Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Thursday, 27 October 2016

10 TV Plays For Halloween

The Harrowing
When it comes to Halloween viewing, we’ve looked at movies, but the small screen’s offered up its share of terrors too. A lot of these come from the 1970s, the golden age of the single television play, but there are a couple of more modern offerings here.

1) The Stone Tape (1972)
Written by Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale, The Stone Tape centres on a group of scientific researchers who move into a facility at an abandoned stately home, tasked with developing a new recording medium. When Jill Greeley (Jane Asher), girlfriend of charismatic but tyrannical project head Peter Brock (Michael Bryant) discovers that a long-unused room there is apparently haunted, replaying a traumatic event from centuries ago, Brock is convinced he’s found the breakthrough he’s looking for.

2) Ghostwatch (1992)
Stephen Volk’s now-classic 1992 ‘mockumentary’, although broadcast on BBC’s Screen One and billed as a fictional TV play, fooled millions across the country, and succeeded in scaring the living hell out of them. Presented as a live investigation into a supposedly haunted house, it starred many well-known TV presenters of the day, including Mike Smith, Sarah Greene, Craig Charles and chat-show king Michael Parkinson. Delivers a truly terrifying climax. Possibly not the best thing to watch last thing at night, especially if you’re alone in the house.

3) The Signalman (1976)
The first of the BBC’s Ghost Story For Christmas adaptations not to be based on an M.R. James story – it’s based instead on one by Charles Dickens – has an impeccable pedigree: adapted by Andrew Davies (who went on to adapt Moll Flanders, Pride and Prejudice and House of Cards), it stars Denholm Elliott in the title role. Striking up a friendship with a traveller (Bernard Lloyd), he confides how he’s tormented by a shadowy figure who always appears before tragedy strikes on the line. The performances – Elliott’s especially – are what carry this creepy little half-hour.

4) Countess Ilona/The Werewolf Reunion (1977)
Robert Muller’s 1977 anthology series Supernatural (nothing to do with the Winchester brothers) centred on The Club Of The Damned, an exclusive London society where the price of admission is a true account of the supernatural: the only catch is that if your story doesn’t satisfy the audience, you won’t leave the premises alive. Most of the eight episodes were stand-alone stories, but Countess Ilona and The Werewolf Reunion form a crackling two-parter. Ilona (Billie Whitelaw) is a former courtesan, married off to the depraved Count Tyrrh by her former lovers (Charles Kay, Ian Hendry, John Fraser and Edward Hardwicke.) Now a widow, Ilona invites the four to her estate, with revenge in mind – because Count Tyrrh was a werewolf, and thanks to her lovers’ machinations, her beloved son is doomed to become a monster too...

5) Lost Hearts (1973)
The first of the BBC’s Ghost Stories For Christmas, based on the story by M.R. James. Orphaned Stephen (Simon Gipps-Kent) is sent to stay with his eccentric older cousin, Peregrine Abney (Joseph O’Conor), unaware that he’s to be the third and last in a series of human sacrifices intended to make Abney immortal. But the ghosts of Phoebe (Michelle Foster) and Giovanni (Christopher Davis), the first two victims, are still present, and have their own plans for Mr Abney. The ghosts are downright creepy, and O’Conor’s performance, both funny and sinister, is a highlight.

6) During Barty’s Party (1976)
Nigel Kneale again, this time with this 50 minute screw-turner from Beasts, a anthology series he wrote. During Barty’s Party is not only the finest of the plays, but one of the scariest TV programmes I’ve seen. Virtually a two-hander, starring Elizabeth Sellars and Anthony Bate as a middle-aged couple whose home is besieged by an army of murderous rats, it’s all the more frightening for the fact that you don’t see a single rat throughout the play: the whole thing’s driven by a combination of excellent sound effects and the sheer quality of the performances from Sellars and Bate. Well, that, of course, and the writing. Even after forty years, it’s lost none of its power.

7) A Child’s Voice (1978)
Written by David Thomson, this rarity, made for Irish TV (it’s sometimes inaccurately billed as a ‘lost BBC ghost story’) stars the late great T.P. McKenna as a broadcaster (modelled somewhat on A.J. Alan) who writes and performs tales of the macabre on late night radio. All goes well until he begins a new story whose plot culminates in the death of a child: he begins to receive telephone calls from a young boy, telling him not to continue the story. Naturally, he doesn’t listen...

You can view the complete play here:

8) The Nightmare Man (1981)
I’ve written at greater length over at This Is Horror about this four-part frightener, adapted by Dr Who and Blake’s 7 veteran Robert Holmes from David Wiltshire’s novel. An isolated Scottish island is stalked by a savage killer who appears both more and less than human. To find out more, go here

The Nightmare Man
9) A View From A Hill (2005)
When the BBC finally revived A Ghost Story For Christmas in 2005, it was with Peter Harness’ highly effective adaptation of M.R. James’ story. Fanshawe, an archaeologist, comes to a rural stately home to catalogue its collection of finds, and comes into possession of a pair of binoculars that show sights from the past. They turn out to have been created by a local clockmaker, using the bones of hanged men to achieve their effects – and now their ghosts are on Fanshawe’s trail...

10) The Harrowing (2014)
Concluding the first season of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s anthology series Inside No.9 was this darkly funny and creepy play, with a fine cast including Aimee-Ffion Edwards and Helen McCrory. Teenager Katy (Edwards) is hired by eccentric siblings Tabitha (McCrory) and Hector (Shearsmith) to housesit while they’re out for the night. Upstairs is their bedridden brother Andras, who can’t speak but will ring if he needs help. But all is not as it seems…

If you're looking for some Halloween reading matter, Simon Bestwick's collection of ghost stories, A Hazy Shade Of Winter, is available as an ebook here. Or you could check out this list...

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

10 Films For Halloween

Cold Prey
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be spending Halloween on the couch with a bumper bag of popcorn and your pick of DVDs. There are some obvious, classic choices: Psycho, The Wicker Man, Dracula: Prince Of Darkness, Quatermass And The Pit, The Devil Rides Out, The Innocents, Insidious, Sinister, Halloween, The Thing, The Fog… But what if you’re after something different this year? Well, fret no more. Here, in particular order, are ten great little movies to darken your Halloween.

1) It Follows (2015)
The newest title on the list, and the one you’re most likely to know. A crackingly effective low-key horror about a murderous demon transferred through sexual contact, that can take any form to close in on you. And when it reaches you, you’re finished. Builds a terrific sense of dread and doom.

2) Mulberry Street (2006)
Or, as the UK distributor insisted on calling it, Zombie Virus On Mulberry Street. Even though there are no zombies: the menace in this taut low-budget little movie comes from bite-spread virus that turns its victims into feral rat-like monsters. Caught in the middle of the storm are the inhabitants of a run-down New York tenement, led by Clutch (co-writer Nick Damici) all facing eviction as the area is gentrified. What makes this work are the strong performances and the finely-drawn characters. Director Jim Mickle has gone on to make the even more stunning No.3 on this list...

3) Stake Land (2010)
Written by the same creative duo who produced Mulberry Street – Jim Mickle and Nick Damici – and set in an America turned into an apocalyptic wasteland by a plague of vampires. Damici plays Mister, a grizzled vampire-killer who takes charge of Martin (Connor Paolo) a teenage orphan and Sister, a former nun (Kelly McGillis, brilliant in her first acting role in a decade.) Travelling through America in search of sanctuary, they’re threatened not only by the vampires but by the fundamentalist Brotherhood led by Jebedia Leven (Michael Cerveris).

4) Salvage (2009)
Filmed in my new home city of Liverpool – and on the former set of the soap opera Brookside! - Lawrence Gough’s low-budget chiller is set in a suburban cul-de-sac. When something goes on the rampage through the near-deserted houses, Special Forces seal off the close and threaten to shoot anyone leaving their house, leaving troubled mother Beth (Neve McIntosh) and her estranged daughter Jodie (Linzey Cocker), trapped on opposite sides of the close. Beth has one objective: to save her daughter. A taut, tense and brutal thriller with a cruel gut-punch of an ending.

5) Onibaba (1964)
Set in mediaeval Japan, Kaneto Shindo’s 1964 film centres on a mother and daughter-in-law survive by killing and robbing soldiers from the civil war that has torn the country apart. Their way of life is disrupted when a former neighbour comes home from the wars and begins a relationship with the daughter-in-law. Afraid that the younger woman will abandon her (making it impossible to keep robbing), the mother dons a demon mask taken from a murdered samurai and uses it to frighten the daughter-in-law away from her lover, switching between her identities as mother-in-law and onibaba (literally, ‘demon hag’). But then the mask becomes stuck to her face...

6) Banshee Chapter (2013)
Blair Erickson’s directorial debut weaves together recent American history (the MKULTRA project, where US citizens were used as guinea pigs for psychedelic drugs) and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. When James (Michael McMillian) disappears in mysterious circumstances after taking a rare drug used in the MKULTRA trials, his friend Anne (Katia Winter) sets out to find him. The trail leads to Thomas Blackburn (the ever-reliable Ted Levine) a Hunter S. Thompson-esque ‘60s author, who has his own supply of the drug, which enables the human mind to perceive different dimensions and the creatures that inhabit them. The only problem is that if you can see them… they can see you too.

7) Cold Prey (2006)
There aren’t many slasher movies I genuinely like, but this one, from Norwegian director Roar Uthaug is an exception. Five twenty-somethings go skiiing in the mountains: when one breaks his leg in an accident, they find shelter in a long-abandoned ski lodge – but they’re not alone. This one works for a bunch of reasons: the well-drawn characters (all superbly acted, especially by leading lady Ingrid Bolso Berdal, who won the Amanda – Norway’s equivalent of the Oscar – for the role) and the great location are a big part of it. Even though the threat is a hulking, skin-clad killer with a pick-axe, it has the atmosphere of a supernatural horror film, perhaps because there’s something almost archetypal, even mythic, about this tale of travellers who unwittingly trespass on a monster’s hidden mountain lair and incur its wrath. The sequel, Cold Prey: Resurrection, also starring Berdal, is almost as good, and makes up a fine double bill.

8) Entity (2012)
Not to be confused with the 1982 Barbara Hershey film. In a Siberian forest, a documentary crew led by journalist Kate (Charlotte Riley) and guided by local cop Yuri (Branko Tomovic) close in on a clearing where thirty-six bodies were found, their identities and cause of death unknown. Psychic Ruth (Dervla Kirwan) leads them to Sadovich, a derelict Cold War research facility where suspected psychics were subjected to inhuman experiments to develop their powers. Their unquiet, tormented ghosts remain: but so does another one, known only as Mischka. He’s angry, and he wants revenge… Steve Stone’s movie offers both dread and jump scares, amped up by excellent sound design, so watch this one with the volume up.

9) The Awakening (2011)
Written by Stephen (Ghostwatch) Volk and with a cast including Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Shaun Dooley (who also appears in No.4 on this list, Salvage), The Awakening is set in the years following World War One, when the fascination with spiritualism is at its height. Florence Cathcart (Hall) is a professional ghost-hunter, whose mission in life is to expose fake mediums and debunk the supernatural. Then Robert Mallory (West) seeks her out to investigate a ghost at the all boys’ school where he teaches. Florence finds herself confronting not only a genuine haunting, but the secrets of her own past.

10) Big Bad Wolves (2013)
If you’d prefer black comedy to jumps and chills, then this Israeli movie by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papusahdo will be just the ticket. Detective Miki (Lior Asheknazi) is suspended after trying to beat a confession out of Dror (Rotel Kelnan), the prime suspect in the murder of several little girls. He sets out to take matters into his own hands – but Gideon (Tzahi Grad), the father of the latest victim, has ideas of his own. Big Bad Wolves is one of those films where you find yourself laughing hysterically at things that shouldn’t be funny at all, but without ever cheapening its subject matter.

If you're looking for some Halloween reading matter, Simon Bestwick's collection of ghost stories, A Hazy Shade Of Winter, is available as an ebook here. Or you could check out this list...

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

A Hazy Shade of Winter and 10 Books For Halloween

With Halloween next week, it's only natural to start casting about for suitable stuff to read and watch. You can't beat a good ghost story - although horror is more than just that, as the list below should prove.

But first, a quick plug:

My first collection, A Hazy Shade Of Winter, was published in a beautiful limited edition by Canada's Ash-Tree Press, was introduced by Joel Lane, and consisted of thirteen short stories and a 20,000 word novella.

And it's a book of ghost stories.

Matthew returns to the house where he spent an idyllic summer with a group of friends, and finds them waiting for him to join them... permanently.

The people of a small village hunt a supernatural intruder - but who are the real monsters?

An innocent walk in unfamiliar surroundings becomes a journey into a nightmare; a stranded tourist faces a bizarre challenge; a harassed employee takes a desperate revenge on her employer; and a secondhand book of ghost stories becomes the instrument of a malevolent, restless spirit....

A Hazy Shade Of Winter is now available as an ebook on Amazon in the US and UK. So if you still can't pick a Halloween read after checking out the list below...

But I have a feeling you will. (Shit, I'm talking myself out of sales here...) So here, in no particular order, are ten books for Halloween. There are a couple of well-known titles here, but I've tried to pick a few that'll be less familiar as well.

1) The Matrix by Jonathan Aycliffe
The only novel on this list. Jonathan Aycliffe is a master at producing book-length ghost stories in the M.R. James vein, but this one, a tale of black magic, may be his best. Andrew Macleod, grieving after the sudden death of his wife, takes an academic job in Edinburgh, where he begins researching occult and esoteric groups there. His researches bring him into contact with Duncan Mylne, a wealthy lawyer and occultist, and into a world of black magic and evil. Finally he discovers the true reason for Mylne's interest in him - but it might be too late. A subtle and deeply creepy novel, the kind that has you looking over your shoulder at every creak of the floorboards if you read it alone at night. Just as good is Aycliffe's first novel, Naomi's Room.

2) Alone With The Horrors by Ramsey Campbell 
There was no way there couldn't be something by Ramsey Campbell on this list; the difficulty was which book. Alone With The Horrors is a great retrospective collection, sampling tales from throughout Campbell's career up to that point (1991), from the Lovecraftian chills of Cold Print through to tales like 'Again', which is still one of his most disturbing tales. It's a fine collection of 39 stories (in the Arkham House or Hodder Headline editions; 37 in the more recent re-release from Tor) to be dipped into at random till you find the tales that suit you best.

3) Craddock by Paul Finch
Paul Finch is now a best-selling crime novelist, but his roots are very much in horror and he has a huge backlist of collections to prove it. Just about any of them are worth grabbing (Stains, Walkers In The Dark, After Shocks and the three Medi-Evil mini-collections were all close contenders for this list) but Craddock (aka Major Craddock Investigates) is my Halloween recommendation. Set in 1860s Wigan, it comprises four novelette or novella-length stories - The Magic Lantern Show, The Coils Unseen, The Weeping In The Witch Hours and Shadows In The Rafters - featuring police detective Jim Craddock, whose investigations have a tendency to bring him up against the supernatural and is both superbly readable and hugely atmospheric.

4) From Hell To Eternity by Thana Niveau 
The debut collection from one of horror's rising stars is by turns lyrical, subtle, erotic and cruel. Stories like 'The Death of Dreams' are rooted in science fiction, while 'Antlers' starts out as a grimly believable account of human viciousness before giving way to a supernatural resolution. In 'Pigs', an illicit affair brings a young couple face to face with a herd of feral porkers, while the title story brings in the most notorious serial killer of them all.

5) The October Country by Ray Bradbury 
If there's a more apt collection for this time of year, I don't know what it is. Rich and lyrical, hugely imaginative, dark and scary, it's a timeless classic, including such tales as 'The Emissary,' 'The Next In Line', 'The Jar', 'Skeleton' and one of my all-time favourites, 'The Scythe.' If you've ever read Ray Bradbury, no further introduction should be necessary. If you haven't - well, here's the perfect place to start.

6) Warning Whispers by A.M. Burrage 
M.R. James may be the undisputed king of the English ghost story, but Alfred McClelland Burrage is one of its unsung heroes. Several of his best-known stories - such as 'The Sweeper' and 'Smee' - appeared under the byline 'Ex-Private X', the name under which Gollancz published Burrage's memoir War Is War, a memoir of his experience in the Artist's Rifles during World War I, which included fighting at Passchendaele. But if you have any of those big fat anthologies of ghost stories you often find in charity shops, there'll almost certainly be at least one Burrage story. This posthumous collection includes a host of inventive and chilling tales, not least the opening story, 'The Acquittal'.

7) Scattered Remains by Paul Pinn 

The late Paul Pinn was a superb writer who deserves to be far more widely remembered, and this, his first collection, is an extraordinary tribute to his skills. Ranging back and forth across the borders of crime, SF, fantasy and horror, his stories burrow into the psyche. 'Handicapped' shows a paranoiac's persecutory fantasties building up to explosion point; the title story depicts a post-apocalyptic world where NBC-suited soldiers battle an unstoppable army of horsemen wearing robes of human skin. The opposite of a pleasing terror.

8) The Moon Will Look Strange by Lynda E. Rucker
Lynda Rucker is brilliant at crafting beautifully-written and subtly unsettling tales, where the world we know... shifts, into something strange and off-kilter. By the time you know what's going on, it's probably too late. Her debut collection is one to savour over time, like a fine whisky. A new one, You'll Know When You Get There, is out now from Swan River Press. Fans of Robert Aickman and Shirley Jackson, take note.

9) Antique Dust by Robert Westall 
Westall wrote one of the great novels for children, The Machine-Gunners, set on Tyneside during the Second World War - not to mention some fine short story collections such as Break Of Dark. This collection, his first for adult readers, centres on antique dealer Geoff Ashden. "I have known more evil in a set of false teeth than in any so-called haunted house in England," he tells us, and he should know: after all, his trade brings him into contact with the past - and the dead - on a daily basis. The whole book is something of a love letter to M.R. James, but is a fantastic collection in its own right.

10) For Those Who Dream Monsters by Anna Taborska 
Anna Taborska doesn't write enough, but when she does it's fierce and uncompromising, with an unflinching eye for the kind of savagery humans can inflict on one another. Stories such as 'Little Pig' - one of the best in the book, a short, harrowing and heart-rending tale - have nothing of the spectral about them, needing only human evil and desperation as their cause, but Taborska is at ease with the supernatural too, as in 'The Creaking'. Other tales, such as 'Buy A Goat For Christmas', show a welcome streak of dark humour. Published by Mortbury Press, the book also boasts an introduction and beautiful illustrations by Reggie Oliver.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Public Service Announcement: Devil's Highway Release Date and Crime Novel News

So, breaking the silence again to share some news:

The release date for Devil's Highway has been pushed back. This isn't Snowbooks' fault; as blog readers will know, I was late getting the MS to the publisher, and that's what's knocked things out of kilter. Also, because the novel was completed at white heat and warp speed, both I and my brilliant editor, Tik Dalton (more about Tik in a second) have found a host of minor errors that need fixing.

Personally, I'd rather wait a bit longer to see the book and have everything about it spot on than see it come out on schedule with things wrong with it. I don't have the new release date yet, but I'll be sure to share it when I do.

Tik and her brood of novellas.
Tik, by the way, is the newest addition to the Snowbooks staff, and has been editing Devil's Highway for publication. I met her briefly, for the first time, at Fantasycon, where she and Emma Barnes were handling the launch of Snowbooks' horror novellas (including Cate's The Bureau Of Them, Mark Morris' Albion Fay, Ray Cluley's Within The Wind, Beneath The Snow and John Llewellyn Probert's The Nine Deaths Of Dr Valentine and The Hammer Of Dr Valentine, recovered from the Spectral Press trainwreck, and also featuring Gary Fry's Scourge and Andrew Hook's The Greens.)

One of Tik's first assignments at Snowbooks was to design and typeset all seven novellas. They all looked great, as anyone who's seen them will tell you. And she's been a joy to work with - fast, professional, patient and helpful.

In other news, I have now signed my first contract via my agent, Tom Witcomb, relating to an audiobook of my crime novel. More details in due course!

In the meantime, thanks for your patience: Devil's Highway will be here soon!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Popping Up Briefly: The Nightmare Man, Devil's Highway and The Feast Of All Souls...

Well, Offline October hasn't been working out too badly, despite my occasionally lurking on social media despite my best intentions. Also, I finally managed to get Freedom working on my laptop in the past couple of days, so I've been able to buckle down and get to work without temptation.

Nonetheless, I'm breaking radio silence here, because of a couple of things.

Devil's Highway, as you probably all know by now (God knows I've wittered on about it often enough here) is released by Snowbooks in both hardback and ebook formats on October 17th.

'Their hair was bleached and matted, their chalk-white skin dry and fissured like sun-baked earth.
Their eyes were near-black, glistening clots with a gleam of red; when they grinned their teeth were needles of bone. “Don’t worry, Helen. We won’t hurt you. But something will.”'
In the haunted desolation of post-nuclear Britain, the Catchman walks. Spawned from the nightmare of Project Tindalos, it doesn’t tire, stop, or die. It exists only for one purpose: to find and kill Helen Damnation, leader of the growing revolt against the tyrannical Reapers and their Commander, Tereus Winterborn.
Meanwhile, Helen is threatened both from without and within. Her nightmares of the Black Road have returned, and the ghosts of her murdered family demand vengeance, in the form of either Winterborn’s death or her own. And close behind the Catchman, a massive Reaper assault, led by Helen’s nemesis, Colonel Jarrett, is nearing the rebels’ base. Killing Helen has become Jarrett’s obsession: only one of them can emerge from this conflict alive.
With the fate of the rebellion in the balance, Helen faces her deadliest challenge yet, pitted in single combat against an unstoppable killer, commanding armies in a bloody and pitiless battle – and, at last, confronting the demons of her past on the Black Road.

It's the second in the Black Road series that began with Hell's Ditch, and is probably the most relentlessly paced, action-driven thing I've written. But it's not just an action fest (although Cate didn't enjoy it as much as Hell's Ditch, owing to the prevalence of 'shooty bang sticks'.) There's emotional drama as we learn more about Helen's past - and Winterborn's, too. And there's a new enemy, a relentless, apparently unstoppable monster that stalks Helen: the Catchman.

Where the hell did this particular monster come from? Well, inside my head, as usual. But I can probably pinpoint the inspiration in this case: a BBC TV series from my childhood called The Nightmare Man, in which an inhuman killer stalks a fogbound Scottish island.

Based on David Wiltshire's 1978 novel Child Of Vodyanoi, The Nightmare Man remains a low-key, slow-burning chiller that should be just perfect for this time of year. I've written about it at greater length over at  This Is Horror (thanks for the soapbox, guys!) so you can learn more there. (I have another contribution coming up at TIH later this month - an author interview that I think a lot of you will enjoy!)

Finally, some news that warmed the cockles of my heart and put a big smile on my face: over at Beauty In Ruins, the subject of this week's Waiting For Wednesday, where eagerly-anticipated release are discussed, is The Feast Of All Souls. Bob Milne's review joins those by Lilyn G at Sci-Fi and Scary and Tammy at Books Bones and Buffy, both of whom are looking forward to its release.

So that's all from me. Have a good weekend, everybody!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Offline October

I meant to post along these lines last week, but with one thing or another I delayed it (not least because I wanted to do a Lowdown beforehand.)

Anyway, a few people I know have been talking about 'Offline October', where they spend the month staying off social media.

I've decided to join them. It's a serious timesuck right now - Facebook in particular - and I spend far too much time dicking around online instead of writing, or reading books, or doing pretty much anything constructive.

So that's it from me till the end of the month. I may break the rule and pop up to pimp Devil's Highway (which is released in ELEVEN DAYS FROM NOW! *Squee*) Or I may not.

In the meantime, email me if you need me. :)

Till then, have fun, and don't break anything!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Lowdown with... Ruth EJ Booth

Ruth EJ Booth is an award winning writer from the North-East of England. With fistfuls of credits from The Independent to Kerrang! magazine, she made the leap from rock music journalism to SFF in the early 00's. In less than five years, she picked up the BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction for 'The Honey Trap' (La Femme, NewCon Press), a tale of hipsters and urban gardening. Her short fiction and poetry range from the stories of cracked AIs to the love affairs of Earth spirits, and can be found in anthologies from NewCon Press, Fox Spirit Books, The Speculative Bookshop, and in Far Horizons e-magazine. As of mid-2016, she is also a regular columnist for Scottish SF journal Shoreline of Infinity. A member of the Glasgow SF Writers Circle, you can find news on her upcoming stories in Fox Spirit, Pseudopod and more here.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 

1) As a teenager, I could recite the scripts of series I-VI of Red Dwarf by heart. Not sure how it took me so long to start writing SFF, really.
 2) The three most famous people I've interviewed are Bill Bryson, Weird Al Yankovic, and Coby Dick from nu-metal poster boys Papa Roach. Coby had pretty good taste in post-rock, incidentally.
 3) At University, I got away with writing both my undergraduate project and my Masters thesis on video games. A wee suggestion if you're a Psychology third year: design experiments around 30 minute sessions on the SNES or Sega Megadrive. You'll never be short of participants.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
Fiction-wise, that'd be a story written for a vanity press anthology that came out in 2012, comprising steampunk adaptations of Shakespeare's plays. I wrote a take on Much Ado About Nothing from the viewpoint of Don John, in a universe where Don Pedro is the head of a steampunk mafia family. There were some interesting ideas in there, but not so much in the title -- 'Much Ado About Steam Presses' -- so perhaps it's lucky that (as far as I know) it's completely out of print. Apart from that, anyone reading Student Direct (the University of Manchester's student paper) in the early 00's will have seen some of my early reviews. And if anyone has the Shiny Toy Guns review, the one with the line about the hula girl in the tumble dryer, please can you send me a copy?

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
That's a hard question to answer. The expectation is to pick the story that's done the most for you, and that would of course be 'The Honey Trap'. I am still very proud of it: the first story I had critted by other people, I was hella nervous about sending it to Ian Whates at NewCon Press (a proper tick off the bucket list that was), and I worked my arse off on the edits. It was a level-up in many senses, and I'm still stunned by the results. But I'm almost always most proud of the most recently completed thing, which gives me a choice of two. The first is the column I've been writing for Scottish SF journal Shoreline of Infinity. At the time I started it, I'd not reviewed or written an opinion piece for a while. Frankly, I was daunted by the prospect of starting again. There's an expectation -- or more accurately, a supposition -- that regular columnists should be some kind of expert or authority, someone who can hold forth on a particular subject, and hired as such. And on that score, I don't consider myself anywhere near -- I can only write about my own experiences after all. Ironically, the first column ended up as an exploration of the weight that expectations can add to your work -- other people's but especially your own. And I think it's some of the best and most honest writing I've done in a while. That appeared in issue 4, followed by my second column in issue 5, which is out now here if you'd like to read it. And the second, that's a short story called 'Telling Stories', which is about the stories we tell each ourselves about our relationships with other people. It's a more experimental mode of storytelling than I've used before, yet at the same time it's quite raw in places, and covers a subject that's close to my heart. It's doing the rounds right now, so we'll see what comes from it.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 

Oh god. Probably any one of the great many unpublished things... and possibly one or two of the published...

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
A normal writing day is usually squeezed around a normal working day. So I have an hour in the morning, an hour at lunchtime, and an hour in the evening. These are split between two hours of writing and, on training days, an hour of running. Weekends, I aim to add another couple of hours writing time on top of that per day. If I fancy a treat, I'll schedule in a couple of hours at a cafe in town (where I'm typing this now). I don't really enjoy writing in the evening -- my ideal schedule would be 8am-2pm, maybe an hour or two at teatime -- but needs must when there's bills to pay.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
It depends what you're after. If you like poetry, I'd say go for 'Love of a Season' in Winter Tales (Fox Spirit) -- or maybe the new poem in Thirty Years of Rain (see below for more details). If you like Horror, try 'Good Boy' (recently reprinted in Far Horizons' April 2016 Staff Picks issue, which you can find here). If you like non-fiction, go for my column in Shoreline of Infinity. If you're into SF and schadenfreude, try 'The Honey Trap' (reprinted earlier this year in Digital Dreams, available from NewCon Press).

7. What are you working on now? 
I’ve just finished a couple of things, including copyedits for a brand new poem, ‘Picture, of a Winter Afternoon’, which appears in Thirty Years of Rain (out now). This anthology marks the 30th anniversary of the Glasgow SF Writers Circle -- and considering its alumni include Amal El-Mohtar, Louise Welsh, Gary Gibson, Hal Duncan, Mike Cobley, Eliza Chan and Neil Williamson, I could not be more proud to be involved. Meanwhile, my latest published short story, (deep breath) 'Dame Ammonia Dastardly-Truste's Evil Genius College for Ladies Class of 2013: Graduation Speech [Transcript],' is in Fox Spirit's Fox Pockets: Evil Genius Guide. And, there are the things I've already mentioned. Also, while this isn’t directly about writing, I’ve just moved up to Scotland to study at the University of Glasgow for their MLitt in Fantasy. We’ve had some fascinating insights into the genre so far, including Shelley’s thoughts on universal truth, and George MacDonald on message and the role of a reader. On top of that, joining the passionate folks in Glasgow’s vibrant writing scene really has been a joy. I can’t wait to see what the next two years will bring. In the meantime, I’ll be working on more columns for Shoreline of Infinity, more short stories, more poetry. Oh, and my first audio story is due out from Pseudopod next year. So it might be worth keeping an eye on for whatever comes next.