Wednesday, 1 April 2015
The Moatman Interviews -S3- No.4 'Deathly Intentions' featuring @SJIHolliday
*The camera opens on the leafy surrounds of Hyde Park, London, on a beautiful spring morning as people mingle and go for a walk*. Sitting on a park bench, wearing a brown trench coat and ridiculous false nose, rose tinted sunglasses and tiny hat is Boff Moatman, doing is best to look incognito while waiting for today's guest to arrive.
Entering the park in a dazzling navy blue dress and white bolero is todays guest, who sits down next to Boff and whispers 'the hawk flies at night over Mexico'. 'Honestly Boff, I don't know why we have to do code words, it's hardly like this is top secret, it's just an interview love'. *breaks the fourth wall* Now, I have to be frank with you; you see the Wombles are rather proud of their native surroundings and argue that Wimbledon Common is London's best park. Personally I don't even consider Wimbledon a part of London-proper, but when meeting guests in 'other' parks, we don't want to get set on by angry jealous Womble-types... ahem... lets walk, I mean stroll...
Hello my darlings! It's time for another Moatman interview, and today's guest is a crime and horror novelist who originally hails from Scotland; now lives in London, and begun her professional career as a statistician analysing clinical data, yes, today's guest is none other than Susi Holliday.
Thank you for joining me today, and apologies for all the cloak and dagger stuff, you never know when a feral Womble might pop up, so anyway, lets begin, I wanted to begin by asking when you acquired the writing bug, and what motivated you to pursue a career in writing?
I learned to write when I was five and I haven’t really stopped since. I used to get a little scaly bump on the side of my middle finger because I wrote too much. I had a flair for writing gibberish when I was about twelve, and concocted various tales such as ‘Tarka the Pamplemoose and his penchant for weevils.’ Or something. I think it was when my English teacher told me that I shouldn’t really consider studying English at university as I wasn’t that good at it, that I decided that she was probably right and became a scientist instead. After too many shots of vodka and unhygienic blinis bought from a station platform while travelling on the Trans-Siberian railway, I started writing again and decided it was worth pursuing. On a serious note, reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ on that same journey really inspired me.
...you can't beat a bit of the Stephen Kings, can you, and of cause you have a flair for horror and crime writing in particular, with your new book 'Black wood' recently published, what drew you to that style of writing?
I remember coming home from school one day when I was about ten, to find my mum lying on the floor watching the Amityville Horror with the curtains shut. Instead of phoning social services, I sat down to watch it with her. I was petrified and couldn’t sleep for several weeks. After that, I realised she had an excellent stash of 70s horror novels with terrifying covers. There was one book with a woman in a bath covered in slugs that were coming out of the taps. For some reason I felt drawn to this world, and I started reading all the horror, then I moved over to crime, and now I like a bit of both. To this day, I still check the bath taps for slugs.
So, will I now!! and do you have to do a lot of research to help flesh out (excuse the pun) the details of the stories within the novels?
No, I prefer to make it up then maybe check a few details later, otherwise I have a tendency to be sucked into the web of procrastination. I suspect that my googling of certain stuff has probably got me on several government agency watchlists. My latest research has been on satanic rituals, and just the other day I was looking up various types of battering rams, but that was nothing to do with the book.
*Boff nods* always delete your internet history, especially if you're Bungo, and professionally you began with clinical sciences and statistics, did that work help ground you in your writing and help provide ideas for the technical parts of the writing?
Hmm… my penchant for spread sheets is quite good for plotting and planning and creating stats summaries of how many words I write. In truth, I find it quite difficult to switch from stats brain to writing brain, but unfortunately I’m not in a position to give up the day job just yet. I need to concoct some sort of device that allows me to work and write at the same time, preferably while lying on a deckchair on a beach with a nice ray of moderately warm, pale-skin friendly sun directed at me.
...indeed, and what about yourself? are you scared of things that go bump in the night? Wellington still insists in sleeping with the lights on.
Terrified. Much more so now than when I was younger. Watching horror is a struggle for me now. I still love to be scared, but I’m worried I might drop dead from a heart attack when I watch real proper scary stuff now. I can still picture certain horror images that affected me, as if they’re painted on the inside of my eyelids. In hindsight, those horror-image inner-eyelid buy-one-get-one-free tats were probably a bad idea. I’m a very jumpy person. You can scare the crap out of me quite easily just by saying BOO! in the voice of Linda Blair’s puppet.
hahaha... okay, good question what's your favourite horror movie/book and does it still give you sleepless nights?
Those Japanese ones are scary… and I haven’t even watched them. The US remakes of The Ring and The Grudge really scare me. Also The Shining, for different reasons… the psychological aspect of it. The madness creeping in. Those long hotel corridors with scary kids on bikes. My actual favourite horror is Silence of the Lambs. Not really in a scary way, but in a brilliantly disturbing way. So clever. Fava beans are petrifying, aren’t they? Fff Fff Fff Fff.
...another question I wanted to ask was whether you ever get 'fatigue' from the subject matter when writing. Actors sometimes say that when they are playing emotionally dark parts it can be difficult to switch off and bring the work home with them. What do you do to help lighten the mood or have a break from the dark subject matter?
I dance vigorously to 80s pop music. There’s nothing a bit of Spandau Ballet can’t fix, is there?
...ahahah indeed, I love a bit of 80s cheesy pop of an afternoon, and what about other crime writers like Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell, do you hope to emulate their success? and any ambitions to see screen adaptations of your books?
You know what? I stopped reading those two years ago. They’ve become a victim of their own success, by writing too many books that are essentially the same. Sorry, hang on, the phone’s ringing… it’s my agent… he’s shouting something… *Cough* Oh wow, those two writers are just amazing. I can only dream of success like theirs. (I’m doing a massive wink now…) As for screen adaptations – yes, it would be wonderful, of course, but I think it would be difficult with Black Wood, mainly because the story jumps all over the place in a way that one reviewer kindly termed ‘Strange’… but with the right screenwriter, I think it would work. I’d like it as a 3-part BBC drama. No adverts messing up the flow. I’d like to use Eastenders characters to play the lead roles, possibly Stacey Slater and Max Branning. I’d like Pat Butcher in a back-from-the-dead cameo.
aside from writing and work, you've travelled a fair bit, do you have any interesting tales about the places you've lived? any particular places that are close to your heart?
One of my fondest memories is of renting an apartment in Beijing for 3 weeks. We hung our washing on the balcony and ate McDonalds every day, just like the locals. China is a very cool place to visit. Trying to buy a train ticket in a station the size of a small village with enough people in there to fill Wembley is a challenge, especially when you are a tall white woman who speaks no Mandarin. Other than that, I did enjoy my time spent in Harlow. We had a top floor flat that overlooked Asda. It was blissful.
...and what about non-writing, non-work pursuits, what do you like to do with your free time?
I don’t really have any free time. I have the day job and the writing. The rest of my time is taken up with speed-walking through the A4 underpass network frightening tramps.
well our interview is almost at an end, but Bungo did want me to ask one more question, have you ever considered writing a story involving Wombles? (copyright aside), Bungo thinks he'd make quite a good lead character for a story.
I’ve just written one. It’s called ‘The Psychotic Murderous Wombles of Black Wood’. It’s based on a true story. I can’t talk about it though as it’s already been optioned for film with Mel Gibson cast as Orinoco and Gloria Estefan as a twisted, dark version of Madame Cholet.
...and with that the interview is complete and we didn't get mugged by territorial wombles, which is a plus, *tosses disguise in a public bin* *pair of eyes can be seen peering out of the bin in Boff and Susi's general direction*