>Adrian Chamberlin Interviewed
Hello folks for today’s reading pleasure we have an interview with upcoming UK author Ade Chamberlin
GNOH – Hi Adrian, how’s things down South?
AC – Hi Jim – like me, the Beautiful South is full of the joys of spring. Lovely to be here.
GNOH – Tell us your latest news.
AC – The Fear of the Dark anthology from Horrorbound has just been published, containing my story Daughters of the Night, and my story False Light appeared in the March issue of Lovecraft eZine. A literary mash-up of the wrecking scene in Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn with some of HPL’s Deep Ones. It had its first appearance on the short story competition thread in Ian Woodhead’s British Horror Novels Forum, and it’s a real joy to see it appear in cyberland again in what is shaping up to be an excellent Lovecraftian market.
AC – I started writing as soon as I could hold a pen! I’ve always had a love of stories, enjoyed getting lost in other worlds created by words, and so it was only natural that I began to create my own. And the stories always involved ghosts and big scary monsters…I’ve been writing in this field ever since, although I did stop for about four years due to an addiction to eBay selling. That’s in the past, thankfully, and although the writing break did have some benefits I don’t think I could stop for that length of time again.
Getting published is only a part of it – the creation of stories and worlds, and the desire to continually improve on what I’ve done before, is what drives me as a writer. The other challenge is to come up with new and original ideas, to attempt to write something that’s never been written before – that drives me, and keeps me happily chained to the PC.
GNOH– What inspired you to pen your first novel?
AC – The idea for The Caretakers came in 1998. I’d read Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse Blue, a satirical drama set in a fictional Cambridge College and it inspired me to write a supernatural thriller in a similar environment. The colleges of Oxford and Cambridge are a real gift to the horror writer: medieval settings, arcane customs and traditions but firmly rooted in a twenty-first century city that is world-famous for its scientific innovations. The ultimate combination of ancient and modern. I had a job delivering office supplies and furniture to the Cambridge Colleges so there was plenty of inspiration for All Souls College.
But what made The Caretakers the book it is was the song El Presidente by the band Drugstore and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, released in 1998.
It came from the skies
It burst through the gates
With no mercy or disguise
With their hearts set out in flames
I know I’ve seen the master plan
That’s what sparked the idea of incorporating the Green Man mythology and the meteorite strike. It was also a lot of fun to incorporate real life local history – if you do an online search for Elizabeth Woodcock you may be surprised about the role I created for her in the backstory to The Caretakers. And then, of course, there’s Boudicca…
GNOH – What scares you?
AC – Scorpions. They scare the living shit out of me. Indeed, when I was younger anything that had the potential to sting made me fill my pants. I couldn’t be in the same room as the telly when the Zygons were menacing Doctor Who.
I had a phobia about wasps when I accidently crushed one in my hand, because the sting buried itself into my palm and turned septic.
I no longer flap when a wasp comes buzzing at me, but scorpions just…well, there’s something evil about the look of them. Designed by a Creator who woke up with a thumping hangover and a hatred of humanity, and thought ‘right, you buggers. This’ll fuck you up big-time.’
GNOH– Your first short story was published in Graveyard Rendezvous. That must have been a huge honour what with being a life-long Guy N Smith fan.
AC – Definitely. Lovebite was my first ever story submission, way back in 1998. Not only was it published, it came first in the GR team’s writing competition, so it was a double happy dance for me. Meeting Guy at that year’s convention was a very nerve-wracking experience for me, though – I’ve been reading his books since I was a kid, and meeting one of your childhood idols is a strange experience, especially as he’s so normal and down to earth. You don’t expect that with horror writers – least of all famous ones!
My first GNS convention was also strange because I couldn’t work out who were fans, who were friends and who were family members – but after a while you realise those distinctions blur. Fans become friends and vice versa!
The beauty of Graveyard Rendezvous is that it’s a magazine put out by a legendary author who is keen to promote the works of new writers, which very few do. Every issue has a ‘Fan Fiction’ special, and regular writing competitions, usually based around a theme. I’m pleased to see that GR has been resurrected, and is working under the very capable hands of Ceri Steadman.
GNOH – Your short story The Bodymen in the Spectrum Collection, tells a tale of a bodyman. I’ve heard on the grapevine that you were at one point a bodyman. You must have some tales to tell?
AC – Oh dear God, yes. (Shudders uncontrollably.) ‘Bodyman’ wasn’t the official job title, of course – the job advert I answered to was ‘collection driver’. For a pet crematorium. I lasted four weeks before I jacked it in.
The veterinary surgeons we collected from always referred to us as ‘bodymen’. Notes and cards left for us were indeed addressed to ‘the bodymen.’ Even the ones who knew us on sight and knew our names called us this.
Quite simply, it was the worst job I’ve ever had. Most of what you’ve read in The Bodymen is true (apart from the reanimated dogs, of course). My first shift was greeted by the sight of a headless cow being lifted by a telescopic forklift truck into the crematorium fires; the cow heads were kept separate so that a Ministry man could take longitudinal samples of their brains on a weekly basis to identify BSE; we had to go to veterinary surgeries out-of-hours so as not to upset their clients, and the vets would leave the bodies in chest freezers in a shed – if they would fit, of course.
The larger dogs would be left in the shed next to the freezer, and the one I remember most was an Alsatian in a Brighton surgery. An operation that went wrong and the vet didn’t bother bleeding the animal – when we got the truck back to base the floor of the wagon was covered in blood. December 1999 was bitterly cold, but not cold enough to stop the blood – and the rest of the corpses – stinking the truck out. God knows what it would’ve been like in summer. That’s right, the wagons weren’t refrigerated…
At the time I thought to myself ‘I’ll write a book about this one day.’ Trouble is, no-one will believe it…but it acted as inspiration for the short story The Bodymen. There’s plenty of material there to go back to, so further Bodymen chronicles will be forthcoming.
GNOH – I’ve had the honour of reading The Caretakers. Are there any underlying themes or messages you tried to bring to the story?
AC – I’m really pleased you enjoyed the novel, Jim. My intention was to make the book a fast-paced, enjoyable supernatural thriller with no heavy issues or subtext, but I found myself addressing and exploring certain themes that I hadn’t planned for.
The notion of self-sacrifice is something that fascinates me, and that is hinted at in the chapter when Andy Hughes and Rob Benson pass the War Memorial in Cambridge. The idea of giving yourself up to a higher purpose, ‘for the love of humanity’ if you will – and then questioning that belief, asking if it’s the right thing to do. It’s free will that drives the ultimate sacrifice in the book, and the very human reaction to fight against it.
Morality is a very grey area in The Caretakers. The actions of the Fellowship of All Souls are done (they believe) for the greater good, and it was interesting to explore the character of David Searles, and his internal suffering as he questions his onerous duty.
So moral dilemmas are explored, but there’s no easy answer – or indeed resolution. The role of the Green Man figure – the embodiment of The Elder – adds an extra layer of mystery, in that human beings are only in charge of their destinies to a point.
The Elder says ‘there are rules that even I must obey’, which points to a higher power governing all things…but this power that will only work if the human being makes his or her own decision. Nothing is written in stone, nothing is pre-destined – human free will decides the day.
GNOH– The Caretakers reads like a British novel, was this something you did deliberately or is this just your natural voice?
AC – Just my natural voice. I grew up with a love of British horror novels, and the main appeals were the dialogue and settings. I felt I could relate to those more than I could in a book written in a different country, because it made the horror more immediate. There’s also a downbeat, very cynical flavour and a dry humour I find in British horror which appeals to me.
That’s obviously been reflected in the book, certainly in the dialogue from the likes of Rob Benson. I’m pleased that the team at Dark Continents didn’t want to Americanize the text to make it gel more with overseas readers; one of our selling points is that each release will reflect the flavour and voice of the country of origin.
GNOH – There is, to me anyway, a theme of duty to traditions that runs through The Caretakers. How personal was this novel to you?
AC – Personal in that like most first novels, there’s a lot of me and my history in there. The first draft too much so – it was only after shoving the manuscript in a drawer for a few years, being embarrassed by what I’d written, that I managed to get a bit of distance and could look at the work more objectively. So when I dragged it out and re-read it, a lot of the semi-autobiographical stuff went. Good job too, because it slowed the story down and was very self-indulgent.
But a lot of themes personal to me have remained, because they actually formed the major conflicts and moral dilemmas of the novel. Jason Franklin is a case in point – I guess he’s the embodiment of all the ‘daddy issues’ I have, but he serves a valid role in the book, and his own ‘daddy issues’ really drive the plot.
Tradition is very important in Oxbridge colleges; High Table and Founder’s Feasts play a large role in many colleges’ social calendars. The shadow of history falls over the College and influences the events in the book – the prologue is set on the eve of the crushing of Boudicca’s revolt against the Romans, but the main story begins with Andy Hughes and Graham Pearce. It’s their history – and a matter of honour – that forces Andy to return to Cambridge and sets in chain the sequence of events.
GNOH– What album would you pick as a soundtrack to The Caretakers?
AC – I’ve already got one! Many years ago I compiled a CD with tracks from various 90s indie groups that served as background music to the writing of the novel, and I often dreamed of it being a true soundtrack to a film version if The Caretakers ever made it to Hollywood. Needless to say, El Presidente by Drugstore appears in there, along with tracks from the Manic Street Preachers, Verve, Broadcast, Faith No More and Cooper Temple Clause.
GNOH– You’re Board Member and UK Liaison for Dark Continents Publishing (DCP). How did you hook up with DCP, and what exactly does your job entail?
AC – We all met up on the DF Underground early last year. When the site first appeared, Serenity J Banks put out the call for moderators for the forum, and I volunteered. That’s how I got to know Serenity, John Prescott and Dave Youngquist.
It was the Underground Rising online collaboration project that really got us hooked up, though, because it was through this that we got to know each others’ style of writing. Then John began the M is for Monster project, which worked very well.
Dave Youngquist at this time was fed up with the treatment he was receiving from his current publishers, and he and Tracie McBride discussed the idea of a writers’ co-operative. He approached us all with the idea, and Dark Continents was born.
My job as UK liaison is to promote the works of the overseas authors on these shores, and also the books of the British writers we take on. That’s happened a lot more quickly than I imagined – as you may be aware, Dave Jeffery and Simon Kurt Unsworth have joined our happy crew, and will be launching Campfire Chillers and Quiet Houses respectively at this year’s FantasyCon in Brighton. I’ve booked a dealers’ table and will be manning it, and will be organising a launch party and ensuring that the writers don’t get too drunk…
Another task of mine is to write the back-cover blurbs for our books. That’s a job I really enjoy – the cover has got to be good enough for the prospective reader/customer to pick the book from the shelf and turn it over to read the blurb. And the blurb has got to be good enough to make that reader take the book from the shelf to the cash register. Condensing the story or theme and ‘hooking’ the reader is a challenge I really enjoy.
And as if that isn’t enough…I’ve also been approaching reviewers and bloggers for reviews of our works. So, if you’re interested in reviewing our books, please contact me on adrianc@darkcontinents
GNOH – I hear you’re travelling over to Texas for the World Horror Convention for the launch. Is there anyone you are hoping to meet?
AC – This’ll be my first trip to the USA, and I can’t wait. The people I’m really looking forward to meeting are my fellow Dark Continents board members. We’ve got to know each other quite well over the last year via DF Underground and MAB, and the weekly board meetings via Skype have enabled us to hear each others’ voices and have a chat and a laugh as well as making important decisions relating to the company – all in real time. To meet them in the flesh is going to be great.
Also, it’ll be nice to bump into the British horror writers who’ll be in Austin, and I’m going to try to press gang them into attending the Bat Cruise!
GNOH– I’ve asked a couple of my American friends who are going to pop along and show some love. What can they expect to find at your table?
AC – Ah, thank ‘ee sir! Who can I expect?
Our table will have limited edition print copies of all the books from the founding members (with the WHC 2011 logo on the cover), including the paperback edition of Dave Jeffery’s Necropolis Rising, the UK’s bestselling horror eBook.
These editions will ONLY be available to buy at the convention, after which the books will be released via the usual distribution channels without the logo. Bookmarks, some pretty funky merchandise that our publicity director, Sylvia Schults has organised…and of course, free tickets to our Launch Party. But bring your own rabies shots…
GNOH– so what does the future hold for you?
AC – After our launch at WHC the next major event for me is FantasyCon in October, with Dave Jeffery and Simon Kurt Unsworth. Then I’ll be liaising with Dean M Drinkel for the UK launch of P is for Phobia, the short story collection from Dark Continents where each invited author has written a terrifying story about a phobia based on a letter of the alphabet they’ve been given.
As a traditional publisher, we’ll be open to unsolicited submissions for a period this summer. I expect we’ll be inundated with material from new and established writers, which will take up a lot of our time but will also be very worthwhile.
On the writing front, I’m cracking on with Fairlight – a Lovecraftian novel which explores the themes of teenage self-harm and the steps taken to combat it with a lethal cure that is as destructive as it is necessary…because the self-induced mutilation brings forth malevolent, destructive entities from another dimension. ‘In pain there is rebirth. In mutilation there is evolution.’
I’ll be posting a few sample chapters on my website in the summer to give folk who enjoyed The Caretakers an idea of what to expect from my follow-up.
I’m also co-writing the third instalment of the Snareville saga with DM Youngquist, and have various anthology appearances in Peter Mark May’s Alt-Dead and AJ French’s Monk Punk coming up. Also, two projects with Canadian writer Suzanne Robb, in which we’ll be bringing a new twist to the zombie genre. Chuckles and gore guaranteed!
As for the long term future…who knows? One thing’s for sure, we at Dark Continents are committed to growing as a company and will continue to provide nothing less than top-notch horror fiction – from ourselves and our future authors. I’m really pleased to be a part of it.
GNOH – Thanks as always it’s been a pleasure chatting with you.
Ade’s début novel will be released at the World Horror Con in April. I highly recommend getting a copy along with all the other books from Dark Continents Publishing. In the meantime you can read some of Ade’s short stories in the anthologies The Spectrum Collection and M is For Monster both available from all the usual online stores