Interviewed By Alyson Faye
I recently met up with Alison Littlewood at the UK Ghost Story Festival at the Derby Quad, where she was on the panels and talking about her latest novel, the seasonal chiller, Mistletoe.
KR: You can read Alyson’s review for Misteltoe HERE
I’ve been reading Alison’s fiction for over 8-9 years now, and remember her début thriller, A Cold Season, coming out in 2012 and being prominently displayed in all the W. H. Smiths, as a Richard and Judy Book Club recommendation.
I’d been following Alison’s short stories in magazines like Black Static as well and downloading them like Fogbound.
So, I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed.
Q:- Hello Alison. Could we start off by you telling us something about yourself, please?
Hello! I’m a writer of fiction, of the dark and often a little weird variety. I live in Yorkshire with my partner and two dogs in an old and wonky house, am slightly obsessed with fountain pens and other assorted stationery, have a growing collection of books on weird history and folklore.
Q:- What were your favourite books/authors growing up? And how important was visiting the local library to you?
(Alison and other writers had discussed the importance of libraries during the Derby festival).
I read anything and everything growing up! I started off with a huge love of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. I cried buckets over The Little Mermaid, but loved it even more because it could make me cry. Then came years of Enid Blyton and Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Later I read really widely, though I used to borrow all my brother’s Stephen King books and discovered James Herbert too.
The local library was really important to me. I still remember weekly trips with my mother. There was a huge old world map printed on the wall in the children’s section, and it felt like that – being let loose into a whole world of stories.
Q:- Have you always written dark/supernatural horror fiction?
Pretty much from the beginning, yes. I tried different things at first, but quickly discovered that it was the darker ideas that got my fingers tingling to get to the keyboard. It was odd really because I still read really widely at that point, but I got drawn more and more into the genre as a reader too because of the direction my writing took.
Q:- Do you read in that genre too? Which authors and books stand out for you? Or have influenced you?
I love John Ajvide Lindqvist, Joe Hill, Michele Paver, Graham Joyce. Some of the books I’ve enjoyed recently are Tim Lebbon’s Eden, (due out 7 April, 2020) The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher (due out 17 March, 2020).
Q:- You’ve written an impressive number of novels and short stories. Do you have a preference for the short or longer form?
I’d have to come down on the side of the longer form, though it’s tricky because short stories are just so much fun. You can try different things – various settings and voices – in a short space of time, and even if it doesn’t work, there’s not too much lost. Novels are a deeper, more intense experience, and sometimes horribly frustrating to work through, but the pay-off is a greater sense of satisfaction at the end of it.
Q:- Mistletoe, published in October by Jo Fletcher Books, is your latest novel. Landscape plays a significant part in your novels, as it does in this one. I was struck by the snowy isolation of Maitland Farm. Is it based on a particular area or farm you know? Or even your own home, which you describe on your blog as ‘a house of creaking doors and crooked walls’?
My own house is, worryingly, more like the one in The Unquiet House, apart from the actual ghosts anyway! I do tend to set my books in Yorkshire because that’s where I live and I’m familiar with it and its folk and the way people talk and so on. Maitland Farm is an amalgam of various old farmhouses I’ve been inside or just seen dotted around the more dank corners of the countryside.
Q:- How long did it take you to write your latest book Mistletoe?
I actually wrote the novel pretty quickly and handed it in during 2018, doing much of the spadework in the early part of the year when the spirit of Christmas wasn’t too distant a memory and we had plenty of snow flurries to help with the description. It was just too late to get the novel out that year, though, so it was scheduled for October 2019.
Q:- Do you read your reviews? Or just selectively?
I really try not to! Someone said once that reviews are for readers, not writers, and they were absolutely right. The thing is, even if a glowing review contains one negative point, that’s the one that will start chewing at your brain. Having said that, I do read them if the team at Quercus or other contacts point me to them. Fortunately there has been some lovely coverage of Mistletoe since its launch, which has been so good to see – fuel for a writer!
Q:- What was the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?
Don’t read the reviews! (Ha ha.)
Q:- What are your top tips you’d pass onto new or aspiring writers?
Don’t read the . . . no, I’m kidding. Just keep on going! Follow Stephen King’s maxim – write a lot and read a lot. You can read any number of books on technique, but there’s no substitute for doing it. Be open to keep learning and developing. And don’t give up. People will tell you it’s impossible to be published, but someone has to get there or there wouldn’t be any new books.
Q:- What are you currently working on? (As much information as you can give.)
I’m currently editing a novel length version of my novella, Cottingley. As its name suggests, The Cottingley Cuckoo revolves around the incident of the Cottingley fairies, which were famously supposed to have been caught on camera near Bradford by two young girls. Events escalated after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was taken in.
(Coincidentally this interviewer lives 5 minutes up the road from Cottingley! So I was very interested to read Alison’s comment).
Q:- What publications do you have coming out next? Your work often appears in horror or dark fiction anthologies. I noticed on Amazon that you have a story appearing in Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales due out in March 2020 alongside Neil Gaiman and the wonderful Angela Slatter, whose work I love. Can you tell us something about that project, please?
Sure! I was lucky enough to be invited to submit, and the theme was a cracker – new fairy stories involving a curse. I’d been reading Magical Folk, a book about fairy legends from around the UK, and one set on the Shetlands really caught hold of my imagination, so I wound my story about that. The editors, Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane, fortunately liked it. I’m in great company and the cover looks gorgeous, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing the finished book.
Q:- Here’s a question to finish with, straight off the Kendall reviews site:-
You find yourself on a desert island. Which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why? You can choose . . .
- One fictional character from your writing.
- One fictional character from any other book.
- One real-life person that is not a family member or friend.
That’s a tricky one! Still, it’s probably better than having to pick just three books . . .
The contrarian in me wants to pick Remick from A Cold Season – he’s awfully charismatic, after all! Though I’d probably pick someone rather nicer who suffers a terrible fate, if only to apologise to them. I won’t name names for fear of spoilers, though it’s worrying that there are a few to go at.
From another book – I always rather admire Flora Poste from Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. She can handle just about anything, after all, and the world would pretty much fall into place around her. She’d have three course meals snapping into existence in no time. Mind you, if she felt I needed organising too (and I probably do) she could be a nightmare.
The real-life person – ooh – Stephen King! I could keep him captive and get him to write me stories, Misery-style. Or I suppose just ask him to, nicely. Yes, that might work!
Thank you Alison.
Thank you Alyson!
Alison Littlewood was raised in Penistone, South Yorkshire, and went on to attend the University of Northumbria at Newcastle (now Northumbria University). Originally she planned to study graphic design, but “missed the words too much” and switched to a joint English and History degree. She followed a career in marketing before developing her love of writing fiction.
Alison Littlewood’s latest novel is Misteltoe previously The Crow Garden, a tale of obsession set amidst Victorian asylums and séance rooms. It follows The Hidden People, a Victorian tale about the murder of a young girl suspected of being a fairy changeling. Alison’s other novels include A Cold Silence, Path of Needles, The Unquiet House and Zombie Apocalypse! Acapulcalypse Now. Her first book, A Cold Season, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club and described as ‘perfect reading for a dark winter’s night.’
Alison’s short stories have been picked for Best British Horror, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies, as well as The Best British Fantasy and The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime. They have been gathered together in her collections Quieter Paths and in Five Feathered Tales, a collaboration with award-winning illustrator Daniele Serra. She won the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award for Short Fiction.
Alison lives with her partner Fergus in deepest Yorkshire, England, in a house of creaking doors and crooked walls. She loves exploring the hills and dales with her two hugely enthusiastic Dalmatians and has a penchant for books on folklore and weird history, Earl Grey tea and semicolons.
You can find out more about Alison by visiting her official website www.alisonlittlewood.co.uk
You can follow Alison on Twitter @Ali_L
Alison’s Author page can be found HERE
Leah thought Maitland Farm could give her a new life – but now old ghosts are dragging her into the past.
Following the tragic deaths of her husband and son, Leah is looking for a new life. Determined to bury her grief in hard work and desperate to escape Christmas and the reminders of what she has lost, she rushes through the purchase of a run-down Yorkshire farmhouse, arriving just as the snow shrouds her new home.
It might look like the loveliest Christmas card, but it’s soon clear it’s not just the house that needs renovation: the land is in bad heart, too. As Leah sets to work, she begins to see visions of the farm’s former occupants – and of the dark secrets that lie at the heart of Maitland Farm.
If Leah is to have a future, she must find a way to lay both her own past and theirs to rest – but the visions are becoming disturbingly real…
You can find out more about Alyson via her blog www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com.
Alyson’s Amazon Author Page is at HERE
Please follow Alyson on Twitter @AlysonFaye2