Greetings from the Valley of Hinnom,
Our friends at the Shadow Booth are making steady progress with their Kickstarter. This literary journal is going to be out of this world and we are very excited to see the dreams of the editor Dan Coxon and these amazing writers come true. We will be interviewing all of the authors involved to help spread the word.
If you haven’t already, please make sure to stop by and visit their Kickstarter! Some Gehenna & Hinnom products may be awaiting you there.
Alas, let’s begin! We’d like to introduce you to Shadow Booth author Richard V. Hirst.
CP: Your writing career has been quite broad and branches through a lot of fiction, non-fiction, and you are even a founder of the independent publisher Curious Tales. How did you find your voice in Dark Fiction and why is this genre important?
RV: Like a lot of writers, I’ve no idea what I’m doing. I’m never really sure what I want to write, what I’m trying to say, whether what I’m writing is working, whether what I’m working on should be a short story or a novel, whether the title needs changing, whether to use a comma or a full stop, whether I’m even a writer or just someone with a laptop going mad. I used to try to write stories in the way I thought they should be written: straightforwardly literary. Then in 2011 I wrote a weird story called “School Report,” which I liked but didn’t really think anyone else would “get,” but it ended up being a winning story in that year’s Manchester Fiction Prize which was the first acknowledgement that maybe there was something to the fiction I wanted to write rather than the fiction I felt I should be writing. I’m not sure if that makes me a genre writer or not, but it does help to have criteria and expectations, both to operate within but also to twist and disregard, and also a community of fellow writers who it’s a relief to discover also often have no idea what they’re doing.
CP: Could you tell us a little about your story “The Upstairs Room?” What inspired it, how did it come to fruition?
RV: “The Upstairs Room” is a haunted house story of sorts and it’s something I’ve been working on for ages. When I first started it, about ten years ago, I was living in Preston, a small northern city, next door to a house which had seemingly been abandoned and was slowly crumbling in on itself. I was unemployed and living on my own at the time and so was at liberty to develop my own peculiar obsession with this house, listening with an ear to the wall, peering at the spectacularly overrun back yard and lying awake at night growing convinced it was somehow both sentient and aware of my presence. What, I wondered, had befallen my absent neighbor? And so I landed on a story of a house which interacts with its inhabitant. I was a little disappointed to discover that the owner was an elderly man who had simply passed away and a dispute among his family about his will had led the property to remain vacant.
CP: What about The Shadow Booth piqued your interest?
RV: I think the thing which intrigued me about The Shadow Booth was Dan’s description of it as the meeting place between literary fiction and horror, something which feels very contemporary and entirely deserving of a dedicated journal. An overlooked influence on the way people read and write has been the internet. I don’t just mean that we now have stories in which characters use smartphones or plots hinge on a wifi connection but also that the way we think about genre is changing. Prior to the internet reading the books which best suited your tastes could be an expensive and time-consuming occupation. You would have to research authors, track down out-of-print books, scour libraries and secondhand bookshops, and then move on to the next obscure author. These days things are different: algorithms suggest authors and secondhand books are a click away. So refining your literary tastes is much easier. This has been the case for a while now and during that time there have been writers like Alison Moore, Andrew Michael Hurley, Sarah Perry and Jenn Ashworth who have been honing their styles, preferences and techniques accordingly, picking up whatever influences take their fancy and often overlapping from the literary into horror in a way which may well have felt awkward in the past but works perfectly for modern times.
CP: Who influenced you as a writer? How does this reflect in your own work?
RV: I guess the early influences on my love of horror weren’t necessarily specific writers or books so much as the horror stuff which was floating around during my childhood: Ghostbusters, Scooby Doo, Count Duckula, the Funnybones books, Meg and Mog, WearBears, Monster Munch crisps, Fiendish Feet yogurts . . . looking back, I was obviously drawn to their appeal but never really quite realised it at the time. Like a lot of people my age, Stephen King’s books did their bit in getting me into reading, but the two writers I first fell in love with and read everything they wrote were Ted Hughes and Virginia Woolf. Although you’d be hard pressed to find a couple of writers more establishment than these two, each also has a foot in the gothic which runs like a reservoir beneath all literature, with a taste for blood-and-guts and a flair madness, respectively, and a shared streak of nastiness. All of which are things detectable in other writers I like – Robert Aickman, Ruth Rendell, Muriel Spark, Franz Kafka, Angela Carter, writers who I’d say aren’t really horror writers but also aren’t quite not that either – and things which I seek to emulate with my work.
CP: What other ventures do you have planned for the future? What can our readers look forward to?
RV: Earlier this year Dead Ink published The Night Visitors, a horror novella written by myself and Jenn Ashworth which took the form of an exchange of emails between two distant relatives. We are in the very early stages of working on a follow-up, although the full details are currently top secret.
Thank you as always for stopping by and please make sure to visit The Shadow Booth and follow us on social media!