A recent vacation to the UK saw me make an appearance at Edge-Lit 5 in Derby. Edge-Lit is a terrific event organised by Alex Davis of Boo Books where a whole host of publishers, readers and writers come together to celebrate the written word. The day is filled with book launches, workshops and panels and is a wonderful experience with the opportunity to meet and engage with a whole host of incredibly cool people. I coincided my vacation with the event because I really wanted to meet a lot of friends I have made from the online community. To say I had a blast is an understatement. The day was filled with books, beer and friendship J
One of the publishers that had a table at Edge-Lit was The Sinister Horror Company – a press from the UK made up of writers Justin Park, Duncan P. Bradshaw and Daniel Marc Chant. I was delighted to meet Justin and Duncan on the Saturday at Edge-Lit and enjoyed a rather drunken night with them. Unfortunately, a medical reason kept Daniel Marc Chant from attending.
Daniel is a superb wordsmith, and with some great new releases on the horizon I thought it high time I had him over to the blog for a yarn about his writing and his forthcoming books. Enjoy…
BtB: Dan, thanks for stopping by. Can you tell us a little (or a lot) about yourself?
Hey Adrian, thanks for having me. I’m Daniel Marc Chant, but Dan sounds much less wanky, and I’m a 38 year old man waiting for the inevitable sweet release of death. Hang on. That’s not what I’m here for is it? Sorry. I thought this was my therapy session. Right. Moving on. I’ve been a huge genre fan for as long as I can recall, starting with books, comics and movies and then… Well it never really changed. I still read and love books, comics and movies. I’ve been called a ‘cultural omnivore’ and I think it’s a moniker I quite like. I will watch and read and listen to anything, it doesn’t mean I’ll like it but I’ll give it a fair shot. While I am definitely full of cynicism with an anarchist streak I equally want to just be a small helpful cog in the big machine of genre fiction while trying not to be a dick or vanish up my own arse (I’ve seen plenty of people do both, although they vanish up their own arse and not mine just to clarify).
BtB: Where does your love of the written word come from? And what is it that lured you towards the darker end of the spectrum?
I’ve always loved reading. When I was young it was books in Dinosaurs and fossils and stuff and as I grew older and wanted tales, not just facts, I started to try other books. Things like Roald Dahl were the foundation that then was joined by C.S Lewis, Lewis Carroll, J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Dickens. The latter gave me a taste of the Victorian which led me to Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde and then I fell into the pit (no sign of a pendulum) of Gothic horror and have yet to escape. I like stories with a little vagueness and dripping with atmosphere which is why me reading Lovecraft was like Renton in Trainspotting taking a hit. I’ve yet to detox. From Lovecraft, not hard drugs.
BtB: What was your first published story? Where was it published? Who published it?
My first published story was Burning House and was self-published by me, before the Sinister Horror Company was actually a thing. After years of coming up with ideas and half finishing them I had an opportunity when I started a new job to get some words down, I had to commute and hour or so each way on a lovely train (it wasn’t lovely, it was like a toilet at Glastonbury without the music) so used that time to tap away on my phone notepad. And Burning House is what it became. It’s rough and raw and I’m actually going back to ‘remaster’ it but I’m proud of it. Even if it does rip-off, sorry I mean homage, John Carpenter’s The Thing.
BtB: What is the easiest thing you find about writing and what is the most difficult?
The concepts and first draft to me are the really exciting parts. The enthusiasm and wonder are firing on all cylinders and I approach my writing in ‘high concept’ style. It’s a movie writing term that easily sums up the essence of a story, like ‘The Exorcist meets Dusk Til Dawn’ and take it from there. I am proud to write pulp B-movie style fiction and wouldn’t want to change that for the world. I am equally proud to know many authors who are producing A-list award winning fiction and that’s great but for me I’m happiest when sloshing around in the gutter. Editing can suck a dick however. I get bored very easily after the ninth time reading something and by then my mind is already halfway through a new concept so managing that can be difficult and frustrating for me sometimes. It’s my own fault of course. I’m an idiot with the attention span of a Goldfish when it comes to my own stories.
BtB: You’re one third of The Sinister Horror Company! How did the press come about?
Booze. As all the best ideas are born from. Burning House was on the way, unbeknownst to me Justin Park had also been nearing completion of Terror Byte and at Duncan Bradshaw’s stag do Justin and I sat down and caught up and started talking writing and that’s when we realised we were both doing the same thing. Duncan, never one to sit on the sidelines, used this impetus to kick himself up the arse and finally put pen to paper on the zombie epic he’s been dreaming of since I’ve known him. It’s quite a cool thing. Nobody is individually responsible for SHC’s creation, by luck and happenstance our minds were all at a similar point at a similar time and it just gave us all that drive to see it through.
BtB: You, Justin and Duncan certainly have very different voices and approaches to dark fiction. What is it that you think you bring to the Sinister Horror Company?
Well-spoken comedic genius. Other than that I don’t know? Erm… We often joke about this amongst ourselves. While I devour endless horror books and films I’m actually the one that has yet to write a ‘full on’ horror. ‘Burning House’ has some gore nut nothing else I’ve written (that’s out there) has. To me my books are designed to replicate the feeling I had when I was a kid, a little too young to watch some films, and my Mum would take me to a local VHS store and I’d get to pick a film once a week as a treat. I’d always go for the lower shelf B-movie ones, the naff action films and low budget scares. And that’s what I hope I bring to table. I hope I’m the bottom shelf B-movie and if I am that will make me incredibly happy.
BtB: You have had three releases through the press so far: ‘Burning House’, ‘Maldicion’ and ‘Mr Robisperre’. Three very different books! Can you give the readers a little insight into these three books?
Of course! ‘Burning House’ was my debut title and is a story I’ve had in my head for years, it initially was based on an idea that fire-fighters go into a burning house (see where the name comes from? Clever huh?) and it turns out the house is actually haunted and they’re trapped inside. As I started to plot it and it came together the ghost thing wasn’t working as well as I thought it would so I made it a physical being, a monster. And I used my favourite film (John Carpenter’s The Thing) as the template I guess. I didn’t rip it off (well, not too much!) but took some of the tropes and adapted them to the story. Also added in a little ancient cult flavour because Lovecraft.
‘Maldicion’ was an odd one. And arguably it still is! It came about as I was reading about The Essex (the real life tale Moby Dick was based on) and I thought what if somebody survived a horrible accident and landed on an island only to find the island was the worst place to be? It was going to be an island of monsters, full of massive Godzilla like beasts and small monstrosities so nowhere was safe. But I couldn’t find a decent hook for character journey within that so it morphed into a Cast Away tale of survival and descent into madness because Lovecraft.
And of course the fearful feline ‘Mr. Robespierre’ is last. He likes attention. As do all cats. This one is a love letter. My girlfriend, after reading my previous titles, wanted me to write something for her. So I asked her what she would like in a story. The answers were, ‘cats, Madonna and ghosts’. So that’s how it started. The young girl in it, Chrissie, is named after her, her favourite stuffed animal Goggy is also the name of Christian’s toy when she was a child. The parents Sandy and Dom are her parents name, the place names are hybrid mixes of places they’ve been and their surname Wight comes from The Isle of Wight as her parents like to visit it. This, more than anything, was purposefully written to capture the 80’s horror movie vibe I had while growing up and I’m immensely proud of it. I was also shitting myself before I put it out. Justin had thrown out the brilliant but stomach churning ‘Upon Waking’, Duncan had the stunningly twisted and violent ‘Class Four: Those Who Survive’ and I had to follow up with a scared kid and a creepy cat. Thankfully people seemed to really enjoy it and, of all my books, it’s the one that brings the biggest smile to my face. And I can definitively say we haven’t seen the last of that dastardly cat.
BtB: After reading ‘Maldicion’ and seeing that you have a short story included in the anthology ‘Cthulhu Lies Dreaming’ one would assume you’re a fan of the mythology of H.P. Lovecraft?
Yeah, calling me a fan would probably be a little bit of understatement! Lovecraft was the first horror author I read that really resonated with. Of course there’s lot of stuff about Lovecraft that’s reprehensible but that doesn’t change the fact that that I just read his words and discovered his worlds during my wide-eyed youth. It was unlike anything I had ever read and I got hooked immediately. As a result of devouring the gibbous eldritch prose throughout my life it coloured my own influences and I like to put in little references or remarks or homages where I can. As you rightly point out ‘Maldicion’ is heavily influenced by Lovecraft, as are my stories in ‘Cthulhu Lies Dreaming’ and both volumes of ‘The Black Room Manuscripts’. In fact I created my own mini-mythos for the latter and it’s referenced in their respective prologues and epilogues as well as my stories because Lovecraft.
BtB: What other writers do you consider yourself a fan of?
Lovecraft. If that’s not painfully obvious. My tastes are pretty varied. I think Warren Ellis is a genius. I love the comic work of Garth Ennis (Preacher remains my favourite comic book/graphic novel). I’m not gonna list the big names because they get enough fucking air time. Benedict Jones is brilliant, Rich Hawkins is awesome despite his many deformities (jokes obvs), Laura Mauro has a beautiful artist’s touch, and Adam Millard is an inspiration and should be a fucking household name. The thing is there’s some fantastic talent in the indie scene and you can’t go far wrong with any of them. I urge, no beg, anybody looking for something new to read to go off the beaten track and try something new. Basically go on Facebook, look at my friends list and buy a book from any of them. You won’t go far wrong.
BtB: ‘The Black Room Manuscripts: Volume One’, released August 2015 is a charity anthology where you assembled a cast of dark fiction writers to raise money for animal welfare in the UK. The anthology received some great press and it’s great to see a publisher do something like this. Can you tell us how the anthology came about?
I love animals. More than humans to be fair. Show me a lonely cat wanting a home and I’ll crumble into a sobbing shaking mess. So I just wanted to do something, no matter how small, to try and help. I see a lot of people saying they care but not rolling up their sleeves so thought fuck that – let’s do something. So a horror anthology was created. And without the kindness of Austin Chambers and Adam Millard it wouldn’t exist. They were the first people to commit and give me their stories. I had intended it to be a showcase for new talent but, as I learnt, there were a lot of people that want to write but when it comes to crunch time dropped out. As they dropped out I needed authors and I was at a convention with Chambers and Millard (my first introduction to them) and asked them to help. They did. And that’s where it started. Both are absolute gents and I cannot thank them enough. From there we gathered other awesome talent and packaged it into the lovely little collection it is now.
BtB: You must be delighted with the progress the press has made, in such a short time? Where do you see The Sinister Horror Company in 5 years?
I hope it’s just still there. We don’t really have any great aspirations for SHC in terms of world domination. We’ve done well so far, I’d like to give you a reason as to why but I can’t. I hope it’s the fact that we’re all honest, approachable and normal guys who are huge fans of the genres we find ourselves in. I want that to continue. And as a few people will validate I’m also pretty obsessive when it comes to the book covers we put out. I really HATE bad book covers. Which might sound shallow. But I refuse to have somebody pour their heart and soul into a book and then put it out looking like Tesco Value Porridge.
BtB: You will shortly be venturing into Science-Fiction waters with the book ‘Aimee Bancroft and the Singularity Storm’. Where did this one come from and have you always been a Sci-Fi fan?
This was actually the fault of Neil Baker and George Anderson. They did an open sub call for a science fiction story ‘The Stars at My Door’ and I wanted to go out of my comfort zone and do something because they’re both awesome people. So I started writing a story for it and unbeknownst to me I fell in love with Aimee Bancroft. If you look at my work I’m a sucker for a strong female heroine and with Aimee I got to amp it up and go pulpy. I’ve always liked science fiction and the camp side of it has always held a soft spot for me. It was a great opportunity to just go with it. I absolutely loved it and it was so liberating to just write it. I must thank both Neil and George for opening this Pandora’s Box for me. I’m not done with Aimee at all. She will be back. I even cast her in my head. This is how far down the rabbit hole I went.
You can pre-order ‘Aimee Bancroft…’ here.
BtB: October 2016 will see the release of your debut short story horror collection titled ‘Into Fear’. I am a huge fan of short story collections. What horrors lurk within these pages?
Ah, that one… ‘Into Fear’ was originally a collection of stories that had been rejected by many open sub calls such as Black Static to be honest. I’m not really selling it am I? That’s the truth though. It was the leftovers initially. However as it evolved and time passed I started to include stories I was more confident with and took a step back from what I had. It was then I thought I have a solid mix of stories here, and its fucking eclectic make no mistake. But I wanted to capture the feeling of somebody watching a ‘Tale from The Crypt’ marathon. I am now wholly confident this delivers it.
You can pre-order ‘Into Fear’ here.
BtB: Some quickies before you go…
- Coffee or tea? Tea.
- Books or movies? Both are intrinsically part of my DNA and are equally important to me.
- Captain America or Iron Man? Captain America.
- Aliens or Predator? Predator.
- What is your favourite quote from a movie? Probably ‘Do it! Do it now!’ from Predator. Not because it’s the best line written in a movie but I love saying it in a bad Arnie accent at perfectly timed comedic occasions.
- Mystery author asks you to collaborate on a novel. Who is it? Actually this a bit of an odd one as I’d say Rich Hawkins and, as coincidence would have it, the Baron of Bleak himself is actually collaborating with me on a story next year – a story called ‘Carnivoles’, it’s going to be the West Country’s answer to Tremors.
BtB: Dan, it was a real shame we didn’t get to catch up at Edge-Lit, but I am sure we shall one day get another opportunity. I look forward to reading all of the books mentioned today and thanks heaps for stopping by. Shotbolt, out.
It’s been great mate and likewise, gutted to have not met you in person (at least for now) but based on the stories I heard from that fateful night at Edge-Lit it sounds like I, and my liver, was better off out of it. Thanks again for having me and for the fantastic work you do supporting authors and presses everywhere. You Sir, are awesome. *doffs hat*
AMAZON UK PAGE: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daniel-Marc-Chant/e/B00LIZ32MO
AMAZON USA PAGE: https://www.amazon.com/Daniel-Marc-Chant/e/B00LIZ32MO
OFFICIAL SITE: http://danielmarcchant.com/
SHC SITE: http://sinisterhorrorcompany.com/
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