KENSINGTON GORE INTERVIEW WITH G.J. WOOD JAN 2016
Greetings dear viewer. I like to interview all our new writers, see the hunger in their eyes, the fire in those bellies and make sure they are up for the task so to speak.
I always like to make these interviews memorable and unique; as meeting me should always be!
Kind of like when they say, Where were you when Kennedy got shot? Don't worry I have an alibi. Or, where were you when man set foot on the moon?
I'll tell you that one when they finally do it! Neil Armstrong told me they mocked the moon landings up in a quarry in Hollywood; true fact!
Anyway, I was told by my PA to meet new horror writer G.J. Wood in a bull ring. A strange place to meet I thought, especially as the address he gave me seemed to be in the centre of Birmingham.
But along I toddled, suitably attired, in matador outfit and with a flowing red cape in hand. Assured in the knowledge that G.J. Wood wasn't going to give me any bull.
KG: Thank you for meeting me G.J. in the actual bull ring. Is this where they fight the Bulls? I saw a statue of a big black bull when I came in. But this seems to be very commercialised, nothing but retail and fast food outlets?
GJW: It used to be a real bullring, you know. Every Saturday, when the fruit & veg, fish, tat and chip stalls had finished trading, those with the lowest takings were forced to compete for their lives against enormous and chemically enraged bulls. The profits formed 75% of the city of Birmingham's income for their years 1951-1987. Powerful stuff. To my knowledge, the only reason it came to an end was the mewling of certain 'liberals' that argued that market-traders had as much right to life as everyone else. Crazy. That said, as a vegetarian who also gave up the consumption of human meat some years ago, I'm reasonably pleased they dispensed with all that. The gigantic science-enhanced bulls now occupy a section of nearby countryside dubbed 'The Bullocks', which is exactly what this answer is.
KG: Tell me about the Master's Marionettes and how long have you been a puppeteer?
GJW: I began exploiting strangers via the dark arts about... wait, I've said too much. Look into my eyes and forget everything you just heard...
The Master's Marionettes is my debut full-length novel release. It's the second (or third if I count an aborted attempt about seven years ago) full-length novel. The novel came about in a couple of different ways... Firstly, it was a bit of an expression of anger and frustration, being entirely truthful. The novel I'd completed before The Master's Marionettes, called The Malignant Man, had taken me eighteen months and meant a great deal to me. I took it to endless amounts of agents and publishers, most of whom came back to me positively, but with the '...it's not quite for us...' coda in their responses. That's okay, I thought, so what can I do to change it in a way that you'd consider? I would ask, obviously keeping my precious and murderous traits as a typically sensitive writer hidden behind a wide and extremely fake grin. Some came back with comments and suggestions, which I took on-board and one even recommended a rewrite of the opening section, which I did, only for them to pass in any case. By 'pass', I mean ignore the second submission and follow-ups Now, I'm a patient man; level-headed - in a way, and these aren't bullet-holes in my ceiling, they're eco-friendly light-tunnels...created with a shotgun... So, I thought 'okay, publishing world, alright, my friends, OKAY, you want to see what I can do, huh? You want to see how angry and depraved I can get? Okay...' so, I set about a furious seven-month endeavour in writing a novel that that was part a response to the frustration of the hoops I jumped through (the idea of someone controlling you, making you change things in a way that didn't seem right, etc) and, secondly, I wanted to put something out that I'd enjoy reading, with no other prerequisite for the work. I had a great deal of fun creating and manoeuvring characters that were, in part, throwbacks to old horror, that I adore, such as Hammer and the works of Poe and Lovecraft, as well as melding them and their situation with my natural writing which, I feel, ranges across a number of genres, owing much to the varied influences that set me on this road. Above all, I hope that The Master's Marionettes is a book that all who read can enjoy for a variety of reasons.
KG: Well that's my twenty questions about Sooty up the swanny then! Are you sure you're not Mathew Corbett? You know in a certain light you look just like him.
GJW: He's probably got a few less tattoos.
KG: Don't worry I'm a professional I've worked with Rod Hull & Emu and lived to tell the tale for God's sake, I can wing it, so to speak.
The cover of your book is very simple and striking, No glove puppets on it at all, are you thinking of getting it tattooed somewhere about your person?
GJW: Funny you should say that... I have a few tattoos, predominately on my right arm and neck, and promised myself that I would use my left arm to catalogue my releases; elements of their covers, the release dates and so on. Of course, I hope that there are so many releases that I cover far more flesh than my own, eventually having to advertise for a 'skin assistant' who is willing to take the ink for which I no longer have room, then accompany me at all times, as an extension of my own scribbled meat.
I liked the design of the cover immediately. It's a fine addition to the overall theme of the marionettes. If you, my kind and venerable publisher, can remove yourself from the back of that bull statue for just a moment, I'd like to shake your hand for the cover, the patience and the overall advice and support that fed into the creation of the end product: The Master's Marionettes.
KG: You're welcome dear boy. How long have you been interested in horror and when did you start writing it?
GJW: Ever since that first night in the old house when we summoned the terrible spirit of - wait! Is this still on? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...
As a child I found horror more exciting than anything else. I'd stay up late and watch the midnight double-bills of old Hammer and Universal Monsters on TV. They were and still are incredible. There's often more imagination, more feeling and more creativity in a great horror film than anywhere else. I still feel very much that way, though maybe I look at films and literature on a slightly different way; being jaded with age like every other meat-puppet on the planet. Like most people, I've drudged through various phases and fads, but horror's always been a constant, both in film and literature. It may have started with The Wolf Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Devil Rides Out and so on, but that worked its way into the work of John Carpenter, particularly The Thing, Assault on Precinct Thirteen (which I see as a horror movie), into the work of Cronenberg, like Videdrome, to films that I'm still finding and being blown away by, like the Giallos of Italian horror, or films like From Beyond and Society, or the horror of Romero, especially Dawn of the Dead, and anything in which I find an underlying current of social commentary or satire.
As far as when I started writing horror... I think much of my work followed themes that I'd read by Burroughs and Kafka, or J G Ballard; speculative fiction and agents of control. That may not have come across as horror in the obvious sense, but the more my work developed, the more I found that it was a mixture of humour and horror, no matter how satirical or absurd it was. When I think back, I realise that the first story I can remember writing in my life (huddled on my Masters of the Universe quilt circa 1986 Birmingham), when I was about 8 years old, was a horror story. I guess I've been at it as long as I can recall.
KG: Which writers have inspired you to write horror?
GJW: Consciously, thinking of them as 'horror writers', I think the likes of Poe, Wheatley Clive Barker and Stephen King are the more apparent horror inspirations for me. Like I say, I think there are influences of a horror type throughout the work of other writers who I love, like Bradbury, Ballard, Burroughs and many others, but the classics; Poe, Barker et al, they are hard to beat as flat-out mind-blowing perfect examples of how to get it done. The first horror book I read was Cabal by Clive Barker. Thinking back to it now, It was probably the earliest example I came across of a book that was as much about non-horror as it was about horror in the conventional sense. It was fantastic, in the dictionary way, an explosion of imagination that explored relationships, belonging, prejudice and persecution, all rolled into a book that contained some of the most frightening beasts (human and otherwise) that I have come across in literature.
KG: My wife inspired me to write horror, she still does when I see her first thing without her make-up off! Scary sight I can tell you.
What scares you?
GJW: I think the issue with your wife could be remedied by the introduction of a crash helmet with the visor painted black...from the outside or, in a fairer consideration of the problem, a tacit agreement with her that you will have separate bedrooms and, under no circumstances, meet face-to-face until noon.
I think the most frightening thing for me is the idea of being controlled against your will, or manipulated into something terrible without the slightest idea of what's happening. I tried to feed that into The Master's Marionettes and hope that people see the fear in being manipulated and forced into something far better avoided. Aside from that, I hate the idea of being trapped, physically or mentally. Stories that involve people being sealed up in walls (Poe) or on trial for something that didn't even know they'd done (Kafka) give me the chills for sure.
KG: You're not a shy and retiring type. You've performed your work poems, stories, how has that went in the past and do you plan to do that with your novel?
GJW: I do have my moments of withdrawal, but no, on the whole, I like to get out there and perform my work. Shows that I've done in the past - from poetry gigs with a jazz and hip-hop collective I formed called The Blue City Project - to the reading of short stories have always gone pretty well. I've been fortunate in that the crowds (not always in a large enough number to be considered a crowd, although 'three's a crowd', right?) have been there to listen to what I was there to do. They wanted to hear short stories, or poems and that meant that I felt completely welcome to offer them something that I hoped they'd enjoy. I plan to tour and perform wherever I can, with both the novel and short stories, so please, anyone reading this, keep a keen eye out, as I could appear from almost anywhere...
KG: You've wrote quite a few short stories too, collection due out in 2016 from Kensington Gore Publishing, yes folks you read it here first! What do you prefer shorts or as my wife prefers something longer?
A group of strangers inexplicably linked are drawn to a strange dark place like marionettes with hidden strings.
Boyd Shingles; a middle-aged property dealer, has been duped into purchasing The Red house. Far away from the city in the midst of desolate rural shadows, he meets the disfigured and murderous Mr Clay.
Clay has no memory of his life before the Red House. He's being instructed by the voices coursing though the old, web-woven building. He's assembled a tableau of mutilated victims.
Cullen, a former henchman manipulated and tortured by the puppeteer.
Abbott, an old fisherman and his granddaughter, Lily, have also been drawn into the horrible show by The Master of the Marionettes himself, Leopold Carr.
Carr is a malevolent occultist committed to violent and perverse sacrificial tributes.
No one is safe when the Master of the Marionettes pulls his strings and brings forth a long-forgotten evil that will change their world forever...
G J Wood's debut novel The Master's Marionettes is a tour de force of dark modern horror. You'll not be able to put this book down.
The Master's Marionettes; horror WITH strings attached.
GJW: GJW: I love the short story form. It's perfect to be able to express even the most absurd or unusual idea and, as a reader, some of the most powerful and memorable things I've read in my life have been short stories. That being said, there's something incredible about writing a novel; knowing that you can develop a character or an idea with as much freedom (assuming that your editor doesn't think you've taken a u-turn up your own jacksy) as you like. To see a work of far longer length come together successfully is - for me - mind-blowing. I'd struggle to pick one over the other now, so, thinking as a reader, there are times that I prefer one over the other, but they both mean a great deal to me. As for what (your wife) prefers, I believe that there are devices, pumps and so on, that could assist with her preferences...
KG: There's an art to a good short. Do you have more novels in the pipeline a sequel perhaps?
GJW: There is an art to them indeed.
I've a couple of new full-length projects in the pipeline, including, as you have nicely inferred, a sequel to The Master's Marionettes. I always envisaged there being more to the characters and the story than is contained in the first book. There are questions I purposely asked in the novel that I hope cause the readers to think and want to know more about the characters and their pasts/futures. I hope it comes to that, as I have some ideas that I think can open up the world of The Master's Marionettes in ways that people may not expect at all. I also have a bunch of new short stories (at least in note form) that I am working through slowly, though this whole 'twenty four hours in a day' thing has got to go. I need at least thirty-six, maybe forty per day to get through everything I want. If there was some way to eliminate sleep. Do you know of any? Can I live through them? please let me know...PLEASE.
KG: What I've read of your work it's very dark in places but it has a sense of humour. Is comedy important to you and who makes you laugh?
GJW: Humour is very important to me...seriously important, you might say. Yes, I think there's humour in almost everything. It can be found in the strangest places and, when things often seem at their worst, I've found that people can surprise you with left-field comedy you didn't see coming at all.
As for what makes me laugh... Man, that's hard to put into an answer! The comedy writing of people like Chris Morris (Jam and Brass Eye) never fails to ruin me when I watch his shows. Then there is the humour found in the writing of people like William Burroughs. I'm a sucker for old slapstick like Laurel and Hardy too. That whole vaudevillian tradition of stunts and pratfalls is pure gold when done right. Then there are some of the great b-movies of the 80's, like From Beyond (if you haven't seen it, check it out) where there is a line, said in all seriousness (with a touch of tongue in cheek), that has me rolling round like a drunken fool: 'he bit off his head...LIKE A GINGERBREAD MAN!' Maybe it's me, but that kills every time.
KG: Your books and stories are very visual, could you see them being made into films and if so who would you like to direct that you admire their work? Present company excepted of course?
GJW: Yes, very much so. I think I see what I write as I'm doing it, not just in a way that helps me describe it, but in a way where I imagine seeing it on TV or at the cinema. I sincerely hope that I can get The Master's Marionettes converted to a screenplay in the near future and believe that it has the legs to appear on screen in some way...at least I think so. If it was down to me to pick who directed it, hmmm... your lack of availability aside, which I hope isn't owing to incarceration, i'd like to see it in the hands of someone like John Carpenter or Tom Savini (whose work from acting, FX and directing I'd loved for as long as I can remember), or, if we went British, then i'd be into the idea of Shane Meadows or Paddy Considine, produced by Hammer of course. If there's any way of resurrecting Hitchcock...
KG: Have you learned a lot as a writer now you are published?
GJW: It's hard to fully explain just how much I've learned since publication. Every phase I've been though since we signed that contract in our blood has been incredible. Truthfully, everything from the initial edit through to all the nuances of the process that leads to publication and, of course, what I'm continuing to learn each day following the release of the book has been invaluable and exceptionally interesting. It's a process that surprises me regularly. As a writer, you think that it's all done when you think you've finished the book, but that's nowhere near close to being true. The work that follows, with an editor (mine was exceptional and great to work with), with your publisher and now - for me - with a publicist, working on promotion, is demanding but completely worthwhile.
KG: Where do you see your writing leading you in the future? What are your dreams and aspirations?
GJW: There's only one outcome that I'm working towards. I need my writing to achieve a level of success that allows me devote all possible time to it. In short, I need to make it my sole output, in terms of a living, allowing me to shed the day job, as it were, and focus of writing and releasing every last tale I can muster. To have achieved publication is a success, a huge success for me, however, I need to keep that momentum going; to take this as far as it can possibly go. I've wanted this for what seems like my entire life and will do whatever I can - satanic pacts and deals with the Tories aside - to achieve this.
KG: You are a young writer, well compared to me everyone is. But what advice would you give to any young writer just starting out say?
GJW: At thirty-seven, to be considered 'young' at anything is refreshing, so thanks for that. The only advice I have is to keep going; to never stop, to never slow down. No matter what happens, no matter what responses you get, or don't get, shrug it off, put it out of your mind and get back to it. Never let up, never give up, never allow someone else to derail where you want to get. Also, write everything down that comes into your mind; keep it somewhere and even what seems worthless at the first viewing can turn into something far greater down the line.
It's been a pleasure speaking to you Gareth. You are thoroughly splendid young chap, a great writer And that's no bull.
KG: one last question; When do they start the bull run in here?
Do they come out of that butcher's across the way or is that where they bloody end up?
GJW: Thanks KG. To see you in Birmingham, in the daylight, is quite something. You're an inspiration to every single one us that keeps chipping away until we get to the bone. Much obliged.
As for the bulls... they're coming again, can you hear them? Their hooves are rattling down the wide shop-ridden walkways like the thud of incoming military forces. Some are coming from the farms, others are smashing through the windows of the panicked butchers, shanks partially removed, their eyes wide with rage and confusion. They can't tell that i'm a vegetarian, nor do they know that you are the venerable Kensington Gore! Accordingly, my good man, we must go our separate ways and find shelter wherever we can, staying hidden until this stampede massacre is done! Until the next time...
So, the bull ring is a shopping centre?
I've wasted money hiring this bloody matador outfit?
Bugger it I'm keeping it on the rest of the day. Get my money's worth by doing some bloody publicity shots.
Could get my wife Marge to dress as a bull. Staple some horns to her head No one would notice the bloody difference.
G.J. Wood's debut novel The Master's Marionettes is available here.
For further news and features about G.J. Wood look here:
KG: How would you best describe A Spaghetti Junction of the Mind as a poetry collection?
G.J.W: It's very much as the title suggests; a mix of thoughts and feelings recorded over the years. Some of the poems within the collection are brand new, whereas others date back a few years. My style can veer a little towards the surreal, but there are tight concise pieces in there too. I love the freedom of poetry; the sheer breadth of expression. I hope that comes across.
KG: It's inspired by your home town of Birmingham; how does this city speak to you and inspire you so?
G.J.W: It just feels natural to write about your home, where you're based and your history. I have lived in other places; towns, cities and countries and have written about them, but Birmingham has always been home and somehow I can both adore and loathe it at times. A typical affair. To see the city change and develop over the years is quite incredible, but it makes me long for things lost now, hence the wistful yarns in the book. That said, it energises me, the city. There have been times when I've felt empty of ideas, or of stories, and I have just headed out into the city, drank or chatted and strolled about and it comes back again. Ugly or otherwise.
KG: When did you first start writing poetry?
G.J.W: Somewhere around seventeen or eighteen years of age. It was shite. It got better. I hope.
KG: Who are your favourite poets?
G.J.W: There's a few that I go back to time and time again. Charles Bukowski is where it's at for me. The sheer reality of it. It's brutal and sexual, violent and tragic, sometimes absolutely hilarious. I am jealous of his output, his mind and his balls. Then there's Lawrence Ferlinghetti. His work is beautiful and considered; truly stunning. In fact, it's actually a riff on the title of one of his collections; A Coney Island of the Mind, that led to the title of my collection. Philip Larkin and Dylan Thomas complete the quartet of essentials for me. Thomas' dramatic and vivid work is something to behold. Once read, absolutely never forgotten. As for Larkin, even those who shy away from poetry could read The Witsun Weddings and be utterly enthralled and entertained. A truly sardonic and observant writer.
KG: Do you have a favourite poem of your own and of other famous poets?
G.J.W: I don't have a favourite of my own as such, although there are some that have a very deep significance to me, so they perhaps resonate more. In the collection, these would include 'To see them all again', 'Mariposa' and 'The City was a dream I had...' As for favourites by others it is very hard to pinpoint an actual piece, but I can certainly name a few collections that are important to me. 'A Far Rockaway of the Heart' by Ferlinghetti, The Whitsun Weddings by Larkin, then pretty much anything by Bukowski, with 'Love is a Dog from Hell' as a special collection, as it was the first of his I read. There's a poem in there called 'Trying to get even' which always puts a smile on my face.
KG: Do you have time for poems that do not rhyme?
G.J.W: I've got time for anything as long as it's true and comes from the gut. That may sound a little crass, but I just mean that I like something that's authentic to the person that has written it, not someone trying to sound like another writer and losing their identity in the process.
KG: Do you plan to write and publish more poetry collections with KGHH Publishing?
G.J.W: I have quite the back catalogue of poetry and continue to write it quite often still so, yes, I can't see why not...unless this collection is roundly hated and used as kindling or doorstops.