Simon Clark lives in Doncaster, South Yorkshire and his stories have been published in Darklands 2, Dark Voices 5 and The Year's Best Horror Stories. His work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and he has also written some prose for U2. In his latest horror novel, Vampyrrhic, Clark brought horrific viking warriors from long ago to the shores of England in the form of undead vampires. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about it.
Please give us a short introduction to what Vampyrrhic is about.
Vampyrrhic is a horror novel, set in the present, which tells the story of a man who is challenged to accept not only his heritage and a remarkable destiny, but also to discover who he is as a human being. On a personal level, we are all faced with that challenge. Each of us has to discover who we really are in order to find personal fulfillment. In Vampyrrhic, Doctor David Leppington returns to his hometown, also called Leppington, and discovers that sharing his name with the place of his birth is no coincidence. His ancestors founded the town over a thousand years ago. Those ancestors should be long-dead, yet David Leppington discovers, to his horror, that isn’t the case at all.
What inspired you to write a book about Vampires?
I’d written several horror novels, including Darker and Blood Crazy, and felt I should attempt a vampire novel. The thing is, I wanted my vampires to be different from other fictional vampires. I wanted them to be dangerous, violent and extremely horrific. So I decided that most of the vampires in the novel would be undead Viking warriors from long ago. When these warriors were living human beings they were blood-thirsty. When they became vampires they were even more so.
Why did you pick a small, isolated town as the backdrop for your book?
Leppington is fictional, yet I based it on many typical market towns in Yorkshire that are self-contained, quite inward-looking, and where the same rhythms of life have continued for centuries. Also, that isolation ramps up the drama when the population is faced with a mysterious, implacable enemy. It’s hard to flee when you live in a remote community.
Have you always known you wanted to be an author? What inspired your debut?
I made up stories as soon as I could speak as a child. Maybe it’s a story-telling gene. So, yes, I’ve always wanted to be an author from a very young age. What I’d consider to be my first proper stories were broadcast on local radio. My first novel was inspired by a trip to the coast where I saw old sea forts in an estuary. These look like stone battleships from a distance and I immediately thought that these eerie-looking buildings, surrounded by ocean, would make a great setting for a horror story. Those sea forts inspired my first novel, Nailed by the Heart, which is about a family who buys a sea fort with the intention of creating a get-away-from-it-all hotel. However, there is a life-force radiating from the sea-bed which doesn’t allow animals or people to die. This force does, however, horrifically mutate bodily flesh and minds.
Who are some of your favorite authors in the horror genre and why?
There are so many. Stephen King is still a towering genius for me. My favourite novel of his is The Shining. It crackles with something I can only describe as dark electricity that gives it such amazing energy.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Patience. I must have patience aplenty! It took years to make the breakthrough to become a professional writer. Add to that persistence, too. Although they aren’t skills as such, patience and persistence are the weapons required by new authors if they wish to succeed.
Vampyrrhic contains quite a couple of action scenes. How did you manage to describe it so vividly?
Vampyrrhic is one of those novels that came to life as I wrote it. In fact, the scenes blazed inside my head so powerfully that as soon as I started typing the action scenes they seemed to be fully-formed. It might sound strange but I simply described what I saw in my mind’s eye - and when the story was flowing it just carried me along chapter by chapter. It’s certainly been one of the books that fans have loved so much and resulted in lots of emails of appreciation. I’m so proud of the novel, too, and it has sold in many different languages around the world.
Did you plan out the twists in your book before you started writing, or did some of them just "happen"?
I didn’t plan the twists, as such; in fact, the story surprised me with those twists. For example, the character of Bernice wasn’t supposed to live beyond chapter one, but she became such a fully-formed character that fascinated me, and who I liked so much, I couldn’t let her go. She quickly became a main character in the story, and contributes so much to the drama.
You also mixed some Norse mythology into the story. Why?
I grew up in Yorkshire in the north of England. This area was invaded and colonized by the Vikings over a thousand years ago. A lot of the place names, such as Danby, Grimsby and Thorpe Audlin are Viking. Many people from Yorkshire are descendants of the Viking invaders from Scandanavia, so that personal connection for me was always there. Also, I’d read about Viking mythology and that seemed to naturally feed the backdrop of legend in Vampyrrhic
Tell us about your writing habits. Do you have a favorite writing spot? Best time of the day for you to write?
I keep office hours as a writer. I begin work in the morning and write all day. Of course, I keep a notebook nearby to jot down ideas during weekends or evening, or if I don’t have access to paper I’ll send myself a text. Of course, if I accidentally sent the text to someone else they’d be mystified, maybe even alarmed by a text saying something like ‘Vampires trapped long ago in sunken ship break out and besiege a hotel’.
My writing spot is just here at the computer. In front of me is a blank wall, other than some framed covers of my books. In fact, here’s a photo.
How long did it take you to write Vampyrrhic?
Six months, although the basic ideas had been simmering away deep inside my head for two or three years.
Are any of the locations in Vampyrrhic real? Can readers visit them?
Leppington is fictional but the moorland settings are real and can be found on the North Yorkshire Moors in England, or can be seen on YouTube. Whitby on the coast is real and is also the harbour town where Dracula arrives in Bram Stoker’s novel. Whitby is a beautiful town and very much worth visiting if you ever get the chance. Take the 199 steps that climb up the side of the cliff to the old church then walk through the graveyard to the medieval abbey. As you can see from the photo it’s extremely evocative.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on ideas for a new novel, although it’s too early to give any real detail. My most recent book is ‘The Case of the Bedevilled Poet – A Sherlock Holmes Enigma’ (Newcon Press). This horror novella, set in London during World War 2, features a troubled poet who is threatened by mysterious strangers. The poet is helped by a man who claims to be Sherlock Holmes. Although the poet doesn’t believe that the man is really Holmes he’s forced to accept ‘Holmes’ help when horrific events blight the poet’s life and threaten the safety of the woman he loves.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Endeavour has published several of my books, including Vampyrrhic, Vampyrrhic Rites, Cold Legion and On Deadly Ground. I’ve also written more novels that loosely tie-in with the original Vampyrrhic novel, such as Whitby Vampyrrhic and His Vampyrrhic Bride. My website is nailedbytheheart.com and you’re more than welcome to swing by my twitter nest @hotelmidnight . Thank you for spending some time with me here at Many Books.