Friday 4 September 2020

Interview with Author John C Adams

Today I have an interview with horror author John C Adams who stops by to discuss writing and his book, Blackacre Rising. Enjoy.

Interview with John C Adams

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I am a nonbinary author and critic of horror and fantasy fiction. I review for the Horror Tree, the British Fantasy Society and Schlock! Webzine.

I started writing way back in 2006. It was an escape for me at a time when I faced very heavy domestic responsibilities raising a young family and looking after a severely disabled relative. It gave me a little space just for me. I had my first short story published in 2010.

Since then, I've taken my time in learning how to craft fiction because I just don't think it is something that can be hurried. This has included studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing, but perhaps my most important lessons have been learnt practically via submissions reading for the Aeon Award, having my short fiction published in various small magazines and anthologies and of course reviewing.

Being a writer is something I really love doing. Before that I was a lawyer, which I don't think suited me at all. In hindsight, it was far too serious a career for someone so recklessly irresponsible as me.


Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

It's called ''Blackacre Rising' and it is the sequel to my dystopian novel 'Souls for the Master'. This novel, however, has more of a straight-up horror feel mixed with just a little bit of dark fantasy. I hope to make it a trilogy, but it is very important to me that each story is completely stand-alone. I get asked to review many books that are midway into a series. Sadly, comparatively few are intelligible to the new reader.


What do you enjoy most about writing in the horror genre?

My horror writing is inspired by the people and places of rural Northumbria. That's where our family has been lucky enough to make our home since 2003. It is such a beautiful county and something of a hidden gem. My favourite thing about it is that nothing is too odd or sinister to be at home round here, and I just love including this in my short stories and longer fiction within the fictional Blackacre universe. It's deliciously bizarre in this area, and even after almost two decades here I am constantly struck by many of the things I see and hear going on.

I'm really lucky to have so much inspiration on my doorstep and that so little alteration of reality is required to turn it into liminal horror. I love this subgenre because it can be so strange and unexpected that it often borders on the humorous, and I do enjoy writing comedy occasionally.

Did anything surprise you about the process of writing your book?

I've been amazed by how easily the existing characters from my short fiction fitted in alongside characters I'd invented specifically for 'Souls for the Master'.

Ivy, Gerald and Don formed the backbone of the plot in 'Souls for the Master' and they all feature centrally in 'Blackacre Rising' as their stories continue. However, I decided to make the northern farmhouse Blackacre a new location for this novel. The Flints of Blackacre have featured in many of my horror short stories in the past five years including in my starter anthology 'The Red Dawn and Other Stories' which is available on Smashwords.

I was apprehensive about how to blend the existing characters from full-length fiction with those from my short stories, but courtesy of a cross-over character Gerald Flint it turned out to be much more natural than I had expected. That was probably what I enjoyed most about writing 'Blackacre Rising'.


Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?

The main technique I use as part of my writing process is lucid dreaming. Basically, I let the images and thoughts of characters, plot, and even dialogue just roll around my mind without trying to write any of it down. I have developed all my novels this way, and it has never let me down. I have never experienced writer's block, and I absolutely credit lucid dreaming with being the reason why.

It's not for everyone, and many authors would run screaming for the hills at this style of approach, but it really works for me, you know?

My horror novels are grounded in the lives I observe here, and my fantasy novels are based within the LGBT community, which I belong to because I am nonbinary.

I have to fit writing in around family life and caring responsibilities, but both activities are quite routine-oriented, so I usually have quite a structured day in terms of when I'll write and what I hope to achieve in the time available to me. Lots of authors fit in writing around working, so I'm not alone in wanting to make the best of the hours left when everything else is taken care of.


What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

Fitting it all in. I love my reviewing work and writing articles for blogs such as Horror Addicts. But there's no greater pleasure than writing fiction. Also, I work in both fantasy and horror genres so the background reading for each (fantasy especially) is considerable.

Luckily, I have more and more time free to do all of this, and I count myself very fortunate to be in that position. I'm still caring full time for a severely disabled relative within our home environment, and that is very hard work, but my daughter is in Sixth Form and will be applying for university next year. My son's got kids of his own. So, suddenly, after years of running around feeling frazzled, I actually do have some time for myself and that means lots and lots of time for writing. Feels good.


What advice would you give beginning writers?

I'm often asked this, not because I have any great wisdom to share on this or on any other topic, but simply because as I head towards 50 at breakneck speed people seem to think I might have something sensible to say. I think the grey hairs are to blame for that.

In fact, the best advice I can give is to read widely and to do so as actively and critically as possible. With that in mind, I'm going to go ahead and suggesting posting reviews as a great way to learn the craft of writing fiction. It's never been easier to share reviews on platforms such as Goodreads or Smashwords. There are so many blogs open to recruiting book reviewers that you might soon find a home for your thoughts and find that it also helps promote your writing. That's been my experience, and it has been incredibly empowering.


What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?

Not really sure this counts as a hobby, but most of my free time is taken up conducting the ultimate long-distance relationship with my boyfriend in Pennsylvania. He's about to come for a six-month visit to live with me here in the UK while he works on the rewrite of his current fictional work in progress, and I'm honestly going to say I won't be missing that five-hour time difference in the slightest...


What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

I'm currently just over halfway through the first draft of my next fantasy novel, which is about a lost princess in a universe inspired by Medieval Russia. It really picks up on the whole folk-tale feel, and I'm just loving being immersed in them as I form characters, plot and location.

It is a multi-stranded novel, as both of my earlier fantasy works 'Aspatria' and 'Dagmar of the Northlands' have been, and it features some old favourites like Gortah van Murkar and his wife Dextra of Aspatria, as well as including lots of new characters.

It's been a very personal experience for me because I'm nonbinary and this work in progress is the first time I've included a transgender character. Gortah is bisexual and Dagmar is same-sex orientated, so it's far from the first time that I've written about characters from the LGBT community, however this character feels just a little bit closer to home and that has been surprising moving.


You can find Blackacre Rising on Amazon

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