Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category

A New Kind of Horror Story: Interview with Vincent Hobbes

October 7, 2011

Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’, Washington Irving’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’, Stephen King’s seemingly endless multitude of creepy stories: you can’t deny the fact that some of the world’s most memorable horror narratives come packaged in just a few pages.

Classic horror narratives that found their way into popular culture

Taking the classic horror story to new and strange places is The Endlands, a short story anthology written by a selection of contemporary horror writers. One of whom is Texas-based Vincent Hobbes, who is also the brains behind the book’s concept, and describes it as “a collection of 17 mind-boggling short stories, a carnival of tales, sure to entertain your darkest fears.” Rather than sicken you with gore, The Endlands injects its short stories with Twilight Zone-style bizarreness.

Awesome Art chats to Vincent Hobbes about the release of The Endlands, the development of his own writing style and why gore and ‘torture porn’ horror leave him cold.

The man behind the madness

How did your interest in writing begin?

I was always creative, even as a child. I think that motivated my passion to write. I enjoyed a wild imagination, and needed an outlet for it. Writing came naturally for me. I remember creating stories in my head at a very young age, and began writing them down when I was a teenager.

What about your interest in horror? Can you remember the first horror related piece that you wrote?

I’ve always enjoyed scaring people. Ask my sister or her childhood friends—it was quite the hobby of mine! I wrote a horror novella in my freshman year of high school. It wasn’t very original, and not even well written, but it started me on the right track.

How would you describe your own writing style?

I write much differently now than I did before I wrote professionally. In the past, I focused a lot on description and less on characters and plot. I now understand the importance of character connection. I find my style is faster paced, a more furious approach. I still keep the description, but it’s a better blend.

Tell us about some of your previous writing projects pre The Endlands.

I previously worked on a fantasy series with two other authors. But it’s an ongoing project—a very complicated project!

What was the initial concept for The Endlands? Where did the idea come from?

The original idea was to put together a short story book of my own work. As the idea grew in my mind, I decided I wanted other authors to contribute. I have always loved the bizarre side of horror, like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, and I wanted a collection of stories that were really out there, really creative—The Endlands is that place. Thank my wife for the title!

How do you think the stories connect with each other?

Each story is different in every way, yet each fits into the same realm of unexplained.

Tell us about the other writers who have stories featured in The Endlands.

After presenting this project to my publisher, we sought out talent. Through different means my publisher helped me take submissions. After just a few weeks, hundreds of submissions flowed in—some by professional writers, some by writers who simply had a good story. From there came the painstaking process of attempting to find the best work—and the stories that best fit the project.

Do you have a favourite story in the book?

Hard for me to pick a favourite, though I really enjoy Patrick Greene’s stories. His writing is so fluid, and his imagination is endless. Craig Wessel’s work is also great.

Do you think that the subject of horror is particularly suited to the short story?

The short story allows for a quick scare, so in that way, the short story is conducive to horror. I think the short story has a bigger impact at times. An example of this is Shirley Jackson’s story, ‘The Lottery’.

Do you have a favourite short story horror writer?

Stephen King.

Are you a big horror movie fan as well? What do you think about the current ‘torture porn’ fascination?

I am a huge fan of horror films. I’ll watch almost any movie that is horror, but it takes a lot for me to truly appreciate a horror film. I prefer horror that relies on a solid plot and a creative take to it. I’m not a fan of ‘torture porn’ or gore. Gore is necessary only when it fits the story, but often—both in movies and books—gore is used to shadow poor ideas and poor writing.

Who are some are your favourite horror writers and why?

I’m a fan of Stephen King, perhaps the master of horror. I think my fear of clowns can be attributed to IT. I also love Rod Serling’s work, and Ray Bradbury. Though they are often categorized as science fiction writers, I think they fit into the horror category as well. These writers know how to tell a story, they know what makes the reader cringe. They also make you think. Horror that makes you think is the best kind. Horror that leaves you wondering is even better.

Are you currently working on any new projects?

I am currently working on two new projects. First is a horror novel that takes place in the Wild West. Secondly, I’m working on a dystopian novel. I hope to finish these this fall and have them released sometime next year.

What are your other interests outside of horror and writing?

Spending time with my family and friends, and my German Shorthaired Pointers.

Can you talk us through a typical day in your life?  

I’m lucky because I have a flexible schedule, so every day is not the same. I typically write in the morning and late at night. Other than that, you may find me outside with my dogs or on the Internet. I am happily married and own a home. I work, hang out with my friends, and spend time with my family. I especially enjoy time with my beautiful niece.

My life is as normal as anyone else’s!

Vincent and his wife

Vincent Hobbes lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, chickens and ducks north of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex. Visit his website here.

The Endlands is available now from Amazon.

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Horrific Tales from Wales: Interview with Horror and Fantasy Writer Tim Lebbon

May 27, 2011

A family man who loves the Welsh countryside and creating post-apocalyptic worlds, award-winning fantasy and horror writer Tim Lebbon talks Stephen King, creating characters and his various upcoming projects to Awesome Art.

Tim chillin'

With his friendly, warm disposition and details of a normal childhood and teenage years, you would never expect this bearded bespeckled man to have destroyed the world several times over in so many of his horror and fantasy novels. Stephen Volk, with whom Tim has written a screenplay, says of Tim that, “He is the exact opposite of what people might assume a horror writer to be like. He’s charming, funny, loyal, sensitive, passionate about the wonders of science, and always fired up about the next big idea.”

Tim became a full-time writer five years ago. When he’s not chained to his desk writing scary stories, he spends his free time with his wife and kids and watching movies (yes, he loves horror movies, although he doesn’t care for Torture Porn) with a glass of wine or a fine ale like the ones detailed in his novel Bar None.

Delving into horror

“I made my first story up when I was four,” Tim remembers. “I didn’t write it down, but it was about the giant black cat that lived at the bottom of my garden. Even at four I was making up stuff like that.” From then on he was constantly writing, and wrote dozens of unfinished novels during his teenage years. “I’ve always loved horror, I think I just gravitated that way,” Tim admits. Was he a weird teenager? Did a love of horror result in a goth phase or rebellion? “Nah, I was pretty normal really,” Tim remembers. “I wasn’t particularly rebellious.”

Instead of rebelling, Tim took to the books. From an early age he devoured books, and then he discovered horror fiction. “My Mum gave me a book when I was ten; The Rats by James Herbert,” he says. “It wasn’t a book for a ten-year-old really,” he smirks. “It’s pretty gruesome!”

Not your typical kids book...

It was in his teens that he discovered Stephen King. “For a few years there was just Stephen King and James Herbert,” Tim remembers. “I read their books again and again! It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I realised that there were other horror writers.” Nowadays, Tim writes more than he reads, although he still cites King as an influence, as well as Arthur Macken.

Bringing horror to Wales

Tim was born in London in 1969, but only lived there for 18 months before moving to Wales. He is now settled in the small Welsh town of Goytre with his wife and two children. Christopher Golden, an American writer with whom Tim has collaborated, states, “Tim’s family comes before anything.” Tim refers to Wales as his true home. Like Stephen King, who sets the majority of his novels where he lives, in Maine, Tim believes that Wales is the perfect setting for a horror novel.

“If I’m writing a contemporary novel, as opposed to another-world fantasy novel, I generally set it where I know.” Tim mentions Bar None, a post-apocalyptic novel set in Wales where the characters try to make it to the last bar in the world. “Bar None combines two great loves, which are horror and beer,” laughs Tim. “The research for that one was pretty difficult!” he jokes.

Bar None is not the only post-apocalyptic novel that Tim has written. In fact, it appears to be a favourite subject matter for him, from his first novel Mesmer to new novel Echo City. Tim cites The Road as a favourite novel and is fascinated by envisioning the end of the world. “It’s a pretty grim thing to be fascinated with,” he admits.

Blending horror and fantasy

Although Tim loves writing horror fiction, he has become known for his fantasy novels, particularly the series set in the fantasy world of Norella. The first Norella novel, Dusk, won the August Derleth Award in 2007. But Tim is quick to mention that his fantasy worlds are not your typical heroic fantasies.

“I write in the fantastic genre, I guess,” says Tim. “Some of it’s regarded as horror, some fantasy. But my fantasy books are alternative fantasy books. They’re really grim and dark.” Tim admits that while Dusk was well received, some people hated it because it was full of sex, violence and swearing. Furthermore, unlike most typical fantasy novels, there are no dragons, no orcs, and most unusual of all, no magic.

“A lot of fantasy novels tend to contain a magic system,” Tim states. “And fantasy fans are quite perceptive when they’re reading a novel, to make sure that your magic system works,” Tim states. But Tim went against this traditional fantasy system and created a world, Norella, that is devoid of any magic.

“There used to be magic, but the magic was misused by humanity,” Tim says of Norella. “So it withdrew itself from the world. It’s a story of the end of that world in a slow degeneration, not just a big bang.” Tim’s passion for post-apocalyptic horror is just as evident in his fantasy novels as it is in his horror works.

Creating characters

One of Tim’s favourite characters is Kel Boon from Fallen, a fantasy novel from the Norella series. Kel Boon is a middle-aged man who is past his prime, and strives to discover the next big thing in Norella. He is jealous of his companion Nomi, and eventually they become enemies.

“All my characters are human beings,” Tim states. “But you need to make them human beings. You need to give them problems and history, give them aims and give them a dark side as well.” In Fallen, these two main characters are driven apart as they become competitive enemies, resulting in the climax of the novel. “They were both quite unpleasant people,” says Tim. “The two characters bounce off each other so well. They created a real feel to the book.”

With new books being released (Echo City and The Secret Journeys of Jack London are just two coming out this year), and film deals in the bag (Jack London was picked up by 20th Century Fox last summer before the book was even released), it looks like Tim Lebbon is quickly working his way to the top of UK horror fiction, doing for Wales what Stephen King did for Maine. Watch this space.

Tim’s favourite creations

Mesmer (1997)

Written in his mid-20s, Tim’s first novel is well-known for its opening line: “In service stations across the land, the zombies walk.” A line which Tim didn’t actually write. “Everyone kept saying, what a great first line of your first novel! And I said, yeah! I didn’t actually write it. My publisher did,” Tim laughs. His first of many apocalyptic visions.

Beserk (2006)

This novel has been called both a zombie novel and a vampire novel, whereas actually it is just about, as Tim says, “these mad creatures that were invented by the British military and genetically engineered to fight.” The creatures were then buried and, in true horror form, dug up by some unsuspecting victim and brought back to life. Tim says, “It’s an action horror book, with lots of car chases and shoot-ups.”

Echo City (2010 – released in UK July 2011)

Already released in the States and coming to the UK this July, Echo City is cited by Tim as his favourite fantasy novel that he has written. Echo City is a massive city surrounded by a poisonous desert; nothing can get in or out. The city is 50 miles wide, and has layers beneath it, making it like all history built in one big city. “It’s a bit of a mad book,” laughs Tim.

For more info on Tim, his upcoming projects and where to buy his books, check out his website at http://www.timlebbon.net/

Bringing back the Freak Show: The Circus of Horrors

December 29, 2010

With horror movies getting sicker and gorier by the minute (I’m looking at you, A Serbian Film), today’s modern desensitized audience can find comfort in the fact that all of the slashing and chopping is shielded safely behind the television screen. Such movies have taken centre stage in the horror world and as a result horror as a live performance art, from 19th century French theatre Grand Guignol to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, is slowly becoming a forgotten form of entertainment. However, The Circus of Horrors are bringing live horror back to life with their 15th anniversary tour across the UK, The Four Chapters of Hell.

The Circus of Horrors: No Chavs Allowed — Copyright of the Circus of Horrors

The Circus of Horrors have been touring the UK with The Four Chapters of Hell since last Halloween, and will continue the next leg of the tour starting in mid January and ending in March. More tongue-in-cheek than all-out gore, the show combines talented trapeze artists, blood-drenched freaks and gross-out tricks in a shocking spectacle that is split into four sections and suitably set to a rock and roll soundtrack devised by Doktor Haze.

Haze: The leather-clad Master of the Circus — Copyright of the Circus of Horrors

The Doktor speaks
Born and bred in a circus, Haze is the self-described ‘un-dead ringmaster’ and brains behind The Circus of Horrors, which was created in 1995 and began by touring festivals. Interestingly, Haze cites theatrical rock as his main influence in becoming a horror performer: “I’m interested more so in theatrical performance rather than horror. People like Alice Cooper are to blame for that!” In his role as ringmaster, he sings his own songs and “controls the chaos” around him. It is clear that The Circus of Horrors is just as much a musical extravaganza as it is a theatrical performance. Haze is aware that most horror fans are into rock music and saw the opportunity to combine the two. But he is quick to stress that it is no cheesy musical. “It’s an alternative rock and roll circus,” Haze states, and he describes the show’s music as ‘tuneful metal.’ “It’s as much like Rob Zombie as it is like T-Rex,” he exclaims, indicating that rock music fans of all ages will love the show’s soundtrack.

Check out some of the music from the show here

Horror does occasionally make it onto the stage today, one example being Ghost Stories, the show that is currently playing in The Duke of York’s theatre in London. But The Circus of Horrors is in a league of its own. “Horror performance isn’t easy to do,” Haze admits. This may be the reason why The Circus of Horrors remains on top of its game, with genuinely talented performers from trapeze artists to sword swallowers. “There are more people going to see it now than ever before,” Haze states proudly. Indeed, the anniversary show has received high praise. Maria Smallcombe, who saw the show at the Oakengates theatre in Shropshire, states, “I’ve watched Cirque du Soleil, and The Circus of Horrors is up on par with that.”

Talented twisting trapeze — Copyright of the Circus of Horrors

Horror brought to life
The show is split into four ‘chapters’, beginning in a lunatic asylum set in the 1800s and finishing with a futuristic vision of a world controlled by the undead. As a live performance art, The Circus of Horrors takes full advantage of what horror films are incapable of doing: literally interacting with the audience. Haze believes that theatre can often be 2-dimensional. “The Circus of Horrors is a 4-D experience,” Haze states. “Things change when you set things on different levels onstage and start using the audience in the performance.” The performers choose volunteers (or perhaps I should call them victims) to partake. Haze laughs as he admits that 98% of the audience are terrified of being picked, but that there’s nothing to be frightened of. Maria Smallcombe claims, “You never know what’s coming next, but it’s not hardcore horror.” As Haze says, “They want to be scared but not harmed. We turn horror, which is a negative thing, into a positive thing that they can laugh about afterwards.”

Not for the faint-hearted — Copyright of the Circus of Horrors

When asked about his favorite part of the show, Haze indicates that The Circus of Horrors saves the best for last. “Near the end, during the future part of the show, all of the acts come back together onstage doing their party piece,” Haze says. In this part of the show each act shows off their talent to extreme measures. The sword-swallower gets his hands on an electric drill, and the contortionist does some impressive tricks with a bow and arrow.

See the full list of The Circus of Horrors YouTube clips here including interviews with Richard and Judy and performances from previous shows.

The Circus of Horrors takes what is usually hidden behind television and movie screens and shoves it proudly in your face. Whether you’re looking for a visual spectacle, hoards of blood and gore or just want to be shocked out of your skin, then the Circus of Horrors will satisfy your horror cravings. Check out the tour dates for 2011 here.

Ghoulish Glamour: Burlesque Cardiff brings horror to the stage

December 17, 2010

Burlesque is known for its tongue-in-cheek kitsch and over-the-top glamorous glittery corseted ladies who bare just the right amount of flesh. But this Christmas Burlesque Cardiff are bringing an alternative element to burlesque with their horror-themed show, The Nightmare before Christmas.

Burlesque remains one of the most popular forms of performance art in the UK since its revival in the 1990s. There is talk of a new burlesque club coming to Cardiff, and from shows like Club Noir in Glasgow to London Burlesque to the UK’s very own Burlesque Magazine, it looks like the act of the sultry tease is here to stay.

The brains behind the burlesque
Stephanie Gawne, aka Miss FooFoo La Belle, is a bubbly buxom blonde who created Burlesque Cardiff three years ago. Stephanie’s background is in musical theatre, and she has a pretty impressive resume: she has ridden elephants in circuses, performed in pantomimes and taught classes in everything from pilates to bellydancing. It was her background in cabaret and bellydancing that led her to become interested in the burlesque revival.

Stephanie, aka FooFoo la Belle, of Burlesque Cardiff at rehearsals for the Christmas show

“I like the idea of having the themes and characterisation,” says Stephanie on her reasons for loving burlesque. She decided to set up burlesque workshops in Cardiff for Dita Von Teese wannabes. “There was a definite niche in the market,” Stephanie remembers, “for somebody who could set up classes that people could come to and do routines for any age and any body type, to make up a kind of crazy completely eclectic little chorus.” Stephanie’s ‘eclectic little chorus’ of students now join her onstage as the stars of Burlesque Cardiff’s live shows.

The ladies of Burlesque Cardiff finish up a day of rehearsals

Stephanie relishes picking themes for Burlesque Cardiff’s performances. “We started off doing generic themes, but I realised we were repeating ourselves, and Cardiff is quite a small place,” says Stephanie. This led her to make the themed shows more specific. “We once did a Welsh themed show,” Stephanie laughs, revealing a glittering tongue stud. “That went down really well!” Other previous shows include a sci-fi theme, a retro 1940s show and the Toy Emporium, which Stephanie says featured a mix of “warped childhood memories”. Next year’s show is set to be an 80s themed performance, entitled Back to the Future.

Click to hear what Burlesque performers Belladonna Bliss and Miss Betty Blue Eyes love about the art of burlesque.

BurlesqueCardiff by hannahmayk

The dark side of burlesque
Stephanie reveals that many of her performance pieces can be quite dark, including performances influenced by Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and the character of Pris from Blade Runner. In their upcoming show, The Nightmare before Christmas, Burlesque Cardiff are focusing on the dark side of burlesque. The decision to incorporate horror into burlesque at Christmas rather than at Halloween is an unusual move, but this is exactly why Stephanie chose to do so. “I came up with the idea over the summer. We’d just done the Toy Emporium, which was very kitsch. We wanted to do something a bit more edgy.” The concept is more popular than expected, and Stephanie states that she has heard of other burlesque troupes putting on Nightmare before Christmas shows, one such example being the Nightmare before Christmas Zombie Burlesque show in London. “I think people are getting bored of the kitsch, cutesy Christmas shows,” Stephanie muses.

Horror and burlesque are a common collaboration and Stephanie believes that this is particularly down to the influence of Gothic horror. The iconography of early black and white movies has had a significant influence on the burlesque revival. “There is a definite link to the horror,” Stephanie says. “Gothic looking women, vampires, tight corsets and heaving breasts: there is a lot of sexuality behind it.”

Burlesque Cardiff vamp it up

Cardiff’s Nightmare before Christmas
The Nightmare before Christmas show is much more than just a stage performance. Rather than a homage to the film of the same name, it will feature a series of non-linear burlesque sketches. As well as performances from Foo Foo herself and many of her former students, who have taken on stage names like Belladonna Bliss and Miss Betty Blue Eyes, there will be a number of other forms of entertainment throughout the night. These include guest performer Misty Fire from Leeds and comedian Owen Niblock, ‘the master of all geekdom’. Rogora Khart will provide the music for the after party, and there will be a range of stalls selling burlesque clothes and jewellery, as well as a professional photographer and cakes.

Stephanie is careful not to reveal too much about the show herself, although she admits to being a bit nervous about her new solo. “I haven’t done this solo in public before,” she states, “But I’ll be happy if I get a reaction and it goes down well. It’s a bit of a crazy idea!” The show is being performed on December 22 at Guildford Hall, and unfortunately sold out two weeks in advance. This is only a further example of how burlesque is still as popular as ever, particularly when it has an alternative edge.

Fancy joining the troupe?
If you are interested in becoming involved with Burlesque Cardiff, contact FooFoo either on Facebook, through her website or through the Burlesque Cardiff Website.