Tell us a bit about yourself, where you're from, where you grew up…
I was born in London in 1969. Lived there for a year or two, then my family moved to Devon. We moved from there to South Wales when I was about 10, but many of my special memories are of my times in Devon. I've got a lot of family there and my cousin and I used to hang around together, cause mischief, have a lot of fun. Much of that time is remembered in my novel UNTIL SHE SLEEPS. I was married in 1994, and six years ago my wife and I moved into the country, buying a little house in a village called Goytre. Since being here we've had two kids, Ellie and Daniel. Must be all that country air!
What made you want to become a writer?
I think inside I've always wanted it - I've been writing stories ever since I could hold a pen - but it was only in my early twenties that I began to seriously think about trying to get work published. I guess a lot of my childhood spent reading planted the bug. Willard Price, the Hardy Boys, then on to James Herbert and Stephen King when I was eight or nine. King especially is a great inspiration.
Your first mass market paperback was THE NATURE OF BALANCE. Talk about that book.
I'd written quite a lot of apocalyptic stuff up until that point, and I wanted to write something bigger, more wide ranging. This novel is the result. I'm a big fan of Wyndham, Christopher, Ballard … I just love dystopian, apocalyptic fiction!!! I'm also interested in the interaction of humankind and nature; the good side, and more importantly the bad side, like how we're currently doing our very best to fuck up this planet for everyone. These two interests combined in this novel.
What is the appeal of the novella as opposed to the short-story or the novel.
It's the perfect length for a horror story, in my view. You can expand and explore, yet still retain the element of shock, surprise and intensity, and sustain it throughout the novella. Consider The Willows … the dread the reader feels reading that is constant, much more so than if Blackwood had expanded that into a novel. Plus, from a more basic point of view, they're quicker to write and thus a quicker fix. I'm always keen to start new projects.
FEARS UNNAMED the novellas are all very dark and have this impending sense of doom. Why did you pick these four novellas for the Leisure book? Which one was written specifically for that book?
'Remnants' is the one written specifically for the book. I picked the others because I think they're probably my best novella work to date (published, at least. I have a couple of novellas due out soon which I think are better). Yes, they're dark, but so is most of my stuff. That's just me. I'm not like that in real life. Honest.
Talk about each of the novellas in FEARS UNNAMED
'White' - this is the fifth time this novella has been published. People seem to like it. It's been optioned for screen, and it won an award. And to be honest, when I finished writing it I didn't have a clue whether or not it worked. I've pitched it to film companies as THE THING meets ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, and I think it has the horror and the claustrophobia of both. The older it gets, the more pleased I am with it.
'Naming of Parts' - this is the first in a series of 4 novellas featuring the classic horror tropes. This is a zombie novella, of sorts, while the second novella (CHANGING OF FACES, out now from PS Publishing), is a were-creature books. Books 3 and 4, still featuring Jack and his father, will be vampire and ghost stories respectively. NAMING OF PARTS is a dark, depressing journey across a changed landscape. The family, though survivors (for now), are confused about what has happened, the strength of Family holds them together and drives them on.
'The Unfortunate' - this is one of the darkest novellas I've written, I think. It's about selfishness, and what that can do to a person and those around them.
'Remnants' - this is a little different from my usual stuff. Still dark, claustrophobic, but I wrote it after a long spell reading Algernon Blackwood, and I think that shows through. It's constructed more as a turn-of-the-century horror story, but I like to think I've brought it bang up to date with the character's attitudes and opinions. It features the City of the Dead, a place I may well visit again in my fiction.
It seems like there's always been more horror published in the UK than over here in the US. For example, it was the only way I could read Laymon's work was to get the Headline books…. Do you find this to be true?
Nope. Hardly any horror is published in the UK at all. Simon Clark still sees his books out here, but apart from that, there are very few horror writers working in the UK who are having their work published here. I sell 95% of what I write in the US. It's a depressing, frustrating state of affairs, but until we get a brave mainstream publisher prepared to invest some money in a few new horror writers - and invest money in promoting them - then the publishers' claims that they 'can't sell horror' will remain true. They can't sell it because they don't publish it. Grrr. Vicious circle.
We have indie publishers, of course - PS Publishing, Razorblade, others - and editors like Stephen Jones keep the fires burning. But as for the big boys … unless your name's King or Rice, don't bother.
How do you think the horror fans differ in the UK than the US?
I don't think there is much difference. Most dedicated horror fans in the UK read a lot of stuff published in the US anyway, for the reasons mentions above.
How is collaborating with other authors? How does the process differ than if you were writing it on your own?
Apart from the obvious differences (you only write half a book), it's really very much the same process. The biggest difference is in ideas. When collaborating - and I've worked with Simon Clark, Brian Keene, Pete Crowther, Des Lewis, Gavin Williams and others - the ideas that emerge are different from what both of you could have imagined. A merging of concerns and themes. It's great fun, and I intend to do a lot more of it (in fact I'm hoping to collaborate soon with a well known and respected artist on a heavily illustrated novella … not quite graphic novel, not quite pure prose. We haven't sold it yet, but it'll be a fun project all for ourselves).
What are your upcoming books?
Borderlands Press are publishing a limited edition of FEARS UNNAMED, available now. Necessary Evil Press will soon be publishing my horror western DEAD MAN'S HAND, first in the Assassin Series. I'm writing a new novel, DESOLATION, for Leisure Books and Borderlands Press. DUSK is a dark fantasy that I hope will see publication soon. I'm also signed up for two further novels with Leisure, and I have a novella due in NIGHT VISIONS 11
Anything else you wish to talk about?
Well, there's a bit more film interest in my work now. I have a great film agent, Ed Hughes from Linda Seifert Management, who really knows his stuff. So far work under option includes FODDER (with Brian Keene), WHITE, THE NATURE OF BALANCE, EXORCISING ANGELS (with Simon Clark), and there's interest in other novellas and short stories as well. I know it's a long way from option to screen, but it's exciting nonetheless.
How can readers get more information on you and your work (mention website)?
I have a website which I keep regularly updates with news, new books, journal and a message board. It's at www.timlebbon.net