Sunday 24 July 2016

GUEST POST: Confessions of my Past, Present and Future #40 - Duncan P Bradshaw

Confessions of my Past, Present and Future


Duncan P Bradshaw

The Past

My brother and I were always encouraged to read when we were kids. My brother was an avid Mrs Pepperpot fan, amongst other things, and our parents had a suitably imposing bookcase which was built into the wall between living and dining rooms.

Personally though, I loved Roald Dahl, and any time he had anything out, I snapped it up. The stories are just perfect for kids. Over the top, funny, yet with a hint of disgustingness tucked away to put a smile on my freckly face. I loved all of them, but amongst my favourites were George’s Marvellous Medicine, which encouraged me and Stuart to scour the house whilst on summer holidays, concocting the foulest liquids known to man. Obviously, we didn’t drink it, but two boys, left to their own devices, are going to do stupid things.

Looking back, I’d have to say that The Twits is my all-time favourite Dahl title. The story is pretty by the numbers, but the characters are so wonderfully vile and repugnant. I think as well, that the illustrations by Quentin Blake, both on the cover, and inside, were as big a pull as the stories themselves.  They just fit the words so well, and helped to add to the feeling that you really were a part of the book.

Whilst I enjoyed many other books, the Truckers series by Terry Pratchett for instance, or Adrian Mole, the Dahl books will always hold a special place in my heart. When I decided to write books myself, I think the layout of illustrations mixed in with the words has rubbed off. A book is more than just words printed down onto paper. It should convey what the writer is trying to get across. Sometimes, little pictures, or different fonts, can help to get that message across.

Every time I got a new Roald Dahl book, it was an experience. I want people who pick up the physical copies of my books to get that same feeling too. A world of wonder, of things which are out of place, yet fit within the narrative. Plus, little details which help add to that sense that reading is something to be savoured, talked about, and above all, enjoyed.

I think that when you’re younger, your imagination has yet to be dulled by the reality of work, bills and the mundanity of existence. So books like these, just fuel your internal sense of wonder at things which to us now seem impossible, but back then, were alive.

This is also true from the Fighting Fantasy books. We were a family of gamers, my mum in particular loved the old text adventures, making huge maps of the games on reams of graph paper. Naturally, we only had one Spectrum for a few years, so the choose-your-own adventure books were an excellent filler for when it wasn’t your turn.

Deathtrap Dungeon was a standout title. Going through it with fingers tucked into past pages, on the off-chance of meeting a quick death, the sense that you were the hero, in a world laid out on the page, but brought to life in your head, was pretty cool. Got to admit that those days, before the teenage funk set in, were the halcyon days of reading for me.


The Present

What about now? Well, seems a suitable place to confess this, but horror was never my genre of choice if I’m being honest. Sure, I’ve read the odd King or Barker book, but if it wasn’t for my love of zombies, I would never have written anything within the genre. I suppose I consider real life a far more horrific canvas than people’s imaginations, but being a part of this scene, and reading what is out there, I do at least enjoy it now.

I genuinely believe that the indie horror scene at the moment is something to behold. This year in particular, has seen so many excellent releases. There are all manner of writers out there, scribbling away and releasing such a wide variety of genre fiction. You’ve got the extreme end of the scale, where Matt Shaw stalks in the shadows, along with Owain-Hughes, Lennon, Bray and Hickman. I can’t say I’m too fussed with it, but having read their work, you can’t deny that for readers who love their horror on the WTF side of things, they cater to those needs, and then some.

There are local authors galore, reading Rich Hawkins’ excellent The Last Plague, with some of the action being set in the city I was born, and lived in (Salisbury), really helped paint the picture. My Sinister Horror Company buddies have their own voice and style, and are building up their own audiences. I’m not going to list people ad infinitum, for the simple fact that I’m going to miss someone out and they’ll give me the hump, but rest assured that things are healthy.

For me, I like a bit of a chuckle when it comes to reading, and with Adam Millard, you can guarantee that in spades. For one, the guy cannot do enough for people, but he is also ridiculously prolific. Reading Vinyl Destination whilst on holiday last year made me laugh out loud so many times, people around me must’ve thought I had escaped the looney bin.

I have also come to love and appreciate the bizarro community. Having dipped my toe into the water with my own novella, there are just so many excellent reads out there, which really need to be shared and enjoyed by people. Help! A Bear Is Eating Me, by Mykle Hansen is absolutely hilarious, you should just go onto Amazon now, and buy it. Plus, my book of 2016 so far, is Berzerkoids by MP Johnson. This is part horror, part bizarro, but one hundred percent amazing. There is a story in there called Ex-Punk, and it is probably the best short story I have read in a very long time.

I think that is the thing. Yes, with the ability to self-publish, there is a LOT of guff out there, but this has enabled talented people to get books out, which otherwise would never have seen the light of day. People are finding their voice, and releasing books which are genuinely different and challenging.

That is what writing is about. Books are there to entertain, to challenge, to repulse and make you laugh. Whatever reason you read for, there is so much choice now. Take a punt on an author you’ve heard things about, but never purchased, send them a post on social media and tell them what you thought of their work. Readers have never had the luxury before of being able to converse with their literary heroes. Believe me, there is nothing cooler than someone saying how much they enjoyed your book, or giving feedback on things they felt didn’t work. Do it.

The Future

The future then, what’s gonna happen? To be honest, I’m not sure. Things are always cyclical, so there will come a point where the current wave of horror will peak, and then start to come down. Whether that’s down to people doing different things, or another genre being feted, I don’t know. The key will be what technological advances are made. People will always want to read, just who can say what will come out in the next twenty odd years that will enhance this hobby, or hamstring the creators who are trying to get their stories and art into the hands of people?

I know for sure that I’ll still be writing, will it be horror, bizarro, romance, circus cookbooks? Who knows?

I’ve kinda made a pact with myself that I’m going to get to the end of 2017, and take stock of what I’ve done. It’s important I think to do that once in a while, reflect on what worked well, what didn’t, and the actual act of getting it done. Plus, by the end of next year, I’ll have a decent body of work behind me, and will have a good feeling of what I want to focus on.

I enjoy writing things which make people laugh, there’s nothing greater to be honest. Though as a writer, I don’t get to see which of my jokes land, and which ones don’t. I just find it easier to write silly things than be too serious about stuff. I’m writing a book at the moment called Summoned, and it is the most ridiculous thing I’ve written so far. But it has been the most fun, and the words simply pour out of me.

Ultimately, I write because I enjoy it. I think I manage to come up with some ideas for books, which are a little different to other things that are out there. I am not a literary giant, or proposing deep and meaningful thoughts. I am just a storyteller. So whatever I do, it’ll be about making sure that I’m busy, and that if there is anyone who enjoys what I do, that they have a regular supply of the random thoughts that go through my brain.

One thing is for sure, I’ll still be reading books from people that I enjoy, and taking a chance on people I’ve never heard of, if the idea sounds cool. That’s what reading is to me, it’s about enjoyment. I want to read books which are different, and not rehashes. I get bored easily, and I want to read something which grabs me, and is as exciting now, as Roald Dahl’s books were to me all those years ago.

I do wonder what the 39-year-old me would think of the books I loved as a kid. Do you know what? I reckon it’s about time I dusted down my copy of The Twits, and see if the things I loved then, are still evident today. Honestly? I’d be surprised if they were, but I’m looking forward to giving it another re-read.

You can read my review of Hexagram below.

You can buy Hexagram here:

You can buy any of Duncan’s other books here:

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Part-Time Author/Full-Time Loon.

One day upon waking, as if from some frightful nightmare, I sat at my laptop and typed out letters, which formed words, slowly they created sentences. People read it and said, that's okay that is, have a biscuit. And I said yes.

I live in Wiltshire, in Southern England with my wife Debbie and our two cats, Rafa and Pepe, they just miaowed a hello at you. Between bouts of prolonged washing up and bungie cord knitting, I type out the weird and wonderful things that run around my head.

My debut novel, zom-com Class Three, was released in November 2014, the first book in the follow up trilogy, Class Four: Those Who Survive is out in July 2015. I'm then going to try and get some novellas released which are on something other than the undead.

And for more about Duncan, visit his site or find him on social media:

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