It’s my turn to wear the internet moniker of Next Big Thing for the day. Many thanks to Des Lewis for nominating me with some very kind words about my short story, Songs for Dead Children, that appears in the latest Megazanthus Press anthology, The First Book of Classical Horror Stories. So here are answers to some generic questions about what’s coming up next, writing-wise.
What is the title of your next book?
Witchcraft in the Harem. It’s a collection of short stories that have appeared in places such as the Drabblecast, Strange Horizons, 3AM, Jupiter, The Future Fire, and other places, plus a few new pieces.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’ve been waiting a while to have enough short stories in one genre that would make a coherent collection. I didn’t know if it was literary or sci fi or crime or feminist or comedy or whatever title you’d want to put on it. Then I thought, actually, I don’t care what genres these are. They are all recognisably me, though. I think my writing voice comes through. So I decided to find a publisher on the grounds of being not much like anyone else but very much like me.
What genre does your book fall under?
Yeah. Cough. See above. I don’t really do genres. Speculative fiction, you could say. I like that term.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I don’t picture actors in my stories. It all seems very false then. But if I had to cast, say, the eponymous story, I would have Karen Gillan as the red-haired heroine in a micro-mini who hides out in the harem to escape the very scary Designer, who would undoubtedly be a young Dirk Bogarde.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
I just wrote the blurb for my publisher so I’ll steal a bit of that:
Grotesque, unsettling, and often very funny, Witchcraft in the Harem deals with birth and betrayal, love and loss, and all the terrible thoughts we want to escape, and find still waiting for us at the journey’s end.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Dog Horn Publishing are going to publish it, which I’m very happy about as I love the work they’ve done with other short story writers I admire. I approached them directly and luckily they said yes. The book should be published in April 2013.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Ten years or so. The stories go back to when I first started writing. To put them together into a collection – that took about four weeks, to be honest, but I did wait until I felt proud enough of the material. I didn’t want to open a book of my stories and feel embarrassed that I’d included one or two to pad out the pages.
What other books would you compare this book to within your genre?
Someone once compared me to Evelyn Waugh crossed with Ursula Le Guin. So I’d compare it to The Left Hand of Brideshead Revisited.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
There are some stories in the collection that are directly inspired by people. For instance, Penelope Napolitano and the Butterflies (published first by Strange Horizons) was inspired by a story that Neil Ayres was writing about a boy who couldn’t whistle. I was meant to be writing it too, but instead I came up with a girl who got spirited away from a hot air balloon by Monarch butterflies. The two stories didn’t fit together any more, so we pulled them apart.
For Rosebud (first published by Fusion Fragment) was absolutely all about Orson Welles. I defy you to read it and not think of Orson Welles.
1926 in Brazilian Football (first published by Word Riot) was written in response to a challenge in the writing group I belong to. We had to click on a random wikipedia page and use the title as the title of the story. I’m not sure how it became a story about an ex pop star with a frog obsession, but it did. It’s one of my favourite stories in this collection.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
If you take the first word from each chapter and rearrange them you can construct a sentence that reveals the location of the Holy Lance of Antioch.