NVF Magazine Interview
Greetings and salutations, Shaun. It's great to finally have you here. How are you?
Still alive, so I suppose I should be grateful for some things... I'm not so bad, thanks, David.
Let me say you have quite an impressive writing resume; almost 30 books! Your first novel, Slugs, Sounds interesting to say the least. Nice and slimy...What is the plotline there, as if the title isn't self-explanatory?
The title's self explanatory as far as there are slugs in it but, yes, there is actually a plot as well. Originally it should have been about leeches but my agent at the time suggested slugs which I thought was a fucking stupid idea but, once I'd done the research (I know it might be surprising but there was actually some research as well) I discovered what disgusting little bastards slugs really are and there was tons of material there for a book and also for the sequel, Breeding Ground which came out five years later. Originally there was to be a third book but I can't see that ever happening. I think horror has had it's day now, unfortunately, (in print at any rate) especially terror by animals books. But it was fun at the time.
How about Warhol's Prophecy? Self-explanatory as well?
Andy Warhol said that everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes and, with this celebrity driven society we live in, I think he was right. I hate it, it makes me fucking sick, all these people with no talent at all getting their faces in magazines. Then again I suppose you have to blame the people who buy the fucking magazines and the publishers who print them. I wanted to do a book that was about a man who wanted fame no matter what he had to do to achieve it. It would probably have been easier for him to go on Big Brother (but not quite so violent...)
What first prompted your interest in becoming a writer?
Truthfully? I read a really awful book when I was about eighteen (Night of the Crabs) and thought that I must be able to do better. Simple as that, if I hadn't read that book I'd probably never have become a writer. So it worries me these days when people write to me and say, "I read one of your books and thought I'd like to write." I always think "shit, is it for the same reason I started..?" I read a lot when I was younger (unlike now) but my influences were always cinematic. I didn't want to become a writer because I had a burning desire to share my love of literature with anyone, I just wanted to tell stories and make loads of money...
Whose books do you read?
I don't really read much now. Not fiction anyway. I'll read the odd Stephen King novel (the ones under 1,000 pages), like most of the world's population, I read Thomas Harris. When I was younger I read lots of James Herbert (who, strangely enough, I now share a publisher with!) and, I'll read William Peter Blatty if I can find any, but other than that, I tend to read non-fiction. I'm a lazy bastard basically and I spend far more time in the cinema. It's probably my greatest hobby and I go twice a week, every week. The films of Sam Peckinpah are the single greatest influence on my work ('The Wild Bunch', 'Straw Dogs', 'The Getaway', 'Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia' etc.) The man was a genius.
Any favorite authors? Films?
I haven't really got any favourite authors because I never read fiction although William Peter Blatty is or was a brilliant writer (in my humble opinion). I also loved Thomas Harris (fortunately he only writes one every seven years so that's not too taxing for me...) My favourite films are THE WILD BUNCH, STRAW DOGS, CROSS OF IRON, (Peckinpah was a genuine genius..) TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, NETWORK, SEVEN (I think David Fincher is one of the finest directors working at the moment), BLOOD SIMPLE (same goes for the Coen brothers, the most consistently original talents in Hollywood). THE FRENCH CONNECTION. There are lots. Not so many modern films because I hate the way films are made now. It's so unusual to find a film with any balls these days so, when a picture like GONE BABY GONE turns up it's a revelation. There's no originality anymore and Hollywood only seems to want stuff that's safe, a sequel, a franchise movie or a star vehicle.
I have noticed that a majority of British writers must have been influenced by the classics: Poe, Lovecraft, Blackwood. Do you think the overall history over there contributes to some of the great Brit fiction?
I'd love to be able to answer that, David, but as I don't read I couldn't tell you... I think we in Britain just have a wonderful history of great story-tellers going all the way back to Chaucer.
Here's a good one for you; If you could co-write a book with one of your favorite authors, what name would be on the book cover?
Mine. No, just kidding. I can't imagine anyone wanting to collaborate with me to begin with and there's certainly no names I could give you who I'd like to write with. I think writing's a solitary business. It's nice to bounce ideas off people every now and then but, when all is said and done, it's the writer who shapes the material. Some editors are ok, so I understand, but the writer is the controlling influence. It's his or her story, his or her characters etc. etc. So, forget collaborations...
Give me the lowdown on this Sean Doyle character. Is he sort of like a British version of America's Popeye Doyle? (From The French Connection).
Sean Doyle makes Popeye Doyle seem like a well balanced, caring and compassionate member of society...If the two met I'd fancy Sean Doyle to come out on top (purely and simply because he'd probably shoot Popeye in the back...) Sean Doyle has been very popular with my readers for a number of different reasons, the main ones being that he's completely unpredictable, doesn't take shit from anyone, says what he thinks and doesn't care who he upsets and will do absolutely anything necessary to get the job done. He used to be a counter terrorist when the IRA were around. He's appeared in four books that I've written, RENEGADES, WHITE GHOST, KNIFE EDGE and HYBRID and he's due to appear in another one that's to be published in 2010. Originally, at the end of RENEGADES, I had no thoughts about bringing him back but I had so much mail from readers asking when he was going to re-appear I worked on a sequel a couple of years later. I love the character myself and find him very easy to write. But, if you've never read him, don't expect the normal clichéd "hero" type character.
Have any of your stories or books ever been opted for film?
Slugs was actually made into a film back in the late 80's. A low budget thing directed by a guy called J. P. Simon... New World distributed it at the time and it did alright on video when it came out (amazingly)... I had nothing at all to do with it, of course. It still crops up on TV over here every now and then and I think it's available on DVD... I've also been in a film called FOREST OF THE DAMNED because the director, a mate of mine called Johannes Roberts, is a fan of my books. It was great fun. I got decapitated in the film. Fucking hilairious. As for my own books I can't see any others being bought for films because they're too fucking hardboiled for Hollywood and not populated with the usual cardboard cut outs that the film business seems to favour. Maybe if I soften my style, start having happy endings and suck up to the right people then I'll have a better chance because that seems to be how you make it big in films, but I've obviously not perfected my arse kissing technique enough...
Any interesting projects on the horizon?
I've got a new book coming out in October called BODY COUNT and, as ever, I'm working on another novel that will be published in autumn 2009. I also work under pseudonyms (I have done all my life, I've had 30 books published under eight different pseudonyms apart from my own books so my total is actually over 60...) I've always got ideas floating around and I'm lucky that publishers seem to keep approaching me. As long as there's money involved then I'm interested...
Well Shaun, thanks for gracing us with your presence, and don't be a stranger, okay?
Cheers. I'd better go and do some work now...