06 March 2011

Author Interview - Greg Chapman

Today, I'm interviewing fellow Damnation Books author, Greg Chapman. His book, Torment, was released on March 1st.

  • Greg, tell us a bit about yourself.
Wow, how do I put the last 35 years into words? Seriously I’m driven by a very vivid imagination. When I’m not working in marketing for the Department Education I’m thinking about short stories, or novels or graphic novels. It’s been with me ever since I was a kid, so I guess I’m still a kid at heart (my wife would definitely agree). Having two fiery red-haired daughters has probably made me worse in fact. Professionally, I was a reporter on three newspapers across Queensland for eight years.
  •  As a child, what did you want to do when you grow up?
Becoming an author is a dream come true, literally. Probably from the age of seven or eight I started to draw – no one else in my direct family can draw so no one knows where it came from. I was into comics (Superman was my fave  - but I’m into more “mature” stuff now) and Doctor Who (still love it). I created my own comics (I had one called “Flare” about a guy who came from the Sun) and over time and practice my drawing ability became more refined. The writing and the drawing went hand in hand. I got a diploma in graphic design so the drawing side of things was the priority for many years after high school.
  • When and why did you begin writing?
It was just like a switch came on inside my head. I got my first comic and I thought I can do this and I did. I just loved the idea of telling stories and people – especially my late mother – encouraged me to keep at it.
  • When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The actual hard fiction writing began in high school as part of my English classes. I recall my teacher encouraging me. After the graphic design career I met my future wife and she was studying at university and I thought about studying journalism. This eventually became a reality and a job that I held for about eight years. In between, I dabbled with stories, still drawing and writing, but never trying to submit anything. I moved back to my home town in 2008 and I found I didn’t want to be a journalist anymore. I joined a small writers group and heard about the Australian Horror Writers Association.
  • What inspired you to write your first book?
After joining the AHWA I was selected into its mentor program under the tutelage of amazing Aussie horror author Brett McBean. During that time I had my first short story published in the US e-mag The Absent Willow Review – a vampire tale entitled Precious Blood. This was a real boost and I started on a novella called The Noctuary – a tale about a writer who finds his muse is real and is demonic. Within that story was another story – Torment. Brett advised me to separate the two tales – that Torment was good enough to stand alone. Now Torment is about to be published. Maybe The Noctuary will be too.
  • Do you have a specific writing style?
It’s hard to narrow it down really. I like third and first person narration. I like to describe and build dread, but I also know you have to keep it tight. I like mysteries and I work very hard to try and keep the suspense going for the reader. Visceral horror also appeals to me…that thing you don’t want to look at, but can’t turn away from. I think that comes from my very early childhood fear of the dark. I was also exposed to a few horror films, like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street by my older brothers and cousins.
  • What books have influenced your life the most?
One of my subjects at uni was Literary Theory and it was boring – until we began to read classic fiction. Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher was one of the first horror tales I ever read and the darkness in it infected me. Over the last few years I have read a lot of Clive Barker and I’d say he was a major influence – so the Books of Blood and Weaveworld obviously struck a chord with me.
  • If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
As I said I did have a mentor in Brett McBean, but many other Aussie writers have supported me along the way. It’s like one big happy, scary, dark, extended family. But I’d love to meet Clive Barker and learn a few of his trade secrets. Maybe one day???? If I’m lucky??? Please???
  • What book are you reading now?
The Fall (the second part of The Strain trilogy) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It’s brilliant – how all great vampire tales should be.
  • Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I can create worlds quite well, but getting the dialogue right and natural is always a challenge.
  • How long does it take you to write a book?
I probably wrote the very first draft of Torment in about nine months. I wrote a novel in six months, but it was clear that I’d rushed it.
  • What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I write and draw at night (when my kids are in bed)
  • What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
If it’s a long story I have to handwrite the first draft. I find the story flows out of me better (and I’m a crap typist).
  • Where do you get your ideas for your books from?
My head is full of weird and wonderful ideas and I always write them down (my wife finds my notes everywhere). Sometimes I’ll go looking for obscure words to inspire me.
  • What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Draw and play with my kids. Read.
  • What does your family think of your writing?
My wife is very supportive of me, but she doesn’t like horror stories and that’s OK. My kids are too young to read my stories, but I’ll be putting away a few copies for them to read when they are older. My other brothers are proud of me, my dad too. I’m most grateful that I was able to tell my mum about my acceptance with Damnation Books before she passed away from breast cancer. When Torment comes out it will be a few weeks before the first anniversary of her death. A lot of good things have happened to me since she passed and I know she has been keeping an eye on me. I dedicated Torment to her.
  • How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
I’d have to say yes. I grew up in a Catholic household and given my first short story was about a priest and a vampire and Torment is about exorcisms and demons and a deacon’s daughter… well need I say more?
  • What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Horror and dark fantasy obviously.
  • Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
Sometimes. Usually I put the story down and draw or find something else to do.
  • What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Story is the key with any story…and in a horror story? Building that sense of dread.
  • What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Oxford English Dictionary. The Elements of Style by E B White. For Horror – Barker, King, Laymon, Piccirilli, Ramsey Campbell, Lindqvuist, Richard Matheson any and all horror authors.
  • What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
I reckon most of my ideas are waking dreams.
  • What interests you about the horror genre?
Horror fiction is a genre unlike any other because it covers the whole gamut of human emotions, philosophy, faith and you can take your characters to the edge of insanity and choose to push them off or pull them back.
  • What draws people to horror novels? Why do we, as readers, like to be scared?
It’s a primal instinct I think. It reminds you you’re alive and no other emotion can fully affect you – body and mind – like horror and terror can.
  • Why should fans of horror movies read horror books?
Because the majority of the time the books are so much better than the film and also the imagery in the film takes away a reader’s ability to imagine.
  • The perception of the horror writer is that he/she is just a little bit weirder than most. Do you find yourself — and other horror writers — to be more idiosyncratic than the average person?
People do look at me funny when I say I write horror and I’m sure they wonder what I do at night. I just try and explain that I just like to tell stories and share the fear around. It’s just a story people. It’s a natural emotion to feel scared.
  • Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Torment is a supernatural horror tale. It’s about a young woman trying to find the truth about her mother’s death during an apparent exorcism. It also jumps back to her childhood throughout. Fundamentally it’s about love and dying and good and evil.
  • How did you come up with the title for your book?
Torment just made sense because it’s about this woman’s lifelong torment. The torment of losing her mother, of not knowing the truth, of believing her father – a man of God – may be responsible.
  • Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hope the message is clear. I’ll leave that up to the reader.
  • Are there parts of the book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
No.
  • If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The story was different to start with as it had been incorporated into another work. The form it’s in now is where it needs to be.
  • What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Going back and reinventing it…making it a story on its own.
  • Is there anything additional you would like to share with your readers?
I just hope they enjoy the story and feel something from it. I hope they think it’s good enough to read my work again in the future.
  • Where can we find you online?
You can find Torment in these places:
or 

Greg, thank you so much for visiting us. We hope to see you again, and good luck with Torment.

About Greg Chapman:
Greg Chapman is an emerging author of dark fiction and freelance horror artist. Torment is his first novella length work, but he has also had short stories published in The Absent Willow Review. His horror comic art has appeared in Midnight Echo Magazine and he recently signed a contract with McFarland Publishers to illustrate a non-fiction graphic novel written by Horror Writers Association president Rocky Wood and Bram Stoker award-winning author Lisa Morton.