Next up for October's Q&As we have Frazer Lee! He'll be exploring some of the themes of his latest novel 'Hearthstone Cottage' and what he's working on now! Be sure to check in tomorrow for more writing inspiration!
What is the book about?
Mike and his friends travel to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate their graduation at a holiday cottage. En-route, they hit and kill a stag and write off their car. Tensions build as Mike becomes plagued by terrifying nightmares and unwelcome visitors. Is Mike genuinely losing his mind, or is the cottage actually a place of dark and threatening power?
What are the underlying themes?
I tend to write about damaged people who find themselves in potentially damaging situations. The book examines the impact of modern life upon ancient spaces and old-world traditions, and how man’s arrogant dominance over the landscape can sometimes be his undoing. There are also maggots. Lots of maggots.
Did you base your characters on anyone you knew?
The characters are entirely fictitious, but do embody qualities I observe in people around me, and both the light and darkness I think we all possess, beneath the masks we tend to wear in public. I think that even the most flawed characters believe they are doing the right thing, even when they are not, and this blurs the line between ‘good’ characters and ‘bad guys’. I mean, is Sergeant Howie the good guy in The Wicker Man? Or is Lord Summerisle…? There are other stories aside from straightforward ‘hero’ narratives, and that’s something I enjoy exploring in my characters and their stories.
Who or what influenced you most in the writing of the book?
I was most influenced by the memory of spaces and their atmospheres, particularly visits to ancient sites such as West Kennet Long Barrow, the Rollright Stones, and Newgrange. The story’s premise began in a series of conversations about a proposed movie project with my friend, and the Director of Photography on my film projects, Alan Stewart, to whom the book is dedicated with thanks.
Is there any advice you can give someone starting to write?
However crazy your idea might seem, trust me, someone else has always gone crazier. Don’t hold back, just throw it all down and you can always rein it later. Invest in a robust coffee making machine, you’ll need it. Oh, and switch your internet connection off until you are ready to emerge from your writing session.
Where did you write?
I am incredibly lucky to live in a wonky old cottage that dates back to the fifteenth century, and I channelled every creaking wooden beam, every whisper of wind in the chimney, and every nocturnal tap at the window pane, into this book. I also wrote and edited on trains, on planes, at the British Library in London, and a variety of coffee shops.
Did you write in silence, or to any particular music?
I tend to write to music, especially film scores, and build playlists for particular projects so that I can ‘fast track’ back into them. This book was helped along by Christopher Young’s beautiful Hellraiser scores, and various works by Tangerine Dream including Force Majeure and White Eagle.
Did you find it hard to write? Or harder to edit your own work?
I find it easier to edit than to write. There’s this incredibly dark place in a novel, somewhere between the 40-60 thousand word mark, where you can lose the will to live if you’re not careful. Luckily I enjoy a challenge, or I would have jacked it in years ago. Endings are glorious, I enjoy testing the thesis and seeing if, and how, the story resolves, and how that might differ from the planned story outline. Writing, just like reading, is an absolute joy and a total pain in the arse all at once. I love it.
What was it like to be edited by someone else?
It is at turns surprising, illuminating and life affirming to have someone take the time and care to help make your work the very best that it can be. I am blessed to have worked with Don D’Auria, one of the best editors in the business, and a total gentleman through-and-through.
What are you writing now?
I have a horror film screenplay on the go, and am drafting my next horror novel, Greyfriars Reformatory. I am also researching my PhD, which examines the themes in my novels.
Thank you to Ramsey for taking the time to talk today about The Influence. You can pick up this new FLAME TREE PRESS edition of his book, along with the other October releases now. It will be available in paperback, hardback and ebook. Check out our website for details.
Frazer Lee is a novelist, screenwriter and filmmaker. His screenplay credits include the acclaimed horror/thriller feature Panic Button, and multi-award winning short films On Edge, Red Lines, Simone and The Stay. Frazer's screenwriting and story consultant engagements have included commissions for Movie Mogul, The Asylum, Mediente, eMotion, and Vanquish Alliance Entertainment.
His film and television directing credits include the multi award-winning shorts On Edge and Red Lines, and the promo campaign for the Discovery Channel series True Horror With Anthony Head. He was awarded the Edgar Allan Poe Gothic Filmmaker of the Year Award for his film The Stay. Frazer was named one of the Top 12 UK directors in MySpace.com s Movie Mash-up contest by a panel including representatives from 20th Century Fox, Vertigo Films and Film Four.
Frazer's novel The Lamplighters was a Bram Stoker Award® Finalist for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. His other published works include the Amazon number 1 horror/thriller Panic Button: The Official Movie Novelisation, novels The Jack in the Green and The Skintaker, and the Daniel Gates Adventures series of novellas.
Frazer is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University London and is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. His guest speaking engagements have included The London Screenwriters Festival and The Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass. Frazer Lee lives with his family in Buckinghamshire, England just across the cemetery from the actual Hammer House of Horror.