Remember this name: James Everington. If you like dark, weird, warped, horror, and edgy fiction, you’ll want to read his work. I recently read his short story collection The Other Room, which had me on the edge of my seat throughout. James is here today to talk to us about this collection. First, a little about the man behind the words:
I’m a writer from Nottingham, England- most of what I write is dark, supernatural fiction, although not necessarily ‘horror’ in the blood and guts sense. My main influences are writers like Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson, and Robert Aickman. I enjoy the unexplained, the psychological, and the ambiguous in my weird fiction.I think a lot of the best such fiction has been done in the short story form (although that’s not to say I won’t be trying a novel at some point…)
I drink Guinness, if anyone’s offering.
Here’s the book we’ll be discussing:
A naive student finds that his crumbling bedsit can be as haunted as any Gothic mansion.
A man stumbles across another world which is the mirror image of his own.
A young woman who everyone thinks is beautiful wonders why, given what she sees in the mirror each morning.
Influenced by writers such as Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson, and Robert Aickman these tales, like all good horror stories, are as much about the psychology of the protagonist as the fate that awaits them.
The Other Room contains both new and previously published stories that will challenge your conceptions of horror and literary fiction.
Now for our chat:
At the end of The Other Room anthology, you give readers insight into how and why you created your stories. One thing you said, which I’d immediately noticed in your writing, is that horror stories are reflections of our real worries and fears. Do you intentionally begin your stories from this standpoint, with a particular fear in mind?
Some stories are wrote with some deliberate ‘real life’ fear in mind; for example First Time Buyers was written very much with the conscious intention of tapping into people’s current anxieties about jobs and the economy.
But it’s not always intentional, no – a lot of the time a story begins with an image or even a phrase, and it’s not until I’m halfway through that I understand what it means. Sometimes I don’t ever understand. A story like The Watchers is still partially baffling even to me. And that’s good as hopefully it means people will have lots of different views about what it means. I don’t particularly want my stories to have a direct ‘X equals Y’ relationship to reality.
In the end I don’t think a horror story works unless there’s a reflection of our real fears, to be honest. Not that there has to be conscious metaphor or symbolism at play… just that the horror author has to be particular receptive to the currents of fear and anxiety both out in society and inside him/herself.
You mentioned you still write all your first drafts the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. In this digital age, that’s a rarity. Why do you find the pen and paper method more appealing?
There’s a number of reasons really. Firstly inertia – that’s how I’ve always done it. Secondly, I can write faster than I can type, and at the point of doing a first draft that’s what I want – the speed to get the ideas down, without distraction. I’m a big fan of gadgets but they can be so distracting; even as I’m typing this some bloody icon is flashing demanding attention…
Thirdly, and most importantly, if you write a first draft by hand then when you come to type it up you have to rewrite every sentence. It forces you to consider anew every word choice, every comma. And I personally find that useful. I think if I did something straight onto my computer they’d be the temptation to think That’s a pretty good sentence. I’ll leave that as it is. Whereas the way I do it means I’m more likely to think That’s a pretty good sentence… but wait, isn’t it even better this way?
You wrote the story The Final Wish while quite sick and conked out on medication. I was immediately intrigued from the opening line – I walk looking down, inward; I walk wishing. I remember thinking the words had the odd beauty of thoughts of an altered mind. I couldn’t help but laugh when I read that you were, in fact, writing in an altered state. Many great authors have intentionally used this approach. (Though not with cold and flu medication.) What are your thoughts on using alcohol and/or drugs as a way to ‘open the mind to creativity’?
I’m not sure; I think drugs and alcohol can certainly expand people’s imaginative horizons but I don’t know if writing whilst actually on them is a great idea. My experience of drugs is pretty limited though, so I might be wrong. But I can say writing whilst drunk certainly doesn’t work for me. A beer is more likely to be the reward for getting a particularly challenging paragraph or whatever done just right.
So I think for me The Final Wish was a complete one off. I do seem to get a lot of colds though, so who knows?
As for other writers, whatever works for them. There’s obviously plenty of examples of authors who claim to have written books and poems under various states, and who am I to disbelieve them?
You admit titles are a problem for you. I hear this from many authors, and sometimes struggle with titles myself. One would assume that, if you can create an entire fictional world, you should be able to slap a title on the piece without a problem. Why do you think titles are such a challenge?
I do find titles hard; always have. I’ve frequently finished a story and then had to wonder what to call the bloody thing. I guess the title of a story has always seemed slightly separate from the story itself; I can imagine a story without a title, but not a title without a story.
I also get annoyed by stories, films, TV shows etc. where it seems like a ‘cool’ title was the first thing they thought of and then they’ve worked out everything else to fit it. The title is often a lame pun or play on words or some ‘high-concept’ abomination. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of a title first and written a story around it.
Aside from writing and reading, what are some of your favorite pastimes?
Drinking beer whilst eating curry.
Listening to music whilst drinking beer whilst eating curry.
I sense a theme here!
What scares you the most and why?
You know those kind of What’s your favorite book? interview questions which are impossible to answer because there’s so much choice? That’s pretty much me with this question.
What scares me most? Take your pick: uncontrollable situations (both personal and global); the worry that things might not be as they seem; the worship of money; the inevitability of death; the arrogance of environmental destruction; George Osborne… I could go on.
What inspires you?
In terms of writing, other writers mainly. In any genre, self-published or traditionally so. I like it when you see a writer take a risk and pull it off. It’s like a stuntman jumping the Grand Canyon. A stunning sentence, an unexpected plot twist… it can be anything really, that takes your breath away and then makes you think You talented bastard, where does that leave the rest of us? A certain creative, good-spirited envy is important I think – right, well I’m going to jump an even grander canyon…
Authors who’ve inspired me in the last month include Simon Bestwick, Emma Newman, David Mitchell, and Lisa Tuttle. Those guys can jump big canyons.
Describe yourself with one word or phrase.
Frequently scared and/or smelling of curry.
Thank you, James, for hanging out and entertaining us today.
You can find James and his books on Amazon:
I hope you’ll join James in his fictional world.
Thanks for reading.