Okay, I've been asked to try something that's fairly new to me, but seeing as I've based a lot of my career on trying something new, let's go ...
The Next Big Thing -- brainchild of Lisa Lane -- is a meme that creates a chain reaction through the blogs of authors of various genres, wherein they answer the same 10 questions about one of their forthcoming works. So, I'll dutifully get to it.
1. What is the title of your story?
It's the newest tale set in my fictional English town called Birchiam-on-Sea, it's called 'Across the Tracks,' and it is due to appear in Spring 2013 in a fascinating new anthology of different and disturbing horror stories called The Speed of Dark from Chase Enterprises, based in Canada. A lot of the better anthos seem to come from that part of the world these days.
2. How did you come by the idea?
Well, 'across the tracks' or 'the wrong side of the tracks' are fairly common North American expressions which relate to crossing from a well-off part of a town to a far less well-off part. Going across from one world to a rather different world, in other words. Which is what this story is -- quite literally -- about. The central character in the tale -- a lawyer called Norman Miller -- has some good news for the resident of what is called in the UK a 'council estate' and in the US a 'housing project,' but leaves it till the evening before he goes there. Bad mistake. Anyone who lives in a large Western city is more than familiar with such districts, but more about that later.
3. What genre does your story fall under?
I often like to use the term 'dark fantasy,' which I see as more appropriate for some of my work, the Raine's Landing series, for instance. But in this case, no. This is straightforward HORROR, with more than a whiff of the Lovecraftian about it.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it was a movie?
Apart from a very brief appearance by his wife at the end, Norman Miller is the only -- human -- character in the tale. He's a middle aged lawyer, and I think in terms of his astonished reactions to the events he comes across, William Hurt would play him perfectly, although he'd have to learn a British accent.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your story?
A lawyer ventures into a bad part of his hometown that he's never visited before, and finds that it is a considerably worse place than he could ever have imagined.
6. Will the anthology be self-published or traditional?
Chase Enterprises is an independent but traditional publisher. Which is not to say that there will not be an ebook version of The Speed of Dark ... there will.
7. How long did it take you to write the final draft of your manuscript?
I don't have any exact recollection, I'm afraid. With a short story, the first draft usually takes a couple of days. But then I pick it up and put it down over the next few weeks, correcting it and whittling away until I'm happy with it. Then I put it aside for a month or three, and reread it with my mind fresh, which is when I usually decide to revise certain parts completely.
8. What other tales would you compare this story to within your genre?
One of my own, actually. Back in 2003, an anthology came out called Gathering the Bones, edited by Jack Dann, Ramsey Campbell and Dennis Etchison, which carried a new story of mine called 'The Lords of Zero.' It was about a penniless writer who moves onto a bad housing project, had a touch of Lovecraft too, and was very well-received, so much so that John Ajvide Lindqvist -- the Swedish author of Let the Right One In -- sought me out at World Horror to tell me how much he liked it. 'Across the Tracks' comes at the same subject matter, but from a different direction.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this story?
I said earlier on that anyone who lives in a modern city is familiar with the kind of district described in the tale, and if you're wise you stay away from them. But I found myself in circumstances where I could not. Years back, London's politicians tried out a new scheme in an attempt to revive bad housing projects -- people from outside could move in for a very minimal rent indeed, in an attempt to put some folks with proper jobs and stuff into the social mix. And two friends of mine, one a writer, the other a critic and essayist, gave it a try, since they were low on funds at that particular time.
The scheme didn't work of course, for obvious reasons. One of my friends got held up at knifepoint, and the other took a waling from a gang of thugs. But I visited them more than a few times, and got to know those kinds of places better than most people do.
The point of both 'Lords of Zero' and 'Across the Tracks' is this. There actually are worlds beyond the normal one we're used to right here in our cities. The rules and moral codes are different, life is lived in a completely different way, and -- though they might exist side by side -- you don't cross over from one to the other without taking a big risk. That is where the horror really comes from, in both tales.
10. What else about your story might pique the readers interest?
If I haven't managed that by now, then I give up. Wait till The Speed of Dark comes out, get hold of a copy, and enjoy! (If that's the right word).
And Deadly Violet -- the 4th novel in my Raine's Landing supernatural series -- now has a brand-new cover, thanks to the excellent Steve Upham of Screaming Dreams.
The book has also had its first review, a very favourable one too. The Deepening Review Site says: "Deadly Violet just hums along, taking you at high speed to places of which you have never dreamed. In fact, I think (it) is the best Raine's Landing novel to date. Be sure to pick up a copy of this superb fantasy"
Three of my series of Raine's Landing superadventure novels have seen print so far, all to great reviews, one from Dark Regions Press and two from Eos/HarperCollins. But, for a variety of reasons, I've decided to put book 4 in the series directly onto Kindle. I'm currently negotiating with a publisher to have a print version of the new book out in 2013. Meanwhile, here's the 'back-cover' blurb:
It may look like a perfectly ordinary New England town, a little larger than most. But Raine’s Landing, Massachusetts, holds some very dark secrets. The real witches of Salem fled here just before the Trials of 1692, and the place has been full of magic -- the good and the bad kind -- ever since. And a curse hangs over the whole population … there are so many people because nobody born here can ever leave.
It’s late December now. People are getting ready for the holidays, scarcely guessing what is coming their way next. Because a psychic beggar girl in the town’s Victorian past has gotten hold of a magical jewel that massively expands her powers -- she has reached out with her mind through time itself, making contact with Raine’s Landing in the present day. The only problem is, she’s warped the fabric of reality by doing that, damaging the walls that separate them from very different and strange Universes. Rows of houses begin vanishing, with their occupants still inside. Bizarre creatures, some of them extremely dangerous, start to roam the streets. And if Ross, Cassie, and Doc Willets are going to stop their hometown from disappearing altogether, then they’re going to need an awful lot of help.
My first stand-alone novel in a good while -- I'm not counting my Raine's Landing series from Harpers -- has been accepted by Simon & Schuster. TROPIC OF DARKNESS is a supernatural thriller set in Cuba, mostly in Havana, and the action alternates between the present day and back in the Fifties, when the Mob largely ran that city. The novel will be appearing as an ebook first and in print later, and I'll let you have more information as soon as I have it.
The accompanying photo, btw, is of the beautiful but crumbling rooftops of central Havana, taken by yours truly from the roof terrace of the Hotel Inglaterra.
A resident of Kenora, Canada, the multi-talented Clayton Bye is an extremely busy man. He’s the author of nine books – including two instalments in a fantasy series, FROM EARTH TO EDEN -- and numerous short stories and poems. Additionally, he’s an editor, a publisher, an anthologist, and a prolific critic, principally through his review site The Deepening. But I managed to get him to pause long enough to give us his views on his own work and writing in general. You can find out more about him at www.claytonbye.com
Q1: You write in a pretty wide variety of genres. Can you tell us about that?
Several books ago, after trying to decide what kind of writer I wanted to be, other than a good one, it occurred to me I had already made that choice. I was an independent. A true independent, someone who wrote books for profit and did it all myself—before I had ever heard the term POD and in a time when I was painted with the brush of stigma. I'm also a Contrarian, a term I ripped off the backside of the financial world. My definition of a Contrarian is: someone who looks to the average person when determining which direction to go or what decision to make. You see, the average person, or in our case the average writer, is that way because of the choices they make, just as the rich or the famous achieve what they do by taking certain uncommon steps. So, in a nutshell, I try not to do the same things the average person does but, rather, to emulate the people who have achieved what I want from life..
I had no interest in being a genre writer. It was also notable that my favourite kind of story is trans-genred, if I'm allowed to be playful. I'm speaking of Horror, by the way. Horror can go anywhere it wants and nobody can do a thing about it. So, I took my inspiration from the average writer and from my love of horror stories and decided I was going to try out as many genres as I can before I die.
Since I'm more of a book writer than a short fiction writer, this means my body of work will probably never support me monetarily, but that's just the way it is. I'm still having fun. The year before last I wrote a book of poetry. It's a damned fine book, too, entitled "What I Found in the Dark." Last year I published an anthology of short stories by a group of authors who have talent to burn and seem to be unconcerned about going OUT THERE INTO THE VOID. It's called "Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road," can be found virtually everywhere online and in discerning bookstores in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia. I can handle Europe as well, if someone wanted to sell books. And, finally, this year's offering is a short sequel to my fantasy novel, The Sorcerer's Key. Genres? Horror/Religion/Sci-fi/Fantasy.
Q2: What got you into writing in the first place? Would you say you’re a naturally born author, or did it only come to you in time?
I began my odyssey to become a writer as far back as I can remember, which would be about four years of age. I was reading and printing by that time, and a short while later one of the beautiful Rombiero twins showed me how to make written letters. So, in grade one, while others were learning the basics, I spent as much of my class time as I could, learning to write from the flash cards lining the borders of the walls, close to the ceiling. They had the printed letter, then directly below would be the written one.
School was always like that for me. If I didn't like something or liked something else better, then I would add it to my curriculum. This transformed into a personal development course when I was in grade 7 and is still used today.
Q3: Writers generally fall into two basic types … those who heavily research their material, and those who rely on their own experiences for the background of their work. Which one are you?
Q4: Which writers have influenced you most? Who do you admire, and even envy?
Damon Knight's “The Man in the Tree” provided the inspiration for “The Sorcerer's Key,” which is not my most popular book but is, arguably, my best.
People Like Og Mandino, the former editor of “Success Magazine,” and a wonderful author, as well. Zig Ziglar, who taught me how to sell—along with a few crotchety dinosaurs (I spent most of my adult life as a salesman of some sort).
Louis L'Amour, who taught me the secret to being a writer. He's the man who said “Temperamental I am not...” and claimed he could sit down in the middle of Sunset Boulevard and type away. As the one-time fourth bestselling novelist in the world, he knew of what he spoke. I own every one of his books.
John D. MacDonald, who showed me the only thing that's truly important in a novel is interesting people doing interesting things. I own every one of his books.
Stephen King, who I believe is the greatest, modern storyteller alive today. I own every one of his books. Sure, Neil Gaiman is more the face of horror today than King, but it doesn't make him a better storyteller.
Then there's the advent of something really new. It's called Bizarro, and the writer to watch is a young man with an imagination that's scary. His name is Jeremy C. Shipp. I own every one of his books but the latest, because I've been too damned busy to buy it!
I am not an envious man. People sow what they reap. But if I were ever to be jealous, it would be of Jeremy Shipp; he's young, he's positioned to be one of those “overnight sensations,” but most of all he's in for a ride like no other, immersed in worlds so strange that he might just be happy to stop at home every now and then and visit THE CLOWNS IN HIS ATTIC.
A Sherlock Holmes story available on your cell phone? Even an intellect as vast as the Great Detective's would be hard pressed to come up with such an extraordinary notion. And yet 'The House of Blood' -- the very first Holmes in the 21st Century story I ever wrote, and part of my Immortal Holmes series on Amazon Kindle -- is now available to read via cell phone, iPad, and heaven knows what else from the Movella apps site.
My latest free release on Kindle is my short collection Touched by Magic: Human Dramas in the Paranormal World. Several hundred people have taken the opportunity to pick it up, and I very much hope that they enjoy it because, out of all of my self-published books on Kindle, it is one of my very favourites. So I thought I’d say a little bit about the origin of each of the four stories. HANAKO FROM MIYAZAKI is the product of two trips to Japan, about ten years apart. The tale begins in Tokyo, which I visited sometime in the mid-Nineties. I went on from there to take a look at Lake Ashi, Mount Fuji, and Kyoto -- the latter in the company of a couple of old friends from Washington D.C. -- but spent that whole first week in Japan wandering around its capital city. I had an incredible time there, but the trip didn’t generate a single word of fiction for one very simple reason. Most of my time in Tokyo, I was lost. I mean that literally and figuratively. Japanese street signs -- back then at least; it might have changed these days -- have to be among the hardest in the world for a Westerner to read. And, since I’m the kind of traveller who likes to simply stroll along and follow his nose, I spent a good part of every day in Tokyo not being quite sure which part of the city I was in. Occasionally, I’d either come across a landmark recognisable from the map, or else an English-speaking local would help me out, and I’d get back on the right track. But Tokyo, its ways and customs, was a mystery to me, albeit a fascinating mystery I couldn’t get enough of. Fiction, however, is about understanding, and I simply didn’t feel I understood the place nearly well enough to write about it. But in 2005, my wife was due to attend a big international conference in the town of Miyazaki on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. Her fare and hotel room were being paid for. Mine, obviously, wasn’t. But -- after a few days of humming and hawing about the expense -- we decided that it was an opportunity we couldn’t afford to miss. So I went with. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Although it didn’t seem like it at first, because we arrived in Miyazaki at the tail end of a big monsoon. Rain was still coming down in solid sheets, just like the rain at the start of the story. Having travelled twenty-one hours, though -- involving three separate planes -- I wasn’t in the mood to be confined to my hotel. I went out anyway, getting soaked through to the skin but not even caring. Because Kyushu is an astonishing place. The Japanese think of it as their own version of Hawaii, for a start. And, in their folklore, it’s also the place that the Shinto gods settled when they decided to visit our world. It’s a volcanic island, craggy and magnificent. It has high mountainous peaks, steaming geysers, waterfalls that look like they are made out of cut crystal. Vast sections of seafront where flowing lava has hit the ocean waves and been solidified by the sudden coolness into bizarre sculptures. It also has some of the most amazing temples and shrines in the entire nation, including one in an undersea cave. Some of these are detailed in the story. But it was an unexpected stroke of luck that really sealed the deal, when it came to writing about the place. My first evening in Miyazaki, I walked into a restaurant to be confronted with a sight I genuinely hadn’t been expecting. At the table next to mine were half a dozen English guys, enjoying a typically raucous night out … and speaking to the waitresses in perfect Japanese. It turned out that they’d all been in Miyazaki for years, married to local women and teaching English for a living. And that was when Japan stopped being such a mystery, because these friendly -- and, admittedly, slightly drunken guys -- spent at least an hour explaining to me the customs and traditions of the place, the dos and donts. I spent nearly two weeks based in Miyazaki, travelling around Kyushu, and I ran into some of these guys a couple more times during my stay, and really got to understand the place, largely due to their advice. The story started forming in my head about halfway through my visit, and by the time that I was due to leave I was ready to write it. One problem -- I hadn’t brought my laptop with. I flew home, hit the sack for five hours, dragged myself up, fixed a cup of coffee, and immediately began writing ‘Hanako from Miyazaki,’ which sold to the first editor I submitted it to. SEEING might have humbler origins, but they are no less poignant in my memory. When my wife and I first married, we bought a small house -- the only decent one we could afford -- in a distant suburb of East London. We had very nice neighbours and a comfortable home, but the area was essentially bland and, after five years, I’d had enough of it. This was the early Eighties, and house prices had shot up enough that our house’s value had doubled since we’d purchased it. So I started looking at flats in central London. Most were still out of the reach of my pocket. Except that I finally came across one, in Bayswater, a few minutes walk from Hyde Park (London’s equivalent of Central Park in NYC), which was heavily reduced in price due to the fact that it was a fifth storey walk-up, no lift. Whatever. We were both young and fit. We took it, and spent our next three years there. And so our second home was on a classic central London garden square, and we were high enough above it we could see the treetops, not to mention all the people passing by. And ‘Seeing’ is about that, about living in a place where you can watch the whole world -- or a good part of it -- going past your window, at the heart of one of the most fascinating cities on this planet. AFTER THE STORM comes from another of my wife’s business trips, to a conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this time. That’s another deeply fascinating city, blending ancient and modern in a way no other place quite manages, a melting pot of cultures and races, and I’ve written about it in one of my Immortal Holmes stories and will doubtless write about it -- and hopefully visit it -- again. But after KL, we went on for a few days to the offshore island of Penang, which is a whole other deal. You’ve never seen such beautiful, palm-fringed, white sand beaches in your life. Except you can’t go in the water -- at the time of year we went, at least -- without risking being stung half to death by jellyfish. There are sites going back thousands of years, a snake temple, a scorpion temple even. It’s a lovely but mysterious place, in other words. We were planning to stay our entire visit at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, which features very largely in the story. It’s colloquially called the E&O, and has been called that for a century or so. Rudyard Kipling, Noel Coward, and Somerset Maugham all stayed there. It is a grand Edwardian hotel that is still run today along the lines of that age, the staff in the same uniforms, the decorations and the furnishing unchanged. There are no single rooms in the E&O. You get a three-room suite, complete with parquet flooring, ornate mirrors, a writing desk and the rest, so that you feel as if you’ve just wandered onto the set of Downton Abbey. And the food in the dining room all comes under silver salvers, the local staff meticulously polite. It’s a terrific, atmospheric place. Unfortunately, the part of Georgetown -- Penang’s capital -- that the E&O is situated in is not. It’s precisely as traffic-choked and dilapidated as I describe it in the story. Great hotel, awful location, in other words. So after a couple of days, we decided to switch to a more modern hotel in a nicer spot further up the coast. But almost everything I talk about in ‘After the Storm’ is real. The constant daily thunderstorms were real. The huge monitor lizard climbing up the wall was something that I observed from my hotel window. And the final scene, the final conversation with an elderly Chinese taxi driver, is recounted word for word, the way it happened to me in real life. The story is about the present and the past, and the way they sometimes get connected, and what could be more symbolic of that than a hotel like the E&O? Finally, THE TAPPLEWORTH ANGEL. I think of it as a traditional British supernatural story with a modern twist. It’s set on the mist-shrouded moors of Devon, the same location as Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’ I’ve been to Devon a good few times, and used to have a friend who lived in that kind of deserted setting, although not in a house as grand as Saul Sturman’s in the tale. But I visited most years, and got to know the terrain well. It’s a story about love conquering even time and age, and was the basis, a couple of years later, for my short novel ‘No Man.’ And the final line is, I believe, one of the best endings to any of my stories. I hope you agree. Whatever, ‘Touched by Magic’ is based on some of the most memorable episodes in my life, and means an awful lot to me.
My latest publication on Amazon Kindle is a novella that first appeared in my collection No-Man and Other Tales in 2007. It's a hard-hitting thriller with a supernatural twist to it, and not about any lightweight subject either. Here's the blurb:
"Owen Glazer is a young and single man with a bright, promising future. That is until, at an annual party at a top London hotel, his life gets turned completely upside-down. There, in the bar, he meets Eva Elenescu, the most beautiful, beguiling woman he has ever seen. It quickly becomes apparent that she is a high-class call girl, but that’s not the entire story. Eva is not doing it willingly -- she is wholly the property of a vicious gang of Russian mobsters headed by a boss who is a brutal psychopath. Owen decides to get her away from them. But the harder he tries, the deeper he finds himself sinking into a nightmarishly dark quagmire of corruption, big money, and savage violence. Until finally he sees the truth … there is one way to rescue Eva, but it might cost him his immortal soul."
Glass Slipper isn't for the faint-hearted, but then I didn't intend it to be a comfortable read. And how did the idea come about in the first place? Well, I simply thought up the title first. I wrote it down without having the first notion what story might go with it ... that sometimes happens. I forgot about it, but then -- some couple of years later -- two things happened. First, I started reading (to my horror) the first articles about the criminal trade in Eastern European women. And then a few months after that, I had a talk with a journalist friend of mine who'd, just the day before, had a terrifying run-in with a bunch of exactly that type of thug. And I suddenly knew what my title was going to be about.
The cover, once again, is by the excellent Steve Upham. And you can find out more about Glass Slipper and my other ebooks here.