As promised in a previous post, acclaimed horror writer Simon Kurt Unsworth brings us ‘The Bellows’ – an ongoing column charting the journey of his new novel from development to publication. ‘The Bellows’ originally started life at Impossible Podcasts and, in the interests of consistency, I’ll be re-posting the first four editions here before starting on the brand new material. Now, over to Simon…
I suppose the first question you’re asking is, “Who is this who is coming?” No? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway. There are, of course, many ways to answer this: I’m a husband, father, child, self-employed trainer, author and wearer of cowboy boots, and each of these realities exists alongside the others and has given me experiences and a history. For your purposes, the most important stuff is this: I’m a World Fantasy Award-nominated author, and I write horror stories.
I was first published in 2007, and I’ve got two collections out: Lost Places came out from the Ash Tree Press in 2010, and Quiet Houses, published by Dark Continents, came out in 2011. Lost Places was Peter Tennant’s (reviewer for Black Static magazine) favourite collection of 2010 on days when Angela Slatter’s Sourdough wasn’t (his words, not mine), and Quiet Houses was placed on the Edge Hill Short Story Collection longlist.
My stories have been chosen four times for Stephen Jones’ Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (volumes 19, 21, 22 and 23 if you’re interested) and also his Very Best of Best New Horror. I’ve been published in Ellen Datlow’s Lovecraft Unbound, the Ash Tree Press’s Shades of Darkness, Exotic Gothic 3 and At Ease with the Dead, PS Publishings’ Postscripts 26/27 and 28/29, Edge Publications’ Gaslight Grimoire and Gaslight Arcanum and the Gray Friar Press’s Where the Heart Is and Never Again. I’ve been in Black Static three times and I have a story in IDW’s Zombies Vs Robots anthology and Edge Publication’s Professor Challenger anthology.
More: I’m not famous, I’m not bestselling, I’m deeply opinionated, I swear like a sailor in heat, I’m tall, I wear flowery shirts and cowboy boots when I’m showing off and sneakers and film T-shirts when I’m slobbing out. I like the music of Bellowhead, the Bad Shepherds, Baby Bird, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and Johnny Cash and a whole host of others, and my favourite movies are The Thing, Ringu, Se7en, The Big Lebowski, Session 9, Children of Men and Jaws. I dislike intensely Elton John, George Michael, Simply Red and all those other whey-faced, pasty, flavourless musical wretches and thought Pan’s Labyrinth was good but not as good as everyone else seemed to think it was (del Toro’s best movie is, by far, The Devil’s Backbone and on this I brook no argument). I eat pizza and curry but not olives, laugh at the comedy of Bill Hicks (when he was alive), Denis Leary (when he was good), Spike Milligan (whenever I hear it) and Billy Connolly (when he’s not clean-shaven).
I have a beard and moustache combo, and I’m not ashamed of this. I’m a left-leaning liberal who’s growing more left-wing with each passing day, and occasionally I wonder if the only hope for the human race is armed insurrection against the fools and idiots that believe they know the best way to govern us and claim that we’re all in this together.
The most important things in my life are my family and my friends, and I’ll die or kill for them. I’m lucky: married my best friend and she’s not stabbed me in the head with a pencil yet, and have a spectacular seven year old son who I’ve indoctrinated with a love of Doctor Who and who I’m now starting on Monkey. I’m friends with barristers and poets and once insulted the guitarist of the Stone Roses by accident. There, now you know me; questions? No? Good. Let’s get on.
I’m not going to pretend this column has anything as grand as a plan, or a purpose underlying it, but the thing is, I’ve written this novel (called The Sorrowful) that’s currently lurking on my Mac’s hard drive. It’s not got a publisher, I’ve not got an agent, I have no idea whether anyone will like it or not, and we thought it might be good to see how everything pans out. I’ll write, if I can be bothered, about how selling the novel is going, about the stories I’m producing (or not producing) and where they’re going.
I may rant about stuff, I may tell you facts or recommend things to you, I may simply tell you in painful detail about the minutiae of being a fledgling writer with delusions of success who’s trying to fit writing into a life that also contains family and a mortgage and friends and bills and television and films and music and wine. Lots of wine. It’ll entertain, or it won’t. It’ll interest you or it won’t. I make no promises other than this one: every word I write will be true, except those that are lies.
So. Enough. More next time, whenever that is…
‘Next time’ is two weeks from now – Saturday 29th June. Join us then!