Paul chats with
PA: Hi Adam – congratulations with the publication of ‘No One Gets Out Alive’ – your sixth novel publication – how do you feel?
AN: I feel I have written an uncompromising novel. As authentic a ghost story or treatment of the paranormal as I have ever written, and my most detailed imagining of sadistic narcissists, and a very grim novel about poverty and violence against women, as well as a curious folk horror story – so, I am pleased with this book, as much as an author can be. The safety catch was off and it forced its way out. I came close to achieving the effects I aimed for and to successfully dramatizing some of the ideas I’ve had for years – at least, to my inner reader this was a success. That’s all I can do and say. I have almost no control of anything else. It now goes into the blender of taste, levels of reader patience, whatever presence my publisher can achieve for it, whatever the book trade decides to do with it – a vortex of forces that always makes me nervous.
Initially, as for reader reaction, I’ve had the usual anxiety and apprehension. Books have never been put under so much scrutiny as they are now with reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads etc – that is, if they are even discovered - and I find reader reactions near inscrutable and impossible to second guess ahead of publication. But I do care about what readers think and have been plenty bruised and plenty delighted by reviews in the past.
PA: What is the general outline of the story?
AN: A girl without a career or home or parents, rents the wrong room in the wrong house. The house is governed by two horrible, manipulative and intimidating men. The building also appears to be occupied by a number of other unhappy women in similarly hopeless situations. And there just might be something much worse in the foundations of the house...
PA: How do you usually celebrate the final edit of a book before submitting it to your agent/editor?
AN: I don’t really celebrate. Celebration may lull me into a false sense of security about the novel being satisfactory. There is a slight slumping of the soul with relief, though a slumping pestered by a vague anxiety and the usual doubts. A bottle of ale and a film does often occur at the end of a day when I think I’ve achieved something though.
PA: Your horror writing is very much rooted in British folk horror – do you have plans in the future to either set a story in or develop American or other European horror folklore?
AN: HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS & NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE have a definite sense of a very British folklore, in that folk stories, old song lyrics and artefacts suggest a much older and more malign or magical basis to minor episodes in history. But I’d say LAST DAYS very much encompassed parts of European history and myth from the War of Religions onwards, and even contemporary US counter culture and noir influences. There is a lot going on in that novel; a very ambitious project that often saw me with my face in my hands at what I was trying to achieve.
PA: I have had the pleasure of reading Apartment 16 and House of Small Shadows to date – both have a deep claustrophobic feel to them, which sustains the terror for your protagonist character(s) (as well as for the reader). Have you ever felt this intense, inescapable feeling as a writer whilst working on a project?
AN: Vicariously, yes. I try and inhabit the characters and situations as much as I can imaginatively. If I don’t think I’ve quite captured the atmosphere or feelings I go back in, again and again and again …
PA: What is your greatest fear as a writer?
AN: I have a few, but no longer being published or read is a pretty big one. Nothing will disabuse me of it. I think it stems from the long, hard road out of obscurity that I experienced. Writing was the purpose of my every day from my mid-twenties onwards, but I wasn’t published at this level until my fortieth year. The bigger picture of the book trade, publishing and how we are published, digital disruption, the alchemy of the zeitgeist that sees the fortunes of subjects, genres and good authors rise and fall, we have little to no control over as writers. For something as important to us writers as our fiction I wish the horizon was a little more stable.
PA: Who and/or what are your greatest influences as a horror writer?
AN: There are many, but M R James is the biggest influence. Machen, Blackwood, de la Mare, Onions and Wharton are also key from this period. M John Harrison, Ramsey Cambell, Robert Aickman, and Shirley Jackson are major influences, as are Clive Barker and Lovecraft. King and Straub too, though I cannot write anything like them, but they also made me want to write horror, which is just as valid an influence. But outside horror I have many influences too – Cormac McCarthy and James Ellroy, William Gay and Daniel Woodrell, John Cheever, Ruth Rendell of late, Martin Amis and Ian McKewan. A great many. I teem with influences. I often see other writers as mentors and tutors.
PA: Have you ever incorporated any events that have happened in your own life into your works of fiction?
AN: Yes, and places and people and situations and circumstances. Though they are much changed, or transformed, in the final work. But I have lived a bit and been out there … The older I get the less and less I can accept things that seem almost entirely imaginary – even in stories that use the supernormal, I need a sense of authenticity. It’s the thinness of fiction I’ve lost patience with. I sense it comes from writing too much too quickly. Whether the intensity is quietly built or sudden and visceral, I need fiction to be intense.
PA: What are your writing habits like? Do you have any bad habits?
AN: Generic stuff, like fatally switching on Facebook before I start work, and not carrying a pad around with me all the time – will I ever learn? Though I have recently discovered that because I rewrite so much I may actually occasionally rewrite myself into tight corners that I can’t turn around inside. But I am disciplined and driven and have my own stringent quality control criteria, and as long as that remains intact I can go on.
PA: Is there a sub-genre in the horror spectrum would you like to try next/in the future?
AN: I’ve always fancied trying the Lovecraftian again, though it seems overdone these days. THE RITUAL is actually a Lovecraftian novel, though few have noticed, but Lovecraftian in the sense of tapping into what Lovecraft derived from Arthur Machen – the wonder of the pagan magical.
I also like the idea of science fiction and horror together, that works so well in cinema. And epic historical fiction or fantasy with supernatural fiction, but with the horror leading the story, also rings my bells. Crime is mixed with horror all the time too, and I do harbour a few ideas in that camp.
The problem is ideas – I have so many, but writing them adequately takes a long time.
PA: The horror genre appears to be having an increasing revival of late, both in literature, film and even television (American Horror Story, Hannibal, Hemlock Grove) – why do you think horror is appealing to more and more readers/viewers of late?
AN: A new generation has discovered horror through other media, I think, chiefly paranormal romance, YA, film and computer games which broke the surface in mainstream books for adults about eight years ago. Also, those readers who used to follow the field in books have enjoyed a nostalgic revival – though mainly fiction in quite traditional revenant and ghost stories (that has really endured as an idea). I’m often asked if cultural forces are responsible for the zeitgeist, and they must be at one level, but there is no one simple answer for why things are popular: it’s always a variety of variables that reach critical mass, I think. But horror is also good and satisfying and transporting entertainment and art, and there is a human need for it, so it continues in many forms that have highs and lows that are not insensitive to changes in technology. I see horror less as being distinctly a literature or film scene these days, but more as a “culture”, a cultural form that erupts in so many disparate but interconnected ways. In a mainstream appreciation of horror in fiction, horror can only succeed if publishing publishes it as a big deal, otherwise it will sink again.
PA: You have written numerous short stories for anthologies and other short story collections – do you think you will ever publish a compilation of your own short stories as one book?
AN: Yes, I’d like to. I actually have enough stories now for two collections. I’ve been writing them sparingly since 1995, but they have built up incrementally. If I ever have a gap between novels and need to recharge, I think I’d put out a collection to maintain one book a year, which I am told is essential. I’ve also never written a novella, but I’d like to. I am slightly afraid of being able to write one though, so I maintain a healthy caution about my chances of writing a good one.
PA: Some authors do collaboration work on novels – would you ever like to collaborate on a novel? If so, who would be your number one choice to work with
AN: I’d have to really think it through and consider the idea, and if it’s even feasible for me to do with my schedule. Capacity is paramount with side-projects, and I can just finish a novel over 15 months along with two short stories each year. That’s not written in stone, but I do still work in publishing two days a week, and a heap of publicity, so I don’t overload myself. I also have a young family and wouldn’t allow work to damage my participation there.
PA: Will you be doing anything special for Halloween this year?
AN: Maybe an event, and something with my nipper at home, but I don’t make a big deal of it. She likes to give trick or treaters sweets and get involved, so something with my little girl for sure. She loves it.
PA: As Wes Craven / Ghostface would say ‘What’s your favorite scary movie?’
AN: Tough one. I just couldn’t say, I’ve seen too many good horror films. But the “Prey” segment of Trilogy of Terror, Don’t Look Now, The Omen and The Exorcist petrified me, though I saw them when I was much younger. The only horror film in recent years to really impact on a purely instinctive level was the first REC film.
PA: What was the last horror novel that really blew you away?
AN: The Road by Cormac McCarthy without a doubt. Everything mattered on every single page, and what I was being asked to imagine was monumentally dreadful. Incredible novel.
The Terror by Dan Simmons, and The Song of Kali, both pushed my buttons too, for the sheer quality of the writing and the effects he achieved in those novels. For a near psychotropic feeling, I’d say Ramsey Campbell’s Grin of the Dark and The Seven Days of Cain would take some beating. Frank Tallis’s The Sleep Room was absorbing and fascinating. For collections, Laid Barron’s The Imago Sequence, Reggie Oliver’s Flowers of the Sea, John Langan’s The Wide Carniverous Sky, and William Gay’s I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down were all excellent too.
PA: When can we expect your next novel to be hitting the shelves?
October 2015, a novel expressing some of my great fears – the loss of a child, runaway climate change and the steady but unstoppable slide from civilisation into barbarism. The last two are already well underway at the time of writing. It’s a pretty brutal story and my first attempt at science fiction and horror.
PA: Thanks Adam -has been great chatting!
AN: Thank you for having me and for taking an interest, Paul.
January 12 2015
Adam LG Nevill is a British writer of supernatural horror. I first discovered Adam's work through his spine chilling novel 'Apartment 16' - the level of intensity Adam creates in this novel is almost heart stopping at times. I have also had the pleasure of reading 'House of Small Shadows' which was equally as nail-biting as Apartment 16. Currently, I have four more Nevill books to look forward to reading!
Adam kindly agreed to do a Q&A session with me and the answers that follow are so insightful - this is a writer who clearly loves his genre and it shows in his work! Thanks once again Adam - was a pleasure!
Photo by Tania Glyde.