OMINOUS 13 Dark Fiction Author Interview Series: WILLIAM COOK
Hi William, thanks for agreeing to this interview for my Ominous 13 dark fiction author spotlight series! For starters, let me note that as far as dark fiction, or the macabre, goes, your work is about impressive as it gets: very dark, very creepy. Is it easy for you to get into that kind of vibe to create your dark works?
Thanks Paul – I have always had a morbid fascination with the darker things in life so I am usually in that state of mind anyway. I do use certain techniques to raise the energy/darkness levels when it comes to writing horror. Some things I do to get ideas and the heartbeat racing are to listen to my favorite music while I’m tapping away on the keyboard. I listen to a lot of soundtracks, horror and otherwise. Some of my favorites include the soundtracks to Halloween, Taxi Driver, Maniac (Jay Chattaway), Hannibal etc and other albums from Acanthus, Fantomas, and anything by Danny Elfman and Joel McNeely, to name a few. I have a small study room lined with a lifetime’s collection of horror books and related ephemera which certainly helps ‘ set the mood’ so to speak. So I guess it is relatively easy for me to get a dark ‘vibe’ going, although I wish it was as simple to get the motivation flowing, to actually write something down.
I read in an interview with you by another dark fiction author, Donald White, where you stated that personal tragedy seemed to lead you in the direction of creating dark fiction. Did it help you find closure at all?
On some level I think that the process of writing is cathartic, if not for any other reason than just getting thoughts and emotion on the page. Personal tragedy does provide grist for the mill, so to speak, but “finding closure” through the act of writing about it, does not necessarily happen because one writes about it. Events never happen verbatim in my stories; on some level the event or experience may be retold but usually I prefer to use an analogous situation to relay my personal feelings. I make stories from experiences and that’s all there is to it most times, although the event in question to which you refer (murder/suicide of close friends) will become a story/novella at some point in 2014. I feel the need to tell the event from my own perspective and to impart the message within the story, that suicide has no mercy on anyone that survives.
Your recent work, Fresh Fear anthology, ranks #1 Best Horror Anthologies. Congratulations. How do you manage to get so many great authors to collaborate with you on projects such as this?
Thank you. Fresh Fear was my ‘outside’ project for 2013. I have worked in publishing as a sub-editor and a proof-reader in the past and wanted to reinvent myself. I put the anthology together as a labor of love as much as it is/was a career move. I have been a ‘stay at home dad’ for the past five years and have some serious gaps in my CV which have me concerned with the inevitable return to the work force just around the corner. Hopefully it won’t be the last of such projects as I found the whole experience to be challenging and rewarding. Hey, I managed to get stories from the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Jack Dann, Robert Dunbar, JF Gonzalez, Billie Sue Mosiman and one of my personal favorites – the fantastic Charlee Jacob. Admittedly, the stories from Campbell, Dann, Dunbar and Gonzalez are reprints but they are no less powerful examples of the horror genre than the day they were crafted. I approached a lot of the authors mainly through social networking sites like FaceBook and Goodreads etc. I crafted a well thought out introductory letter to let them know what it was I had in mind with the anthology. I designed the cover and used that to solicit stories and interest in the anthology and as a result word of mouth spread and the submissions started rolling in. I sent personal invitations to most of the authors included in Fresh Fear and was very pleased with the response. A number of the authors have been online friends for a number of years, which definitely made it easier; I have only met one of them in person, fellow New Zealander Tim Jones, who is a fine writer and was high on my wish list from day one.
So To me, horror, like sex, is like a universal language. Being a New Zealander, what is the horror culture like there?
Well, New Zealand (NZ) is a small country and is still relatively young compared to the rest of the world. Our literary traditions stem back to England and as a result English literary tradition has steeped most of the work produced here. As far as Horror goes as a genre, film production/movies have the strongest output as part of the horror genre. Most people think of Peter Jackson (Bad Taste, Brain Dead, The Frighteners etc) as New Zealand’s only producer of Horror films but we have other talented directors such as DavidBlyth (Death Warmed Up, Angel Mine, Wound) and others like Paul Campion, Glenn Standring, and Garth Maxwell to name a few. We don’t have any horror conventions etc – the closest we come is something called Armageddon – which is more of a pop culture convention. The first real Horror novel produced in NZ (in my opinion) was ‘The Scarecrow’ by Ronald Hugh Morrieson, followed closely by Maurice Gee’s ‘Fire Starter.’ More recently we have begun to produce authors who write what would be considered ‘Horror,’ examples include: Paul Mannering, Tim Jones, Paul Haines, Lee Pletzers, Cat Connor, Rocky Wood, Marty Young and Tracie McBride. There are a few fledgling presses set up now who publish ‘Spec fiction,’ which tends to incorporate fantasy, horror, steampunk and dark fiction but none of the subsidiaries of the traditional publishers seem interested in NZ Horror to date. Most of our Horror writers (myself included) tend to write with an American or English audience in mind so it is quite hard to pin-point a distinctively unique NZ horror perspective or voice. I have recently set up a FB group called New Zealand Horror Writers and hope to setup an accompanying website early 2014. I feel we have enough talented writers of horror here in NZ to start a bit of a groundswell now and to let the world know that the horror genre is alive and well in Aotearoa (indigenous New Zealand).
You seem like a tireless worker, William, with novels, short stories, cover art and poetry to your credit. Which comes first, the story or the accompanying art?
I’m a very visual person and before I ever started writing horror stories I was drawing monsters and skulls. When I write I tend to plot/think in cinematic terms – Blood Related for example was written with a movie in mind. Ie, I wrote it with a view to develop the story as a screenplay eventually. Sometimes when I’m doing a cover design for someone I will go off on a tangent and create something that I’ll attempt to transcribe to the page as a written story. Most of my art is character based and it does help to develop story characters and their various attributes in a visually compelling way (I hope so at least). But for me the two don’t necessarily go together and I quiet often use the different mediums (art + writing) as a form of relief from each other when things get a bit wrought.
From reading your biography, you’ve worked quite a bit of odd jobs, from making rat poison to working in meat packing. Which was the absolute worst of these?
Oh man, I’ve had a few shitty jobs. Probably the worst one was when I worked for a huge chemical company as a process worker bottling something called Baquashock, which is basically concentrated hydrochloric acid used for cleaning swimming pools. I can remember having to wear a disposable full body suit with gloves and gas mask but having on occasion splashes of the liquid burn the pigment from my skin leaving white marks on my flesh. On Friday nights after work they had a social club and I’d only need two-three beers and I’d be nearly rolling on the floor – the chemicals seemed to enhance the effects of alcohol, which made the job bearable.
You seemed to have done a bit of everything in the macabre horror genre, except movies. Is there a certain work of yours that you feel would translate best into video form?
Yes. I’d love to see Blood Related made into a film one day – as I mentioned above, I wrote it with this view in mind. I am also currently working on an approved novelization of a great New Zealand Horror movie by director David Blyth, called ‘Wound.’
For someone totally unfamiliar with your work, which of your works would be a good starting point to discover the darkest nature of your work?
‘Creep’ is an easy read at about a 10k word count and has received many favorable reviews. I think it’s one of my better works and it also happens to be the first story in an exciting and gritty new psychological thriller series. Here’s the blurb – “Cassandra: Hunter of Darkness, is a hero to the victim and a merciless angel of death to the evil ones. A killer of killers, she strikes fear into the hearts of those who get their kicks off hurting others. Join Cassandra on her quest for justice and revenge as she begins her journey into the dark underbelly of serial murder and takes care of business, as only she knows how.”
Which do you prefer writing: novels, short stories or poetry?
I love writing short stories but I’m looking forward to writing my second novel. I actually started writing poetry seriously before short fiction and I feel that poetry prepared me for prose with a good understanding of cadence, strong imagery, and most importantly an ability to use language/words economically. The novella is my preferred format/word length as it seems to have many positive spin-offs in that if it’s too short it still works as a piece of short fiction and if it’s too long it can easily be worked up to novel length. So next year, I plan on writing at least three novellas and I hope that will result in at least one novel length work.
What are your current projects and what can we expect from William Cook in the future?
I am currently working on the novelization of David Blyth’s movie ‘Wound’ and expect to have that completed (pitch ready) by March 2014. I’m also halfway through the sequel to ‘Blood Related’ and hope to have that completed mid-2014. I’m also working on a collaborative novel/novella with friend and publisher James Ward Kirk and have a collection of short fiction nearly ready for submission, amongst other things.
If someone wanted to inquire about working with you on a cover project, what is the best way to reach you and even more importantly, what would make you interested?
Come and check out my design website – http://bloodsoakedgraphics.tumblr.com. There you’ll find prices, examples and testimonials from other clients. I am cutting back on my cover designs in 2014 to concentrate on my writing but I’m always interested in interesting projects. My main website has plenty of contact details/links also – http://williamcookwriter.com
Being a single father of three, I can totally respect your role of father to young girls. I often have to flip the switch from creator of darkness to big softy, often at the blink of an eye. Do your girls have any idea what your macabre works are about and do how do you manage to delve in and out of those roles?
No, they’re too young to know what I do although they do comment on my ‘spooky books’ etc. I have two older girls also (25 yr olds) who like reading similar books and seem to respect my obsession with writing and creating horror. I write in the evenings and when my youngest are at school/pre-school so I always keep my work separate from them really. I definitely have two separate realities in that respect.
Thanks for your time, William! It was a great pleasure digging into the mind of a great creator of darkness!!