Interview In A Mirror
Today I’d like to interview myself on the subject of horror fiction. I’m not keen on talking about myself – so I hope I won’t ask myself some personal questions. I sit down and stare at myself in a mirror. I don’t like the guy staring back at me. He hasn’t shaved yet. He looks like a werewolf with a hangover, but he’s available for an interview because he’s got nothing better to do.
Questioner: Hello, John. You write horror stories. What’s the first horror story you remember reading?
John Moralee: That’s a good question. Let me think. Uh – Slugs by Shaun Hutson. No – wait. There was one thing before that – a scary collection of stories for kids that included a disturbing drawing of a banshee. I didn’t sleep for weeks after reading that book. I was scared of opening it to the banshee picture. Its dark red eyes seemed to stare out at me like it was alive.
Questioner: Going back a sec. Slugs is a gruesome and violent adult book. How old were you when you read it?
John Moralee: Ten.
Questioner: That’s young for reading an adult horror novel, isn’t it?
John Moralee: Yeah. I think I borrowed in from my local library on my dad’s library card. There was no kid’s section for horror back then – but you could see them around the next corner with their excitingly frightening covers. As soon as I had my own adult card, aged eleven, I think, I read all of the scariest books in the horror section, which was large in those days, much larger than it is these days.
Questioner: You must like libraries, then?
John Moralee: No – I love libraries. When I hear good things about a writer, I always go to a library and borrow their first book to see if I like their writing. If I like what I read, I’ll buy copies of their other work – as long as they are not too expensive. I would never have read some of my favourite horror writers if I had not found them in my local library aged eleven. I remember being scared of the picture on the cover of The Keep by F Paul Wilson. I just had to read it after seeing it. The Fury was another. And all of the books by Stephen King.
Questioner: Do you like writing short stories more than longer stuff?
John Moralee: No – but it is easier to finish writing a short story. I have a dozen incomplete horror novels in progress – but I’ve completed dozens of horror stories. It is deeply satisfying to finish something. You can do that with a short story in a few days or a week. But a novel is a massive project. It’s much harder to keep going. I have dozens of manuscripts of about 200 pages each. I intend to finish them eventually – so it is not completely wasted time. I like short stories because they are more manageable projects.
Questioner: What writer influenced you the most?
John Moralee: There’s not one writer – but dozens of them. I’ve always wanted to write – so I read as much as possible. I don’t limit my reading to one genre. I’ll read books I think I won’t like just to see what the author does with another genre. I started reading crime novels because I read the Agatha Christie books in my library. And I would not have liked science fiction if I had not discovered Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick. I’m a binge reader, easily hooked on reading everything by an author before moving on to another one. I buy all of their work until they write a dud – then I might stop reading them unless they return to form.
Questioner: You must have a favourite of your favourites?
John Moralee: I suppose it would be Elmore Leonard. He wrote about seventy novels. I’ve got them all on my shelves. His economical style and wit were an addictive combination. Other strong contenders are Ed Gorman, James Lee Burke, Donald Westlake, Ed McBain, Martin Cruz Smith, Ian Rankin, Paul F Hamilton, Ian M. Banks, Douglas Adams, Haruki Murakami, Scott Lynch, Dan Simmons and Jodi Picoult. There are dozens more when I think about it. Hundreds more! Honestly, I don’t have one favourite over the others. I like them all.
Questioner: In the horror genre, which is your favourite?
John Moralee: Well – there’s Stephen King because Skeleton Crew got me writing my own short stories. His books always have strong narrative drive. He can turn a simple premise into a brick-sized novel that manages to hook his readers because he delivers realistic characters in nightmarish situations. Salem’s Lot is a classic. There’s also Clive Barker. His imagination is incredible. I loved The Great and Secret Show and The Books of Blood. I also admire Peter Straub for writing Koko and Ghost Story. I also read everything by Dean Koontz, John Shirley, James Herbert and Robert Bloch. I was also addicted to the books by Richard Laymon before he sadly passed away.
Questioner: What books don’t you like?
John Moralee: I don’t like books where the end is too predictable. Or contrived. If the end is what I expected in chapter one, I always feel disappointed, like the author wasted my time. And I dislike so-called literary novels with no plot. I like plot – which is why I like crime novels as much as horror. Crime novels have to make some kind of sense at the end. I don’t like to finish a book wondering, “What was the point of reading that?” It must have a purpose – the telling of a story. I’d prefer a badly-written crime novel with a great plot over a stylistically beautiful literary masterpiece with none.
Questioner: Back to horror. What’s your favourite horror movie?
John Moralee: The Thing.
Questioner: The original version or the remake with Kurt Russell?
John Moralee: The remake. John Carpenter did a brilliant job of creating claustrophobic paranoia. The soundtrack was truly eerie. Very effective shocks.
Questioner: Which author do you admire the most?
John Moralee: I admire any writer capable of finishing a long work. It’s the hardest thing to do.
Questioner: That’s not a proper answer. Name someone!
John Moralee: Wow. You’re getting a bit aggressive, Mr Interviewer. I admire Dan Simmons for writing Hyperion. That’s my favourite SF novel of all time, along with its second part, The Fall of Hyperion. The complex plot has so many interwoven strands that all come together in a superb way.
Questioner: What are you reading now?
John Moralee: I always read about twenty or thirty books at once. They include Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, IQ84 by Haruki Murakami, Heart-Shaped Box by Stephen King’s son Joe Hill, plus a load of non-fiction.
Questioner: Would you like to tell me about your own horror collections?
John Moralee: I’ve self-published two horror collection on Amazon. They contain a variety of horror and dark suspense fiction written over twenty years. Some stories were published in books and magazines.
Questioner: Why did you self-publish them?
John Moralee: I decided to give it a go when Kindle Publishing started. I saw it as a great opportunity because it was better than leaving my stories on my computer where they were doing nothing.
Questioner: Have they been successful?
John Moralee: Yes and no. I feel like I’ve done something with them – so I feel positive about that. In terms of financial success, though, I’d have to say no. I would not call my self-publishing venture a financial success yet – but I don’t regret doing it. At least my stories are no longer just on my computer.
Questioner: What do you plan on doing next?
John Moralee: I’ll keep on writing stories because that’s what I like to do.
Questioner: One final question. Are you going to shave today?
John Moralee: I will if you stop distracting me with questions.
Questioner: Okay. Thank you for the interview.
John Moralee: You’re welcome. Is that it, then?
Questioner: Oh – what’s the web address of your books?
Questioner: No. I just want to know so I can avoid it.
John Moralee: Hey! I’m ending this interview now. Goodbye.
Questioner: You can’t get away from me. I’m always there – waiting for you in the mirror.