No, you put another shot of whiskey in there, Joe. I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough. If you’re gonna start nagging me, I’ll find myself another gin mill, one where I’m not being served by my maiden aunt.
Writing is a notoriously solitary business. What keeps you at it? The fame that constantly eludes you? Getting a lie in mornings? The rubber?
I always like to think of writing as a disease. Writers write because they have to, usually in order to get these damned stories out of their heads. The fact that writers can make money out of it (not much) and even get a level of fame or notoriety from it (even less) is just a bonus. I think if I couldn’t write, I’d have to find another way of expressing and expelling these darned ideas in my head: painting twee watercolours, composing turgid prog-rock operas, shouting at passing traffic…
What was it that inspired “The Big Picture”?
I wrote the story “The Big Picture” for two reasons. I wanted to write something about the religious conceit that to imagine or to see something sinful is as bad as to have actually committed the act itself. Secondly, I wanted to write a piece using the tropes and the slang – oh, the delicious slang! – of the 1940s and 1950s hardboiled detective stories. By the way, “wooden kimono” is my absolute favourite.
There seems to have been a shift in appreciation of Pulp Fiction. There is the so called New Pulp, but did Old Pulp ever really go away?
It’s odd that a genre has been defined principally by its publishing format and the generally low standard of writing that typifies it. That doesn’t mean that Pulp Fiction isn’t good – some of it is brilliant – but as a genre and art form, it has travelled from being “no art” to low art to something that is worthy of praise and study. I think that, if there is a genuine contemporary counterpoint, it’s the fan fiction that is produced on-line. It’s unpretentious, absolutely serves the needs of its audience and has its own distinct tropes that are frequently bemusing to the outsider (or is that those who aren’t part of the outsider community?).
What sort of fiction do you prefer to read? Which are your favourite TV shows and movies?
I grew up reading too much fantasy and science fiction. As an adult, I don’t read enough of either. I spend too much time reading books by “proper” authors.
Apart from the Clovenhoof comic fantasy books that I write with Heide Goody, I find myself focussing on steampunk and cod-Victorian fiction at the moment. I love the beautifully unnecessary verbosity of HP Lovecraft’s stories (yes, his stories are more than a little late to be Victorian but you can tell that he wants them to be and he tries – he tries so hard!).
I love superhero movies and bad action movies. I am not as ashamed as I should be to say that the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen adaptation is one of my favourite films. Oh, and the ridiculous almost-steampunk nonsense that is The Assassination Bureau, a tongue-in-cheek piece of sixties fluff in which Oliver Reed and Diana Rigg fight the attempts by Telly Savalas and Kurt Jurgens to kick-start World War I. Zeppelins! Time bombs! Sword fights! Can-can girls! What’s not to love?
What can you tell us about future projects?
I am close to completing a cycle of six steampunk/ Lovecraftian horror chapbooks which started with The Angels of the Abyss in 2013. The cycle should come to a close in 2015 with the final episode, The Herald of the Ancients. Zeppelins! Time bombs! Sword fights! Face-eating monstrosities from other realms! What’s not to love?
Meanwhile, Heide Goody and I continue to work on the inexplicably popular Clovenhoof novel series (apparently, they’re hilarious enough that people are willing to part with hard-earned cash to read them). Books three and four will both be out before the end of 2015.
Tell us something about yourself no one knows (don’t worry – no one is reading this).
Something no one knows? Well, I have this unusual rash under my— Oh, not like that? Hmmm… Very well. My own personal kryptonite is scampi. Sneak it onto my plate, feed it to me or even wave it suggestively in front of my face and I might just blow up and die in front of your face.