Tell me about yourself? Why do you write?
Hello, my name is Remy Dean, I am an author and artist.
I write because I enjoy writing! I seem to be one of the few writers that do not see writing as the ‘noble chore’ – I think that is what Harlan Ellison called it. I used to write professionally, and get paid for it, so I honed my craft in journalism, feature writing, and book commissions. Then I was aware that as I became more successful and became known as a ‘deadline buster’, I was getting asked to write various books that were not really in my area of interest. Mind you, I usually found whatever project I was working on interesting after I got into it. I turned down the biography of the band Suede. At the time I was not really interested in Suede, but the editor kept on at me, so I eventually agreed. I ended up really liking the band and quite liking the book.
Fiction has always been where my passion lies. Because I have the kind of mind that churns up stories all the time and is populated with characters that just run around getting more and more troublesome until I let them have their freedom, in word form. I like stories, be that in book, comic, lyric or film, and when I enjoy a good story, it inspires me to write one for myself.
I work at writing so that I can tell a good story effectively. I used to write for money, now I concentrate on writing for the joy. But money would be a really welcome bonus!
What elements do you use to make your novel scary?
Humour and scares are very similar in the way they work. A joke builds up expectations and the tickles you with an unexpected punchline. Horror builds suspense and then shocks the reader when they least expect it.
I tend to use the slow build and concentrate on evoking an eerie milieu. I like to build the suspense and the tension, but like some sadistic comedian, I often withhold the punchline. I hope that an unpredictable, and perhaps rather esoteric, climax keeps the reader hooked, discombobulates them and leads to a sense of unease that perhaps stays with them beyond the end of the book.
I have learned from the masters, like H P Lovecraft’s withholding of easy explanations, and the atmosphere of unease that Ramsey Campbell conjures in his short stories.
What’s the process like? What inspired you to write Final Bough?
I try not stick to one process. The element that seems constant is simply the writing down of words. I used to work through the night, into the wee small hours of the morning. Now that I am a family man, I generally get to bed earlier and then get up way too early, before everyone else. Then, still half asleep, I drink cup after cup of Chinese tea followed by plenty of strong coffee, do the rounds with the dog, hail the rising sun, top up the bird feeders and then sit down and write.
I set at least one day a week aside for research visits. I carry a pen and little notepad around at all times to jot down ideas and fragments as they come to me – it is important to catch those fleeting thoughts and flashes of inspiration as they happen. Then often I write the first draft in long-hand, key it in on a computer and then over-write it, edit and rearrange using a word processor. Sometimes I do that out on a rugged mountainside, sometimes in the garden, if the weather is fine. More often than not, I simply sit at the table, watch the rain march across the valley, and do the words.
Folklore and hearsay interest me, how the myths and legends of the past affect our world today. I love telling stories that hover somewhere in the hinterland between fact and fantasy, whilst scratching the surface of a truth. Final Bough was inspired by local legends and the landscape that provides the backdrop to my life.
Is there a certain genre of horror that you think your novel fit into?
Final Bough is a ghost story that shares quite a few genre conventions with Folk Horror. There is a direct link to the land itself. A tree is the central motif, and trees are rich in mythological connections. The roots of a tree in the land, extending down through and into the past, penetrating the layers of history.
The mines, that also burrow beneath the ground, are a feature of the local Snowdonia landscape since the bronze age, perhaps longer. So there are relic features in the landscape from different periods of mining that have since been associated with local folklore. Trees and mines and what may lay beneath the land are important themes in Final Bough.
The story concerns ancient folklore and also local rumors that have built up around events in living memory. Final Bough was inspired by a specific piece folklore attached to a so-called ‘hanging-tree’ that featured in medieval trials - it is depicted in plaster-work that still survives in what was once Owain Glyndŵr’s jail and courthouse in Dolgellau. The story also deals with folk traditions and the ideas of hereditary hierarchies associated with the land. So yes, Final Bough is a ghost story, but fits nicely into the Folk Horror genre, as defined by the likes of M R James.
What did you learn about yourself while writing Final Bough? What might readers learn about themselves?
How we try to, erroneously, define ourselves by looking to the past. Our identity has far more to do with what we do today than with what our ancestors did in the past. I am Welsh by birth and parentage that can be traced back on both sides to Welsh chieftains that predate the Roman era. But does that define me in any way? True, I get a kick out of it, but I feel Welsh because I live in the distinctive Snowdonian landscape, I walk through its ancient Cambrian forest nearly every day.
My identity is more to do with the land and my individual relationship with it than with any sort of claimed pedigree. Being interested in your heritage and culture is fine, but also being free of any negative features that may be embodied by it.
You are not your past. It may inform your identity, but it is not your identity. You are not defined by your nation, you are part of what defines that nation.
What are three things you’ve told yourself that kept you going during your darkest hour?
Being a writer of dark fiction, I use my darkest hours. They are a rich source of inspiration! And remember you need both light and shadow to define anything…
The aesthetic of light set in darkness also appeals to me. Many Magicians and religious orders wear dark clothes to represent the void, where creative and spiritual powers are born. The light from stars has traveled vast distances through the void of space to inspire both the poet and the scientist. So in darkness, I look to the light of imagination and creative inspiration.
If you are asking about the darkness within, emotional pain, a crisis of confidence, doubts about what is being written. Embrace the darkness, use it positively – you have characters in stories that can work through those crises and doubts on your behalf – how can you write fully-rounded and realized characters if you do not recognize and embrace all the aspects of the self and shadow-self?
Some critics argue that horror fiction causes readers to think and act in unhealthy, morbid ways. How would you respond?
People who already think and act in unhealthy and morbid ways may well be attracted to horror, in order to work these things out… I would pick up on what I was just saying, that ignoring the darker side of what we have in us can be dangerous. If we are not allowed to consider the morbid and dangerous, then we empower those aspects by neglect.
I certainly do not think that the horror audience is in any way more morbid and unhealthy that the audience for any other genre, and I do not subscribe to the fiction-as-therapy way of looking at it, either. There have been many studies and investigations into the possible correlation between violence in fiction and whether it is carried through into actions. Yes, some people who have committed violent crimes use violent media, but that should not be surprising and is not evidence of causality.
However, non-violent media can also be connected with violent behavior, if you try hard enough. I recall one case when someone repeatedly drove and reversed a car over someone else in their driveway because they believed the victim to be possessed by Mickey Mouse. And of course, religious texts that seem to preach peace and tolerance have inspired massive amounts of violence throughout history.
Those who are happy and healthy in spirit can afford to be generous and also to play with the darker side. Personally, I have found readers of horror to be intelligent, profoundly sane and happy people.
Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?
If you are reading, you are already doing something right! Always find time to read books, try to share this passion with your friends and family, especially if you are a parent, try to instill that love of books in your children, read to them, read with them. But choose carefully, not all books will be worth your time. Read as much as you can, but be discerning with what you read, there are so many books and only so much time to read them in. Reading my books, of course, is always a worthwhile and rewarding experience!
Where can readers go to find out more about your writing?
I have an official weblog that will take you to information about my books and opportunities to buy them: http://remydean.blogspot.co.uk/
If you want to follow me on twitter, that will keep you updated with news and upcoming publications and appearances: Remy Dean @DeanAuthor
You can check out my author listing in the Writers of Wales Database at Literature Wales: http://www.literaturewales.org/writers-of-wales/i/139247/desc/dean-remy/
Also, you can find my current titles available to order on amazon.
Thank you very much for asking!