The Fallen: Anthony Watson
On 4th September DEMAIN will be publishing Anthony Watson’s new horror/historical novella.
At its heart, The Fallen is a ‘creature feature’, where man is pitted against monster. It’s a homage to the films and books that have made an impression on author Anthony Watson and influenced his writing, and it wears those influences – in particular The Thing and Alien – proudly on its sleeve.
As Anthony said: “On a deeper level I guess The Fallen is about the persistence of evil – the story itself spans centuries and presents the same supernatural foe in three different time periods. The Fallen describes the varying approaches mankind has taken to combat that evil: religion, military force and science and the varying success of those approaches. It’s about fate and friendship and what happens when the supernatural impinges on the real world at different stages of human history.”
What Anthony is striving for is an epic adventure story; a narrative that will keep the reader entertained, creating thrilling set-pieces but populating them with real characters you care for…and boy, has he succeeded.
Anthony Watson Talks To Demain Publishing
(Originally featured on the Demain Publishing Blog 5th August 2020 HERE)
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to work with you again Anthony. Okay, a blank slate: who are you and why did you become a writer?
ANTHONY WATSON: Ha ha. Okay. Hi – I was born and bred in the north east of England, I now live in north Northumberland with my wife Judith and our two dogs. We’re pretty much out in the sticks which suits us both perfectly and can walk straight out the front door into woodland or, if we’re feeling more energetic, walk a mile or so to the beach. I worked in an NHS pathology lab for thirty-five years before taking early retirement in February this year. My hand was forced by a re-organisation of the service in which I worked which meant I would either have to move or find another job in the hospital if I wanted to stay on, neither of which really appealed. Not going to work means I have more time to dedicate to writing which I’ve always enjoyed but took up seriously again about ten years ago. I’m not sure where the desire to write came from but I’ve always read a lot and so it’s probably a knock-on effect from that. I tend to live inside my own head a lot of the time and while I’m in there I’ll be thinking up ideas and plots. I write for my own pleasure (and to stop my head filling up with too much stuff) and would continue to so even if nothing else I wrote ever got published. That said, I’m still immensely proud if something I’ve written does get published (to say nothing of incredibly excited).
DP: I totally get that ‘living in your own head’ thing. I’ve had a very productive Lockdown creatively and lots of Zoom meetings etc but I need to get out into the world now and actually interact with human beings again. That will be a little strange I think. So, The Fallen, tell us all about it…
AW: The Fallen is set in three different time periods: present day, World War Two and 16th Century Russia. It’s set on and around the Arctic Ocean and the protagonists are the scientists onboard an Arctic research vessel, some merchant seamen in an Arctic convoy and a band of mercenaries seeking religious icons for Tzar Ivan the Terrible. All three groups encounter the same supernatural horror – a fallen angel – and the storylines are entwined with actions in one timeline having consequences in the others.
DP: I’m not an expert by any means but I’ve been doing some reading recently about Ivan – a very interesting period of Russian history…did you have to do much research when writing The Fallen?
AW: I did a ton of research – which I loved. It’s one of my favourite parts of the process to be honest; I love finding out stuff (far more than I ever did at school unfortunately) and find it hugely stimulating, often generating new ideas and plots as a result. Because a lot of The Fallen takes place in the past I did a load of research simply to get the details right – I think if you write something in a historical setting you have an obligation to do that, there’s nothing worse than having an anachronism which will take the reader out of the story [DP: we’re with you on that!]. For the Russian section I did a lot of digging into the life of Ivan the Terrible and especially his personal guards the Oprichniki – the organisation to which the main characters in this section belong. They used to dress completely in black and ride black horses with severed dogs’ heads attached to the saddles. The Arctic convoy section needed loads of research too, technical specifications for an oil tanker and just generally what life was like on board. I read HMS Ulysses and The Cruel Sea as part of that research. The modern-day section led me into the world of submersibles and global warming and I now know a lot more about ice than I ever thought I needed to. A lot of what I learned I didn’t use (unlike Dan Simmons) but it was really useful to have in the background so to speak when I was writing. Some of it has found its way in but hopefully I’ve presented it in a way that merges with the text naturally and doesn’t feel like a massive info dump.
DP: Honestly, I think you’ve got it spot on and those Oprichniki deserve a book of their own! Would you say (because you’re trying to tie together history, horror and some sci-fi elements) that you found the novel difficult to write?
AW: I have to say that I didn’t! I love writing and, whilst I’ll, often paint myself into corners plot-wise I could never say that I find any part of the process difficult. Of the three sections, I probably found the modern day one the ‘hardest’ but that was only because of the way the plot unfolded, with the characters having to make rational assessments and judgements (about something which, on the face of it, is completely irrational) rather than simply responding to events which was more the case in the other two sections.
DP: I found the whole thing very ‘filmic’ and on a pure personal level, it really worked – I could see a lot of the ‘movie’ unfolding before me so well done! Creatively Anthony what would you say was your biggest success so far?
AW: Creatively what is your biggest success? It would have to be my first novel Witnesses. I have no idea how much of a success it was in terms of sales as the publisher unfortunately went out of business not long after it was published and I never made anything out of it but in terms of my own personal satisfaction I couldn’t be happier with it. I tried something a little different with the narrative style, jumping backwards and forwards between four different timelines and using different tenses and voices. Only one reviewer seemed to have any difficulty with it and the feedback I received was pretty positive so I’m glad I took the risk.
DP: Yes, totally agree. I’ve only ever seen praise for Witnesses so again, a well done from us. Can you tell us a little about the authors/books who possibly influence you?
AW: The majority of what I read is horror and I’ve been reading it for a long time so the fact that I’ve chosen it as the genre I want to write in shows there’s definitely been an influence! I’m spending a lot of time re-reading books I read when I was younger (it’s an age thing…) and am currently working my way through Robert R McCammon’s back catalogue and enjoying them just as much as, if not more than, the first time. The small presses are doing a marvellous job of keeping horror alive as a genre and there’s so much great talent out there to choose from. I’d like to think I have my own voice or style but I guess it’s inevitable that what I read will have some influence. I use the term ‘style’ loosely, I’m very aware that my writing tends more to the pulpy rather than the literary end of the spectrum. That said, I have just written (and submitted) an attempt at a literary short story and the only reason I gave it a shot was because among my re-reads I’m working my way through John Irving’s novels and there’s no doubt in my mind that if I hadn’t been exposing myself to such brilliant writing I would never have attempted it.
DP: Do you know you’re the second writer in as many days who has mentioned McCammon – I enjoyed his work when I was a kid and want to read some more and John Irving! Haven’t read him in a couple of years but definitely love his World According To Garp – good luck with your literary short! So in terms of horror, what does that mean to you?
AW: If we’re talking about the horror genre – as distinct from the emotion – then for me I prefer some kind of supernatural element to be involved. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate other forms it’s just that I find those stories that do include them to be more satisfying. To be honest, I’ve never really analysed why I enjoy horror and I’m inclined not to as too much analysis can sometimes spoil the thing under scrutiny. I read (and write) as a form of escape and horror can provide scenarios very different indeed to the humdrum of routine existence.
DP: So with that in mind, what frightens you?
AW: I have plenty real world concerns – the lurch to the right in politics, the destruction of the environment to name but two – but I’ve never felt confident enough to incorporate them into my writing. As I mentioned earlier, I lean toward the pulpier end of the spectrum and allegory and metaphor are something I need a bit more confidence to attempt. Within the horror genre, I’ve a bit of a thing for demons and stories of possession. I blame my Catholic upbringing. I’ve broached the subject a couple of times in my writing and of course the adversary in The Fallen is cut from that particular cloth too.
DP: Oh ha ha – I’m totally with you. I’m a Protestant but went to Catholic public school (yeah, get me lol) for a while and I totally have Catholic guilt – I can’t shake it, even now. A lot of my work is quite ‘religious’ and though I moved away from it, I’m actually being drawn back in ha ha. I’m angry with God for some reason and to be honest I think he’s angry with me…anyway, creatively, what have you not yet achieved?
AW: I think at heart I’m a frustrated film director. When I write, I’m basically watching a film I’ve directed and am writing down what I see. So yes, I would absolutely love to make a film – or have a film made of one of my stories. Because I write in (what I convince myself is) a cinematic style, I think a lot of my stuff lends itself to interpretation as a comic/graphic novel so that would be really cool too.
DP: Well, as I’ve said previously I can totally see The Fallen as a movie – and I definitely want to move into comics / graphic novels…imagine all the DEMAIN titles as graphic novels…the Lockdown then, how did you handle it?
AW: I wrote a novel during Lockdown! Just a short one, 63000 words, but I cranked it out in eleven weeks. I think it was probably a way of escaping what was going on, losing myself in another world. When I finished it, I felt bereft. I’d enjoyed spending my time in the world I’d created so much I think it made coming back to this changed reality – and the utter shambles of the government’s response – even harder.
DP: There is so much more I could add to that last statement by I won’t ha ha! Brilliant to talk again with you Anthony. The best of luck with The Fallen – I hope it is a massive success for you.
You can find out more about Anthony by visiting his official website HERE