Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Lee Hughes/Lily Childs Interview

Master of the Horror Ceremony, Lee Hughes agrees to talk to Lily Childs about what bites and excites him:

Lily Childs: Lee, welcome. Your writing thrills the audience with mystery, suspense and sheer horror. What inspires you, historically and on a day-to-day basis?

Lee Hughes: Historically: History is a font of horrid escapades and shenanigans that will inspire me forever and a day. It all mainly stems from people's stupidity or arrogance, but it doesn't half make you think 'hmmm, there's something in that.'

Anything from Cults, the ones going back to the dark ages to Jim Jones managing to get 918 people to top themselves, whilst living in a town named after him. Something like that gets the whole thought process going on how did he achieve it. Then you realise he was only one quarter of the problem, it was the gullible muppets that made up the other three quarters for believing that there was a hole in their life that only this man could fill. From that my mind starts thinking, what was missing, what put them on that path? From there, hundreds of stories could develop about the horrors that carved those Jim-Sized holes.

Back further, Typhoid Mary. A woman forcibly quarantined twice, infected 53 people and was still in complete denial that there was naff all up with her. The list of people and things throughout history is just ripe with inspiration, the darker and the more sinister the better.

On a day-to-day basis there's nothing really interesting happening. Maybe standing in a queue and coming up with new ways to kill someone, starting with the asshat in front who can't count out ten items because he blatantly has a week's worth of food in the fast checkout line.

As for anything else, the news is boring. Our politicians fill up the space, and who really cares, 3 wise monkeys come to mind. The remainder is just the all too familiar kids stabbing each other over who owns the corner by the kebab shop, or America's having a game of paper, scissors or rock, with one country or another, only instead of a rock, they've brought a gun to the game, that's not proper news.

LC: Do you remember when you first thought 'I want to be a writer'? Was it a gradual thing or a eureka moment?

Lee: I didn't read much as a kid. Then for some reason I bought a few of the Star Wars follow on books. I was 16 and working in a factory and a workmate suggested trying a proper book.

I read the Magician by Raymond E. Feist. That book knocked me for six, 900 pages and basically read it none stop. There were a series of them. I was gutted when I'd read them all, so moved on to the Belgariad. They were tremendous as well, but I was thinking I bet I can do that. So I started writing away, all garbage, but I carried on, mainly for my own amusement.

Worst invention ever was the thesaurus built into word, highlight-right-click 'Ooh that words much longer, must be better.' But the moment I decided I definitely wanted to give writing a try with a passion was when the same feller at work lent me Stephen King's IT. I'd not read horror before that. Two pages in and I read something along the lines of, "His pants were so tight you could see the veins of his cock." or something like that. I was just in shock, thinking you can't write things like that, can you? I read that, then a few others of his, Some Herbert and Barker, then I realised, oh yes you could. So with Ogres and Wizards forgotten I tried a little bit of horror. Basically pages of me swearing, killing and torturing stuff without any real thought to content, thinking back it probably read like Roy Chubby Brown reading out a list of Bosnian war crimes. But I enjoyed it.

LC: Your name appears across the blogosphere in all the best places, and you are known as a prolific submitter of quality fiction. How do you stay on top of what's going on?

Lee: *Blushes a little -but grins-*

Any blog I'm interested in I follow. So each day I can just scroll down what anyone's added and go for a mooch.

Websites I use RSS feeds that alert you if site content changes, it's a bit time saver, especially if I'm keeping an eye on certain markets I'm thinking of submitting to. There's also a great writing community about and if we find little nuggets of gold in open submissions somewhere we tend to let everyone else know.

LC: I agree, RSS Feeds are great. I couldn't live without them.

LC: Your series The Osseous Box appeared on Matt Hilton and Col Bury's Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers, to great acclaim. How would you describe this complex tale in terms of storyline and theme? What's happening with it at the moment?

Lee: As with most stories one little tiny idea can become something that excites you enough to start fleshing it out. The Osseous Box is an item that both good and evil want to get a hold of. So there's the two sides not sure how to find it, then they begin to find trails so it becomes this vicious race, kinda like a Deadly Dastardly and Macabre Mutley Wacky Races but with lots of people ending up dead in many a cruel and unusual way. As it unravels they learn what the box is, how it was made, and what it contains. That's basically when all Hell breaks loose, so to speak.

I'm actually novelizing it at the moment. When it was going up in parts over at TKnC they had to be around the 2k word mark. I felt that each should be connected but be able to stand alone. So I had to leave a lot out and compact a lot of other bits. So novelizing it seemed the right approach. Chapter One which is Part One over at TKnC has swollen from 2k to just over 5k. Besides, as I stopped it at Part 13 over at TKnC no one knows the ending lol, actually, I didn't either, that's why it stopped.

LC: It's great to hear about the OB novel. Good luck with that and let us know when it's been snatched up by an agent.

LC: You write in a variety of genres; horror, crime, noir, sci-fi etc. Do you enjoy one genre over another?

Lee: Horror is always my first love in the genres. You can be so free and do whatever you like. A lot of my horror stories actually started out as crime, but then I got to a plot block and thought, 'Sod it!' *Enter monster here and let the bloodshed commence*

Noir is a fun one to write, though it's one of the hardest to get right. That's why Noir writers like Paul D. Brazill, Keith Rawson, Michael J. Solender etc are pretty much at the top of the list because they constantly get it right.

Sci-Fi ones come from my love of the film genre. Aliens, Star Wars, Bladerunner. Problem is mine are all fun Sci-Fi. I'm just not clever enough to do the hard sci-fi. That's why I just make names up for stuff.

LC: What is a typical writing day, and where do you do it?

Lee: I'm an early riser, always have been. So I'll be climbing out of my pit between 5:30 and 6:00. The wife on the other hand is the opposite so it's a good quiet time to work on arthritis of the fingers at the keyboard. I'll also put in a few hours in the evening. It depends how lazy I am, or if I'm trying to keep to a schedule, like a deadlines fast approaching.

I used to write in the spare room but it was too cold, also I'd keep wandering off to see if I was missing out on anything. So I moved into the lounge and it is pretty much the perfect place. I don't mind the noise from the telly, or anything like that.

LC: Who do you read? Which three books would you recommend and why?

Lee: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ian Rankin, James Herbert, Richard Matheson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, Richard Laymon, Patricia Cornwell (Until the Scarpetta books become more like recipe books) Matt Hilton, Lee Child, Chris Ewan (He actually wrote the first in his Good Thief Series in the Flat beneath me), the list is so long so I'll stop there.

The Stand by Stephen King - I love Apocalypse books. That one was just so well written, the writing was as clever as you can get, you just saw all the places they were travelling through and felt on the road with them. That feeling of freedom they had, no one else about, could do as they wished, but also the fear of the lawlessness, and the survivors that embraced it.

The Magician by Raymond E Feist - The first proper book I bought, it's been read about 8 times in the last 15 years since I bought it, the pages are now jaundiced, but I won't replace it.

The Travelling Vampire Show by Richard Laymon - The voice of this book flowed with such a great ease it reminded me a lot of Stephen King's The Body. But of course, this is the late Laymon we're talking about so it soon gets pretty nasty in all the best ways.

LC: Some great ones in there, Lee. I agree. SK's The Stand is always in my top five and I'm a humble worshipper of Mr Barker. But this isn't about me. Back to you...

LC: You've had some great achievements with acceptances and publications over the last 12 months. Which of these are you most proud of?

Lee: I feel proud of all the stories that get published, whether online or in print. But to pick one would have to be that first paying acceptance last year in the print anthology Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. My story 'Turn the Crank' got some good reviews. Even had great things said about it in Black Static a print horror magazine. The whole anthology has been long listed for the British Fantasy Awards this year.

The best though from it, for me was getting my name mentioned in the Best Horror of the Year Vol 2 in the summation of the year section and then also at the back. There were 40 odd honorable mentions given out and my name was one of them. It was just strange seeing my name on the same page as some of the greats.

LC: Well done. After al that, is there a Lee Hughes novel on the horizon?

Lee: As I said, I'm doing the novelization of The Osseous Box. Then there's another novel I pretty much finished last year, but it's more of an apocalypse action with a dusting of earthly sci-fi. I'll just run with the one I'm working on at the moment. Hoping to have it done and polished before the summer and then begin the daunting but hopefully fun part of trying to snag an agent, decent or otherwise will do.

LC: Busy, busy, busy then. So what's in store for Lee Hughes in the coming months?

Lee: I've a few more short stories coming out in some anthologies. My story Contraband is in the horror/sci-fi book No One Can Hear You Scream. The Cat's Away appears in Don't Tread on Me a book about revenge. The Mending of the Broken will appear in 365 Days of Flash Fiction, I've two pieces in A book of Flash fiction, First, Second, and Third and The Last Clown appear in that one.

I'm submitting to a few more, ones that catch my eye.

There is a fiction thing coming soon, but I can't talk about it, I'm pretty excited about it though as it means I must be doing something right, just hope I don't screw it up!

LC: I doubt that very much. Thanks for coming in to The Feardom Lee, and good luck with everything coming your way.

Lee: Thanks for listening to me waffle.

Read more from Lee Hughes on Lee Hughes Writes


  1. Lee appeared out of nowhere on the crime/noir/pulp scene about 18 mos. ago and has been smoking it up every since. We've missed him for a few weeks now but after realizing he was hard at work making a novel out of OB, all I can say is look out, it will be a right stonker as my pals across the pond say. thanks for the nod Lee and Lily super coup chasing down Lee long enough to get a look under the bonnet.

  2. Great interview, Lil n Lee.

    Good, probing questions, Lil - you really squeezed the sponge there!

    Half a dozen of those authors on your list are on my list too. Fascinating to delve deep into the mind of one of THE best up n coming horror writers around. I read every part of The Osseus Box n recall pushing for you to novelize it back then (not after credit, just thought it would make a top novel)... so you've got me address for when the royalties flood in :)

    I'm proud to say that Lee has become a trusted friend of mine since we came on the scene about the same time, and the bonus is he's a thoroughly top bloke with a wicked sense of humour (Lee, can't remember now, was it humour you asked me to put or wit?).

    Regards to you both,

  3. Great interview Lily! I love it when writers interview writers -- they invariably ask the questions that will most interest ... writers.

    And there's not too many more interesting writers than Mr. Hughes.

    So completely looking forward to the OB novel Lee. As one great sage of the 21st Century has opined ... "Git 'er done!" lol.

  4. What a splendid interview. Lee is a cracking writer and a very British horror writer.

    Thanks for the hat tip and, by the way, 'it probably read like Roy Chubby Brown reading out a list of Bosnian war crimes. But I enjoyed it.' I suspect that I would, too!

  5. I agree..a brilliant interview (and not just cos I got 2 hat tips either).

    I'm with you on 'The Stand', it has to be one of the best books of all time bar none...oh, except for Stephen King On Writing. Everyone who aspires to write should have that on their shelf. I had it - my brother knicked it!But then, he wants to be a writer.

    The Osseus Box to me has been one of those brilliant series that I eagerly anticipated the next chapter of, and I also believe it will make a terrific novel. Can't wait to read the end result.

    Here's a couple book recommendations for you - something you might miss otherwise as they don't go on the 'horror' shelf in bookstores: Stephen Leather's NIGHTFALL - a bit like a contemporary Dennis Wheately cum Constantine type story. Demonic possession, souls sold to the devil, plus gritty crime...the biz.
    Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD. A quiet but spookily scary story set in a post-apocalyptic America that has been redused to ashes. The writing style (if you haven't tried him before) is Uber-Literary, but once you get his voice I think you'll find it fascinating. I did.

    All the best to you both

  6. Cheers everyone for your interesting comments.

    Great recommendations Matt. They can go on my wish list (birthday coming up!)

  7. Oh, agree re: SK's On Writing too. Absolutely.

  8. Great interview, Lily - Lee is a force of talent! Enjoyed the questions and Lee's seemingly laid back stance, a serious writer with a balanced edge.

  9. I too own a well thumbed copy of 'On Writing' The biography part was brilliant and then he got down to business, and the man talks sense. Remember reading the part about writing honestly, if the bloke needs to go shit, then say he's having a shit. You can smell false writing a mile off. So I'm now going for a 'big' toilet and will wash me hands.

    Glad you enjoyed the interview, it was me first.

  10. great interview, thanks Lily and Lee! Some good insights there.
    One of my favourite apocalypse books is Swan Song by Robert McCammeron, great stuff that is, but I 100% agree about The Stand, stunning stuff, that.

  11. Thanks for the interview, Lily and Lee. I've got way behind with Thrillers Killers and Chillers and must do some catching up. I'll read The Stand too. Thanks for all the info.

  12. Brilliant interview Lily and Lee - good luck with the writing, both of you!


Lily Childs is a writer of horror, esoteric, mystery and chilling fiction.

If you see her dancing outside in a thunder storm - don't try to bring her in. She's safe.