After last week’s more reflective piece, I had intended to go into full-on shameless self-promotion mode this week, which I will do – but later. First, though, I had some disappointing news, which is that the novel has been rejected. Damn, that’s annoying! Or is it..? Well, yes, of course it – it would have been lovely to get a commission and to think that a novel of mine would be in Waterstones one day soon, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Honestly, the novel chapters I’d sent weren’t exciting me that much, and the feedback on them pointed out some stuff I’d not thought about, and some stuff that I already knew about it but was trying to avoid admitting (mainly, it was boring!). The message rejecting it was, however, extremely positive about me and my writing, so I took the opportunity to ask if they wanted to see a new thing I’m working on (well, actually, not ‘working on’ but ‘thinking about’ because I didn’t want to start a new novel and then have to leave it to write the one I’d sent in, had they liked it). And they said yes! So, once I’ve cleared the decks (which means, essentially, finishing two stories I’m midway through and editing some older ones with an eye to developing my second collection to a point where I can legitimately pitch it), I’m going to start the new novel. My head has been full of it these last few days, and I have a really good feeling about it. Plot points, images, ideas and characters are popping into my head, and I’m genuinely excited at the thought of writing it. No details yet, because I don’t want to jinx it, so more on this as and when I can.
So, what else has been happening? Well, still no books from Ghostwriter, which is an expected shame, but I did get some other books this week from proper publishers. Firstly, my copy of Exotic Gothic 3 from the Ash-Tree Press turned up! As ever with Ash-Tree, it’s a beautifully produced volume with some fabulous contributors (as well as my mates Steve Duffy and Steve Volk, there’s stories by Adam Neville, Simon Clark and more). The editor, Danel Olson, has made some really good choices for this one, and I can’t wait to read it!
The other thing that arrived were my two contributor copies of the paperback edition of The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best
New Horror, which I wasn’t expecting. This is a huge paperback, with a genuinely creepy cover that I love. It’s very weird to think about my story The Church on the Island being in there with stories by Stephen King, Peter Straub, Harlan Ellison, Ramsey Campbell et al, but it is. Which means one of my stories will be in Stephen King’s house somewhere – he’ll probably never read it, but you know, that’s still pretty cool as far as I can tell! The paperback is being launched at World Horror in a few weeks with a signing session featuring me and the other authors present – Ramsey Campbell, Michael Marshall Smith, Mark Samuels, Tim Lebbon and Christopher Fowler will be there I think. It’s also been gratifying to read what Ramsey and Steve have written about me and the story – I’m not going to tell you what they said, except that it’s very flattering. You’ll just have to buy the book when it comes out! The limited edition hardback of the book (the one I signed 250 sheets for, giving myself writer’s cramp in the progress and only just managing to resist writing ‘bollocks!’ instead of my signature on sheet 187, just to see if anyone would notice – thankfully, good sense and a deep and justified fear and Steve Jones prevented me) will, I assume, turn up in time. This is another one I can’t wait to read.
Ah, yes, reading: my ‘to be read’ pile is now massive, swelled partly by the books that I have stories in! The problem is that work has taken me away recently a lot, and I don’t like to take important books with me in case they get damaged in transit. Consequently, as well as Gaslight Grotesque, the aforementioned Exotic Gothic 3 and Mammoth Book of Best of Best New Horror and Lovecraft Unbound, I also still have my copies of Barbara Roden’s Northwest Passages, Steve Duffy and Ian Rodwell’s The Five Quarters, a Clark Ashton Smith collection, several Ramsey Campbell novels, a John Alfred Taylor collection and a bunch of other stuff to get through (and then review). For the record, I’m about two-thirds of the way through Barbara’s collection, and it’s brilliant, and 1 story into The Five Quarters, which is also brilliant.The others are sitting, forlorn and alone and hoping… One day soon, I hope. One day soon…
So, what else is new? Well, this week I’ve started to shamelessly self-promote the new collection. I made a flyer and sent it to basically everyone I can think of, and have had some nice responses. I wasn’t sure that the flyer would serve any purpose, really, but already I’ve had two people tell me they’re ordering copies as a direct result of the flyer! Danel Olson has ordered a copy for the Lone Star College library (and trust me when I tell you that I’m just hopping with glee over the thought of my book being in a college library!) and a colleague of my mum’s saw the flyer pinned to the noticeboard at her office and asked my mum to get them a copy when it’s out. Result! And, because this is my blog, I’m going to put all of my nice blurb quotes here, just to remind you how good Lost Places is going to be:
Deceptively amiable, but creepy as hell, Unsworth’s horror stories are all the more powerful because they’re told about characters like you and me, and the evils that are hidden just out of sight of the everyday. There’s a humanity to this work that makes its macabre twists all the crueller.
—Rob Shearman, 2008 World Fantasy Award Winner for Best Collection
Vivid and creepily effective, these are gripping tales of the relentlessly pursued, twisting shadows, half-seen shapes, the goodbye kiss of a ghost and the terror of imaginary beings. With the rustling pungence of M R James and the claustrophobic interiority of Ramsey Campbell, Simon Kurt Unsworth gear-shifts from innocuous to disturbing deftly enough to give the most hardened of us nightmares.
—Stephen Volk, BAFTA Award winning author of GHOSTWATCH
Simon Unsworth possesses that elusive gift they call “storytelling”. His main strength is that he knows intuitively how to structure a tale to keep you reading right till the end, even when that end is less than happy for his characters. Here is a writer who knows the value of his craft and he’s damn well going to use it, no matter who gets hurt in the process.
—Gary McMahon, British Fantasy Award nominated author of How To Make Monsters
The most impressive debut from any horror writer that I have seen in a very long time. From the terrifying “Old Man’s Pantry” to the sublimely chilling “Church on the Island” (which was rightly nominated for the World Fantasy Award), Simon Kurt Unsworth’s debut collection delivers the goods in every respect. Frightening, evocative, and highly recommended!
—Lawrence Connolly, Black Quill award nominated author of Veins
Rather than providing comfort, the soul-rending humanity and beguiling sense of nostalgia which permeate these stories ultimately serve only to impenetrably blacken their dark and unforgiving hearts. An emotionally devastating debut collection from a powerful new voice in horror.
—Mark Morris, bestselling author of Toady and Stitch
Now that’s praise!
Right, I’m going again. There’s a novel battering around my head, waiting to be written, and two stories (incidentally, I showed the first part of the Sherlock Story to someone this week, which I never normally do until the first draft is written, but I’m struggling with it a little and wanted a second opinion – and they really liked it! Gave me some good advice, which I’m going to take, and helped me rediscover my enthusiasm for the tale) that I want to finish soon. Plus I have a second collection to organise and, somewhere in the middle of all of this, work to do and a family to love (not necessarily in that order, before you ask). Busy, busy busy! But having the most fun doing it all, which is, as far as I can tell, the main point really… So, Lords and Ladies, until next week, goodbye!