was your response to toss it in a closet and forget it? Or seek out other dark tales?
DB - I was obsessed with ghosts as a child. One of my favourite books is still Lucy M Boston’s ‘Children of Green Knowe’ - re-reading my disintegrating 80s copy gives me a guaranteed cosy winter feeling. One scary tale I can remember clearly was a short story called ‘Nule’ by Jan Mark which still terrifies me to this day, the is-it-or-isn’t-it-real thing invading their house. There are a few more stories that really disturbed me but which I can’t remember the titles of. I remember one about a boy who was bullied and his bullies killed a swan and tied its wings to his arms – how horrible, and it had a great impact on me! Another was about a boy who built a long, skinny creature called Skin as a Bonfire Night Guy and I swear that thing still haunts my nightmares. Another story that gives me the raging heebs is ‘The Flat Man’ – which is a primary school book that I first read about aged 25 when I worked in a library and it scared the hell out of me then! Thinking about it, most of the books that have really affected me at any age are classed as children’s books. Very few adult horror books have deeply affected me in that way; I think they try too hard to be scary. The ‘grown-up’ stories that have scared me that spring to mind are Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, HG Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’ and the short story ‘The Red Lodge’ by H. Russell Wakefield which, I don’t quite know what it was about it, but I almost had to sleep with the light on after reading it. It’s those quiet tales that seem innocuous at first but really take root at the back of your mind and only remind themselves to you when you’re alone with the lights off that I’m really interested in.
LCH - I hate to say it but it was probably a religious text on demonic possession and how the "faithful" are tested by demons coming to harass them! Or at least that's the first thing I can recall sticking in my head and scaring me for some time after. Demons or malicious spirits have always been terrifying to me because there is nothing you can do to placate them. They're just out to get you. Period. And they're just vague enough to almost truly believe in...
But I love being scared so obviously I've kept seeking out scary tales!
But I love being scared so obviously I've kept seeking out scary tales!
What current genre authors are you following?
DB – I’ve already mentioned Susan Price and Chuck Palahniuk. I’m also a big fan of Martin Millar, who customarily writes more fantasy than horror but is currently penning a series of ‘Lonely Werewolf Girl’ books that have been labeled Young Adult . They’re very much the pulp style of writing – fast paced, lots of characters, deceptively simple writing style, but they’re so charmingly written, dry and witty and entertaining, like supernatural soap opera. It’s pulp done well.
I have to confess, I’m reading back over MR James and Roald Dahl more than I’m reading new horror, but I’m slowly finding my way around Goodreads so hopefully will pick up some great new literary horror recommendations there.
LCH - Die will probably laugh me out of the park but I love Stephen King actually. Don't take my horror-lover credentials away! (DB - Haha, don’t, I sound awful! I read a Stephen King short story called ‘Gramma’ recently that I really enjoyed!)
What is your take on modern horror at this juncture?
Do you have anything new coming down the pipeline you would like to share with us?
DB – Where do I start! I’ve got a few short stories due out soon, one called ‘Waifs’ in ‘Bloody Fabulous’ which is due out in October from Prime. My story ‘To be heard’ is going to be part of Crooked Cat’s two part ‘Fear’ anthology which is also due out in October and all proceeds from that go to charity (Barnardo’s and Medecins sans Frontieres) so I’m especially looking forward to that one. I’m also lucky enough to have a piece called ‘Phantoms’ in the next issue of ‘The Fiction Desk’ which is a quarterly anthology of new fiction which I can’t recommend enough – the quality of the first few issues is phenomenal and their ethos of discovering and sharing new gems is brilliant.
I’m also involved in a project that Sarah Grant, who edited ‘Art from Wonderland’ (another really fantastic DIY publication) is running, retelling and illustrating classic fairytales. I’ll be tackling Beauty and the Beast and hopefully doing it justice in time for the book’s Christmas release – and again, all proceeds from that go to charity, this time it’s the British Library Conservation Fund.
And finally I’m working on my debut novel, provisionally titled ‘Embedded’. It’s a very British horror-adventure romp centered around a hospital and I’m hoping to have it out in 2013, all being well.