Today is the third stop on my July horror blog tour for They Move Below.

Visit Life of a Nerdish Mum for Helen's post about one of my stories, and a Q&A with me about my writing. Many thanks, Helen!

PS You'll find the full tour timetable here.

Backup Of The Post

When did you first know that you wanted to be an author?

I've been writing since I was about 9. Once I gave up the career options of spaceman, rock star, secret agent and police man, all that was left was librarian and author. People close to me soon got used to it. I’ve been a librarian for over 20 years, so it’s time for the author part to come to the front.

Have you always been a fan of horror? What is it about horror that draws you to it?

I loved horror as a kid. I liked nothing better than reading ghost stories with a torch under the duvet, or climbing the weeping willow with a collection of monster tales and letting the sighing branches take me to spookville. I think it was pure escapism. Nothing transported me from real life as quickly as something scary. I think I wanted to believe in things beyond this world; and if they were reflections or cast-offs from this world, I would expect them to be dark. And so any horror story was already halfway to convincing me that it could be true.

They Move Below is a collection of short stories, what made you choose short stories over a novel as I believe writing them can be a lot more difficult as you have to get so much information into a lot fewer words?

Different but equally satisfying. When there are limits they force you to be creative in different ways. Poetry is a good example of this – any restrictions of line length, rhyme, rhythm and so on lead you to write differently from your normal pattern, and like any detour that change of pattern can lead you to exciting places. In my case I had a lot of stories already written and just needing a polish – I felt that I needed to get them out in the world so I could move on to new projects.

Where do you get your inspiration, does it come straight from your imagination or do you take from real life?

No single place. It could be a news article, or a dream, or a real event. In the notes section of They Move Below I gave the example of the time I saw a huge jellyfish below my kayak – the image stayed with me, and eventually worked its way into my fiction. Ideas simmer and only rise to the surface when they’re ready. I’m always having conversations in my head, especially when washing the dishes, and they can spark ideas for characters or scenes.

When writing, do you have to set the mood to get into the right mind set or do you have a certain routine that you have to follow?

It does help when you’re in the mood to write, but sometimes you have to force yourself. For writing horror I like a grey day, and to be alone in the house. But it can be interesting to write it on a sunny day in a busy pub or cafĂ© or on a bench – if you can still frighten yourself (and any horror writer who can’t do that should switch genres) then you are on to a winner. Also external prompts can be a great help – last year I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time (you’ll find his posts about it here) and that really helped me to get a lot of words written in a short space of time.
I know this might be a hard question to answer, but do you have a favourite story in They Move Below?
Mmm, that is difficult. I like them for different reasons: some entertain me or make me smile; some have been with me for a long time; some have technical elements or ideas I’m happy with. The title story is one I’m really pleased with, because I can really feel like I’m there when I read it. However, Web stands out because I had to get into another head and the voice just started to pour onto the page. It’s horrible but in a different way, and maybe the hint of hope is something we all need to cling to in dark places.

When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Computer games; boardgames with friends; playing the guitar (badly: I can’t get the hang of barre chords and suspect my fingers just bend in strange ways; possibly an idea for a horror story right there). Also films, exercise, food, nature, wildlife, and books. Not in that order.

Do you have a favourite author?

I think I am more likely to respect individual works than like everything from a single author. Unless an author only rewrites the same book – which gets boring fast – then each work will be different, and inevitably you will then enjoy some more than others. Which is fine. However, as an early teenager I tried to read everything by Stephen King and Dean Koontz. They both impressed me so much in their different ways. My favourite Stephen King book is Night Shift, and for Dean Koontz it is Phantoms – in both cases they were the first book I’d read by that author.

Following They Move Below, what can we expect next from you?

I tend to alternate between literary/contemporary fiction, and horror. So my next book will be a collection of short stories in the other genre, about life and relationships. Though it is interesting that for a few stories I was torn as to which genre they fell into. For example, Web could just as easily fit into a non-horror collection; and some of what I think of as my literary stories are pretty dark, such as Miasma fromSecondary Character. I suppose that’s one of my author fingerprints.

Thank you so much to Karl for taking the time out to answer my questions and for allowing me to read his wonderful book.