Do you remember back in January (which feels roughly seven years ago) when I posted the first ever interview of this blog? It was with my editor, playwright, and author Briana Morgan, and I mentioned that it was the first in a new series of monthly author interviews.
Well, that didn’t bloody happen, did it.
If you’ve been reading my monthly progress updates, you’ll know some of how life got in the way, and if you haven’t, I won’t bore you with the details. The important thing is, monthly interviews are BACK!
*throws dark confetti*
This month’s interview is with one of my very best author friends, Beverley Lee. She’s a paranormal horror author who taught me that everything I thought I knew about the genre was wrong 🙂
If you love horror books or the paranormal in fiction, I hope you’ll enjoy reading our interview as much as we enjoyed chatting about it.
One quick note: we did this interview a little while ago (*coughs* January *coughs*) and then life got in the way as it does, so when Bev talks about her current reads and her WIP, please note they were her current reads at the time we did the interview and that her WIP has moved on a little since we chatted.
S: Welcome to my author blog, Bev! To start with, what are you reading at the moment?
B: Right now I’m immersed in horror! I’m reading Kin by Kealan Patrick Burke and an advanced reader copy of Nocturnal Farm from Villimey Mist, but it’s rare that I have two similar books on my reading pile.
S: I may be biased where Villimey’s book is concerned, but it’s excellent, isn’t it? ^-^ And I’ve seen Kealan around Instagram quite a bit and admit I’ve been interested in his books for a while. It’s not your first read by him, is it?
B: I’m only 10% into Villimey’s book but I’m enjoying being back with Leia. If you want a good start with Kealan’s work I’d suggest Sour Candy. It’s got such a fabulous first line! I’ve read a couple of his short story collections but Kin is the first novel length one. Don’t let the fact that it’s about cannibals put you off 😉
S: As if XD What about his books keeps drawing you back?
B: Good horror isn’t all about scares. It’s the subtle way he blends the everyday with things that go bump in the night that appeals. You can imagine yourself in the same situation as the characters, which is true for any good book in any genre, I think. He also has a knack for peeling away their skins (no pun intended!) and exposing their every thought, no matter how horrific.
S: I agree, and I think this is something I understood about horror quite late. Growing up I didn’t dare touch horror books because I’d been taught that the whole genre was just terrifying scares, but I’m trying to broaden my horizons. I think your first book, The Making of Gabriel Davenport, was one of the first horror books I’d read since… goodness, I can’t remember! Probably since that short story collection by Stephen King scared the hell out of me when I was a teenager! I’m proud to say that yours didn’t stop me from sleeping, but it was creepy and disturbing. I remember a scene near the beginning especially, where everything went downhill for poor Beth.
So, I know that blending the everyday with the things that go bump in the night is one of your specialties too! What else do you love about this genre that you try to incorporate in your own writing?
B: Ha, I’m glad I could disturb you 😉 I read Cujo by King as an impressionable teen and it scared the life out of me. I can still remember reading it.
Let’s see – that there is always a grey area between goodness and evil and that’s where the best things dwell. I like to show that the supposedly bad characters have redeeming qualities, and something I always do is make sure that my readers understand the motives behind my antagonist’s thinking. Just having a cardboard cutout villain doesn’t interest me at all. I like to take what’s been done before and spin my own twist, creating my own vampire hierarchy and laws, for instance, but they have to be believable.
We all like to be frightened a little bit. It takes us away into that primal place of instinct, so different from our closeted modern lifestyle and writing it gives me that same feeling.
S: All I know about Cujo is from Friends – there’s something seriously wrong with a dog XD
I think the way you do it – by taking something that’s been done before and putting your own spin on it – is the best way to do it. We like things that feel familiar no matter how many fantasy elements are involved. So many new writers try to be original to breaking point, because finding something that’s really never existed before is near impossible these days.
Now, to me your books are definitely horror. Horror that’s more disturbing than sleepless-nights-terrifying, but horror nontheless. But when you first categorised your debut novel, you didn’t think of horror. That came a little later, didn’t it?
B: Yes, you’re spot on 🙂 When I was writing Gabriel I classified it as dark fantasy. It was only after readers started saying that the first part seriously messed with their heads that I realised that the horror tag did in fact fit. But I’m not a huge fan of putting books into pigeon holes. A good story is a good story, and that might mean it has elements of half a dozen different genres.
S: Absolutely. It’s impossible to squeeze any one book into one genre only. Most books have an adventure element or a romance element, and pretty much every book has a bit of mystery. Your books definitely fit the dark fantasy tag, but you could equally say that they’re urban paranormal and, of course, horror!
Did you have an ideal reader in mind when you wrote the Gabriel Davenport trilogy? Who did you write them for?
B: I just wanted anyone to read them, no matter how old they were 🙂 A lot of people have classified them as YA as my main characters are predominantly teenagers, but I don’t think the way I write is suited to the YA ‘brand’ (there’s that pigeon hole thing again!) And to begin with I wrote them just for me, as they were the books I wanted to read but could never find.
S: No, I agree, I don’t think they really fit the YA brand. You could argue that they’re a coming-of-age story of sorts because of what happens to Gabe, but overall there are none of the things young adults or teens would identify with. Your MC is a teenager, but his problems aren’t normal teenage issues, and you could argue that some of the others may look like teenagers but haven’t really been teenagers for a long time…
This is even more true for your newest book, which has some very dark themes indeed! Can you tell us a bit about Ruin? How does it differ from Gabriel?
B: Gabriel is definitely a coming of age story, but when I started it, I had no idea what I was going to put him through!
Ah yes, my newest book baby, The Ruin of Delicate Things, is about a couple (Dan and Faye Morgan) struggling with the death of their son. A cottage is bequeathed to Dan in the heart of the English countryside. It’s where he spent his childhood summers. But soon after arriving, things start to happen that both of them can’t explain. The old house still stands in the middle of the forest, watching over the lake. And there’s something in that house that knows what Dan did and that wants him to pay *cue spooky music*
S: I loved Gabriel’s story, but I think I loved this one even more. I was lucky enough to read an early version, and it was so deliciously dark and the pace at which you reveal things kept me glued to the kindle screen!
You may hate me for asking this, but where did your inspiration for Ruin come from?
B: Nothing makes me happier than comments like that, Sarina *heart eyes*
The first thing that came to me with Ruin was the setting. And then the characters came next, but I think I told you before that I had a problem getting the story to stick with one of them so I had to age them up. As for what dwells in the house, some of the inspiration came from a nature program I was watching, but that character went through a few changes before I was happy with how she came out.
S: Ah, see, I knew I need to watch more nature programs! What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?
B: I really enjoyed writing the darkness in Barrington Hall. It became almost a character in itself – a playground for the lost and cursed. It had definite Hill House vibes for me! And I think I have a thing for making houses characters *laughs* I loved writing Barrington Hall’s history too with all the horrors involved and the way it shaped the present.
S: I definitely got the playground for the lost vibe, especially from this one character’s perception. It made the house come alive, and I shivered when certain characters set foot inside.
But speaking of spoilers… Can you share an excerpt? Without spoilers, of course 😉
B: Of course!
As the sign for the village flashed by, Dan Morgan knew he would rather be anywhere else but here.
In this car, with the rain beating down on the windscreen. On this road, which led to his childhood, with all of its muted meandering memories. Back when days had gone on forever. After thirty years he was racing back towards it, searching for its enchantment, fruitlessly hoping it could cast its rose-tinted spell upon the agonising hellscape of his life.
He glanced in his rear-view mirror, watched as the sign disappeared in the distance, the whoosh of the tyres on the wet road a constant background noise. Faye stared out of the rear passenger window, one finger tracing a line of mingled raindrops. A typical British summer.
She’d said she wanted to sleep, but Dan knew the real reason she had moved from beside him was because she couldn’t stand the wall of silence that had descended on the long journey down. He could see her profile etched against the thin light, almost as if she was trying to disappear into it. Dark curls mussed around her face, her nose a slight aquiline, which gave strength to her otherwise fragile features.
Sometimes he caught her watching him as if he had turned into a creature she didn’t understand.
A sharp pain jabbed Dan—Dan to his friends. Daniel to his colleagues. But never Danny, not since that summer—in the ribs.
The rot had set in on the night Toby had been sliced from their lives. Dan’s fingers clenched on the steering wheel.
How can a child go out one day and never return?
It had been a brutal year. And the weight that hung in the air between them was like the blade of a pendulum, gradually severing the fraying connection to which they were both clinging.
Faye’s ears were covered by her ever-present headphones, plugged into the world of audio books. It was much easier to immerse herself in other people’s stories; her own hurt too much.
An image of Toby, laying cold and still on the hospital gurney, covered in a white sheet, invaded his thoughts. Dan had watched from the safety of the small room, that clinical sheet of glass separating him from his son, watched as the young doctor with the dark circles under his eyes pulled back the sheet. Dan wanted to scream that it wasn’t Toby—this shell of a boy with the pale blue lips couldn’t possibly be his son. His boy had been loud and kind and lovable. His son had yelled, ‘See you later, Dad!’ as he swept past the study, hopping on one leg as he stuffed his foot into a trainer.
Dan hadn’t turned his head, just raised his hand in reply. He’d been too busy, too focussed on the marketing plan in front of him, the ever-approaching deadline looming like a hand grenade with a loose pin.
Dan bit his bottom lip, closing his eyes for a moment to stop the images. Stop the guilt.
A loud, dull thud, the weight of an impact hitting the front of the car. Dan’s eyes flew open. He braked hard, water splashing onto the bonnet, the wipers sweeping back and forth in a pattern that set his teeth on edge. Please God, don’t let it be a person…The Ruin of Delicate Things, © Beverley Lee 2020
S: Now that The Ruin of Delicate Things is out in the world and doing great, what’s next for you? I know you’re working on something in its very early stages…
B: Yes, I have something very much in its infancy which is already refusing to play along with any outline I might have had. Who I thought was my main character might not be now, as two others muscled their way in last week. There’s a possibility it will link back to Gabriel’s series in some way too, either by the appearance of a few characters or settings, but it’s very early days and we both know how a first draft can morph into something completely different!
S: Now that’s exciting! And I know it’s super frustrating when the characters and plot shuffle themselves around, but it’s also my favourite thing. The book comes alive and shows you how it’s done – and we both know there are more surprises for the reader when they’re surprising for us!
Before we go and I let you get back to your cat, can you share a few links? Where else can we find you online?
B: All my books and where to find them are listed on my website where you can download a free short story, a dark and twisted fairy tale, by signing up to my mailing list.
Thank you so much for chatting with me, Bev! Always lovely to talk to you ^-^
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