Interview: with William Cook
William Cook is the author of the novel Blood Related. He is a writer of psychological horror and dark fiction that crosses genres. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies and he is also the editor of Fresh Fear: an Anthology of Macabre Horror, which includes some of the biggest names in contemporary horror fiction. Visit his website at williamcookwriter.com.
Hi William. Are there any horror/fantasy/sci-fi tropes or sub genres which you feel are played out? And vice versa, what tropes would you like to see more of?
I’m not sure really because I am a bit narrow in my reading in that I tend to prefer ‘classical’ and ‘psychological’ horror over many of the new horror trends. In saying that, I feel that Zombie and Bizarro fiction have lost the edge they once might’ve had when they first became popular - largely due to oversaturation and a repetition of the genre’s tropes to the point where most (not all) of the stories seem formulaic and unoriginal.
I really like psychological horror for the scope of the content and it’s immediacy in terms of how it is very much a ‘human horror’ that is portrayed. There are no analogous supernatural beings or long-winded metaphors that pretend to be something else other than true horror which is, in my view, completely human in origin.
How important is social media to you as an indie author?
In the past it has been extremely important in establishing a fan-base and for marketing my work via the likes of Facebook and Twitter et al. Nowadays, I’m slightly disenchanted with the reach of social media – it seems that there are so many regulations and barriers to getting a good reach with SM posts that unless you are willing to pay a lot of money for advertising it is basically a waste of time. For that reason, I now spend my marketing bucks on Amazon ads which are directly targeted at readers who buy books like mine. I still use social media to stay in touch with my readers though and will continue to do so for the time being.
There are millions of people around the world with great story ideas, but who never even start to write them down. What drives you to sit down and aim for finished, published stories?
I’m not sure – it’s just ‘my thing’ I guess. Some people run marathons, some play rugby, others build jigsaws and do crossword puzzles . . . I write. I get a certain amount of satisfaction from creating a story that is complete, i.e. has a coherent narrative and begins and ends with a tale that will leave the reader emotionally (or intellectually) connected to the character/s and story. I started out writing poetry and then short fiction before writing longer narrative works so there has been a certain amount of evolution in my journey as a writer. I was influenced by my Grandfather who suggested I write ‘1000 words a day’ to get into the habit of writing. I don’t write nearly that much these days as what I write is largely mulled over in my brain for a long period of time before it hits the paper, usually fully formed as a complete narrative. I’m always striving to better each story with the next one, so there seems to be an element of competitiveness (with myself) that keeps me producing more tales that are hopefully of a finer standard than ones I have written previously. So, in summary, I guess a competitive spirit, tenaciousness, and a quest for literary excellence has propelled my writing career and the amount of work written to date. What books are beside your bed right now? A lot. I tend to read more than one book at a time and ‘dip in’ more often than read a complete work from cover-to-cover. I am going through a non-fiction phase and currently reading lots of books related to Government surveillance and espionage as research for a story I’m working on about a rogue assassin.
Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing?
I write when I can (time constraints etc.) and I make a lot of notes in preparation for, and during, the writing process. I usually gather my research around me and outline in a pad or journal the central action, characters, setting and events that happen during the story before settling down to type. I don’t drink anymore (4 ½ years dry) so I don’t imbibe like I used to when writing, although I do usually put some classical or electronic music (no lyrics) on in the background while I work. What are your thoughts on indie publishing in Australia and New Zealand? I live in New Zealand so not really sure what the scene is like in Australia, but here in NZ it is strong and continuing to grow as more writers realise that they don’t need to go the traditional route to produce quality works of fiction. I have done the traditional route of publishing and most of my earlier works were published that way, but due largely to the lack of income and creative control I went the indie route two years ago and have never looked back. I do still submit to smaller zines and anthologies just to keep growing as a writer and for feedback etc. I think it is important to maintain standards and quality as an indie author. The reader, after all, is the most important purveyor of a writer’s work and if the work is comparable to traditionally published works, then Indie authors should find readers and be able to survive alongside their traditionally published peers.