Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Sure. I’m a London native: born and raised in the nation’s capital and proud of. How could I not be? You’ve got one of the major cities on the planet here: a blend of cultures, races. You’ve got restaurants – yes, I’m a foodie. Bars, clubs, theatres. Scenery, architecture. Live music. Entertainment. I’m still discovering the new in this city. I lift weights, and play bass – the bass playing was something additional for me to do, giving my fingers a respite away from the keyboard. Little did I know.
I’m currently based south of the river (Thames), about halfway between Clapham and Wimbledon. Youngest of three sons, no sisters – still, as Mama will say, “God gave me all sons for a reason.”
I suppose around age, maybe 6 – 8 years old, there’d be the occasional Saturday night fry-up our dad would do, and a Hammer horror film. All with the lights on. Fast-forward a couple of years or so, when VHS was all the rage. Mama worked nights at a hospital back then, so oldest brother would hire a tape from Electrobug Video – man, that’s going back! But yeah, Friday nights would usually be spent watching some horror film: hired, borrowed, taped off TV, whatever. Rabid. Scanners. The Evil Dead. An American Werewolf In London. Halloween. Poltergeist. The Thing. Etc. etc. etc. – all watched with the lights off.
The irony is that I ended up watching such films until they scared the shit outta me to the point even now, I don’t watch horror films – precisely for that reason. But that damage instilled in me the appreciation for a good story; albeit a dark one.
Who are some writers that inspire you?
As a go-to, I’d have to cite Michael Crichton. What I like about his work is that it’s not only kinetic and visual, but he maintains intrigue as he moves the narrative forward. On top of that – and what probably inspired me the most from an author point of view – is the scientific rationale he weaves into his tales. That work is meticulous. I’m definitely a Crichton fan: Jurassic Park, Timeline, Prey, Disclosure. Those are probably my favourites. May that good man rest in peace.
What have you written?
So far, a mass of short stories, and three novellas: a lot of work I keep on heavy rotation, looking for the right publisher to pick up. Always shopping the work around, trying to find a good home for it. The honourable mention from the AHWA (Australian Horror Writers Association) is for a piece I’ve yet to sell, but they liked it.
I didn’t even realise what happened until I was checking the Midnight Echo site, I think, some months later, and I see my name listed. I was just looking for an update on the submission. But to get your props, regardless of what you do or don’t win, is humbling and cool. So I caught up with Cameron Trost (editor, and VP for the AHWA) for a little Q&A. As someone who appreciates a short story, it was cool it moved him.
Where can we buy or see them?
Give us some insight into your story for the DeadSteam anthology. What makes your story unique? Perhaps you could share a brief excerpt from your story?
What makes my story unique? Apart from the fact that I wrote it? < raised eyebrow > Good question! I do know the area in which the story is set: which is West Norwood Cemetery in South London. A large cemetery with a lot of history behind it. I used to work near the place, once upon a time. And from the point of view of someone who crafts dark fiction, the scenery inside the place is enough to spark a dark narrative or two.
The kind of thing that moves me from an author point of view is where the norm takes a turn for the worse. It could be a sudden veer to the side, or a gentle nudge, but there’ll be something that will steer the narrative in a turn for the worse:
A flash from the pistol’s barrel along with the crack of a shot and Robin flinched, shying away. The sound was close enough that he swore he felt the bullet whip past his ear. His heart thudded in his chest, panic choking his airway. When he looked back, Lizzie was taking aim again.
“I won’t miss this time.”
What hope is there when, like the story says, sanity slips through your fingers?
What are you working on at the moment? What’s it about?
I finished the 1st draft of the latest novella, “There Goes Pretty” maybe a couple of months ago. I’ve picked up some beta work since then, which I’ve now wrapped – a week ahead of schedule. Which is good, because now I want to knock out edits on a number of shorts before I get into the meat of a new novel. Like most of my long fiction, it starts with outlining and basic research. I won’t say too much at this point, apart from it’s set against a background of sexual attraction. Damn, I don’t even have a title for this thing yet! The title’s usually one of the first things I come up with.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m always working on something. I’ll be writing a novella, or outlining basic research for a novel. Writing a short story. I’ve always got work on rotation – I don’t sit idle (which a number of peers and friends continue to tell me. Warn me of, even). A reader will devour in maybe weeks what it took an author maybe months to write. So I’m mindful that there’s an element of playing catch-up: knock out enough of the good stuff – and often enough – to keep your audience sated.
What genre are your books, mainly? Are you new to the dreadpunk or steampunk genre, or have you written in the genre before?
Horror and dark fiction. Some of the stuff I write isn’t supernatural in nature, but deals with dark themes, such as death, madness, etc. Other works are supernatural in nature. Some works are more blatant, where others are more subtle.
Am I new to dreadpunk or steampunk? You can say, ‘yes’, if that makes labelling or pigeon-holing any easier. Those aren’t labels I assign to my work though. As long my work falls under the heading of dark fiction, horror or not, then I’m happy. Of course, if it moves my audience, I’m happy.
What compelled you to write or submit a story to this particular anthology?
I did the A Story A Week challenge last year in 2017 (courtesy of the This Is Horror podcast), and Sanity Slips Through Your Fingers was one of those stories I knocked out then. There I was writing at speed, trying to get all 52 stories finished double-time, writing stories as and when the ideas came to me. This is actually a prequel to my short Sunset Is Just The Beginning (which appears in Cranial Leakage, Volume 1).
Given that the prequel is set over 100 years earlier, of course there are going to be some differences in the settings, the culture, etc. because times change. So I’ve written this story on kind of a whim for a previous submission call, which didn’t come to pass. It didn’t matter, because I still wanted to explore the idea. At the same time, I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of submission calls for a period piece – but that’s okay. Time as an author needs patience. So this was just one of many stories I’d written that I’d keep on the back burner, looking for the right publisher to come along, as it were.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors? Do you enjoy reading the classics or do you tend to read more contemporary writers?
You know, I read here and there, but I don’t read a whole lot? Certainly not as much as my author peers, some of whom boast some impressive TBR piles. I barely have time to write, and any free (ha!) time I get, I’m usually writing. Or editing my writing. Or beta reading… You get the idea.
I don’t have so many favourites as such now. Mainly, I think, because I’ll read such a variety of books from various authors, I don’t read so many from one author for them to become a favourite. That said, the closest I’ve come to a favourite author over more recent years is Jo Nesbø, for his Harry Hole novels. A friend of mine had a copy of The Snowman, which he gave to me a few years back. That’s kind of an alien concept to me to give away a book: especially one you like, but, hey. He said he wouldn’t read it again, so said I could have it. Curious child I am, I say, “sure.” It blew me away. Since then I read all of the 10 Harry Hole novels – that, Cockroaches, The Bat, and The Devil’s Star (if memory serves) are faves. I did scoop up the humour books from Chris Moore, and Practical Demonkeeping is impressive – for the demon names Catch alone. One of those books where I laughed out loud when reading it in public. The more recent work like Sacre Bleu and The Serpent Of Venice? Hasn’t moved me too much.
Wayne Smith needs a mention here. Because while I’ve only read “Thor” by him, it is, to date, the best werewolf book I’ve ever read. And the narrative is told from the perspective of the family dog. It makes for a fresh narrative. Make no mistake though: there’s a genuine sense of threat. And some horror. It’s a compelling read.
Classics? I … guess I’m more likely to read more contemporary writers. But when your peers gravitate to the same genre as you do, no doubt you’ll hash out what works move you. And then you get a recommendation. Over the last year or so, I read Susan Hill’s, “The Woman In Black”. Impressive work. “The House On Haunted Hill”, on the other hand, didn’t really move me. Mark Morris wrote a short a while back called, “Full Up” – which blew me away. Ditto for Erik Hofstatter’s “Rare Breeds” novella. J R Park’s “Mad Dog”. Modern works for sure, and a variety of stylings. We had an author/journalist type on these shores called Aidan Chambers. Back when I was about 11 years old, he put a collection called the Book Of Ghosts and Hauntings. This is a book I’d still read to this day (if I could find my copy). But the stories in there are eerie tales: at best, stories of the unnatural. At worst, tales of menace. Ultimately, if the story hits the right notes, I’m in there – regardless of when or how it was written.
Where do your ideas come from?
An overactive imagination! Even now as I’m writing, I’m thinking, “shit, I had a trace of a nightmare a couple of nights back, and I didn’t even jot down the idea.” But yeah, an imagination. It’ll throw up an idea of, ‘what would I like to see?’ Or, ‘what would this kind of person not want to see?’ What I may go with is something that nudges the everyday for a given character off-course. Where does that lead them, how does that character react?
Generally, I’ll work in the realm of something supernatural. But if I don’t find a monster for my purpose, as it were, then I just create one.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
Oh, I’m an outliner. Not so much that I paint myself into a corner, but I do want to get the bare bones of the idea down. My outline will also have basic reference points, such as character sketches, basic research material – adding authenticity to the tale, stuff like that.
The narrative may change as the story’s hitting the page, but I always want some kind of skeleton to hang the story on, no matter how brief. Even if it was, say, a 100-word piece of fiction, I want to at least come up with the elevator pitch that says, ‘this is the story, this is the hook.’ narrative may change as the story’s hitting the page, but I always want some kind of skeleton to hang the story on, no matter how brief. Even if it was, say, a 100-word piece of fiction, I want to at least come up with the elevator pitch that says, ‘this is the story, this is the hook.’
If your story is part of a series, could you tell us a little about the series?
Sure. It’s not a series as such though. The original story is “Sunset Is Just The Beginning”, again in Cranial Leakage, Volume 1. The idea for that came from an office incident years back when I used to work as an account manager. One of the guys in the office threw a spider at someone else. Okay, he put the spider in one of those little polythene pockets: the ones you get your spare buttons in when you get a new suit? Understandably, his victim was none too pleased – told him to go fuck himself, etc. Spider still scrabbling around in this little pouch, trying to get out. But I did ponder the idea: if someone does that to you to scare you, what do you do to scare them back? That notion was the backbone of Sunset…
The sequel to that very same tale is a novella set some years later (and is due out later this year). But I had so much fun exploring the characters that I got the idea of a prequel, which is set further back in the past.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Ahhhh… Paperbacks, I guess – but not exclusively. As an author an HWA opt-in member, I may get an e-copy of an author novel or novella, depending on whether it’s up for a Stoker award. I may download an e-comic or two: currently with a few Spider-Man issues on my phone. Hardbacks? Those are generally recording artist biographies. The first one I read was John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Man.” A thick read, but a good one.
What book/s are you reading at present?
Karen Runge’s, “Seeing Double”. And I don’t mind saying that I hung back from that for a while, because her reputation as a craft master precedes her. That said, it’s meticulous work. Solid.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/C.-C.-Adams/e/B00J438GCI, https://www.amazon.co.uk/C.-C.-Adams/e/B00J438GCI
So thanks for taking a time-out to kick Q&A. Much appreciated.