Hello, everyone! I have one more interview to share with you before taking a break for the holidays. Luckily, I have the perfect book to feature for the occasion. Today, I chatted with authors Lee Richmond and Mark MJ Green about their latest release, Jingle Hells.
Lee Richmond was born in the swampy marshlands of East Anglia. Fed on a steady diet of fast, snotty punk rock and 80s slasher movies, it was only a matter of time before the sick, twisted imagery that festered in his head eventually found its way to the page.
Lee was influenced from an early age, by the films of John Carpenter, Dario Argento, Wes Craven, and Tobe Hooper and the books of Clive Barker, Stephen King, and James Herbert.
Music also plays its part in influencing Lee’s writing. He loves the musical stylings of bands like The Misfits, Ramones, Fugazi, and Sisters of Mercy and the works of such movie composers as Hans Zimmer and Christopher Young.
Lee’s other interests include playing bass guitar and drawing. He also owns and writes for horror movie website, reelhorrorshow.co.uk, along with fellow writer, Mark Green. Lee is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and a freelance writer for hire. As well as writing books, he has recently been hand-picked to write the screenplay for an up-and-coming film project. If he told you what it was, he’d have to kill you.
Mark was found at a young age, wandering through the Fens of Cambridgeshire, a strange feral beast that subsided on a diet of reeds and whatever small creatures happened to cross his path.
After being discovered by a young couple that were exploring the area, they took him in and raised him as their own. Over the years, they taught Mark about being civilised, being polite, and to eat with cutlery rather than just grabbing a water vole and stuffing it raw and wriggling into his mouth.
As he grew up to manhood, he headed out on his own. He shed his hair and grew a beard to try and compensate for the baldness and got married and spawned two children. He also worked in various jobs, primarily in the role of a security officer.
He now writes dark and disturbing fiction as well as articles for websites such as reelhorrorshow.co.uk, which he runs with fellow author Lee Richmond.
He has never eaten a water vole although he did try squirrel once.
EB: Welcome to the blog, Lee and Mark. Thanks so much for joining us today! Can you tell us more about Jingle Hells and the inspiration for it?
Lee: Originally, Mark and I discussed doing a book of Christmas horror stories and seeing if we could get a number of other authors to contribute. The initial idea was that each author would get twenty pages, and the title of each story had to be the name of a Christmas song. That went belly up for two reasons. Reason one being that we never bothered to contact any other writers, and reason two being that once we started writing our stories, we realised that we wouldn’t be able to keep them at twenty pages. I came in closest at fifty some-odd pages. Mark sailed past that with his story. He basically made me look lazy.
The inspiration behind my story, “Driving Home for Christmas,” came from my love for whacky horror/comedies like Evil Dead and Peter Jackson’s Braindead (Dead Alive). I have a total man-crush on Bruce Campbell and wanted to create a character who reluctantly steps up to the plate, even though he is completely out of his depth and not up to the job. Gary, the protagonist, is a mixture of Ash Williams and me. The David Hasselhoff obsession is all mine.
Here is the link for interested parties:
EB: I’m excited to finish reading it! What was it like working with another author?
Mark: Lee and I have known each other for over twenty years, so we had no real issues with working together – unless, of course, he says differently and was keeping it bottled in all this time.
But seriously, it was quite easy really.
We were working on separate titles, and therefore our work didn’t impact upon one another, in regard to creative differences or anything like that. We didn’t impose any rules other than it had to be horror, and it had to be Christmas themed. It was free reign from then on.
We had the idea to each write a story that utilised the title of a Christmas song and simply went from there. We shared an outline of our stories with one another and a few other things during the writing process, but neither of us truly knew what they were going to read from each other until it was finished.
We did have a few odd, and unplanned, coincidences turn up though: both of us had put a reference to John Carpenter’s movie The Thing, and somehow, we both ended up with a character named Shirley; although one was a barmaid, and the other a shotgun, so hopefully no one will get them mixed up.
It was great though, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. It wasn’t the first time we’ve worked together and hopefully won’t be the last.
Lee: Working with Mark is great. We work together on a pretty regular basis, anyway, as we both run a website dedicated to horror movies. We also collaborated on a book of short stories earlier this year called Medley of the Macabre. We have known each other for an eternity and both share a love of horror and an equally bizarre sense of humour. We tend to sit down, come up with an idea, and then crack on with it. It’s pretty stress-free. We also do each other’s proofreading, and neither of us is afraid to call the other one out if something isn’t working or if we fuck up somewhere along the line. I’m the king of continuity errors, so thank god Mark is there to point out that I’m being a moron. Mark is a very talented writer, and I always feel very honoured to work with him.
EB: This next question is for Mark. What was your favorite part to write?
Mark: It was probably reading Lee’s story for the first time. I knew what his story was going to be about, but I wasn’t prepared for how funny it would be. Even now, having read it around five times as part of the editing/proofreading process, there are still moments that make me laugh.
For my own story? It’s hard to say. I am terrible at planning out a storyline – something that my English teachers would probably still frown at, so other than the core idea, I had no notion of the exact details until the words flowed from my brain to my keyboard. There is an instance where I’ve referenced a character from a previous title or a few other little touches that no one will probably notice that are there for my own enjoyment. There are lines and scenes in there that I am really proud of, and I’m pleased with the finished project. That’s probably my favourite part; being able to sit back and see the finished product, rather than any individual moments.
EB: Lee, what (if anything) did you have to edit out of your story?
Lee: I hate editing things out of my books. Usually, as I’m writing them, something pops into my head, and I throw it at the story to see if it sticks. Sometimes it does, and sometimes not. If I read it back and it’s utter rubbish, it gets removed or shelved for a different story. Luckily, with Jingle Hells, that didn’t happen. Everything that popped into my head while writing my story stayed. Admittedly, some ideas that made it into the story exist purely to write myself out of a corner, but I’m not going to tell you what they are.
As far as editing things out because I would worry that they might be offensive or taking things a bit too far, I wouldn’t censor myself. I think that horror should push boundaries. It should push people to the brink, and it should push beyond the realms of good taste.
To be honest, out of the two of us, Mark has more of a talent for writing extreme horror. That’s not to say that my books are devoid of ‘WTF’ moments. It’s just that Mark is the sick puppy out of the two of us.
EB: Mark, do you believe in writer’s block?
Mark: That’s something that I feel is different for every writer. For me, it’s not something I worry about too much. Sure, I get those moments where a scene or piece of dialogue isn’t quite working, and I’ll either soldier on, knowing it’s the first draft and I can edit it at a later time, or I’ll step back and do something else.
I find it’s easier to distract my mind by playing a videogame, or pottering about the house and doing a few chores, rather than wrack my brain trying to solve the problem. The answers usually just arrive in my head when I’m not thinking about it.
I’ve not had anything yet that’s left me struggling for too long, and if something really isn’t quite working out how I’d planned, I can always re-write an earlier scene, if necessary, to work a way around a problem.
There’s always a solution, it’s just sometimes you have to forget about the problem for the answer to appear.
EB: Good answer. I also have to distract myself sometimes before the solution will come to me. This next question’s for Lee. Do you read your reviews? How do you deal with good/bad ones?
Lee: I do read my reviews. I think everyone who works so hard at creating something, and then throws it to the vultures to be picked apart, secretly wants to know what people think of it. My stories are my babies, and I put them out there for people to judge and scrutinize over. I want people to enjoy them. I also understand that you can’t please everyone.
When I released my debut, 232 Jericho Avenue, I was extremely nervous about what people’s reactions would be. I know there are authors who claim that they don’t care or don’t take any notice of reviews. Personally, I don’t believe them. Everyone who creates art, whether it be a painting, a song, a book, a movie or whatever, wants to know that people are enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Regarding 232 Jericho, the response has been mind-blowing. I’ve received some really lovely reviews from people who genuinely seem to like it. I haven’t really had to deal with any negative reviews so far. I think I had a couple of two-star reviews on Goodreads, but they never left an actual review to explain why they only left two stars. Maybe the worst review I’ve had was by someone whose only complaint was that they thought that I was trying to communicate something on a deeper level than they were able to understand. I can categorically tell you that is not the case. I don’t have any deeper levels. I’m not that interesting.
EB: Mark, what is your favorite underappreciated novel?
Mark: Wow, that’s a tough question. There are numerous novels I’ve read that I think are underappreciated in the sense that they need to reach a larger audience.
The Shadow Fabric by Mark Cassell is a title that I highly recommend, although I could be biased on that, as it’s the book that got me back into reading, something I’d stopped doing for quite some time. It’s also the title that got me into the author’s work. Woom by Duncan Ralston is another book that got me into the author’s work. It’s an extreme title that I really enjoyed, as it has a solid story to it, rather than having shock moments just for the sake of it. Dear Laura by Gemma Amor (who happens to hail from my hometown) is another great title that’s definitely worth reading. For something kid-friendly, I recommend The Old One and the Sea by Lex H Jones.
I’m surprised by how many novels I really enjoy seem to be overlooked, especially when they are things that I consider incredibly popular. Titles such as Night Walkers by Graham Masterton, The Fall by Simon Clark, and even things such as The Rats by James Herbert or Necroscope by Brian Lumley don’t have the number of ratings that I would expect. That’s why authors rely on reviews, to help get their stories out there.
Even if it’s only a few words, reviews can be the deciding factor for many people in whether they choose to read a book or not.
There are so many titles available, especially when we all have the ability to self-publish. This means there are a wealth of titles out there, so no matter what you’re into, you’re bound to find something that you like. Just remember that when you do, or even when you don’t, leave that all-important review.
EB: These next two questions are for both of you. What’s your next project and where can readers learn more about you?
Lee: My next project is my new book, titled ‘Beneath’. I’m roughly about halfway through my first draft and hope to have it finished in the new year. I also wrote a screenplay for a group of filmmakers in the USA and that is going into production in the new year. Sadly, I can’t tell you much about that as I signed an NDA and don’t want to get a spanking.
As for websites, you can find me on Facebook, here:
And Twitter here:
And also on Goodreads, here:
As I mentioned earlier, Mark and I run a website dedicated to all things horror. We review movies, books, and tv shows, and we interview actors, directors, and writers. The site has been active for about a year, and in that time, we have been honoured to interview some fantastic names in the genre. Any interested parties can find us here:
Mark: I have a few projects on the go, but the title that I’ll most likely complete next will be called ‘Inked.’ I’m not going to say too much, but it involves a tattoo that goes wrong in very unexpected ways. I may link it to one of my short stories from Medley of the Macabre (that I also wrote with Lee). Unless it runs away from me and ends up becoming its own beast.
My daughter wants me to write something that’s a bit more ‘child-friendly’ so I’m considering venturing down that route, but I have many other projects and ideas that are vying for attention at the moment. Still, who knows? It may yet happen.
You can find my writer page on Facebook:
I’m also on Goodreads:
Lee and I also both run a horror review site called Reel Horror Show, which you can find here:
I’m terrible at the whole social media thing, though, and should probably advertise my work more, but family life and one of those so-called proper jobs tend to keep me busy.
EB: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you?
Lee: Once things start getting back to some semblance of normality, we plan on hitting horror conventions. We had author tables booked for this year, but this pesky virus put paid to everyone’s plans. Hopefully, 2021 will be a better year. So, all being well, anyone attending any future conventions in the UK should stop by and say hi. I think we all need something to look forward to after the dumpster fire that was 2020.
As I also mentioned, my next book should be out in the next few months. All my books are currently available on Amazon for anyone who might be interested. I’m always humbled when anyone chooses to read my work, and I love hearing what they think of it. I love what I do, and I love knowing that someone has enjoyed it.
Thank you kindly for taking the time to interview us. We’ve really enjoyed getting to waffle on for a bit.
Mark: I don’t think I have any real secrets, and outside of my family life or work-related things (I currently work as a hospital security officer) which I don’t talk about, I’m happy to chat about anything. I talk quite a bit though, as you can probably get a sense of from my answers, so getting me to shut-up could be a problem.
I am at heart a horror fan, and I’m equally as happy talking about horror, as I am writing it.
Actually, here’s a little-known fact: Lee and I were once in a punk band called Boba Fettish. We played one gig. It seemed to go down well though, especially our version of the children’s song “Old McDonald Had a Farm.”
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
EB: Thanks so much for being here, and I wish you both happy holidays!
Alright, guys. That’s all I have for you this week. Thanks for reading, and I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas! See you next week! -E.B.