Friday, 27 March 2015

Men in Horror: SIMON DEWAR

Simon Dewar is my DFF.....Devil Friend Forever. He was the 666th person to show up on my friend feed, we connected and it is a match made in Heaven. Turns out he knows a thing or two about writing, has an amazingly beautiful daughter and will be hanging out with me at The Overlook Hotel in October, where we will be running up and down the hallways at midnight, knocking on doors and running away. We will probably piss off Jack Ketchum, but that's okay. I just finished a book he edited, SUSPENDED IN DUSK, that has some incredibly well written stories in it, and I just finished reading HIGH ART, co-authored with Karen Runge in DEATH'S REALM. Very creepy, very sexy and highly entertaining, with a wee touch of disturbing. What more could you ask for in a DFF.

1.     When did you start writing horror?

I started writing almost three years ago. My daughter had just been born and  I wrote my first story:  a guy with a newborn who loses his mind due to caffeine consumption and sleep deprivation. I sold the story to the Bloody Parchment anthology and thought I must be some kind of writing genius. The next dozen or so rejections disabused me of this notion, very quickly.

2.     Have you written in any other genre?

Yes, but what genres they are... Im not exactly sure. Some of the stories Ive written feature no supernatural or monstrous element and the only real monster is you. Or me. Or the guy sitting next to you on the bus. Some of the stories Ive written have a very literary bent where Ive attempted to use subtle imagery or layers of meaning to achieve an effect for the reader.  So there are elements of horror, elements of literary fiction, and elements of suspense. I think many people may not view the stories as traditional horror. Ill get back to you on this when I manage to find more homes for these orphans.
Ive got a scifi-military horror mashup that Im working on now, but Im moving it to the backburner so I can try and finish a novella Im working on.

3.     What makes you uncomfortable?

Explicit sex in fiction generally makes me uncomfortable. I was raised in a reasonably religious household where sex wasnt EVER talked about and was only something to do in the privacy of your marital bedroom. So I still find graphic sex and sexual violence to be completely confronting, particularly if it is worked well into a story. Karen Runge wrote a story called Good Help that was published in Shock Totem recently which blew my mind. It was about a nursing home carer who sexually teases/tortures one of her patients.

4.     Does your family read your work?

Nope. Wife hates horror and my daughters are all teeny tiny. I proudly showed my dad my contributor copy of Grey Matter Presss Deaths Realm anthology, only to snatch it out of his hands when I remembered that the story I co-wrote for it with Karen Runge is replete with graphic sex scenes. I wouldnt have wanted to give him another stroke. Crisis averted!

5.     Does your writing make you uneasy?

Everything I write makes me uneasy because I write for myself, in a way. Im aware that the chief purpose of fiction is basically entertainment but I like to broach themes and subject matter that speaks to me and my personal experience somewhat. So when Im writing about bullying or acrimonious divorce, or family, or fear of the unknownIm really channelling my own feelings on these issues and exploring how I feel about them. I also believe that this kind of method writing is the most honest way of writing and potentially the most entertaining for readers. From a literary critics perspective, I suppose it provides a great insight into me when you look at my work through the prism of The Author v.s The Implied Author. Or the Man who suffers v.s The mind that creates.

6.     Who would you say you write like?

I came into horror as a Warhammer 40k/Horus Heresy fan and a HP Lovecraft junkie. I completely lost my shit though, when I saw how Jack Ketchum writes something just as scary, or far more soand its just about the evil within human beings. Ive written several stories now where even the good protagonist who has been wronged or poorly treated resolves the issue through less that tasteful methods. Often in my stories, the antagonist who does horrific things does them only because theyre seriously broken by their own horrible experiences. I like to explore the theme that were all somewhat monstrous, just in varying degrees. Whether my writing is really reminiscent of Jack Ketchum style, is another matter. One can always dream.

7.     Who are your favourite authors?

To name a few:

Jack Ketchum
Shane McKenzie
HP Lovecraft
Stephen King
Richard Laymon
Clive Barker
Angela Slatter
Felicity Dowker
Kaaron Warren
Karen Runge
Sarah Read

8.     Who influences you as a writer?

Most of my major influences at the moment are female writers that Ive made connections with through the horror fiction scene and the Australian speculative fiction scene.  Angela Slatter is a big influence, not only for the amazing talent of her writing, but shes an A grade professional and has provided me with some great advice. Ive also been lucky to benefit from the advice of authors such as Kaaron Warren who regularly attends Conflux con and is also a member of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild.
Thematically, Jack Ketchum and HPL have been quite big influences for me. Although I think that the more I move away from being influenced by HPL, the better my writing is becoming and the more unique my voice is.
Needless to say when Jack agreed to write an introduction for my first horror anthology, I was beside myself. In truth, I still am.

9.     Do you remember what your first horror book was that you read?

I was never interested in horror, as a child or an adult. Probably he closest I came to was a love of the Warhammer 40k/Horus Heresy universe. Now I find it kinda ironic, given that I was well into the heavy metal scene and horror has obvious links to that sub-culture. The first horror book I ever read was the extended version of Stephen Kings The Stand. I actually listened to the 23hr audiobook version. I loved it. The second book I listened to was the version of The Shadow over Innsmouth from Wayne Junes The Dark Worlds of HP Lovecraft. It is THE BEST audio version of that story. In fact, every story written by HPL that Wayne June has read is scary as all hell. He has the perfect voice for it. From there I looked up other books and authors that Wayne had read, which included Jack Ketchums Hide and Seek, which remains one of my very favourite stories. I love audiobooks. Something about them makes me feel like a little kid on the parents knee being read a story. Theyre also awesome because you can listen to them while vacuuming the floor or mowing the lawn.

10.  How old were you? 
28, maybe.

11.  Is there any subject you will not touch as an author?
No. The only subjects I wont touch are ones that I havent thought of or dont yet know how I want to address. I agree with S.G Larner and her recent article on the Grey Matter Press blog which broached writing about taboo subjects such as a rape or child abuse. These things need to be written about. Writing about them isnt the problem. Writing about them poorly is.  I sympathise with magazines, publishers or markets who get a lot of bizarre and upsetting torture porn fiction or stuff from sickos who are living vicariously through their fiction. I dont agree with blanket bans on subject matter though as it throws the baby out with the bathwater.

12.  What was the best advice you were given as a writer? 

Angela Slatter said:  Dont be an arse.  This was the best professional advice I was given. The best writing advice I was ever given was just Read, and read widely.  So much of what we learn about writing, from grammar to vocabulary, to style, to inspirations for new stories etc, is all learned or appropriated by osmosis, from reading.

13.  If you had to start all over again, what would you do different?

Id have started earlier thats all. Im at the point in my life where weve got 3 kids under age 3 and its making it hard to read and write and devote the time to my craft that Id really like to. Im just trying to be patient and write when I can and make smart career decisions with regards to my writing and editing gigs. Its nt too much of a hassle. I have 3 beautiful girls and family comes first. It also allows me to bide my time and work out the projects I really want to do, when I want to do them and how is best for me to achieve them. Im not sure if Id look my writing/editing career so critically if I wasnt forced to take that step back from it.

14.  How many books do you read a year?

No idea. I dont bother to count because the number is depressingly low. I actually read more short stories and novellas these days than novels, for the simple reason that Im constrained by time. Now I wonder why shorts arent absolutely massive. Theyre the equivalent of watching a TV show instead of watching an entire movie. Short doses of entertainment that people in this modern world can easily slip into their hectic lives and lifestyles. I guess this is why TOR have recently released a novella range. I suspect theyre betting on an upswing in popularity for this format, for the reasons Ive just described.

14.  Do you write every day?
 I look at my fiction and either write or edit every weekday. Weekends is just for family, right now. I would say I write 5 days a week, even if its only 100 words per day. I get extremely agitated if I dont exercise that creative outlet. If I dont get to write I not only am miserable, but I tend to make those around me miserable too.

Twitter:  @herodfel

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