KG: But Worse Will Come, is your first novella with KGHH Publishing, what can you tell us about the story arc without too many spoilers of course?
CC ADAMS: Sure. It’s actually the sequel to a short story Sunset Is Just The Beginning, which is set some thirty years or so earlier. In the short story, one Theo Papakostas was fortunate enough to survive a childhood horror. The title of the two stories together describe the whole arc: sunset is just the beginning …but worse will come.
KG: I’d like to get a deeper understanding of your writing, what writing inspires you and what do you enjoy most about your writing?
CC ADAMS: Ah, man - now that is a heady question! I guess one of the things that will inspire me is to write something that I’d want to read.
Writing that inspires me? As a rule of thumb, I pick Michael Crichton as a go-to. Not only because he had a sense of visuals, action, suspense and intrigue – but also for the rationale he wove into his work. Didn’t matter if it was something like Jurassic Park or Timeline (which are some of my favourite works by him). What he would do was blend that level of rationale and detail into his work – and it was damn near seamless.
Incidentally, I have to cite him for one of my favourite book prologues, and that’s the one to Jurassic Park – The Bite Of The Raptor. The reason why I mark this out here is because opinion is divided on whether a story ‘should' have a prologue or not. I’ve had peers and other people ask me this as well. Personally, I feel what should be done is what fits the story for that author. Me? I love prologues. The same way I love a quote at the start of a tale. It’s the hors d’oeuvre: the sampler that gives you a taste of what’s to come in the tale.
What do I enjoy most about writing? Ahhhh… you know, I don't think there’s just one thing I enjoy. I can tell you what I do enjoy though! Finishing a draft: that’s always good. Engaging and entertaining the audience is also cool, as well as humbling. See, when I write, I have a go-to team of beta readers. They've been with me since I first put in work in an online writing group – or OWG, as it was known. Now they already know the kind of sensibility I have when it comes to fiction. A sense of eerie and horrific. So, catching them off-guard or creeping them out? That’s also cool.
And that’s the bottom line: I want to tell those tales that will engage the reader. Unsettle them. And maybe even scare the shit outta them.
KG: What are your strengths in your writing style, what makes you stand out from other writers?
CC ADAMS: Strengths? A sense of visuals, pace, etc. I’d like to think my writing as a whole is strong. But then I just write it. Probably best to ask peers, reviewers and readers, et al, just what those strengths would be.
What makes me stand out from other writers? Mmmmm I’m a black man born and raised in London, and proud to call the capital home. I have West Indian heritage (from Barbados, FYI), but I’ve lived in Tyne & Wear for a couple of years when I was at uni. Not many black people around then: so, have also seen the uglier side of human nature, such as racism. I’ve been fortunate to travel to a number of countries and meet a range of people. I lift weights, practise kung fu, play bass. That and more.
The reason why I outline it like this is because those are just some of my experiences that make up who I am. So, what you might see in my work – but not necessarily recognise – is a London view through my eyes. And most of my work is set in London.
KG: Flipside, what writing weakness do you have or parts of your writing you’d like to work on and improve?
CC ADAMS: I’d like to think that in a number of things, not just writing, that I don’t sit idle. That I don’t get complacent. As such, I have an eye on elevating my craft. At least 10 years in the game so far. I’d like to think that I'll carry the same mindset another 10 years and more. That means elevating and improving all of it.
KG: Do you think very visually in your writing style?
CC ADAMS: Good question! I do think visually, but not necessarily in the same way every time. One of the first stories I ‘sold’ was I Wouldn’t Let You Die. I say ‘sold’ because the payment was exposure. Anyhow. This story about a girl who sees a scarecrow in a field. I researched pest control, crop rotation, etc. – I think I set this story in America's Deep South or somewhere. Anyhow. I wanted to get as much a feel for the setting as I could. So I found a picture of a scarecrow. Found a picture of a wheat field at dawn – sunrise in the distance and everything. Found a YouTube video of wind blowing through a field. All to help place me in the story. The irony is that for all the time it took searching for those elements, when I wrote the story, I got it down in one take – in less than an hour.
Now when I’m writing, it's not always the same approach, but there may be elements of it. I may look for pictures of people or places to help me visualise a setting. I might pull up an audio track of traffic, or running water, or whatever: again, to help visualise the scene. Similarly, if there’s the smell of vinegar or whatever, I might take a whiff firsthand. So yeah, I do have a visual sensibility.
In some instances, there’s also a cinematic sensibility. There’s a scene near the end in John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, where the survivors realise that Blair’s been busy. When Nauls asks, ‘where was he trying to go?’ Macready says, ‘Anywhere but here.’ And then you see the camera pan throughout the complex. There are some instances in my work where I bring that cinematic sensibility: to give you a sense of the camera panning around a setting. To give you a sense of isolation. Or concealment. Or dread. Or whatever. All tools to be used in the storytelling.
KG: What writers have inspired you and do you closely akin yourself to?
CC ADAMS: Again, Michael Crichton is probably the go-to in terms of the inspiration. Kelley Armstrong for the Otherworld series and giving a number of authors an online writing group (OWG) to hone their craft. Brian Keene for the blunt and visceral narrative he brought to the table. To date, The Rising is still the best zombie story I’ve come across: book, TV or film. Going back some years, Aidan Chambers, for collecting a number of short stories that were truly eerie – long before the word ‘creepy’ became so commonplace. Howard Weinstein & AC Crispin for V: East Coast Crisis. The irony here was that I wanted the book that followed the TV show, and got something that referenced it in an aside here or there. But this book has some solid narrative. It’s kinetic, it’s visual, there’s intrigue and action. And you care for the characters. That book has stuck with me: kind of a sleeper hit, but a persistent winner.
KG: Who are your favourite characters in But Worse Will Come, and why?
CC ADAMS: < laughing > Probably the villain of the piece. I think the same can be said of many a story, that a good hero, as it were, needs a good villain.
I don’t doubt that there are some monsters that take joy in terrorising people: such as the Deadites from The Evil Dead. And I give Sam Raimi his props, because for all the years when I had watched horror films, I don’t think I’d ever seen something so malicious and evil: not even the likes of Regan possessed in The Exorcist. You know, I remember when The Evil Dead came out in cinemas? There was one of those deep voiceovers on the advert that asked, “Dare you see this film alone?” And then you heard, “We’re gon-na get ya, we’re gon-na get ya.” Honestly, I never heard anything like it. Inspired.
So yeah, there are some monsters that play this to the hilt and do it well. But what I try and bear in mind is that if a monster isn’t human, it can’t be expected to have a human sensibility. This was one of the cool things for me to write in this story arc: there are times when humanity is just lost on our antagonist.
Theodore Papakostas lives a normal life. Holds down a day job. Struggles with his weight. With women, he’s more ‘miss’ than ‘hit.’ He’s humble – a far cry from the bullying behaviour of his childhood. Days long forgotten.
Something has caught wind of him. Something that warned Theo long ago that if their paths crossed again, Theo would not survive. And Theo’s world is turned into a waking nightmare: a struggle to stay ahead of the terror. Because all those years ago, sunset was just the beginning …but worse will come.
KG: How do you plan your books; are you a meticulous planner?
CC ADAMS: Ahhhhmm, yeah. I do outline. Even if it’s a short story, I want the elevator pitch as well as the hook, the ending. With longer fiction, there’s a synopsis, which usually follows a 3-act structure. I say usually, because I’m not so rigid in my thinking that it always has to be that way.
What’s funny about the synopsis is that came from my brother: the same one who warped my mind with horror from an early age. So. The three of us (me the youngest, no sisters) would be watching horror films until I couldn’t take it any more and gave up watching horror completely. Yes, they scared the shit outta me that much. But I still loved the stories. ‘Go figure.’ So my oldest brother, who loved horror and always will, would still tell me what happened when I asked him. So he’s actually telling me stories.
And I would still be intrigued, and so looking at media such as Wikipedia, if you look for a film on there, Wiki might give you the synopsis or plot. That would show me more the bare bones of what’s happened in a film. And then I think, ‘if my story hits notes like this, then I have a template.’ Not too detailed that I paint myself into a corner, but enough of a framework to guide my flow. That way, I can concentrate on just getting the words down, maybe improvise a little along the way.
KG: Your writing is very atmospheric, do you consciously set out to build tension and what devices do you like to use?
CC ADAMS: Oh, absolutely. One of the things I like to do is not keep everyone on the same point of the curve. Sometimes the readers and the characters will experience things at the same time. Sometimes, the reader’s ahead of the curve where a character doesn’t know what’s coming. Sometimes, the character’s ahead of the curve, and it’s a mystery for the reader as to what’s happened.
KG: What is your writing environment like; do you have, for example, a set writing place or times that you write in?
CC ADAMS: Yeah, there’s a pc in the lounge, which is where I’m sat. I live in a largely residential neighbourhood, so there’s not too much pedestrian or road traffic. That said, it’s not enough for me to have quiet, I need solitude as well. As a result, I do my best work when I get both. That way, I can tune out from the outside world and sink into the one I’m creating. So I’ll often stay up late, when the rest of the house and the neighbourhood has gone to bed. And when the night is still, then I can do the write thing.
KG: Horror is in my blood, do you enjoy writing horror, and do you think you’ll do more or is there other genres that you’d like to explore and if so which?
CC ADAMS: Oh, I love writing horror. I think the most entertaining stories have a degree of villainy in them. Doesn’t matter whether it’s an animated U-rated feature like Snow White or Aladdin. Horror is where that villainy is taking to a more insidious place. See, I write horror and dark fiction, but I don’t plan on moving to other genres. Certainly not in fiction. Not at this stage, at least.
KG: And what books have you coming out in the near future?
CC ADAMS: Currently another three anthology appearances. A story in the upcoming Welcome Home anthology from Lycan Valley Press. An offering for Crossroads In The Dark, Volume IV from Burning Willow Press. And one for the Deadsteam anthology from Grimmer & Grimmer Books – that one is due out on October 31st this year, if memory serves. That one actually sits in the same mythos as Sunset Is Just The Beginning.
KG: Would you say you are a very prolific writer? On average how long does it take you to write a book?
CC ADAMS: Good question. Ask a number of my peers and they might say yes. Ask my close friends, and they might come back with something a little more, ‘hell, yeah.’ But then, they don’t write, so the mechanics of the process may be lost on them.
My first novel I wrote in 29 days in 2009: the only time I’ve done NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and that was 52,000 words. But Worse Will Come was written in about 3 weeks. Downwind, Alice, another novella, was about 5 weeks, I think, at 35,000 words.
I don’t always get to write for as long as I’d like, as in those long stretches without interruption. The more time I have without interruption, the more time I have to build that momentum. Now for a short story, I could maybe knock that out in a day or two without interruption. But a novella or novel needs more time. The timeframe between writing a short and writing a novel or novella isn’t linear for me. Long fiction is a cumulatively longer undertaking. That said, generally I write quick. One, because the muse continues to outrun me, so I need to keep up. Two, because the longer I spend on a story, the more disenchanted I’d get with it. So the aim is to finish it ASAP.
KG: I think But Worse Will Come, would transfer well to the silver screen. Are you looking to do film scripts?
CC ADAMS: Ahhh, thank you. Screenplays are definitely a consideration. My NaNoWriMo effort – from nearly 10 years ago – is the one that I’d most likely turn into a screenplay. But that’s a little way off. The immediate future, the aim, is to get more long fiction into the marketplace.
I’d like to finish by thanking you for your time and your writing. People can get your new book here: