Today is a big day: I present you with the first ever guest post on my blog.
It is highly appropriate then that it should be by James Everington, one of my favourite writers around right now. His latest collection, Falling Over, was published last month by Infinity Plus, and is excellent. Here is my review if you missed it. James's first collection, The Other Room, is just as good; as is his novella The Shelter.
I presented Mr Everington with some questions, and he was good enough to supply me with some answers.
What has been the most influential short story you've read?
Cold Print by Ramsey Campbell, which is the second story in
his collection Dark Feasts. I bought the book from a
second-hand shop in Cleathorpes when I was about fifteen. The first
story in the book was one of Campbell's early tales when he was
heavily indebted to Lovecraft and whilst good it didn't blow me away.
Cold Print (and in fact every other story in the book) did. The
influence of Lovecraft was still strong, but you could tell Campbell
had really found his own voice now. It, and the stories that
followed, taught me lots of things I still believe about the weird
tale – that it works especially well in the short story form, that
ambiguity is key, and that writing horror is no barrier to writing
subtle, effective prose. That horror can spring from such prose, in
I couldn't afford any other Ramsey Campbell books for years (as a
student my book money was spent on books I had to study) and so Dark
Feasts was my only exposure to Campbell for a long time; I read
it again and again.
What is the most effective opening paragraph of a short story
you can recall off-hand?
Off the top of my head (and because I read it recently) Luxemburg
by Robert Shearman. The first paragraph tells the reader, in quite a
dry, matter of fact tone, that the country of Luxemburg has
disappeared, but that no one outside really realised for a few
days... It breaks the cliched "show don't tell" rule with
abandon and really grabs you.
The story is from his collection Love Songs For The Shy &
Cynical and ever story in it is indeed a love story... or a story
about love, anyway. Yes, even this one about Luxemburg disappearing.
What is the most effective closing paragraph of a short story
you can remember off-hand?
I love the final line of Arthur C Clarke's The Nine Billion
Names Of God: "overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going
"Without any fuss" – I mean, that's genius, right
there on the page.
What made you think you could be a writer?
Well, that's a tough question... I think, in the final analysis,
despite all the setbacks and self-doubt there was just a stubborn bit
of me that always knew I could. I was writing for over ten years
before I really showed anyone any stories I'd done, and I think if
I'd not noticed improvements in what I was doing myself, little bits
of writing where I thought, Yeah that's it, then I would have
given up long before.
Then of course there's sending your work out into the big bad
world, and little firsts amid all the rejections – the first story
accepted (thank you, Morpheus Tales!) the first reader review.
What made you think you couldn't be a writer?
I like the way this question is optimistically in the
Anyway, like many writers I think I yo-yo between a confidence in
my own abilities (see above) and a feeling that I'm just bluffing my
way through things without really having a clue. The thing that's
most likely to trigger this is reading something brilliant by
another writer. Logically I know they probably sweated and struggled
to get it on the page, but emotionally: goddamn it's crushing.
What is the most frightening thing you have read?
Okay, well there's lots of possible answers to this, so I'll pick
something a bit less obvious and more obscure. It's a short story by
Mark Chadbourn called Whisper Lane which I read in the
anthology The British Fantasy Society: A Celebration. I think
it is out of print now, so I hope Whisper Lane is available
somewhere else to buy, as it's phenomenal.
It's about a poverty-ridden estate and a man who goes there after
his brother's death and the reasons for the hopelessness of the
people who live there. The conceit behind it is brilliant, and the
real-life horrors and the supernatural ones are seamlessly
interwoven. Find it somewhere, if you can, and read it. And then tell
other people to read it.
What is the most frightening thing you have written?
I think the ending of Public Interest Story, which closes
Falling Over, is the bit of my writing that still scares me
the most. There's something about the inevitability of the main
character's fate, combined with the senselessness of it, that gets to
me. It doesn't matter how brave he is when he's so pointlessly
trapped – and maybe that's a scary but accurate way to think of death
overall. As something that just sucks the meaning from everything, no
matter what stories we tell ourselves.
The fact that Joel dies at the hands of an angry crowd of people
adds to the horror, as well. People are always more scary and vicious
and stupid when they're acting as a mob rather than individuals.
How different would your writing career be without social
Very different – a lot quieter, in both good ways and bad. Good
because all the time spent on Twitter or writing blogs or XYZ eats
into my actual writing time. But without social media, I wouldn't
have meet all the great people – readers, writers, editors,
publishers, nutjobs – who I have, so more than likely I wouldn't have
a 'career'. I doubt I'd have found a publisher for Falling Over
so easily without social media, and I certainly wouldn't be answering
these questions for you Martin...
Lots of people have helped me, in both small ways and big, and I
hope I've helped a few people in turn.
At what stage of your writing career would you 'give up your
Oh, I'm not going to jinx it by answering that one... !
Falling Over is published by Infinity Plus and is out now.
Ten stories of unease, fear and the weird.
"Good writing gives off fumes, the sort that induce dark
visions, and Everington’s elegant, sophisticated prose is a potent
brew. Imbibe at your own risk." – Robert Dunbar, author of The
Pines and Martyrs & Monsters.
Find out more at Scattershot