Literary Spotlight: Ramsey Campbell
Ramsey Campbell is a British horror fiction author who has racked up an impressive four World Fantasy Awards, ten British Fantasy Awards, three Bram Stoker Awards and the Horror Writers' Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also been named a Grand Master of Horror.
Q: On your website you say, “I believe I’m in a minority of writers who say that they write horror.” Could you please explain? Do you find there is a stigma attached to the genre (either by the public or the publishing world) and if so, can you speculate as to why that is?
A: The field is often associated with its most disreputable elements. Too many horror writers seem to have little more ambition than to try and be more disgusting than one another. I once described such writing as Janet and John primers of mutilation. Me, I think the best horror fiction is a branch of literature, and I believe it has just as much scope. One quote sums up the attitude the field too often encounters. Years ago the husband of a lady who was interviewing me said “If he’s so good, how come he writes horror?”
Q: It has been said that with Scared Stiff, you created the genre of erotic horror. Do you agree/disagree and why or why not?
A: I don’t believe I invented it – there’s eroticism in Le Fanu’s “Carmilla”, in Robert Aickman’s tales and elsewhere – but I made it more explicit. What interested me in the first place was to see whether horror fiction retained its power if you made the sexual themes overt. I think these tales did, but in a different way from the effects of restraint.
Q: I’ve read that your childhood was an anxious one. How were you able to channel these fears into the pages of fiction? What lesson can other writers learn from their positive and negative experiences?
A: I think my early derivative tales may have been a way of writing about terror without letting it become too personal. As my skills developed I wrote about my personal fears and experiences – it was a way of talking about them. I’d say even the worst experiences are potential material –it’s a writer’s attuitude to life.
Q: You worked in tax offices and public libraries before you made the decision to write full time. What advice can you give writers just starting out?
A: Don’t try to write for a living too soon! Find when you’re most creative and use that time to write. By having a “proper job” you’re less likely to feel driven to submit work that’s insufficiently finished.
Q: What are the pros and cons of imitating a successful author? How does this advance or limit the development of one’s own voice?
A: There’s nothing wrong with learning by imitation. If you have something individual to offer, that will eventually emerge. Robert Bloch began by imitating Lovecraft, Lovecraft initially modelled his writing on Poe, but who could mistake either for anyone else?
Q: You have said that one of the most enjoyable parts of writing for you is reading your stories to audiences. Why? How does this enhance your power as a good storyteller?
A: It doesn’t change my approach to writing my stuff, but in reading to audiences I can establish where the stresses of the sentences go and convey some of the tone of the dialogue. What I most enjoy is observing the audience’s reactions, not something you can usually do as a writer. I especially like making them laugh, which I often do.
Q: What is your latest work?
A: Most recently published are The Grin of the Dark and Thieving Fear. I’ve just delivered a novel, Creatures of the Pool, and I also have a new collection out next year, Just Behind You.
Carlotta Holton is the author of Salem Pact and Touching The Dead, and is a member of the National Federation of Press Women and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association.
Carlotta Holton has just received her second award for Touching the Dead from the National Federation of Press Women Communications Contest. Click here to purchase the book.