Posts Tagged Interview
Recently, Donald White asked me to do an interview for his writer’s blog and this was the result. Be sure to check out Donald’s website for lots of interesting features on writing and up and coming writers. Also if any of you out there haven’t read Blood Related and would like a FREE kindle (only) copy, please leave a comment below this post/thread. Any of you out there who have read and enjoyed Blood Related, I would be grateful for a short review left on Amazon if you can manage it. Every little bit helps 🙂 Have a great week. Will.
An Interview with William Cook
The Writer’s Blog welcomes the inimitable William Cook! Please tell us a little about yourself.
Hi and thanks for having me here Donald. I like to think of myself as primarily a writer first and an artist second. I live in New Zealand at the foot of the world, happily married with four daughters, in charge of the house and looking after the two youngest girls. I have been writing weird stories ever since I was a kid. My first published works were poems in various literary journals in NZ and a few in the States. Back in 1996 I published a collection of verse titled ‘Journey: The Search for Something’ and had the occasional poem and short story published online, but nothing really of note until 2010 when Lee Pletzers from Triskaideka Books accepted my story ‘The Devil Inside’ for the 2010 Masters of Horror Anthology. I have always loved the Horror genre and dark literature, so this really inspired me to write what I loved rather than what I thought other people wanted to read and it has finally started to pay off. The thing I love about the Horror/Thriller genres is that a good story will get your pulse racing and your heart thumping. I feel it is the best medium to create a world where the reader feels alive because they are experiencing fear of some sort. Sounds sadistic I know, but I personally find that no other genre gives me the thrills I seek when I immerse myself in a fictional world. I have since had quite a few Horror shorts published in various anthologies.
My novel ‘Blood Related,’ was re-released by Black Bed Sheet Books Halloween 2012. Writing it was a labor of love and took me roughly six years to write and it wasn’t until I changed day-jobs that I had the time to bring it all together as my debut novel. The novel is about a disturbed young man called Caleb Cunningham, whose violent father is a suspected serial killer and mother, an insane alcoholic. After his father’s suicide, Cunningham’s disturbing fantasy-life becomes reality, as he begins his killing spree in earnest. His identical twin brother Charlie is released from an asylum and all hell is about to break loose, when the brothers combine their deviant talents. Blood Related is a serial-killer/crime novel told in a first-person narrative style from the killer’s (Caleb’s) point-of-view.
I have been privileged to have authors I look up to, give me feedback on Blood Related. People like Jonathan Nasaw, Guy N Smith, Laird Barron, Mark Edward Hall, John Paul Allen, and Nicholas Grabowsky, have all been kind enough to read and review my work – something I would never have believed possible until now.
Not only a talented author, but you are also an excellent artist. Tell us what it is like to create such gruesome works of art.
Well it all depends on the work of course but generally speaking, for some reason I can’t explain, my preference has always been depicting darkly ghoulish things. I have recently moved away from using traditional painting/drawing methods and now do 90% of all my work with Photoshop and digital mediums. I get my inspiration from my dreams and the various pop-cultural works I peruse, i.e. film, comics, fiction and music. I will usually start with a small sketch in a notebook or write down an idea of an art-piece that comes to mind (descriptively) before taking digital photographs of textures, trees, people and other subjects that interest me. I’ll then bring everything together via Photoshop and use it to add darkness, depth and dimension to my original vision. It is hardly ever reproduced physically apart from the occasional print or book cover so I like to call it my ‘virtual dark art.’ With each passing year I am less interested in the visceral gore-infused stuff that I used to produce, instead, I am leaning towards ‘quiet’ horror these days and subtlety is something I strive for in both my visual and written work.
Blood Related was your first novel and, arguably, most controversial work to date. Explain how you were able to get into the minds of the two main characters.
Blood Related combined a lifelong interest in the macabre with a lot of research into true crime and serial killers. I can trace my interest in this morbid subject to an event in my life when I was younger, whereby my best friend shot another friend of mine (his ex-girlfriend) and then killed himself. Obviously, this would leave a lasting impression on most people as it did to me. Subsequently I began to wonder why a large percentage of humans treat each other so badly and have a tendency towards self-destruction and nihilistic behavior. This aspect of my inquiring mind is constantly reinforced (the questions) by the media who use such occurrences to perpetually sensationalize ‘news’ and by our so-called leaders who use fear to drive political agendas. The politics of fear are very much a staple diet of news-hungry consumers who seem to relish lurid accounts of human cruelty and abuse, and (so it seems) probably the same reasons fiction is full of the horrors of human behavior.
There are plenty of fictional books that deal with the subject of serial murder and during the research I conducted for BR, a perceptible ‘canon’ of such literature dating all the way back to Gutenberg and beyond (The Bible/Quran etc) became apparent to me. Apart from being of interest for research purposes, serial killer fiction has always intrigued me and some of the first ‘adult’ books I ever read as a young teenager dealt with the subject. Probably the two biggest influences on my writing of BR were Colin Wilson’s ‘The Killer’ and James Ellroy’s brutal ‘Killer on the Road.’ I have always wanted to write a first-person novel and the six years I spent writing BR were the result of this desire. I never thought the book would see the light of day but it all seemed to come together quickly when I bought a new lap-top and within three months of shopping it around to various indie presses it was published. I’m not sure that I would write another first-person serial killer novel as it (the subject matter and the book) consumed my thoughts for a long time. I found it a lot more disturbing to write about psychopathic humans than I do writing tales of horror that deal with more supernatural and fantastical elements. The most frightening aspect, to writing BR and creating believable characterizations of serial killers, is how easy it was to contemplate and describe such characters and their sordid crimes. BR lends itself to a sequel and I have made sure that the next book will be told in the third person, for the sake of my own sanity.
You are also quite the poet, having released two collections: Moment of Freedom and Temper of the Tide. How does one achieve true feeling in verse?
Before I began writing stories I wrote poems. The first ‘real’ poem I remember was Blake’s ‘Tyger’ and I have enjoyed reading and writing verse ever since. My first published work was in verse-form and my first published book was a collection of my poems back in 1996, titled ‘Journey: the Search for Something.’ The verse has nearly always ‘written itself’ and generally comes after periods of introspection or strong emotional experience. Most of my early work was terrible heart-wrought angst spewed onto the page as fast as I could write it and thankfully, with a bit of experience and a more temperate lifestyle, I have stopped referring to my emotions when I write poetry. ‘True feeling’ is a completely subjective experience, both on and off the page; the only thing I can suggest in response to your question is that honesty needs to be employed when writing poetry that deals with emotion or the translation thereof. Cadence is also important and I have always tried to use onomatopoeia in my verse in order to convey the ‘sense’ of whatever it is I’m trying to impart. Simplicity is also important; there is no point writing convoluted expressionistic verse, if no one is ever going to understand what it is you are trying to say! After writing poetry for over twenty years I think I have finally began to find my voice and I think it is important to have your own voice as a poet, in a medium so canonically reliant on style and form. In other words, write from the heart with the mind as your guiding light, in a voice of your own making. Easier said than done, right?
Tell us about your work with JWK Fiction. What advice would you give writers looking to submit stories?
JWK Fiction [http://jwkfiction.com/] has published quite a few poems and short stories of mine and I’m happy to recommend James and the team to any aspiring writer of Horror and Speculative fiction. I think that a large part of having stories accepted for publication in the indie presses, is to write well (obviously) and to read the submission guidelines carefully. A lot of writers out there have a hard-drive full of stories that they want to see published, make sure the story you submit is what the publisher is looking for. It sounds basic but if you’re going to spend time tailoring a previously written story to fit a submission call you may as well start fresh and write something new with the guidelines in mind. I made this mistake (reanimating old work) when I was first starting out and the rejections came in thick and fast, as soon as I started writing fresh stories for specific guidelines I started having success with my submissions. If you submit a lot of stories I would also suggest keeping a record of your subs including story titles, word counts and dates etc. It saves embarrassment and time wasting if you’re simultaneously submitting stories and then having to remember if they’ve been accepted elsewhere etc.
Who are your three favorite authors and how have they influenced your work?
Robert Bloch, Flannery O’Connor, Sherwood Anderson (I have more than three). I love the way they convey human emotion, particularly fear, through the short story medium. They are the writers of psychological drama who I enjoy reading the most. Without reading these writers I probably would have never written short stories – very inspirational and efficient writers, who better to emulate.
What are you working on right now?
I am midway through the sequel to Blood Related titled ‘Blood Trail’, finishing edits on an anthology that JWK Fiction is publishing called ‘Fresh Fear’ [http://www.williamcookwriter.com/p/blog-page_26.html] with stories from the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Billie Sue Mosiman, JF Gonzalez, Jack Dann, Robert Dunbar, amongst others, and working on two separate collections of my short fiction and poetry.
Thank you for joining us on The Writer’s Blog, William. We look forward to more horrific masterpieces to come…
William Cook links:
William Cook is a writer of the macabre from New Zealand, a small antipodean island group in the South Pacific. When not writing, he looks after two small daughters and designs book covers that are designed to scare the hell out of people. Having held down a multitude of jobs before becoming a “Domestic Manager”, he brings to his writing a vast array of experience that translates to the page in the form of strange characters and situations that bleed horror. From slinging timber in lumber yards, cutting plastic film in a meat packaging company, making rat-poison and acid cleaning products, working on a prawn trawler in the Gulf of Carpenteria, selling ads, and teaching English in Korea, to name a few of the roles he has performed – being a starving writer of Horror fiction seemed like a completely viable occupation.
Currently working on a sequel to his debut novel ‘Blood related’, titled ‘Blood Trail’, it is due for completion mid-year and for publication by his amazing publisher Black Bed Sheet Books sometime in the hereafter.
Hi, William. How is 2013 going so far?
Hi, Lindsey. It’s going great, thanks. 2013 is going to be a big year and has already started with lots of positive things happening. Every story I’ve sent out this year has so far been accepted and I’m on track for lots of projects I have committed to this year.
Blood Related is your debut novel, originally published in 2011, then re-released by Black Bed Sheets Books in 2012. Did you write very much before starting Blood Related? You had a short story published in the Masters Of Horror anthology in 2010, but I don’t see anything before that. Have you been writing for very long, or is it a recent development in your life?
Yes, ‘Blood Related’ is my first novel and my short story, ‘Devil Inside,’ (recently published as a Kindle short) was my first proper Horror story accepted for a print anthology. I first started writing short stories when I was about twelve years old but never felt confident enough to send them to any publishers, and in retrospect that was probably a good thing. I cut my publishing teeth on poetry and wrote verse for many years with limited success. I had poetry published in a few New Zealand literary periodicals and a couple of UK and US independent publications but nothing of any note. I self-published a limited edition hard-copy collection of verse titled ‘Journey: the search for something’ in 1996. I sold all copies, but I had come to the conclusion that what I really wanted to do was write fiction. I felt that poetry was becoming redundant as a viable medium for what I wanted to express – which was essentially, stories. So I put away the poems and taught myself how to write short fiction which has led to where I am now.
What was the hardest part about writing a novel? Any advice to aspiring novel writers?
I don’t really feel in a position to spout advice to novel writers as I’m just a beginner myself. However, if there was one piece of advice I would offer, that would be to never give up. It took me five years of writing and research to produce Blood Related but as a result of my dedication I have learned a lot and have produced a reasonably coherent novel in the process. I am working on the sequel at the moment, and it is definitely easier with the knowledge and lessons I learnt first time around. The hardest part about writing the novel was finding the time to actually sit down and put the words on the page. I now have a writing plan that seems to work for me but I know that the next novel will bring its own set of circumstances and lessons to be learned.
I’d like to take a moment to tell you what I enjoyed most about Blood Related. Considering how the plot centers around an entire family of serial killers, you had the perfect opportunity to sell books based on shock value. Yet, you maintained a good balance of psychological horror and gore. I was prepared to encounter gratuitous rape and torture scenes which often run rampant in this genre, but you didn’t overdo it. Yes, there is rape and torture in Blood Related (what self-respecting serial killer book is without ‘em?!), but only to serve a purpose, and not an overwhelming amount. Did you make a conscious decision to write the book this way? Or did you just write it as it came to you?
Blood Related went through at least six full edits. I worked in publishing when I was younger and used my experience as a sub-editor/proof-reader to really work the story into shape. I was probably a bit ambitious with the structure that I chose as I wanted to give the story a ‘true crime’ feel with lots of ephemera and appendices to accentuate different aspects of the novel. I really enjoy reading ‘meta-fiction’ authors like John Barth and David Foster Wallace, but also love authors like James Ellroy, Chuck Palahniuk and Joyce Carol Oates. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I took a myriad of influences and ideas and attempted to construct a ‘literary’ Horror/Thriller novel. Ambitious, I know, but to some degree I think it works but unfortunately is mostly non-apparent on the first reading. I am a huge fan of Robert Bloch and Flannery O’Connor, both masters of psychological horror in their own ways, and their style influences my own with the way they subtly depict violence. Their stories run deep with the worst human violence, but the graphic nature of the stories is mostly implied and left to the reader’s imagination and this is what I was trying to replicate, as I personally find it more disturbing than literal over-stated violence. So, yes, it was a conscious decision not to be too graphic in descriptions of violence within the novel, although sometimes I did get a bit carried away.
Who is your favorite character from Blood Related? Why?
I quite like the character of Ray Truman, the clichéd alcoholic cop who has spent a lifetime hunting serial killers. ‘Blood Trail’, the sequel, is largely told from the perspective of this failed but likeable character and I hope that it will be an interesting accompaniment to the first book. I’ve spent most of my reading life immersed in Horror and Thriller literature and there is a definite conformity of ‘type’ to the characters of cops/investigators. It is the character of Ray Truman that will carry the ‘Blood’ trilogy (yes, it will be a trilogy) to its final conclusion and I’m looking forward to playing the role forward in as many interesting ways as possible. I don’t think I could do another first-person serial killer narrative – it really became quite moribund towards the end of writing Blood Related, as I waded through the perspective of a homicidal psychopath.
Blood Trail, your second novel (and sequel to the first) is slated for a 2013 release. Can you tell us a little bit about it? Approximate release date?
My publisher, Nicholas Grabowsky from Black Bed Sheet Books (http://tinyurl.com/aoyvyny), has expressed an interest in a sequel to Blood Related. I was always going to write a sequel with or without interest as the story is not complete and I want it told. Having seen enough interest, from my publisher and from my readers for a sequel, has given me a real push towards finishing the novel mid-2013. So far I’m on track and circumstances-permitting it should be ready for publication around July. ‘Blood Trail’ is the sequel to ‘Blood Related’ and finds Ray Truman struggling to cope with the injuries he received from Caleb Cunningham in the climax of the first novel. Cunningham has fled and is now an international fugitive who is embarking on a ‘murder tour’ – visiting the sites and hunting grounds of some of his favorite serial killers. Meanwhile, Ray Truman is on the mend with the help of Cunningham’s ex-therapist/psychologist who he inadvertently falls in love with. Together, they realize that Cunningham is still killing as they follow his trail of murder via international news stories. By the time that Truman is healthy enough to continue his mission, Cunningham has tired of his tour and is on his way back to Portvale (his fictitious home town/city). Without giving too much away that is the basic plot for the sequel and promises more of a tradition psychological thriller story.
Who are your heroes?
My heroes are primarily writers who have challenged established traditions to produce work that frightens as much as it makes people think. Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, Graham Masterton, Poppy Z Brite, James Ellroy, and other writers like Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Hemingway, etc. The list goes on. David lynch is probably the greatest artist that I admire for his film, art and aesthetic sensibility.
In addition to writing, you’re also an artist. Where can we view your work?
Is there anything else you’re working on you’d like my readers to know about?
I’m always working on short fiction and I am hoping to have a collection released shortly. Keep an eye out for ‘Blood Trail’ post mid-year.
Where can we find you on the web?
Thank you, William, for joining us.
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