Monday, 25 May 2009

INTERVIEW: Joseph D'Lacey

Deciding to become an author in his twenties it took Joseph sometime to find his niche and then to make his mark upon it. Renowned currently for his bloody and shock style of horror storytelling (although at times perhaps best described as avant-garde horror) its now that he's begun to carve his own niche.

With his first novel, Meat being published in four other languages and having just undergone the movie scriptwriting process we thought that it was probably high time that we chatted to this mysterious author who shun's from camera's. (Pic kindly provided by representative of Horror Reanimated who are currently MIA. In unrelated news Joseph seems to be having a few barbeques these days invited all and sundry round for his burgers.)

FALCATA TIMES: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

JOSEPH D'LACEY: I see it as a gift, something I was made to do. Sure, at times it’s hard and there are days when you hate everything on the page but the satisfaction far outweighs the frustration. It’s a lot like love – it hurts at the same time as feeling good.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

JD'L: I was always a writer, always had that interest and ability, always loved books. However, the decision to try and make it my life’s work came about in my late twenties. It feels like a vocation now.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

JD'L: That’s a toughie. I’d agree the discipline and craft required for short fiction are invaluable tools for writing full-length work. But there are short story writers who can’t write novels and others who may not even want to.

My experience was a progression from poetry to short stories to novels. It was all about allowing myself to grow naturally into longer forms. When you start out, a novel is a daunting prospect but once you’ve completed some short works and maybe a novella or two, the confidence to take on and finish a novel has grown.

I placed the very first short story I wrote. And yet it was my sixth novel that was first to be published. So there’s the proof and the anti-proof all wrapped up together!

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

JD'L: When people come into a bookshop where I’m signing, I don’t sit behind the table. I wander around grabbing customers in the Fantasy, Sci-fi and Horror section and chatting to them about what they like. When I know what they like, I tell them the ways in which my book is similar. You’d be surprised how often this leads to a sale when you offer the added incentive of a personalised dedication!

In the case of MEAT and Garbage Man, I tell them it’s horror with a conscience – entertainment with social relevance. People are calling it Eco-Horror.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

JD'L: It’s the tale of an apocalypse, triggered by our abuse of the land. It’s got zombies in it.

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

JD'L: I don’t have the time to read in that way. I try to read as far and as widely as I can in as many genres as possible – always looking for what gives the deepest satisfaction. Yes, I do like bizarre or skewed themes. Authors I’ve particularly enjoyed in the last few years have been Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, DBC Pierre and David Mitchell. For a horror writer, I don’t read anything like enough horror.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

JD'L: I write novels the way a blind man in a field looks for the coin he dropped. Research, yes – if require
d – but planning is very low on my list of priorities. At the top is turning up and writing something.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

JD'L: I like to walk or be outside. I like to drink many kinds of beer. I find cooking very satisfying. Very occasionally, I smoke a fat Cuban cigar. Yoga and meditation prevent me from going insane, as does playing with our ten-month-old daughter.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

JD'L: Afternoon naps. Well, naps at any time of the day, really!

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

JD'L: I love animals and domestic pets. There have been animals around me all my life but we don’t have any at the moment. I sometimes write cats into stories of the supernatural – they belong there, don’t they? I plan to keep chickens and goats. Possibly a pig or two. Rabbits, ducks and doves would be
nice and a couple of dogs and cats. First we need a place where they can all roam around…

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

JD'L: The most fun was probably Ray Wade – a total pot-head who loves playing video games. I wrote part of his story inside his favourite console game (the fictional Revenant Apocalypse) in the first person because the game is a first-person action/adventure.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

JD'L: Mason Brand is my insane twin brother. Too weirdly broad-minded for his own good, just like me.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

JD'L: Well there’s the outdoors and spending time in nature which is obvious in Garbage Man. Meditation and martial arts appeared in MEAT and I’d love to do some kind of fantasy martial arts quest novel at some point – just for fun. Some of my villains smoke cigars…

FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

JD'L: I buy them from – Short story ideas; a pound a go. Novel ideas; a tenner each. What a bargain. And it saves me being assailed by inspiration at all hours of the day and night…

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

JD'L: Yes. All the time. I usually try to write something I wasn’t expecting to write about and once I’ve tricked myself into starting, it’s too late to stop!

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

JD'L: I write in the morning usually – it’s my best and most alert time. Occasionally, I am struck by an idea at 3am and if I can’t get back to sleep for thinking about it I’ll get up and write it out. No one complains. We’re up at all hours with the baby anyway and my wife is always happy to know I’m working on something.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

JD'L: I haven’t tried writing to music but I know many writers who do. I suppose I need the silence in order to begin – at least, I think I do. That said, I’d love to come up with a soundtrack to the film adaptations when the time comes

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

JD'L: I was a huge, walking misconception and, in many ways, I still am. However, a great deal of people in the business, who think they know how it works, don’t. I rarely ask or take advice and hardly ever listen to ‘the experts’. Everything I’ve achieved has been against the accepted wisdom available to new writers and I did far better without an agent than I did with one. That said, there have been a very few sagely old hands who have given me essential help along the way. The important thing is to always come back to the knowledge that you love what you do. The business side will follow if it’s meant to.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

JD'L: Writing is the pus in the wound. Let it out and you will be healed.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

JD'L: The Kill Crew (August 10th from Stone Garden Publishing) is a survival horror tale set post-apocalypse. It follows a couple hundred survivors barricaded into a single city block. Each night a lottery chooses the seven members of an extermination squad who leave the safety of the barricades and wipe out the ‘changed’ inhabitants of the city. It’s unusual in that it is a female lead written in the first person.

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

JD'L: Horror Mall’s The Haunt, Horror Reanimated, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Masters of Horror.

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

JD'L: I’ve read books, attended evening classes, done correspondence courses, joined online writing communities and tried every exercise or technique I came across. There are way too many to mention them all but I’d always cite Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ as one of the most inspiring how-to books yet written.

FT: How did you get p
ast the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

JD'L: I haven’t! I still feel bruised after a bad review and if editorial criticism is too damning I find it difficult to deal with. I’m learning to sift the wisdom from the nonsense and act accordingly on good advice. It’s a long, slow process!

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

JD'L: The best is writing whatever I want in any way I want and discovering people actually enjoy reading it. The worst is not knowing if I’ll ever make any kind of living at it.

Falcata Times review of Garbage Man will be appearing shortly.

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