{Interview} Author, Reviewer and Critic, John C Adams talks to Kendall Reviews.

Blackacre Rising

From Horror Tree reviewer and double Aeon Award Longlister John C Adams comes a disturbing tale of scientific experimentation and sadistic cruelty. The sequel to ‘Souls For The Master’, ‘Blackacre Rising’ features a stunning cover by Fiona Jayde Media.

Kendall Reviews: Coffee?

KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

John C Adams: I’m a nonbinary author and critic of horror and fantasy fiction. I live in rural Northumbria, UK where I care for a severely disabled relative and combine raising a family with writing.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

JCA: We live in a tiny village right by the coast. There are some amazing beach walks locally, as well as in the hills over at the Cheviots. Our cottage has a massive garden, which never quite seems to be under control, and a really large greenhouse that occasionally gets filled with plants rather than simply providing a home for our growing collection of gigantic spiders.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

JCA: I had the kind of unstructured childhood where reading didn’t often intrude upon running around outdoors, tearing around on my rusty bike, disappearing off into the woods for hours and nearly drowning in the muddy river that ran through the small town where I grew up. When I watched ‘Stranger Things’ I was like, ‘Yep’. Opening a book did happen occasionally but really only in desperation, usually when it was pouring with rain or a blizzard was raging.

With that in mind, my favourite childhood book isn’t from my childhood, but from my daughter Midnight’s. On a trip to EuroDisney, I bought some French children’s books for her, and the best one was called ‘Camille Dit des Gros Mots’, which basically is a book for three-year-olds about how a young girl starts swearing after picking up the necessary vocabulary from the adults in her family. It’s hilarious. There’s a whole series, including ‘Camille A Fait Pipi Dans Sa Culottes’. Apparently the French aren’t shy of referring to bodily functions in the way that we English are.

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

JCA: I was born in 1970, so it won’t surprise you to hear that most of my favourite music is from that decade. The Eighties weren’t the best for music, if we’re honest. Unless you’re particularly taken with the power ballad, of course. So when I went off to Oxford I did what any self-respecting scholar would and set about learning the classics: Hendrix, Led Zep, The Rolling Stones. And I spent one of the long vacations backpacking in India, with ‘Kashmir’ by Led Zep blasting away in my headphones.

I did write a short story a while back called ‘Darkwater’ which featured a beast living in a lake and luring visitors into its waters with a beguiling song so that it could snatch their souls. There was also ‘Scratch Orchestra’, set in the same fictional universe, which involved students dismembering themselves to use their own body parts as instruments. It turned the stomach of even the hardiest medical student. It was inspired by something I saw in my daughter’s music book about how flutes were originally made from the hollowed-out bones of our enemies vanquished in battle.

KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director? 

JCA: My boyfriend’s the horror movie buff in our family. I need to tread carefully because any answer I give to this question is bound to be wrong. My daughter also wants to be a film director, so I’ll doubly get in the neck if I so much as try to offer a suggestion. However, I do love Alfred Hitchcock films and my personal favourite is ‘The Birds’.

KR: What are you reading now?

JCA: I’m re-reading ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ by Ray Bradbury. It’s such a great evocation of childhood.

KR: What was the last great book you read?

JCA: I review for the Horror Tree, usually about once a month. In August, I reviewed ‘The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror’ by Daniel Mallory Ortberg. It’s a retelling of some well known and some less famous folk tales and fairy stories. The author is a trans man, and as I’m nonbinary I love the fresh way that he treats gender. It’s a very thought-provoking collection of short stories, open to all sorts of interpretations and very subtle. I was blown away by what he achieved.

KR: You can read that review HERE

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

JCA: Paperback. I spend a lot of time looking at a screen for writing, so when I’m reading I like to relax with the printed word. Plus I’m old fashioned enough to like holding a book.

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

JCA: I’m a big fan of the English Fifties horror and SF writer John Wyndham. I read his work a lot when I was growing up, and I remember being terrified by ‘The Day of the Triffids’, which showed on BBC TV in 1981. Probably my favourite novel of his is ‘The Kraken Wakes’.

I also loved James Herbert’s horror fiction when I was a teenager and young adult. ‘The Rats’ trilogy is set in Essex, very close to where I grew up just a few miles from Epping Forest. The locations have been described so accurately that I can tell precisely which parts of the forest he’s referring to. It’s always great when horror is close to home, and I spent a lot of time looking nervously over my shoulder whenever I went to Epping Forest.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

JCA: I’ve been writing for quite a long time, and it’s fair to say that I’ve learnt my lesson on that score in terms of multiple re-writes of the same novel. That’s not a bad thing, because it can help you to grow as a writer, but these days I prefer to use an outline based on a list of scenes. I work that up only after putting lots of effort into character building, plot and locations. By that point I have the three main plot arcs down. I do all of this using lucid dreaming, where you just think about the characters and the plot and imagine whole scenes but don’t attempt to write any of it down. You just let it seep down into your memory and trust that it’ll be there and play its part (perhaps subconsciously) when you start to write. So planning each scene (just a few words or maybe even a key phrase) comes quite late in the process, albeit before a word of actual writing takes place.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

JCA: In horror, I try to write about what I know, use places I’ve been to like Antarctica and the Austrian Tyrol and base my characters on people I know. There is some research, of course, to get the precise details right, but I do a lot more research for my fantasy fiction in terms of reading history of the Medieval, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon cultures that inform and inspire my writing.

KR: How would you describe your writing style?

JCA: I like to tell a good tale that moves on at a fair pace and gives lots of impressions of a vibrant fictional universe, but without getting bogged down in descriptions that detract from the plot. I’m not much of a one for long words or flowery phrases. I like to work in some wry English humour along the way if I can.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

JCA: I get up late, full of the best intentions but generally with the better part of the day already gone. I’m not a morning person. I waste more time drinking tea, reading, cooking and eating, before finally admitting defeat and switching my laptop on. If I can avoid clicking on the Chrome icon, I might get some actual writing done. The only thing that never seems to distract me from writing is household chores. Life’s too short…

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

JCA: I have a particular soft spot for my first published story ‘Animals’, which actually is a comedy rather than a horror story. It was published in The New Writer magazine way back in 2010. The competition remit was to write a story about animals, with the advisory ‘no mawkish sentimentality’. I set my story in a taxidermist’s shop. But the advisory came back to haunt the story because there’s nothing like taxidermy for mawkish sentimentality, as the shop-owner’s wife points out at one stage.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

JCA: Yes. Always. As a reviewer myself, I know how much work went into reading the book and then crafting that review. I read every single review very carefully to learn as much as I can about how to improve as a writer. But I never engage with reviews. I just don’t think that’s fair. Honest reviews are genuinely valid in terms of how each reader has responded, and that’s true whether the result is positive or negative.

KR: How do you think you’ve developed as an author?

JCA: I cling to the notion that I have, even if it is more by luck than judgement. But every fresh rejection suggests this may be a forlorn hope…

KR: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your writing?

JCA: ‘Learn to punctuate properly if you ever want to get a story accepted here’.


KR: What scares you?

How long do you want this interview to be, because I have prepared a list…? That’s actually very brave of me, because one of the thing that scares me most is people who are organised enough to make lists.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

JCA: ‘Blackacre Rising’ is a novel, the sequel to my first book ‘Souls for the Master’. It’s out on 24 September on Kindle and Smashwords, and it is currently 50% off on preorder.

Don, Gerald and Ivy flee north from the Metropolis after the resistance group they belong to collapses. Gerald hides Ivy and Don at his cousin Brett’s farmhouse, Blackacre, before heading back to the capital hoping to clear things up. He gets captured en route and taken to a shadowy secret facility, so Ivy and Don are left to fend for themselves.

Don has used his mental powers, which are very odd, to good effect in the first book, but he faces entirely different challenges in the northern uplands where there is little reliance on the sort of technology and surveillance that marked the regime’s control over people down south. Ivy is a trained assassin, so her mission is much more brutal. Neither has given up on the resistance succeeding in coming back against the authorities, but the odds are stacked against them because of Janus’s betrayal.

KR: What are you working on now?

JCA: Since I write both horror and fantasy, and my current book is a horror novel, I’ve flipped back over to fantasy for a bit because I do like to alternate between them. I’m partway through a Medieval Russian-themed novel that takes folk tales as its inspiration and features a lost princess who can take the form of a dog. I’m about halfway through the first draft. There’s some pretty cruel magic as well as the usual sword and sorcery, so it has something of a dark fantasy feel to it.

KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?

You can choose…

a) One fictional character from your writing.

Brett Flint of Blackacre. He’s the grumpiest ass ever, but he’s loyal and as a farmer he’s practical and capable. If he can survive the pagan forces at work under Blackacre’s roof, a desert island will be no problem at all.

b) One fictional character from any other book.

Ripley. Nothing fazes her. No matter what we find deep in the jungles on that island, she’ll handle it. I think I can get away with that, bearing in mind that ‘Alien’ is based on a story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett.

c) One real-life person that is not a family member or friend.

Well, if we’re stuck on a desert island we’re going to need some amusement to stop us killing each other from pure boredom, so someone who knows how to spin a good yarn that’s always satisfying and can keep their audience engrossed right up to the last word is my choice. Someone who always seems to have yet another amazing story to tell. For me, that would be Stephen King.

KR: Thank you very much.

John C Adams

John C Adams is a nonbinary author and critic of horror and fantasy fiction, reviewing for Horror Tree, British Fantasy Society and Schlock! Webzine. They’ve had short fiction, reviews and articles published in many anthologies from independent presses, on the Horror Addicts blogsite and in various magazines including the Horror Zine, Sirens Call Magazine, Lovecraftiana Magazine, Devolution Z Magazine and Blood Moon Rising Magazine.

They have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, and were longlisted for the Aeon Award twice. John’s latest horror novel ‘Blackacre Rising’ is available to preorder now on Amazon, publication date 24 September.

You can find out more about by by visiting their official website HERE

You can follow John on Twitter @JohnCAdamsSF

Blackacre Rising

From Horror Tree reviewer and double Aeon Award Longlister John C Adams comes a disturbing tale of scientific experimentation and sadistic cruelty. The sequel to ‘Souls For The Master’, ‘Blackacre Rising’ features a stunning cover by Fiona Jayde Media.

You can buy Blackacre Rising from Amazon UK & Amazon US

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