Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

Sunday 4 August 2013

Guest post Q&A; James Everington

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 fact.
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 out."
"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 past-tense...
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 media?
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 day job'?
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 Writing.

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