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Friday, 24 April 2015
Men in Horror: WILLIAM COOK
I first read William Cook a couple of years ago and was immediately enthralled with his writing and his style. The book I read was BLOOD RELATED. I loved it. It was intense, creepy, dark and twisted. For some reason, my review of this book has disappeared from Amazon and Goodreads, so I dug it up and reposted it.
Be warned, this tale is not for anyone who dislikes gore and violence. This is a brilliant tale of fathers and sons, serial killing at its finest and the legacy families create. Charlie and Caleb Cunningham are twins and serial killers, following in the footsteps of their father and grandfather.
The story is told through letters, news articles and from the points of view of the killers, the police and the doctors involved. All the pieces of the story are woven together beautifully through the the magical way William Cook has with syntax. Well worth the read....if you can stomach it. William Cook
1.When did you start writing
I started writing horror stories (although I
didn’t know they were horror stories) when I was
about ten years old. The first one I wrote won a school competition – it was about a boy who gets lost in a strange desert where he
witnesses giant heads falling out of the sky. He discovers that the heads are
being fired out of a cannon by a voodoo witch-doctor who has somehow reversed
the process of shrinking heads. I think I got the idea after watching King Solomon’s Mines and seeing the scary witch doctor in the movie. My first
real horror publication was a story called ‘Devil Inside’ which was published
in 2010 in Lee Pletzer’s Masters of Horror
Anthology. Since then I haven’t stopped.
you written in any other genre?
Yes, I have recently ventured into Science
Fiction, Young Adult and even had a story published in a collection of children’s Christmas tales. I also write a lot of poetry – too much perhaps, and my first ever book published was a limited edition
release called ‘Journey: The Search
for Something’ way back in 1996.
makes you uncomfortable?
Bad reviews! Seriously though, I am not a fan
of needles – absolutely hate
getting jabbed, especially at the dentist when they use those syringes and
stick them in the roof of your mouth etc. Bullies also make me uncomfortable
and I quite often write about them. Usually really bad things happen to them in
your family read your work?
I deliberately don’t encourage them to read my (horror) books for obvious reasons.
Although some of my newer work like the kid’s stories and science fiction I don’t mind as much. I’ve found it’s very true the old adage that the worst critics are family and
friends – I don’t know why the hell it is but I can count the friends and family
(you know who you are) who have bothered reading my books on one hand! I used
to actively seek feedback on my writing from friends and family in the early
days, but gave up when I realized any critique from such quarters was largely
pointless as it was either biased or I could tell they hadn’t actually read the work in question. Sort of related to the
question . . . I am working on a small kids book with my seven-year-old daughter
who is a keen writer herself. She has written about ten pages so far of a story
about zombies (don’t know where she gets
that from!) and it’s really good.
Obviously I’m biased (see above)
but it really is good and I’m looking forward to
publishing it for her when it’s finished.
your writing make you uneasy?
Most of the time, no. However, it really
depends on the subject matter though and I must admit to getting a bit nervous
about some of my research subjects for stories. Not so much in the subject
material but in what other people or readers will think of the finished
stories. I am a bit paranoid about the NSA and their monitoring of certain
taboo subjects that are common to the grist of the horror mill. Subjects like ‘terror’, murder and serial
killers, for example, are common research subjects for horror authors and ‘red-flag’ search strings that
are actively monitored by the powers that be. I used to feel uneasy when
writing about topics (such as described above) but I think that I have largely
become desensitized to the emotional effects of dealing with this material on a
daily basis. Writing ‘Blood Related, my
novel about a family of serial-killers, definitely made me pretty strung-out
and slightly disturbed due to having to project the main character’s stream of consciousness on to the page via a first person
narrative. Five years of my free-time went into this book and I researched just
about every case of serial murder that I could find which definitely impacted
on my psyche but paid off in the final presentation of the story. Suffice to
say, I now have an encyclopedic knowledge of these weirdos whether I like it or
would you say you write like?
I write like me of course! My writing style or ‘voice’ is a collage of
influence and styles – everything from the
way I learned to write at school, the accent of my written voice (a combination
of UK and US spelling and theory), the authors I have read over and over again,
and the evolution of my own style and development as a writer. I don’t try to write like anyone but I do try to write like someone who
knows what they’re doing (hopefully).
Over the past five years I have been intentionally writing in the (north)
American vernacular and it was a decision that I worried about for a while but
it largely came down to the way certain words were spelled and styled and now
it is like second nature to me. My schooling was based on a U.K. education
system and we were taught to spell and write according to the commonwealth
rules and style-guides of the day.
are your favourite authors?
I have many favorite authors and it will be no
surprise that writers like Stephen King, James Herbert, Robert Bloch, Robert
McCammon, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe and Ramsey Campbell are at the top of
the list. Over and above horror the authors I love to read again and again are
Sherwood Anderson, Roald Dahl, James Ellroy, Colin Wilson, Charles Bukowski,
Ray Bradbury, Peter Carey, Dostoyevsky and Thomas Harris. For a full rundown on
my favorite books and authors, check out my list here: http://www.williamcookwriter.com/2013/08/favorite-books-list.html
influences you as a writer?
I find that I’m not really influenced by people directly but that I am more
influenced by the things that people create. Art influences me greatly in my
writing, film and music particularly, but graphic art and, obviously, written
works conjure up emotion and IDEAS that definitely inform my own work. Probably
the biggest influences on me have been Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. King for
his amazing and prolific output and superb writing style and advice (‘On Writing’ really changed the
way I approached my writing), Bradbury for his simplicity and story-telling
ability that encourages original and creative thought (his stories influenced
my dreams for a long time) – a very inspirational
pair. Ultimately though, without being too modest, I am my biggest influence.
It is up to me to drive myself forward and to push hard with my writing. The
outside world is full of influence and affectation, but at the end of the day,
it is my will-power and my mind that allows me to sift through all the detritus
and glean the remaining gems and pearls of wisdom and apply it to my own style
and philosophy. One of the works I studied at University was Harold Bloom’s ‘The Anxiety of
Influence’ and it really struck
home with me. The central tenet being that writers (specifically poets in Bloom’s discourse, but equally applicable to writers in general in my
opinion) are inspired by writers that have come before them and that this
somewhat inescapable influence inspires a sense of anxiety in authors
attempting to forge new and original works. I believe it is true to a large
extent and I work hard to try and create work that is as free from the influence
of other authors’ styles and subject
matter as much as possible. However, when you write genre fiction, this is a
nearly impossible task. No writer creates in a vacuum and for every style we
have a representative genre (or sub-genre) and a group of influential writers
and works at the helm of such literary movements, regarded as exemplars and
pinnacles by which up-and-coming authors should somehow emulate to attain the
same success. Unless an author doesn’t
read, influence is unavoidable but, in my view, not necessarily a bad thing.
9. Do you remember what your first horror book
was that you read?
The Monster’s Room (or Pete’s Angel) by Hope
Campbell introduced me to Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolfman when I was
about seven years old. Loved it! The first real horror book I read was probably
James Herbert’s The Rats at about
eleven years old, followed closely by Shaun Hutson’s Spawn, Stephen King’s
Carrie and Night Shift, and Robert McCammon’s Mystery Walk. Suffice to say by the age of twelve I was hooked on
horror in any shape or form.
old were you?
See above. I used to watch Hammer House of
Horror on Sunday nights with my Mum when I was eleven/twelve years old. Still
cannot work out why mum used to let me watch those shows but wouldn’t let me listen to KISS because she thought they were ‘Satanic’! Go figure!
there any subject you will not touch as an author?
Graphic descriptions of pedophilia are
something I have no interest in portraying in my work. I have written stories
about these creeps before but I feel it is unnecessary to portray the acts for
any reason. Implication is far more subtle and effective than graphic
description. I write horror that attempts to confront readers with their own
fears, not make them sick in the process.
was the best advice you were given as a writer?
“If you want to be a
writer, just write.” Pretty simple
really, but a no-brainer (obviously). The best advice about writing I have
read/received is Stephen King’s excellent
memoir/writing guide –‘On Writing.’ It is a wonderfully
inspiring book for a budding writer, and more so for the writer of dark
fiction. Highly recommended.
you had to start all over again, what would you do different?
I would begin writing as soon as possible, at
any age. Self-doubt is one of the biggest killers to a writer’s self-confidence and career. In retrospect, I see that I could have
had established myself as an author a lot earlier than I have if I had just
given a go instead of doubting my ability and listening to naysayers who were
mostly inexperienced or wannabe writers themselves. I would probably not
restrict myself to genre fiction as I have up until now. I think I would have
made more of an attempt to develop my story-writing skills in Science Fiction
and Children’s literature. Oh
well, tomorrow’s only a day away – still time to alter direction.
many books do you read a year?
Between twenty-forty books now that I have a
Kindle. Before I started reading eBooks I’d probably only read ten books a year while I was writing. Before I
started writing seriously I used to read about forty novels/books a year at
you write every day?
In one form or another. I do a lot of blog
posts and marketing which cuts into my writing time but I try and write at
least 1,000 words a day. Life is very busy as I look after two primary school
age kids when they’re no tat school and
I have a couple of casual jobs that bring in a little bit of cash. Luckily I
have a very supportive wife who earns a good salary and who encourages me with
my work from home. Without her support, life would be very tough as a writer.
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