Philip Rogers Talks To Nick Stead
Nick Stead is the author of Hybrid, the first of a horror series about a werewolf. He began writing the very first draft at the age of fifteen in 2003, during his GCSE years at high school, after his cousin encouraged him to start writing and helped brainstorm ideas for the first three chapters. What was initially intended to be a short story quickly began to develop into a narrative that would become a full-length novel, and with the realisation of this Nick’s dream to one day be published was born.
Philip Rogers: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Nick Stead: I’m a Huddersfield based author with a bit of a werewolf obsession (well okay, maybe more than a bit!). I’ve always had a love of stories from as far back as I can remember, particularly supernatural horror and fantasy. As a kid I loved the Goosebumps series and the saga of Darren Shan in my teens, and I used to get through at least a couple of books a week.
I also love a good horror film, and I used to be an avid gamer but don’t get much time for it anymore. Console wise I never got past the PlayStation 2! I was a big fan of World of Warcraft for a while (once they introduced worgen as a playable race) but I had to give it up when Hybrid was released as there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Not when I had book two to write and book one to promote! And since then the workload has been never-ending. There’s always something new to work on and marketing to keep up with, and I think a lot of people don’t appreciate the amount of time that goes into not just writing a book but also doing research and editing, both of which can take up hundreds of hours in themselves.
One hobby I do manage to keep up with is LARP (live-action roleplay). I roleplay with the Lorien Trust system and try to get to all four of the main events every year. My character is a beastkin warrior (a wolf of course!) and I really enjoy the escapism of the game, which usually leaves me feeling inspired to write whenever I’ve spent the weekend in that fantasy world. In fact, after my first LARP experience, I wrote a short piece which was essentially from my LT character’s point of view, and I plan on developing that into a full-length novel in the next year or so (once the fifth Hybrid book has been drafted). It will take place in my own world rather than the LARP one of course and I’ve got tons of ideas about the lore for that world and the history of it, plus my own set of gods and demons, but one of the main characters will be more or less the same as the wolf I play at LT, only with a different name.
PR: How did you get into writing originally
NS: It’s really thanks to my cousin, ‘Lady’ Sarah, that I started writing. She did some short stories in her school days with close friends and family as the characters, but hers were fantasy rather than horror. With my love of stories, I couldn’t get enough of having them read out to me and hearing how Sir Nick heroically slays the giant spiders and other monsters. It got to the point where she was sick of me nagging her to read them and write more, and so the Hybrid series was born.
Sarah helped me brainstorm the first three chapters. There was no question of what story it was going to be – she just said something along the lines of “Okay, so if you’re going to be bitten by a werewolf you need a reason to be out at night under the full moon.” And we went from there. Her biggest input on the opening was her own vampire character’s back story, which I left more or less as she wanted when I came to write it up, with just a bit of tweaking here and there.
Originally it was going to be a short story like she’d done (hers were divided up into about eight short chapters I think) but I had so many ideas, I soon realised I had a full-length novel on my hands. Then I had even more ideas and realised it was going to be a series! And as soon as I knew it was going to be novel-length, the idea of getting it published someday planted itself in my head and wouldn’t go away.
Getting published was way harder than my teenage self ever anticipated, but it has been worth all the hard work. I don’t make anything close to what I need to live on but every time I get a new positive review, or a fan reaches out to me on social media, it really makes my day. Stories are meant to be read and enjoyed, and just knowing that people are loving my work is what makes it all worthwhile, and what keeps me going.
PR: You have recently released a revised and extended edition of your debut novel ‘Hybrid’ and the same treatment will be given to the 2nd novel in the series ‘Hunted’. Can you tell me a little about the concept of the two books and what we can expect?
NS: The series follows my lycanthropic alter-ego (who I kept named after me, thinking if Darren Shan can get away with it, why can’t I?!), starting with the night he’s bitten and turned into a werewolf. Hybrid is really about the changes the character goes through – not just the obvious physical transformations, but the psychological impact as well. I figured if a werewolf lives long enough to realise they’ve been killing and eating people every full moon, that’s got to have a massive effect on their mental health. So I wanted to explore what that effect might be.
Then there are the changes to the character’s behaviour, as a result of his inner wolf. I was trying to think why the full moon is a blackout period in so many werewolf stories and it made me think, what if it’s like with real personality disorders, where the person has no recollection of what their other self does? So I decided to treat it like a split personality, but you get aspects of the two personalities bleeding into each other over the course of the story and fictional Nick becomes a lot more violent and bestial as a result.
Hunted continues these themes while fictional Nick works towards trying to adapt to his new life as a werewolf, but the character’s much darker in the second one and there’s even more bloodshed than in Hybrid.
Then there’s the war with a human organisation (the Demon Slayers, or just Slayers for short) sworn to wipe out werewolves and other types of undead (vampires, ghouls, etc.) which rages in the shadows. They don’t play a huge part in the first book (not till the last few chapters anyway) but there are more brushes with them in the second, and the series will get more into the war with them as it goes on.
PR: Why did you decide to release a revised version of both books and can we expect many changes to the story?
NS: My editing skills have really come on over the last year. A move in publishers gave me the perfect excuse to re-release the series so far, so I figured I would put those skills to work and give both manuscripts a really good polish. I don’t think I quite anticipated how much work it was going to take to lift the quality of them both (particularly of Hybrid) – it’s been a really intense lockdown for me! – but I am really proud of the new editions and glad I put that work in. I think both books are a lot stronger for the changes I’ve made and more enjoyable as a result.
There are bits of the original Hybrid that make me cringe now I’ve come so far as a writer. All the adverbs in the first editions for one! And passages where I was telling the reader when I really needed to be showing, which is why both these first two instalments have gotten a little bit longer – there are some extra scenes to replace that telling, while others have been fleshed out to help bring them to life.
The overall stories haven’t changed but there’s an extra twist at the end of Hybrid which my younger self just hadn’t thought of. It’s mentioned again in Hunted and there’s a chance I might fully explore it in a later book, but at the moment it’s just a suggestion of something.
PR: Hybrid and Hunted are the first two books in the Hybrid series. Will you be looking to release a revised and extended edition of the third book in the series ‘Vengeance’?
NS: I will be re-releasing Vengeance and have already done most of the work on revising that one, with the aim to get it out towards the end of September. It’s not really extended like the other two (in fact, it got about 5000 words shorter!) but it is more polished, and pacier for the edits I’ve done, I think.
PR: I know you have been working on a fourth instalment in the series, do you know when we can expect this to be released?
NS: I’m aiming for the Halloween blue moon. After all the editing on the first three, I figured I would revisit this manuscript as well and just do a final bit of polishing before the release, so I’m on with that now.
PR: Not just in your writing, you have had a deep-rooted obsession for Werewolves. What is it about the creatures that you find so fascinating?
NS: It’s hard to say what exactly got me so obsessed with werewolves, but I’ve always had a love of things with big teeth and claws, so I think part of the fascination is this idea of being able to turn into one of the creatures I’m so in awe of. You wouldn’t believe how many hours I’ve spent comparing wolf and human anatomy to try and visualise exactly how the transformation would go! It had to be as anatomically correct as I could make it, and I tried to get as much detail in as I could.
PR: The revised and extended Hybrid series has been released by the new independent publishers – Twisted Fate Publishing, which you are involved in creating. Can you tell me a little bit about the company and how it got started?
NS: This one is thanks to my friend and fellow Huddersfield author, CM Angus. He’d been saying for a while we should start our own company but I was always like I don’t know, seems like a lot of extra work. Then my other friend and fellow Huddersfield author, Gareth Clegg, pretty much talked me into the benefits of taking creative control over our own work. That led to some serious discussions about starting our own imprint, and here we are!
Speculative fiction is our speciality – tales of warped destinies, from the wonderfully weird to the downright terrifying.
PR: Can you tell me a bit about some of the authors who you may be looking to publish and where you hope to take the company in the future?
NS: We’re focusing on speculative fiction as that covers everything the three of us do and gives a pretty wide scope for accepting work from other authors as well. I personally love supernatural horror and fantasy, so any authors writing in those two genres have got my interest.
At the moment we’re just focusing on putting our own work out, but we do hope to take on other authors in the future and we’ll post on social media and our website when we’re ready to open to submissions. I would love for us to make a name for ourselves as a publisher and provide support to talented authors struggling to find a home for their work with the giants of the industry.
PR: Do you have any other projects which you are currently working on?
NS: I’ve got my first non-Hybrid release more or less ready to go now, which is the novel based on the true story of the 1612 Pendle witch trials I’ve mentioned in previous interviews. There’s been a few things out of my control which has held both that and the fourth Hybridup, but now things are moving again I’m hoping to have the witches out in 2021.
We’re putting out our first anthology at Twisted Fate Publishing in October, which is going to be in support of the charity Mind. I’ve got two stories in that, both on the theme of ‘Darkness’, and the group of us behind it are the Sons of Twisted Fate. This was another brainchild of TFP. We’ve plugged a vibrant writing scene, so doing an invitation-only project seemed natural, like the Hollywood Vampires of the literary world – a rogue band of established authors who do their own independent things, but also come together to collaborate – striking before sinking back into the night.
I’ve also got the first draft of a ghost story waiting for editing, and I do intend to write the dark fantasy inspired by LARP between books five and six of the Hybrid series. Lots of things planned for horror/dark fantasy fans to look forward to and I hope my readers will enjoy them as much as they have the Hybrid series so far!
PR: If someone was looking to get into writing what advice would you give them?
NS: First of all, read! Specifically books in the genre(s) you’re interested in, but sometimes exploring things outside your usual genre can be a good experience as well.
Once you know what you want to write and you’ve seen how other writers tackle their stories, join a local writing group. I’ve learnt so much through Huddersfield Authors’ Circle and Write Club (the latter is where my newfound editing skills developed!) and I really couldn’t have got this far without the support of my friends in the two groups.
Finally, try and get a good set of beta readers to give you honest feedback (this is another area where writing groups can come in handy!) and don’t underestimate the power of editing. A proper edit takes a long time, not just a quick proofread over a couple of days. It took me all summer (2019) to edit the Pendle witches, and that’s a recent work which was a decent quality to begin with. And I’m talking 24/7, 10 hour days of work, for the full six-week summer break (I work part-time in a school to pay the bills so I was determined to get it done while I was off). It’s possibly the hardest skill to develop as we’re often too close to our own stories and can’t always see the issues that need fixing, but if you can master the art of it your writing will be so much better as a result.
You can follow Nick on Twitter @nick_stead
To find out more about Nick please visit his Official website www.nick-stead.co.uk
Follow Twisted Fate Publishing on Twitter @TwistedFatePub
A full moon rises, and a once average teenage boy begins to change. Blood will flow tonight.
Nick Stead’s first transformation is horrific, but it’s just the beginning. From that moment on, he seeks only to satisfy the insatiable hunger burning within, leaving a trail of death and carnage in his wake. Battling new instincts, he tries to hide his lycanthropy from those he loves, but the call is strong, pulling him towards his darker desires and the constant urge to feed.
But his actions have not gone unnoticed, and the hunter becomes the hunted. The Demon Slayers are closing in – an ancient order with a sacred oath to wipe out his kind, once and for all. Can he balance the lupine urges raging within and find inner peace, or will he be destroyed as an abomination by those with the tools and knowledge to finish him?
Philip Rogers is a horror journalist who is known for his reviews, interviews and media coverage of anything horror. An avid supporter of independent projects including; films, books, theatre, live events and aways on the lookout for something different to cover.