Welcome back to Part Two of Confessions of a Reviewers’ interview with the one and only, J.G. Clay.
In tonight’s segment, J.G. talks specifically about his book Tales of Blood and Sulphur and of course confesses all in The Ten Confessions.
It’s only Tuesday but go grab some pizza and a beer, sit back, and mostly……enjoy!
CoaR - Moving on to Tales of Blood and Sulphur, tell us about it. What did you want to achieve with this one?
JGC - Tales (in all three forms) is my debut. I went down the ‘collection’ route because I wanted to showcase what I can do and because I had a clutch of finished short stories but little else. There were novel ideas and bits and pieces hanging around but nothing finished. The first version was self-published, my ‘demo tape’, if you like. It was a bit rough and ready in places but it did a modest job of getting me noticed and lead to my first publishing with the now sadly defunct Booktrope. The Booktrope, (and now the Shadow Work), versions are a lot more polished and coherent with three brand new stories and a ‘wrap-around’ story tying it all together.
I’ve tried to make each story as different as possible but also have common strands running through them. Each of the Tales deals with a different theme; greed, envy, power, courage. For a first effort, I’m really pleased with the way it reads and the reactions I’ve had. They’ve all been really positive. You can’t ask for more than that with a debut.
CoaR - All of the stories have a touch of the sci-fi as well as the horror, but in your own unique way. Is this something you do for the uniqueness or just how it flows?
JGC - It’s an unconscious process. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and thought ‘let’s stick a nod to Invasion of the Body Snatchers or War of the Worlds in this story’. It just happens. I’m a massive sci-fi fan as it is, so it’s not surprising to me when I read something back and say ‘oh, a homage to the thawing scene from Tomb of the Cybermen. Nice’. I’ve watched and read so much over the years that it filters through.
Having said that, I’m fully aware that some of my bleaker endings owe a lot to Blakes 7 and The Thing. Happy or tidy endings don’t seem to fit my fiction.
CoaR - One thing that I noticed, and absolutely loved by the way, is how you seem to write a lot of your stories without dialogue. Purely narrative. Why?
JGC - That’s more with the short stories than with the novels I’m working on. With a short, you’ve got a finite amount of words to work with and I’d rather keep the narrative going, keeping dialogue to a minimum and using it to complement the narrative rather than overpowering it. It also makes my work a bit more distinctive.
You’ll notice the differences between short and novels as I release more work. The next book Peace and Quiet. Time and Space, has much more dialogue because I’ve got more to say and get across.
CoaR - Another unique thing you have done with this one is the way the storyteller is involved in his interrogation with the authorities. Was this always going to be the way you wrote it or was it specifically a way to make it original?
JGC - I can’t take full credit for this, as much as I’d like to. The ‘wrap-around’ idea came from my then-editor, Christopher Nelson. We’d pretty much edited Tales by this stage and it was all ready to go off to the proof reader. He emailed me a few days before I was due to send it off suggesting that a bit of a back story was needed. I did what I normally do in those sort of situations, panicked and thought ‘what am I going to do now?’ At first, I wasn’t going to do it. By that stage, I just wanted to get the thing done and out of the way.
Within a day, I had the whole ‘Null, Cameron, Darrow’ story nailed and sent. I still don’t remember how the whole idea came out. It was just one of those moments that every author must have where you’re under the cosh, you’ve got to magic something out of thin air and the Muse chucks an idea at you.
I’m glad I listened to Chris. The little interludes are great and I’ve ended up with Null, who’s my equivalent of the Crypt Keeper. He’ll always be a part of the Tales of Blood and Sulphur books.
CoaR - In my review, which you haven’t seen yet, I comment about the different styles in the stories and comment about some similarities with older films and books from as far back as the 50’s. Is this an era you like with your sci-fi and horror?
JGC - I like most eras to be honest. There’s so many classics from the 50’s right up to the 90’s that I find it hard to nail one decade down and say ‘that’s the era, that one right there’. As I’ve said elsewhere, I grew up watching science-fiction and horror films, mainly because of my dad. He loved all the old films and shows. It was thanks to him that I became a huge fan of Doctor Who, Blakes 7 and Star Wars. Some of my fondest memories are from Tom Baker’s era, sitting on the sofa on a Saturday afternoon waiting for the old music to kick in and Baker’s face to appear in the title sequence.
Horror was more of an 80’s thing. Back in the day, there seemed to be a rule where, if you were of Asian descent, you’d always know someone who owned a video shop. This was pre-Blockbuster Video days. I used to be able to get films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing and Friday the 13th even though I was blatantly underage. I’d just say ‘it’s for my dad/uncle/cousin’ and the store owner would happily take my money and off I went. Around that time, the powerhouses of horror – authors like King, Herbert, Masterton, Straub and McCammon – were releasing books regularly, so I’d borrow them off my uncle and read them voraciously. The 80’s was definitely a golden period for horror fiction.
CoaR - The world you have created in the book, the Omniverse. Is this a world we can expect to see again in future works?
JGC - Absolutely. The Omniverse is where it’s all happening. I love the idea of parallel worlds, alternate dimensions and places out of time and the Omniverse sprang from this. There’s a bigger narrative behind it all and one I’ll reveal in snippets along the way. The other thing is that I can destroy Earth without having to explain its return in another book. I just blew up an alternative one.
I’ve got this whole Pan-Dimensional space to play with and play with it, I shall.
CoaR - This is the third imprint of Tales of Blood and Sulphur. How does it feel as an author when your blood sweat and tears needs to find a new home when your publisher goes under?
JGC - The whole Booktrope debacle was a horrible time. I won’t sugar coat it. It was dreadful. I came to within a hair’s breadth of wiping my hard drive, burning all the copies of Tales I had left and calling it a day.
Then, as things curiously tend to do in my life, my ass was saved, not just once but twice. I got a deal with Fear Front, a new publishing company which you will be hearing plenty about in the coming months, for my future works. They’re headed up by a guy called Rob DiLauro who, as well being a former Booktrope refugee, is quite well known on the US horror circuit and he had a real passion for horror. Then on the heels of that deal, Duncan Ralston and Thomas Flowers III, two names I’m sure you’re all very familiar with, kindly offered to bail me out and re-release Tales.
I went from the prospect of being right back where I started, to having two publishers fighting my corner. It was a great feeling. Stills feels pretty damn fine now. I have to confess that the knock on effect on my writing lingered on for a long time. Everything I wrote fell apart like tissue paper. It dented my confidence more than I’d first thought. Some days, I just looked at my laptop and felt sick. Everything’s back on track now though and new material is flowing.
CoaR - What’s coming in the future from JG Clay?
JGC - More strange twisted blood-spurting mucus-exuding madness from the Omniverse.
Before year’s end, my first book for Fear Front Publishing will be released. It’s called Peace and Quiet. Time and Space and its shaping up to a novel. It’s a bit of an odd one. The story’s set entirely in Hell, (my version, not Barker’s, Dante’s or the Church’s version). There’s three plot strands running side by side which all converge towards the end. I’ve thrown in a murder mystery, the beginnings of a revolution, bigoted demons, Aleistier Crowley and my old mate, Lucifer, fresh from his little turn in LLTC (Lucifer Loves The Clash). There’s a lot going on. The whole thing started as a novella originally. By the third draft, I’d added in so much that I’ve had to go back, deconstruct it and re-write it. It’s been a lot of fun writing this one. There’s no release date as yet, so watch this space, as they say.
I’ve also planned the next Tales of Blood and Sulphur but this time, I’m going to do something a little different with it. It’ll be three novellas, each based around a separate theme –Blood, Oil and Water. The first one, Tales of Blood and Sulphur 2.1: Vampire of Small Heath should also be out before the end of the year and the subsequent parts (2.2: The Slick and 2.3: The Lady Fountaine) will be ready in 2017.
Next year, I’ll return to my original plan of three books; two novels and a Tales of Blood of Sulphur collection. Things went a bit squonky this year so the plan went straight out of the window.
Finally, (and because I can be a massive tease) there may be something else being released this year, a bit of a surprise offering but I’m not saying anything until it all pans out. If it does, you’ll love it.
THE TEN CONFESSIONS
1 Who would you view as your main competitor in the writing world?
Loaded question this one. I’m always reluctant to use words like ‘competitor’ or ‘rival’. It makes it sound like I’m in a UFC or MMA fight. Also, when you start thinking in those terms, it makes you, (or me, at least), compare yourself to others a bit too much. You can lose sight of what you’re about and what you’re doing. I made that mistake when I first started out, perpetually comparing my output and success to others when I should have been concentrating on my own stuff.
So ‘competitors’, no. There’s a ton of authors I respect and admire such as Duncan Ralston, Thomas Flowers, Laura Mauro, Duncan Bradshaw, Stuart Keane, Kealan Patrick Burke, Adam Nevill (even though he supports the Villa), my bro from another mo Adrian Martin; the list is pretty long. We could be here all day so if there’s anyone I haven’t mentioned, I apologise.
There are a few writers who don’t do it for me, but there’s no point in mentioning names. Not my style at all.
2 What book or author have you read that you think should never have been published?
50 Shades of Grey. Pointless. That was an afternoon I’ll never get back.
3 Are any of the things your characters have experienced in your books been based on something that has actually happened to you? What was it?
I should hope not. There’s some pretty wild and weird stuff that goes on in Tales. I can tell you that the pub feature in Whatever Happened to Pete the Neat and LLTC is real and it’s my local. The park in Pete The Neat also exists. I walk through it on my way home from the pub. It’s a bit on the creepy side.
4 Have you ever blatantly stolen an idea or scene and adapted it for one of your own books? If so, care to share?
The 1966 Cybermen from Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet. I took those versions and played about with them and came up with the Smiling Men from The World Stops When The Smiling Men Cry. I love those versions even though they’re blatantly guys in cloth masks. The whole ‘mouths not moving when they speak’ and the tragedy behind those creatures struck a chord with me. So I took them away, gave them my own spin and came up with a creature as tragic and as memorable.
By the way, the new series Cybermen? Utter bobbins. Iron Man crossed with a bad tempered C3-PO.
5 Have you ever anonymously left a bad review for someone else’s book? If so, care to share?
Not yet. I have left a good review for someone because, at the time, it was the ‘trendy’ thing to do and I thought I’d gain kudos points and good karma. I felt a bit dirty doing it because I hated the book. That was the first and last time I did it.
And, no. I’m not telling you who it was. For at least the next twenty years anyway.
6 What’s the one thing you are least proud of doing in your life and why?
The only thing I can think of was helping to trash someone’s house at a party when I was about seventeen. I say trashing it but I didn’t really do much. Just graffitied a Happy Mondays lyric on a bedroom wall with lipstick. That’s not very rock and roll really is it?
Other than that, putting the writing thing off for years. If I’d have started sooner, who knows what would be going on now?
7 What’s the one thing you are MOST proud of doing in your life and why?
Publishing Tales. One of my biggest achievements to date and something to be extremely proud of. And getting married.
8 What’s your biggest fault?
I’ve got two faults that I really hate about myself; procrastination and impatience. I’m getting better with the procrastination. I make myself do the things that need doing. The impatience on the other hand is taking a bit more work. I’ve never been any good at waiting for things. I want I want. Yesterday. It really winds my nearest and dearest up. To be fair, it pisses me off as well.
9 What is your biggest fear?
Getting to the end, looking back and thinking ‘I did bugger all. What a waste”.
10 If you had to go to confession now, what would be the one thing you would need to get off your chest?
When I was a kid, I had a shitbag streak in me. I convinced my sister to drink some washing up liquid. I got some serious and very well-deserved beats for that. She still hasn’t forgiven me to this day even though I tried to make out that I didn’t know it was Fairy Liquid. So there you have it. The Confessions of Clay. Nothing too strenuous.
Well boo hiss but that’s your lot for the interview.
I want to personally thank Mr Clay for giving up his valuable time to take part in this interview. He has been an absolute gentleman throughout this whole process and it has been a pleasure to get to know him over this past few weeks.
Please remember to come back tomorrow night for the Confessions review of Tales of Blood and Sulphur and I will include all the links you need to go and buy this little beauty of a collection.
Thanks again for visiting Confessions of a Reviewer!
J.G Clay is definitely a Man of Horror. There can be no doubt. Putting aside the reverence he has for the horror greats, such as King, Barker, Herbert, Carpenter, Romero and Argento, there is another fact that defines his claim for the title of the 'Duke of Spook'. He was born on Halloween night. By a quirk fate, it was also a full moon that night. Co-incidence?
Here at Clay Towers, we don't believe in coincidences.
The 41-year-old hails from the Midlands in the United Kingdom, is married with one step child and two dogs that bear a strong resemblance to Ewoks. Beyond the page and the written word, he is music mad and can hold down a tune on a bass guitar pretty well. He is an avid reader and also has an enduring love of British sci-fi, from the pages of the '2000A.D' comic to the televised wanderings of Gallifrey's most famous physician. Clay is also a long-time fan of the mighty Birmingham City Football Club and endures a lot of flak from his friends for it.