Thursday, October 8, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: Craig Saunders


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Craig.  Welcome to The Gal - and thank you very much for being a part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Craig Saunders:
Porridge doesn't agree with me.  Donovan is my go-to buy when I'm feeling grumpy.  Porridge makes me grumpy.  Every time I eat porridge, I listen to Donovan, like it balances me out.  Sort of like having a joint after taking ecstasy, something to level you out, you know?  Is that what you meant?  Maybe not.  I'm above normal size for a tall person, I write a lot, and I have two blue eyes and live in a shed.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Craig Saunders:
Five things?  Pfft.  You know nothing.  I don't know five things about me that other people don't know.  Take my time in Japan, for example.  Plenty of people know I lived in Japan, and that I speak Japanese.  But they don't know what I did there.  I don't know.  Everything was in Japanese.  It was weird.  I think I might have been a really bad assassin, but I can't remember anything about it after the brainwashing.  Ever since, I've had a terrible memory.  How many is that?  I think that was five.  YES NUMBER ONE, IT WAS FIVE.  STAND DOWN.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Craig Saunders:
One of the Hardy Boy mysteries, I think, though I don't really know what happened because it was a mystery.  The first book I remember reading which stuck with me was the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I think I was around nine.  I read a lot until I was around twenty.  Probably Lord of the Rings that made me want to write fantasy, which is where I started out.  Until I decided killing characters was easier than world building and keeping reams of notes...

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Craig Saunders:
All sorts - I don't read an awful lot any more.  Kids and family and all that, and wanting to write, so something had to give.  I tend to binge read, rather than it being a regular thing.  I'm reading Abercrombie's Half the World and Steven Erickson's Gardens of the Moon at the moment.  After that, I think I've got Keith Deininger's Shadow Animals on the Kindle, a short by William Meikle, and a load of Jim Butcher books I picked up from a charity shop.  People don't count websites and research, but I read plenty outside of fiction.  Oh, and I just finished a Garth Ennis book, Jennifer Blood.
            I was going to say 'Steve Erickson', so I could pretend we're mates.  But we're not.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Craig Saunders:
I used to write all these snippets and poems and doodles like many a teenager in love.  I sent loads of poems to my then girlfriend.  I must have been around fifteen.  So, the short answer to both elements of your question is fifteen.  If I'm going to say more on the subject (which I am) I'd also add that I wrote my first novel when I was 22, lost it and didn't write seriously until around mid-thirties.  I got married to the girlfriend then, but she got grumpy about the twenty-years in between and threw away all the poetry.  She thinks I'm miffed about it, but I'm glad, really, because teenage poetry is shit, isn't it?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Craig Saunders:
The SHED!  I have a shed.  It's brilliant.  As you can probably tell, I'm really enamored with my shed.  The PC is there, an oak chair I sit at that I got from an antique store, a dressing table of my nan's that I changed to a desk.  An armchair, book shelves...it's brilliant.  Very cold, but the books are insulation, and nothing's perfect - if it was, I'd have absolutely nothing to strive for.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Craig Saunders:
Very few, I think.  Like most writers, I just like to be left alone.  I vastly prefer to write one thing, start to finish.  I don't like working piecemeal, but it's surprising what you can put up with when you just get on with it.  I wrote a novel longhand once because my PC broke, then wrote left-handed when my right hand wore out.  I don't really want to do it again, but I guess that's my point - writing's important, not the place or the method.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Craig Saunders:
Selling a ton of books.  Apart from that, nope.  The writing itself is fine - I enjoy it.  I hate second drafts and editing.  I don't like revisiting old stories, although it's essential, of course.  I publish some stuff independently, some stuff with publishers - personally I prefer the publisher because I never have to edit it once it's done and the editor at the publisher does it for free and gives me money.  It's much better when someone pays you to edit your book.  I really hate editing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Craig Saunders:
VonnegutPratchettMurakamiIain M. BanksLee ChildAsimovDouglas AdamsStephen KingCharlie HustonBill HusseyDavid GemmellW. Somerset MaughamMcCammonLaymonKoontzTad WilliamsSaganPoul Anderson...just a few.  Probably everything I've read has had some kind of influence, on style, and equally styles I didn't like.  As for specific books?  I like many.  Murakami's books always made me feel something, and not always happy thoughts...but overall...all of them.  I quite like reading to escape, though, rather than feel miserable or disturbed.  I can manage those just fine on my own.  I love horror, but the 80's stuff more than the recent vibe - I found that era far more personable and accessible than the more modern iteration.  Fantasy's my other love.  Again, though, because I'm inherently an old fart, I miss Gemmell - there's a simplicity about heroic, old-school fantasy that I find you don't get with a lot of modern tomes.  For me, a twelve book epic seems a chore.  Unnecessary, rather than daunting.  Anyway, back to the question - I prefer a style that's short, terse, and to the point.  Style and story both.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Craig Saunders:
Characters you care about?  But not always.  Writing?  But not always.  Structure?  ...you know the drill.  I don't think there's a particular formula.  There are so many good stories, and not all of them are built the same.  Asimov's Foundation books drove that home for me - focus on a society, rather than a main character.  All books aren't the same, nor should they be.  Like food, or something.  Bacon and eggs are good, but steak's good, too.  Basically, story-wise, I like everything except salad.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Craig Saunders:
I don't think I've ever 'fallen' for a character - I enjoy characters - something wicked, mostly, or something cool, or uncaring.  Randall Flagg's a great character.  Jack Reacher's a great character.  Dolores Claiborne (King, again - he excels at making characters accessible which I think is one of many reasons readers keep going back) struck me as one of the best I'd read.  Personally, if I'm not sympathetic in any way toward a character, I'm unlikely to enjoy the book (or finish it, in many cases).  I've found this with a few writers and their characters who I'm not going to name, because it seems a little rude.  Even if they are dead now.  I think they're dead.  If they're not, I'm definitely going to keep it to myself, because calling people dead when they're not is probably worse.
            And, to conclude...I think the best characters are often complicated, but expressed simply.  Hmm...yes...that sounds very professional.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Craig Saunders:
I suppose there's an element of the way I think in many of the characters - none, specifically, but maybe the guy in The Estate - Sam O'Donnell (I think).  I wrote that at a time I was going through plenty of personal things, and there's a lot of me in his character.  Equally, though, a writer's characters are still an invention, aren't they?  It's fiction, after all.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Craig Saunders:
Yes, I suppose, but what's a bad cover?  Some books might have a terrible cover - if I know the author, it probably wouldn't stop me.  Very important for a book by an author you've not read before to grab you the first time out, though, definitely.  As to my input on covers - anything out with a publisher isn't really up to me, but the publisher and the artist.  Anything I self-publish I either make, or pay someone to make, and give them a concept.  So, half and half...

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Craig Saunders:
Writing, I enjoy.  All the other stuff I'd much rather leave to more interested minds than mine.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Craig Saunders:
On an emotional level?  The Walls of Madness was tough, as was Bloody.  Anything with unreliable narrators tends to be difficult because they affect me more, speak to me more - no specific scene, but those books are harder, yes.  As for the actual effort involved in creating a scene - I suppose at some point I feel the perspective's wrong, or I forget who the focus of the scene should be...but the bones of a series aren't, I think, as important as the feel of the entire story, as a part of the structure.  As long as everything fits together like it should, one scene's no more important than the whole.  Does that make sense?  Does to me, so...ner.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Craig Saunders:
I wrote these books.  Other people wrote the other ones.  I'm hungry.  Buy my books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Craig Saunders:
I hate not having a title to work with.  Sometimes the publisher will change a title, but the title, for me, is where the story starts.  Start at the beginning, right?  The title's like the first page.  In some cases, it's even the shortest synopsis ever.  Spiggot - it's about a guy called Spiggot.  Rain - it's about an elemental psycho-thingy that comes out in the rain.  Deadlift...it's about a guy, deadlifting a lift.  That's the general gist of my thoughts on titles.  I try to keep them simple.  That said, there's something intensely satisfying about a good, long title.  Longer titles probably work better on short stories, but not necessarily.  Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  Gary McMahon's Hope is a Small Thing Dying in a Bin Behind an Abandoned Kebab Shop, which is a short, but great title, great story.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Craig Saunders:
Both - it's a different process, a different feel.  I'll write start to finish, without a break, but I think the satisfaction from a short story is instant - a novel sometimes won't satisfy until some point a month down the line, and then maybe even later.  A lot of self-doubt, cajoling, tiredness, boredom, but excitement, surprise, wonder, too, in a novel.  Anyway - short stories are my preference, because I'm heroically impatient.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Craig Saunders:
Be better - do better.  Try to be a little better each day as a person than you were the day before.  Hmm...I'm not sure that's anything to do with my books, but it's a good credo by which to live a life, isn't it?  Anyway, the books; I don't have a target audience other than 'adult'.  I write (largely) about light and dark and the battle between the two, whether on a grand scale or within one's self (ooh, fancy words, there...).  But that said, I write comedies about a man called Spiggot, and fantasy tales, and anything I feel like except Science Fiction because I tried that once and spoiled it.  So, target, no. One genre, no (though my favorite is, of course, horror).  And there's swearing and stuff in them, and a bit of nooky sometimes, so probably not suitable reading for five-year-olds.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Craig Saunders:
Ha, I've written loads of stories and three novels that will never see the light of day.  One was about Jesus and the Devil, probably more philosophical and I forgot to add a plot, and a science fiction novel called The Evolution War, which again was more philosophical than good.  In fact, I don't like either, and only recently came to the conclusion that just because a writer completes something, it doesn't mean it's good enough to be published...that's a hard lesson to learn, maybe, but an important one.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Craig Saunders:
Whoops - see above!  The Evolution War, the Jesus-thing (called The Seven Point Star), but a story I wrote for the Black Library (a Warhammer tale) that I hated and canned.  Others, besides.  I rarely delete writing...but I have done when it's been God-awful!  I've loads of stories to write and I want to write them.  I'll write them.  If they don't turn out as I'd hoped, I'll rewrite them until they feel good enough or someone else to read.  I don't have a rainy day project, I guess.  Yes.  That's my answer.  I'll just write 'til I'm done.
            Plus, I like rainy days - I'm more likely to leave the shed if it's raining, and go for a walk.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Craig Saunders:
I've three novels submitted, one novella, two short stories.  Not heard back on any of those, but they'll all be out at some point, however that may be.  Currently I'm working on two collaborations (Pig with Edward Lorn, and Red Ice Run with Ryan C. Thomas).  My own stuff I'm finding hard with the other work, but next will probably be either Beneath Rythe, the follow-up to Masters of Blood and Bone, or the second in The Oblivion series, or just completely blow those off and write about clowns.  Honestly, I'm kind of between projects with my own writing and I haven't decided yet.  Either way, contractual obligations are fulfilled up until December 2016, so this year is about trying to find an agent.  It was kind of the plan, and work-wise it's fallen right.  The culmination of the PLAN is getting an agent and a seven-figure deal.  Hoping that this year will turn out right, like an episode of the A-Team, before the final credits.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Craig Saunders:
You can find me on Amazon, or...


I'm on Goodreads, Shelfari and Google+, too.  You can probably find me...I've no idea what the address is, or how to get one that makes more sense than 'afho0890afg90787a', or how to use those.  So if you actually find me, rather than just being curious - the three avenues above are the best bet.  Or four.  I can't remember anything.  Can I go now?
            NO NUMBER ONE.  CARRY OUT YOUR MISSION.
            Damn, I wish I had a safe word to get out of brainwashing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by today, Craig.  And for the laughs.  I knew you were going to be hilarious, but you surpassed my expectations :)  It was a pleasure having you here today.
            Before you go, do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Craig Saunders:
Yes, yes I do.  If you've bought my books, or anyone else's books, thank you.  If reader's don't buy our stuff, we don't eat.  Writers might seem wonderful, or popular, or immensely rich in some cases...but they'd be nothing without readers.  Thank you for reading, and thank you, Meghan, for letting me on.  Cheers!


About the author:
Craig Saunders is the author or over thirty novels and novellas, including Masters of Blood and BoneThe Estate and Deadlift.  He writes across many genres, but horror, humour (the Spiggot series), and fantasy (the Rythe tales) are his favourites.
            Craig lives in Norfolk, England, with his wife and children, likes nice people and good coffee.

About the books:

Masters of Blood and Bone
Genre: Horror
Publisher: DarkFuse
Publication date: 2.3.2015
Pages: 320

Holland's a man who's good with death.  Good at death.
            When his daughter goes missing, he finds himself pitted in a deadly game against the Gods themselves.  Powerful enemies surround him - a changeling, a mage, and a god who wants to destroy the world.
            With silver bullets in his gun and death on his mind, Holland aims to set things right...or die trying.
            For the captors of Holland's daughter, death is not only on it's way, it's in their very possession as Hollands' daughter isn't just a girl...in fact, she's barely mortal at all...
            She's Ankou, Death's daughter, and she's not an easy mark.
            The battleground has been set, the world's at stake, and all Hell is about to break loose.
            Masters of Blood and Bone is an epic clash between good and evil, life versus death, Gods against mortals, a timeless story of power and corruption and one man's pursuit to protect what he loves at any cost.

The Estate
Genre: Horror, Occult
Publisher: Crowded Quarantine Publications
Publication date: 10.31.2013
Pages: 322

How far would you go to save those you love?  Into the house of the damned?  Into Hell itself?  It takes a near death experience to open Sam O'Donnell's eyes to what he is - just another addict on the road to ruin.  He knows it's time to make a fresh start.  And yet, when Sam and his wife move to an estate by the sea, nothing goes as planned.  The estate is not what it seems.  Something has taken it over.  It is cold.  It hungers.  To save all he loves, Sam must go into the house of the damned...and into Hell itself.  When weighing in the balance, a man can only face his demons alone and pray he is not found wanting.  But Sam is not alone.

Deadlift
Genre: Horror
Publisher: DarkFuse
Publication date: 4.27.2014
Pages: 77

Deadlift is a weightlifting term that refers to the action of lifting a weight from the floor to a standing position, gripping a bar.
            David Lowe is currently performing the heaviest unrecorded deadlift, performed outside competition rules, or any rules, by holding the severed cable of a thousand-pound hotel elevator containing his wife and an undetonated bomb, while a killer in a sackcloth masks looks on, and a hit man holds a loaded gun to his head.
            David is no superhero, he has no special abilities other than mere human strength and the will to save his wife.  He's been holding the elevator for one minute and thirty-six seconds, bloodying his hands, tearing muscle fibers and cracking bones.
            But push him to the limit and he'll dig deep, find more.  Because when everything is on the line, it's not about muscle anymore - it's about heart...and never, ever, giving up on what you love.

The Walls of Madness
Genre: Horror, Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Crowded Quarantine Publications
Publication date: 10.31.2012
Pages: 162

The Walls of Madness Bill Hunter sees things other people only imagine; he sees the low beasts and the dark man, too.  A man called Marlin.  People call him crazy.  But sometimes nightmares are real.  Sometimes the walls are thin.  And sometimes, in the dead of night, that man, that Marlin, comes through...

Rain
Genre: Horror, Occult
Publisher: Twisted Library Press
Publication date: 12.12.2011
Pages: 272

John March is having a good day.  He doesn't have many.  Then it starts to rain.
            John March runs a struggling bookshop with just one regular customer - Mr. Hill.  His life is defined by routine until the day he discovers that he is sole beneficiary of a will worth £5 million thanks to the eccentric Mr. Hill's untimely death.
            But Mr. Hill also leaves behind something else - a lock of hair, a finger bone, and a tooth in a jar of water.
            It's certainly not the worst day of John's life.  Not until the rain comes and the dying starts.
            There is something in the rain.  Only John can give it what it was.  And yet, even when people are dying, even in the midst of terror, it's not the hardest thing John's ever faced.
            He faces horror every day.  When he locks his shop, drives to August House and opens the door to the room where his wife clings to life.
            But what he doesn't know could kill her, because if the rain doesn't get what it wants, John's wife will serve just as well.

Bloodeye
Genre: Horror
Publisher: DarkFuse
Publication date: 9.9.2014
Pages: 224

Keane Reid is tired of living.  He's bored with his very existence following the suspicious death of his wife seven years earlier.  He's not interested in TV, reading, dating or a social life.
            But when he is called on a routine plumbing job at a local pub, he discovers the corpse of a young girl crucified and nailed to a wall, her eyes torn out and a third eye carved into her forehead.  Keane has seen this mark before, and soon his life is thrust between the past and present, reality and fantasy, darkness and light.
            As Keane loses his grip on sanity, a long-forgotten shadow begins whispering to him once again, ushering him toward the void, where the ghosts of his past reside, waiting to show him what truly lies behind the veil.

4 comments:

I. Clayton Reynolds said...

Excellent interview. I like this guy.

Meghan H said...

Thanks, Clay. I was honored when he agreed to be on The Gal.

Craig Saunders said...

Ooh, I'm allowed to say stuff on here? Cool. Thank you Clayton, and thanks Meghan for letting me say stuff. :)

Meghan H said...

Of course you're allowed to say something, silly. I am one of those book bloggers that encourage open dialogue between reviewer and author :)

You are very welcome. And you are welcome back any time!!