I found James Everington soon after I got my first Kindle. I found his collection of stories The Other Room and I became an instant fan. My favorite story in that collection is “A Writer’s Words”, which I mention in one of the questions below. Then I discovered the works of The Abominable Gentlemen and I thought I was back in the heyday of mags like Fangoria and Weird Tales. I was as happy as a pig in…..well, anyway these magazines have some awesome short stories and they cemented me in as a fan. (They are all now available in this pretty cool looking omnibus edition.)
In July of 2012, James released another short story collection titled Falling Over. This was another fantastic collection which showed off Mr. Everington’s skills in the short fiction arena and made him a star in my eyes. Miss Nikki gave me permission when I asked to conduct an interview with him and here we are.
Why do you think that horror/dark/weird fiction stories work better in the short form? (I know you don’t consider yourself a horror writer, but I saw this comment in a previous interview and thought people might like to know a little more about it.)
For me horror is all about atmosphere, about a rising sense of tension and unease. And it’s very hard to write a novel that doesn’t suffer some unfortunate reversals or lulls in that tension. That’s not to say it can’t be done; my own list of favourite horror novels would be very long but would certainly include House Of Leaves, Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, The Haunting Of Hill House…
But in general, horror novels are by necessity diluted by other elements. Whereas a horror short story can be gorgeously pure. I think that’s related to the fact you can read them in one sitting too.
What was the first horror or dark fiction book or story that affected you and in what way?
It wasn’t horror as such, but I vividly remember a story called One Is One And All Alone by Nicholas Fisk. It’s about a young girl on a long space flight who is bored because there’s no one else around of her age to play with. So she clones herself, and hides her double on the spaceship. They play together and at first it’s great fun but the girl becomes increasingly annoyed with her clone’s annoying little habits… which are of course her own. Despite it being a kid’s story it’s a pretty dark tale about identity and doppelgangers; people who’ve read some of my work will be able to see why it would appeal to me! It’s got a great ending too, but I won’t spoil it here.
When did your fascination with words begin? (You know I had to work “A Writer’s Words” somehow into this interview!)
Aren’t all writers fascinated by words (or at least, all decent writers)? By the feel of them and the joy of what they can make words do? I’d hope so.
But yes, sometimes words seem so fickle, the way they can turn like a knife in the hand and cut you by meaning something other than they intended. The ways sometimes they don’t seem to mean anything at all. That was the starting point for A Writer’s Words which I know is one of your favourites Charlene (despite its godawful title which I’ve never managed to improve upon) – being hung-over on a train and trying to decipher a sign about where the train was going, which didn’t make any sense. And I had the strange idea for a story about someone for whom all words gradually stopped making sense… even the ones inside his own head.
Similarly one of the stories in my most recent collection is called Public Interest Story, and although in part it’s a Kafkaesque story about the modern British tabloid press, it’s also about someone being defined by the words of others. And they might be false words, but they come to define reality too, to twist reality to fit their lies.
I know that you generally prefer the term “weird fiction” over horror fiction or dark fiction. Why?
Well, personally I don’t get too hung up on genre distinctions and categorization, not when reading and certainly not when writing. But I do find some people’s definition of “horror” is too narrow – basically a cinema-based view of horror as being little more than gore and entrails and people being killed in various esoteric ways. Whereas the horror genre is really a broad church, encompassing such bloody tales but also the traditional ghost story, and… weird fiction. Which I classify as those horror stories where the horror isn’t just a monster or knife-lunatic running amok, but that horrible creeping feeling that something is wrong with reality or perception itself. Lovecraft’s messed up geometry; the ambiguity of whether the ghost exists in Turn Of The Screw; the total strangeness of Ligotti’s tales.
And also, I like the term “weird fiction” because in the literal sense it’s the most accurate – my stories are weird. (I also like Robert Aickman’s term “strange stories” for the same reasons.)
What are your thoughts on self publishing? Do you think the market is too crowded these days?
In terms of my own fiction, I am moving away from it and towards the small-press – my most recent book Falling Over was brought out by Infinity Plus who publish some excellent genre authors. And yes, part of the reasoning behind that decision was simply to try and distinguish my stuff from the masses of dross being churned out. I do think the market is crowded, and having a publisher behind your work is one way to try and stand out.
That said, it would be hypocritical for me to criticise self-publishing too much. There’s still some gems to be found. For example, The Side Effects Of The Medication by Lauren James is one of my favourite short story collections of recent years. Self-publishing definitely has its place and hopefully over the next few years the wannabes and talentless will be weeded out and the more exciting, experimental stuff will flourish.
Will there be any more Abominable Gentlemen collections?
Well you should know the Gentlemen don’t give a straight answer to anything Charlene…
For those who don’t know, the Abominable Gentlemen are a loose collective of horror writers comprising of myself, Alan Ryker, Aaron Polson and Iain Rowan. We’ve released a number of volumes of Penny Dreadnought to showcase our short fiction and/or pave the way for a new world order. You can buy an Omnibus of all of them to date, should you be so inclined. Side effects vary from reader to reader, but are likely to include: trembling hands; creeping dread; visions of the end times; speaking in tongues; existential doubt, and an intolerance to sparkly vampires.
Anyway, to answer the question… I’m not sure. I’d hope we have a Second Coming at some point, but the Gentlemen are all embarked on solo missions for the cause at the moment.
Are there any of your stories that you would like to see on film? If so which one(s)?
I’m not sure many of them would work as a standard horror film… maybe The Shelter would be the best fit.
But in general, my stories are quite ambiguous in their affect, and that works best on the printed page I think. That said, if any Hollywood big-shots are reading this and are prepared to try and prove me wrong with a big wad of cash, they shouldn’t feel deterred…!
What’s on your TBR (To be read list)?
Oh I’ve got hundreds of books to read; we’re all going to die with books unread which is why it’s important not to waste time on the shite ones.
But off the top of my head I’m most looking forward to reading The Road Through The Wall by Shirley Jackson, Piggies by Nick Gifford, and Dead Gone by Luca Veste. Plus a whole host of others…
What is your most recent work that people could check out?
My latest book is Falling Over which is published by Infinity Plus. It’s a collection of short stories, the title story of which really sets the tone – it’s a tale of paranoia and doppelgangers and about feeling like an observer to your own life sometimes. As if the bodysnatchers got you and you didn’t even realise. Some of the stories in the book have been published before in magazines and anthologies, and some are brand new. There’s ghosts and scary children and all sorts of fun stuff to be found in there.
My most recently published story is Calligraphy, in the anthology Little Visible Delight, where I’m alongside such cracking writers as Lynda E. Rucker and SP Miskowski. It’s an anthology based on the theme of writers’ obsessions and Calligraphy itself is an odd tale (even by my standards) that I’m very proud of. It’s another ‘words gone wrong’ story like A Writer’s Words. I hope people like it.
What are you working on now?
Typically, lots of things all at once. There’s a novella called Other People’s Ghosts which is proving a sod to get the right structure for, but I’m sure I’ll get there in the end. Between drafts on that I’m working on a new short story called Retro Night. It’s about going out when you’re young and invincible and think you can live forever… and going out when you’re older and wiser and know that you won’t.
And, tentatively, I’m starting to think about a third collection of short stories as well – working out which ones I have available would fit together thematically and trying out some hypothetical running orders… I always spend ages working out orders, it’s like making a mix-tape back in the day. Sadly, I quite enjoy it.
Where can we find you online?
James, thanks for being so generous with your time! I hope this interview will turn some people on to your work, because it definitely deserves some attention.