Monday, 23 January 2012

Interview with Graeme Reynolds

Graeme Reynolds' first novel, High Moor (a werewolf novel set in the North East of England), came out in November 2011. I’ll be reviewing the book soon, but, in the meantime, I caught up with Graeme to talk writing, werewolves and publishing…

She-Wolf: Hi Graeme. Thanks for talking to us. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself…

Graeme Reynolds: I’m originally from the North East of England, but moved to the Bristol area when I was 18, with the RAF. After a brief military career that lasted a whole year and a half, I stayed in the area. These days I break computers for money, and I moved into an isolated smallholding in Wales last year, in readiness for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. I’ve been writing for just over three years, and some people even like my work. My first novel, High Moor, came out in November.

SW: Tell us a bit about High Moor – what’s the book about?

GR: The book is split into three parts. The first part is very much a coming of age story, set in North East England in 1986 and also conforms more closely to the “classic” werewolf tale. The children in the first part have to deal with some pretty traumatic events, and that sets things up for the rest of the book.

Part 2 is very much about coming to terms with change. In this instance, it’s about how the characters deal with loss, and how their lives change as a result of the events in the first part of the novel. Specifically, how a family reacts to the fact that their ten year old son is now a werewolf. I like to think of part 2 as being the “what happened next?” part of the book.

SW: Sounds intriguing. What about the third part?

GR: The last section takes place in 2008, and the theme is how your past actions can have unforeseen consequences, sometimes years later. John, the main character returns to High Moor after a long absence, when he hears reports of what could be another werewolf in the town. He races against time to find the beast before the next full moon, when he will turn into a werewolf himself.

SW: So how did you get started in writing?

GR: Writing is something that I always wanted to do, but never really got around to. I used to write horror based role-playing games in my teens and twenties, and had a couple of false starts where I would write a chapter of a novel then consign it to the bin because I wasn’t happy with it. Then, in 2008 I discovered flash fiction and wrote about 30 or so short stories that were published in a few electronic and print venues. I started High Moor not long after I started writing shorts, but it sat gathering dust for a while. All things considered, that wasn’t a bad move in the end, because it gave me time to learn the craft, try different styles on and develop my own voice.

SW: Where do you get your inspiration from?

GR: High Moor was inspired by events in my childhood. There were reports of a big cat in the area, attacking livestock in fields. There were some sightings, and even a photograph of “The Durham Beast”, and we had the police coming into schools, warning us not to go into the woods alone. I was around the same age as the characters in the book at the time, and it left a lasting impression on me.

SW: So is High Moor a bit autobiographical then?

GR: There is an awful lot of autobiographical stuff mixed in with part 1, in terms of what the kids get up to. My mother has already chastised me for a scene involving the school VCR.

SW: So there are a few stories from your childhood then?

GR: One scene in particular – the climax of part 1, has been with me for years. I remember being at a scout camp and being told around a campfire, under a full moon, about a book that had a werewolf attacking a cub scout camp. I got so scared that I packed my stuff and walked home at 2 in the morning. It turned out later, when I read the actual book, that none of that stuff happened, and it was just kids being nasty. That mental image of that scene stayed with me though, and that was in many ways, the starting point for me when I sat down to write High Moor. It’s been a story that I’ve wanted to tell since I was ten years old.

SW: Tell me a bit about the werewolves in High Moor. Did any particular traditions inspire you?

GR: I started off with the standard, common and garden wolf man stereotype, and found in many ways, the twist to the mythology that I came up with grew organically from the story. I’ve always loved the fact that werewolves very much represented man’s struggle with the bestial part of his nature. I tried to really build on that, so while there is only one “curse” as such, depending on the mindset of the individual, they become a different type of monster.

SW: So what sort of werewolves do they become?

GR: The classic wolf man is called a moonstruck in the story. These are the people that fight against the wolf and keep it suppressed. When the moon is full, the wolf becomes too powerful and they change, but because they fight it, they end up caught between man and beast. All pain, rage and instinct.

The afflicted that accept the wolf side of them become more fully wolf, and retain their personality and intellect. The two sides work in harmony, although even in human form, they have strong wolfish instincts as they are in a symbiotic relationship with their animal side.

The last type is somewhere between the two. When a victim gives themselves over to the wolf. They retain their intelligence to an extent, and can change at will, but even in human form, they are more animal than person.

SW: There’s been a bit of a boom in werewolf fiction lately, why do you think they’re so popular?

GR: I think that werewolves have always been popular. A great deal of the recent interest comes from the paranormal romance genre, where the werewolves are considered primarily as a love interest for a human character. The same thing happened with vampires, and while it may make for a nice teenage fantasy, it gets away from what is interesting and frightening about the monster, taming it, if you like.

There are more horror themed werewolf stories coming out as well, though. Maybe with vampires and zombies saturating the market, people are turning back to the werewolf as another option. I can only hope that it continues, and we get some real quality werewolf fiction coming out. There are not that many truly great werewolf novels, when compared to other sub genres. Not that I have found anyway. It’s about time there were more.

SW: You have some female werewolves in your book – tell me a bit about writing them.

GR: I have a couple, but the main female werewolf character was very different to write than the others. She’s probably the most assured character in the book – certainly the most comfortable with herself. She has a playful, tender and quite mischievous side to her, but has her own agenda and won’t think twice about making a mess of anyone that gets in her way. By the time I finished the book, she was probably my favourite character. She’s almost certainly going to be the main protagonist in the second book.

SW: Was she any harder to write than the male werewolves?

GR: In some ways, she was the easiest to write, but also the most frustrating. She had an uncanny knack for turning my plot on its head and ruining my chapter plans, because she would go off and do something that I’d never even considered. It’s strange when things like that happen, but also great.

SW: Outside of your own (of course), who’s your favourite female werewolf?

GR: While I’ll always have a soft spot for Kelly Armstrong’s Elena, my favourite she-wolf has to be Laura Greenacre, from Thomas Emson’s brilliant Maneater and Prey novels. She’s smart, withdrawn in many respects, but is absolutely loyal and vicious when she needs to be. Both books are among my favourite pieces of werewolf fiction, and Laura’s character is a big part of that.

SW: Let's talk about publishing. Once you’d finished writing High Moor what happened next?

GR: When I started High Moor, I was intending to go down the traditional publishing route. Unfortunately, the more I saw of traditional publishing, the less I liked the idea. I’ve met people who have sold 100,000 copies of a book and made almost no money from it. I’ve also spoken to people who have been given a dreadful cover by the publisher that has hurt their sales. I wanted to retain creative control over the book. I’m proud of it and didn’t want an editor chopping out the interesting parts to make it fit a niche.

SW: You started your own small press to publish your novel. Tell me a bit about that decision.

GR: The decision to form Horrific Tales Publishing came fairly easily. I understood enough of the market to know broadly what else I needed to do once the book was finished (little things like paying a cover artist and getting a professional editor involved). As I started getting these things done, the costs started mounting up and it occurred to me that, as I’m intending to start a business (albeit with one product) I might as well run it like a business. That way I can put things down as a business expense, for example. Also, while people will read something that a small press has put out, they won’t always consider something that’s “self published”. There is still a great deal of stigma attached to the term, and people who submit their first draft to Amazon without so much as proof reading it are not helping.

It could all go horribly wrong, of course, and I may have to eat my words and go crawling to a traditional publisher if no one buys it, but for now, I’m happy with my choices.

SW: Will Horrific Tales be publishing any more titles?

GR: There is a chance that I’ll expand into publishing other people’s stuff. I have a couple of writer friends that have some great books in progress, and it may be that, because I’ve dealt with a lot of the paperwork and other business parts, that they may want me to put their stuff out through the imprint as well. It all costs money, though, and takes a lot of time, that will invariably take me away from my writing. I’ll have to see how it goes.

SW: And what about a sequel to High Moor?

GR: I’ve already started on the sequel, and there is an “in continuity” short story out in an enhanced eBook anthology called Tooth and Claw through Liquid Imagination Publishing. I’m hoping to have the sequel out by the end of 2012, and at the moment, I’ll probably publish that one through HTP as well. There are going to be at least three books in the High Moor series, maybe more. I’ll have to see where the story takes me after the first three.

SW: What sort of books do you enjoy reading? Any favourites from the last year?

GR: I’ve had a very werewolf centric year. I started off with Wolfen, by Whitley Streiber, which scared me as much a second time around as it did when I first read it as a child. Then I read the fantastic The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon. It’s an amazing novel – especially the parts dealing with Michael’s life in the forest as a newly turned werewolf. It’s not really horror, but it’s one of my favourite reads of the year. This week I finished The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan. Parts of the book blew me away. Other parts went on a bit, I thought, and I wasn’t keen on the ending. Finally, today, I finished a book called The Squirrel who Dreamt of Madness. It’s a very odd book, but hilarious in places and quite thought provoking in others.

SW: How about films? Any favourite werewolf films?

GR: Decent werewolf films are few and far between. American Werewolf in London and The Howling remain the all time classics. I loved Dog Soldiers and liked a few of the Ginger Snaps series - especially the one set in the Middle Ages [ed. – Ginger Snaps Back, actually set in 19th-century Canada]. Other than that, I would struggle to think of any really good ones, although I did enjoy The Wolfman remake. I just wish that they’d stuck to practical effects instead of the CGI.

SW: I always ask this question…vampires or werewolves?

GR: Do you have to ask? Werewolves all the way. I mean, what is scarier – some angst-ridden walking corpse that seduces teenage girls, or a seven foot tall mass of muscle, claws and primal rage? No competition really.

SW: Thanks for chatting to us Graeme. Best of luck with the book.

High Moor is out now for Kindle (UK and US) and in paperback in the US. The UK paperback is planned for early 2012, as are other eBook formats.

The first five chapters of the book are available for free on Graeme’s website.

1 comment:

  1. Just finished High Moor and love it! Waiting for the sequel :)