Saturday, August 27, 2011
WITA # 2: Tim Curran
Continuing to reprint the older We Interrupt This Author series, here is the second interview, originally posted on Cemetery Dance’ website on June 28, 2010. At the time of the interview, Tim’s book The Corpse King had just been released, so once again, this is taken a bit out of temporal context. The only change in the text is the re-insertion of a mention of the book Four Rode Out, which was deleted from the original post, as the official announcement for the book had not yet been made. As always, remember that what was on the horizon in mid-2010 may now be in the rearview mirror.
Here we are for the second in our series of short interviews with horror authors, following the success of the first one (I define success as: Didn’t get fired, didn’t get sued. Set the bar of success low, and you won’t have to deal with disappointment, kids). Our latest author to interrupt is Tim Curran.
A resident of Michigan, Tim Curran is the author of the acclaimed novels Dead Sea and The Hive. His most recent book is The Corpse King, now available from Cemetery Dance. Tim’s home on the web is www.corpseking.com. Here are a few questions with which we bothered him.
WITA: Tell us a little about The Corpse King. Am I correct in assuming Burke and Hare were a partial inspiration?
TIM CURRAN: Yes, definitely. Those two are the most famous of the 19th century Resurrection Men. So I certainly had them in mind. During my research of grave robbers I came across a fellow named Ben Crouch who operated out of London as part of the Borough Gang as it was known. He was a real entrepreneur of the dead. Not only did he and his friend Joseph Naples supply corpses to order for the medical schools, but they ran something of a cadaver supermarket—skeletons, body parts, entire corpses of men, women, and children preserved in vats in their makeshift warehouse which was in a cellar, I believe. They ran the truly first medical supply house in the UK. Crouch was known as “The Corpse King” which I, of course, stole for my novella title. I based my graverobbers, Clow and Kierney, upon Crouch and Naples to a certain extent, though I moved the action to Edinburgh, the traditional home of bodysnatching ever since Burke and Hare and Robert Louis Stevenson’s story. Nearly everything that happens in The Corpse King is based upon firsthand accounts of the time. Although most of the Resurrection Men were illiterate, some either told their tales to others or wrote them down themselves. I read quite a few of these and was amazed at the morbid, gallows humor these guys had. I incorporated that into Clow and Kerney. Other than my supernatural ghoul—The Corpse King of the title—there’s nothing truly imaginary in the book. Edinburgh in the 1820’s was a horrible place of overcrowded slums, rampant infectious disease, child labor, rats and lice, poverty and crime. Life was cheap. People worked fourteen hour days in linen mills with machinery that was extremely dangerous and when you lost a limb or were too sick to work, you were replaced that same day. It was no wonder the girls turned to prostitution and the boys to crime…including grave robbing.
WITA -You live in the U.P. (the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, for those not in the know), known for being remote and sparsely populated. Do you find this helps set the mood to write horror fiction?
TIM CURRAN - I think so in some ways. Winters are long and harsh up here and it’s not unusual for towns to get completely shut down for days because of blizzards sweeping down from Lake Superior. It can be a very eerie, surreal experience. Up in the Keweenaw—or the Copper Country as locals call it—the winters are so severe that it’s pointless to shovel the snow so they have tunnels connecting the buildings. When I wrote my novel Hive, all I had to do was step outside on a dark January night with the wind howling and the snow flying, the windchill down to twenty or thirty below, and it was very easy to channel Antarctica. The woods up here are another factor. They can be very weird and primeval when you’re deep out in them by yourself. Algernon Blackwood tapped into that very well with stories like “The Wendigo” and “The Willows.” There’s these very disturbing moments when you’ll be out in the forest, miles from the nearest logging road or fire-cut. The birds are singing, insects droning, wind up in the trees…and then, nothing. It’s like somebody threw a switch. Dead silent. No wind, no birds, nothing. And you wonder what causes something like that. It’ll make your skin crawl. Besides those two factors, there’s a lot of eccentric characters up here. When I was a kid there were remote villages where the locals still spoke Finnish and French, and the old Cornish copper miners—Cousin Jacks, they were called-would spin pretty wild tales out of their native Cornwall.
WITA -It’s easy to see by the titles of some of the anthologies in which your work has appeared H.P. Lovecraft is a source of inspiration. Who are some of the other writers who have influenced your work?
TC - Lovecraft, along with Robert E. Howard, was one of the first authors of the weird I came across as a kid so I’ll always be standing in his shadow to some extent. I’ve been influenced by just about everyone from Ray Bradbury to Jack London, James Herbert to Elmore Leonard. I’m a big fan of Simon Clark and Ramsey Campbell and I honestly think that Thomas Ligotti is probably the greatest writer of the weird since H.P. Lovecraft. I’m absolutely in awe of that man.
WITA -Speaking of things that influence you, what are some of the things other than books which stimulate the writing process for you?
TC - Just about anything, I find. Like most horror writers I tend to unconsciously look for shadows and weirdness in just about everything. I see two men hauling crates into a house and I wonder what’s in them. I find an abandoned shoe in the woods and I wonder what happened to the person who wore it. I see a lake by moonlight and I wonder what might crawl out of it. I watch a movie or a TV show and the whole time my mind is making the connections, plotting out what will happen next and how it will end. And when it doesn’t work out the way I thought, sometimes, if my idea is powerful enough, I have to write it the way I think it should have been done.
WITA - There was some talk a while back about your novel The Hive being optioned for film. Is this still a possibility, or has that opportunity passed?
TC - No, that’s all done with. I had two different production companies looking at it and they both backed out. What they promised and what they delivered were two different things. It did not leave me with a real upstanding opinion of the people in that business. I’d love to see Hive made into a movie, but I’m honestly leery of the whole process. I guess I wouldn’t believe it until I got a check in my hand!
WITA - What’s on the horizon for Tim Curran? What projects are you currently working on?
TC - I just finished writing up the afterword for my short story collection, Bone Marrow Stew, which will be published in winter 2011 by Tasmaniac Publications of Australia. I’ve been publishing stories since the mid-’90’s and always wanted to do a collection of them but I held back because I wanted it done the right way. And now, thanks to Steve Clark of Tasmaniac, it’s being given the royal treatment in a hardcover, lettered edition with a wraparound cover and 10 awesome internal illustrations by the great Keith Minnion. Simon Clark, one of my favorite writers, is doing the introduction. I’m very excited about it. If it sells well enough—and I hope it does—there’ll be a volume two. There’s two original stories in the book and 15 reprints from anthologies and small press magazines, many of which are pretty hard to come by now. It opens with my very first short story and goes on from there. Other than that, I just wrapped up the second Hive book a couple months ago and that should be out from ESP in late summer/early fall. I’ll also be in another Cemetery Dance book with Steve Vernon, Brian Keene, and Tim Lebbon called Four Rode Out, a collection of weird western novellas that’s really going to kick ass and we’re all pretty pumped about. I’m also working on a collection of my zombie stories for Severed Press that’ll be bookended by two new novellas. The latter of which I’ll be returning to Lovecraft for a Herbert West story concerning his exploits in World War I. Let’s see, I’m working on an alternate world/steampunk vampire novel, another about a necrophiliac, another about veterans of the Iraq War who can read the fears in your mind and externalize them, and still another about a life-eating car haunted by a demon. There’s others, but you get the picture: I like to keep busy.