Next up for October's Q&As we have Ramsey Campbell! He'll be telling you what his latest novel is all about, some advice to new authors and why he chose to start writing horror! Be sure to check in tomorrow for more writing inspiration!
What is the book about?
Queenie is the ageing matriarch of the Faraday family, and even death can’t break her hold over her eleven-year-old granddaughter Rowan. She’s buried with a locket that contains a lock of Rowan’s hair, and soon afterwards Rowan is befriended by a mysterious uncannily intelligent girl of her own age. Only her aunt Hermione suspects how sinister this is, but will retrieving the locket save her niece? By the time anyone sees what effect the ghostly influence on Rowan is having, it may be too late for her. if the child who takes her place in the family isn’t Rowan, Rowan may be somewhere else not quite like our world…
What are the underlying themes?
The ghostly power of heredity, and the notion that ordinary families can produce or harbour monsters.
Did you base your characters on anyone you knew?
All my characters are based on observation to some extent, but a character is very rarely drawn from a single real person. It’s more a matter of assembling a new person from traits borrowed from many, and some imagined traits too. What’s most important, especially in a story such as this one that deals with the supernatural, is that the characters should behave as real people might conceivably behave.
Is there any advice you can give someone starting to write?
Don’t despair, even when your work is rejected. Keep writing, and don’t leave work unfinished. Learn to enjoy rewriting as soon as you can – every piece of work needs it, believe me. tell as much of the truth as you can. Always compose at least the first sentence before you sit down to write. Identify your most creative time to write and, if you can, work then – if not, try at least to write some of your new piece every day until it’s finished.
Where did you write?
I’m up at my desk that looks towards Liverpool across the river, and I always see the dawn when I’m working here. Some writers prefer to face a wall so as not to be distracted, but I believe I draw energy from the view, not least the ever-changing sky.
Did you find it hard to write? Or harder to edit your own work?
I haven’t plotted a novel in advance for many years – I gather material until the book feels ready to be started. I believe in letting the tale develop organically and surprise me as it does. The dark side of this is that I can find myself stranded far out in unknown territory with no idea how to proceed, but I trust the novel to rescue me – generally there’s material earlier on that proves to be the solution to where I need to go next in the story. It certainly can be hard to write, but more often it’s rewarding, even exhilarating. I’ve come to regard the first draft as a way of setting out what I need to work with. I’m increasingly ruthless at rewriting and enjoy it a good deal.
Because I’ve always loved the field. I started writing in it to pay back some of the pleasure it has given me and in the hope of adding a little of my own to it. Some of its greatest tales – Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows”, Arthur Machen’s “The White People”, Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space” – ,reach towards awe, and that’s my ambition, however much I may fall short of it.
You’ve been writing horror fiction for more than half a century. Do you ever run out of material?
Not while I live and perhaps not even beyond that. I’ve notebooks full of ideas waiting for development. I believe the field is so wide I’ve by no means found its limits (by which I don’t mean excessiveness, but its ability to contain a great deal). The uncanny, the psychological, cosmic terror, social comment, comedy of paranoia, the monstrous both human and inhuman – they’re all in there, and more.
Isn’t there enough horror in the world without creating it?
Would we say there’s enough crime in the world, and enough tragedy? Yet I’ve never heard those observations used as an argument that people should stop writing crime fiction or tragedies. For that matter, since there is indeed horror in the world, how could some art not reflect that? It’s also true that much horror fiction, whether supernatural or psychological, deals with a different kind than the horror in the news, though some of the fiction does indeed confront everyday experience.
What are you writing now?
I’m rewriting a new novel, Somebody’s Voice.
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.
Ramsey Campbell was born in Liverpool in 1946 and still lives on Merseyside. The Oxford Companion to English Literature describes him as Britain s most respected living horror writer . He has been given more awards than any other writer in the field, including the Grand Master Award of the World Horror Convention, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association, the Living Legend Award of the International Horror Guild and the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015 he was made an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University for outstanding services to literature.
Among his novels are Incarnate , Midnight Sun , The Count of Eleven , Silent Children , The Overnight , Creatures of the Pool , The Seven Days of Cain , Think Yourself Lucky and Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach . His collections include; Waking Nightmares, Alone with the Horrors, Ghosts and Grisly Things, Told by the Dead, Just Behind You and Holes for Faces, and his non-fiction is collected as Ramsey Campbell, Probably.
Visit her website here.