Q&A with Horror Writer Nic Parker

Nic Parker

Nic Parker (she looks so sweet…)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (How long are we supposed to keep saying that for?!) Anyway, today I’m pleased to welcome a good friend of mine, Nic Parker, to tell you about her love of horror and her excellent new book, Descent to Hell. I asked Nic a few questions, and she gave me some excellent answers – btw, in case you don’t know Nic already – she’s very funny and she swears. A lot 🙂

So I know you’re a big fan of horror. What is it about it that really attracts you? Monsters? Gore? Psychological chills? Ghosts? Or none of those – you just have an unquenchable bloodlust?

Probably the latter 😉 As long as I can think I was fascinated by all things dark and obscure. While others in my class were taking dance lessons I could only think about how to find an uncut watchable video copy of Evil Dead. Horror is the genre with the widest range – for example, Alien is sci-fi but also horror – and I adore all facets of the genre. I’ve been fed up a bit with vampires and zombies lately and I’d say I wouldn’t want to see the 645th torture porn bullshit with a story as thin as a wafer but other than that horror is the genre that just keeps on giving.

What’s your favourite horror movie? 

If I have to break it down to just one it is definitely John Carpenter’s The Thing. I was lucky enough to see the movie on the big screen for the first time ever this year and I was almost moved to tears. Thirty years after its making it remains pristine with awesome actors, perfectly applied tension and handmade effects that get every horror geek drooling.

What’s your favourite horror novel?

I’d have picked a classic like Stephen King’s It or Clive Barker’s Coldheart Canyon and I said I am fed up with zombies but I read M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All The Gifts this year and the characters and story just blew me away. Carey managed to inject completely original ideas into the genre and a zombie novel that is so poetic without being pathetic and that makes you cry at the perfect ending is worth putting at number one.

Do you think horror works better in books or on screen, or does it depend on the story?

I think horror works on many levels, the obvious, the subliminal and the subconscious. There are monsters that scare you shitless when you see them on screen but two hours after seeing the movie they are cool but not scary anymore. Then there are characters that cling on to you and that keep haunting you for months or years. No matter if it’s written or on the screen, if it’s well done it will scratch at your soul.

What do you really hate about the horror genre?

As I mentioned above, serving the same shit for the umpteenth time, like endless rape and revenge shit. I love gore and violence in movies but not just for the purpose of serving base motives. I am not bothered about sequels as long as they continue the story or tell another story. My absolute pet hate is the goddamned bloody remakes that the coke snorting Hollywood producers come up with.

Who is your favourite horror character? 

My big role model: Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Awesome characterisation of a villain everyone would love as a friend.

He’s my favourite too. With Patrick Bateman coming a close second 🙂 Your debut novel, Descent to Hell, focuses on an important quest – the search for a missing child. What made you want to write about this, in particular?

Well, the main character of the story is Charlie Ward, who will stop at nothing to help his niece because she is more like a daughter to him. My central idea was that he descends to Hell to help a loved one who is trapped down there. I wanted Charlie to be completely unprepared on how to try and find his niece because, honestly, how would you prepare for a trip to Hell? Sunblock 50 and holy water?

So, what did you enjoy most when writing the book?

Conjuring up places in Hell that nobody has read about before, making Hell my own place. Also, being lazy as fuck and doing zero research as you can bend the rules to your own will when you are writing about Hell and demons.

Are you working on something else at the moment?

I’ve got few projects in the pipeline, one is another supernatural story, the other a psychological thriller and I am one third into the sequel to Descent to Hell.

What advice would you give to anyone who’s trying to write a horror novel?

The first advice I’d give to everyone thinking about writing a novel would be: Fucking write it because no one else will do it for you.

Horror is so great because you have so much to choose from, ghosts or ghouls, vampires or monsters, serial killers or aliens – just make them your own creatures and don’t be afraid to add your own ideas – the more fucked up and extraordinary the better!

Writing about fictional characters and the supernatural is a great way to let your mind completely run havoc – anything is possible and the sky – or Hell – is the limit.

And finally… What did you think of Stranger Things? 🙂

There isn’t a love button big enough to express what Stranger Things means to me. I was quite late watching it and this television series captured the essence of the 80s immaculately. Apart from Winona Ryder’s terrible overacting this TV series was an event not to be missed and I wish I had written the story. Watching it meant feeling like being 14 again. The set design, the actors, the awesome soundtrack – a nostalgic blast and beyond brilliant!!

I loved it too! Thanks Nic!

Nic Parker was born in 1971. Her love for the horror genre flourished in early childhood. She enjoyed the opulence of genre productions in the eighties, chasing after forbidden video nasties with friends, and reading mainly Clive Barker and Stephen King. Since her twenties she’s had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing many household names from the horror genre in her role as a journalist for Moviestar magazine. She is an avid book collector, passionate about art and likes to try out new recipes from her many cookbooks. She lives in rural Germany with her husband and six cats. Descent to Hell is the first part in the Hell trilogy with main character Charlie Ward. You can find Nic at her blog and on twitter.

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In case you’re wondering what I’m up to… my latest novel THE DAMSELFLY is out on 2nd Feb (you can pre-order HERE) – and if you sign-up to my website, HERE (or click on the prize image), by the end of January, you can win this very cool bunch of goodies.

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AND for another chance to win a copy of the signed paperback (and a mystery gift) – check out the goodreads giveaway HERE.

THE DAMSELFLY will be launched at branches of Waterstones in Edinburgh and London in February – full details HERE.

Capricious Kitty (or “when characters come to life”)

Today I’m delighted to welcome Ava Marsh to the blog to tell us a bit about the heroine of her fantastic second novel EXPOSURE. Ava’s debut UNTOUCHABLE was one of my favourite reads of last year, and her second is every bit as good. if you fancy something a bit different (brilliantly written, engaging, twisty and twisted, dark and sexy!) give them a whirl… plus, there’s a fun competition at the end of the post to win a copy of the book, where you can find out exactly what Kitty Sweet has been up to 🙂

Over to you, Ava.

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I never believed all that guff you often hear authors say about their characters taking over the story. Thought it was just a fanciful way of making the endless slog of writing a novel sound more glamorous and mysterious than it really is. More magical, as if words and ideas sprang from some ineffable external source. Characters, I firmly believed, did exactly what you told them to do because, quite simply, you made them up. You, the author, were the one in control of this whole shebang – though of course, all readers bring their own stuff into the mix, and read between the lines things you never consciously intended to be there.

My author-as-god pragmatic approach remained intact until I met Kitty, the capricious ‘heroine’ of my latest novel, Exposure. I set about getting to know her the way I did most of my characters – deciding on her background, family situation, needs, likes, whatever. I carried out the exact same exercises I always use – a few character prompts, some brainstorming, a lot of thinking and scribbling ideas down on bits of paper. Armed with a rough idea of what I wanted to say via her character, and how the plot would unfold, I set forth into my first draft.

I quickly came unstuck. Kitty, apparently, had other ideas that didn’t seem to have anything to do with my original intentions for the story. It was all very frustrating. Whereas Grace from Untouchable was someone I got to know fairly quickly, someone I innately understood pretty much from the get-go, Kitty point-blank refused to cooperate. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get a sense of what made her tick.

This, needless to say, was all very disconcerting – I blamed myself, my methods, my inability to fully realise her character in my mind. Whatever I did, she remained slightly unknowable, as if I was peering at her obliquely through a pane of glass smeared with dust and dirt – I could delineate certain aspects of her personality, but couldn’t make out the whole. I began to feel genuinely sorry for her prison therapist, Yvonne, who seemed to be having the same trouble getting to the bottom of what was really going on inside Kitty’s pretty little head.

Looking back, I was being impossibly dense, but thankfully Kitty waited for me to catch up. Eventually, after drafting out most of the book, I finally got what she was trying to tell me – that nothing about her was quite what it seemed. As soon as I grasped this, everything fell into place. I had my character, and I had a much stronger grasp of the sort of book she wanted me to write. And Kitty, finally, sprang into life, in all her capricious, enigmatic, inscrutable glory.

The whole experience taught me a lot. Never imagine you’re in complete control of your characters or your world. Never assume that writing one book will be the same as writing the next. And never give up when your story stalls – the solution may be just around the corner.

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I’m a massive fan of both of Ava’s books, and I can tell you that Exposure is currently only £1.99 on Amazon – a bargain! But if you’d prefer a paper copy, I have one signed copy to give to one lucky reader… all you have to do is share this blog post on social media, and answer the question below (in the comments, please) – Ava will choose a winner on 31st October. (UK only, sorry!)

Good luck!

QUESTION: If you could choose a secret identity that meant you could do anything you wanted and no one would ever know it was you, who or what would you choose to be?

**COMPETITION NOW CLOSED: WINNER IS ALISON BARLOW**

HomicIdes of March Big Book Giveaway

Well it’s only been 5 days since Black Wood was released into the wild, and I’m delighted that it’s already broken into the kindle top 50…

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…and it’s a Number 1 Bestseller in both Scottish Crime and Vigilante Justice, and #2 in Psychological Thrillers – next to my release day twin, Louise Voss 🙂

Susi & Louise

Susi & Louise

Thank you all for buying it – and thank you to those who’ve already read it and either sent me lovely messages or left me an Amazon review (currently rated as 4.8 with 11 reviews). I am still terrified every time someone tells me they’ve started reading it, but am delighted that the reaction so far has been very positive!

Also – for anyone who ordered the paperback – it appears that Amazon are fulfilling their pre-orders right now, and some people have already received the book! It’s not officially released until 19th March, with my launch on Wed 18th at Waterstones Chiswick (and the following week, Thurs 26th, in Waterstones West End, Edinburgh)  – I can’t wait!

Now, I’ve got news about TWO giveaways… Firstly, if you’d like to win a signed copy of Black Wood, you can enter HERE (closes on Wed 4th March)… and Secondly, if you’d like to win a copy of Black Wood plus 40, yes *40* other fantastic crime thrillers, then you need to click HERE (closes 31st March – and if you get your friends to enter, you get an extra entry for yourself). I’ll say it once more… WIN Black Wood plus 40 other thrillers – in paperback – delivered straight to you!

Good luck!homicides-of-march-shareable

Do YOU have scary neighbours? Tell us about it and win a copy of #themagpies

Mark Edwards

‘Few of us actually live next to door to Dennis Nilsen, the Muswell Hill murder who chopped up fifteen visitors to his flat and flushed them down the toilet…’ says Mark Edwards, this week’s guest. Well, I dunno. I suspect my neighbour of similar offences, but as I have no proof… *sigh* Read on for the story behind The Magpies  – and a competition to win a copy of the book (which is brilliant, by the way – review is here)

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In The Magpies, a young couple move into their first home together and start planning the future – imagining all of those things that form plot points in the story of most people’s lives: nesting, marriage, kids. But, unfortunately for Jamie and Kirsty, they have moved into a building where the neighbours are not as friendly as they first seem. And soon, the young couple’s nest is under threat of being torn apart…

In my twenties, I lived in a flat in a converted Victorian building in St Leonards-on-Sea, a small town stuck onto the side of Hastings, where I grew up. My then-girlfriend moved into the flat first and lived alone for a few months while I was finishing university. During this time on her own, she met our new neighbours – a couple in their early thirties who spent the next two years doing everything possible to make our lives miserable: constant complaints, insulting letters and notes, hoax parcels, cigarette butts pushed under the door… It was all quite low-key stuff, although some of the letters, in which they complained about such things as the sound of ‘the toilet brush thrashing about the pan’ and my ‘boring guffaw’ (guffaw? I don’t guffaw!) were flabbergasting.

It made me think about how much worse it could get. What if our neighbours had not just been a bit nuts, and pesky, but actually….evil? What if they had set out to ruin our lives? Could they have done it? How would we have reacted? Thus the seed of The Magpies was born. I wanted to write a horror story that had no supernatural elements – more an everyday horror that could happen to anyone.

In Britain, we are obsessed with our homes. Apart from other people’s sex lives, cats, fuel prices and the rubbishness of the country’s public transport system, it’s one of the golden topics that everyone is interested in. Property prices, what the people next door have done to their living room… It’s a middle-class conversational topic that we never get bored of.

And while we are obsessed with our – and other people’s homes – we are thrown together, crammed onto this little island, forced to live in close proximity to other people and all the annoying things they do. Most of the stuff that irritates us about our neighbours is pretty mundane: excessive noise, where they park their car, the cat that craps in our flower beds, the mental Christmas lights that make their house look like Las Vegas every December.

Few of us actually live next to door to Dennis Nilsen, the Muswell Hill murder who chopped up fifteen visitors to his flat and flushed them down the toilet in his flat. Not many of us have neighbours like Fred and Rose West, or even the 83-year-old gran Ethel Watkins who was recently convicted of waging psychological warfare against her neighbours after a football landed in her garden. Ethel banged on the walls all night, made up rude songs about the family and taunted them over the death of their baby.

But what if we did live next door to a psycho who is intent on ruining your nest? What would you do? In The Magpies, Jamie is forced to make a decision – should he stay and fight, or run? What do you do when all of your dreams, and the things you took for granted, are dismantled or smashed to pieces? Especially when you have no real idea what you’re up against.

The Magpies was released last week and the reaction from readers has, so far, been incredible, which is a relief as I was nervous about putting out a solo book. But people seem to connect with the story and find it exciting and scary. Now that it’s in the Amazon top 40 I’m bracing myself for all the reviews complaining about how there aren’t any real magpies in it, when they thought it was an ornithological guide, but hopefully the book will connect with people and make a few readers have sleepless nights – and not because there’s an 83-year-old woman banging on their wall and making up rude songs about them.

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About Mark

Mark was born in Tunbridge Wells and grew up in Hastings on the south coast of England.  He started writing after he left university, where he studied Sociology, and wrote half-a-dozen novels during the 1990s while doing two of the worst jobs in the world: working for the Child Support Agency and Connex Rail, where he spent his days being shouted at by angry absent parents and even angrier commuters. He secured an agent but was unable to get a publisher.

In 1999 he featured on a BBC documentary about aspiring writers, which led to his partnership with Louise Voss.  As well as writing, he is a freelance marketer, copywriter and operates IndieIQ, a website for self-published writers.

You can find out more about Mark and Louise at their website Louise Voss and Mark Edwards and on their facebook page where they interact with readers and hold loads of competitions 🙂

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!!COMPETITION TIME!!

Mark has kindly donated a signed paperback copy of The Magpies for the winner of the best scary/crazy/weird neighbour story. Tell us about your experiences in the comments below, and Mark will pick a winner.

Comp will close on 7th April.

Note – some people have issues with my commenty thing – sorry about that! You don’t need to sign in or enter your email to comment and you don’t need to connect to twitter etc, but please put a way of contacting you in the comment thread so we can send you your book if you win!

UPDATE: The winner of the book is Anna (@ruanna3) – well done for surviving that one, Anna! Thanks to all who entered – some very scary tales 🙂