Can we start with something that you said at the launch of ‘Telegraph For Garlic’ and ‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks?’ You said that after the Internet, literature would follow the fine arts into the art gallery. What did you mean?
I had been drinking. My view is that the Internet has reduced concentration spans. Film also offers realism beyond the novel. A novel is richer than a film but a movie provides immediate detail. The literary and genre novel will not disappear but their readers will continue to reduce. That means literature will move away from long stories rooted in supposed realism to shorter stories with strong and unusual concepts. Flash fiction has already emerged as a modern phenomenon. I hope that flash fiction is not the future but short stories about abstract ideas will grow in popularity. Put crudely, Borges and Hemingway could soon be cool again.
Is that why Red Rattle Books was interested in an anthology of vampire stories?
Partly, all the stories in ‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks’ have conceptual strength. We have various notions that are examined – celebrity, feminism and seduction, bureaucratic indifference and self-destruction, ambition and mortality, loyalty, reward and morality, identity, the consequence of infinity if it exists and much more. We rejected those stories too influenced by film and TV.
What really pleased me about ‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks’ was the many ideas and themes, but is there not a risk with conceptualism? What happens if the reader misses the ideas?
Well, the stories are not exclusively conceptual. Character will always feature to an extent. Equally, the reader does not have to understand a story to be moved by it. I did not entirely understand the film, ‘Melancholia’, but the ending is emotionally powerful. You do not have to be an intellectual to like the stories in ‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks’. Many will enjoy the stories simply because they are easy to read and because they feel nudged by them to something interesting and affecting.
Can we now talk about what you do at Red Rattle Books?
I provide technical support on all the books published by Red Rattle Books. This consists of advising authors and editors about their stories and books.
What is the difference between your role and that of David Saunderson who edited ‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks’ and Samia Ounoughi who edited ‘Telegraph For Garlic’?
They each took their book or project forward. For example, David sponsored the competition for vampire stories and Samia coordinated the academic team used for ‘Telegraph For Garlic’. David and Samia decided what material was included and who contributed. I then looked at the material collated and as a second opinion suggested revisions where they were required.
What are your views regarding the Red Rattle Books brand?
Well, it is difficult to be completely consistent because we have produced cult fiction and academic books. We want the fiction to be accessible so we like it tight and focussed. Today, books need powerful voices so that means strong characters and unusual ideas. This means spare backgrounds and not detailed atmosphere, less often means more. The academic and non-fiction books have their own rules but so far we have mixed complex academic analysis with commentary from non-academics. We hope the academic books appeal to horror fans that are prepared to look at favourite texts in a different way. Reading sustained literary criticism can be difficult for those not used to it so we mix it with the type of analysis you might find in a Sunday broadsheet.
Tell me something about your own books.
I have published three. I began by writing a travel book about Brazil called ‘Innocent Mosquitoes’. This was quite political and that led me to write a blog that mixed music and politics. These blogs were collected and published as ‘No Money Honey.’ I also wrote a book on Elvis Presley and the Frankenstein Creature called ‘Treat Me Nice’. All those books were political to some extent. They stressed that the rich and powerful were not to be trusted and that we should always have sympathy for the powerless. Frankenstein and Elvis reignited my interest in horror and led me to write horror fiction and become involved with the horror books being published by Red Rattle Books.
Does that mean you have abandoned politics as a subject? I know your blogs about politicians had their fans.
I would now rather write fiction. I am still writing some non-fiction but that will finish this year. Once I have completed two horror anthologies of my own stories I will write a horror novel. I wrote 4 vampire stories for ‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks’.
I liked the surprise endings in your stories. Will you explain the meaning of ‘Life After Death’?
That is for you to decide.
But you will write a novel despite your belief about conceptualism and art gallery literature?
I know, ego is a terrible thing.
Tell me about your horror anthologies.
One will be published in 2014 and the other in 2015. They mix ghost stories with the fantastic. I hope to begin the novel sometime in 2014.
What will the novel be about?
At this moment, I want it to about someone joining a rich family in a haunted house. It occurred to me that ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘The Turn of The Screw’ tell the same tale. Charlotte Bronté writes as a radical and Henry James as a conservative. Jane Eyre is a heroine, while in ‘Turn Of The Screw’ the governess is a hysteric. We also have ‘Miss Julie’, which tells a similar story but in that play everyone is flawed. It seems an interesting starting point. But I will also be working with young authors to produce two anthologies of their horror stories. One will be restricted to stories about zombies and the other will be open to any horror stories. We will be setting up those projects in early 2014. We also now have two crime novels ready for publication. These will be published in 2014 and 2015.
Why not release the crime novels now and together?
Red Rattle Books publish crime but we want the future yearly lists to be defined by horror. For example, next year, we will focus on horror anthologies. There will be three – the zombies, the general horror and mine. The following year we will publish another horror anthology of mine and two non-fiction books that fit the horror brand. One will be about witchcraft and the other will be about nomad horror cinema, which is kind of like a cinema equivalent of raves. If we publish anything else besides these horror books and the two crime stories, it will be restricted to novels. Anthologies and non-fiction are time consuming for me.
Is it feasible these days to survive as a small publisher?
It is not easy. Clearly, the company benefits from the help of willing volunteers. But we also try and work with horror enthusiasts. Spooky Isles and David Saunderson have helped massively. The enthusiasm and dedication of young authors is also very inspiring, and the academics were supportive, especially at the beginning when Red Rattle Books needed help. We also appreciate the horror websites and societies. They are essential to the future of Red Rattle Books.