Do I have a treat for you all today! G.R. Yeates is joining us for a little sit-down, and he writes….Horror. With a capital H. Sure you’ll find some flavors of the paranormal in his books, but G.R. is going after the dark with gusto- which I think is awesome. (You are all familiar with my weakness for B-rated horror flicks, right?) So without further ado, let’s hear from the man himself.
A Little About G.R.
G.R. Yeates has been published in the Dark Continents anthology, Phobophobia and has been accepted into the Horror for Good anthology coming soon from Cutting Block Press. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed Vetala Cycle, a trilogy of vampiric horror novels set in World War I. The first two volumes, The Eyes of the Dead and Shapes in the Mist, are available now and the third and final installment, Hell’s Teeth, was just released in March. Expect more, much more, from this writer in 2012.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
G.R.: As a child, I wanted to be a painter but I never developed a talent for it so I decided, and I remember this very clearly, that I wanted to learn how to paint with words – and that’s how my path to becoming a writer began.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
G.R.: I’m not good at either to be honest – recently I would actually say writing short stories. After six years of writing and revising novel-length manuscripts, writing self-contained pieces of a few thousand words feels like a break.
G.R. on Writing
What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?
G.R.: It started out being something I enjoyed and then became a means of catharsis when I was a teenager and in a number of situations where there was no real way for me to express and feel better about certain things. In that respect, my writing has become like a diary, journal and even a form of confession for me.
How did you come up with the title for your books?
G.R.: The titles always come first, otherwise I don’t know what I’ll be writing about. As to where the titles come from, I don’t know, they occur at the right time, they come to me when I need them.
Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or situations in your book things you’ve encountered in real life?
G.R.: I think they are all amalgamations. A writer can only capture so much of reality when they set a story down and even then it is filtered through their own perception of people and events so what you get a reflection and a distorted one at that.
Your vampire trilogy set in WWI looks amazing! What drew you to wanting to write a series of stories in that time period?
G.R.: I developed an interest in the First World War as a teenager after reading Wilfred Owen’s poem, Dulce et Decorum est. It just presented itself as something else that would make my first books stand out when I decided I wanted to write horror and place vampires in a more unique setting. To date, I’m only aware of a couple of horror films set during this era, The Awakening and Deathwatch, as well as a few stories, Minos or Rhadamanthus by Reggie Oliver and A Question of Obeying Orders by Mark Samuels. All of which I recommend, by the way.
How much research do you find yourself doing for each of your novels?
G.R.: I overdid it with the research for The Eyes of the Dead, six months of reading I did for that one, but it paid off as I was then able to just do quick skims for the next two books. I’ve been complimented on the thorough detail of my books, which has pleased me a great deal because as much hard work as writing is, spending all those months researching would feel like a waste if people didn’t pick up on it.
You have a lengthy list of upcoming titles- how do you keep all of those stories straight as you plan your next novel?
G.R.: Fairly easily because most of them have been written and planned out to one extent or another. I started researching The Eyes of the Dead in 2006 and in 2008, I signed with an agent and up until we parted ways in early 2011, I just kept on writing. The three novellas that I will be releasing in the next few months are all derived from novel-length manuscripts that I drafted whilst I was waiting for that traditional publishing break that never came.
Are you a “pantser” or a “plotter”?
G.R.: A pantser – I use minimal notes and guidelines and just follow my muse. I probably hit more blind corners and dirty curves than those who plan extensively but I still get there in the end.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
G.R.: The midway slog – being halfway through a novel and knowing you have another half to go. At those times, it’s just a case of exercising discipline and keeping on with the writing until you reach that point where you feel all the threads of the story drawing together and tying up for the climax and coda.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
G.R.: Work as hard at what you do as much as you love it. Make sure you get a great editor and proofreaders if you can. Get a great cover artist who can realise the concepts you have in your head. And never be over-awed by anyone – respect is something earned and that goes for those you meet and work with as much as it does for you.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
G.R.: To be honest, I’m not sure. I tend to just sit down and write and write until I’m done. I don’t have any quirky rituals – unless you count ensuring I have something caffeine-rich to drink near at hand.
What is your favorite supernatural creature to write and why?
G.R.: Well, I would say it’s creatures that are truly alien to us. Writers like Lovecraft are a big influence on me because they were able to come up with creatures that were beyond our world and what we understand. That sense of the alien, the cosmic and the illimitable has always fascinated me far more than more conventional ‘evil’ monsters and I hope I’ve managed to tap some of that into the Vetala.
G.R.’s Paranormal Perspectives
Do you identify more with the horror genre or the paranormal (or both)?
G.R.: I would say horror, without a doubt. One of the reasons I decided to self-publish was so that I could call my work horror rather than labelling it as paranormal thriller or dark urban fantasy, for example. None of these definitions sum up what I write, for me, as effectively as the H-word.
How do you feel about the boom of paranormal fiction recently?
G.R.: One of the writers who I really admire is Alexandra Sokoloff – her stories walk the dividing line between paranormal and horror very adeptly and she has a knack for unsettling nightmarish imagery, particularly certain scenes in her novel, The Price. I would also recommend any writer who is struggling with structure and planning to read Alex’s blog, the Dark Salon. It’s a great source of information.
What scares you?
G.R.: An abstract sense of abandonment – that’s just based on the last panic attack I had where I thought I was trapped in a waking nightmare and about to die.
What is your favorite paranormal book?
G.R.: I would say, at the moment, it is Thomas Ligotti’s Teatro Grottesco. A collection of short stories that radically rewrote what I considered horror to be and what I could and should look to achieve in the genre as a writer. It was the most revolutionary thing I had read since H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider when I was a teenager.
What is your favorite paranormal movie?
G.R.: This one changes but it is usually only a change between a handful of films – these being Ridley Scott’s Alien, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Actually, I will include Werner Herzog’s remake of Nosferatu in there as well – a beautiful homage to my favourite era of cinema, German Expressionism.
What do you think draws people to this type of fiction?
G.R.: I think on the most basic level, people enjoy a good scare and to be entertained by something that is of the darkness rather than the light. On more complex levels, you get into the different aspects the genre has and how it unsettles us through gore, ghosts, psychological aberrance and cosmic horror, where we see our true insignificance in comparison to the stars that will burn and the black holes that will continue to yawn millennia after we are gone.
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