Today I welcome to the blog my good friend and fellow werewolf writer, Graeme Reynolds.
Hello and thank you for supporting my blog.
Firstly, please tell me a little about yourself –
I’m an exile from the North East of England, hiding out in the wilds of Swindon, where I met my lovely wife and her two children. I break computer programs for a living during the day, which isn’t as much fun as it sounds. In the evenings I run Horrific Tales Publishing, while also trying to carve out some time to write my own books. I also tend to drink too much wine and get into arguments on Facebook.
Thank you. Now for some questions.
Q1. When did you first begin writing, and why horror?
Writing was something that I had always been interested in. Through my teens and twenties, I’d tried to write a book without any real clue as to what I was doing. I’d manage a chapter or so before realising that I’d produced utter shit and consigned the fledgeling manuscript to the bin. I suppose it wasn’t really until around 2008 that my partner at the time, desperate to break my World of Warcraft addiction, badgered me into doing something more constructive with my spare time. I wrote a little flash fiction story about werewolves from the point of view of a regular wolf pack that, to my amazement, someone thought was good enough to publish. That first publishing credit was enough to drive me on, and I published little flash fiction horror stories for a couple of years before I figured I had enough experience to dust off the novel manuscript again.
As far as “Why Horror?” – I don’t think that there was ever going to be any other choice for me. I have adored horror movies and novels since I was seven or eight years old. I grew up on the video nasties of the 1980s, and the Hammer horror movies on BBC2 late on Friday and Saturday nights. The great thing about horror is that any story can be turned into a horror story if you give it an evil little twist in the tail. It’s almost not even a genre in and of itself, because it’s so diverse in its scope.
Q2. What drove your decision to start your own independent publishing business alongside the writing?
I made a decision back in 2010 when I was shopping High Moor around to agents, that I wanted to self publish it instead. There was (and still is) a lot of stigma around self-published novels. I thought that if I paid for professional editing and cover art, I might be able to get noticed. The market was nowhere near as congested in 2010 as it is now, and somehow I managed to get enough sales and reviews with the book that it gained a little traction. After the second novel came out and that sold well too, I thought that I may be able to apply what I’d learned with my own books to other authors. I emailed Michael Bray about his novel, Whisper, that he’d sent to me for consideration in the Bram Stoker Awards (back when I was still a member of the HWA). The rest, as they say, is history. We’ve now been running for nine years, have 25 books out at the moment, with three more slated for this year and two confirmed for 2021 already. I’ve made a point of keeping the production values as high as I can, and it’s really worked out for us.
Q3. What inspires your writing? Who are your favourite, go-to authors?
I get inspired by the “what if…” of a situation, and love to wrong foot readers, especially in short stories or flash fiction. I can remember in one of my earlier flash fiction tales, the set up was that a woman was talking to a guy who was clearly losing his shit and was giggling to himself, playing with a knife while she pleaded and reasoned with him from outside of his flat. The view was that this guy was going to do something horrible to her – only for the last paragraph to reveal that the girlfriend was a vampire, floating outside of his window ala Salem’s Lot, trying to persuade him to let her in. I love stuff like that – find the ordinary and work out what it would take to make it horrifying. I also love the moral grey areas – that each side in a story is not necessarily good or evil as such but simply have opposing viewpoints and needs. I really try to bring that out in my novels, especially once we get into High Moor 3, where both the humans and werewolves do terrible things, but do them for reasons that are very valid to them at the time.
In terms of favourite authors, clearly, the likes of King and Robert McCammon have been massive influences on me, as well as Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series (which are due a re-read).
I loved the way that Anne Rice built up her characters and their history in the first three books of her vampire series, and more recently I have really enjoyed everything that Nick Cutter has put out, especially The Troop and The Deep.
I’m also lucky to have worked with some authors whose work I adore – I need to pinch myself quite often when I realise that I have published the likes of Gary McMahon, Joseph D’Lacey, Steve Savile and Paul Kane, for example. That is the great thing about running a press – the books I publish are all books I absolutely adore (otherwise I wouldn’t put my time and money into them). Unfortunately, it does eat up the time I have available to read for pleasure. It’s become almost decadent to read a novel that isn’t for “work”.
Q4. Why werewolves? And, what is your favourite ‘were’ lore?
Werewolves have terrified me as a child. I remember having the old Usborne series on horror and having to skim past the images of the werewolf at times, while simultaneously been fascinated by them. What could be more frightening than something bigger, stronger and faster than you, that you can’t reason with or plead for your life, and will tear you apart given a chance? There is also a tragedy to them in many respects, at least in the classic Wolf Man sense in that they are often good, kind people who become savage monsters under the full moon. I remember seeing Oliver Reed in Curse of the Werewolf at an early age and the fact that he was both the protagonist and the monster really stuck with me.
In terms of my favourite ‘were lore’, I’m going to have to go with what I consider my own little addition to the werewolf mythology, and that is what is different between the four-legged variety that can change at will (like the overgrown puppies in the Twilight movies *spits*) and the giant, two-legged wolf-man monsters that change under the full moon? In my mythology, the type of werewolf you become is down to an individuals state of mind. The people that embrace the symbiotic nature of the curse can retain some control over it and can change at will, even using some of the werewolf abilities in human form, such as enhanced senses. Those who fight the change, either consciously or unconsciously, end up being caught in a halfway state between man and wolf when the influence of the full moon makes the wolf side of them too strong to contain. The two types had bothered me when I was writing the first book, so I was happy to come up with a way to explain the differences.
Q5. What unique qualities do you think British horror brings to the scene?
British horror tends to have a certain feel to it – an underlying sarcastic humour that is not so much straight out jokes, but that springs from the character of British people. I still enjoy reading novels from authors of different nationalities (I am currently reading a Scandinavian horror novel), but I think that when an author captures the British personality accurately in their characters, it can really make a book come to life.
Q6. Have YOU had any unexplained or supernatural experiences yourself, and if so, have they made it into your work?
Not as such, but life experience definitely makes it into my work. A good chunk of the first High Moor novel is autobiographical, at least where the children are concerned. A great many of the things those children got up to were things that I myself was guilty of (apart from the “burning down the school” part. I didn’t do that, although it did happen to one of the schools in my town). There are also a couple of werewolf scenes in the book that are lifted from what I would call “local anecdotal experience”.
The first one of those was the scene in the boy scout camp, around the end of the first section of book 1. That scene, in many ways, was the root of the entire High Moor series and it grew out of a boy scout camping trip in the actual location used in the book. My friends and I used to sneak into the second-hand bookshop in the indoor market when we were around eight or nine years old, and we would look at the covers, scaring ourselves witless but unable to tear ourselves away. One of those books was Wolfen, by Whitley Streiber. One of my friends decided it would be funny to say that one of the scenes in the book was a werewolf attack on a cub scout camp. It wasn’t. The little shit was just saying that to me while at a cub scout camp under a full moon to scare me, and in some respects, the actual book was much more terrifying than that when I came to read it, years later. But the campfire story was frightening enough for me to wait until everyone had gone to sleep, pack my stuff up and walk 15 miles home through country lanes at 2 in the morning. The imagined horror of that scene stayed with me for years until I finally excised it from my psyche and got it down on paper.
The other element from the book that was based on real-life was the Durham Beast mythology. The crops up a few times in the book, and in actuality there was a Puma roaming the countryside near where I lived, slaughtering sheep and the like. It was taken seriously enough that the police visited the local schools, forbidding us to go into the woods, and to always hang out in groups. There is even a scene where a truck driver spots the werewolf, and again, that is taken from an actual sighting of the Durham Beast in the 1980s, where a truck driver gets out of his cab to relieve himself in the middle of the night and is confronted by a massive creature with gleaming green eyes and white teeth.
Q7. What is next for you, and for Horrific Tales?
Horrific Tales has some fantastic books coming out in the next twelve months, including:
Simon Bestwick’s haunting short story collection, And Cannot Come Again.
Kit Power’s novella A Song for the End
The long-awaited third instalment of William Holloway’s epic Lovecraftian series The Black Church (Immortal Body 2)
Joseph D’Lacey’s absolutely brilliant eco-horror comedy (think Downton Abbey meets The Thing, and you aren’t far off) called Weed.
We are also running an open submissions period in July and August as if I didn’t have enough to do.
As far as my own writing goes, I have honestly struggled in recent years to get much more than short stories down on paper. Still, I am trying to carve some time out to get some words down on a new horror trilogy. The first one is called Unnatural and is set in the High Moor universe but not exactly werewolf related. I have a novella called Dark and Lonely Water that I really want to get finished, as well as a short story I need to produce for one of Matt Shaw’s anthologies. So 2020 and 2021 are shaping up to be busy years for me.
Thank you so much Graeme. For anyone who doesn’t know, this man means a lot to me. Not only does he live down the road, but he has mentored me and edited my work. I owe a lot of my knowledge and confidence in my stories to him. Also, the fact he published Leaders of the Pack featuring 2 of my most fave authors ever is a nice bonus.
And, as always, aroooooooooooooooo …