So that’s one book launched successfully (The Seance), and now I’m pressing on, promoting the next one! I was interviewed in a podcast earlier this week, and have posted the link at the end of this entry, but the preparation for that interview really got me thinking about how I came to be involved in this anthology and how it might be a bit jarring readers of my current stories. What could be a better topic for my blog?
Earlier this year I was invited by Stuart Keane, who is an indie thriller and chiller writer of the highest order (if you haven’t already, check out his “The Customer Is Always…” and “Charlotte” on Kindle and you’ll see what I mean), to join a horror anthology he intended to produce
Stuart had lined up a couple of other authors to appear there, too, one of them being author Kyle Scott, an author who seems to be able to pump fear into you directly via IV drip, then, when you try to cope with the terror, you look at the tube going into your arm and see that he’s now pumping someone else’s blood and liquefied organs in there too!
He had also invited Angel Gelique to be part of this war-band. Now, Angel’s work I am yet to read, but her reputation on Goodreads is fearsome. It seems this lady is unafraid to go to some very dark and disturbing places. In the descriptions of some of her stories, she almost tries to put you off reading it, so that only those with nerves of steel actually read the work.
At the time I agreed to submit a piece for the anthology, no title had been set. My previous and ongoing work on the Dr Blessing series, along with The Seance, are a more subtle, creeping style of horror fiction. Yes, there is gore in there, but my horror is embedded in not only the fear of what your physical self may have to endure, but what your mind can take, what might happen to your family, fear of isolation, etc. When the title Carnage: Extreme Horror was announced, I looked at the notes I had for several projects and wondered how the hell I was going to write anything that would fit the title.
Particularly in the case of Kyle, I could see how his style would translate right in there, and from what I understood about Angel’s work, it seemed that she was going to fit in no problem. Stuart was obviously confident that he could slip into extreme gear and when my initial buzz (I’ve been invited to write for an anthology!) wore off and it was time to make a plan, Stuart fielded a few messages from me expressing doubts that I was a good fit.
Stuart became a bit of a coach for me through that time and was prepared to be flexible on the word count (knowing I’m a family man with a demanding job, as well as a writer) and he said one of the nicest things that have been said to me as a writer. He told me that he had confidence that whatever I wrote would hit the spot, that he had approached me because of the quality of my work that he had read so far.
I relaxed for a while. I concentrated on getting The Seance off the ground, which included a successful but very time-consuming Kickstarter campaign. Kicking around a few ideas, I had to make the decision: can I do this in the Victorian settings I usually work in, or is it time to do something different? I have another huge project that is contemporary, I should say, it’s just that the Victorian stuff is really moving along.
I decided to break away from the Victorian era for a while, and tell a story that has a thread connecting it to our modern lives: the first steps of my story Anti-Terror come from the middle of the last decade when the UK was reeling in the wake of terror attacks on public transport in London, the police shooting of an unarmed man in a London subway and various threats of terrorist action in the British Isles.
Having lived in Leeds at that time, I distinctly remember the concrete blockades outside the train station, the armed police patrolling the platforms and concourses and that undeniable feeling: we have been forced to change and we can never go back. Paranoia filled the multi-racial society around me and there was that fear that a false move, an unclear motive or a breakdown in communication could have disastrous consequences. I remember travelling on the tube in London and seeing a Sikh student with a backpack, who knew that those around him generalised: they saw an Asian guy, he must be a Muslim extremist. What made me admire this guy was the slogan on the back of his bag: Don’t Freak, I’m a Sikh.
It is there, in circumstances where society is pushed to extremes of panic and alertness, that the seeds of Anti-Terror are embedded. I say seeds, because the story is in no way intended as a commentary on terrorism, policing or the use of firearms. While the seeds are certainly born of a serious matter, what I have grown with them is pure escapism and horrific entertainment.
I chose to write the story in the style of an ‘oral history’. Chuck Palahniuk used this mechanic to great effect in his magnificent novel Rant. When I started to plan out this piece, I decided the best way to tell the tale was to employ the same method A story told by several individuals who were in Leeds City Station at the time of a disastrous confrontation between police and a suspected terrorist. What the authorities have admitted, and what the witnesses saw do not align at all and the reader is drawn into a conspiracy where disgraced police officers might just be heroes, and the rivalry of two friends might just have unleashed Hell.
While to some of my loyal readers, the prospect of a contemporary story falling under the extreme heading might seem very far away from my usual body of work and in its setting and mechanics, it is. To those readers, let me offer a reassurance, Anti-Terror is laced with many of the other features that have made my other work so popular. Certainly there are the breadcrumbs that will link into other stories, and the appearance of a character from one of the first horror stories I ever wrote (those who have followed me for 10 years know about that big reboot I am planning) and the conclusion of the story will definitely linger on long after you have put the story down. Those hallmarks won’t be drowned out by violence or gore – the story is strong, the situation compelling and I will be most surprised if you don’t find yourself reading it more than once to find all the hints I’ve dropped throughout the pages, to be discovered after the “Ahah!” moment at the end of the first reading.