Thursday, 20 December 2012

The year in review

So, I was going to blog exclusively about depression again for my last blog post of the year, but really, as interesting as that may be to some people, it also isn't the most joyous of topics for this lovely season. Instead, then, a roundup of the good and bad and the things in between.

The beginning of 2012 found me in a bit of a difficult place in that my depression had got bad enough that I decided to seek out counselling. Fortunately that turned out to be the right decision. Also fairly useful was the online Beating the Blues course my GP set me on, which shows you how common depression is and helps with identifying and managing the symptoms. I must admit that I didn't finish the course as it gives you homework, and I'm not very good at fitting such things in around a full time job, parenthood and my writing. It became obvious that the main problem was self-confidence and the counselling really helped in letting me see through the shadows and becoming a bit happier living in my own head. Ali, my wife, was just amazing throughout this process and has shown so much love and patience that it's astonishing. Of course, I still have the odd dark moment, but I'm much much better at handling them than I was this time last year. Thank you so much to all my friends and family who helped me through. Particular thanks must go to Lou Morgan who gave me invaluable advice and support.

Of course, the best part of the year has been watching our daughter, Maia, grow and develop. She's now 22 months old, walks, talks, has opinions and is the light of our lives. Parenting is naturally not easy, but we've very much been blessed with Maia. We loved taking her to France with my folks, which she absolutely loved and she's adored spending time with friends and family this year.

Ali changed jobs recently, moving to work at Wiley in a role she loves and which fulfills her creatively. Very very proud of her. Before this move Ali went through a very difficult time at her old job, over which she had very little control and which, really, wasn't so much to do with her than another person she had to work with. Obviously I can't go into details, but Ali conducted herself brilliantly and professionally. With support from the National Union of Journalists and friends and work colleagues, she came through the whole process and landed a much better job at the end of it. Ali clearly enjoyed much of her time in her previous role, so it was sad that it ended the way it did, but she must take strength from the fact that she conducted herself brilliantly and moved onto a genuinely exciting and challenging role. Again, I couldn't be more proud.

Writing-wise, I haven't been the most amazingly productive of writers, but then I've always been pretty slow and steady. Beyond the release of my last novel for the Twilight of Kerberos series, The Wrath of Kerberos, I've written a handful of short stories. Very pleased to have placed a story with the Town Called Pandemonium anthology, along with a story appearing in the British Fantasy Society Journal. I've also got a couple more things on the way. I was also thrilled, and quite touched, that Ellen Datlow (an editor whose anthologies I've been devouring for a long time) mentioned my story 'Don't You Like the Bird Man?' as a notable horror story published this year, on a panel at World Fantasy Con. At some point I will start Novel 3 in earnest and hope to have a much more productive year next year.

Solaris and Abaddon have been as busy as ever and I'm very proud of our output this year.  I was again, delighted, to be able to produce another anthology of strange fiction for our list and I couldn't be more pleased with how Magic turned out. Short stories really are the lifeblood of genre and I shall go on continuing to celebrate them in this way for as long as I can. I'm already gathering folk together for the next one, The End of The Road, to be released next Autumn/Winter.

Other highlights of the year have included Ali's confirmation at St Helen's Church, which we have been part of for a while now. Anna, my sister, announcing her pregnancy, Dad buying a kiln (that's how serious his pottery hobby has become), the birth of Alban, our friends Sam and Elaine's first child, spending time with Maia and both sets of grandparents, Lavie Tidhar winning the World Fantasy Award for Osama (go buy the Solaris paperback now!) and continuing to work with people who inspire me and many of whom I count as friends.

So, have a good Christmas. Hope that 2013 turns out great for you all.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Next Big Thing Meme

Okay, okay. So I'm massively late to this party and I'm far too slow at producing work to be considered anybody's next big anything. But that there lovely Lou Morgan done gone tagged me, so it would be simply rude not to play. So, here you go. Enjoy:

What is the working title of your next book?

Well, my next book has been percolating for the best part of 10 years, but I've still only written a couple of thousand words of it (I have written two published novels since I've been thinking about this one though), and most of those are probably going to go. Anyway, the title in my noggin is Heavy Metal Roadie versus The Satanists. Which won't be the actual title if it ever gets finished. And it may not even feature Satanists. The roadie is staying, though.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The thought of a heavy metal roadie character who becomes a PI (however willingly or not) came into my head on a bus journey on Ali and I's first foreign holiday in Sardinia. I've always loved heavy metal and the warmth of the fans and the huge range of characters you find in the community. So the idea came to write a love letter to the music and tell a roaringly good story.

What genre does the book fall under?

Crime, obviously. But I'm still wandering how horror to make it.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I honestly haven't thought that far. I'd like that Toby Jones to be somewhere in the mix. Not as the lead character. But he's just a brilliant actor.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Heavy metal roadie encounters murder and more.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

See, this presumes I'll finish the bastard. I like to think I've got a wide enough experience of publishing to rep myself, but you can't underestimate the important of a good agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your book?

See above. The MS currently numbers at around 2000 words. I'm not kidding.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

None I'd hope. I just want to write it and hope it stands up (and out) on its own.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Heavy metal fans and musicians.

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

A bloody good cover will help.

Right. Who to tag? Clearly I can't do any of our authors as that's going to look a bit like favouritism. So Paul Meloy, Sophia McDougall, Gemma Files, Lisa Tuttle and Helen Marshall... you're up. (If you want to play that is).

Monday, 29 October 2012

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

So, it being the season of mists and all that, I decided that I needed to re-read some much loved ghost stories, and so, I have started with this:

(Be warned, fellow traveller, here be spoilers)

The Haunting, Robert Wise's adaptation of Jackson's novel, is perhaps my favourite horror movie. And reading this I can see again what a brilliant adaptation the film is. Wise, wisely, chose not to show any ghosts in the film, and one can argue that the reason for the absence, visually at least, is that there aren't any ghosts in the novel; not in the popular sense of the term. From the start of Jackson's novel, it is clear that we are in the hands of an accomplished writer. The Haunting of Hill House has one of the most oft-quoted opening paragraphs of any horror novel. I won't quote it here, but you can easily look it up.
     From the start, this is Eleanor's story. She is our focus character and her journey to Hill House reveals much about her psychology. She is desperate to escape her drab life, a neurotic spinster living with her sister and her family. She fantasies about the houses and landscapes she sees on her journey, often imagining herself being rescued by some princely character. It becomes clear that Eleanor is fleeing towards Hill House, bringing her insecurities and emotional problems with her, thinking of her coming time at the house as an escape. But, as a writer friend of mine once said, the best ghost stories are when a haunted person meets a haunted place. And Eleanor is very much a haunted character.
     What makes this such a fascinating read is Eleanor's interaction with Theodora, a seemingly liberated woman who, like Eleanor, has escaped towards Hill House, leaving behind a fragile relationship. The sexual tension between Eleanor and Theo becomes clear very quickly. Theo realises a truth about Eleanor that she herself cannot see. Theo is also possessed of some small pyschic ability that enables her to read people more clearly than others. I would argue that it's a combination of Eleanor's insecurities and the focusing nature of Theo's ability that brings about the core hauntings in the novel. Consider that the majority of the supernatural instances are focused around Eleanor. To begin with they are messages telling Eleanor to go home. The wall of one corridor is daubed with just such a message. Could it be that this is actually Eleanor somehow warning herself, that if she stays in Hill House her true nature will be revealed to herself? She clearly comes to fear the feelings Theo is stirring up within her and we know, from Doctor Montague's research, that strange physical occurrences have taken place around Eleanor before. At times of great distress, she appears to have a talent to make things happen. Once Eleanor releases that she isn't going to escape the things Hill House, or Theo, have found within her, she turns her anger on her companion. Theo's clothes are found to be torn and covered in blood. Again, Eleanor denies she has anything to do with it, but reading between the lines we can see the origins of this haunting.
   That's not to say that Hill House doesn't have a certain power of its own. Jackson makes it clear that this is an evil house. She describes it as almost pulling itself together as it's constructed, as though some dark force has built this shell of brick and wood about itself; a place to which it can gather the disturbed and broken.
    But this isn't a relentlessly bleak novel. There are humorous moments to be found in Jackson's book. Mr and Mrs Dudley, the dour care-taker couple, are a joy and Doctor Montague's wife barrels into the last act like some 50s Derek Acorah, ready to guide the disturbed spirits of the the house to their rest. Naturally she doesn't succeed, but it's because she doesn't understand the haunting that she doesn't get the results she craves. Doctor Montague does finally understand what is going on and, realising the danger she's in, sends Eleanor home. But, as we know, Hill House had Eleanor from the first and won't let her go. On driving away she accelerates towards a tree on the drive of the house and ends her life in front of the place that tormented her so with her own insecurities.
     The Haunting of Hill House is undoubtedly a masterpiece of horror fiction; a revelatory tale showing us the true nature of ghosts which was written at a time when ghosts were only just emerging from their shrouds and their chains to be something more interesting and much much more frightening.
     This is the touchstone for the modern ghost story and, in itself, truly a great of American literature.

Friday, 19 October 2012

A Town Called Pandemonium

Your task for today, citizen, is to go and pre-order this:

As well as having a story in by me, 'Raise the Beam High', it also has fiction by:

  • Scott Andrews
  • Chrysanthy Balis
  • Archie Black
  • Joseph D'Lacey
  • Will Hill
  • Den Patrick
  • Sam Sykes
  • Osgood Vance
  • Sam Wilson

All of whom are good people.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The End is Nigh!

So, as some of you folk may know, not so long ago I had a story published in Pandemonium: Stories of The Apocalypse. The story is called 'The Day or The Hour' and features the trials and tribulations of an Anglican Priest who finds himself suddenly involved in the final battle between the forces of Heaven and Hell.

What I'm here to tell you is that if you haven't already got your hands on this outstanding anthology, you have only a short while to do so, for in a few weeks time, Pandemonium goes out of print - forever!

So, I urge you to go and order this for your e-reader now.


and LINK:

But not just because I'm in it - really for the brilliant line-up of authors you will find within:

Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Lauren Beukes
S.L. Grey
Scott K. Andrews
Archie Black
Chrysanthy Balis
Sophia McDougall
Lou Morgan
Osgood Vance
Sam Wilson
Andy Remic
Tom Pollock
Den Patrick
Kim Lakin-Smith
Charlie Human
Magnus Anderson
David Bryher

With this line-up, plus a bit from me, how could you not grab this before it's gone?


Thursday, 20 September 2012


Wow! So a whole summer passed and I blogged bugger all. Go Jon! I really am not wonderful at this self-promotion thing, but I have a few things on the go that may be of interest, or indeed you may not give a rat's fart about. Who knows.

Anyway, currently I'm working on two things. The first thing is a novel that's been knocking around in my head for 8 years and I'm finally getting round to getting it on the page. Well, I've written three quarters of a chapter, but that's still words on the page right? It's being written entirely on spec and at it's heart is about a heavy metal roadie who becomes a PI. Second thing I'm doing is writing a story set in that there London, more specifically in a second-hand bookshop on Charring Cross Rd. It'll be my first 'horror' story in a while, so I'm looking forward to getting back into the macabre.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane, which is my latest anthology from Solaris and features such brilliant folk as Audrey Niffenegger, Lou Morgan, Dan Abnett, Alison Littlewood, Rob Shearman and many others.

You will be able to purchase this fine anthology from all good bookstores and here and here.

Also, on the 24th October we will be launching Magic at Foyles bookstore on Charring Cross Road in that there London. The launch will feature Audrey Niffenegger, Sophia McDougall, Dan Abnett and myself and should be stormingly good fun. Event details can be found here.

Now I'm pondering ideas for my next anthology and believe we have a doozy of a theme.

Anyway, more news and opinion soon. And when I say soon, I don't mean 4 months.

Monday, 18 June 2012

In praise of Ramsey Campbell

While Lewis Carroll opened the door of my imagination at a very young age, it was almost certainly Ramsey Campbell who made me want to be a writer, and a genre writer specifically. I would have been around 13 or 14 years old when I discovered his collection Waking Nightmares in my local library (a library is a place where you can borrow books for free! (I know, crazy isn't it? Won't catch on)). Before that time my horror reading had been pretty much limited to Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Richard Laymon and James Herbert. I had fun with all of those authors, but it was Ramsey's short stories that revealed to me how broad a genre horror is.

With this collection the possibility that horror offered blossomed in my mind, and I fell properly in love with the genre. This is a fine collection, with many great stories, but the one that stands out for me is 'The Trick'. The last line of that tale froze me with fear when I first read it, and re-reading it has not lessened the impact of the story.

I began looking for any of Ramsey's titles I could get my hands on and the next book I picked up was his novel The Count of Eleven.

As soon as I had finished it, I wrote Ramsey a letter. It was pretty much fan-boy gushing but I also asked Ramsey how he suggested I should go about becoming a writer, and what sort of books I should read. I was abolutely thrilled when Ramsey replied. He emphasised that it was important to read as widely as possible, not just within the genre. He also recommended some other writers in the field I may enjoy. Thus I found out about such authors as Robert Aickman and Fritz Leiber.

The next book of Ramsey's that became a fast favourite and an important marker on my road to discovering all that was best in the genre and developing as a writer was Demons by Daylight.

This is an earlier collection of works than either of the two books above, but is no less a brilliant selection. I would read some of these stories to friends. The Sentinels was a particular favourite, with its depiction of something pacing around the outside of an ancient stone circle.

When I went to university to study English (Luton University if you must know, don't laugh. It was one of the few places that took genre seriously and lead to me studying Science Fiction at Reading for my MA) I knew when it came to write my BA dissertation that I wanted to focus on horror. The title of that piece was Miserablism in British Horror Fiction. Miserbalism was a term that I came across in The BFI Guide to Horror. I think that Kim Newman wrote the entry and he took it to be a movement within the genre that focused on urban decay and social realism amongst the tropes of the supernatural. The main practitioners of this genre were listed as Ramsey Campbell, Joel Lane, Mark Morris (Mark has never struck me as miserabalist, much as I enjoy his fiction), Conrad Williams and Nicholas Royle. Using this entry in the guide as my launch pad, I decided to focus on these authors and wrote to many of them asking if it would be possible to interview them. Naturally, Ramsey was one of the authors I interviewed.

I arrived in Liverpool and Ramsey picked me up from the station. I remember thinking that he'd likely take me to a nearby pub to be interviewed. Instead, he drove me to his house and we sat in the backgarden, drinking wine and chatting for hours. I remember being overwhelmed at Ramsey and Jenny's hospitality and kindness, but also at Ramsey vast knowledge and enthusiasm. It was fascinating and deeply exciting to have this private audience with my favourite writer.

But that's Ramsey. He's a hugely generous person and is often the life and soul of any horror convention. I suppose the term Elder Statesman may seem a bit patronising, but Ramsey to me is a link to those great writers of the past (he knew Aickman, Robert Bloch and many others of the greats) and the future of the genre. Ramsey is still a hugely productive writer and his work has never been in danger of decline. His novels and short stories continue to be challenging, meticulously constructed and deeply unsetting. There is nothing quite like a piece by Ramsey. His style is unique. When I edited my first horror anthology, The End of the Line, Ramsey was the very first writer I asked to be involved. I was delighted when he accepted and his story, The Rounds, is a triumph of the short form.

I realise that a part of me is in danger of turning once more into that gushing fanboy that I once was, but sod it! A talent this prodigous, a man this generous with his time and advice to other writers and fans of the genre, deserves to be celebrated.

Mr Campbell, you are one of the greats and my life and work has truly been enrichedby your writing.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Something I've written and something I've read


Just a quick one this time. Firstly to let you know about a new short story of mine which is being published. You will be able to find my ghost story 'Don't You like the Bird Man?' in the latest British Fantasy Society Journal.

The British Fantasy Society is a marvelous organisation and it's an honour to be in one of their publications.

Secondly,  I want to tell you about a rather marvelous book I had the privilege to read an advance copy of. It's called Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) by the brilliant A.F. Harrold. I've known Ashley for a long time now (he compered my first ever go at stand-up) and he's a dazzlingly talented performance poet. I urge you to seek out his live work and get hold of his beautiful collections. But most of all I urge you to pre-order this massively entertaining book.

Anyway, that is all. Next week, the oft-promised and yet to be delivered blog on Ramsey Campbell.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A love supreme does not come with caveats

As you probably have already figured out if you've been reading this blog, or if you know me out there in the real world, I am a Christian. I was raised a Christian and faith has continued to be a hugely important part of my life. We go to church pretty regularly, my wife and I had a church wedding and our daughter was baptised (rather nicely by my father who is an Anglican priest). However, I'm not one of those dinosaur disbelieving, evolution denying, climate change nay-saying, gay-hating Christians so beloved of the media. Which really brings me onto what this post is about: the issue of homosexuality and the church.

This is an issue that continually drives me up the bloody wall, mainly because the Church (and when I use the capital C I'm mainly talking about the Anglicans here, as that's my own backround) should have far weightier concerns on its mind than sexual preference. Quite why some people of faith get so hung up about sexual orientation is quite beyond me. I believe that God is love. Remember that bit about him so loving the world? Well, guess what, that includes everybody! It isn't a case of our Lord is an all-loving God, apart from this here list of people we've put together.

Also, what the church and those of faith (of whatever denomination) should be celebrating and trying to bring to everybody is this idea of the love supreme. Christians should be at the forefront of campaigning for gay weddings in church, as love between two people (of whatever gender or sexual preference) and the commitment that a marriage brings should be seen as something to treasure and encourage. To not celebrate this all-encompassing love of God would appear to suggest that there is something missing from a life of faith.

So, when there is conflict in the middle-east, issues of climate change, not to mention the many issues of justice and social rights in this country that we all face, it seems to me that the Church should be focusing its energies on fighting the good fight while opening up faith and spreading a message of love and tolerance.

Anyway, that maybe wishful thinking, but I just thought I'd let you know where I stand.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Big Black Cloud Comes


So, rather than being a hub of exciting media insight and personal updates my blog has become somewhat silent of late. And what better way to ressurect this place than a chucklesome entry on depression? You see, the reason I've not been blogging is because not only have I been massively busy at work but I've also been through the worst bought of depression I've had in 15 years. Don't worry, I'm coming out of the black cloud a bit now and I've decided to take a course of therapy. But, I thought I'd blog about what depression does to me and what I find helpful in learning to cope with anxiety and the arrival of the black dog. Lots of people suffer from depression and sharing experiences and stories from within can be helpful.

The first time I was hit hard with depression I was 16, almost 17, facing A-levels and living in Kent with my family. That time it was anxiety that was at the forefront, manifesting itself in panic attacks and moments where I was fairly convinced I was going mad. My parents were massively supportive and understanding and I was soon sourced a very good therapist who helped me to put my fears into perspective. I managed to thus start universety in a much better place than I had been before my A-levels. Since then I've suffered from the odd bout of depression but nothing so bad that it's made me seek out help.

Towards the end of last year I wasn't in a brilliant place. The black dog was back, and with a vengeance. This time depression manifested itself as a crushing sense of self-doubt. I'd turn up for work convinced I was utterly useless. In meetings I'd be constantly worrying that I was coming across as a moron and I had the fear that I didn't really know what I was doing after all, and that people would realise I was usesless. Of course, this was the depression speaking. What depression was like for me this time round was having the demon of doubt sitting on my shoulder without the angel on the other side to balance things out. I got increasingly agitated. In the moments when I wasn't morosely silent, I was snappy and unpleasent to be around. Around Christmas time I realised (and prompted by my ever patient and wonderful wife) that I really needed to seek help. So, I went to GP, who told me that there's a six month waiting list for therapy on the NHS but in the meantime I could try out this online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course called Beating the Blues.

Beating the Blues is actually pretty good and what it's brilliant at is outlining the common symptoms of depression and anxiety and making you realise that they are just that, common, and there are ways of coping with them. Where Beating the Blues doesn't quite work for me is that it sets you homework, like two or three hours homework a week, which I really can't fit in. So I've not yet completed the course, though I really should do and I do intend to get back to it in time. In the meantime I've booked some proper face-to-face therapy.

All through this Alison and Maia (my wife and daughter respectively) have been bastions of patience, compassion and joy. They make me realise how blessed I am and they really do help put perspective on things. Living with someone who occasionally suffers from accute depression must be exhausting and utterly maddening at times. When you suffer from depression you do become something of an irrational person and trying to cope with someone whose mindset can be so contradictory must be very trying. But my family has been incredible and I really couldn't be more lucky than I am to be part of these people's lives.

And working in the creative industries means I have a lot of friends and colleagues who understand depression and who have been there themeselves. To everybody who has offered help and advice and support, I can't thank you enough.

So, that's where I've been and the thing with depression is you just can't predict when it will strike. Oh sometimes I'll have a fairly good idea. Sometimes I'll hear the door go behind me and hear the pad of paws that means the black dog is in the room. Sometimes, though, it's like a tidal wave and it just thunders over you covering everything in, well, black. Each time the dog buggers off or the tide retreats though, I'm learning to cope a little more.

At the risk of this getting all melodramtic, I'm off to bed now. But, I just thought I'd let you know what all the radio silence has partly been about. Soon I shall be off and blogging again, bringing you more exciting Jon news (All Jon. All the time). The oft promised and never delivered  Ramsey Campbell blog post will materialise and I may even blog about gay rights and the Church. Just for fun.

Anyhew, until next time.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Two new things - one with tentacles, one without

Hello. Yes, okay okay, I promised you a post on Ramsey Campbell and then failed to deliver it. So, while you wait for wisdom to drip slowly from my brain into this blog like a leak from a dodgy tap, here's two anthologies what I'm editing this year.

First up is World War Cthulhu, which I will be editing with Sarah Newton. We will confirm the full line-up and date soon, but for now here is the cover:

Next up, over at Solaris, and due for release this winter, is Magic (full line-up and release dates to be announced soon):

So there's your eye candy. More comprehensive blogging when my brain works again.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dragons and Orcs and Elves and Dwarves and Magic!

Yes, it is finally here!

My second novel and the follow up to Twilight of Kerberos: The Wrath of Kerberos is now available to buy as an e-book. Head over the Rebellion Store to get your copy. And if you want to know something about the process of writing the book check out my blog at the Abaddon site.

In other writing news, work is almost complete on my new on-spec story, Baby #17, which is a near future tale about religion and redemption. So once that baby is done, I shall be seeking a home for it. The River, my weird fantasy, is going to be doing the rounds soon too. So hope to have more news for you soon.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

All aboard the Hell Train!

Okay, okay so I was supposed to blog about Ramsey Campbell a few weeks ago, and then I went all silent for a period. Not only has work been very very busy, but our daughter has now started crawling, so we're in a new and terrifying phase of parenthood. Anyway, while you bide your time between my gems of wisdom and wit (no laughing at the back!) here's something you may well be interested in.

This Thursday (Jan 19th) sees the brilliant Christopher Fowler in conversation with my good self at Foyles Bookshop on Charring Cross Road from around 6.30pm. We shall be discussing his horror novel Hell Train and the ins and outs of supernatural fiction and film. It is a ticketed event, but tickets are free and can be obtained from the Foyles website. So join us for an evening of witty banter and insight.

In other news, I'm delighted to announce that Solaris/Abaddon (the two imprints what I'm Editor in Chief of) has won the This is Horror Award for best publisher 2011. Many thanks to Michael and the team and all who voted. Congratulations are also due to Gary McMahon, for winning for Best Novel with the brilliant Concrete Grove.

Right, away with you. Later this week I will definitely say something wise about the work of Ramsey Campbell. So check back soon.