I don’t get too many visitors around here. I think it’s the dried blood on the door handle and the pungent waft of offal that puts people off…
Anyway, my mate and fellow scribbler Rich Hawkins stopped by for a cup of cold coffee, a piece of cake and to answer some questions.
I met Rich through social media a few years back and meeting fellas like him reminds me why I still persist with social media. Rich is a good lad and a promising new voice in the genre.
Rich released his novel The Last Plague last year through Crowded Quarantine Publications and it was well received. The word on the street is he’s working on a sequel. Rich has also just released his novella Black Star Black Sun from April Moon Books which is now available for Kindle and Paperback.
So, on with the interrogation:
(Q) I’ve often felt as a writer the horror genre is misunderstood. What attracts you to the genre as a reader and writer and what do you think of the label “horror”?
As a writer, the sheer possibilities of the genre appeal to me. Horror can be found anywhere, from something as fantastic as a Lovecraftian beast from outer space to something as ‘ordinary’ as an abused spouse. I’ve always been fascinated by ‘cosmic horror’, the idea of the universe as fundamentally hostile and uncaring to humans.
As a reader, much the same, especially when some of the best writers alive today are writing in the horror genre.
There is a certain snobbery towards the label ‘horror’, even from some in the genre itself…but sod ‘em. Let them call it whatever they want. It’s still horror.
(Q) What are you views on the self-publishing revolution within the industry and have you embraced the Kindle as a reader and consumer?
I’ve never self-published and don’t plan to any time in the near future, but I have no problem with self-publishing and the massive amounts of self-published books now on the market. Some are excellent, some are good, and some are shit, just like traditionally published books. It all depends how much time, effort and skill is put into the book. Good front covers help, too.
I love my Kindle – I’ve found so many new writers through it that would have remained unknown to me if it weren’t for digital publishing, and it’s really helped to get my own work out there.
As Jordan and Peter Andre once sang – ‘It’s a whole new world’. Sorry…
(Q) How would you best describe your own work and what would you describe as your greatest achievement to date with your writing?
I struggle to describe my own work without sounding too pretentious. I try to make my stories bleak and dark; and I think a lot of my pessimistic, cynical nature bleeds into my writing.
Yeah, I sound pretentious…
I’ll always have a soft spot for my debut novel ‘The Last Plague’, no matter what happens in the future. And it hasn’t done too bad for itself, I suppose.
(Q) As a modern day hack, many of us struggle to juggle writing, holding down a day job and daily/family life. Describe any given day at the Hawkins household and how you incorporate writing into your routine?
A usual day comprises of working my day job from 6 am till 2.30 in the afternoon, then once I’m home and knackered from hauling trolleys of milk from lorry trailers, I try to get some writing done between helping to look after the baby and any household jobs that need doing. Usually once my daughter’s gone to bed in the evening I have a couple of hours to write. It’s difficult, but I don’t have a choice. I have to write.
(Q) With the whole social media phenomenon, access to other authors is relatively commonplace these days. What are your views on exposure to readers and other writers? Have you ever crossed swords with another author for any reason?
I think it’s good for authors to talk to readers and other writers on social media. It’s a lonely job, so it helps to be in contact with other writers. I’ve had a falling out or two with other writers, but nothing serious. It happens. People will always disagree on certain things.
(Q) Many authors struggle with negative reviews for a variety of reasons. What are your views generally on receiving negative reviews?
They used to really bother me and make me question my competence as a writer, but over the last year or so, and since the release of The Last Plague, I’ve realized it’s pointless to worry about bad reviews; I can use that energy to write instead. To be honest, I’m just grateful to get reviews.
(Q) Have you ever had the dreaded “creative block” and what do you do to tackle it?
I struggle to get through lean periods when writing seems pointless, especially when the black dog is sitting next to me and telling me I’m useless. All I can do to get through is to wait it out until it passes. And it does eventually. That’s the only good thing about it.
(Q) We have previously talked about the awkwardness that accompanies self-promoting our own work, which is essential for indie writers without a publisher or agent behind them. How do you handle marketing and promotion?
I really struggle with promotion. It makes me feel cheap. The internet, especially Facebook and Twitter, is teeming with spammers who have no problem spunking Amazon links all over the place. Which, in itself, is not such a bad thing, but when it’s done every day without respite it becomes tiresome. I try to do some promotion once a week, in the way of posting links to my work. I’m also trying to blog more and see if it helps. Crowded Quarantine Publications, who published ‘The Last Plague’ have done a great job of promoting the book, by placing adverts in horror magazines, and ezines, so that’s definitely helped gain exposure for it.
I think the best thing you can do is just write and hope people enjoy what you’ve created and that word-of-mouth will do the rest. Maybe a lot of it is just luck.
(Q) Describe your writing style and how you feel you have honed your craft as a writer since you began writing?
I’m not sure I have a style, to be fair. A lot of it depends on the story. I try not to be too ‘flowery’ with my prose. Hopefully I’ve improved since those early days of sending off submissions to literary agents in the forlorn hope they’d take me on. I feel that I’ve tightened up my writing and improved the way I structure sentences. I just have to keep improving.
(Q) Do you believe an elitism culture exists within the mainstream industry, in that an acclaimed author who has a solid reputation behind them can knock out a dud and still achieve publication with mainstream publishers/anthologies because their name sells books? Or do you believe all work is judged on its individual merits regardless?
Oh, definitely – big names sell books. I wish it were different, but it is what it is.
(Q) Who are the authors you most admire and why?
There are many, but if I had to name a chosen few it’d be David Moody, Wayne Simmons, Adam Nevill, Gary McMahon, Laird Barron, Tim Curran, Conrad Williams, and HP Lovecraft. They’re all great storytellers, and for different reasons, but they all have in common the skill to draw in a reader and keep them enthralled with the story. I’ve met David and Wayne a few times before, and they’re great blokes full of advice and encouragement.
There are also a lot of new and lesser-known writers coming through. They have big futures. I think the horror fiction genre is in good hands at the moment.
(Q) What are you currently working on and do you have any planned release dates for any new material?
At the moment I’m working on the sequel to The Last Plague, currently titled ‘The Last Outpost’. I’ve nearly finished the first draft, and it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve had to write. It’s been a struggle, but there are harder jobs and I’m not complaining. I’m also preparing a supernatural novel called ‘Sacred Relic’, which I hope to have done by the summer.
My novella ‘Black Star, Black Sun’ has just been released by April Moon Books, and I’ve got some short stories appearing in anthologies in the next few months.
You can keep up with Rich at his blog at http://richwhawkins.blogspot.co.uk and also find his books by visiting the following links: