Confessions of my Past, Present and Future
It’s difficult for me to pinpoint a particular book from my childhood that made me want to write. I think the urge to write came much later. That being said, I loved to draw little comic books for my brother, so I was heavily influenced by late 80’s, early 90’s Batman and Superman. I learned how heroes can be driven to the extreme and collapse through storylines such as the Death of Superman, and Knightfall. There was something about those stories, the sense of doom, the fatalism of it all, where these heroes just kept on going, right until they lost, that had an impact on me. So yeah, those comics, fused with other influences such as the early 90’s Xmen cartoon, Swamp Thing, Toxic Crusaders (that later saw me seek out late night Troma movies when my Dad first got Sky TV), fuelled my imagination and the desire to tell a story, albeit through pictures as well as words.
Going back a little further, I know that a lasting impression was made on me by Roald Dahl through books such as The Twits, The BFG and The Witches. These stories had elements of horror running through them – I mean; those giants are eating the kids!
Through high school, even though lots of my friends were reading adult horror books, I shied away from it. I wouldn’t even watch horror movies until they re-released The Exorcist in cinemas. I think I caught A Nightmare on Elm Street once before then, but certainly it was a genre I had no great interest in until much later.
Somewhere in high school, I started to get a little more serious about my writing. Like I say, I’d gathered up these influences mainly from movies and I started to write these huge novel-length stories that would probably make me cringe now if I ever read them again. Gangster books, convoluted horror/sci-fi amalgams spawning sequel after pointless sequel. I loved it, though. I was about twenty when a story started to work its way through my mind, and it kept building and building. I wasn’t sure what this story could be classed as. I didn’t know which genre WH Smith would consider it to be, but it was going to be bloody, brutal and it looked as though there would be demons in it.
Around the same time, I was introduced to James Herbert. I read Haunted first and the book totally blew me away. A simple ghost story with a couple of twists and as a newbie to horror fiction, I was hooked. I read loads of Herbert’s stuff, but there was something about Creed that finally gave me a sense of direction. I could see that what I really wanted to write was horror. I think the book really helped me to redefine what horror is for me, in my mind, and how it doesn’t always have to be a ghost or a slasher, you can take the genre for a bit of a walk and as long as you keep it creepy, you won’t go far wrong.
Best I start with what I’m reading right now. I stumbled upon The Strings of Murder, by Oscar De Muriel. I’m about to finish it and I’ve very much enjoyed it. It’s a late Victorian mystery with supernatural undertones to it, set in Edinburgh. I picked it up because the cover looked cool, the blurb sounded good, and because I was looking for a period piece set in Scotland, so that I could get a basic idea of how the Edinburgh Scottish accent is represented in writing. That might sound strange, and I only live thirty miles from the Scottish border, and know various Scottish accents well, but while it can be fun to mess with phonetics, I could do that all day and perhaps spoil the pace of the book for a reader. So, you see? There was a method in the madness. As it goes, I reckon De Muriel got just about the right balance to give you the flavour without making you chew too much.
My love of James Clavell persists. Shogun and Tai-Pan have been huge influences on me in terms of ambition and in terms of daring myself to go back to my first horror efforts one day, where perhaps I started to think I had too many characters and plot strands to follow. Clavell handles so many characters and plots with a masterful hand, choosing to allow you in on these lives for a certain time period, during which, what gets resolved is resolved and what hangs over, the characters will sort out when you are no longer looking and you are well into your next book.
Chuck Palahniuk had an impact on me a couple of years ago with Rant, and anyone who has read my multiple-POV story Anti-Terror from the Carnage: Extreme Horror anthology will know that I credit Palahniuk as the key influence in my attempting to write the story that way. Lullaby, by the same man, was a great story with a horrific idea at its core – the power of words and words having the ability to kill. Although it doesn’t feel like a horror story when you’re reading it, it’s the idea at the heart of it and perhaps just my imagination that makes the leap. I suppose this compounded what I learned from Creed about horror being found in different types of story.
Editing for Dark Chapter Press enables me to read lots of new horror writing and I’ve read some great stuff. Two of my favourites are Blynd Haus by Robert J. Stava and Redwood by Angus Fenton – both of which feature in the Kill For A Copy anthology.
I’m about to read Ravensdowne by David Basnett. He’s an old friend of mine and he’s been working with a great set of characters for years on his Return of The Vampire trilogy. You get to see those characters grow from being new recruits, to full-fledged vampire hunters and this book is the first fully adult book with those characters in there, so I’m really looking forward to that.
Recently I struck up friendships with Stuart Keane and Kyle M. Scott. We fire our latest works at each other every now and again. I have to say, just as in my relationship with David Basnett, and in my position with Dark Chapter Press, I feel privileged to have read some great stories from those guys too, including Charlotte (Keane) and Devil’s Day (Scott).
Who can tell what will happen, but I know what I hope. I hope to be thirty stone in weight, sprawled out on a lounger on my private island with a chicken leg in one hand, and a cat o’ nine tails in the other, mumbling incoherently as a team of writers sit before me, furiously thrashing out part one hundred and twenty-seven of the Dr Blessing Legacy.
Or not. I hope to be as passionate about writing then as I am today. I hope to still be in a position where I can enjoy the work of new writers and perhaps help them get that first advance or royalty cheque.
I want to be able to go to the horror classics section of whatever book shops look like in the future, and pick up Charlotte, Devil’s Day and Ravensdowne – why not Dr Blessing, too?
I hope I get to write those westerns that keep bubbling about in my brain.
I hope I get to write that book about my time working in the care industry.
I hope I get to write a Batman story or a James Bond book.
Most of all, I hope that I keep developing my style. I want people to pick up one of my period horror books and without seeing the by-line, I want them to know it’s me. I want them to pick up one of my contemporary horror books and take a different feel from it, but still know that it’s me.
Until then, I’ll keep working on it. And most importantly, I’ll keep reading.
You can read my review of The Cabinet of Dr Blessing, here.
You can read my review of The Séance, here.
You can read my review of Kill For A Copy, here.
You can buy any of Jack’s books here.
If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer then please consider using the links below to buy any of the books mentioned in this feature. This not only supports me but also lets me know how many people actually like to buy books after reading my reviews.
Jack was born and raised among the twisting cobbled streets and lanes, ruined forts and rolling moors of a medieval market town in Northumberland, England. He claims to have been adopted by Leeds in West Yorkshire, and he spends as much time as possible immersed in the shadowy heart of that city. Fascinated by all things Victorian Jack often writes within that era and his period gothic horror works include The Séance and The Cabinet of Dr Blessing.
And for more about Jack, visit his site or find him on social media: