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Friday, 15 May 2015

Exclusive Fans of Modern Horror - Author Interview - Stuart Keane - Interviewed by Matt Hickman

Anyone frequenting this page, or reads in the horror genre at least, will most likely have heard the name Stuart Keane. Those of you that have read his work will probably agree that he is an amazing talent. Others that have not had the chance as yet, it’s certainly a name that I would recommend adding to your reading list.
Stuart has several titles available through self - publishing, as well as a full length novel through J Ellington Ashton Press - All Or Nothing. In addition to this, he is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association and an Editor at Dark Chapter Press.
In an exclusive interview with me, on behalf of the Fans of Modern Horror page, I take absolute pleasure in giving you Mr Stuart Keane.

Right, we know your name. On the assumption that this the only information that we hold, please tell us a little about yourself. Be as thorough as you feel necessary.

Well, where to start. A lot about my journey to becoming an author can be found on my website, However, that’s such a dull answer to give in an interview…feel free to check the website though. Otherwise, I'm a guy who found books at an early age, fell in love with the magic and mystery of a book – after all, it's much better than watching a movie – and it soon became my dream. It took a few years to get there, but it happened eventually after a lot of persistence on my part. I also had a lot of support from family and friends.
Some stuff people might not know? I'm allergic to apples, I consume way too much caffeine – but it helps with the writing –, I'm very much a night owl (American friends, you know the time difference means squat to me lol), and…I see inspiration in everything. My brain works in funny ways like that.

We thank you so much for sparing your time to participate in this interview. In addition to the roles outlined in my introduction, you also hold down a full time job as a recruitment consultant. Is it safe to say that you are an extremely busy individual?

It's Fort Knox safe, yes. My normal day at the moment is 18 hours long. I get maybe 4-6 hours sleep a night and the rest is spent working the day job, writing, researching, generating ideas and, most recently, editing and reading peoples work. I take Saturdays off usually (the day anyway) to relax and recharge and spend time with my amazing wife. I have the odd evening off too, but very rarely.
I love being busy. For anyone out there who wonders what it takes to be an author, it's hard and it takes dedication. Writing is not a job you can do for a couple of hours a week, you need to be committed. I'm at the point now where if I don't write, I feel like I'm slacking off and I love that I'm disciplined in that way, it makes the job so much easier and enjoyable. 

A Question from Christina Cooper - Does your wife have any influence, or help you at the conceptual stages of a book, does she have any input into any potential material or edits? Does she read your work?

My wife, Leisyen, is my rock. I'll be honest, without her, I wouldn’t be doing this right now. She gave me the kick up the arse that made me start writing properly. I always knew I wanted to do it but when I started, I had no one telling me I could do it. I don't seek an ego boost from anyone, but writing a book without knowing if anyone will read it is a difficult task. I suppose it's like opening a cake shop and expecting no one to come in and sample the carrot cake. Leisyen was the person who helped me through that stage. A year later, people like my work, which still surprises me to this day, and I'm grateful for everyone who appreciates it. I'll slowly get used to that part…maybe.
Little fact, in case you missed this, Leisyen is the cover model for 'The Customer is Always…' I didn't have a budget back then, she stepped up. Now her face is on Amazon. She's truly made this easier for me and having her by my side is something I would never change.   

Your debut Novella “The Customer is Always..”is currently being featured in a collection of stories with four other authors. Could you please tell us how this came about? In addition, the main character in this book, Vincent, is a customer services assistant at an insurance company. After a little digging on you, could I ask whether this character may have been roughly based upon yourself in a previous employment?

The book, V, came about when Matt Shaw was compiling an anthology of books. Matt is a brilliant author and we have many things in common. However, one of the things we agree on is giving back to the fans. If you want an example, check this YouTube video:

That's us surprising a fan at her Hen Do, one of Matt's many ventures. I was privileged to be asked along. It was a great night. Anyway, V. The reason for V was to give fans, old and new, a book to buy for pennies, 99p or 99c, and introduce them to several authors at once. Fans love a bargain and Matt had the idea to do this. I was honoured when he invited me to participate alongside Kyle M. Scott, Tim Miller, Michael Bray, and Matt himself. I gave him Customer because, at the time, Charlotte was fairly new. I didn't have any other books to give him, however, Customer was my debut and it seemed fitting to give that one to the fans.
The character was based on any customer service assistant in any job in the world. I've been in customer service for fifteen years and I picked up a lot during that time. Customer is based on my experiences in an insurance role. Take away the antagonist and the thriller element and you have, down to a tee, a normal office environment taken from experience to page. Everything you read – minor spoilers – from the managers, to the mannerisms, the phone call jargon, the characters – it all happened to me at some point. I felt it brought the story alive because, simply, it happened. I didn’t need to write those elements because they were happening around me at the time.

A few months ago, I showed you the reading list on my Ipad containing three of your books and one of your anthologies as next in line to devour. Your statement was how “The little things like this make you smile.” Do you feel that will always be the case?

I think so. For me, writing will one day be my occupation, I want this more than anything. However, for me, it's not about the money, it's about producing stories that people enjoy. Your image was spurred by you enjoying one book and as a result, you ordered my back catalogue. To me, and any author, that’s a huge vote of confidence. Do I have moments of self-doubt? Sure. However, when people post images like that or praise me or share with their friends, it's something born out of enjoyment and it means I'm doing my job right. For so long, this was a huge worry so it's nice to put that little demon to bed. I find enjoyment in the simple things in life so it will always sit well with me.

The first book of yours that I read was “Charlotte.” I was immediately captivated by how well the story was written and flew through the pages in no time. Where did the initial concept for the story come from?

There's two answers here. The first is a simple one. I was browsing Facebook one night and came across my cousin's profile. I read the name, Charlotte, and I was like…hmmmm. I couldn’t stop thinking of the name. At the time, and this is the second answer, I was considering writing a story about a demonic child. After much procrastinating, I realised it'd been done before, but I couldn’t shake the notion that it would be a fun story to write. My sister was pregnant at the time and I started wondering what would happen if my nephew conjured an imaginary friend. I don’t remember having one as a kid but the thought, for some reason, spooked me. I put the two together and Charlotte was born.
As I mentioned above, inspiration for me comes from many things and Charlotte was born from two random thoughts on two completely different days. Sometimes, the ideas just come from nowhere. I enjoyed writing Charlotte because I don’t usually dabble in supernatural horror – I'm a realistic horror writer – but it was fun to push the boundaries and see what happened. I'm glad you enjoyed the story because it was a very proud achievement for me. 

Your first full length novel “All or Nothing” is a very elaborate, intricate story, featuring lots of characters with incredible depth and more twists than a corkscrew. You told me that initially, you only knew two things that were going to happen. Is this your common writing practice?

My writing practice varies. As mentioned, sometimes ideas come from nowhere and sometimes you have to sit down and think them through. All or Nothing was the latter. I'm no conspiracy theorist but sometimes you can't help but wonder if something shady is going on behind closed doors. Governments and billion dollar corporations fill the headlines with rumours of 'shady dealings' or corruption. When the idea came about, back in 2003, I was hooked on writing a story from four different perspectives. One was enough, but four was ample to show just how horrific the characters experience is during a Government funded, secretive pay per view with a deadly twist. It also enabled me to create different personas (having one person go from wimp, to hero, to dead etc., just didn’t cut it for me). I wanted to enjoy these characters and, in turn, ensure the readers did too.
I'll find that one book will flow from my fingertips effortlessly and I will find that another needs a bit of research and thought. I love having that flexibility, it means the process is always interesting. It also means I learn something about both writing and myself when I do this.  

Whispers –Volume 1. A reader described in a five star review, that your “Imagination knows no limits, and his ability to push the boundaries of good taste make for fantastic reading.” How do you interpret these statements from your readers?

The comments are awesome. I can honestly say, from now to a decade in the future, these comments will always put a smile on my face. I write to entertain people and when they say things like this, it means I've done my job correctly. It also means I will keep doing it to enable you, the readers, to continue enjoying my work. All I can say is thank you to everyone who's ever written something nice about my work. I also encourage anyone who enjoys my work to add me on Facebook and Twitter (links below). I love hearing from you.

In the same book, the detail and descriptiveness of your writing really blew me away. One story in Particular; Vermilion – A Travellers Tale really caught my attention. You actually feel that you are there, sharing the experience. Could you tell me a little about this tale?

Vermilion was the first short story I ever wrote. Back in…May last year, I submitted the story to Journals of Horror: Found Fiction. I didn’t expect to get accepted since it was my first story, however, I put everything into it. To this day, it's only one of two stories I've written in the first person. Some people have commented on the narrative of the story and that the main character is very deluded and psychotic, but this is what I was aiming for. I just wondered what would happen should such a person find himself facing the end of the world. It was a fun concept because he has no bounds, anything is possible. It also gave me a chance to go a little extreme.
When Terry West accepted the story, I was stunned. I'll always respect and admire Terry for giving me a chance to submit and for putting my first short out into the world. I don’t think we've seen the last of this character yet either. Watch this space…

You do a lot of work on Anthologies. I believe you have lined up “Kids”, of which I am honoured to be part of, “Edge of Darkness”, “A-Z”, and “Undead Legacy 2”. I sincerely apologise if I have missed any others.  What drives you to continue with these collections and how do you select the material that is chosen for publication?

I believe it comes down to putting out the best work possible. Undead Legacy, the first volume, my debut anthology with Essel Pratt, was very well received by readers and contributor alike. I've read a few anthologies in my time and always find them enjoyable. They also played a huge part in my career when I started out. Getting those acceptances in was a highlight of 2014 and every time I received one, it made me realise that 'wow, people actually enjoy my work'. As I slowly started building a portfolio of short stories – see Whispers – Volume 1 – I realised that not only was I putting together collections of my own, but I was generating some buzz for my work. Now, it’s a year later and I see authors submitting in the hope of getting accepted. I was there once, they are heading down the same road I was, and still am, and its nerve wracking. If I can help them make this easier, I'm all for it.
I recently joined Dark Chapter Press and I also work for J Ellington Ashton Press as well. Both have taught me so much in varying time frames, but one thing I have learned is you can never have too much work. I love discovering new authors – like you, Matt, your story for Kids was phenomenal – and if I can give just one person a boost (I believe this is your writing debut), then I'm all for it. Kids is upcoming, A-Z, Edge of Darkness and Undead Legacy 2 are all flowing nicely too. It's going to be a busy 2015, starting with 'Kill for a Copy', the debut anthology from Dark Chapter Press. One of my favourite authors, Shaun Hutson, is providing the foreword. Exciting times lay ahead for Dark Chapter Press, watch this space. 

Another question from Christine; I believe that you have recently been researching the American Frontier and the Wild West. What was the favourite thing that you learned or already knew about American history?

I love the era, which is probably a cliché male answer. I grew up on the Wild West in films and music, courtesy of my father. I always enjoyed the raw, undisciplined, unlawful theme of it all. To think, this happened merely years before civilisation as we know it began to form. I just love that everyone had their heroes from the time such as Wyatt Earp, William H. Bonney, Wild Bill Hicock, Jesse James, Butch and Sundance…to name a few. To me, The Wild West was a time of consequence against the beauty of the American landscape and its contrast has always interested me.
I'm still learning but, even when the story I'm working on is complete, I will continue to research it. There's a thin line between research and enjoyment and this is definitely one of those times.  

I understand that you recently made a surprise appearance, at one of your reader’s horror themed hen party with fellow Author Matt Shaw. How did this go, and is it something that you may consider doing more of in future?

Ha, I already mentioned this. In case you missed it, watch it here:
It was fantastic. Matt and I were a little nervous at first but once we arrived, it all went smoothly. The bride, Laura, had no idea we were coming. Luckily, she recognised Matt (his biggest concern) and it all went off without a hitch. I will definitely do more of this. As mentioned, I love giving back to the readers and I will continue to do this for the people who make it possible for me to have a writing career.
FYI, guys and gals, Matt Shaw and I are at London Film and Comic Con in July with fellow author, Chantal Noordeloos. I'll be signing books, taking photos and avoiding Matt's amorous glances…

Talking of Which, I believe that you are doing Comic Con in London this July. What can we expect to see from you in regards to merchandise etc?

You did your research. : )
Matt Shaw and Chantal Noordeloos will be there too.
I'll be taking physical copies of 'The Customer is Always…', 'Charlotte', Whispers – Volume 1: A Collection' and 'All or Nothing'. I will be signing them and, if required, taking photos with fans. If you haven't bought a copy of the books, you can do so there. If you have already, bring them with you and I will happily scribble on the pages. I'm looking forward to the weekend, it's going to be a blast.

What advice would you give to anyone that would want to be a writer in any description?

The simple answer is to persevere. Don’t give up, trust me, sometimes you might want to. If you work hard, commit to the cause and muscle through, you're well on your way. I would also create your brand as soon as possible. Get all the sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads) and be accessible to your fans. And don’t let the money determine your success…if you're in it for the money, quit now. If you love writing, that will shine through and that's the most important thing.

Do you have anything other than we have covered imminent, and what can we expect from you for the remainder of 2015?

Aside from the anthologies, which consume a lot of my time at the moment, I am putting the finishing touches to Grin and Cine. Omertà, Boys and 89 are in the works too. I have plans to start my first series, The Vector Series, in September. This is a trilogy based on a world ravaged by apocalypse. I have enclosed the first cover, Aftermath, for your perusal. I am also waiting for contractual obligations to finish to release Whispers – Vol 2 and Vol 3.
I have several other ideas on the burner too. Right now, I am focusing on my editorial work. As mentioned, DCP and JEA are exciting publishing presses and being involved is an absolute privilege. However, the second half of 2015 will see several releases from yours truly.  

As I feel we have been going a while, I will start to wrap things up. I’m aware that a huge influence on your writing was Richard Laymon, but as this is for the Fans Of Modern Horror Page. Please give us a few names of other Authors, both established and maybe just starting out that you feel deserve a mention.

My major influence is Richard Laymon. I also thoroughly enjoy Shaun Hutson, James Herbert, Clive Barker, Lee Child, Robert Crais and Stephen King. Authors I would recommend right now (based on novels I've read by them) are: Matt Shaw, Tim Miller, Jack Rollins, Kyle M. Scott, Chantal Noordeloos, Graeme Reynolds, Michael Bray, Jim Goforth, Ian Noakes, Mark Parker, Jasper Bark, Geoffrey West…there are many others. J Ellington Ashton Press have a lot of talented authors in a variety of genres. Indie authors are dominant at the moment and they are really beginning to shine.   

Lastly, you are incredibly approachable and always seem to allow time for your readers and peers. Where can you be found?

Anyone who wishes to add me on these sites, feel free.

The Fans of Modern Horror page is an independently run Facebook page by Christina Cooper. A lady devoted to her love of books, looking to do nothing more than network with like-minded people and have fun along the way. It has been an absolute pleasure having you here to answer our questions. Once again I thank you for your time and wish you continued success. Thank you, Mr Stuart Keane.

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