Sunday, 23 December 2012


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).

Other contributors to this meme are: Clayton Bye, Delinda McCann, J.A. Vasquez and Ron Cherry. Look them up as well.

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