Name Stuart Keane
Where are you from
I was born and raised in Kent, but now reside in Essex.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I’m married to a supportive wife, Leisyen, and I have two sisters, Joanne and Kirsty. I also have a nephew, Ethan, and a Bengal cat called Vincent (named after Vincent Price). I studied Media and Communication for three years out of school, and worked various customer service roles, before setting my sights on a writing career.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Well, I recently joined the Author’s Guild, accepted an invite for a comic convention in Brussels, signed a publishing contract with Matt Shaw Publications. Matt will be republishing my book, Cine, as a black cover book, with a few tweaks and a special foreword from Matt himself. The book is available for pre-order now.
I recently saw Kids, my first anthology with Dark Chapter Press, hit the #1 spot in the UK, and become a bestseller in the process. I’m also working on several solo projects – both novels and anthologies – as we speak, so the slate is pretty full.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I actually wrote my first story when I was eleven, and I wrote lots of bits and bobs in between, but I never pursued that particularly career path properly until 2014. It was an accumulation of things; timing, money, willpower, working it around a job, applying the discipline to the massive work ethic that’s essential when writing. I also received written inspiration from one of my favourite writers, Lee Child, when we met at a personal book signing, which was the boot up the backside I needed to sit down and think, ‘Right, let’s do this.’
I started writing because I’ve always had a passion for it. I love writing, and the creative process behind it. As a child I buried myself in books of all kinds, and I have a creative imagination anyway, so the two just naturally combined. I began creating ideas and drawing comics aged nine, and continued through school and college and into adult life.
The idea had been in my head for many years, but when 2014 came around, I was finally ready. I’m glad I was, and I’m somewhat glad I waited too; I think being unprepared, or unfocused, for the obstacle course that is a writing career can be potentially dangerous, tough and soul-sapping.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think this was a recent event. I like to keep my feet on the ground in regards to my writing, but I think the moment I realised, ‘Hey, I’m actually doing this,’ was when I first started receiving good reviews in 2015. To this day, receiving a review is always heart-warming, and it always brings a smile to my face. Since that day, much has happened to expand this experience such as conventions, meet and greets, and personal feedback etc., but I think having people read you, and having people thank you for giving them a wonderful reading experience, really confirms that I’m doing something right. Keeping it going is the tricky part, but I work for it every single day.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Funnily enough, the hatred for my previous occupation spawned my first novella. I was working on my first novel at the time, chipping away bit by bit, but a second idea began to form in my head, gradually. I used to work in a busy call centre, and seeing some of the practice that went on there; well, it made my teeth ache, that’s the only description for it. To keep this answer short, the little people rarely matter to the massive corporations as long as they take money hand over fist, and this was the motivation to write The Customer is Always… The title was intentional; the reader can make the final judgment for themselves based on the happenings in the story, right or wrong.
This book was also born out of my favourite horror sub-genre: urban horror. I think horror is more terrifying if it can actually happen to a person, and I tend to base a lot of my work in that sub-genre. Nothing is more effective than making a reader look over their shoulder while spending hours on their Kindle; I take pride in making that happen.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I wouldn’t say I have a particular style, but I enjoy writing material that people can pick up and read easily. I always read my work back and if it jars for me, and I struggle to read it, I know the readers might too. Immersion is a crucial technique, and sometimes less can be a lot more. I’m an avid reader, so, in turn; I think this helps to portray my story to the readers in the correct way.
A few readers have told me I’m contemporary, tension-filled, smooth and elaborate. Some have said I thrust them into the scenario immediately. I appreciate the feedback, and it varies, but I wouldn’t classify my work as any one thing. I just like writing horror stories that people enjoy, and I don’t restrict myself to do that.
One thing I will say though; I think dialogue is important, key, and research is essential. I ensure what I am writing is authentic. I don’t guess; if the topic requires research, I will dive in deep, and get the information I need. In my recent release, Grin, one scene (seven pages if I remember rightly) took three days to construct because I was analyzing an intricate, complex medical conversation with both a nurse and an EMT. There’s nothing worse than writing a conversation that physically wouldn’t happen and I wanted to ensure total accuracy with that particular conversation.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title just normally pops into my head. Some words I absolutely love; they are just sitting there, waiting for the right story to come along. I like short, punchy titles, nothing too elaborate. Whispers, for example, I adore that word. Everything about it speaks spooky, evil, and sinister – the word is associated with so much deviousness and betrayal, hidden secret and twisted truth. There are plenty of words like that, and plenty of titles waiting for the right material.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I wouldn’t say there was a message per se, but as I base much of my horror in urban reality, and focus on the dark side of humanity, it’s easy to see my work classed as social commentary. I’ve had several readers mention that they will never go to the last showing at a cinema again (Cine), or leave the front door unlocked (Grin). I even had one reader swear off bathing for life (Whispers – Volume 1).
Having this effect on readers is awesome at times. As long as the readers are having fun and, in return, I’m scaring them, then I’m okay with what I write. Readers have the ability to read and assess a story for themselves, and I will never attempt to change that.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Aside from Charlotte, and the odd short story in both volumes of Whispers, none of my work is supernatural. Most of my work can be attributed to someone or something I have either met/seen or experienced in my life. Again, I feel this brings the person into the scenario better: if you’ve lived some of it, it’s much easier to put it on a page, describe it, and bring the reader into your mindset.
I would say 80% of my work is based on tidbits or scraps from my actual life thus far, and some books exist purely because of that (for example, Cine was based on my experience of working in a cinema). A horror author’s mind is not a nice place to live sometimes, but it’s never short of real-life inspiration.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
When I was young, I picked up books very early. I started with Roald Dahl, Puddle Lane, Dr, Seuss, and a little gem called A Dark Dark Tale, which sits in my collection to this very day. That book, and Puddle Lane, introduced me to a darker side of fiction.
My first favourite author was Enid Blyton – primarily her Secret Seven and Famous Five books. These introduced me to an innocent side of mystery, one that firmly hooked me. Using a library membership – one of the best gifts I ever received as a child – I quickly tore through the bustling shelves. From Blyton I went to Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators, Fighting Fantasy books, Nancy Drew, and more. It was only a matter of time until I found Richard Laymon, and it was sitting at home the whole time.
Laymon is the main reason I am writing today. His style of brave, simple, terrifying horror is the reason I considered a career to begin with. It wasn’t long until I was reading James Herbert, Shaun Hutson, Clive Barker and, of course, Stephen King. I would expand my collection for years to come, and fall in love with a whole host of horror/thriller writers, but none has inspired me quite like Laymon.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favourite of all time is Richard Laymon, but Shaun Hutson is a close second. I’ve read everything by these two authors, many more than once, and I always enjoy the reading experience. Their work is so effortlessly horrible and terrifying – true horror as I call it – that you can imagine a majority of it actually happening to you, the detail is such that you shiver as you read. When a writer can do that to a reader, it’s an art, and an honour to be reading the material.
Many prolific authors will be familiar with this, but I rarely get a chance to read, well, not as leisurely as I used to. A few new writers that have appeared on my radar recently – although some of them have probably been doing it longer than I have – are Matt Shaw, Glenn Rolfe, Mark Parker, Kyle M. Scott, Jack Rollins, Alice J Black, Geoffrey West, Dave Basnett, Graeme Reynolds, Chantal Noordeloos, Michael Bray, Shaun Hupp, Iain Rob Wright, Andrew Lennon, and Matt Hickman.
I know I missed a bunch there, so apologies to anyone who didn’t get a mention, but if you check www.stuartkeane.com , you’ll occasionally find reviews and recommendations on there. Right now, horror is the genre to watch, there’s so much individual and collective talent out there.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Many will think this is a suck-up answer, but I think Matt Shaw has been simply outstanding. When I first started out, I approached Matt (and others) for advice; it was like a minefield at first, navigating and avoiding potential pitfalls. Not only was Matt honest and friendly, but his work ethic was, and still is, something I haven’t seen emulated anywhere else. The man is a writing machine, and a pool of wisdom and knowledge, and the fact that he helped me at that stage, someone who was starting out with nothing, was a massive boost for me. It helped me grow in confidence, and shaped my career as it stands today. Matt has showed me things I didn’t think possible in this line of work. I will always appreciate and respect his input
However, writing is an unstoppable journey, so many people come and go – more the former – on a daily basis. The online horror community – editors, writers, cover artists, bloggers, interviewers, publishers – are a close-knit family, and a huge hub of support for one another. This job is ten times easier because of them and a lot of fun too.
And finally, the readers. I’ve never been a huge fan of social media but when it opens your world to the readers; the people who admire your work and become close friends because of it, it’s totally worth it. I’m honoured to call a number of my readers friends because of this, which is something I never expected to happen. It’s definitely one of the best things about this career.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
As of July last year, writing is my official career. I went full-time following departure from my previous occupation. I haven’t regretted it for one minute. I now write 3,000 words a day minimum for my books, edit for Dark Chapter Press, and publish articles for Inquisitr.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would have to say no on that one.
89, my latest book, came out better than I expected. I was more than happy with the final result, despite some creative issues on my part. Few had an issue with the 9-hour bus journey at the centre of the plot – but trust me, one check on the National Express bus timetable will confirm this happens every day.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
From reading. I think anyone who counts reading as a hobby or pastime, hell, even a passion, will always be naturally inspired to put pen to page, whether it’s a blog, a website, reviews, or even a book. I see it happen every day.
I think reading and writing go hand in hand, but I’ve always been creative too, so it was only a matter of time until the two merged into something more.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here is an unedited excerpt from Awakening, which is due for release on June 13th. The book is the prequel to my earlier book, Charlotte. You can pre-order the book on Amazon now.
White bone split and broken and shattered, most of the dark blood was billowing over the cracked, mangled edges of a shattered skull, one that needed no identification to be obvious. It reminded her of a grotesque, bloody eggshell, cracked in a million places. The woman could see the slimy pink brain inside its protective cavity, the cerebral tissue all nobbled and tight and glistening, bumpy like the pictures in science textbooks, ones she vividly remembered as a young child during science class, images that made her feel a little queasy.
She saw a face and it wasn’t a face anymore, it was a bloody mush of muscle and sinew, the general shape of the face a distant memory, practically unidentifiable. The only redeeming feature was the skull behind the crimson mask, the protruding bones of the cheeks and jawline miraculously intact. The soft, squishy stuff that coated it was no more, obliterated, the flesh and muscle we take for granted on a daily basis, living tissue that undergoes extensive daily maintenance to provide a visage that’s more than capable of smiling and winking and making someone’s day, hung in large shredded tatters, draping the neck and chest of the unfortunate victim.
A dreaded realisation dawned on her.
Her eyes darted back to the airbag, and then her knee. Saw the glob of flesh there, wobbling on the blood-soaked denim, movement caused by the shivers now passing through her body, rocking her to its very core.
She looked back to the face and realised its severed upper lip now sat on her leg, like a gory slug oozing blood into the denim. Behind the victim, she saw the driver seatbelt hanging loosely, the square metal clasp shining, untouched, and immaculate inside the destroyed vehicle. He hadn’t been wearing it.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I like challenges, so I would say no. The writing isn’t the difficult part for me, but it has some fallout. Sometimes, keeping the discipline in check is tough, making sure you stick to the word counts etc. I find I also take a lot on, more than I should, but I feel working this way also helps to keep you motivated.
My biggest problem is simple; I find it hard to turn off at weekends, or take a break in general. I regularly work 12 hours a day, and writing, for me, is a 24-hour job. It’s my dream, and losing it after coming this far is simply not going to happen. This can affect the social life somewhat, but I see it as a worthy sacrifice. I’m lucky I have people around me who keep this in check, to a degree anyway. Needless to say, I will repay their support and patience eventually.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
At the moment, I travel for comic conventions only. This year alone I have done four conventions already, and have future dates in Bristol, West Sussex, Kent, Nottingham, and Brussels. Yes, Brussels. With recent tragic events, Matt Shaw and I will play that one by ear.
I love conventions; they are a great opportunity to meet and greet with readers, old and new. I’ve met many wonderful people through these events and I will continue doing them. There’s nothing quite like a grateful author meeting a reader in person.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I have two regular cover artists; Mark Kelly (Charlotte, Whispers 1 and 2, Grin), and Michael Bray (Amy, Awakening, 89, some covers yet to be revealed).
Steve Crisp did the cover for All or Nothing – he designed many Laymon covers, some of which are memorable to me – and having him work on a cover for me was a true bucket list moment. Steve and I are now good friends as a result.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I think agreeing on the final draft is the most consuming/difficult part of any book. For an author, changing and chopping bits of a story, one you’ve worked on for weeks/months can be brutal; it’s a delicate process, and one eased by efficient beta readers, second opinions and honesty. When I started, I didn’t realise I would need such people in my life, but now I deem them essential.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Never take anything for granted. Seeing multiple people die in tragic, horrible circumstances at my hand has certainly made me appreciate the finer things in life. When it can actually happen to you, it certainly makes you think.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
A tough choice. I will go with Grin on this one; I think Jessica Stroup would be perfect to play the lead. I based the appearance of the Dani on her anyway, so seeing her step into the role would be a dream come true.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
It sounds simple, but write. Give yourself a daily word count and stick to it, or go above it. I do 3,000 words a day now, but I started on 500. Once I had the discipline in place, I was set. Also create a brand as exposure is key. Whether by making your covers stand out, promoting yourself right, mingling professionally with other authors, or keeping interactive on social media, there’s a ton of tools out there, for free, to make yourself known.
If you can’t write, then read. Always carry a book/Kindle with you at all times (Kindle is available on a mobile phone for you techies out there). Without the writing, though, nothing will come of it. I once managed 2,000 words a day around a 9 hour day job, so it can be done. I know many who procrastinate, but I know very few who actually follow through. If you want to write, it’s simple. Write, write, write!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you. No matter how many times I say that, I mean it with all my heart. It’s simple; without you, I wouldn’t be writing for a living. I’m ecstatic and humbled that so many people; generous, supportive people, like my work. I love to meet and socialise with the readers too, so feel free to get in touch on Facebook or social media (links below). One day, I will buy you all a drink.
In fact, watch out for a few surprises in the future. I believe in rewarding my readers with the very thing they love, so stay tuned.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. If you’ve seen the popular film, you’ll know what I’m on about – except the book is far superior. Imagination works wonders!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was a Mr Men book featuring Mr Tickle. Or was it Mr Bump? One of those two. I was only three so…
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I have a dark sense of humour so I’m a bit quirky in that respect. It’s hard to pinpoint one or two things. Brutal honesty is up there though, and things many would find offensive. My mind works in peculiar ways. Oh, and Rik Mayall. Anything he does is comedy gold.
Crying? Hmmm. It’s been a while, but anything to do with animal cruelty is a sad prospect in my eyes. The thought of such a beautiful creature unable to defend itself is … yeah, it’s not nice.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Rik Mayall is top of the list. I regret not having the chance to meet him. Aside from the steady stream of horror, his comedic genius had me laughing for hours in my youth, and to this very day. R.I.P Rik, you mad bastard you.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
My name. Other than that, I haven’t planned that far yet. I would prefer cremation though; it seems like a credible spooky, horror author thing to do.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Reading, video games, comics, TV shows, and movies, which I now collectively call ‘research’. I also follow sports, and enjoy spending time with family. Walking is particular relaxing too, and sitting in the rain. That last one is a rare pleasure, but a very soothing one nonetheless.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m a massive film fan, so anything really. Answering this question could take an entire interview in itself, so I’ll keep it brief. I love gangster movies, horror, action, and thrillers. I don’t have a preference for any other genre, but if it’s good, and holds my attention, I will see it through. The Godfather is my favourite movie of all time, though.
For TV, I was a huge comic book fan growing up, so anything to do with that. I recently finished Daredevil Season 2 (watch it: two words – The Punisher), and I’m still watching The Walking Dead, despite some minor creative errors on their part. TV is something I don’t have time to commit too, so I’m very picky with my choices here.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Chinese food is my favourite of all time; I could eat it every day if it wouldn’t kill me within a month. Random author fact: I’m allergic to apples.
Colors – Red, black and blue. I prefer neutral shades too, not bright.
Music. I’m a rock and roll fan mainly; my Dad’s epic taste in music influenced me heavily while I was growing up.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I think I’m lucky in saying I’m doing what I always wanted to do. Nothing appealed to me as much as writing; the only thing that surprises me is that it took so long to find my path.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
www.stuartkeane.com or you can catch me on Facebook at stuartkeanewriter.
I am also on Twitter at @SKeane_Author.
My books are available on Amazon