This event is being run by Gill James who runs Bridge House Publishers and Chapel Town Books.
I will be reading from my novella, Maggie of my Heart, published last year by Demain Press which is set in 1940’s London and stars Maggie, an escort girl who is caught up in a sordid relationship with a pimp, Johnny, blackmail and murder and is trying to escape her past but it won’t let her go.
I have a long-term passion for films of the 1940’s especially film noirs filled with femme fatales like Maggie, so this novella is my homage to that genre.
The story of Maggie, who’s escaped her grimy past, only for it to track her down to her new, respectable life, in the shape of her ex-lover, Johnny. Maggie’s fate has always been decided for her by the men in her life and this story is an interesting look into class and gender issues of the time. More than that though, it’s a story that keeps you turning the pages, wanting to find out what happens at the end.
The writing in this story mirrors the characters and the plot, it’s colourful, bold and earthy.
The gripping story of Maggie, a woman desperate to escape her past by any means. I loved the period post war feel of this book. Alyson Faye clearly knows the time well and peppers her work with telling details of low life thugs, rationing and post war gloom, reminiscent of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. The back streets are grimy, the bed sits grim, the lifestyles of the protagonists realistically down beat. But over this shines the characters which are amazingly rounded for a novella. Maggie herself is convincingly desperate to hold on to get new life, to leave behind her previous, sordid one. And Faye gives the villain of the piece – Johnny – impressive depth and complexity. Just a really great little read. My only complaint was it was too short and I could have read more!
I have a poem in this charity anthology, The Witch Tree, which I’m both delighted to be in the anthology and think the poem is one of my strongest yet. And it’s dark, very dark.
Edited by Louise Zedda-Sampson and Geneve Flynn.
Here’s the list of authors:-
COMING In a Cave Wall by Dominick Cancilla…7 Requiem Aeternam by R S Pyne…10 Bury My Heart, Somewhere Deep by Ian A Bain…13 Burying the Well on the Wings of a Crow by Herb Kauderer…14 The Crows of Las Cruces by Kurt Newton…18 The Box Born Wraith by Kevin David Anderson…22 The Toddling by Kurt Newton…26 The Raving by Sheri Vandermolen…30 Pythia Speaks by Jenny Blackford…31 Frostfire by Aline Boucher Kaplan…32 Drowning by Liam Hogan…39 ~ BURIED Digging Up the Past by Chris Mason…41 Till Death Do Us Part by Kellie Nissen…50 Digging Up the Dead by Ed Ahern…51 Buzzing by Lynn White…55 A Guilty Conscience Needs No Accuser by Fiona Jones…56 A Light for the Grave by Aristo Couvaras…57 Whole by Andrew Cull…60 The Little Helper by Kali Napier…63 The Garden by Kurt Newton…66 Tender Age in Bloom by Matthew R Davis…68 ~ OR NOT! To Leaven His Bones by Amanda Crum…72 The Witch Tree by Alyson Faye…75 Jimmy’s Boys by Laura E Goodin…77 An Afterlife of Stone by Jenny Blackford…83 Shaft by Kev Harrison…84 The House Whisperer by Robert Kibble…88 Playlist by Stephanie Ellis…91 There is No Such Thing as Dead by Lucy Ann Fiorini…94 Dead Set by Steve Dillon…95 Sleeping with the Dead by Alicia Hilton…100 A Streetcar Named Lugosi by Mike Sheedy…101
Q1)How did your writing collaboration come about? Is this your first joint project? And after the success of Slaves to Gravity, will there be more? (Reading Slavesto Gravity, I felt it could be the first of a trilogy with Charlie as the heroine.)
SC: Wesley had the idea for the story and asked me if I was interested in co-writing with him. I still feel so green, especially compared to so many, and I always thought that I would feel intimidated by working with another author, but Wesley and I are such good friends and I’m really comfortable with him, and I decided to go for it. Wesley is a really imaginative writer and I think that his strong suits tend to be places where maybe I could use a boost, especially when writing with such talent, but he never made me feel like I wasn’t carrying my own weight in this work. It’s a first collaboration for me, and I’m happy to say that I’d totally be down for writing with Wesley again.
WS: After I moved to Pennsylvania from Indiana, Somer and I became good friends through our mutual author friends. We hit it off pretty quickly, and after reading her work, I knew I wanted to work with her someday. When I felt the time was right to start my first long-form co-writing project, there was no other person I wanted to work with. This wasn’t my first collaboration. I wrote a novelette about ten years ago (with a friend) called “Home Invasion”, which appears in my short story collection Resisting Madness. As far as the success of Slaves to Gravity, we’re both incredibly thrilled about it. We weren’t sure what people would think, but the reception so far has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve seen a lot of people ask about a possible sequel in their reviews. Never say never, but I personally feel like the story has a very definitive ending, but you never know. I would absolutely work with Somer again if she wanted to.
Q2)As a writer myself, I’m really interested in the logistics of co-authoring a novel. How did you structure it? Did you say – write alternate chapters? Or did one of you write particular characters? Did you brainstorm and put ideas down on a virtual whiteboard?
SC: Wesley had a lot of the framing of the story already locked in his head and we worked around that. We wrote alternating chapters and sort of started having fun leaving complicated cliff hangers for the other to deal with. I always looked forward to getting Wesley’s chapter and would always laugh at the situation he left for me. We would do light brainstorming sometimes, but really, a lot of this was us just winging it.
WS: We decided early on to simply flip-flop chapters. Even though I had worked on a collaboration before and Somer had not, we were both pretty nervous and needed to take it slow to feel one another out. We also decided before we started that we did not want to try to ‘one-up’ one another with our chapters. We wanted one cohesive narrative and didn’t want the readers distracted by the battle of “gotcha’s” between the authors. For me personally I find that distracting when reading a collaboration. I shouldn’t be able to tell who’s writing which chapter. I should only be invested in the here and now with the characters and their journey.
The characters themselves were created by both of us. I originally wanted the protagonist, Charlie, to be the main focus. Somer introduced the rest of the cast, and we developed their personalities and back stories as we went. The only character that was truly mine was Tanya, who, while writing the book, I realized I could fit in seamlessly. She’s a minor character in a short story of mine called “Arrearages” and she, too, experienced extreme trauma, which I realized would work perfectly in the context of the current story. I loved that we were able to fit her in as an Easter egg of sorts.
Q3) As writers, are you ‘Planners or Pantsers’? (Generally; not just when writing Slaves)
SC: In general I am a proud Pantser. Wesley is more of a planner and that happened a bit in Slaves, but there was quite a bit of pantsing that went into the creation of the story as well.
WS: Me personally—I’m a planner. I outline every single writing project I do, from flash fiction up to novels. I like to have the story completely ready to go before I start to type the opening line.
Q4 )How long did the planning and writing of Slaves to Gravity take? And where did the idea for this rather unusual tale come from?
SC: From the idea being laid out to us submitting the manuscript to Ken McKinley at Silver Shamrock, it was less than a year. The actual writing took four or five months and we spent maybe a month and a half tightening up the story.
WS: The idea was something I had in my head for several years. When I come up with story ideas, my brain conjures specific, cinematic scenes, and the very last scene of Slaves to Gravity had been playing over and over in my head with zero context attached. Whatever that scene was, I had to know the rest of this story. Before I approached Somer about the project, I came up with a general idea of what we could do. We talked on the phone about it and then a few weeks later we met up at a diner halfway between both of our homes and spent several hours with notebooks, hashing out the story and what we could do with it. It was a really fun process.
Q5) Do you write with pen/paper or pc? Drink coffee or tea? Have music on or off? Work in a study or the garden shed or somewhere else?
SC: I use both pencil/paper and PC. I don’t drink much caffeine because I lose my mind a little, so I drink lots of water. I sometimes have music on, but it depends on if my children are marauding about. I need to be able to hear what they’re getting up to. I have a really neat writing room that I do most of my work in, but I do change the scenery on occasion by going outside or sitting on the couch.
WS: I don’t like to write longhand. I do my outline on paper, but everything I commit to goes down into my laptop. I usually have a soda or water with me in my home office, and my ear buds are smushed into my head with music going at a low volume. It took me until earlier this year to be able to write with music playing and not be completely distracted.
Q6)Have you both always written dark/supernatural/horror fiction?
SC: For the most part, but my first published story was a piece about pancakes! After that, it was all dark and gruesome.
WS: I’ve always preferred to write horror, but after seeing that I can write some form of sci-fi, as we did with Slaves to Gravity, I would be more willing to see what can come from that experience.
Q7)Do you both read that genre? If so, which authors and books stand out for you, or have influenced you?
SC: I absolutely read the horror genre. I am a fan first, always and forever. I grew up reading paperback horror novels that my grandma kept stacks of in her house, but the first one that really blew me over was The Haunting by Ruby Jean Jensen. That book made me afraid to put my feet on the floor for fear of the thing under the bed, the thing from the book, getting me. As I got older, I graduated to Stephen King and some Dean Koontz, but the foundation of my fandom will always be Ruby Jean Jensen. As for some more contemporary authors that really do it for me, I love Wesley’s work as well as Mary SanGiovanni, The Sisters of Slaughter, Tim Meyer, James Newman, Kenzie Jennings, and Jonathan Janz. Look, if I named everybody, I’d be here all day, but those names are names I always love to see being published.
WS: I’ve always been a huge horror fiction nut. My biggest inspirations for becoming a writer were Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzalez, and Tim Lebbon, but I feel my personal writing style was and continues to be heavily influenced by Graham Masterton, and Ray Garton. I adore Masterton’s storytelling ability, and I’ve tried to adapt the way Garton writes action scenes and tension. As far as newer, more current authors, I think writers like Kristopher Triana, Aaron Dries, and Somer Canon are leading the way for the new generation. Each has such a unique voice and are highly readable and enjoyable.
Q8)What are you currently reading?
SC: I’ve just started Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. I’ve seen the movies and shows and it’s about time I got to the books.
WS: I’m actually beta-reading a new horror western for Kristopher Triana, which will be out soon from Death’s Head Press.
Q9)Do you gain inspiration from films and/or music? Can you name a fave film or album or artist whose work has inspired or influenced you as a writer?
SC: I get very light inspiration from music. My music tastes are all over the place. This is going to sound so weird, but I think the movies that I get the most inspiration from for my writing are those horrible, cheap, sequel movies that we got a lot of in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Like Children of the Corn III and The Howling V. These movies didn’t take themselves too seriously, and if they did it came off as hilarious as opposed to terrifying, and I really like highlighting the absurdity of a horror story. I tend to add humor to my work, or course, but I think that it offsets the heavier parts wonderfully.
WS: My favorite film ever is From Dusk Till Dawn, and I feel that movie has influenced me more than any other. I adore the characters, the atmosphere, the tension, the dialogue, and the action and gore. I’m forever searching for my perfect vampire novel idea because of that movie.
Q10)What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as writers?
SC: Take all advice with a grain of salt. There is no one-size-fits-all writing career.
WS: Have patience. This can be a painful, slow moving business.
Q11)Do you belong to a writers’ group or bounce ideas off each other, or other writing friends?
SC: I’m a member of the Mid-Atlantic Dark Fiction Society. I, personally, am not terribly comfortable talking openly about my works in progress with many people, but I like talking shop with other writers.
WS: I don’t belong to an official writing group, but I live around enough creative people who I’m constantly bouncing ideas off of. They’re a massive help.
Q12)How involved are you with social media? Where can fans and followers find you online?
SC: I’m present on social media, but I prefer to be a more light presence, a distraction. You can find me on Twitter (that’s where I’m usually hanging out), Facebook and Instagram. (And here somercanon.com)
WS: I’m always hanging out online. I’m pretty easy to find on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and I try to keep my website (www.wesleysouthard.com) as updated as possible.
Thank you, Wes and Somer, for the interview. It’s been great and really interesting.
Thoughtful and lovely new review of this anthology, where Laurel Hightower (author of the best selling novels Whispers in the Dark and Crossroads) gives every story a mention.
Diabolica Britannica:A Dark Isles Horror Compendium Edited by Keith Anthony Baird
A Book Review by Laurel Hightower
One of the shining lights of this whole pandemic craziness has been the willingness of authors and other artists to contribute their work for free, either for public enjoyment at a time when many people are living with reduced income, or for charity anthologies to help out causes that are still in desperate need of assistance. One of the most striking to come my way this summer was Diabolica Britannica: A Dark Isles Horror Compendium. First of all, I utterly dig that title – it strikes a Gothic, commanding note, like we should refer to it simply as “The Diabolica” which, I think I’ll start doing and see if it catches on. The Diabolica is edited by Keith Anthony Baird, who also contributes a dark and delicious story, and boasts a TOC of some of Britain’s brightest horror stars, with all proceeds to benefit the UK’s National Health Service to help with the COVID 19 crisis. I’m not certain if there was a guiding theme for the anthology, as there’s a wide range of subject matter and tone covered between its pages, but the stories are woven together beautifully and make for an overall perfect horror experience. The great Ramsey Campbell wrote an introduction for The Diabolica, in which he took time to note what he enjoyed about each story, and it’s almost impossible not to do the same. Each story I read stood out in its own way, and each deserves the benefit of an individual mention.
The first story is “Carreg Samson”, a Welsh folkloric tale by Catherine McCarthy. It’s a strong choice for the opening, written in sweeping, dark historical tones. We’re drawn immediately into the mind of an ancient being, with a view and memory of centuries that has now found a focal point in the present. I’m a big fan of folklore horror and McCarthy strikes just the right note of ancient, earthly and inevitable horror. Following hard on McCarthy’s heels is “Tourist Traps” by Christopher Henderson, which takes us into a more modern mindset. It’s atmospheric, and I could sympathize with young Ben’s desire to delve into the real ghostly history of London. Henderson makes excellent use of the bloody history of the Tower of London, adding creepy touches of legend and deliciously disturbing imagery just before ending on the right note.
Next up is Beverly Lee’s “The Secret of Westport Fell”, with the perfect Gothic opening on a misty, forlorn lane. Lee’s masterful hand builds a brushstroke setting, with excellent pacing and plenty of creepy elements to make her readers snuggle into warm sweaters. This was another story that hit just the right note at the end – one thing that impressed me so much about this anthology was how well the writers wielded their craft of short fiction. The fourth story in the lineup transports us back to a more modern setting again in Arthur M. Harper’s “The Conductor”. I loved the subtle, bone-deep creep invoked by Harper’s descriptions of the lonely, rain swept train station and the utter, stomach turning wrongness of his Conductor. And in Janine Pipe’s “Footsteps”, we pivot once again, this time into a forest setting, with a theme of blood and carnage throughout. Pipe has a fun, tongue in cheek twist to her blood letting, and her story added a light but vicious streak to the whole.
Pipe’s story is followed by a contribution from Tim Lebbon, entitled “The Flow”. There’s a moody, quiet horror here, making use of my flat out favorite setting: a flooded town. There is something so intrinsically creepy about a lost, abandoned village covered in water and Lebbon makes the most of it. Another strong voice in the mix is Stephanie Ellis with “We Plough the Fields and Scatter”. Ellis’s contribution shines with her atmospheric take on lost folklore, a seasonal return to the old ways with fantastic witchy elements.
“Linger” by John F. Leonard, gives us an interesting twist on the haunted house story we’ve been craving. The subtitle of A Tale of Art and Abomination from the Dead Boxes Archive gives an intriguing glimpse into what’s in store, though I’d be surprised if you guessed the depths of the story before you arrived there. There’s definitely something off about Eddie’s sudden inheritance, but like us, he’s too invested in the answer to turn back before it’s too late. Next, Alyson Faye gives us an eerie water tale with “Song of the Moor”, a creepy, folkloric and feminine creature feature. Definitely hit a lot of high notes for me, and I loved the overall tone and story arc here.
Faye’s story is followed by an excellent look into archaic and historical horror from Keith Anthony Baird, with “Walked a Pale Horse on Celtic Frost”. Leading with a swift, moody flashback and then taking us into a modern anthropological search, Baird’s story sets a scholarly tone which is quickly overtaken by the diabolical. A bit of history, a bit of Gothic, a bit of witchy, and a touch of From Dusk Til Dawn. Sarah J. Budd comes next with a bleak look at adolescent horror in “The Hole”. Aside from the larger horror reveal in this story, which was creepy enough in its own right, Budd impressed me with her ability to paint a picture of the more mundane, but even less escapable horror that her protagonist’s life had become. I really felt for Lucy’s predicament, and that’s a high hurdle to jump in short fiction.
Morgan K. Tanner is next with his story “Scripted in Shadows”. This one is inventive, different, and bloody, which from everything I’ve heard, is signature to Tanner’s work. I love the inclusion of all the gory elements, and honestly, who hasn’t felt homicidal when their reading gets interrupted? Sarah E. England takes over next, whisking us back to small town horror with “The Coven”. I loved the dual story lines in England’s tale, the development of the setting and the main character, Lucy. Great witchy elements without being at all predictable, this was one I’d love to read an expanded version of.
Tying up this strong anthology is “Call the Name”, an excellent blend of environmental horror with cosmic elements from the masterful Adam L.G. Nevill. The exploration of the line of madness that follows all the women of Cleo’s family, their Cassandra-like fate as the secrets of the universe open to them, and the scholarly way they face their doom made for gripping entertainment.
Though originally a summer release, which garnered much well-deserved attention, it’s my opinion that The Diabolica is custom made for our descent into autumn and spooky season. Covering every favorite facet of horror, putting fresh and excellent spins on the best tropes and inventing all new ones, this is one of the strongest anthologies I’ve come across. Baird did an excellent job curating this one, and if you’re looking to sample some new favorite authors to love, this one is perfect for you. Five strong stars.
Here’s a review of my story, from an early reviewer – this has made my day- so lovely when you feel your story has been enjoyed.
“With The Foundling Alyson Faye, the queen of spookery, tells a story of depth and intrigue. With shades of Romulus and Remus we discover a boy unwilling and unable to change his past. With trepidation one is on tenterhooks waiting for the moment when the plot dips again into the abyss of fear, a masterly tale of twists and turns. Bravo!”
He constructed his den deep in the woods, near the river where Ma had drowned Teddy, on their last day together. He’d loved Teddy. Ma less so. She was always punishing him.
Sitting inside his tent, he tossed eels of orange peel onto his sleeping bag. Then he climbed into his home-made straitjacket pyjamas, with the legs and arms sewn up. It kept him from nighttime wanderings.
‘I miss you Teddy,’ he whispered. ‘You were my best friend in all the world.’
Tomorrow he’d check the rat traps and find himself another Teddy to befriend.