Name in this incarnation is Simon Parker
Age I’m 47 years old
Born and raised in Cambridge (yes, THAT CambridgeJ) in England but now living in deepest darkest rural SuffolkJ. I had a pretty normal upbringing in a beautiful village in what was then (70’s) rural Cambridgeshire. My mother was a librarian and my father was an amazingly intelligent, self-educated man who not only had a huge collection of books, but a vast array of knowledge to match. I was an only child and as such soon became adept at entertaining myself and learned to be happy with my own company, often in imaginary worlds having incredible adventures. I found school a bit too easy sometimes and it lead to me bored and being a bit disruptive in some classes for a while but fortunately this energy was recognised as potential by one amazing teacher who channelled my creativity into more positive pastimes.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My latest news is the impending launch of my book Tales of the Mysterious and Macabre among several other projects this year
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
At about 10 years old I was in Scouts and it was at one of their fundraising jumble sales that I found a couple of Tales from the crypt comics that I absolutely loved ( no sadly I don’t still have these, I wish I did, they’re worth a mint now!) But it was then that horror became an obsession. I’d been using writing as a tool for a while before that as I’d had night terrors for a few years before that and writing helped ‘exorcize’ my demons, but the comics gave new energy to my writings and rather than just writing my dreams down verbatim, I began to embellish them. My love of writing horror was born.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I didn’t consider writing as a career until several years later when I was around 19 years old and a friend read some of the large folder of stories I’d written and said “ you really want to get these published , they’re scary as hell”. I tried, I wrote more, polished others and sent them off to magazines and anyone I thought may accept them for publishing. At that stage in my life, I was shy and lacked confidence and it didn’t take many rejection letters to make me think I was wasting my time. I carried on writing my ideas down, keeping notes and of course my artwork, but they were strictly for my eyes only. It wasn’t until I was in my early forties I found the folder when I was tidying up and my passion was reignited and with the new technology available I was able to put together a collection of short stories and self-publish. THIS was when I really felt I’d achieved something and felt like a writer, albeit a newb with only a few sales under my belt. My greatest joy was that I managed this only twelve months before my mother died of cancer and I was proud she got to see it before she passed. Since then I have expanded on that book, written another short for a horror magazine and been included in several anthologies.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I have my own style of writing that is difficult to define but I dive into description and adore the mental and emotional terror that is associated with horror, the psychology of fear and delving into the dark places inside each of us. I love a little gore and spatter too so don’t dismay if that’s your thing.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My first book is a collection of things mysterious and dark and twisted so Tales of the Mysterious and Macabre seemed to roll off the tongue so easily that I didn’t even hesitate. My second book ( coming out early next year, is called The 13th Wolf and is quite simply because the number 13 is wrapped in superstition and some of the high ranking Nazis were referred to as wolves and the tale is about a plot to bring Hitler back from hell!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There is no over-riding message as such in my books, but the general themes are that for every light there is darkness, for every seemingly sane act there is an equally insane one and fear is often found where you least expect it.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
I hope the level of realism is such that it makes the reader question reality and find their fear muscles tingling at every page. My main aim is to make my reader sleep with the lights on J
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think every writer draws from people and things they know or have experienced, but I don’t know any serial killers or demons… that I’m aware of anyway. Some characteristics are inspired by some very strange people I have encountered during my life, others are drawn from simply watching people and imagining the darkness that could brood inside them from the most unlikely source.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
As a youngster I would devour any ghost stories I could find and then I discovered a series of books specifically for tweens by Alfred Hitchcock (and so began another lifelong love. I even have Alfred tattoos!) But as I grew, so did my voracious appetite for quality horror and I spent many happy hours in the company of first Shaun Hutson, then James Herbert, Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz and Stephen King while exploring such classics as H.P Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker and of course the jewel in the horror crown, Mr Edgar Allan Poe.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now I am reading Stephen Kings new collection of short stories The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
A new (well new to me anyway) author that I have read and enjoyed is Mark Cassell (Sinister Stitches is next on my tbr list). I love to find new names I haven’t read before and I’m always happy to leave an honest review for those I enjoy.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m currently getting ready for the launch of Tales of the Mysterious and Macabre but it is not my only project this year. I am also involved in a project with a music producer to create a fantastic fusion of dark hip hop and spoken word ( some of my short stories) hopefully due to be released around Halloween this year. As well as this I am finishing writing my next novel The 13th Wolf ready for release from the publishers I signed with (U.S. based Camelot Publishing Company) early next year. On top of this I am writing, producing and directing my first short horror film this year and I’m in talks with my publisher about several more books including a series of graphic novels based on some of my work. Busy busy J
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My family have been incredibly supportive of my work but the main people outside of the family unit are two friends from a writing group I joined a couple of years ago who joined forces to create a publishing house and then “snaffled “ me “before someone else does” which I found extremely flattering and a very loud and clear statement on their belief in my work.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see writing as my passion that I hope will turn into a career. It’s something I absolutely love doing so it will never feel like ‘work’ as such, just getting paid to have fun.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
If I had to do it all again, the only thing I would have done differently is to have driven myself harder when I was younger and knocked back by my first few rejection letters. Every time you read and re read your work you can tweak it, polish it and maybe give it a new spin on things, but there comes a time to send your baby into the world and watch it grow wings from the roots you gave it.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My writing started as a means of escape into fantasy realms and grew once it became a tool for venting my night terrors onto the page (thus symbolically removing them from my head) and as it grew and mutated into the disturbing creature it is today it carved its nest in my heart forever.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My current work (due for release on the 27th February 2016) Tales of the Mysterious and Macabre is a collection of short stories. Here’s an excerpt:
The Red Devil
Based on a true story.
Liverpool, England- 1857.
“Gentlemen, thank you for joining me tonight.” Abraham announced to the small gathering in his drawing room, calling for order. He was a gentleman of good standing himself; a jeweller in the city, a freemason and a member of the Brimstone Society, a club that met on the last Sunday of every month to relieve the boredom by telling each other tales of ghosts, ghouls, monsters and debauchery. This was the first time Abraham Harris had held the meeting at his house and he was about to regale these gentlemen with a grotesque tale of devilry that happy coincidence had brought right to his doorstep just two days ago.
The small gathering all turned to face Abraham, everyone, to a man, with a brandy in one hand and a cigar in the other. Their chairman spoke first.
“Harris, thank you for asking the members of the Brimstone Society to gather at your beautiful home tonight. May I just say that I am looking forward to your contribution with enthusiasm tonight and I hope it raises the bar on Jefferson’s efforts last month with his tales of the Westminster ghosts.” This raised a polite chuckle from the gathering; all except Jefferson himself, who looked at the floor a little embarrassed that his efforts had raised more titters than gooseflesh at the last meeting.
Harris was confident his tale would enthral his guests and put the fear of God in them, especially the coup de grace that he had planned for the end of the evening.
The gentlemen mulled around momentarily, finding themselves seats in the semi-circle around the large fireplace, some on sofa’s, some on high wingback chairs that were normally in his library and two seated themselves on large dining chairs within the arc. Harris himself stood with his back to the fire and waited for quiet before beginning his tale.
“Gentlemen of the Brimstone Society, thank you for gracing my humble home with your presence this evening. My hope is that you won’t be disappointed you made the journey this foggy winter’s eve; that your interest will be piqued and that my tale of horror and devilry will bring you the taste of fear and intrigue that each of us in the society seeks.” Harris gazed around the room, consciously making eye contact with each and every member before dramatically beginning his well-rehearsed recital.
“Tonight gentlemen” he bellowed, making several of the gathering jump a little “I present you with a tale that spans more than a century and at least two continents. A tale so grotesque, so evil, a creature from the very bowels of Hell itself. This creature’s very appearance can turn a man’s luck from good to bad and God alone knows what this hideous creature is capable of if you were unfortunate enough to tangle with him.” He scanned the room again, gauging the reaction so far; all seemed intrigued, a few expectant raised eyebrows. He drew a deep breath and exhaled before continuing. “The tale of the red devil!” there was a smattering of applause. “Our tale has its roots in medieval Europe, where for decades, villagers swore they saw a devil dancing in the forest. An ill omen to be sure, for each who witnessed the devil was destined for disaster. Whole families died, houses burned down, fortunes were lost, just by catching a glimpse of the dwarfish red demon, but that part of the tale is conjecture mixed with myth and legend; our tale proper begins in the 1740’s in the new world, the America’s. The creature may have travelled the tunnels of the underworld or he…..it, may have stowed away on a ship. No-one knows for certain, but what is known, for indisputable fact is that the hideously deformed creature was witnessed by a gentleman by the name of Monsieur Cadillac, the founder of a town called Detroit. He was a powerful politician and wealthy man, very well connected and influential. That was, until he happened, one night, to bear witness to the debauchery of the red beast. It was on a night much like this one, when Monsieur Cadillac took his regular evening constitutional with his faithful hound and spied a short gargoyle like figure clad in red, dancing in the forest. He was dumbstruck at the appearance of the little fellow. It was apparent right away that said demon was direct from Hell for his features were all gnarled and horned and his skin was brightest scarlet like the flames of purgatory. Monsieur Cadillac stood there a full minute before the demon spotted him. Then it grinned with its mouthful of needle-like fangs at him, pointed a long twisted red finger in his direction and was gone. From that moment on Cadillac was plagued by misfortune. He lost his position as a powerful politician, lost his families fortune and eventually lost his life, dying a broken man.” Harris took a breath and looked at his audience. “A few short years later, still in the fair city of Detroit, a captain James Dalyell, a fine British soldier, and fifty eight of his faithful men, were marching along the banks of the river when their point man noticed they were being followed by a small crimson figure, all deformed and clad in red robes. He stalked them for some distance, grinning and pointing; his eyes ablaze and his mouth full of venomous fangs. Then, once again, the creature simply vanished without a trace. Dalyell’s men discussed the matter in a bar later on and were told by a seasoned old trapper that what they had witnessed was the red devil that had been the ruin of Monsieur Cadillac. He explained that all who bore witness to the foul offspring of Satan, soon succumbed to terrible tragedy or heinous misfortune. Shortly thereafter, Captain Dalyell and his men were ambushed and massacred by Chief Pontiac and a band of Indian braves; the Detroit River ran red with their blood for days afterwards.” Harris paused again, amused to see eyes widening as the legend unfolded. He could not wait until they saw what he had to show them. “Gentlemen, this tale does not end with the massacre by the Detroit River. In 1801, the red devil was again spotted by a few of the townsfolk, laughing, dancing, snarling and pointing before vanishing into the ether. Days later, the largely wooden city of Detroit was razed to the ground. Many lost their lives that night in horrific agony as the city burned. The smell of scorched flesh filled the smoke covered skies.” His audience were rapt; thrilling to the hellish unfolding to them. Could this really be truth? Good God, to know such demons walk the earth was horrifying indeed. To a man, they sat unblinking; hanging on Abraham’s every word. They had all heard, and told, many tales of debauchery, witchcraft and ghosts, but Harris’s tale of the actual spawn of the devil had them all wondering if the Brimstone Society were as foolish as a lady in skirts dancing too close to the fire. These were no longer stories to thrill and entertain, to relieve the boredom of a Sunday night. These were real tales of demons and devils. These God fearing men were feeling uncomfortable and nervous and Harris couldn’t have been happier with the looks on their faces. His position in the society would be safe for another year it seemed. It was at the chairman’s discretion of course, but if your hosted evenings and stories failed to impress, your membership would not be renewed at the Samhain festival. These gentlemen of class played at scaring each other, but now more than a few of them felt that Abraham Harris was taking them a little too close to a line none of them wanted to cross for fear of invoking the wrath of the Lord, yet every one of them was enthralled to the point of being bewitched. Harris took advantage of their undivided attention and immediately engaged them further…
If you want some more you’ll have to buy the book J
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The most challenging thing I find when writing is keeping my descriptions brief, I could ramble on for hours giving every detail of the tortuous images in my mind but they’d probably make for a pretty tedious read. Fortunately, between my self-restraint and a fantastic editor we make it work.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have many favourite authors but the two that share the throne are Stephen King and of course Poe. King has an amazing inner vision and dark sense of humour I closely identify with and his exploration of the inner dialogue of his characters is fascinating. Poe on the other hand has such an artistry with his words that you can’t fail to sense the shadow on his soul as you delve into the darkness, led blindly down dark alleys to witness the terror in others.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Sadly I don’t have to travel much for my writing as most of my research can be done either locally or online. However, should my situation allow it, I may travel more to get inspiration.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Jack Phillips (of Camelot Publishing Company) has designed my book covers so far and done a grand job. When asked what I had envisaged, I gave him a half hour ramble of disturbing images I had pictured and he crystallised these into one perfectly creepy cover image that summed it up neatly.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part of writing my books has been making the time. I say making the time, because if I waited until I found the time, it would never have happened.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Every time I sit and write, I learn something. Sometimes it’s how to get ‘in the zone’ quicker, sometimes it suddenly clicks and it’s more like channelling than creating, but I think if I had to pin it down to one thing, I’ve learned that it’s never too late and you CAN do it.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Personally I think the best advice I can offer to writers is WRITE, WRITE, WRITE THEN WRITE SOME MORE. Don’t give up, don’t get disheartened if it’s not perfect. Get your first draft written, it can all be polished in the edit.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
To my readers I say, I hope I open your eyes to the horror all around you and make you feel like a scared child alone in the dark once more.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I remember many books I read as a child, the first that springs to mind was a strange tale called The Robber Hotzenplotz but the first book I can remember reading cover to cover in a matter of a day or two was one of Alfred Hitchcock’s, The Mystery of the Screaming Clock.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
The thing that makes me laugh most is my family, they’re a nutty bunch and I love them to bits for it. I have a pretty dark sense of humour and can laugh at the most inappropriate things. I think it’s good to laugh at the bad stuff life hands you sometimes, it keeps you sane. While my head gets into some pretty dark places they keep me safely grounded in the light. Things that make me cry… too many to name, I’ve lost a lot of family over the last few years and it’s made me more emotional but mainly it’s things like injustice or seeing others hurting physically or emotionally.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
There are literally hundreds of people, past and present that I would love to meet but favourites from the past would have to include Poe of course and Nikola Tesla and from the present Stephen King and Stephen Hawking (I once had the pleasure of bumping into Stephen Hawking but sadly not for long enough to have a significant conversation)
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
My headstone would be a mashup of technical wizardry. I read an article a while back about having a Qcode etched onto the marble that, when scanned with a smart device would activate a remembrance type video. Being of the kind of mind I am, I immediately decide it would be a great idea to have it activate a video of me in full zombie makeup, screaming and trying to dig my way out of the grave J
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Apart from writing I love almost anything creative. I love painting and drawing and have actually recently launched a website where I will be selling all sorts of dark and disturbing art and collectables. I obviously thoroughly enjoy reading and spending as much quality time with my family as is humanly possible.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I watch an awful lot of horror films (and a lot of awful horror films!) but the TV shows I have really enjoyed include Xfiles, Dexter, Tales from the Crypt (which I’ve just found out is being brought back by M Night Shyamalan!) as well as things like Quantum leap and recently The Strain and The Walking Dead.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I was a chef for almost twenty years so my tastes in foods vary wildly, but my favourites have to include a really good Calzone (which I’m glad to say our local Italian restaurant does) and an equally good Mushroom stroganoff (which I have yet to find locally)
My favourite colours are black (of course, how predictable) Blood red (really? You surprise me) and purple, but I love and appreciate all colours.
My music collection is pretty eclectic, everything from Mozart to Motorhead and everything in between, it really depends on my mood, what I’m trying to create or what mood I WANT to get into. Favourites are generally pretty rocky but I can appreciate the quieter gentler music too and my wife is a country fan so that’s kind of grown on me since we’ve been together too.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
If I couldn’t be a writer I would have to be an artist of some form, creating is as much a part of me as breathing.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I don’t really have much time to blog, but I have just started a website called The Dark Hearts dedicated to all sorts of hand crafted horror art and collectables including our own range of creepy doll called Mausollies and soon to include our own creepy clothing range on the Dark Hearts label. You can find it at www.thedarkhearts.co.uk My books will also be available on there.