Cameron from The Scribblers interviews Chris Priestly

Today, the fifth day of the festival, I had the fortune to interview Chris Priestly, author of the Tales Of Terror series and other macabre tales. Many of his novels are fascinating takes on classic Gothic literature, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or, in the case of his most recent novel, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. Uniquely sinister in its unflinching view of a maritime journey through limbo and back, The Dead Men Stood Together blows a welcome breath of life into Coleridge’s epic. Read on to hear Chris’ thoughts on writing…

Quickfire questions: 

Q: Glass half full or half empty?

A: Half full.

Q: Text or call?

A: Call.

Q: Notebook or laptop?

A: Laptop.

Q: Bunk beds – top or bottom?

A: Definitely top.

General questions: 

Q: If you could be any fictional character from a book or film, excluding your own, who would it be?

A: That’s very hard. I’d quite like to be Jim Hawkins from Treasure Island. That would be good.

Q: If you had the day off and money was no object, what would you do?

A: I would…that’s difficult. I would quite like to fly to New York. Does that count as a day off?

Q: If you were PM, what would be the first law you’d pass?

A: I would pass a law saying that 16 and 17-year-olds could vote in all our elections, because it seems incredible to me that 16-year-olds can join the army but they can’t vote. Seems mad.

Q: If you had a superpower, what would it be?

A: Flying. Definitely flying. I’ve always wanted to fly.

Q: What would be your ideal workplace?

A: My ideal workplace would be a little shed or cottage in a quiet spot next to a river. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of those. I work at a table in my bedroom!

Q: What is your favourite part of the writing process?

A: My favourite part is the middle part, after you’ve thought of the idea for the story and are properly writing the book. That’s the bit I really, really like before you get to the bit where you have to do all of the editing. I love that bit when you’re writing the middle of the book.

Special questions: 

Q: Why do you want to scare people with your books?

A: Why do I want to scare people? I don’t know. I think I quite like… writing scary things is a bit like writing a joke where, like a punchline, you’ve got a sort of scary twist. I quite like writing effects, things where you’re trying to get effects from your reader. I just like trying to make that work.

Q: Which Tales Of Terror novel was your favourite to write?

A: I think it was probably Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror because there were lots of stories in there I’d had in my head for a long time, and it was just great to see them published.

Q: Which writer’s work chills you the most?

A: There’s a writer called Robert Aickman, who I discovered in the last couple of years and he wrote very, very creepy short stories. His stuff is great. Steven King is also good when he’s writing scary stuff, as well as Edgar James and Edgar Allan Poe.

Q: Finally, if you had to write a non-fiction book, what would its topic be?

A: That’s a good question but a tricky one. I’m a bit obsessed with the 18th century, so it might be something about the 18th century. I wrote a book once about someone called Jack Sheppard, who was a prison breaker in the early 18th century, and the person that caught him was someone called Jonathan Wild, who was an amazing character. I would quite like to write a book about Jonathan Wild. He’s both the first proper detective and also the first gangster in one person!

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