Wednesday, 24 July 2019

An interview with Bill Davidson


Bill Davidson's writing first appeared in Dark Lane Anthology Vol.5.  His short story A Brief Moment of Rage will be reprinted in Ellen Datlow's forthcoming 'The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eleven'.  Visit his website www.billdavidsonwriting.com.

Q: What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to write?  Do you have a designated place to work?
A: I maintain a high degree inconsistency, most of the time anyway. I write most days- sometimes only a few hundred words, other times it can be several thousands. I get an idea and then wander about the place falling over dogs and mumbling to myself about elves or something until I have enough to start my story. Once I’m going, I’ve got to get it out there and write for many hours in a day, although seldom in a single sitting. I have to get up and do something else, before I can figure out what I’ve just done wrong, or what should happen next. I’m not much of a plotter.
I write mainly at home, but do enjoy occasionally sitting in the library or a cafĂ©. 

Q:Tell us about one of your favourite short stories and why you like it (not one of your own).
A: I recently read 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill and one story has really stayed with me. It’s called Pop Art. This sounds absurd, but it’s about a boy, Arthur, who is inflatable (and very puncturable) living in the same dangerous world as the rest of us. I read the whole story fretting over someone who is, in effect, a balloon, and his friend, who isn’t. It’s a fantastic tale about friendship and humanity.

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories (done by you).
A: Bugger, this is difficult. I’m going to go for Childe Abbas, alternatively titled The Little Town in England that Forgot all of its Children, published by Hell Bound Books. It’s written from the point of view of a little girl, Tilly, who is taken to live in the idyllic fictional English town of Childe Abbas. Tilly soon realises something is badly wrong with this town, but struggles to tell her parents, as they are slowly forgetting about her.

Q: Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?
A: I’m lucky in that things constantly occur to me without having to purposefully do something to form an idea. I’m a naturally dreamy person and I’m always seeing things, or hearing things, and thinking, what if? I write down the initial idea and sometimes it turns into something worth pursuing - other times I have to admit it’s crap.  Or already written.

Q: Are you a full-time writer? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time writer if you could?
A: I didn’t start writing in earnest until I took early retirement from local government just under three years ago, managing everything from waste to housing. Before that, I kind of dabbled, but what I produced wasn’t too good, and I went into decade-long sulks when my work wasn’t published instantly. I simply didn’t have the head space to do a demanding job and produce good writing, so I take my hat off to the many people who can manage that.
For the past year, I’ve been home schooling my daughter and, maybe it’s because I’d already built up some momentum as a writer, that didn’t slow me up.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
A: My stories can lose their way for a while because I get distracted by another possible plotline or because my characters get ideas above their station. For instance, I’m writing a story at the moment that started as a fantasy but the domestic drama that is emerging could lead me to drop the fantastical element altogether and write it as a straight ahead drama.
A writer friend tells me that’s because I’m ill-disciplined and don’t plot it out well enough before I start, but to hell with that shit. When things you don’t expect start appearing on the page, that’s where the good stuff is.

Q: If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming a writer?
A: I’m that annoyed with my younger self I’d probably just sneak up behind him and give him a good kick up the arse, with no explanation.
If he demanded a reason for this well-deserved kick up the arse, I might say, for God’s sake write, you daft bastard! And don’t go into decade-long sulks when the publishing world doesn’t fall over itself for you, either.



Saturday, 2 March 2019

Table of contents for Dark Lane Anthology: Volume Eight

Decisions have been made.  Thanks to everyone who submitted a story.  22 stories have been selected for Volume Eight.

Duplex by C.M. Muller
The Ringers by Rebecca Lloyd
The Wet Knot by Marvin Brown
Junior by John Ord
The Awful Rowing Towards the End by Mike O'Driscoll
Water Vein by Carolyn Stockdale
Shadow Work by Nici West
Los Ninos by Bill Davidson
Madness is the Nexus of All Reality by Arthur Davis
The Festival of Conformity by Charles Wilkinson
Mr Webster by Michael Button
Costello's Cell by Gregory Wolos
Secondhand by Timothy Delizza
Serve and Protect by Ed Ahern
Charlotte by Robert Pope
The Calling by Ariel Dodson
The Poacher by Michael Packman
The Exhibit by Mark Keane
The Orgy at the Edge of the Galaxy by Robert Guthrie
Sing Ho! Stout Cortez by Michael W. Thomas
Letter to a Budding Entomologist by Tim W. Boiteau
No One Driving by Mark Andresen


Tuesday, 26 February 2019

An interview with Rebecca Lloyd

We were lucky enough to have Rebecca Lloyd open Volume Two with her story 'Hagbound'.  Rebecca's books include two collections of short stories published by Tartarus Press, one of which 'Mercy' was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.  Her latest work is the novella The Bellboy, published by Zagava.


Q: What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to write?  Do you have a designated place to work?
A: I certainly have a designated place to write and it is my small writing room with a big window overlooking my garden, just a strip of a room, too small for a bedroom and fairly roughly painted. And there was a time when I would’ve been writing every day when I had to work for a living in the outside world and so by necessity, I wrote in the early mornings every day. These days, I tend to write novellas and novels that need extensive research, and so I make a list of research topics around the story I am hoping to conjure up, and address them systematically before I begin to write. There comes a point in time when I feel that I’ve read enough and that writing should start, then I launch off.

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories and why you like it (not one of your own).
A: I have always liked ‘Puddle’ by Arthur Porges because it is written in a very unpretentious manner and yet the story idea is so terrific that after reading it, I felt slightly jealous that I hadn’t thought of it myself because it was very much up my street.

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories (done by you).
A: ‘Shuck’ is a story I hold dear, and it’s probably one of my most chilling stories. But as the writer, I’m not sure that having a favourite story really fits in with how it is to be a writer. Some stories are moving for different reasons, The River has a lot of resonance, for example, and some stories are more accomplished than others, but the trickier stories if pulled off feel good to acknowledge. So, you can see that I can’t honestly answer the question, and really after so very many years of writing, and not going back to read them, I’m a bit stuck with remembering tone, mood and detail anyway.

Q: Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?
A: I guess if a writer did know where her ideas were coming from, she could catch them in a pan and keep them on the go. I think a writer might well know what he or she is moved by, but even then, not be able to know why a particular incident was captivating enough to produce an idea for a story. In general, I think that I become interested in some human oddity I stumble across and, I am anyway very interested in superstition, and so there is a wealth of ideas arounds that… so I’m not sure that that is either brainstorming or inspiration.

Q: Are you a full-time writer? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time writer if you could?
A: Not sure what ‘full-time writer’ actually means, does it mean someone who writes from 9 to 5, or does it mean someone who lives of the proceeds of her writing? I now longer work in the outside world for money, but even when I did, I wrote for three or four hours a day, and so would consider that full-time anyway. I’m probably being deliberately obtuse, but that’s what writers are like sometimes. I would say though, that it’s mentally healthier not to just write all day, it’s much better to have a working job and write as well.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
A: That depends upon the story that I’m tackling. As each story is different, the part of the creative process that is difficult might also be different.

Q: If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming a writer?
A: Just go on exactly as you are, be generous in your support for other writers, and be true to what really excites you to write irrespective of how the industry attempts to mould you into a writing shape that better suits them and brings them profit.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

An interview with Gregory Wolos

Gregory Wolos made his first Dark Lane appearance in Volume 6 with 'Out of the Basil Pot'.  His short story collection, 'Women of Consequence' will be published in March this year by Regal House Publishing.


What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to write?  Do you have a designated place to work?
I try to write every day. I work best in the morning, generally for about three hours before the creative juices tap out. If I’m deep into a piece and can’t get it out of my mind—especially if I’m close to having something submission-ready, I often will get back to work in the late evening and continue into the wee hours of the morning. The physical process of composing has changed over time with advancing technology; these days most of my writing is done on my laptop stretched out on my recliner in my study. In regard to process, I usually begin a new story by consulting my notebooks (my little Moleskin never leaves my side). I like to juxtapose different ideas to see what happens—like when I was a child and would stick different species of insects together in a jar to watch them fight. First drafts are usually at least twice the size of final versions of stories. After the first draft I rewrite the entire story over and over, cutting ruthlessly as I seek out the story’s heart. When I find that heart, I rewrite again, slashing everything that no longer fits—scenes, characters, favourite metaphors. It’s rare for any single sentence to survive from first draft to final draft. The entire process, from beginning to end takes from one to two months of what I consider full time work.
  
Tell us about one of your favourite short stories and why you like it (not one of your own).
Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” affected me viscerally the first time I read it and then intellectually as I took a close look at the “how” and “why” of the story’s impact. From what at first seems to be a family situation comedy, O’Connor turns the story of “The Misfit” into a frighteningly realistic parable on the nature of “goodness.” It’s one of the stories that made me excited about trying to be a writer.

Tell us about one of your favourite short stories (done by you).
As I suspect is true of many writers, usually the last story I’ve written is my favourite—until I begin something new. But I have a special affection for “Queen of the Waves,” the lead story of my soon-to-be released collection Women of Consequence. The title comes from a poem that recounts the true story of an orphanage devastated by a hurricane in coastal Texas around the year 1900. The nuns running the orphanage tied the children together to try to keep them safe, but the ropes intended to save them tangled, ultimately contributing to the drowning deaths of virtually the entire group. My story is about a criminally overprotective single mother who tries to “save” her son by keeping him homebound. Through slow but intense psychological manipulation, she convinces him that he is unfit for the outside world. She literally steals his senses, demonstrating to him over and over that none of his perceptions—smell, sight, hearing, etc— are fully developed enough for him to survive outside of her care.

Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?
Perpetual vigilance—I’m always on the lookout for something interesting—not so much a “fully formed” story, but anything that seems interesting finds its way into my notebooks. (I write down everything, trusting my memory to nothing). At this point, being an observer is not so much a part of my life as it is a way of living, if that makes sense. I mull over the stuff I collect, juxtaposing things or holding them up like prisms to see what happens when the light of inspiration passes through them (whew!).

Are you a full-time writer? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time writer if you could?
For the last ten years, I’ve been a full time writer, which frees me up for full time observation.
  
What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
Probably the most difficult thing is moving from an early draft, where I’m not very critical about what I’m putting down, to the middle drafts, where I’m searching for what I referred to earlier as the “heart” of the story. Once I’ve found that “heart,” I actually enjoy my brutal treatment of every subsequent draft as I chisel a story down to its final version.
  
If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming a writer?
Here’s the contradiction most writers have to deal with: we have to be super-sensitive to everything in the world for the sake of the “truth” of our craft, but, simultaneously, we must be hard as nails. We must be hard in two different ways: first, we must be able to turn an objective eye on our work so that we can revise and edit without sentimentality; second we must be tough enough to face daily rejection and criticism. I know too many would-be writers who gave up after a single rejection. So—the trick is to keep an open eye to the world while covering oneself with a protective shield—easy, right?
Another thing new writers need to learn is how much time it takes to do the work. I find the process addictive and thrilling, but anyone watching from the outside would see only a person alone for hours, thinking and typing. Movies about writers usually focus on a writer’s life outside of the actual process. At least movies about painters can depict the artist vigorously splashing colour around.
I guess a final thing young writers need to remember is to trust themselves and their visions, even if—maybe especially if—they seem to be wandering out of the mainstream.


Saturday, 8 December 2018

Submissions for Volume 8 now open

Submissions for Dark Lane Anthology Vol.8 have opened.  We're looking forward to reading some amazingly strange tales.
See the guidelines here.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

An interview with Charles Wilkinson

Weird fiction fans need no introduction to Charles Wilkinson.  His fiction first appeared in Dark Lane Anthology Vol. 2.  His work has appeared in every volume since.  Egaeus Press have released two limited edition collections of Charles Wilkinson's short fiction in hardback: A Twist in the Eye, and the recently released Splendid in Ash.







What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to write?  Do you have a designated place to write?

Many thanks for asking me to do this interview, Tim. I’m very pleased to have appeared regularly in your excellent Dark Lane Anthology series.


A poet, who has a background in science, advised me to write in the same place and at the same time every day. He claimed that by doing this one could train the mind to be receptive to the writing mode when required. I certainly think it’s important to establish when one writes best. Although I’d prefer to work in the mornings, I’ve now come to accept that I get much more done in the afternoons. I start at more or less the same time and always in the same place, an office on an industrial estate. There’s no internet connection, which ensures that I’m less easily distracted. Having a place to write that isn’t my home increases the sense of ‘going into work,’ I find. There’s less temptation to take too many tea breaks.

Tell us about one of your favourite short stories and why you like it (not one of your own).

Although I’m tempted to go for one of Robert Aickman’s stories, such as ‘The Hospice’, I suspect that many of your readers will already be very familiar with his work, and so I’ve decided to pick ‘Bestiary’ by Julio Cortazar, which is included in Blow-up and Other Stories. The title story was the inspiration for Antonioni’s film Blowup. Cortazar was a literary writer of an experimental bent; however, his short stories often blur the boundaries between genre and literary fiction. I’ve come across his work in horror anthologies. ‘Bestiary’ is the story of a young girl who stays with the same family every summer. They have a large house and there is another child. It’s seen from the girl’s point of view, which enables the author to suggest that there are tensions between the adults that she is too young to comprehend. The children busy themselves by collecting ants, bugs and insects; the adults perform everyday domestic tasks. The story might almost be a realist text if it were not for the fact that a tiger is roaming around, not only in the grounds but also in the house. The characters are apparently able to avoid this animal because a family servant gives regular bulletins as to its whereabouts. If the tiger is in the library, for example, they will avoid that room until the servant tells them the creature has left. No attempt is made to explain the presence of the tiger. Many readers have wondered what Cortazar meant by it. When I first came across the story, I assumed the tiger was some sort of embodiment of the anger and frustrations of the adults; however, Cortazar said that he did not intend the tiger to symbolize anything specific. Some of his ideas came from dreams, which I believe was also true of Aickman. The effect is to allow space for multiple readings, which means that while my interpretation of the tiger’s significance is not wrong, there are other theories that may also be valid; moreover, since it’s a riddle with no solution we’re not being asked come up with any explanation. For some readers the frisson of the weird and mysterious will be enough.

Tell us about one of your favourite short stories (written by you).

 As my work is quite various, it’s very hard to pick one.  My first collection had two stories that could be categorised as genre pieces and just one that was offbeat in a way that might be considered ‘weird’. ‘The Pain Tree’, which is the long title story,
was partly based on my childhood visits to a dentist who drilled my teeth without deigning to use anaesthetics. Dark but not a genre piece, it might be the best thing I’ve written – I’m not sure. ‘Boxing the Breakable’, which is in Splendid in Ash, my most recent anthology from Egaeus Press, is one of my current favourites. It’s about an elderly couple who have put their house on the market. When the wife, who is in better physical and mental health than the husband, shows them round, they behave
in such a bizarre fashion that she phones the estate agent to find out more about them,
only to discover that no appointment was ever made. The husband then disappears. Various people visit the house and there seems to be a link between them, but it’s not entirely clear what that could be. As with Cortazar, a great deal is left to the reader to fill in. On one level, it’s the quotidian world of prospective buyers, estate agents, doctors and the police, but it should gradually become plain to the reader that something else is going on that defies easy analysis. I was hoping to create a sense of the everyday permeated by the strange.

Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?
.
There’s no straightforward answer to this question. Occasionally there are happy accidents: a remark overheard on a bus or a train; an article in a newspaper; a science programme on the television – that kind of thing. Sometimes one consciously mines one’s past. The germ of ‘Boxing the Breakable’ was a visit that a relative and I paid to a property in the Forest of Dean when one of us was house-hunting. The initial visit had been made by appointment and went well, but when we returned unannounced an hour later, explaining that there were a few details we wished to check, the owner was furious and refused to have anything more to do with us. I remembered this incident well over twenty years later and used it as the basis for what happened next.
Quite often an arresting first line will occur to me and that will be enough to begin the process. Whilst my weird fiction is far from autobiographical (thank heavens!), there have been events, such as the one that initiated ‘Boxing the Breakable,’ that I have used to provide a starting point. Places where I’ve lived are important too.  If I’m stuck for inspiration I make a conscious effort to invoke the dark muse; often a long walk helps!  Researching a topic that interests me can also prove effective. Now that I’m trying to be more professional I have to be prepared to ‘go to the mountain.’


Are you a full-time author? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a fulltime author if you could?

In order to write full time, I resigned from the day job six years before I would have been obliged to step down; however, I now have not inconsiderable domestic responsibilities, which mean that I write in the afternoon five days a week. I was sorry that until eight years ago I was unable to become even a semi-professional writer, although I did take a year out to do a Masters in Creative Writing when I was in my early thirties, as well as another year, just before I turned forty, to take a second course, which included a writing module.  One of my tutors, the Irish poet Eavan Boland, told me that she had seen too many people wreck their lives in the belief that they would become great writers, or at least make a decent living from the trade. She was right. I think it’s fine to take a year or so out to write, but be very careful to have a realistic Plan B in case you don’t make a breakthrough. If you have a family, you have to be even more cautious.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

It’s changed over the years. I used to suffer from writers’ block, but now I’m acutely aware that I no longer have time to indulge my uncertainties. Strangely enough, I think it’s the final stage of the process that causes me most angst. I’m a poor proof-reader of my own work. A particular problem is a tendency to omit small words, such as articles and prepositions. I’m someone who is grateful to have good editors (thanks, Tim!).

If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming an author?


First of all, get on with it! I spent too much time staring out of the window. I was also inclined to agonise over every line instead of writing a decent number of words per day. I lost literary agents because I simply wasn’t producing enough work for them to send round to publishers. Secondly, don’t neglect the small presses and little
magazines. It’s not the end of the world if Faber and Faber say no. If it’s not happening for you, you’re probably better off without an agent. Then you can do
your own research and send manuscripts to places that agents aren’t interested in as the financial rewards involved are insufficient. Starting small is better than making no start at all.