Author Interview | Tim Lebbon
For the month of October I’m hosting Spooks and Tea where we aim to consume as much horror, or spooky, books as possible.
I also wanted to do something a little different and fun this year so I reached out to a few authors to see if any would be interested in taking part, most of them agreed to do a Q&A with the Book Club! I have never felt more blessed.
If you’re a member of Books and Tea you’ll have been given the chance to ask these authors questions, as well as getting to see their answers early.
It is now time for me to share the third one which is the Tim Lebbon! I’ve seen so many of his books in work all the time and always thinking how I need to pick them up, when I emailed him I did so 100% not expecting a reply because I’m just little ol’ me but he did! Keep reading to see what we asked him.
I love writing, reading, triathlon, real ale, chocolate, good movies, occasional bad movies, and cake.
I was born in London in 1969, lived in Devon until I was eight, and the next twenty years were spent in Newport. My wife Tracey and I then did a Good Thing and moved back to the country, and we now live in the little village of Goytre in Monmouthshire with our kids Ellie and Daniel. And our dog, Blu, who is the size of a donkey.
I love the countryside … I do a lot of running and cycling, and live in the best part of the world for that.
I’ve had loads of books published in the UK, USA, and around the world, including novels, novellas, and collections. I write horror, fantasy, and now thrillers, and I’ve been writing as a living for over 8 years. I’ve won quite a few awards for my original fiction, and I’ve also written tie-in projects for Star Wars, Alien, Hellboy, The Cabin in the Woods, and 30 Days of Night.
A movie’s just been made of my short story Pay the Ghost, starring Nicolas Cage and Sarah Wayne Callies. There are other projects in development, too.
I’d love to hear from you! (Taken from GoodReads)
What do you think is the best part of being an author?
Honestly, it’s got so many good parts it’s difficult to say. I think making a living from what started out as a hobby is just about the best thing there is. I make up stuff, write it down, and sometimes I get money for it. I always wanted to write for a living, not because I thought I’d make lots of money (good thing I didn’t think that!) but because I love writing so much and want to do it all the time. Making a living from it makes that possible. I’m my own boss, keep my own hours (other than working around the family), largely make my own decisions about what to write next. I’ve made lots of lifelong friends from writing. I get to travel a bit (I went to a vampire convention in Transylvania this year). And sitting on my own at my desk I get to decide who lives or dies. I have to say, though, that although I can’t now imagine doing anything else, there is something of a balance. I never get a monthly pay cheque, after all. Money is sometimes (often) a worry, even when I’m doing OK there’s always the fear that contracts will dry up, or my muse will go on strike. But the good far outweighs the bad. I can’t imagine not being creative, and being paid for it is a huge added bonus.
What made you decide to pursue a career as a writer?
See above. I’ve always loved writing, since I started my first novel before I was in double digits. Through my teens I never really viewed it as a possible career choice, I was purely writing for the love of it. In my twenties I had loads of short stories and my first novels published, then in my early thirties I went part-time in work. I spent a long time working towards writing for a living, and that’s the story with most writers. Ask a lot of professionals how they came to be writers, and they’ll tell you the same it-took-ten-years-to-become-an-overnight-success story.
When you’re writing and looking to create suspense, what is the key to creating a lingering eerie feeling without something that’s actually scary happening?
Good question. I don’t often analyse what I do in great detail, but here are a few ways I can think of:
– Jumping between points of view, leaving other characters in jeopardy when you go with someone else. Mini cliffhangers, in effect.
– Descriptive language that might evoke unease in the reader.
– Rhythm of language, words, sentences.
– Planting disturbing images in the readers’ heads.
– Suggesting rather than explaining in detail (show don’t tell).
I think most writers have their own methods of building suspense, and a lot of it is to do with the individual voice they build through their career. I firmly believe that you should always strive to be a better writer––more effective, more concise, more skilled.
Is pacing and paragraphs/sentence structure more important when writing horror, so as to ensure the right emotions are being invoked more consistently throughout the story?
Pacing definitely, although I’m not sure about paragraph and sentence length. They come naturally depending on the type of scene you’re writing.
How do you get past the anxiety and worry that others will misjudge your work or that no one will want to read it?
I don’t. It’s always there. That sounds like a glib answer but it’s true, and I know lots and lots of writers and know it’s true for them too. We all call it something different, but it amounts to The Fear. That you’re a fraud and are going to be found out. That your ideas will dry up. That publishers won’t want you anymore. That readers will fall out of love with your work. My own anxiety about my work and writing is always present, and for me it’s a driving force to work more, write better, and to always try to be as good as I can. I’m sure there are writers out there who are totally at ease with their writing and their career, but I have yet to meet them. I know some writers getting seven figure deals who are still plagued with self-doubt. For me it’s something that makes writing quite difficult––it’s WORK, I never find it easy––but it also keeps me on my toes. I think writing that’s any good should be difficult.
If you could write a horror book with any author, living or dead, who would you pick and why?
Good question. My instant answer is Stephen King, because he’s been a source of inspiration and delight since I was in my teens. And of course, the pay check would probably be OK! But if I think about it a bit more I’d have to say Arthur Machen. He was a fascinating character, and his books and stories are wonderful, beautifully written, and compelling. His use of language is bewitching. I could learn a lot from him … and he was born so close to me that his local pub is also one I frequent, from time to time, so we could enjoy a pint together too.
Regarding 30 Days of Night: Are there any additional challenges when writing a book based on a movie that was based on a comic book series? Did you use the comics as additional source material or go in blind with just the movie?
I love books. I always have. But when it comes to my love of horror, definitely films. I follow in my grandfather’s love of the horror film genre.
In your short story Emergence, from the New Fears 2 anthology, was The Tunnel and its atmosphere based on something you’d experienced on one of your own runs?
Yes! I go running on a local mountain called the Blorenge, and halfway up the steep lower face of the hill there’s a brick tunnel exactly like the one described in the story. I’ve probably passed it 30 or 40 times. I have yet to go inside…
In fact I’m about to have another story published based on the same mountain. The story is called Land of Many Seasons and it will appear in This Dreaming Isle.
How would you handle exploring such a forgotten and desolate area?
I love quiet places in the countryside. That’s why I love the Blorenge so much, it’s one of three mountains in my local area but it’s the quiestest, and probably the most remote. I know it pretty well, but if the weather closes in it’s entirely possible to get lost up there. I always make sure I have a phone and water with me. And if I do ever venture into the brick tunnel in the future, I’ll probably take a weapon of some sort too…
And lastly, how well would you handle knowing you were the cause of Humanities destruction?
Er … strange question. I’d probably sit down and give myself a good talking to.
As you’ve written quite a few movie novelisations, are there any movies you’d love ot write the novelisations of?
My bucket list job was Alien, and I’ve now written four Alien novels. So I’m a happy puppy. I’d like to do one of the Star Wars novelisations, although I’ve written an original Star Wars novel too. I have done quite a bit of tie in work––it’s fun to do, it can expand readership, and in all honestly it’s a payday and I’m a working writer, and sometimes it’s needed!––but I’m hoping to concentrate more on my own work down the line. That’s not to say I won’t do more tie-in work in the future, but there’s nothing in particular I’m itching to do.
Which kind of goes in hand with the fact I’m aiming to watch 31 horror movies in October, which are your favourite?
Jacob’s Ladder, The Thing, The Innocents, The Haunting, Alien, The Omen, The Descent, Blair Witch Project, The Ritual…..
Lastly, I literally just noticed you have a Firefly novel coming out next year! Can you give us any information about that or is it all under wraps?
Yep, I’m working on it right now. Not sure I can say any more than the publishers have already released: The discovery of the location of one of the legendary Ark ships that brought humans from Earth to the ’Verse promises staggering salvage potential, but at what cost? River Tam thinks she might know …
I hope you enjoyed reading this, we had such a great time coming up with the questions and I really enjoyed Tim’s responses. I still have one more left to share with you later on this month too so stay tuned for that.