So, Simon, what planted the seed for your story?
The seed for my story was definitely the birth of my daughter a couple of months earlier. I honestly felt that for about two months I'd lived on no sleep and far too much coffee and that I was just stumbling from day to day, event to event in some kinda of weird haze of caffeine induced insomnia, dirty nappies and work! As joyous a time as it was, it was also a huge and emotional life adjustment to be made. All of a sudden you can't just sleep in because a baby need to a bottle at 2am or you can't take a day off work because of all the new extra baby expenses and there's no time for holidays or date nights with the Mrs. RESPONSIBILITY --- EEK! I tried to capture some of these feelings and I applied the obligatory "What's the worst that could happen" or a "How can I make this sound *even* worse/harder than it already is?!"
What are some of the themes you treated in your tale?
I guess the themes that I touched on were probably male postnatal depression, caffeine addiction/sleep deprivation and that overwhelming feeling of just barely keeping your head above water as you plow through the drudgery of every day life.
What are the hallmarks of a great horror/dark fantasy author and story?
Hallmarks for a great horror author is someone who can take something that we all deal with or all understand or have all experience and really bring out that which is scary or terrible about it. Even if its a good experience, they show you it from an angle that freaks you out or they invert the whole thing and what should be good, becomes blasphemous. From a technical perspective they understand the nuts and bolts of what inspires fear and terror and can artfully use it to instill in the reader that emotion. I read and write horror because basically... I'm shit scared of everything.. When I read a scary book or scary movie, I face those fears and I win, in the process I learn about myself, fellow man and the human condition. The great horror author can provide this experience.
Hallmarks for a great horror story for me are, basically, whether they really made me genuinely fearful.
Did my heart race, or did I get sweaty palms?
Did I sit there and think "I don't like where this is headed..." ?
Did I think "Holy shit... I wonder what is going to happen next" ?
Did I think "Noooo, dont go into the cellar... NEVER GO INTO THE CELLAR!"
or maybe: "Oh. My. God. I bet that hurt!" or "What the ACTUAL fuck ?!?"
If you made me think some these kind of things, you've written a good horror tale. Above all, what I love the most is when a writer builds up tension to a fever pitch and send you out with a bang. Recent examples of stories I've read that did this for me was Hide and Seek by Jack Ketchum, Hell House by Richard Matheson. The Books of Blood by Clive Barker were pretty decent as well.
How do you approach your creative process?
I wish I knew a real answer to this question. Some writers put everything they think of down in a notebook they carry with them. Stephen King once said that this was the best way to immortalise bad ideas and I COMPLETELY agree with him. I tried doing this and I just end up with scribbles of bullshit ideas. Every story that I've written that I've finished, seriously enjoyed writing and hasn't totally sucked was something that came on me like a bolt of lightning when I was having a shower or something mundane. One idea that I have for a novel came to me when I was standing in line at a cafe reading a tweet by John Scalzi. BOOM! All of a sudden I have an image of the protagonist in my head, his predicament and a fair idea about something terrible that's going to happen to him.
What are you working on now?
I've just finished a horror tale called the House of Waite which I submitted to the Fearful Symmetries anthology being edited by the illustrious Ellen Datlow.
I'm working on a pirate tale which I describe as "part Final Destination, part Pirates of the Caribbean, part Happy Feet". Hopefully I finish it shortly and submit it to "The Sea" anthology being put out Dark Continents Publishing. I've also started on the first few chapters of my first novel.
You can catch me on twitter: @herodfel