INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTOPHER FOWLER
(This interview originally appeared in Horror Bound Magazine on 28 August 2010.) Christopher Fowler is a multi award-winning author of over 30 books and is the author of the critically acclaimed Bryant and May mystery novels. His first thriller was the bestseller ROOFWORLD. Subsequent novels include DISTURBIA, PSYCHOVILLE, CALABASH and SPANKY. His books have been optioned by everyone from Guillermo Del Toro (Spanky) and Jude Law (Psychoville). In the past year he has been nominated for eight UK book awards and is the winner of the Edge Hill prize (2008) for OLD DEVIL MOON. Fowler's short story "The Man in the Rain" is featured in Horror Bound Magazine Publications’ Fear of the Dark: An Anthology of Dark Stories - now available as an ebook. We are pleased to feature Christopher Fowler in our Issue 13 featured author interview. You have been a successful author for quite a few years now. Start from the beginning. When did you decide that you had to write? At school. I didn't get much pocket-money so I used to write to newspapers to get 'Star Letters' printed for a fiver. I was pretty successful once I figured out what papers were looking for. Nobody pays for letters now. You have a very impressive body of work behind you and you continue to entertain with your excellent "Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery" series. Your horror work is not quite as well known here in North America. Why do you think this is so? It's interesting that in England  I'm still best known for horror, with around a dozen genre novels and ten volumes of short horror stories to my name. I didn't get US distribution, simple as that. By the time I'd made a name in the field, horror in the US was going through a bad patch. I hope to get all the rights back to my best stories and publish a bumper edition in the US one day, as I'm very proud of their range. What is it that draws you to the horror genre both as a writer and as a reader? There's something about an author removing the safety net from you when you're reading that appeals. A sense of 'My God, where on earth can we go from here?' that you don't get anywhere else. I'm not interested in the physical effects of horror - the most horrific thing you could ever do is describe someone's journey through a fatal illness - but in the invisible fears that lie behind our lives. By understanding them we confront them and learn to deal with them. The horror genre itself is a reflection and sometimes makes a statement on the human condition. Would you comment on that? Is there a place for modern horror in literature? Good horror allows us to see what happens at the extreme end of human nature - when someone begins to doubt their own mind, their very existence. It's a wonderful litmus test for the soul, which is why I think so many great authors from Dickens to Forster have been drawn to writing such tales. I ask this of almost every writer I interview and I have to ask it again. There seems to be a stigma attached to writing horror. As a UK writer, is the stigma as pronounced in your country? Probably more so than anywhere. The literary community is horrifically snobbish about horror because they think of, say, the Saw films rather than Arthur Conan Doyle or Robert Louis Stevenson. Despite winning many awards for my horror stories, occasionally a critic will tell me it's not a genre worth reviewing! Who are some of your favourite underrated writers? I have way too many favourites. Ira Levin was a genius. 'Rosemary's Baby' isn't just frightening because Rosemary is having the Devil's child, it breaks the heart because Guy, her husband, has deliberately chosen to betray her. Michael McDowell's wonderful novels and his astonishing six volume Blackwater Saga are highly underrated, as are Thomas Tryon's 'The Other' and 'Harvest Home'. For short stories, the almost forgotten Dino Buzzati and writers like Elizabeth Jane Howard are favourites. If you want to be disturbed, read Howard's 'Three Miles Up'. What writer(s) influenced  you the most as a young author. Who has the greatest influence on you today? Four big influences. JG Ballard managed to see the future and couldn't touch pen to paper without being subversive. I love his clinical writing style. Ray Bradbury is the greatest analyst of childhood hopes and fears. Evelyn Waugh's black humour touches everything I do (The end chapter of 'A Handful Of Dust' often appears in horror anthologies as 'The Man Who LOved Dickens' - and of course the greatest writer in the world - Charles Dickens, especially for the utter darkness of 'Bleak House'. The realm of the paranormal definitely informs and inspires horror writers and horror fans. You have had some personal experiences with this realm. Would you tell us about your near death experience? You have also spoken about your ability to contact your best friend during times of great stress. How do you believe this to be possible and what impact has it had on your life? These are areas I'm still not comfortable dealing with. I nearly died on two separate occasions, and each time my best friend Jim appeared literally out of nowhere to save me. I can tell you about one of these; I totaled my car and was dragged from the wreckage by two ladies who ran a Greek restaurant. They didn't know what to do, and as they were deciding, I saw Jim come into the empty restaurant - he'd had a bad feeling about me and had come to find me from miles away. I do feel we had a psychic bond that lasted many years. When he died I lost part of myself. There's a photo of him in 'White Corridor' because he was the inspiration for my main character. Movies have had a great impact on your life and work. Would you introduce us to your film work and how did this begin? After working in half a dozen ad agencies, including J Walter Thompson, I teamed with my producer Jim, launched a company and began creating campaigns for movies. I went to LA to head up an office in Beverly Hills, but didn't enjoy my time there, and eventually headed home. Our company, Creative Partnership, gained a reputation for opening ‘problem’ films like 'Company Of Wolves', ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover’, ‘Reservoir Dogs’, ‘Trainspotting’, ‘Moulin Rouge’ and the Mike Leigh films. I loved working on the Bond films because we traveled the world. I worked on all of the original Nightmare On Elm St films. What are some of your favourite horror movies and why? I think a list would have to include 'Spoorloos' (for its sheer creepiness of death in bright sunlight), 'The Others' and 'The Orphanage' (for their tragic fatalism), 'Witchfinder General' (best historical horror), 'Theatre Of Death' (for outrageousness), 'Rosemary's Baby', 'The Exorcist', 'The Abominable Dr Phibes' (for its Avengers-style vibe), 'Plague Of The Zombies', and some obscurer titles like 'Dr Petiot', 'Bienvenu A Cadavre-Les-Mains' and 'Calvaire'. Any advice to aspiring writers? This is a partial version of a list I put into my memoir 'Paperboy' (which has an awful lot in it about horror films). The book hasn't been published in the US, which I'm sad about. It's my favourite book to date. My Rules For Writing -Fiction means you can make things up. -Don’t be ashamed of embarrassing yourself. -Ask yourself what your hero really wants. -Be prepared to think the unthinkable. -When you imagine your story can’t go further, go further. -You don’t always need to explain why people do things. -Crisis moments are better when they’re completely still. -Some of the best stories occur because the hero is slow to correct a mistake. -Everyone has the same feelings; they just think differently. -Leave room for your characters to breathe. -You have to love something about your hero. -Always keep the story moving forward. -Characters who contradict themselves are more human. -Dialogue is not conversation. -Life is a mess to which fiction brings a shape, which is why it’s called fiction. -There’s a difference between being realistic and being believable. -Make sure that something always remains hidden. -Nobody knows why people fall in love. -Believe what you write, even when it’s all made up. -No matter how deeply hidden, there will always be love. Would you introduce us to any upcoming work that we can look forward to? Well, the problem with me is you never ever know what you're going to get next, as I'm working on a dozen things at a time. But upcoming is a big new serious horror collection called 'The Horrors' - it will be a limited edition, but hopefully after that I'll sell mass market rights if someone wants to buy it! Then a horror thriller called 'Dream World', set in a housing compound in the Middle East, a dark thriller called 'There's Something I Haven't Told You', and 'Hell Train', my homage to Hammer horror. Thanks Chris!
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You can find Christopher Fowler’s story “The Man in the Rain” in our anthology, Fear of the Dark - now available as an ebook!
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You can find Christopher Fowler’s short story “The Man in the Rain” in our anthology, Fear of the Dark - now available as an ebook!