Genres: Dark Fiction, Extreme Horror, Fiction, Horror, Thriller
Tim Curran graciously agreed to chat with us about his writing, how he started, what inspired him, and his latest book!
So without further ado: Welcome to Horror After Dark, Mr. Curran!
Let’s start with Your Writing.
HAD: When did you discover H.P. Lovecraft and how did that affect you and/or your writing?
TIM: I discovered Lovecraft when I was in junior high via a Scholastic book called The Shadow over Innsmouth and other Stories of Horror. Probably a lot of people from my generation did as well. I still have the book. It has a Nosferatu-looking Deep One on the cover. That’s why I picked it up. That cool cover. I was blown away by the stories, particularly the title story and “The Colour out of Space” which I read and re-read many times. It opened up my mind in so many directions. I loved how he gave supposedly supernatural occurrences a science fiction basis. That book planted a very large seed in my imagination, one that I think is still blossoming.
HAD: What books have most influenced you and/or your writing?
TIM: Well, the Lovecraft book I mentioned without a doubt. Songs of a Dead Dreamer by Thomas Ligotti because I love his imagery and the sense of alienation, of aloneness his characters suffer with as they plod along, cosmic horror gathering around them. Pigeons from Hell and other Weird and Fantastic Adventures. I Found this one in 8th grade in one of those revolving paperback book racks at a local store. I bought it because there was a dinosaur on the cover. The title story blew me away. It’s my favorite horror story bar none. I knew I wanted to write horror just by reading that story. First Blood by David Morrell. A few years before Stallone made his movie (and the perfectly awful sequels) my dad gave me this one and said I would like it. I read it in one sitting. I loved how Morrell wrote. His sentences and paragraphs had a perfect pitch to them. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. First King book I read. I was in 10th grade. I had little use for modern horror at the time, preferring Lovecraft and Howard and the other old school scribblers I found in paperback anthologies. My girlfriend wanted me to read Carrie. I wasn’t interested. All modern horror was possessed girls and psychic teenagers, I thought. King’s book—my sister’s—had been bouncing around the house for years. I was bored one summer so I tried to read it. I didn’t like it. Very slow-burn at the opening. I picked it up again a few months later and pushed through. Great scary vampires. It may not be King’s best book and his writing would be leaps and bounds beyond this a few years later, but it holds a special place in my heart because it made me give modern horror a look. The Fog by James Herbert. Wow. Came across it at a used book store. It made me rush out and read anything I could get by him. I loved how seamy and dirty a lot of his characters were. Nobody was perfectly clean. Particularly in The Rats, Lair, and The Dark, he exposed the foulness of the human condition. I should probably add Night of the Hunter by Davis Grubb, Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes, Dark Carnival by Bradbury, a dozen more as well. There’s plenty of others, many more recent, but these were some of my core influences. These books taught me to write or set my imagination on fire.
HAD: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
TIM: I don’t really have a favorite author. I like so many different writers for different reasons. I tend to go in streaks reading one person then moving onto someone else.
HAD: Have you ever hated something you’ve written?
TIM: Not when I wrote it, but looking back years later I’ve found things that are embarrassing. It’s not usually the whole story I hate, but the way I did it. How it could have been better. I cringe over some of my old stuff when I find clumsy sentences, run-on paragraphs, or language that’s not clear or presented propery. So usually it’s not something I wrote but how I wrote it. I like most of the stuff I’ve written, but I don’t love it. I keep hoping I’ll get better at it.
HAD: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
TIM: Yes. It was just for fun. In junior high I remember writing a parody of Star Trek that my friends and I laughed over. Then I wrote a parody of a hardboiled noir but never finished it. About then, for kicks, I started writing pastiches of H.G. Wells and Lovecraft, all of them very, very bad.
HAD: What inspired you to write your first book and what was the title?
TIM: My first written or first published? First written was a novel about a succubus-type woman who haunted generations of the same family. It remains to this day, uncompleted. A trunk novel. The first novel I had published was a crime novel called Street Rats.
HAD: Do you write an outline before every book you write?
TIM: No, I don’t use outlines. I don’t believe in them at all. I’ve tried to use them, but I find they crowd me and push me into a corner. You’re not going to reach any degree of creativity with one. They’re far too restraining. You have to set your imagination free and it can‘t be free using a step-by-step template. With me, I never have much more than a few pages of scribbled notes. That’s enough. The less you have, I’ve found, the better off you are. The story needs to be unfettered so it can go in the direction it wants. The most important thing to me is a strong first sentence that leads into a strong first paragraph. If you get that down right, it sets the pace, tone, atmosphere, and feel of the story.
HAD: Do you ever experience writer’s block?
TIM: Sometimes. I go through periods where I start something, set it aside, start something else, set it aside. I can’t seem to focus on what it is I want to do. But when I get real writer’s block and the words won’t come, I shut off the laptop and write by hand. There’s a strange sort of connection between the hand and subconscious mind when you do that. It almost always works for me.
Doll Face Available on March 3, 2015
HAD: Tell us about Doll Face, how did the idea for the story come to you?
TIM: I think part of it came to me because I stumbled on a book called The Doll by Hans Bellmer, a sort of subversive, weirdly erotic and frightening collection of doll photographs. Bellmer was either a pervert or a genius and probably both, though there are numerous creative, social, and political underpinnings to his strange work of the 1930s. The photos haunted me…doll armatures and heaps of doll parts and half-finished dolls, many oddly voluptuous with staring human eyes. That stuck in my head. Long before I’d come across that book, I wrote a story called “The Puppeteer” which covered some of the same themes as Doll Face. So those two things came together in my mind with maybe a sprinkling of Thomas Ligotti and his disturbing puppet stories. But unlike Ligotti, I abandoned all subtlety and did what I always do—I went way, way overboard with imagery and description and atmosphere. I took the idea of mechanized dolls and jumped right off the fucking cliff with it.
HAD: What do you like most about the book? Is there anything you don’t like?
TIM: The imagery in that book still unnerves me. That’s what I like best. What I like least is that my characters didn’t go stark raving mad. Because in a situation like that, you definitely would. And I think I made Ramona too bad-ass like some kind of Lara Kroft, you know, probably too pretty and too assertive. I have nothing against strong female characters, but I think it’s gotten to be a cliché to have heroines be ultra-aggressive and ultra-tough. I know as a reader when I come across a female character that’s something of a wallflower it’s almost refreshing. It’s the transition from wallflower that’s the fun part.
HAD: Do you have any upcoming projects you could tell us about?
TIM: Right now, it’s up in the air. Some of my books will be reprinted in Germany and I’ll have short stories in anthologies, but beyond that I can’t say because I just had an epic fail with my laptop and I lost a bunch of stuff. It’s enough to make you want to take up pen and paper again. My data retrieval guy has been helping out a lot with pulling stuff off my hard drive and most of my stuff was backed up but I still lost a large chunk of a novella and a novel I was working on so that sucks. It’ll take time to patch things together.
Thank you, Mr. Curran for taking the time to talk to Horror After Dark!