Greetings from the Ethereal Plane,
With the release of Hinnom Magazine Issue 003, we would like to spotlight the authors involved. There will be seven interviews in total, including this one. We would like to thank these fantastic writers for believing in Gehenna & Hinnom and for submitting such amazing works.
Alas, without further ado, let the interview commence!
CP: Could you first tell us a little about yourself? Why you find the darker side of fiction intriguing?
ST: I’ve lived most of my life in North Yorkshire, England, and now live in Munich in Germany. In my other line of work I’m an archaeologist, and have worked all over the UK on commercial excavations, digging everything from post medieval shipyards to Viking York and Roman cemeteries .
Now, I mainly write. As well as fiction I write for magazines, including Fortean Times. I’ve also been working with Imove and writer Becky Cherriman on a project called Haunt. Haunt is about how people experiencing homelessness or vulnerable housing in my hometown Harrogate (an opulent spa town) are haunted by the identity of the place. This is inspired by my own experiences after getting kicked out of home at 16. We’re now taking Haunt to similar towns in the UK.
I first became interested in unsettling fiction through Dennis Wheatley books (I collected all his books in my teens, including the non-occult ones), and reading books like the Usborne Mysteries of the Unexplained when I was a kid. I grew up at a time when series like Chocky, Dramarama and The Tripods were on children’s TV. That had a long term effect in the way I see the world.
CP: “The Enamelled Crown” has a very interesting premise and is definitely going to frighten people when it comes to scheduling an appointment with their local dentist. Can you delve into your inspirations for the story? How it came to fruition?
ST: The inspiration came from two places. The first was a random image I saw online. I don’t want to give away too much, but it was very visceral and unsettling. This led to me writing a very short story (about 200 words) for the flash fiction month I do every late November on my FB page.
When I came to expand this story, the second inspiration came from moving to a new town where I registered at the local dentist. I’ve never been great with dental work due to a long standing needle phobia . During my first check up, his stomach, which was very close to my head, rumbled constantly. Also his hands shook throughout the appointment. The surgery was also in a converted family house. The layout I used in “The Enamelled Crown” is directly inspired by that visit.
CP: While speaking of inspiration, what inspired you to become a writer? What authors helped carve your path?
ST: As I mentioned above I was a pretty prolific reader of dark fiction throughout my childhood, devouring books like The Devil Rides Out and The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Wheatley, as well as John Wyndham’s Chocky and Day of the Triffids.
When I was about 14 a friend took me along to the local writers’ circle. That evening all the members had been asked to bring their favourite book and read a passage. One of the people read the opening passage from Weaveworld by Clive Barker. From that moment I was hooked, devouring Imajica, Great and Secret Show etc.
As an adult I’ve often been attracted to writers who help you step off the pavement into a new world. People like China Miéville, Neil Gaiman, Priya Sharma, Robert Holdstock, Angela Carter, Charles deLint, Lauren Beukes, Jeff Vandermeer, and Amal El Mohtar have been a huge influence.
I’m also hugely influenced by comic writers, like the aforementioned Neil Gaiman, but also Warren Ellis, Si Spurrier, Alan Moore, Leah Moore and John Reppion, and Grant Morrison.
With all these people it’s not just their writing, but also their work ethic that I find so inspiring and want to emulate.
CP: You have had several stories either collected or mentioned in “Best of” anthologies, among many other achievements. What is your desired outcome for writing? Where do you see yourself in the next 20 years?
ST: To make a career of writing. Hopefully having several different strings to my bow will help me succeed in that.
Two immediate goals are to get my novel out to agents (it’s in the last stages of copyediting), and make sure Haunt continues to be a success. In twenty years I’d like to still be regularly published in magazines, continuing to work on collaborative exhibitions and have a body of fiction that has unsettled a couple of generations of readers.
CP: Tell us something that not many readers know about you.
ST: I write stories for my five year old that aren’t terrifying. I also like to dance rock ‘n’ roll and the Lindy Hop. (though neither very well).
CP: If you could converse with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
ST: Apart from relatives who have died, as an archaeologist with an interest in Iron Age hillforts I would love to talk to the people who built them, and learn more about the social world they lived in. For many years hillforts seemed unproblematic. Now we believe that the reasons behind their creation are a lot more complex than just fortified places. To be able to sit down and talk to someone who had been involved in their construction would be fascinating.
CP: What does the future hold for Steve Toase? What can our readers look forward to?
ST: Since moving to Munich I’m aiming to write more stories inspired by the city and surrounding countryside. On November 21st I’ll be starting my month of flash fiction, which you can follow at my FB page (www.facebook.com/stevetoase1). Longer term I’m hoping to put together a collection of my flash fiction, and continue to delve into darker stories. I’m currently working on a trilogy of short stories based around a very amoral villain character. He’s a lot of fun to write.
CP: If you could give advice to any new and aspiring authors, what would it be?
ST: A lot of the standard stuff like write as often as you can, and get used to rejections because you will get a lot over the years.
I would also say don’t just look at writing for inspiration. Immerse yourself in other art forms and talk to other artists outside your own discipline. Go to galleries. Read comics. Listen to music. Inspiration can come from a phrase in a song, a stand of trees in a painting, or even a movement during a performance.
It can be very easy to only surround yourself with writers as there is such a strong established and supportive community, but speaking personally some of my best work has come from a cross pollination of ideas while working with painters, musicians or dancers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve currently lives in Munich, Germany.
His fiction has appeared in Aurealis, Not One Of Us, and Cafe Irreal amongst others. In 2014, “Call Out” (first published in Innsmouth Magazine) was reprinted in The Best Horror Of The Year 6, and his story “Fate’s Mask” was mentioned in the summation. His story “Not All The Coal That Is Dug Warms The World” was included in Ellen Datlow’s Honourable Mentions Longlist for Best Horror of the Year 8, and has just been featured on the Tales To Terrify podcast. He also writes regularly for Fortean Times.
Recently, he worked with Becky Cherriman and Imove on Haunt, about Harrogate’s haunting presence in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in the town.
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