{Interview} The Horror At Lavender Edge: Christopher Henderson Talks To Kendall Reviews

Christopher Henderson was born in Streatham (in the UK) at the dawn of the 1970s, probably the weirdest decade there has ever been. He has haunted south London ever since.

He has been writing for around a quarter of a century, but until just a few years ago he worked under his real name, almost exclusively on non-fiction and largely specializing in folklore and ghost stories. In this incarnation, he writes horror fiction, and especially supernatural horror fiction, in the hope of escaping a world that’s fast becoming somewhere he’d rather not be.

KR: Coffee?

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

Sure. I was born in Streatham in south London (UK) at the dawn of the 1970s. The first Moon landing had happened the previous summer, but while I was taking my first breaths and only a few miles away on the other side of the city, folk were getting ready to hunt and stake a vampire in Highgate Cemetery! That seems to have set the scene for probably the weirdest decade there has ever been, and I think that weirdness has had a lasting effect on me.

I’ve been writing for around a quarter of a century, but until just a few years ago I worked almost exclusively on non-fiction, largely to do with folklore, ghost stories, and generally odd experiences. Recently, though, I’ve moved away from that, reinvented myself with a pen name, and gone back to my first love, which is horror fiction, and especially supernatural horror fiction.

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

To read, obviously. Other than that – and when I can make the time, which seems all too rare these days – I like to lock myself away for a few hours, with no phone, no interruptions, the lights off and the curtains closed, plug my headphones into the TV, and watch a horror film. If it’s late enough, I’ll enjoy a decent beer at the same time. Bliss.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

Not a single book as such, but for a while I was addicted to those Target novelizations of Doctor Who. The local public library was on my way home from school and I would frequently pop in to take out four of those, then spend almost my entire evening reading them. More often than not, I would get through all four in an evening or two, then go back for more. Bear in mind that this would have been in the late Seventies, when I didn’t have my own TV and we didn’t own a VCR, so books were my only way of reliving favourite stories.

Or maybe ‘Ghosts Over Britain’ by Peter Moss, a collection of ‘astonishing true accounts of modern hauntings’ I got in 1979. I still have my original battered paperback! Those stories are incredibly creepy, and many have stayed with me ever since. There’s something about the way the settings are so authentic yet mundane, and the witnesses come across as so sincere and matter-of-fact. I still regard it as the best example of its genre I’ve ever read.

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

There’s no one album in particular but several have become semi-permanent fixtures in my life. Off the top of my head, these include ‘Floodland’ by The Sisters of Mercy, ‘Twice Upon a Time’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees, ‘New Word’s Fair’ by Michael Moorcock and the Deep Fix, ‘The Wall’ by Pink Floyd, and ‘Vienna’ and ‘Rage in Eden’, both by Ultravox.

When writing fiction, I do like to wear headphones but it’s not music I listen to. I have a 3-hour virtual ambience soundtrack called ‘Haunted Halloween mansion fireplace with thunder, rain and howling wind’, which sounds exactly how you’d imagine! The soundscape takes me away from the real world, wraps me in a spooky mood, and puts me in a suitable mental writing space.

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

I’m going to have to give you two answers because I can’t make up my mind between John Carpenter’s ‘Prince of Darkness’ (1987) and the 1967 Hammer production of ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ (the US version of which was given the frankly appalling title ‘Five Million Years to Earth’).

KR: What are you reading now?

Things Not Made’ by Michael Sellars. And jolly good it is too!

KR: What was the last great book you read?

Hmm, it’s that word ‘great’ that’s giving me problems here! I enjoy pretty much everything I read – I wouldn’t choose to start reading something if I didn’t already have a fair idea I would enjoy it! So I’ve read plenty of books recently that I consider good, or even excellent. But one that I would consider truly ‘great’? That’s a hell of an accolade, and I think I’m going to have to reserve that honour for ‘Jerusalem’ by Alan Moore.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

Increasingly e-Books, because they’re cheaper and because I’ve reached the age where my eyesight isn’t as good as it was. I would rather increase the letter size in an eBook than wear my glasses.

But my heart will always be with paperbacks. There’s something about the smell and the feel of them. Plus I have an issue with eBooks in that I find it difficult to judge how close to the end of a story I am. Endings always seem to jump on top of me before I’m ready for them, and that takes some of the satisfaction away.

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

I’ve already mentioned all those Target novelizations, and so I have to namecheck authors such as Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, and Ian Marter because those books were so formative when I was young. Then, in my pre- and early teens: James Herbert, Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, Michael Moorcock, and Graham Masterton. Later: Clive Barker. And probably a whole lot more!

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

From a romantic point of view, I love the idea of launching into the unknown and just seeing where an idea takes me, but I’ve learned that I rarely see those voyages through, and stories I write that way tend to peter out.

I definitely have more success working to an outline, although at some point the characters will come alive and not necessarily agree to follow the paths I’ve mapped out for them.

So, really, it’s a bit of both. I need a structure, but I also need to retain some flexibility within that.

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

In one form or another, I’ve been reading about and later researching weird, paranormal-style experiences, anomalous psychology, folklore, etc, since I was a boy, and to that extent, I’m in fairly familiar territory when I write supernatural horror.

When a story calls for more specific research, I would probably spend time over a few days reading, thinking, making notes, and generally just letting ideas percolate before getting to work on a story. Then, during the writing, I will often insert notes to myself at those points where further research would be useful to flesh out relevant details.

KR: How would you describe your writing style?

I’d like to think it is reasonably easy-going and open. That’s what I try to work towards anyway. I believe the words should not get in the way of the story – that ideally the reader will almost forget they are reading at all, and just experience the story directly. One day, I might get there!

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

Right now, due to certain economic upheavals in the UK (let’s not go into that here!) I find myself with a lot more writing time than I’ve been used to, and I’m trying to make the most of it.

I get up at 5.45 a.m. because that’s when my cat says the day begins. While I’m looking after him – cleaning his bowls, preparing his food, etc – I use a voice recorder to capture ideas. For some reason, that period is when my creative head is at its sparkiest.

By around 7.45 a.m., I’m usually at my PC, catching up with correspondence, looking over social media, making notes for anything urgent that needs to get done, and trying to do that.

Ideally, by around 9 or half 9, I’m at my writing desk and using my laptop instead. The internet connection on that is disabled to remove temptation. I’ll work for around an hour-and-a-half, or two hours, then take a quick break and – if I’ve earned it – treat myself to a double-choc mocha. Then it’s back to work until lunch, by which time real life has often clawed its way into the day. If possible, however, I’ll return to the laptop and put in another few hours until my brain grinds to a halt.

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

Maybe ‘The Zoo’, because that was one of my first fiction-writing successes. In the mid-Nineties, I was writing almost exclusively non-fiction and starting to collect material for books about local legends, folklore, and ghost stories. But I entered ‘The Zoo’ for a national fiction-writing competition and was one of the runners-up. So I have a soft spot for that story, and when I recently moved towards fiction-writing I included it in a collection of shorts called ‘Strangers at the Door’.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

Eventually. I hate reading my own reviews (no offence to your reviewers!) so I shy away from doing that until the pain of not knowing feels like it outweighs the possible pain of negative comments. Reviews are vitally important for writers – and, unless they’re too cutting, I enjoy reading reviews of other people’s work – but I find dealing with criticism the toughest part of this whole business.

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

I’m getting better at finishing what I start! I dread to think how many story ideas, fragments, abandoned novels, and so on, litter my drawers, filing cabinets and old hard drives.

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

That you’re never going to please everyone so there’s no point in trying. Just write what you want to write, and write it as well as you can. That possibly sounds trite, but once you truly accept that then it’s incredibly liberating.

KR: What scares you?

Change. Ultimately, I think change lies at the heart of horror. In one way or another, the parameters of your existence alter, and you find yourself fighting to cope with the new reality. It might be something as relatively straightforward as an intruder in your home: the security of your environment is breached and what should be comfortable and familiar territory is abruptly transformed into a threatening arena. Or perhaps some fundamental law shifts – such as the dead no longer staying dead. Or events you had thought safely consigned to mythology begin to emerge into fact. Whatever the guise, change means the world you thought you knew has tilted, and that can be profoundly unsettling.

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

The Horror at Lavender Edge’ is a supernatural horror set mostly in the south London neighbourhood in which I grew up. It starts in 1971, which is a year or two before I can remember clearly, but I wanted to set it near the beginning of the decade because that would give me room to return to that setting later.

The main protagonist, Harry Undine is a reluctant psychic who despises his sensitivity and the way it screws with his emotions. When a young WPC called Jo Cross asks for help tackling an apparent haunting, Undine’s sixth sense screams at him that it’s too dangerous to get involved. Unfortunately, he finds he has no choice but to travel to Mitcham and an old house called Lavender Edge, where I’m sure everything will turn out just fine….

The title, incidentally, is in part a gentle nod to those fondly remembered Doctor Who novelizations, with names such as ‘The Horror of Fang Rock’, ‘The Terror of the Autons’ and ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’. The whole book is, on more than one level, an excuse for me to escape into my own past!

KR: What are you working on now?

A sequel to ‘The Horror at Lavender Edge’. There’s so much more I want to play around within that era.

In particular, there’s a Lovecraftian element I’m thinking of bringing out. It’s already hinted at in ‘Lavender Edge’, but the reference is so subtle I doubt many –if any – readers will pick up on it. I’ll say no more about that here – consider this a teaser!

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.

Hegarty, from my short SF/Horror novel ‘Artemis One-Zero-Five’. He’s a fictional amalgamation of several of my closest friends plus me at a happier and much more carefree time in my past. Plus he’d be guaranteed always to have booze on him, despite the situation.

b) One fictional character from any other book.

I think I’ll choose Jeeves, from the old P. G. Wodehouse stories. If I’m going to be stranded, I might as well be stranded in style and in as much comfort as possible. Good old Jeeves would look after me, and be smart enough to provide food and drink somehow, while also figuring out a clever way to get us home.

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

Hopefully this doesn’t come across as avoiding the question, but I’m afraid the completely truthful answer is ‘nobody’. In real life, without the comforting distance a pen or keyboard provides, I’ve never been a ‘people person’, and in another time and place I might well have ended up a hermit. A family member or close friend might be welcome company in my desert island kingdom – as long as I could get away from them for a bit whenever needed – but other than that I think I’d prefer to enjoy the splendour of solitude, thanks very much!

And on that note, I shall head back to my cave. Thanks for having me!

KR: Thank you very much Christopher.

Christopher Henderson

Universal Link To House At Lavender Edge: getbook.at/HorrorAtLavenderEdge

Find out more about Christopher via his official website: www.christopherhendersonhorror.com

Follow Christopher On Twitter: @ChendersHorror

Find Christopher On Facebook: HERE

Christopher’s Goodreads Can Be Found HERE

The Horror At Lavender Edge

A psychic who dreams of a different life.

A police constable who just wants to protect an old lady.

A haunted house that could destroy them all.

London, October 1971:

Some people think psychics are cool, but paranormal investigator Harry Undine disagrees. The Rat Pack were cool. They still are, despite what this new generation thinks. But having his emotions ripped to shreds whenever he encounters a so-called ghost is definitely not cool, thank you very much, and his work at the Corsi Institute had better help him get rid of his unwanted ‘gift’.

If only.

When WPC Jo Cross visits the Institute and begs them to help an elderly lady whose house in Mitcham appears to be haunted, of course they have to assist her, even if everything in Undine screams that they should stay as far away as possible. He can’t tell their boss why he’s so frightened, not without revealing his secret. And Jo Cross is a good woman, just doing her job. But are her determination, all the Institute’s expertise, and Undine’s own abilities going to be enough when they face the horror at Lavender Edge?

There’s only one way to find out – and they are going to find out, whether Undine wants it or not.

You can buy The Horror At Lavender Edge from Amazon UK Amazon US

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