Interviews

{Interview} Andy Cull

 
 
CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like? 
I try to write every day, and for as long as I can each day. Sometimes that’s just a few hours, sometimes it’s 8 or 9 hours. It depends on the project and my state of mind. Sometimes I write nothing at all, and that’s okay. I see a lot of writing advice that says you need to achieve a certain amount of words each day. You don’t. You just need to get in front of your laptop and work.  The words will come in time.
Depending on how far into a project I am, I tend to do my email and Twitter in the morning, and then write in the afternoon and evening. Generally, the further in I am the less time I spend on anything else. So, if I’m quiet on Twitter, it probably means I’m in the thick of a plot.
CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?
I pace a lot and I eat a lot! The eating comes from when I gave up smoking. When I was in my twenties, I smoked two packs a day while I was writing. That was a tough habit to break. I couldn’t even look at my laptop for six months after I quit. Over time I substituted smoking for snacking. Now, I eat a lot of unsalted nuts, seeds and popcorn. It’s worked, because I’ve not had a cigarette in over ten years and I’m still writing.
The other thing I do when I’m writing, is to pace. I spend a lot of my writing day walking around my house. I do that because it helps me to think. I’m also a firm believer in reading all my work out loud. I feel, that if you’re tripping over your work as you read it, it’s very likely your readers are too. So, I’ll be doing that while I’m walking around. When I’m working on dialogue, I’ll talk all that through while I’m pacing. I’m pretty sure my neighbors think I’m completely mad, but I think it makes for believable dialogue. Also, if I get stuck, I’ll get up and walk about. I generally find a lap of my house is enough to get me back to business again.
 
CHHR: I smoked two packs a day in my late teens and early twenties. I quit cold turkey and quickly picked up the habit of sunflower seeds. It’s the habitual motion of taking that cigarette drag, and finger foods tend to do the trick.
Yeah, I definitely found that’s the case. Well done on quitting! I found it really tough going. So worth it though. I run 10k regularly now. There’s no way I could do that if I was still smoking.
CHHR: Do you like a good pen, pencil, or keyboard?
All of the above! When I’m at home I have my laptop. That’s seen me through the past ten or so stories that I’ve written. I’m pretty attached it to. But, when I’m on the road or away, I’ll often carry a journal which I make notes in. Whenever I start a new, large project I buy myself a new journal. I’ll fill that easily if I’m working on a novella or a novel. Most years, someone in my family will buy me a good pen for Christmas. I love that! Drafting with a good quality, weighty pen is a real pleasure.
CHHR: What type of journals and pens do you use?
I like a pen with some weight to it. I like it to feel substantial when I’m writing. I prefer black ink over blue. I’m a leftie, and so it has to be a pen with a quick drying ink otherwise I’m likely to smudge it. Signing books is an amazing privilege, but I also get quite stressed out doing it as I’m always really worried I’ll smudge the dedication.
CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?
That’s a tough one. I enjoy both, but there’s definitely a more immediate sense of achievement when you’re writing a short or a novella. When I was working in film, you’d often get commissioned to write a script that would end up not getting greenlit. That’s the nature of film making. Hundreds of projects end up on production company shelves and, for various reasons, never see the light of day. It took nine years, from writing The Possession of David O’Reilly to its release in 2010. So, after ten years of working in film, I do have a leaning towards writing novellas and shorts because it’s fantastic to see something complete and in print quickly. That said, stories tend to be as long as they want to be. At last count, I had 29 stories on my planning board, ranging from flash fiction through to novels, feature scripts and even a documentary. In time, I’d like to write all those stories, so, I guess the answer is that I really enjoy all writing.
CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?
I live in Melbourne, Victoria. The horror scene’s pretty great here. Since moving from London six years ago, I’ve joined the AHWA (Australasian Horror Writer’s Association) and made a lot of friends who also write horror. There’s a real pool of talent here and it’s been fantastic to meet and work with some incredible writers since I arrived here.
CHHR: Care to name a few of the writers? Maybe I can read and review some of their work.
Sure, Steve Dillon, Deborah Sheldon, Noel Osualdini, Matthew R. Davis, Greg Chapman, Rebecca Fraser. I could definitely go on.
 
CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?
Unless I’m writing flash fiction, I always use an outline. I’m a real plotter! I love plotting storylines, seeing every twist and turn develop. I don’t start writing until I know where my story is going from beginning to end. That’s not to say I don’t go off on tangents when I’m writing, but I really believe that if you’re going to have a tightly plotted story, you need to be able to see that plot before you start writing.
I have a longboard in my office, that I cover in sheets of A4. I’ll start on the left (at the beginning of the story) and I’ll work across, scene by scene, until I either reach the end or run out of paper. It’s not until I’ve developed all the details on that board that I start writing.
CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?
I published my first short story, ‘The Trade’, in part, because I didn’t think anyone else would. I didn’t submit it anywhere. I had no confidence that it might be published or sell. So, I put it out there myself. I’d come off the back of a long period of working in film. It had been a pretty bruising time, and I knew I wanted a change. I’d had the idea for ‘The Trade’ rolling around inside my head for a couple of years and it was great to finally pin it down on paper. It changed the way I wrote because the reception to ‘The Trade’ gave me the confidence to produce and publish more stories. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.
CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story? 
I like a mystery to unravel. I love atmosphere. And I love to be creeped out. Not grossed out, though.
CHHR: I like books that unravel a little at a time and atmospheric slow burners tend to interest me. I love creepy stories!
CHHR: Let’s talk about BONES. How has it been received?
The reception to ‘Bones’ has been really fantastic. Releasing a new story is always a pretty nerve-wracking time, but this was my first paperback release, and so it was a huge occasion for me. I think most writers can more easily imagine everyone hating their work than loving it. I’m really pleased to say that hasn’t been the case. It’s been amazing to see copies of ‘Bones’ being read around the world. The horror community has been hugely supportive and I’m really grateful for that. It’s been a great couple of months.  
CHHR: How did the collection come about?
After the release of ‘Knock and You Will See Me’ I felt I had enough stories to justify releasing a paperback collection. I did a limited run of my story ‘Hope and Walker’ earlier in 2017 (as a competition prize) but I didn’t want to take the leap to releasing a paperback for sale until I felt I had something which would be value for money for readers. It’s really important to me that, if you’re paying for one of my books, you feel you’ve gotten value for the money you’ve paid.
‘Bones’ is my first paperback release, and the first in a series of collections I’d like to publish. I called it ‘Bones’ partly because I’m thinking of it as the skeleton, it’s the foundation I’m planning to pack more horror stories onto in the future. I’m already working on three new stories I’d like to have in my next collection. 
 
CHHR: Did You Forget About Me? is one of the scariest stories I’ve ever read. Did it scare you while you were writing it?
Thank you! That’s awesome to hear! I try to write about the things that scare me, in the hope that those things will scare my readers too. It’s brilliant to hear when that’s worked. I’ve definitely had times when I’ve creeped myself out at night while I’ve been working. I’ll put extra lights on, and I’ve found myself listening to all the little noises the house makes as it cools. Of course, every creak and crack is the sound of an approaching monster, or serial murderer, when it’s 2 a.m. and you’re writing about something that scares you. I joke that I’m really good at seeing the worse possible case scenario in any given situation. That’s great for writing horror but not so good for my nerves at times.
CHHR: What are you currently working on?
I’m doing something a bit different at the moment. I generally write one story and then move to the next. At present, I’m writing on three different projects. Two of those are novellas and one is a shorter piece. I’m hoping to have one of those novellas, a horror adventure called ‘Black Above, Black Below’ out by the end of the year. I’m also working up to beginning my second novel. I already have a couple of plots I’m chewing over for that one. 
CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?
I can’t read while I’m working on a project, and I write a lot of the time, so working through my TBR pile is very slow going. That doesn’t stop me from buying books I want to read though. I’m currently rereading Stephen King’s ‘Night Shift’ and ‘Cujo’. I’m also reading M.R. Tapia’s ‘Sugar Skulls’, Joe Lansdale’s ‘Savage Season’ and ‘Dead Is Dead, But Not Always’ by Eddie Generous. On the TBR after those are ‘Mongrels’ (Stephen Graham Jones) and a return to ‘Salem’s Lot’.
CHHR: Mongrels is superb, Sugar Skulls is fantastic, and Dead Is Dead, But Not Always is a terrific collection. You can’t go wrong with any of those. 
CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?
‘Bone White’ by Ronald Malfi. I loved that book.
CHHR: Me too! It’s the perfect winter horror story.
CHHR: What is your spirit animal?
Scooby Doo. I know the answer would really be “a dog”, but that dog is Scooby Doo.
CHHR: What’s your favorite Scooby Doo crossover episode?
That’s a tough one! I’m a bit of a purist. I love the older Scooby episodes where the monsters weren’t real. I am interested in checking out that Scooby/Supernatural episode though. I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun.
CHHR: What is your favorite beer?
At the moment, it’s an APA called The Bastard Son. I like a hoppy IPA.
CHHR: I’ll have to look that one up!
CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?

Stephen King. It’d definitely be Stephen King. I grew up reading and loving his work. He’s undoubtedly influenced me, as well as a whole generation of horror writers. He’s an icon of my favourite genre. Yeah, that would be amazing.
 
 
Author Bio:
 
I’m a writer and director. I wrote and directed In The Dark (www.louisepaxton.co.uk) and The Possession Of David O’Reilly (UK title : The Torment).

My first novel, Remains, is due for release in 2018. 

I welcome feedback and love to hear from people who have seen my movies and read my stories. Feel free to get in touch with me on andy at andrewcull.com

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