Hush, You’re In For A Mesmer Time. Tim Lebbon Has Popped In For A Chat

It is a great honour  today to present to you an interview with one of my genre heroes, Tim Lebbon, author of Mesmer, Dusk, Dawn, The Everlasting, and The Thief of Broken Toys.  I’ve been a fan of Tim’s work all thanks to a review of Mesmer in SFX Magazine.  (Note : since conducting this interview Tim has completed his Three Peak challange and raised over £1300.)

GNOH – Hi Tim, how is the training going for the Three Peak Challange?

Great!  As I finish this interview, the challenge is 3 days away.  Feeling fitter than I have in ages, and really looking forward to it.
GNOH – How much money are you hoping to raise?
I’ve raised about £1200 so far.  But I’m also hoping a little publishing venture I’m planning will raise some more money, after I’ve done the challenge.  Not certain about that yet, but it’s in my plans…
GNOH –   Do you have any other challenges lined up?
Yeah … the Mountain Trail Challenge in September (a 20 or 30 mile trek/run across the Beacons), the Sodbury Slog in November, and some 10k runs through the year.  Next year, I’m looking for something different, but equally challenging.  I’ve just bought a mountain bike, so maybe a duathlon!
GNOH – I’m sure everyone who reads this blog has heard of you, but just in case can tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a 41 year old bald horror and fantasy writer.  My first novel in 1997 was Mesmer, and since then I’ve had over 30 books published –– novels, novellas, collections, collaborations.  I’ve also written some screenplays.  I’ve won four British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, and several others.  Several exciting books due out soon, and possibly a movie or two, as well.  I’ve got a wife, two kids, a dog, and lots of books.
GNOH – How hard was it for you to decide to become a full time writer, that must have been a decision you wrestled with for ages?

I didn’t wrestle with it, so much as crave it.  I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and each year after the publication of Mesmer things got better and better (‘things’ being both acceptances, and money).  I worked in a reasonably secure, reasonably well-paid job, but while it kept the werewolf from the door, it was utterly unsatisfying.  Pretty much any job would have been, because all I wanted to do was write.  I went part-time in about 2002, then quit work fully in 2006, soon after my Mum passed away.  That was a bit of a nudge to make me go for it, because she was always very encouraging and pleased with what successes I had.  And several deals seemed to come together at the same time to make it possible.  I told my wife, “If I quit we’re OK for a year.”  She said, “Go for it.”  I’ve never looked back, and it’s the best time of my life.  It’s still hard work, and making my own money has its own obvious pressures.  But it’s great.  A dream come true.

GNOH – Now that you are a full time writer do you have your own man cave?  If you do what’s in it?
Yep.  Desk, laptop, books.  Lot of books.  Music centre, lots of CD’s.  Chair for the dog to sit on.  More books.  One wall covered in framed prints of lots of my book covers and some interior artwork.  A Hellboy model, nodding-head The Dude, a Kill Bunny.  More books.  A mess. 
GNOH – How easy do you find it to actually sit down and write?
I never find it easy, but can usually do it.  I often start off slow, messing around for an hour or two, and I’m very easily distracted (I’ve downloaded a programme called Freedom for my Mac, which means I can disconnect myself from the internet for a set amount of time).  But once I’m in the saddle and a book or story is going well, I can usually write quite quickly.  Just finished a 6,000 word story that took me a couple of days.  And if a screenplay’s going well I can do ten pages per day.
GNOH – Do you have any rituals you go through once a novel is finished?
Reach for nearest bottle of fine ale.  Open lid.  Pour.  Drink.  Repeat.

GNOH – Looking back at Hush, how do you feel that stands up as a piece of work compared to your most recent work?

Long time since I’ve thought about that one!  I think it stands up pretty well, to be honest. I’ve often wished it received more exposure than it had.  Had a blast working with Gavin on that one.  It was a lot of fun, and a really nice introduction to collaborating.  I found I enjoyed it, and have done loads more collaborations since.
GNOH – What lessons do you think you have learned in the intervening years?
Some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue.
GNOH – Let’s talk about The Thief of Broken Toys.  This is a stunningly brilliant story.  It affected me greatly.  What was the inspiration for the story?

Thank you very much, that’s kind.  The seed of the story will sound very glib but … I came up the the title, and loved it.  Which leads me on to the real inspiration… 

GNOH – it feels like a very personal piece.  How much of your own thoughts and fears of fatherhood became part of the story?
It is a very personal piece.  The title really got me thinking, and it never takes long with me for my mind to switch to nightmares.  My own nightmares.  And the worst of those, the very very worst, is the loss of a child.  Since I’ve become a father, my writing has changed quite a bit, and this story perhaps more than any I’ve written reflects some of my greatest fears.  I’ve written about losing a child and the lengths a parent will go to to get them back (in my novella In Perpetuity), but this one goes one step further, exploring the guilt that loss can leave behind.  It was incredibly hard to write, and it’s even hard now to write about writing it!  But, along with my novella The Reach of Children (which was about my mother’s death), it’s one of the very best things I’ve ever written.  Writing stuff from deep down really does show.
GNOH – How well has it been received by the fans?
Very much so, I’m delighted to say.  I’ve had a lot of nice emails from people saying how much they liked it, and it’s up for a Shirley Jackson Award, which is great.
GNOH –   You’ve done a number of collaborations, Gavin Williams, and Chris Golden spring to mind.  How does the collaborative process differ between different authors?

Interesting question.  Chris and I have done a lot together, and our process is pretty smooth –– usually a chapter each, email it, discuss, talk about what comes next, edit each other’s chapter, carry on.  We always used to start from a fairly detailed proposal, but as time goes on, we tend to just brainstorm and makes lots of notes, and continue note-taking throughout the writing process.  I’m writing screenplays with Stephen Volk, and he and I work in the room together, actually putting the words on the screen together and interrogating each scene, each line.  It’s a wonderfully refreshing way of collaborating, and an added bonus is that we get to have lots of coffee-shop discussions and lunches!  I’m writing a YA novel with Mark Morris, the method very similar to how Chris and I work.  I’m also working on a TV series pitch with an American screenwriter, and when we get down to writing episode 1, we’re planning on doing it in the same room.

So there’s always a slight difference in methodology, because everyone’s a little different in how they work on their own.  No one bakes a cake in exactly the same way, though the ingredients are often the same.  
GNOH – The Horror scene in the UK seems to be on an upswing, what do think is the cause of this?
It does seem pretty healthy right now, and honestly, I don’t know why.  If people ask I just say “These things are cyclical.”  That makes me sound intelligent, and as if I know why.  But I don’t. 
I’m not knocking it though.
GNOH – How much of a community is there in the UK?  I always see folks like yourself, Gary McMahon, Mark West, and Mark Morris hanging about together online.  Is there any friendly rivalry between you guys?
Many of my very best friends I’ve met through writing.  People I’ll be friends with ’til the day I  die.  It’s a wonderful community, and I feel all warm and fuzzy thinking about it.  I wouldn’t even say there’s any rivalry –– I’m always delighted for my friends when they get a good deal/review/film option.  Horror and fantasy writers really are among the nicest bunch of people I’ve ever met.  I think perhaps part of it is being able to talk about what we love when we all get together.  And another reason … everyone gets to write all the shit and bad thoughts out of their system.  Imagine if none of us wrote. 
Interesting experiment––prevent us all from writing for six months, then come to one of our conventions.  That would be interesting.
GNOH – Your writing encompasses many different sub – genre of horror, is there any one type you are most comfortable with?
I just enjoy writing, and whatever a particular story comes out as isn’t usually at the forefront of my mind when I begin.  The common aspect to all of my writing is an element of the fantastic.  Sometimes it’s pretty dark horror, sometimes supernatural, sometimes a fantasy story.  Just today I finished writing something that came out as a superhero story (though with rather dark undertones).  As my grandmother would have said, it’s just the way my mum put my hat on.  

GNOH – What made you decide to write a fantasy series?

I had an idea that I thought was a bit anti-fantasy –– a novel set in a world where magic no longer existed, and had withdrawn itself, leaving the world a ruin.  I wrote that (DUSK) and then just carried on.  I love making up whole new worlds.  Then fucking them up.
And … to echo what I said above, it was a story that grabbed me and that I wanted to tell, and which suited a fantasy background.  So it just happened that way.
GNOH – Did you always intended for it to be so dark?

That’s just me.  There’s not much humour in my work, and most of it is pretty grim.  I’m a very amenable, cheery bloke when you meet me (especially if you’re handing me a pint of ale).  And I think that’s why. 

I’m really not sure why my work is like that, and I try not to analyse it.  I guess I’m a bit of a thinker, and I’m interested in the Big Questions––I spend very little time watching Emmerdale or Britain’s Got Talent––and this is perhaps reflected in the seriousness of my writing. 
Three pints of Reverend James, however, and I’m giggling like a kid.
GNOH – Your latest novel is a  collaboration with Chris Golden, who first came up with the idea of The Secret Journeys of Jack London?
This is my favourite ‘genesis of a novel’ story, and one both Chris and I have told approximately six thousand times.  So, here’s the quick version:

We were at a Thai meal in Toronto, during the World Horror Convention there.  Maybe a dozen of us, eating good food, drinking good wine.  Someone asked me about the 30 Days of Night novelisation I did, and whether I added in any scenes.  I explained about the one big scene I added where a Polar bear wanders into Barrow, the vampires play with it, and then kill it.  I said how it would have made a great scene for the movie, and then someone––and I still can’t remember who––came up with the term, “Vampire Polar bears.”  Chris said, “We could totally do that!” and I said, “Yeah, White Fangs!”  We instantly sold the book to a publisher sitting at the table (they later pulled out, which was no bad news because HarperCollins bought the series).  So between us on the walk back to the hotel we came up with the Jack London idea, the retelling of his three most famous books with him as a main character and supernatural stuff going on … and vampire Polar bears.  So from one throwaway comment came a book series and a deal with Fox for the movie rights.  And, a lovely Thai meal.

GNOH – How many books have you now written with Chris?  Do the you of you have a special bond?
Yeah, we’re good mates.  He’s the hirsute one in the partnership.  So far we’ve written six novels together, and are currently writing the seventh (the third Jack London book, White Fangs).  We’ve also done the screenplay for Fox, a couple of TV series proposals that are hanging around, and there are other novels and screenplays we’re talking about.
GNOH – If you could be remembered for one piece of your work, what would it be?
The next novel I’m going to write.  Always the next one.
GNOH – What does the future hold for you, can you spill any beans on some of the things in the pipeline?

Well, it’s an interesting time.  ECHO CITY is out in the UK next month.  Exciting, being able to see my book on the shelves in my own country.  I’m working on a proposal for a new series of novels––can’t say too much about that just yet.  And I’m also working on several screenplay projects, a couple solo, and a couple in collaboration.  They’re at varying stages, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the screen work I’m doing, and hope to do a lot more in the future.  It’s a different challenge, and a lot of fun.

I’m also writing a couple of novellas for various markets––I love writing novellas––and have a whole list of projects on my pinboard that I really want to work on soon.  So many ideas, so little time. 
GNOH – Tim, it has been an honour to get the chance to ask you these questions,it’ been one of the highlights of my time as a blogger.  Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and answer these questions. 
And thanks to you, Jim!  It’s been a pleasure.

Tim’s books can be bought on the High Street as well as all the usual on line places, click on the links below for tim’s books on Amazon

Tim’s Amazon Page


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