As anyone who follows this blog knows, I was a huge fan of both High Moor and High Moor 2: Moonstruck. Graeme Reynolds, the author of the series, graciously agreed to sit down for an interview with yours truly. Enjoy, and buy the books!
1. Tell us a little bit about High Moor 2: Moonstruck, the follow-up to the brilliant and critically acclaimed High Moor.
Moonstruck follows straight on from the events of the first novel, which I’m sure that my readers will be glad about, given that I left things on a bit of a cliff-hanger. John, the protagonist of the first novel is in police custody after the climax of High Moor, and the pack can’t let this happen, in case he transforms in a cell and reveals their secret to the world. I’ve tried to keep the same blend of explosive action, involved plot along with a sprinkling of dark humor that went down so well with the original story. I’ve just taken it up a couple of notches. Moonstruck is a much darker novel than it’s predecessor, that’s for sure.
2. High Moor 2 pulls no punches, and I am not sure all writers would have been brave enough to write some of the awesome—but brutal—scenes that you paint in the book. Were you ever concerned about going too far?
The simple answer to that one is yes. There is one scene in particular in Moonstruck that I agonized over whether to keep it as it was. I’m sure that there will be some readers that get to that part and then stop reading, however the flip side is that it delivers one hell of an emotional impact to the reader. It was a difficult scene to write, but really drives the second half of the book forward. At the end of the day, people who read horror novels expect a certain amount of actual horror, and mostly having werewolves as protagonists meant that I needed to be careful not to slip into urban fantasy territory. As it stands, while the scenes in Moonstruck can be quite harrowing at times, they are integral to the plot. I’ve tried to make the novel more than just a one-note gore fest. And I don’t think that anyone who reads “That Scene” will forget it in a hurry.
3. So you are coming off the runaway success of High Moor. Am I correct to say that was a self-published effort?
Yes, although the decision to self-publish was not taken lightly. I’d heard so many horror stories about some traditional publishers over the years that I’d investigated doing it, but hadn’t made up my mind until I watched a panel at a convention in 2011, where a well-known editor and a well-known agent shouted down anyone who dared to disagree with their view that all self-published work was garbage. Their attitudes made my mind up for me, and I decided to publish High Moor myself.
4. Self-publishing generally has a bad name, but High Moor has been roundly praised and was short-listed for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award. How did you get people to give your book a chance?
The most important part was to make sure that the book was as good as I could make it. That meant doing all of the things that traditional publishers do – paying a professional editor and cover designer being the most important. A lot of people say that they can’t afford to do it, and so try to skip those steps which is basically where self-published work gets its bad name. Having a quality product helped separate it from the hundreds of first drafts that tend to get submitted online. I also created my own imprint and bought my own ISBN’s, which again made it look like something that had been professionally produced. Of course, even after I’d made the book as good as I could, I was still taken by surprise at how well the novel was received by readers. Getting as far as I did in the Stokers, especially with a self-published, first novel, was amazing.
5. Why werewolves?
I’ve always loved werewolves. I remember having a book of monsters as a child, and the picture of the werewolf scared me so much that I had to flick past the page, but would then steal a look anyway (and then have nightmares that night). Then, when I was around the age of the kids in the first book, there were reports of something slaughtering sheep in nearby fields. Not only killing them, but tearing them apart, night after night. In the UK, we don’t have any predators bigger than a badger, so you can imagine how that turned into something more sinister in the mind of an imaginative child. Those imaginings are what eventually became the first High Moor novel.
6. What scares you?
I’m not a fan of spiders, ever since I woke up as a child one morning and found the crushed remains of a really big one in the bed with me (where had that BEEN during the night? WTF had it been DOING??). Heights also make me pretty nervous, and I do worry about gangs of feral teenagers with no moral values whatsoever breaking into my house and going all Clockwork Orange on me and my other half, which stems, oddly enough from a gang of feral kids beating me senseless and carving me up with a knife when I was 12 years old.
But then, the other day, while crawling around in the deepest, darkest part of my attic, I realized that there is one thing above all others that brings me out in a cold sweat and a barely contained wave of blind panic. Enclosed spaces.
There’s a long story that I won’t bore you with that basically involved me discovering this fear years ago while caving in my brief yet illustrious military career.
Ever since then, I can’t stand enclosed spaces or feeling trapped. When I watched The Descent it wasn’t the cannibalistic mutant cave dwellers that freaked me out. It was the bloody cave. Even large crowds of people can bring on a wave of panic that takes every inch of my willpower to fight.
Let’s just say that I’m one of the last people that you’d want to be trapped in an elevator with, and leave it at that.
7. Do you have any literary influences that shaped High Moor?
Actually, one of the reasons I started writing the High Moor series is that I struggled to find the sort of werewolf fiction that I wanted to read. A lot of my initial influences were cinematic, rather than literary. The Howling, American Werewolf in London, and Dog Soldiers were probably the most obvious ones, although the portrayal of werewolves as pack animals from Robert McCammon’s brilliant The Wolf’s Hour also had a pretty substantial influence on me. I tried to come up with my own version of the werewolf, one that incorporated most of the popular myths while giving things my own little twist. I also love the idea that good and evil can often be little more than a point of view and I’ve really pushed that idea in the new book. Another influence, not so much in terms of subject matter, but in writing style, was Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger novels. Those books tear along at an incredible pace, and I decided that I really wanted to do the same thing with the High Moor books. It’s all very well to take time to draw a breath, but I really wanted to set a blistering pace that has the reader tearing through the book, eager to find out what happens next. The literary equivalent of watching a box set of 24, if you like.
8. Do you have a favorite book?
I do, but strangely enough my two favorite books aren’t horror. Top of the list by an absolute mile is Robert McCammon’s A Boys Life. No one else has ever managed to really describe the magic and joy of childhood in quite the same way, let alone merge it with a complex horror / fantasy plot. In terms of horror novels, my favorites really have to be Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series. The mixture of cold war spy novel, psychics and vampires blew me away the first time I read it, and once I read Necroscope 3, which brought space / time wormholes and vampire homeworlds into the mix, I was hooked.
9. What’s next? Are you going to continue to build on the world of High Moor, or do you want to do something completely different?
The High Moor series was always intended to be a trilogy, so I’ll be writing High Moor 3 next. After that, I’m going to write an apocalyptic novel that I’ve been mulling over for a couple of years, which is tentatively called “Pulse”. The basic idea is that a huge solar flare takes out everything electrical on the planet, but most of the population are still alive afterwards. At least until the food and water start running out. I’ve always had a worry that we’ve become too reliant on our current infrastructure and skills our grandparents had have been lost, so I really want to explore that. That one’s going to be a year or more down the road, though. After that, who knows? I’ve already plotted a High Moor spin off novel, but I’m going to take a break from Werewolves for a little while.
10. Where can folks find you and follow your work?
I should post more frequently to my blog, but am intending to make more of an effort in the future. I’m also not that active on Twitter. Really, Facebook is where I spend most of my time. Like I say, though, I am intending to spend a little more time on my blog and other social networks in the future. Feel free to pop by and say hello. I don’t bite. Often.