Die Booth

Die Booth makes no bones about genre fiction.

Die Booth is a long-term friend of mine. They did the cover for ‘Cemetery Drive’ and co-edited ‘Re-Vamp’, as well as helping out in all sorts of other ways with my glorious career. Die and I are also appearing in the forthcoming anthology ‘The Art of Fairytales’, of which much more later. On Friday 13th, Die released debut novel ‘Spirit Houses’. What type of book is it? Here’s Die to explain…

Spirit Houses

The cover of Spirit Houses.

As a writer I always get asked ‘what do you write?’ My default answer to that is ‘horror’, but it’s not strictly accurate. For a while I’d um and ah and hide behind the big golfing umbrella of ‘speculative fiction’ until I got fed-up explaining to people what that actually meant and tired of the ‘well, that’s a bit pretentious’ expression that would inevitably cross people’s faces, if they didn’t just look confused.

How do I describe my work, though? Magic realism? Urban fantasy? All of the above?

I’m having a real issue with categorising my novel Spirit Houses. Even filling in the ISBN form I agonised for a good half-hour on what to put in the ‘genre’ box. It just doesn’t fall neatly into any specific genre.

Like most of my writing, it’s a bit horror – in that it deals with the supernatural and the realms of the dead – but say ‘horror’ and people think of Stephen King and Eli Roth and there’s certainly no slicing up eyeballs in my fiction, at least not on-camera.

It’s a lot adventure too, in that jolly old Stephen Somers ‘The Mummy’ or Hellboy kind of way, but adventure tends to conjure up Westerns and spy thrillers in people’s minds.

There’s also an element of romance to it, but if I were to label it ‘paranormal romance’ I think I’d be giving people entirely the wrong idea altogether.

I could even label it YA if I chose to, because it’s got no gory horror or sex or swearing in it, but it certainly wasn’t written for a YA audience.

It’s also a bit more Literary than most people seem to expect (or like?) their genre fiction to be, but woe betide me if I attempt to class it as Literary – I’ve found out the hard way that Literary Fiction does NOT LIKE GENRE PIECES, especially if they involve VAMPIRES AND WEREWOLVES!

(Funny, really, when you think of all those M.R. James stories…)

In the end, I’m classifying it first and foremost as Steampunk. It’s a handy label that encompasses pretty much all-of-the-above, I believe (hope!) that Spirit Houses will appeal to a steampunk audience.

Even so, it’s not strictly steampunk either – there’re no airships in sight, it’s not set in the Victorian era and there’s minimal brass on display – but I do believe it’s at least got the flavour of the genre.

All of this is really proving a bit of a problem when it comes to marketing my book. Writers are advised to identify their target audience early on and calculate everything to appeal to that demographic, right down to the book cover. That’s why you’ll notice that a lot of genre books are… well, quite similar.

The audience finds what they like, and then they want more of it. Which is great apart from, it doesn’t leave much room for innovation. That’s where I think indie authors come in. It’s a big risk, but we get the opportunity to write whatever we want and be original in the process. So whilst I’m now stuck with the conundrum of how best to promote my every-genre story, I at least got to write exactly the story I wanted to write. I gave it the cover I wanted to give it. It’s my story and I told it. If you read it and enjoyit then please, please recommend it to anyone you think would enjoy it too. And whilst you’re at it, if you discover what genre it actually is, then can you let me know?

Spirit Houses is out now. Would you like to know more about Spirit Houses? Sure you would! Here’s some detail:

How far would you go for your career?
How far would you go for love?
How far would you go for the truth?

This is the time of the evening when the Things come.  As the trees close ranks and colours all merge into one colour, the Things start to stir – to dislocate their joints and stretch their limbs; rearranging themselves into new images for the twilight, they taste the air with prehensile tongues. That’s what Manda’s father used to tell her. He knew how little Manda loved to hear of the paranaturals. She got that fascination from her mother, he’d say back then. After, he’d say she got that fascination from her mother, but he’d say it differently…

When Manda’s lab partner Daniel Forbes goes missing presumed dead it’s just another normal day at University Hospital. But the circumstances of his disappearance aren’t quite as straightforward as they seem and take Manda and her colleagues at the Department of Paranatural Medicine on a journey across planes and to the fringes of death to find the truth.

Die Booth lives in Chester in a tiny house with four fire-places and enjoys old things, funny noises and exploring dark places. Die’s work has featured in three Cheshire Prize for Literature anthologies and has most recently appeared in The Fiction Desk, Litro, ‘For All Eternity’ from Dark Opus Press and Prime’s ‘Bloody Fabulous’ anthology amongst others.

You can also read several of Die’s stories in the 2011 anthology ‘Re-Vamp’ co-edited by L.C. Hu. Forthcoming work is due to appear in ‘Gothic Blue Book III’ from Burial Day Books and ‘The Art of Fairytales’ edited by Sarah Pasifull Grant.

To order a copy or to read more about Die, check out their website here

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The Next Big Thing

Posted: November 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

So I was tagged by Richard Hirst in this thing called ‘The Next Big Thing’, which looks suspiciously like a meme but is, more importantly, an excuse to both procrastinate and to talk about myself. I avoided memes on Livejournal as if they were the plague, but oddly have no issue with doing this. This is more likely because I found Richard’s writing interesting, but then, I always do. Still, I hope you find this interesting if you’re curious as to what I do when I say I’m writing, or what I’m scratching into a journal on a bus.

1- What is the working title of your next book?
It keeps changing, but right now it’s ‘Impossible Animals, or, Other Outstanding Attractions’. I kept going between ‘Impossible Animals’ and ‘Other Outstanding Attractions’ as a title, so now it’s both.

2 – Where did the idea come from for the book? 
Three different threads combined.

I wanted to write a story about staying friends after a relationship break-up, which is relatively unchartered territory for fiction. Maintaining a friendship with your ex is not easy and is sometimes downright impossible; everyone’s been in the position where they’ve told someone “but we can still be friends” and then found that it’s not as easy as all that.

I also wanted to find something for Annie-Key Walker to do. She appeared in Cemetery Drive, my first novel, acting as tour guide for a steampunk tour group called Club 1830. I knew her story needed to be told; I loved the idea of a sensible girl interested in history with anarchist parents.

While wondering how to combine these ideas, I started to become interested in cryptozoology, a fringe offshoot of zoology dedicated to the study of unknown animals, or animals considered extinct. The creatures are called cryptids; cryptozoologists are the guys you see trying to hunt down Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster. Slowly the disparate threads drifted together: Annie-Key and her ex, Damascus, would travel the world in an attempt to bag a cryptid for a zoo.

3 – What genre does your book fall under? 
Adult fiction is too broad a category I assume? It’ll probably end up in sci-fi because of all the cryptozoology, although it has just as much in common with romance as sci-fi. “Comic fiction” is thorny because I’d feel as if labelling it comic would totally undermine all the, like, totally serious issues, man. Also, it’s not funny enough to be comic fiction. I find writing in genre difficult; defining my own stuff along genre lines even harder.

4 – What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
There’s a joke in the book about how it would be Halle Berry and John Cusack, although in reality both are too old for the role. Ezra Miller and Elizabeth Olsen will probably be the right age by the time a hypothetical movie adaptation would get made; plus, they’re great actors. I imagine that the senior cryptozoologist Dennis would probably be ripe for some novelty casting; Elijah Wood or Matt Smith, someone unlikely disguised in beard and shaven head. AnnaSophia Robb could work as Francesca, the hipster tourist who becomes attached to Annie-Key and Damascus. At 19, she’s yet to play an ‘adult’ role, but reminded me of a tween Clementine Kruczynski in Bridge to Terabithia, which is along the right lines.

5 – What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Separated couple search for monsters; unknown author searches for larger audience.
6 – Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Ugh. I’d like to see it get a wider audience than my last two did, but self-publishing does not seem like a viable option in which to attract this audience. The most successful self-published book ever, Fifty Shades of Grey, was originally Twilight slash-fic and has introduced BDSM to the housewife market: my book is unlikely to have such eccentric crossover appeal. The managing director of the company I work for suggested that the distinctive hook that I need is toucan sex. That’s on the maybe pile; in the meantime, the painful route of hawking the book around agents beckons.

7 – How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Still not completed, but I’ve been writing it on and off for the entire year. I’ve been writing using a method adopted by Jeannette Winterson, one of my favourite authors: writing in fragments and scenes without any initial thought as to where the parts will go. Eventually, an overarching plot started to emerge, recurring themes became apparent and the direction of the book became more obvious. There’s still some orphaned parts, but I’m starting to feel as though a home is being created for most of them. It’s still some way away, though: it’s at the 50,000-word mark, but I would imagine there’s anywhere between 10,000-30,000 words to make it complete.

8 – What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
“People I’m influenced by” and “books that are similar to Impossible Animals” are different questions entirely; the first is easier to answer than the second. Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin, HP Lovecraft and Jeanette Winterson are all authors who I love, but their stories are a lot more fantastical than mine and I doubt that my work sits easily alongside theirs, in either quality or style.

I suspect that the closest books are actually Scarlett Thomas’s The End of Mr Y; The Raw Shark Texts, Stephen Hall’s masterwork/only novel; and Illuminatus! by Robert Anton Wilson (no relation) and Robert Shea: books in which the quest at its centre is more a framing narrative than anything else. It’s far less high-concept and far out than either of those books though.
9 – Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My literary influences are detailed above.

I always feel awkward about answering questions about inspiration; the answer to any question about “why have you written this book?” should be “I had to”. From a cerebral point of view, I set myself a challenge to write a long-form story without resorting to magic, alien technology or ghosts: while you can apply any properties to a cryptid, I’ve tried to ground them in reality. In some cases, this is more than cryptozoology itself manages: the Mongolian Death Worm, for example, can spit acid and conduct electricity.

It’s also partly based on my own (non-cryptozoological) experiences, of course, but then which book is not based on the experiences of its author?
10 – What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The book is told in a dual narrative format; Annie-Key and Damascus share the telling of their relationship, break-up and everything that happens after that. Their stories do not always corroborate each other. The book features graffiti gangs, abandoned buildings, mountain climbing, student societies and an Indonesian kawaii girl called Artika.

Updates…

Posted: September 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Hey cats and kittens,
A few updates, why not.

I’ve had a new story published. ‘Dominion’ appears in an anthology by Cruentus Libri press called ‘Lucha Gore: Scares from the Squared Circle’. It’s a wrestling horror anthology. As you probably know, I appear on wrestling shows in the Midlands using various personae, so this combines my interests (in fact it features Johnny Jameson, who has been on wrestling shows before). The book includes a number of talented writers, including former WCW writer and Cruiserweight Champion Ed Ferrara. Check out the page for more.

As you may be aware, the Hirst Publishing website is currently down. I have no information about if/when this is likely to come back up. If you would like to order a copy of ‘Cemetery Drive‘ in the meantime, please contact me directly. I’ve also agreed to publish an e-book of ‘Cemetery Drive’ through Untreed Reads, who also put out ‘Squalling Brats’ and ‘Dark Side of Luna’.

Other recent activities include: working hard on a novel (no publisher currently); acting as programme associate for Graeme Meredith’s ‘Tales of Hot Dog Valley’; and working on an ancient short story which I’m planning to revive to submit to magazines. Unfortunately, it’s 20,000 words, so I may have to rethink my strategy there at least.

Hello world!

Posted: September 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

So it’s taken a while- mainly because I wondered whether my modest output of work would justify a full website. However, now that the work is increasing a little, I thought the world deserved a J.T. Wilson site and, like so many of my peers, I decided WordPress was the place to go.

What to say? For those who know me already, I hope you like what you see here. For those who don’t, you can learn a little about me by checking the ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ pages. I write fantasy/sci-fi in the Robert Rankin mould, steampunk, twee horror and whatever else becomes available.

Feel free to contact me whoever you might be, it’d be good to chat!