I love writing. But, guess what? I love reading too. To paraphrase Stephen King, you can’t expect to write well if you don’t read wide.
After all, the nuances of horror can occur in the most conservative genres. Take Chapter Twelve of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, which – coincidentally – talks of the death of a local, esteemed writer whose viscera is disrespectfully dumped into a gulch by the doctor-come-embalmer, only to have a young kid use the liver for chum and the intestines dragged through the streets by a mangy cur. The horror of the human condition in the images conjured by Steinbeck as human guts become playthings for the living, has stayed with me for many years.
But I have found that the idea of a contemporary literary icon creating such a ghastly image is, perhaps, alien to the general masses. It is a great illustration as to how the broadening your reading can have influence on your output as a writer. And, as such, the stories that you write.
It has been said that I am able to say much with only a few sentences. Not my words, but those of reviewers of my work. I take this as a complement like no other, and again attribute this to Steinbeck’s influence in books such as Cannery Row and Of Mice and Men. The latter book runs at approximately one hundred and twenty-one pages in the edition I own, but those few pages create atmosphere and define characters that would stay in the minds of multiple generations in a way no six hundred page opus ever could.
Such is the power of the word. Such as the power of reading wide.
“So where are you going with this, fella?” I’m hearing folk say. Well the link is perhaps tenuous yet it is still a link. And the link is the use of few words to tell tales.
The link is the short story. See? Seamless. Well, not quite but it does allow me to talk about the imminent release of my Campfire Chillers collection at October’s Fantasy Con 2011 in Brighton, UK.
The book contains thirteen stories of ghosts, horror and the supernatural. It was originally written with the UK Scouting Association in mind, but that particular organisation turned it down, despite their praise for its content, because they felt it was “too unsettling” for their readership.
Instead, DCP took it on, shaped it sprinkled their magic on it and “pow!” – it is now ready for Fantasy Con 2011. I have tried to use few words to tell tall tales, using the breadth of contemporary fiction to inform the darkness with those pages DCP have lovingly pulled together. It is my homage to my hero, a kind of Frankensteinbeck, if you will.
Now that the release date for Campfire Chillers is almost upon us, I can’t help but see possible pasts becoming plausable futures. I’m sure Frankensteinbeck would have something to say about that as a concept.
Only a few words, mind.
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