David A. Riley – The Inquisition
David A. Riley has been a stalwart of the British horror scene since his first short story was published in the Pan Book Of Horror No 11in 1970. As well as writing his own stories he is also the current editor of the British Fantasy Society newsletter Prism.
1 – Which book has been most influential in your career?
There isn’t just one book. When I was a teenager I was a voracious reader, mainly science fiction, fantasy and horror, and, though I have mainly written horror, that was the least of my favourite genres then. There have been far too many books for me to say which was the most influential, though I suppose Dracula was an early one, even if I have never been tempted to write a story in the form of journals, diaries and letters! And many of the writers I read I first began to write I’ve not read since: Edgar Rice Burroughs, for example, or Sax Rohmer. The book I remember most clearly as sparking off my interest in writing was an anthology edited by Roger Vadim, The Vampire, which contained some of the very best stories of that type ever written. Curiously, I have never written a vampire story – or, perhaps I should add, one that was obviously about a vampire.
2 – Which writer has most influenced your style?
I was initially a big SF fan, mainly Asimov and Clarke. On the horror side, though, my earliest models would have been Robert Bloch and H. P. Lovecraft. I was particularly keen on Bloch, especially his short stories, which emphasised strong, shock endings, sometimes written in italics. Lovecraft had a powerful, but not necessarily good influence on my writing, and it took quite a few years to wean myself off attempting to mimic his style. I still love Lovecraft’s stories but have long since realised that only he could write in the style he used effectively. Ramsey Campbell’s second collection from Arkham House, Demons by Daylight, was a revelation, and he was certainly an influence on me at the time, though that may be hard for others to see. Nowadays I tend to read more crime fiction than horror, and I admire a great many writers in that genre, whose approach I know does influence me now, people like Ian Rankin especially. I also have a fascination for historical fiction, especially anything set during the Roman Empire, from writers like Simon Scarrow and Ben Kane.
3 – What’s the future for the horror genre?
With the state of the publishing industry and the aversion it has for horror anthologies, it looks as if more writers will be confined to the small press. Which is a great pity, as so many will lose out on the chance of becoming better known to the wider public. On the other hand, horror has always been a minority interest. It may just have to become even more of one in the future. There are some brilliant writers out there, but the short horror story will probably have to survive in anthologies of just a few hundred copies, which only those who have a real interest in will search out. There may be hope for a revival if Pan Books take the chance on rebooting their Pan Horror series, but publishers these days tend to want large print runs and significantly large sales. On the other hand, the small presses are very healthy and have some brilliant guys behind them. Comparing most of what they produce with what’s brought out by the big publishing companies, the quality is more than comparable, with outstanding covers and top quality printing standards. POD also seems the way forward, with the added advantage that many collections, anthologies and novels can remain in print for years. The future is definitely in the hands of the small press, I think. And very capable hands too.
4 – Which book do you wish you had written?
Crime and Punishment. It’s one of my favourite novels. And one I’m overdue to reread. The story, the characters, the descriptions of nineteenth century Russia are gripping, and I am sure have influenced many writers since.
5 – What writing equipment could you not live without?
My handwriting is awful and, after years of getting used to using a computer, I couldn’t go back to writing by hand or even using a traditional typewriter. So it’s definitely a computer. It’s probably the best tool a writer has ever been given.
6 – Do you plan in detail before starting a new piece of writing?
No, I always start with either one or two characters that interest me. If I can’t get into the characters I’m writing about, then I struggle to go on. I usually have a vague idea of where the story’s going, but ideas tend to come to me during the writing and it’s not unusual for the story to veer in a different direction than what I originally intended, not always but sometimes. Planning in detail would bore me.
7 – Ebooks or Paper Books?
I have a couple of ebooks out there, a fantasy novel called Goblin Mire published by Renaissance eBooks and an old fashioned horror novel called Sendings which is available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook, but I have never read an ebook myself and doubt I will ever get round to buying one. They just don’t interest me. I like paper, definitely.
8 – Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I write all of them, plus the occasional SF, fantasy and, lately, crime. I have no predisposition for any, though most of what I have already written would definitely come under the horror banner.
9 – Who should I read next?
Reggie Oliver springs to mind. His stuff is phenomenal. His Dracula trilogy, of which only the first part has so far appeared, is brilliant and shows clearly enough that he can handle the novel format just as capably as he has already mastered the short story and novelette. It just shows the state of the publishing industry that this has been published in the small press. It also shows just how essential and valuable the small press is!
10 – What was your last book and what is your next book?
Apart from the ebooks, (http://davidandrewriley.blogspot.com/p/kindle-books.html) the last full length piece I completed was a Lovecraftian horror set in the North of England, The Return. Not a very imaginative title perhaps, but it does fit the novel in several ways and I’ve not been able to think up anything that fits it better. It’s a very dark story involving a gangland hitman who is on the run and returns to his roots in a sinister Lancashire town I’ve written about a few times before, Edgebottom. It also involves a local police sergeant – and some very unpleasant cults. This is being considered by a publisher at the moment. I have a couple of other novels nearing completion, a crime story and an urban fantasy set in the present day. Other than that I still do the occasional short story, mainly for Charlie Black’s Black Books of Horror, and Johnny Mains, who is including one in a collection due out shortly called Bite-Sized Horror. One of my older stories, After Nightfall, is being reprinted this year in a mass market paperback in the States, The Zombie Archives. And I have a collection of my older stuff, mainly stories published in the 70s and 80s, The Lurkers in the Abyss and Other Tales, due sometime in the near future from Midnight House, though that seems to have been in a sort of limbo for the past year or so. I’m also hoping to put together a collection of some of my later stories.