Joseph D’Lacey’s novels Meat (2008) and Garbage Man (2009) were both well received for their mix of social commentary and pure horror. These were followed by an excellent novella The Kill Crew in 2009 and a selection of short stories in When The Night Comes Down in 2010.
It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome Joseph D’lacey to The Inquisition.
1 – Which book has been most influential in your career?
This is such a tough question. The answer has to be twofold.
Night Shift by Stephen King came along many years before I ever wrote any fiction but it still stands out in my memory. It contained such a wide variety of tales and it sowed the idea that not everything needed to be of the genre to be great. Prior to that, I’d been purely horror-centric – this was in my early to mid teens. I loved the ‘The Woman in the Room’ and ‘The Last Rung on the Ladder’ as much the other, more macabre stories. When I eventually began writing short stories I never questioned my own desire to write in a variety of styles and genres. Perhaps I’d have done that anyway but Night Shift, nevertheless, opened a previously shrouded portal in my mind.
The other book, again King, is On Writing. It’s short and loaded with his spirit. I love the story of his success and how it warps with his self-destruction and renewal. The man has been through his own personal mangling machine. And at the core of it all he cites writing as the unbreakable thread he follows; the one thing directing a path through the labyrinth. Brilliant, inspiring stuff.
2 – Which writer has most influenced your style?
Also difficult. I don’t know if my style is influenced by what I read or not. I suspect my recurring themes are more easily affected – by ideas, phrases, scenes or lines of dialogue from film and the like. There are many writers I’m very impressed by and who I strive to be as good as – among them (and off the top of my head) Margaret Atwood, Iain Banks, Cormac McCarthy and DBC Pierre – but whether I actually write like them or not since reading them is another matter. I don’t think I do. When writing, even in the first draft, I suppose I allow the style of a piece to match the content or theme. And I enjoy the challenge of not doing things the same way too often. At the same time, I’m aware that whatever my ‘voice’ is, it’s still developing and not yet fixed. I honestly hope it never will fully solidify: I’d hate to get bored of the thing I love most just because it ceased to evolve.
I have, certainly, been influenced by other writers but their effect, as I’ve suggested, has been to identify where my thematic interests lie. Therefore Stephen King’s early work, particularly his short and novella-length fiction, has been both entertainment and inspiration for me and showed me what was possible in fiction. Likewise, early James Herbert novels with their brutality and prurience utterly fixated me when I was a boy. Later, Clive Barker blew my mind with his visions – particularly in The Books of Blood and The Great and Secret Show. Add to that a love of science fiction and it probably makes sense why I do what I do.
But I’m still not sure where my actual style comes from!
3 – What’s the future for the horror genre?
You’re asking the wrong writer. The truth is I don’t know much about things – I’m very poorly read and have a feeble grip on trends in any area, let alone the genre. I don’t understand the way the world works and I rarely understand its people so, for me anyway, to attempt predictions about the future of anything is…well, it’s just silly.
However, I think horror has certain functions that will remain necessary as long as there are people around to read it. First, it’s a mode of free speech and that allows its readers (and writers, of course) to step off into areas they didn’t explore in school or around the family dinner table. Horror pushes the boundaries – allows us to think the unthinkable. Sometimes we do that because it’s fun, sometimes because it’s a dirty thrill and sometimes because it’s simply necessary to ask the question ‘What if?’
All I can surmise is that, if my impression of horror’s function is correct, there will at least be some future for it.
4 – Which book do you wish you had written?
I’ve never had that response to someone else’s work.
I can only write my own books. Yearning for the powers, literary or otherwise, of another is pointless, isn’t it? Don’t misunderstand me – there are plenty of books out there so brilliant that I want to bury myself alive, such is my awe, shame and frustration on reading them. But I’ll only ever want to write the ideas that come to me naturally, and to write them in my own way. I’ll only ever want do the best I’m capable of. If I can manage that, I’ll be satisfied.
5 – What writing equipment could you not live without?
I’m embarrassed to say my laptop and memory stick. One day – one day when nothing really matters any more – I may have a go at writing something longhand. For the moment, though, for the sake of speed, efficiency and archiving, my laptop is my altar, my god and my slave.
I back up my memory stick after every session and I wear it around my neck like a charged amulet. I have other memory sticks as back up for my back up. If I lost my entire body of work…OMG! There’s true horror, right there!
6 – Do you plan in detail before starting a new piece of writing?
Do I hell. I couldn’t plan my way out of a clearly marked exit.
If an idea has power, if it has its hooks deep into me, then I’ll take it to the end. If not, the idea and I, we don’t get there. For every two novels I complete, another remains unfinished. Hopefully, if I can understand the writing process better as time goes by, this ratio will improve.
7 – Ebooks or Paper Books?
Both, please. That’s the world we live right now. I hear that, just in the last few months, e-book sales have grown from 1% to represent 5% of the market. As long as people want to read, I don’t mind how they do it. Is there an ecological case to argue? Possibly – I don’t know how many trees die for the sake of books. I don’t know if, in the long run, e-readers are more or less costly to the environment than paper books. But I like the idea of sacrifice. Something dies so that something else can live. If a tree dies for the sake of a good book, that might be a good thing. Perhaps there are so many books these days that we don’t really value them any more – where they come from, how they are written and then physically made. Perhaps in a world with such an overflow of written content, e-readers are the smartest idea we’ve ever had. I think, deep down, when people lament the arrival of the e-book, it’s because they feel the specialness of books is being eroded. The manifestation of a story – a thing of beauty and physical mass in your hand – surely that is more significant than a weightless, ethereal download. On the other hand, seeing as all these books were nothing more than ideas in the first instance, maybe the ether of electronic formats is where they belong. Books going home, somehow.
8 – Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Just forgive me for not knowing the difference, okay?
9 – Who should I read next?
Adam Nevill – Banquet for the Damned and Apartment 16 were excellent; I’m drooling about his forthcoming novel The Ritual. Simon Bestwick – Pictures of the Dark is a great horror collection. Stephen King – Night Shift, a collection I’ll never forget, and his novellas The Long Walk and The Mist. Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. Mendal Johnson’s Let’s Go Play at the Adams’.
10 – What was your last book and what is your next book?
Last up was The Kill Crew (Stone Garden), a survival horror novella. Next will be Snake Eyes (Bad Moon Books) – two novellas in one volume – due this summer.
I enjoyed The Kill Crew so much there’s now a longer, follow-on novella set during the same cataclysm. The Failing Flesh will appear in an anthology titled Surviving the End (Dark Prints Press) early in 2012. I plan two further novellas to complete the series.