Name Stuart Keane
Where are you from Kent in England.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
Well, I’m the oldest of three children – I have two younger sisters. My family, outside of my writing, is the most important thing in my life. I was schooled normally, going to college but not university. I read a lot as a child, it was my one true solace from society – I have always enjoyed my own company. I’m a quiet person who keeps himself to himself. I’m addicted to coffee and Pepsi.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Well, we (my publisher, J Ellington Ashton Press and I) have just released our latest anthology, Undead Legacy. It was released on The Walking Dead finale weekend and has been selling exceptionally well. On the back of this I am currently working on four new anthologies, and finishing up my next novella.
Aside from this, my first short story collection, Whispers Volume 1, is being finalized for release, hopefully around Mid-April. I’m currently working on putting my bibliography into print (I have three books on Kindle, see below). I have also just been confirmed as an official member of the Horror Writers Association, which is a proud moment for me.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began when I was seven. I picked up my first horror book at that age (Flesh by Richard Laymon) and I remember it inspired me, made me want to create stories and scare people. This heavily affected me in school and drove me towards creative writing and film production in college. I’ve always written on paper and the odd word on a word processer, but only last year did I decide I wanted to do this as a profession. One year later, you’re now interviewing me and my books are out in the world. It’s been an exciting year.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As mentioned above, I started writing properly last April. I suppose I always considered myself a writer in some way. However, not resting on my own opinion, I believe three moments from last year confirmed me as a writer in the strictest sense. The first was when I sold my second ever short story to Scarlet Galleon for Dead Harvest. This was my first paid piece of writing, and one of my favourite stories to date. Two followed shortly after, when I signed my first publishing contract with J Ellington Ashton Press. Third, and final, is whenever a reader comes to me and thanks me for scaring/amusing/entertaining them in some way. This is very special to me and has happened several times. It’s in this particular moment when I realise people are enjoying my output…there’s nothing like it. When people appreciate my writing, that’s when I realise I can call myself a writer. The feeling takes some getting used to.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I started my first book ten years ago. The inspiration came from the influx of reality TV shows that dominated viewing schedules all over the world. Ironically, reality shows have a false vein woven throughout and I was like ‘what if the show we watched actually was very real. And then, what would happen if we raised the stakes a little?’ All or Nothing was born out of this. It skews the reality TV aspect, turns it into a secretive PPV for the rich and wealthy and turns actual contestants into guinea pigs for their evil, power hungry needs. All funded by the government and hidden from the general public. It’s almost as if it’s actually happening already and this is what made the idea appeal to me. Everyone loves a conspiracy theory and with politics nowadays, no one would be surprised if it was happening behind the scenes.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I wouldn’t say I have a style as such. If I had to pick one, I would say sinister/thrilling/realistic English horror…if that counts? As much as King and Laymon are massive inspirations, English authors like James Herbert were closer to home for me.
I like to keep sentences shorter than most authors I know. Some readers have described my writing as razor sharp. I use detail in my writing but tend to keep it minimal and let the characters/story guide the reader, which sometimes can result in a streamlined story. The biggest compliment I have received thus far is ‘Stuart Keane has taken the baton from Shaun Hutson, in the race for British horror gold.’ Being that Shaun is one of my idols, I was floored when I heard this.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Depends on the book. For All or Nothing, it’s spoken in the book at a pivotal point in the story. For Charlotte, the name was the first one that came to mind. For The Customer Is Always… I liked the ambiguity of the much spoken rule. The story lets you decide the finishing word for the title (right or wrong), which was unique. Carnage: Extreme Horror was a summary of the contents and the stories within, which were utter carnage.
Titles are funny. A lot of the time I will think of the title first and generate a story around it. For example, my next book, Cine, came from my experience of working in a cinema. That’s it, and the story built from there. I think the title is a fun prospect and sometimes can decide if a story is going to work or not.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I wouldn’t say a novel on its own, more my writing as a whole. Horror is everywhere. I prefer to write realistic horror, events that could happen to someone at any given moment. Monsters and zombies and aliens are all well and good, but having someone kick your front door in or kidnap you is only a single deranged encounter away. When you think that, at any moment, your life could be in absolute peril, it’s a very scary prospect. I don’t scare easily, but this stuff terrifies me and that’s why I enjoy writing it. To think, it’s all around us as well, on every street, in every home and in every person’s paranoid consciousness. The reality can be overbearing.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
My work as a whole tends to be realistic. I very rarely write about the supernatural or monsters, although I have a soft spot for zombies due to its underlying social message. Most of the events in my work can actually occur in everyday life and I think this is why people enjoy my writing. The only story I’ve written thus far that deviates from this is Charlotte, where the main character has a psychotic imaginary friend.
Otherwise, I like keeping my work grounded in reality. If people can familiarise with it, you just have to scare them. They already know the situation you’re conveying, which makes your job…not easier so to speak, but more direct.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The Customer is Always…is heavily based on my experience working in a call centre. The only aspect that isn’t true in that one is the antagonist…however, I have witnessed almost everything in that story on some level.
Occasionally – and a lot of authors probably do this – I will write a character based on someone I know. It gives the character a realistic edge that can’t be invented on the spot. If you’ve seen the person in action, it portrays better in a story and can seem more authentic.
Also, I am currently working on a story that intertwines my childhood memories into the story. This will feature several teenagers, with people based on real life friends, and locations from when I was thirteen. This is my most personal piece thus far, and I can’t wait to finish it.
I think events in life, even simple experiences like a beautiful view, a picturesque photo or simply walking somewhere, can generate inspiration. I know this works for me and always helps me create ideas in my head.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
The entire Richard Laymon collection. For a young kid/teenager, reading Laymon was a true experience. Laymon is also the reason I became an author. His writing style gripped me, and still does to this day. Away from horror, The Godfather trilogy was something special. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever had a mentor…I have had role models though, and these helped me realise my dream to become a writer.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just finished The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. I’m currently working on Desperation by Stephen King and Love Life by Matt Shaw.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Since I’ve been writing, I’m come across so many talented independent authors. The ones I have added to my ‘must read’ list are Jack Rollins, Kyle M. Scott, Chantal Noordeloos, Matt Shaw, Graeme Reynolds, Geoffrey West, and anything from J Ellington Ashton Press. I work for JEA, and the team as a whole – not just the writers – work so hard to make the press a thriving business. The passion and dedication is nothing short of phenomenal. I think they are on the verge of breaking into the horror market in a huge way and it’s a pleasure to be involved in this.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have several on my plate at the moment. I’m finishing up my third novella, Cine. I’ve just finalized the formatting on my short story collection, Whispers Vol. 1. I am also compiling Under the Bridge, a troll anthology, Undead Legacy 2, and two collections called A-Z and Edge of Darkness. I’m also working on several short stories so it’s nonstop. I have also been asked to help on turning a screenplay into a novel, which is an interesting proposition. I love a challenge.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I wouldn’t say this supported me as such, but it definitely inspired me to follow my dream. I met Lee Child in 2012 and he signed a book with the message ‘good luck with the writing’. If that isn’t a kick in the butt that any aspiring author needs, I don’t know what is. That book will be framed when I finally get my office up and running.
I also have to shout out to J Ellington Ashton Press. Working for them is like being part of a huge writing family. The support they have shown me in the past eight months has been amazing. I also know they have my back if I need their help or valuable advice.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I do. At the moment, it’s actually a second career. I am slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together around my day job. It’s a lot of work (eighteen hour days for both occupations) but it’s paying off slowly. One day, it will be my full time career and I will do anything to make that happen. Until then, it’s about generating interest in my brand and making sure people enjoy my output.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would probably say no. I’m proud of the work I’ve put out.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I started reading when I was four and my interest gradually grew from there. As mentioned above, reading Flesh by Richard Laymon is when I knew I wanted to write. Before Laymon though, with greats such as Enid Blyton and Robert Arthur Jr., I had a hint that I would one day be doing this. I just remember being caught up in the whole thrill of storytelling and finding myself coming up with ideas. This transitioned into my school work and slowly generated until I found the urge to write properly some years later.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’ve included a little unedited excerpt from Cine. The book is about a new cinema in town that is hiding a dark, evil secret. I’ve featured Roger, the manager of the cinema, in the clip below. I don’t want to give too much away though so I’ll keep it short.
Roger watched from afar.
More than that, he observed, evaluated.
Opening night, thus far, was a huge success, minus one or two disgruntled customers. He gazed through the glass, watching Keeley and Jordan go about their business. Keeley brought a whip down on the woman’s bare back. She screamed as fresh blood slapped the concrete below, the lashings having the desired, brutal effect. Roger’s lips rose in an evil smirk. You get them anywhere, nothing you can do for such ungrateful human beings.
Think of the bigger picture. They’re but a piece in an intricate puzzle.
Time’s a ticking, the decisive moment was edging ever near.
So much time and so little to see…wait a minute. Strike that, reverse it. Roger chuckled, remembering a quote from the first film he’d seen as a kid. Who knew a film about a quirky chocolate factory could be so inspiring?
Inspired indeed. Thirty years of hope and dreams, and unbridled hatred for humanity, finally coming to fruition.
This was his time. Whispers Cinema is his chocolate factory.
He now had one week until the main attraction.
Time for the kids to come and play.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I don’t know if it classes as challenging, but sometimes I find myself always editing my work. Sometimes I second guess what I’ve written and find myself struggling to settle on a certain chapter, paragraph, piece of dialogue etc. I do find research challenging too but I enjoy it at the same time.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
In horror, it’s Richard Laymon. His work – for the most part – is based in reality and I draw a lot of inspiration from this. I also enjoy Shaun Hutson, James Herbert, Stephen King and Clive Barker. Outside of horror, I love Lee Child, Chris Carter and Robert Crais. I think there is a fine line between thrillers and horrors and enjoy walking it on a regular basis, in both my reading and my writing.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Last month, along with Matt Shaw, we surprised one of our readers at her horror themed hen do (bachelorette party). We travelled several hours and 500 miles in total to the end of the country to surprise her on her big night…and she didn’t have a clue. The reaction was priceless. However, she supported both of us, so it’s the least we can do. Like Matt, I believe in giving back to my readers. After all, they’re the reason we are living our dream. The video can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpRk9FtPgh4
In July, I’m travelling to London Film and Comic Con (again with Matt Shaw) to set up shop, so to speak, and sell my work. I shall be there all weekend signing books and taking photos. This is going to a hugely exciting event and I invite anyone available to come and say hello.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Steve Crisp did my first cover for All or Nothing. Crisp provided several infamous covers for Laymon, Stephen King, Bentley Little – to name a few. He was a natural choice for my first full novel since I’ve been a huge fan of his work since the 90’s.
For my other books thus far, Mark Kelly has produced the covers. Mark is a brilliant artist and never fails to make me smile with his uncanny knack of nailing a cover. When I received Charlotte, Carnage: Extreme Horror and Grin (another upcoming title), I was stunned at the level of detail and the macabre darkness of the work. They were perfect.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I think for my first book, it was finding the inspiration to finish it. Back then, this was my first time out. I was unsure about doing this, there was so much uncertainty about writing for a career. For me, writing has always involved the traditional publishing route. With the internet, this is much easier now, but when I first considered this, in the 90’s, the process was much more laboured. As I began writing, I did some research and now, in hindsight, the process is a lot simpler. Uncertainty was a major factor before, it’s not anymore – you just have to want to do it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
To never give up. I can imagine a lot of authors finding it difficult to write (I’ve actually had this conversation with a few) and in order to combat this, I set myself a daily goal. I aim to write 2000 words a day, get something down. I recently discovered that Stephen King does the same thing. Now, this is my one rule. I do this every day. I also think it’s important to read every day, if possible. Whether it’s a magazine, a book, a comic – it all helps. If you write and read regularly, it keeps you primed and focused and makes the job much easier.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
I have three pieces of advice. Don’t give up. Become Teflon. Create a brand.
Don’t give up is probably the hardest piece of advice here. Write everyday – even if it’s not that great. You can always change it later. Set yourself a word count – one that works for you – and stick to it. Allow yourself a day off now and then if you find it difficult – you don’t want to be mentally exhausted. I usually have Saturday off and write in the evening.
Teflon? As a writer, reviews won’t always be positive and some people can be horrible. The weakest writers can fail. Be prepared for a bit of negative feedback, every writer gets them. Remember this, the only person who can end your writing career is you. Having a tough skin can help this – and don’t take it personally.
Creating a brand? Make a Facebook and Twitter page, get a website if possible and make your books stand out. I use the same text and layout for my name on all of my covers. ALWAYS use a decent cover artist. Some writers fall at the first hurdle. People want to see your book and think WOW. This pulls them in. Your brand will grow slowly but it’s your most valuable tool so don’t neglect it. Interact with your readers on Facebook and Twitter, it makes you more approachable and friendly. People love an author they can communicate with.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you. Without you, I wouldn’t be doing this right now. You’re the reason I am writing. Also, feel free to hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. I love hearing from you.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Wow, great question. The first one I recall was a Puddle Lane book…The Gruffle in Puddle Lane. I probably read a load of children’s books before that, but this is the first one I actually remember.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I don’t cry at much. I think the odd film has caught me out, but none I can recall. I have a dark sense of humor so macabre, black humor always makes me chuckle. I like stupid humor too. I tend to laugh at things that people would normally find offensive. I suppose that’s part of being a horror author.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Past – Rik Mayall. A true British legend, a man who proved you can be successful by doing things your own way. He always fought the system and went against the grain. He was also one of the true comic legends of our time.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
S*** happens and all I got was this lousy headstone. Joking. No, I don’t know actually. I feel I should have a really cool answer for this, but I don’t.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Reading, watching movies, video games, spending time with my family. I follow sports as well. I also like travelling – and when I say that, I mean to places of interest like old asylums, abandoned villages, landmarks. I’ve always wanted to travel to Pripyat and America and intend on doing so at some point.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m an avid film buff so I watch anything. I particularly like horror movies, gangster movies and thrillers. I also like shows in that vein too. The Walking Dead, Arrow, The Blacklist and Gotham are my favourite shows currently. I love anything to do with Batman too, I’ve read the comics since I was a kid and I would class myself as a huge fan.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Chinese is my favourite food. Pepsi is my favourite drink. Colors would be blue, black and red. Music, I love rock music. Metal is also a favourite genre of mine. I was brought up on 70’s/80’s rock and roll so this was a natural evolution for me.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, there was nothing I would rather do. In another life though, I would have wanted to be a lawyer. I was nearly a chef too, I started training for this in my teens. Being creative is something that has always interested me so I can’t imagine not being involved in writing.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website and blog can be found there. I update the blog whenever I can. I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter too. Feel free to add me and get in touch.
Amazon page to buy my work –