I write, I drive, I get in trouble.
—Jody Neil Ruth
Due to being born with one bad ankle, I learned to read and write at a very early age. I had my legs strapped together until I was two, so, until then, I was fairly immobile. My parents taught me to read and write as I was quite a captive audience! Since then, I’ve always read widely, and I’ve always being writing something. During my 20s, because of work and kids, I drifted away from writing, but for the last few years I’ve been writing with a vengeance and am thoroughly enjoying.
I don’t think I really have one, although, growing up, I read a lot of Stephen King, and even now, dip into his old stuff. I will read anything from 1930s, vets books to horror, science fiction to Italian politics.
Who are your favorite authors today?
At the risk of plugging a close friend, but Marni Mann has written books which have spoken to me on an emotional level. Her character, Nicole, has had to fight addiction in her first novel—Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales—and it’s something I can relate to, having had to fight my own demons for years. But that’s a story I’ll tell another time…
Other writers? I genuinely don’t look out for anyone unless they are a friend of mine. Like I’ve already said, I’m such a wide reader I don’t have time to tie my myself to anyone, although Mark Billingham, the crime writer, is so consistently brilliant that I find I pick up most of his books.
How would you compare the general state of reading/book consumption
between your childhood and modern times? Do you find an improvement, or a devolution?
I almost automatically wrote ‘improvement’, but I remember being a massive bookworm as a kid. I definitely write more these days, but read more? Maybe … maybe not.
With so many things vying for peoples’ time, what with social networking, television, music, and this era of instant gratification, what do you think can be done to improve literacy?
I think that’s all down to the individual. It’s taken me 37 years to wean myself off of TV, and I’ve cancelled all my supplier’s subscriptions as I very rarely watch it unless my youngest son is here. All I do is listen to music and write, or spend time with him.
To improve literacy among the younger generation … wow, I’m sorry but I’m unsure. I think if a child wants to improve himself then he will, but there are too many youngsters out there who think that they can become famous through sports or reality TV to bother bettering themselves.
Saying that, with films getting bigger and better, and the book tie-ins constantly improving, maybe that’s an area that would help with some child’s literacy?
How has being a father impacted your writing, and how does your artistic bent impact your kids?
I love that this question has come up, as my youngest boy—Bam (yep, that’s his name)—has just started to sit down with me every night and write stories about robots and his toys. The best part is that he tells me off if I am not writing as well! So, YES, being a father has allowed me to write more, and write better. I put a helluva lot more heart and soul into my ‘art’ these days … mainly due to wanting to leave my children some sort of legacy. I love the thought that maybe one day my great-great-great grandchildren might pick up one of my books and enjoy it.
What’s the genre fiction market—and especially the horror market—like in the United Kingdom? Is it healthier than say in the U.S.? With some writers, like the late, great Richard Laymon, success was found far more in the U.K. than in the States. Was Laymon an anomaly, or is there something different amongst story lovers in the U.K.?
I’m going to be dull and naïve and admit to not knowing what the markets in either of our fair countries are up to these days. Crap of me, I know, but I concentrate on my own writing and that of my peers, that I very, very rarely look at book charts. When in bookstores, I am always in the horror sections and they are always awash with King, Koontz, Layman, etc., that I think the big names may be the only sellers, but the horror sections are always fairly large, so the market must be thriving.
Being relatively new on the market, how long have you been submitting?
I’ve been writing since a child, but I only seriously turned to ‘becoming’ a writer as short as two years ago. I’ve now had five short stories accepted, and have interviewed famous DJs, porn-stars, and actors for Websites, and my hometown is adorned with Websites and menus for cafes that I have written! It appears there is a call for a writer in every avenue around these parts.
Who do you have as a support structure for your stories? Friends, family, a particular writing or other support group, whether live or virtual?
I wrote a blog a little over two years ago stating that I was going to become a writer, and my family kind of ignored it. They know I’ve been writing since forever, so it was no new news to them. However, on Facebook it spawned a monster, and my friends spurred me on and do so to this day. I’m now asked in the street or in my taxi at work ‘when will the book be finished’, ‘can I have a signed copy’, etc., so yes, the support of my real friends is fantastic. The virtual community have thrown me some great fellow writers/supporters, and guys like John Hardy Bell, Marni Mann, Cheyenne Campbell, and Rob Miller have all supported and advised me when I’ve begged for help.
Like with many writers, you’ve had trauma in your life. How have these valleys impacted your art? And specifically, are you able to use the experiences as story fodder?
To put it in a nutshell, this is what happened; I suffered financial hardship by cutting my ‘real’ work hours down to accommodate writing; I developed a drug habit; I had an affair with a married woman; I crashed my car; I tried to kill myself; I should have died; I was diagnosed with depression; I should have gone to prison; I was a law-unto-myself…
But I survived.
I’m still rebuilding my life and putting the pieces together, although some of them are missing and I doubt can be found. I wrote about it all in my blog and titled it ‘Demons’, and it went viral. I had 1000 Facebook shares that DAY, and over a hundred messages, phone calls, and texts from friends, family, people I didn’t know, and even footballers, big-name writers, and actors who all came out in support for me and spread my blog amongst the masses.
These trials and tribulations have made me a better man, but I had to hit rock bottom to realize it. I used all of those bad things and wrote about them, and they’ve changed my life for the better.
Tell us about your love of zombies, the draw, and where you come down on,
whether for Romero walkers or fast movers. Furthermore, where are you at with your zombie novel, and is there anything about them, the situation or plot, that sets them apart?
I really don’t know where my love of zombies comes from, although, as a kid, I did love Romero’s films, and was obsessed with all of the ‘video nasties’ that were banned for years. I always seemed to be able to get them on VHS from somewhere!
Walkers vs runners … there’s a place for both, depending on the story/film and who’s telling it/directing it. In my book, I actually have both, although I’m starting to side with the shufflers. However, the runners add a much more dynamic dimension to a zombie tale; look, for example, at the remake of Dawn of The Dead … and yes, blasphemous as it sounds, but I prefer the remake…
Since actively pursuing publication, what’s been your most positive set of experiences, and what’s been your worst?
The most positive has been meeting writers from all over the world. As we are all in the same boat, we are all very friendly and communicative to each other, and over the years I have made some great new friends. Some of their advice has made such a significant difference for the better to my writing that when my first book is released, it may well have a very long ‘acknowledgments’ section!
Probably when I sank into depression for six months and could barely write anything until the ‘Demons’ blog. I know some writers and artists thrive on being low and mentally anguished, but I find it gives me little or no motivation.
But to end the interview on a happy note, I am now much, much better. I’m rebuilding my whole life and writing is very near the forefront of my changes. I’m writing longer, harder, and more than I ever have…
And long may it continue.