It's always great to meet a new author: sometimes, you meet them online, trade story ideas, exchange dreams of getting your weirdest ideas published by big-time companies and then go your own ways, thinking of what could be.
Other times, you end up actually sharing a table of contents for one such anthology and get to have a long, fulfilling talk about their stories on music that kills and other assorted weirdness. Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing one such author, J.C. Michael, with whom I share a place in Grey Matter Press’ SAVAGE BEASTS anthology.
J.C. is a horror author by choice, living under the shadow of Stephen King and Clive Barker, subsisting on a steady diet of horror flicks, pursued by dreams of living as a full-time author, a man after my own heart. His story, "When Death Walks the Fields of Battle", is one of hard dance beats and he has decided to share a few of his thoughts with me on the blog.
Let's begin with a zinger: what caused you to want to be a writer in the first place?I've always loved reading, and had a vivid imagination, but never really thought of myself as someone who could be a writer. For a start, my grammar isn't what it should be, although it is improving, and I wasn't encouraged at school as the elderly lady who taught us English didn't appreciate the fact that at 14 I was an avid Stephen King fan. I can remember when we were told to write a "tense" story, and I wrote about a guy getting mugged in an underground car park. I used the f-word, which didn't go down too well, and then argued my point that it was entirely plausible that a mugger would say "Hand over your fucking wallet. Now." Arguing didn't go down too well either.
Following that my writing was limited to that which I needed to do through school, university, and then work. I suppose the first creative thing I really did was the work newsletter, which was more like Viz than anything else. I generally mixed up legitimate news with made up articles taking the piss out of various members of staff but got away with it by a) poking fun at myself and my friends as well, and b) making sure it amused the owner of the business before it was issued.
Things then changed when I was basically challenged to write something by my partner. She was studying for a degree in Performing Arts, and I was often moaning that I wished I could be more creative than working in Finance allowed. I was also guilty of frequently criticising books and movies to the extent that she eventually said something along the lines of "Look, if you're so bloody clever write a book yourself." The result was a 90,000 odd word novel which I self published for a bit of fun. I sold a single copy and that was that until my son was born and I decided to revisit Discoredia. I put it up on Authonomy, took the criticisms on board, tidied it up, and eventually reached the editors desk in October 2012. The feedback I got from Harper Collins was largely positive and six months later I'd signed a contract with Books of the Dead press.
"When Death Walks the Fields of Battle" sounds like a downright metal sort of story. What was your main influence behind it?
It's interesting how the different authors in Savage Beasts approached the concept of stories influenced by music. Some seem to be influenced by a genre, and some by particular tracks. Some, like yours, make direct reference to music, others, like mine, don't. My story isn't about music at all, it doesn't feature, but it fits the bill as I took the inspiration for the story from the lyrics used in a particular track; Zombie by PCP. I wanted to use a hardcore / techno / gabber track, so I looked through my collection to find one which I both liked, and which I felt had lyrics which could be used as a jumping off point for a story. The story the flowed from those lyrics resulting in a piece that was genuinely influenced by a particular track, albeit one which itself samples three other pieces of music.
Which genre of music do you think mostly defines your work? Which genre of music do you think mostly defines you?
I'm a retired raver. There's no way I could handle an all-night rave these days, and there are also elements of the behaviour that goes with that scene that I don't feel to be appropriate alongside the responsibilities you have once you are a father, but it will always be the music that defines me and which will creep into my writing from time to time. In some ways writing Discoredia, which is a novel entirely influenced by those genres of music - hardcore, gabber, techno, and the like - was a line drawn under that part of my life. I used my own experiences to write that book, and poured a lot of myself into it.
Seeing as how you are mostly a horror author, how would you choose to define horror fiction?
In general terms I think horror fiction is fiction which has the capacity to scare, frighten, or unnerve the reader. I don't think it needs to be supernatural, look at Psycho, but to go from thriller to horror I think things have to be pushed towards the extremes of normality. A book about a murderer could be a thriller, make that murderer a serial killer and you move towards horror but you could easily still sit as a thriller, or mystery, or suspense. Make the serial killer a cannibal who wears his victims skin, be quite graphic, and lurid, in the depictions of those acts, and write it in a way that makes the reader wonder if someone like that could be stalking them there and then, as they read it, at home, alone, then you have a horror novel on your hands. One thing I'm not keen on is the Young Adult / Paranormal Romance genre masquerading as horror. Children's books that can be frightening for kids, fine, they're kids, but once your an adult either read the real thing or don't try to pretend you're reading a horror novel.
Quick! You're trapped inside a work of horror fiction. Which book is it and what (do you think) are your chances to see it through?
I'd love to be trapped in Discoredia as the main event of book is based on what would be, initially, my perfect night out. Admittedly it all goes wrong, and lots of people die, but I'd take my chances.
Lastly, tell us about any of your imminent works or publications that you might have in order.
I genuinely wish I had the time to write another novel, but I find it a very intense experience, and not one which I have the time, or energy, to devote to right now. The sequel to Discoredia is written, but in need of a re-write. One day. Perhaps. For now I'll stick to wring the odd short story here and there so that it stays as a bit of a fun sideline. I've got a pretty full on day job, and don't want to try to juggle two careers when one keeps me busy enough. As things stand I've a couple of submissions out there right now, two or three things I'm looking to start work on in the next few weeks, and a couple of releases scheduled over the next two months - two pieces in Fifty Shades of Slay from Alucard Press which is due out sometime soon, and a piece in Crossroads in the Dark from Burning Willow Press, due out on Halloween.
Thank you J. C., this has been a pleasure
Thanks for the opportunity of the interview.
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