If you’re a follower of this blog then you will probably be aware of my huge admiration of writer Rich Hawkins. Spitting out some desperately bleak horror from a home deep within the bowels of England, Hawkins writes the sort of horror that I really enjoy reading. The sort of horror where all hope seems lost, where there are few survivors and a happy ending is nowhere in sight.
I got the chance to catch up with Rich (and his lovely wife) on my recent trip to the UK, where we spent a few hours on the Saturday night of Edge-Lit in a drunken stupor. I thought it was about time I had Rich over to the blog to prod and probe him about his writing and what makes his stories so bleak!
BtB: Thanks for stopping by. First of all, the floor is yours. Tell the readers a little or a lot about Rich Hawkins.
I live in the south west of England with my wife, my daughter and our pet dog. Between my duties of being a house husband and stay-at-home-dad, I write stories about horror and other nasty stuff. I like cheese, pizza, and Pot Noodles, but mainly cheese. Coffee flows in my veins. My favourite film is John Carpenter’s THE THING. My favourite book is THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy.
BtB: Where does your love of the written word come from?
I enjoyed reading stories when I was a child – the first novel I ever read was THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. I couldn’t tell you where my interest originated, but my father used to read a lot of books when I was young, so maybe he passed it on to me, in some way.
BtB: What was your first published story? Where was it? Who published it?
It was a short story called THE LOST, for an anthology published by Rainstorm Press in 2011. I have no idea if Rainstorm is still going, and I sometimes think of what happened to the press. The story was about an alien invasion from the viewpoint of a young family. My payment was a contributor’s copy.
BtB: I took a punt on your writing a couple of years back. It was with ‘Black Star Black Sun’ – your novella released through April Moon Books. I’d only recently discovered the small press and was on the lookout for some folky horror set in England. I heard Jim McLeod at Ginger Nuts of Horror talking about you and decided to give it a go. I bloody loved it. It was exactly the sort of book I was looking for and I soon picked up ‘The Last Plague’ from Crowded Quarantine Publications. It seems like some time ago that both of these books were released. You must have fond memories of holding ‘Black Star Black Sun’ and ‘The Last Plague’ in your hands. What have you learnt about yourself as a writer since those earlier publications and how do you feel you have improved?
Thanks, man – that’s very kind of you to say. It was a fantastic feeling to have those books published. THE LAST PLAGUE, being my debut novel, will always be special to me, and I can never thank Crowded Quarantine enough for taking a chance on me. Same goes to Neil Baker of April Moon Books, who did a great job of publishing BLACK STAR, BLACK SUN.
I’ve learnt a lot since that time. I was quite naïve at the start, and I thought that publishing was all sunbeams and pink unicorns, but in the last two years I’ve seen a lot of shit and I’m much more clued-up with that side of things. Hopefully I’ve improved my writing, but I guess that’s up to the readers to decide. Although I think my writing is much more concise and snappy than it was before. I’ve picked up a few good tips along the way, too.
BtB: ‘The Last Plague’ was nominated for a British Fantasy Award for Best Horror Novel in 2015! You must’ve been stoked about that?
I was delirious! Seriously, I had to keep checking to see if my nomination was a mistake. I remember phoning my wife and parents and telling them that I’d been nominated for an award that Stephen King had won several times! It was surreal, to say the least. There was a lot of pizza eaten that night, I can tell you.
BtB: Does Rich Hawkins have a writing routine? And if so, do you aim for a certain amount of words per day?
I try to aim for a minimum of one thousand words – two thousand, on a good day – and anything over that is a bonus. I don’t really have a routine; I just try to write whenever I get the chance. If I don’t reach my minimum then it tends to affect my mood. Strange, really.
BtB: Where does this bleakness in your writing come from? Is it a conscious decision to be this dark or is it a natural thing?
It’s just a natural thing. I never intentionally set out to make a story bleak. There’ve been a few reviewers on Amazon that haven’t liked the bleak tone of certain books – namely THE LAST OUTPOST and BLACK STAR, BLACK SUN. But that’s the way it goes. I don’t even think my stories are *that* bleak, apart from the two I just mentioned, and some of my more recent stories are a little less bleak, to be fair. Maybe I should put a warning on each front cover – WARNING! SOME SCENES ARE BLEAK.
BtB: March this year saw you wrap up the plague trilogy with ‘The Last Soldier’ – a trilogy of books that showed great progression in the writing of the characters and the vivid descriptions you portrayed. It must have been a little sad in a way to finish the final book, or was it a huge relief?
It was a bit of both, to be honest. It was a shame to leave that world behind. I just hope I gave it all a suitable ending. And you never know, I may return to that world one day…
BtB: Was it always destined to be a trilogy of books?
Sort of, in a way. I didn’t map out a storyline to encompass all three books, but I had a vague idea where to go. A lot of it depended on whether THE LAST PLAGUE did well…and it ended up doing pretty good.
BtB: I think it really says something about you that a press was willing to publish a trilogy of horror books! The covers for the books have been excellent and Crowded Quarantine Publications have done a great job with them.
Thanks, man. Crowded Quarantine has been brilliant and I couldn’t ask any more of them. Adam Millard, as well as being an awesome writer and all-round top bloke, is a genius with book covers.
BtB: Your writing output has certainly increased since ‘The Last Soldier’ with a series of novelettes and short stories being released. The ebook only format seems to be working well for you. Is there another novel or perhaps another trilogy in the works or will you be concentrating more on shorter stories for the immediate future?
At the moment I’m concentrating on a novel. The working title is THE RED GOD. That’s all I can say for now.
BtB: ‘The Plague Winter’ was a typically brilliantly bleak novella released through David Moody’s ‘Year of Zombie’ project that sees a new novella released every month from a different writer in the genre. How did this opportunity come about?
Infected Books contacted me and asked if I was interested in writing a novella. They explained the details of the project and what they had planned. I said yes immediately. David Moody is one of my literary heroes, so how could I say no? That’s been one of my best moments in my writing ‘career’ so far.
BtB: ‘King Carrion’ has recently been released through Sinister Horror Company. It is a vampire tale set in Southern England. What new flavor will Rich Hawkins be bringing to this genre favorite and how did you hook up with the SHC?
I’ll be bringing plenty of monstrous creatures and spilled blood. No brooding hunks or romance. My vampires are feral, vicious and merciless. I’ve known Daniel Marc Chant, Duncan Bradshaw and Justin Park for a little while now, and I’ve been really impressed by their work both as writers and publishers, so I thought the Sinister Horror Company would be a great place for KING CARRION. I approached them with the proposal and they agreed. Happy days.
BtB: What can we expect from Rich Hawkins in 2017?
A horror novel co-written with Daniel Marc Chant, called CARNIVOLES, which I’m really looking forward to. After that, hopefully the novel I’m currently working on, and maybe some short stories and a novella. Expect horror.
BtB: Some nonsense to finish things off…
BtB: Coffee or Tea?
Coffee. But I like tea as well.
BtB: Bourbons or Custard Creams?
Custard Creams. Delicious. But Bourbons are delicious too. Custard Creams just about edge it.
Edit: As a lifelong fan of the Bourbon biscuit, I feel I must disagree with Mr Hawkins decision.
BtB: Aliens or Predator?
Bloody hell, that’s a tough one. This is like choosing between my children. Aw, fuck it – Aliens.
BtB: Why do you support Tottenham Hotspur?
I’m not sure how it happened. We all make bad choices, right? Right…?
BtB: Will they (finally) finish above Arsenal in the Premier League?
Probably not. The bastards.
BtB: You are at a con with a table alongside the usual suspects. Outside the world has gone to hell, overrun by the living dead. You have been locked inside for days. Food and drink has all gone. Who do you decide to eat first and why?
It’d have to be the Sinister Horror Company. They’d be easy to trap, by luring them with old Mills and Boon paperbacks.
BtB: Unnamed writer (living or dead) asks you to collaborate on a novel. Who is it?
Edit: A wise choice. Herbert’s ‘The Rats’ was one of the books that got me into reading horror!
BtB: Where can the beautiful people find out about Rich Hawkins?
BtB: Despite Mr Hawkins often dark and horrific stories he really is a very nice chap. Thanks for stopping by
Cheers mate – great to talk to you, as always.