Hello my Freaky Darlings,
1. What drives you to write?
When I first wrote, as a kid, it was journal entries and poetry that just sort of fell out of me. In my teens and twenties, it was a way of clearing out my messed-up head. When I started writing ‘with a view’ around thirty, it was experimental, low-commitment stuff, just to see if I could do it. When I realised I could, I became much more focused.
These days, I see it as a way of sharing visions with the world. It’s tremendously exciting to know that what you create might reach an audience and genuinely touch them, even to the smallest degree. But it’s a craft too, a skill I constantly endeavour to deepen and develop.
Looking at it another way, though, I don’t know what else I’d do. I’m pretty sure not writing would be a terrible waste of my life.
2. What attracted you to writing horror?
My early experiences as a reader.
I jumped from kids books to adult horror at an age I sometimes think was ‘too young’ – perhaps nine or ten. I was nailed by it. It was like Neo uploading Kung Fu in The Matrix; I just couldn’t get enough.
At the same time, outside fiction, I was completely absorbed by the spiritual, the occult and the unexplained. Religions, philosophies, metaphysics, magic, tarot, i-ching, extraterrestrials – those subjects were always a magnet. If they’d taught such things in school I might actually have listened.
A mish-mash of those and other ‘systems’ – things I actually studied or practised later in life – is what you’ll find in my work. It doesn’t always add up to horror but it’s usually a bit off the wall.
3. Who are your favourite horror writers?
Adam Nevill, Simon Bestwick, Mendal Johnson, Michel Faber, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Conrad Williams.
Let’s Go Play at the Adams’, The Ritual, The Long Walk, Under the Skin, The Road.
5. Ebooks or paperback?
Both. And hardbacks. And comics. And menus. And ideas written on napkins. And love notes written on the backs of envelopes. And memos dictated into a phone. If it can be ‘read’, I’m interested!
6. What would make you pick up a novel by a new author?
A personal recommendation.
7. Who is your favourite fictional character?
I think it must be Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, from a fantasy created by Stephen R. Donaldson. He was a tragic figure, weakened by disease and never quite realising his own power. I also adored Uncle Oswald, from Roald Dahl’s imagination. Oh, and let’s not forget Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker’s Guide.
Sorry. That’s ever so slightly more than one, I realise.
8. Do you plot your stories or does it just unfold before your eyes?
My approach, and I can’t recommend it, is a bit like skydiving with a parachute that refuses to open. No planning. No safety check. No helmet – not that a helmet does anything other than change the shape of the crater you make when you hit the ground. I sort of launch with great intention and pray that natural forces beyond my ability to see or control will tie up all the loose ends.
That said, having train-wrecked so many novels and stories over the years – or even just wound up knocking my head against the wall until I get sectioned – I’ve started planning and writing outlines more recently. The catalyst for that was working with a screenwriter who knows everything about his story, and I mean everything, before he writes a single line of dialogue.
9. Do your characters take on a life of their own and do things you didn’t plan?
No. They do as they’re bloody well told. Story comes first. I don’t write characters who don’t serve the story.
I can listen to most things except music when writing.
I think the lyrics and rhythms prevent my own rhythms from coming through. I find it hard enough to write without distractions, so, while I can work through traffic noise, construction work or earthquakes, listening to my favourite album would just fuck everything up before I even got started.
11. Do you do a lot of research for your stories?
I avoid it wherever possible – very distracting – but sometimes a tale will demand it. Like the one I’m working on at the moment. *kills self* I do try not to write too many of those.
12. Facebook or Twitter?
Both. Or neither, depending on my mood.
13. What really pisses you off about writing?
I don’t even know where to start. And I certainly don’t want to share a long, depressing list with your readers. After all, every writer has a well of blackness, full to brimming with disappointment, missed opportunity, failure, poverty, illness, addiction and all the rest of it.
The only thing I can say is that, despite the bad days, writing gives me a kind of hope I wouldn’t otherwise have.
You can stalk Joseph on his blog.