Hello all! I am quite excited to report that today’s blog post is an interview! I asked a newly acquired friend, and wonderfully dark and twisted author, to allow me to dig through his brain a bit. He said yes, and thus, here we are.
Now, without further babble from me, I give you the interview with R. F. Whittaker.
- Where are you from and where are you located now?
I was born and raised in Birmingham, England, and I now live in Boston, Lincolnshire.
- What would you say is your primary inspiration?
My son is by far my greatest inspiration. I don’t know if I would be as driven to succeed in my work if I didn’t have my boy to nurture and teach along the way. He is the driving force behind my strong work ethic.
- Who are your literary heroes?
I don’t particularly have a ‘literary hero’ though growing up I enjoyed reading the likes of Roald Dahl and J. R. R. Tolkien. I wouldn’t say that these authors defined me as a writer as I am their polar opposite in terms of genre. I love the humour in the works of Dahl, whilst his adult fiction has a nice touch of the dark side, although not as strong as me. And then you have the sheer class of Tolkien, a man educated to the highest level in literature and history; so it is no wonder that he was able to create such a vast world in which I could escape from the troubles of my teenage years.
- Are you currently reading anything interesting?
This year I am studying pre-war (WWII) legends of short horror fiction. So far I’ve collected the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, E. F. Benson, M. R. James, Guy De Maupassant, Sheridan Le Fanu and Ambrose Bierce. The collection grows every month and not a day passes where I don’t read at least one short story. This is not so much as a means of improving my own work, but to gain an understanding of what has already been done by the best from another age, and generally to unwind with some bloody good fiction.
- Do you have a favourite book? What is it?
Homer’s Iliad. There are many interpretations of the tale by different scholars, but you cannot go wrong with any of them. It is a brilliant story and if you’re a fan of gratuitous violence and gore and have never read The Iliad, then you need to get on it and discover the original master storyteller.
- What are your thoughts on the evolution of the horror genre?
That’s an interesting question. As an historian (I have a degree in history) as well as an author of fiction, I could write an entire book covering the evolution of the horror genre. For as long as mankind has walked the earth, there have been bards to tell the tales of religion, war and mythology. Every ancient culture has its own unique forms of mythology and folklore concerning monsters, deities and everything supernatural. These tales began as spoken verse at camp fires and anywhere that humans congregated in numbers, and as time passed, horror, along with every other genre, was transferred to the page as technology improved and civilisation advanced.
From what I have seen of the popular authors of the 19th and early 20th centuries, their stories are focused, by in large, around the nobility. This is because in that time education was mainly available to the wealthy members of society and this was the audience for whom the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker were aiming. Horror literature tended to focus upon the supernatural and the paranormal, rather than the excessive gore you see in today’s literature (Marquis de Sade was the exception, albeit in the 18th century). Time passed by, educational institutions were made available to the wider population, and in turn the working classes gained access as well as contributed to literature. As a result, the narrative became less excessive in class and we saw the emergence of minimal expression, where the author, rather than beat around the bush, gets straight to the point and paints a clearer picture in the mind of the reader.
Then you have the 20th century. There were two World Wars and with them came real horror on a scale never before seen, and the survivors returned from these wars traumatised. With such trauma on an epic scale, the horror genre flourished both on the page and on the silver screen. Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, a tale concerning a soldier of The Great War who is injured in a trench shelling to such an extent that he is left a prisoner in his own body, has to be one of the most disturbing and upsetting stories I have ever read.
During the Cold War years we saw the emergence of Stephen King who has become the Coca Cola of the horror genre (Dean Koontz is Pepsi, bless him), dominating the industry and inspiring writers and movies alike to this very day. Now we live in the digital age and anyone can download a document to Kindle and Smashwords etc. People are no longer afraid to send their manuscripts to publishers, preferring to use digital, self-publishing platforms, and now the reader is overawed by the choices of literature available to them, from tame stories concerning the paranormal to gore-fests concerning madmen and femme fatales, and for the less than the price of a can of Coke.
- What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a series of novellas and novelettes sub-titled Surreal Creatures. At this moment in time the series includes Vampire, Werewolf and Spider. I’m not going to reveal what is next in line and so on as they are a surprise. However I will mention that I am experimenting with creatures of different cultures from around the globe, some popular, others lesser known, and there will be many more to come before the end of 2015.
- What are your plans for future works?
2015 is all about Surreal Creatures. I plan to write some longer works in 2016. What I will produce is not yet sealed in concrete; however I would like to return to non-supernatural horror. I also have something in mind that will take me away from horror for a few months, though I won’t spill the beans just yet as it’s another surprise and I might change my mind before 2016. Also, I’m thinking about writing another anthology to succeed Daemonia and Disturbing. If you enjoyed my previous anthologies then this one will be right up your street.
- What helps you focus on your writing?
Complete silence. I cannot concentrate on my work in a noisy surrounding, so if my family is home, I shut myself away in my bedroom, switch off my phone and get writing. Of course, the work isn’t just done on the page. I’m constantly daydreaming, my mind is filled with ideas that will keep me busy for years to come and as a result, I struggle to sleep over any period of time.
- What would be your best advice for anyone who wants to get into writing as a career path?
Daydream, read and write every day. Kindle has made it easier for you, so don’t worry about sending manuscripts to publishers and getting rejected (I have never even attempted to contact a publisher). However don’t expect to make a fortune or a living in the beginning as there are literally hundreds of thousands of authors using Kindle and Smashwords and it is very difficult to get your foot in the door. Don’t be deterred by the competition; you just have to find and build your own audience and it takes time, so start with friends and family. Expect praise and harsh criticism alike as you cannot please everyone. Publishing is easy, writing is difficult and selling is a brain splitting headache, so prepare yourself for a rollercoaster ride that might never end.
- Do you believe that anyone can write, or do you believe that it is more of a calling for certain people?
Anyone can write, though some are more talented than others. Unfortunately, as it is so easy to self-publish in this day and age, there is a flood of bad writers out there. Now some people might argue that I am one of the aforementioned and that is fair enough as I am the first to admit that I’m not perfect. It takes years of practice and hard work to become really good at writing and not everyone has the endurance and willpower to succeed. Even people who are naturally talented at writing have to work hard and learn from their mistakes.
- Where can people go to purchase your work?
My work is exclusive to Amazon Kindle. All of my titles can be found on my author page which is http://amazon.com/author/rfwhittaker and http://amazon.co.uk/author/rfwhittaker
- How can people reach out to you (social media and such)?
I’m on Facebook and Twitter. Just type in R F Whittaker and you will find me.
- Anything else you would like to add?
If you like your horror dark, twisted, disturbing, with a hint of the utterly sickening, and are not familiar with my work, then don’t be afraid to give my books a read. You might enjoy it. And to anybody who has already downloaded my work – Thank you.
I would now like to add a thank you to R.F Whittaker for allowing me to pick your brain!
This interview was conducted via the sending of documents online. Had it been conducted in person, I would have asked many more questions. 🙂
Until next time ❤