Thanks for stopping by!
1. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about your background? How long have you been writing, and what inspired you to start?
Some say that you should only answer a question like this with the time from which you started writing seriously - whatever seriously means. So, I'm going to ignore that and say I started writing when I was a teenager, about twelve or thirteen, and it was poetry and song lyrics for years and years. It was an outlet for me, my equivalent of keeping a diary by expressing my feelings through creative analogies. I think I would be a lot worse off as human being without having that means of venting all the shit that builds up day in, day out. I wrote a few short stories in high school that were 'commented on' by teachers, but I never came back to prose until 2006 when I sat down and started work on The Eyes of the Dead. Rather than break in gently with short stories, I decided I was going to write a novel and just went for it.
If it's a historical project like the Vetala Cycle novels then the research comprises reading, lots of reading. Though I made a point of focusing on the diaries and reminiscences of the ordinary people caught up in the machinery of the war. I did a little research on the technicalities of the war and the strategies to get a sense of the time and place where I was setting each story but overall I wanted to evoke the atmosphere, the people and so on rather than just info-dump about things that the average soldier didn't care about. I tried to maintain that with Shapes in the Mist and Hell's Teeth.
3. Tell us about your new release, Hell’s Teeth.
Hell's Teeth closes the Vetala Cycle at the Gallipoli campaign when it came to a disastrous end in 1916. My editor said it is a very brave book as the style and structure are different to the previous two books - she said it reads like a prose poem and it is also very layered as ther protagonist, Thomas Potter, is shown to be trapped in the cycle of his own life; we see him as an ageing veteran tortured by his memories of the war as well as back when he was a young soldier on the front line and, as we pass between his past, present and future, the Vetala emerge into his life and begin to drag him into their hellish domain, the Grey and the Gravelands.
4. Who are your main literary influences?
It's been a case of stages for me - I would say that the primary influences on The Eyes of the Dead and Shapes in the Mist were Shaun Hutson, Guy N. Smith and James Herbert but with Hell's Teeth there was a definite shift, I remember noticing it and feeling it at the time and the influences now come much more from the literary end of the spectrum; Ramsey Campbell, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen and Thomas Ligotti, for example. This is not to say that the latter gentlemen have not always been there as influences but I think it's safe to say that they are in the foreground for me now.
5. Your works all seem to have very dark overtones. What drives your darkness (or is it really a driving light in disguise)?
My world view is a bleak one, I think it's fair to say. I wouldn't describe myself as pessimistic or cynical, I think to do so cheapens
one's own philosophical and political outlook, but other people have described me as such over the years. I remember reading an interview with Stephenie Meyer where she described her books as being full of a lot of light and I would say in that respect I'm the equal and opposite. I don't have much time for the cosy dualism of good .vs. evil because these are constructs created by humanity and when humanity dies out then so will good and evil, and not before.
6. If you had to pick one all-time favorite horror novel, what would it be?
A tough question but I suppose if I was going to pick a novel then it would be Quentin S. Crisp's Remember You're One-Ball. It's a recent publication, granted, but it evokes for me a supernatural horror of England, the society we have here and how it functions and abuses individuals, without at any point becoming an explicitly supernatural novel. It's a great achievement.
7. Since this is The Cerebral Writer, which of your stories would you classify as the most cerebral?
Hell's Teeth - in terms of its narrative and style, it is the most elliptical and complex of the novels I have published so far, which is odd really considering it is the shortest as well.
8. Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? For you, what are the setbacks and advantages of each?
I've enjoyed writing novels but I have a hankering to dedicate time to short stories and that's what I intend to do towards the end of this year - I have two collections planned after I finish up my novel-length commitments. I think horror works in the short form because you can focus on evoking mood and atmosphere rather than character and structure so much, in the traditional sense. My novels are all short novels so far and I like to think this is one of the reasons why they work. I think with the longer form it becomes a case of managing that mood of unease throughout rather than building upon it in a short space of time to a single climax. With a novel, you have to work with peaks and troughs and manage expectancy in terms of how much revelation you allow to come through before bringing everything to its ultimate end.
9. Describe your writing process. Do you visualize your stories in your mind’s eye, or do the words just flow? On average, how long does it take you to finish a story from conception to final edit?
I'm an intuitive writer, I use little to nothing in the way of notes and planning, I start with a title and dive in and the stories more often than not shape themselves as I go. A short story can be the work of a night whilst a first draft of a novel can take one to two months, maybe three, depending.
10. What is the greatest piece of advice you might offer to the beginning horror writer?
Read widely outside and inside the genre, the latter is as important as the former.
Bonus Question: If the Undead could be summed up by a single philosophy, what do you think that would be and why?
I think the dead would have their own philosophy, their own language and culture from beyond the grave that we would have no way of knowing or truly comprehending. Why would they want to eat our brains when they know what's waiting on the other side and we don't? A single word, a breath from a dead man could stop the hearts of the living.
Hell’s Teeth excerpt:
His was a prison of broken mirrors.
He could remember nothing more than bits and pieces; fragments, shards, shattered glass slivers and distortion, nothing whole. Nothing was the way it should be.
It came out of the black rain.
Its chassis, loose and clattering; wine-red, bubbled paint peeling from its
juddering hide, a heavy brown cancer of rust eating its way through the engine’s grille and the spokes of the pneumatic wheels. Its windows were dim with dust, streaked with grime, and they rattled violently in their frames. The vehicle was an LGOC X-Type bus, only sixty of them were ever built to prowl the streets of London yet X61 was daubed onto the side of this one. There was no enclosed cab, the Driver sat in shadow beneath a small canopy, exposed to
the elements, behind the engine, steering with deft, liver-spotted hands. His uniform clung to his shoulders and thorax. The material was stiff, hardened with a flaking crust, patches of ancient blood. He had no head with which to see but see he did, in his own way.
In the alcove towards the rear stood the Conductor; a Bell Punch machine hanging from cracked twin moons, the topmost buttons of his uniform. The metal of the antiquated device was dulled by age, leather-yellow fingers stroking it with a lover’s tenderness, whilst a blind egg of glistening mortuary matter wore the conductor’s cap. Pregnant sores formed a livid necklace around his throat, their discharge discolouring the unwashed china-blue collar of his shirt.
The Conductor cocked his head, catching a scent on the night air. He pulled a cord that hung above his head. A series of tinny chimes rang out inside the Bus. The dried skin on the Driver’s arms crackled as he turned left, following the Morse code instructions of his companion, depressing the accelerator. The Bus chugged, lurching forwards as the engine sped up.
From the black hole of the Driver’s neck, fresh blood ran freely, displacing scabs that had grown over the puckered edges of the stump, torn veins and arteries opening wide, disgorging a steady crimson flow, his fingers wound tight on the steering wheel. Thee Driver’s open throat gurgled wetly, excited, as the Night Bus went on its way, seeking, that it might find.
He heard the engine first and then he saw it, in the moonlight, coming for him.
The sound of its machinery was old and tired, a dying animal preparing for one last lunge, a wounded soldier, bayonet in hand, about to impale an unwatchful foe. He backed away from its approach. The one working headlight of the Night Bus burst into life, catching him in its glare.
Run, rabbit, run, rabbit.
It bore down on him.
Run, run, run!
He turned and ran. His calf muscles clamping tight as he did, too old for this. At his heels, the Bus’s rusty thunder grew louder and louder, an oncoming storm, the end of everything.
About the Author:
G.R. Yeates is the critically-acclaimed author of the Vetala Cycle books. He has been accepted and published in small press anthologies including Phobophobia from Dark Continents Publishing and Horror for Good from Cutting Block Press. He was born in Rochford, Essex and went on to study English Literature and Media at university. He has lived in China where he taught English as a foreign language and he now lives in North London where he writes every day and sleeps very little.
For more information, check out his website, or visit him on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, or Pinterest.