Can you tell me a bit about your background and how you became a writer?
I’m from a small mining village in south Wales called New Tredegar. Since the coal mines closed It’s become quite a deprived area, so the dream for many is just to get out and make something of yourself. I always wanted to be a writer, I just never knew how. Having the ability, and knowing how to use it are two different things. I was a terrible student at school. I’m the first to admit I was a bit belligerent and ill-disciplined. Writing stories provided a release, a bit of escapism. When I first started I wasn’t very good. It’s something you have to work at to improve. So I worked my ass off, got lucky, and here I am.
Do you remember the first story you wrote? What it was about?
No! I’ve been writing longer than I can remember. I didn’t have much confidence in the early days. I was weird about letting people read my stuff, and I would write and re-write the same short story hundreds of times, over a period of years. I was learning how to use the English language properly, and I think I still am. It’s such a deep language, full of little quirks and nuances, that you never really stop learning. I couldn’t seem to reach that point where I was happy to let the story go. It must be like when you have kids and they grow up, then you don’t want them to leave home. It was probably a confidence thing. Then when you do start letting your darlings go, they get rejected all over the place. You need to develop a thick skin, very quickly. And learn how to accept criticism, rather than let it destroy you.
Of your previously released works, which is your favorite and why?
I really enjoyed writing Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story. It’s also been my biggest seller so far. But I think my current favourite is the compilation, X: A Collection of Horror, which came out earlier this year. Firstly, the stories in it were written over the period of about 15 years so there’s a lot of history there. Most of the stories have been published before in different magazines. I’d wanted to do a collection for a long time, but a lot of my stuff was tied up with different publishers. There were a lot of contractual issues to sort out. Happily, though, all the rights for the stories have reverted back to me for one reason or another. I must have enough material in the vault for at least four or five volumes of X. I don’t know how much of it will ever see the light of day, but X2 is scheduled for release next year.
Out of Time is a novella about a writer with writers block, who goes to extreme measures to get his mojo back. But of course, his past comes back to bite him on the ass. I wrote the first draft when I was living in China about five years ago. The first publisher I showed it to loved it and signed it up. But over a year later I still hadn’t heard anything about it so I withdrew it and ripped up the publishing contract. Now, after a drastic re-write, it’s finally coming at you.
Who are your favorite authors and which of their books mean the most to you?
Stephen King is by far my favourite writer. I think I’ve read everything he’s ever put out. The guy is so prolific it’s almost a full-time job! I think my favourite books of his are Salem’s Lot, It, the Tommyknockers and Duma Key. The way he writes characters and sucks you into their world is just amazing. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves in wider literary circles. Horror as a whole doesn’t get enough credit, despite being one of the most popular genres out there. Stuffy literature people always seem to see it as too low-brow to be taken seriously. But in my mind reading is about enjoyment and entertainment. That’s the whole point. Everything doesn’t have to be like Nietzsche or Tolstoy. You don’t always want to be enlightened or educated from a lofty position. Sometimes you just need a quick fix!
What is the most disturbing book you’ve read?
It depends on what you mean by ‘disturbing.’ I don’t think anything fictional has really disturbed me that much because no matter how bad it gets, you know it’s just a story. History is different. Obviously it’s down to interpretation, and every country paints history to suit themselves. But if you want to be disturbed, try reading first-hand accounts of war. I mentioned I lived in China for a while, so I have a great affinity with the Chinese people and culture. A couple of years ago I read the Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang. It’s about the Japanese invasion of Nanking, which was then the capital of China, and they did some horrific things to the locals. That probably takes the ‘most disturbing book’ award. Chang was a troubled woman. She ended up committing suicide. Another candidate would be Deranged, a book about the serial killer Albert Fish by Harold Schechter. That was pretty shocking.
It’s hard to narrow it down to just one. I remember seeing American werewolf in London when I was a kid. That scared the shit out of me! I had a phobia about subways for years! I re-watched it again recently, and only later you appreciate the humour in it. I might be the only one, but I’m a big fan of the ‘found footage’ genre. Sure, there are some stinkers out there, but :REC is a work of art. Watch the Spanish version, it’s even better than the Hollywood remake. The Blair Witch Project also has to be up there. When it came out, it revolutionalized filmmaking. I’m also a big fan of Asian cinema, especially Japanese horror. Film makers over there don’t often have massive Hollywood budgets but they have this inherent creepiness about them that I just love.
What scares you?
I don’t like heights. I think I have a touch of vertigo. A slightly weirder one is my aversion to deep water. Trying to imagine how big the sea is, and how much water is there, used to drive me crazy when I was a kid. People don’t belong in water. Apart from the risk of drowning, there’s all kinds of nasty shit in there. Sharks, jellyfish, giant squid. In tropical waters there’s this thing called a stonefish. It’s the most venomous fish in the world, apparently. It hangs out near the bottom looking like a stone, and when you tread on it, it poisons you. If we were supposed to go in the water, we would have fins and gills. It’s common sense, really. I don’t like big bugs, either. In south China they have these massive 6-inch centipedes. Fuck those, too.
Are there any themes or horror sub-genres that you’d like to explore with future stories?
Good question. But its one I can’t answer. Who knows what’s going to happen? Saying that, only in retrospect do you realize that your writing moves through phases. A lot of my early stuff concerned serial killers. I was just fascinated by the whole concept. And everyone has a zombie phase. Recently I’ve been doing a lot with time travel. But it’s so full of paradoxes, it’s easy to tie yourself in knots. Like the old classic – if a man travels back in time and kills his grandfather, he can never be born. So he can’t travel back in time to kill his grandfather in the first place. What a head fuck. I’ve noticed that a lot of my stories are now shifting toward war scenarios. Like I said before, war is the real horror, and it’s happening every day. I’ve been trying to mix war and the supernatural. There’s going to be horror on every level!
Thanks for the interview, Christian!
Buy the books: