Sunday, February 26, 2012

WITA #4: Tim Lebbon

Trying to return to a steady post count here, I am once again reprinting an interview I originally did for Cemetery Dance. This gives me new content with minimal effort and ensures that none of the brilliant work I've done shall ever disappear from the internet. This piece originally appeared in Cemetery Dance's newsletter and on their website in August, 2010, and appears here courtesy of Cemetery Dance. As usual, bear in mind the interview is a year and a half old, and when the author talks about what is coming soon, he means something that is an old release to him now. This interview is with Tim Lebbon, one of the better contemporary writers. It appears just as it did originally, bad jokes and all. All mistakes in the text are mine and mine alone.

Interviewing authors is a tough job. Matching them drink for drink in sleazy bars, violent confrontations when the questions probe too deep, making permanent enemies. Well, I mean, it isn’t that way for me, I just sit here in my comfortable chair and ask questions of gracious and accommodating authors, but for those poor souls who are assigned Nicholas Sparks or Stephanie Meyer, they’re gonna lose some teeth. (Just kidding, Twilight fans. Please don’t burn down my house.)

Welsh author Tim Lebbon has been making waves in the horror field since the publication of his first book Mesmer in 1997. His awards for his fiction include the Bram Stoker Award (for his short story “Reconstructing Amy”), the August Derleth Award (for his novel Dusk) and the Scribe Award (for the novelization of the film 30 Days of Night). His current release from Cemetery Dance is the short story collection Last Exit for the Lost. Tim lives in Monmouthshire with his family, and took time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions.

WITA - Your recent collection from Cemetery Dance is Last Exit for the Lost, 19 of your shorter works in a 560 page volume. Tell us a little about this book.

Tim Lebbon - It's my first collection since 2003's WHITE AND OTHER TALES OF RUIN (which was a novella collection from Night Shade Books), and collects my best short fiction from 2000 to 2006, as well as the novella In Perpetuity from NIGHT VISIONS 11. It also contains Pay the Ghost, which Dennis Iliadis is soon to direct for Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. I don't write nearly as many short stories as I used to, which is a shame because I love doing them, so this collection is a bit of a milestone, and I'm very excited to see it out at last. Even though timewise it stops around 2007 (when the two original stories were written), it gives a pretty good cross-section of the sort of stuff I write. If a new reader asks 'what should I read of yours' I usually point them to one of my collections, and now that there's this new one to share. There's a new collection coming soon from PS Publishing, too, collecting my work from 2006 to 2010 (with some original work on there). I suspect that might be the last for a few years...

WITA -In a recent discussion I had with a friend about your work, we agreed that you are one if not the best contemporary writers when it comes to novella-length work. Not to slight any of your other stories, but would you agree that the novella seems to bring out your best, and if so, why?

Tim Lebbon - Thanks, that's very kind of you. I'm very proud of my novellas, and I'll be writing more in the near future. I'm not sure why it is that they seem to have more of an impact than my novels, and to be honest trying to analyse this troubles me. I guess sometimes in my novels, a weakness of mine is detailed plotting and seeing the big picture. I hate planning a book, so I usually head in with an idea and see where it takes me. With novellas, it's easier to do this and come out the other end unscathed, because although the ideas can sometimes be as complex as those for a novel, getting there is quicker.
I'm also quite an impulsive writer - and very fast, once I'm in the flow of a story - and I think an intensive writing period suits a novella more than a novel. If it's flowing well, I'll write a novella in a week then be exhausted. Not so easy to remain as focused and energised for the duration of a novel.

WITA -You are the most prominent Welsh writer of horror and fantastic fiction working today, in a lineage that goes back to the great Arthur Machen. In past times, the English viewed Wales as a land of dark magic and sorcery (see Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I). Is there something in Wales and being Welsh that lends itself to dark and fantastic fiction?

Tim Lebbon - Machen is one of my favourite writers, so thank you. Wales is certainly steeped in history, myth and legend, and perhaps that bleeds from the rocks into the writers who live here. As for me, I'm deeply affected by landscape, and the place where I'm lucky enough to live has some of the most beautiful countryside in the British Isles. I take daily walks in the local woodland, and that certainly recharges batteries and sometimes helps me see my way past, or through, a problem I might have come up against in my writing. From my front window I can see the Sugarloaf mountain, a beautiful scene. I'm very lucky. I've always been interested in humankind's interaction with the natural world, and I guess living where I am, I'm well-placed to see many of the effects.

WITA - You are a prolific writer. At what point in your career did you look at what you had written and say “I am a professional writer, and this is my future”?

Tim Lebbon - Making the transition into doing this for a living was a very gradual process. I guess I've known since a very early age that I've wanted to be a writer, and I worked hard at it all through my twenties, seeing short stories, novellas and my first novel or two published. I've been earning a living doing it for almost eight years now - four of them still doing some part-time work, and the past four years writing full-time. It has its pressures - my first month without a paycheck was a bit of a shock - but the positives outweigh the negatives by about, ooohhhh, seventeen million to one.

WITA - You are from the UK, but a sizeable proportion of your audience seems to be in America. Do you find that some themes don’t translate as well across the Atlantic, and do you find yourself tailoring your work for those of us who spell “colour” without the “u”?

Tim Lebbon - I certainly don't tailor my work any particular way, I just write the story I most want to tell. My first few horror novels were set in the UK and published in the USA by Leisure Books, and ironically my new SF/horror novel COLDBROOK was first sold in the UK, and is set almost exclusively in the USA. Locations suit the story, or the idea. There's that interesting language barrier that pops up in editing sometimes, and my good friend and collaborator Chris Golden often screams at me 'turn on US spelling, for f***'s sake!' I keep it off just to annoy him. I like him having to cut out all those 'u's

WITA - What should we look forward to seeing from Tim Lebbon in the future?

Tim Lebbon - Right then ...
Out on 27th July (the day before my birthday!), the new Hidden Cities novel with Chris Golden, THE CHAMBER OF TEN, and next year sees the fourth book, THE SHADOW MEN. Later this year Bantam will publish my new stand-alone fantasy novel ECHO CITY, and Orbit will publish that in the UK next year. Also next year comes COLDBROOK in the UK, a huge SF horror novel. And then HarperCollins in the US will publish the first book of mine and Chris Golden's series THE SECRET JOURNEYS OF JACK LONDON, called THE WILD. This has also sold to Fox 2000, and Chris and I are writing the screenplay right now. There's another movie going into production this fall, PAY THE GHOST (mentioned above). There's a collection and a novella from PS Publishing, and a few other things still under wraps. Busy times ahead, but exciting times too.

WITA - Thanks, Tim.

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