Released back in 2012 by Severed Press, ‘Starers’ saw author Nat Robinson take an ordinary family and put them into an extraordinary situation where complete strangers and neighbors stand outside of the Keene house simply staring at them. Weird huh? very cool though. ‘Starers’ is a fast-paced and darkly humorous book that typifies Robinson’s writing style and today Nathan is going to tell us the story behind the story of ‘Starers’.
Recently, Nathan released his latest book through Severed Press, a dinosaur thriller called ‘Caldera’, but it’s his novella ‘Ketchup on Everything’ that is my favorite Robinson read along with ‘Starers’. Nathan is always a big part of the convention circuit in the UK and it seems not a weekend goes by without him popping up at a horror con. I was fortunate to meet up with him when I visited the UK in July at Edge-Lit where I picked up a signed copy of ‘Ketchup on Everything’. I urge you to get a copy for yourself, it is superb.
‘Starers’ is a great place to start with Nathan Robinson’s writing. Despite being his first published novel it shows a talent for the written word and his engaging delivery is sure to continue to win over new readers. It is a highly original read that gets the GRIM READER’S stamp of approval. Thanks heaps to Nat for this great piece. Links to where you can find out more about his work are at the bottom of the article.
Enjoy, and don’t forget, they’re watching you…
I’ll start at the beginning. The genesis, as it were. Where did Starers come from? That would make sense right, where the inspiration first struck, that point where the fork of hot lightning first touched the terra firma of my imagination.
In about 2008, before I’d even had a short story published, I was squatting in a house that my father and I had refurbished into a livable condition (the legal term is Adverse Possession, which is a story title in itself). The garden was about forty feet long, bordered by a fence and a large field of grass behind that ran the length of the rest of houses on my stretch of the street.
The one night I had a dream about opening the curtains and seeing a little girl in the back garden, just staring at the house.
Then she tried to get in.
But she never did. The dream continued, becoming my first recurring nightmare. Every time, the same girl trying different ways of getting into the house; banging on the windows, rattling the doors, to no avail.
I’ve moved house twice since then, moving into a new home, with shiny windows that reflect on the outside, letting those inside look out like detectives viewing a suspect through a one way mirror.
Now our house is tall and new. It stands out against the other homes on the street like a sore thumb, so we’ve become accustomed to folk walking past our houses, pointing and nodding, couples clearly commenting on such a fine house (it is a fine house). So we can see the people looking in, but they can’t see us. We don’t mind, I’m proud of our house. I helped build it. I don’t mind showing it off.
Across the road from our house is a bus stop, so again, we’ll have people stood directly across the road from us, sometimes staring at the house as they wait for the bus to arrive.
So, one dark and stormy night (okay it was starting to drizzle), an old man is stood at the bus stop. I noticed him as I head upstairs to put my children to bed, and when I came back down half an hour later, he’s still stood there, at the bus stop in the rain.
I go to close the curtains and notice he’s staring at the house, his suit soaking, and I wonder to myself as I draw the curtains, what if he’s still stood there in the morning…?
My mind span. What if he was still there in the morning? What if he wasn’t alone? What if others joined him? What if more and more people joined until it became a crowd, all staring at my house.
That’s how most stories bloom in my head. That first hook of electricity, that explodes through my synapses like a billowing fungus into various what ifs and how’s and whys in every direction. I ask myself, what would I do? Would I call the police or my family first? Would I try to talk to them? Reason with them?
This is a good hook. This is a good start to a story. And I think of the little girl, trying to get into the house, and wonder how she fits into all of this?
But if they start attacking the house, it’s just like every other zombie siege horror. What if they don’t try to get in? What if they just stare…?
That’s it. That’s what they do. Strength in numbers. They form a wall. No flesh eaters. Literal zombies, not traditional (I once got a bad review from a reader who says I lied to her “I bought this book at a convention after a brief chat with the author under the guise that it had zombies. Spoiler alert; they aren’t zombies. He lied about that but never mind…”, I now realise her spectrum of zombies is a lot narrower than mine.)
I wanted a family; not warring military types armed to teeth. I wanted everyday people, no guns. Because that would have been too easy. So I created the dysfunctional Keene family (I was reading a lot of Brian Keene at the time) The reliable Dylan (his parents named him after Bob), his comedy relief brother Lennon (after John, their parents were music fans) Dylan’s wife, Kirsty (the seemingly grounded one) and the Keene’s daughter Lucy (in the Sky with Diamonds. I wanted another Beatles-esque reference with a quote from McCartney’s “Let ‘Em In” at the start, but the publisher persuaded me against it. It’s a creepy song if you think of it with Starers in mind)
I also crammed in as many references to some of my favorite films, if anyone can spot them all, they get a prize.
I’d sold my first short on my first try. The Chicken in Black won first prize over at Spinetinglers and I even took £100 to the bank for my effort. This was the first point I realized I could really have a chance at becoming a writer. My thirtieth birthday was approaching, so I made it goal to have a book deal by that date. I completed Starers and sent it Severed Press, whose anthology, Dead Bait I was enjoying at the time. They said they loved and sent me a contract. I signed it and sent it back two days before my thirtieth birthday.
I’m immensely proud of Starers (or Kindred, as it was originally called). I still get emails and people coming up to me at conventions saying how it freaked them out or gave them nightmares. It’s got a 4/5 rating on Amazon.com, 4.4/5 on Amazon.co.uk. Fans keep asking for a sequel, and I’ve listened and started one, but it’ll still be another year or before I iron out the creases and become happy with a plot.
But there are other plans afoot. When I wrote Starers, I imagined it as a film, and a future project of mine, is to get it scripted. But that’s the future, and I’ve still got about ten more books on my mind between now and then.
Horror author Nathan Robinson lives in Scunthorpe with his darling six year old twin boys and his patient wife/editor.
So far he’s had numerous short stories published bywww.spinetinglers.co.uk, Rainstorm Press, Knight Watch Press, Pseudopod, The Horror Zine, The Sinister Horror Company, Static Movement, Splatterpunk Zine and many more.
He writes best in the dead of night or travelling at 77mph.
He has just completed his next novel “Caldera” and is currently working on his next novels, “Death-Con 4” and a sequel to “Starers.”