Craig Wallwork stopped by to have a chat with me. Charlie’s all a’titter. I hate it when he gets like this.
E: Hi, Craig. Welcome to Erindipity! I hope you’re not allergic to corpses. Charlie! Stop licking the man! I’m really sorry about that. Charlie’s something of an Anglophile. I can pay for your dry cleaning.
C: Hi Erin, thanks for having me. Is it normal for a corpse to pay that much attention to a crotch?
Get a cat, they told me. But no, I had to take in a corpse. /facepalm
E: You have a new chapbook coming out soon from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. What’s the title and what can you tell us about it?
C: It’s called, Gory Hole: A Horror Triple Bill by Craig Wallwork. I think that’s the full title. It all came about because I was hoping Max Booth, editor-in-chief over at PMMP, would have mercy and pity-publish something by me. I was envious of their back-catalogue, if truth be told. They have some great titles by authors like Eli Wilde, Anna DeVine, Jay Wilburn, and E.E. King, so I just wanted to be part of it all. I had to bedevil and stalk Max for months before he finally accepted my request. The result is three stories with a leaning toward bizzaro, and very tongue-in-cheek horror. Human Tenderloin is a about fine dining for Cannibals. Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters is about a group of friends who find themselves in the gay quarter of the city and everyone has turned into zombies. And Sicko is about a bachelor party that goes awry when mutant deer attack a quaint English hotel. I much prefer horror to be over the top and comical. Evil Dead, Braindead, Dog Soldiers, Severance, Return of Living Dead, these were great movies because they boiled the horror down and skimmed off the absurd. Gory Hole is what Sam Rami would write if he was an author. I think Charlie would love it.
This. This is why I love horror people. Sure, they’re usually a bit off, but they never judge you for having a pet corpse and now they write him bedtime stories. I don’t care what they say about you, horror people, you’re OK in my book.
E: You write both novels and short fiction. When you come up with a story idea, do you already know that it will be a long or short piece, or does that come later after some of the writing happens?
C: I always know what will be a novel and what will be a short story. But I can never estimate the word count because I’m terrible with numbers. It’s like I have dyscalculia or something. I’m always uncertain to when flash ventures into being a short story, and when a short story becomes a novella. I just write and see what happens. I think it’s important that a writer doesn’t really ration themselves, or get caught up with the word count. Unlike life, storytelling is not limited by science, physics or finance; the only limitation a writer has is their imagination. Just let the words pour out.
E: The Sound of Loneliness from Perfect Edge Books sounds like my worst nightmare as a writer. What can you tell us about it?
C: I wrote it from a different place from where I am now. I guess what I mean by that is, if I sat down to write The Sound of Loneliness today, it would be completely different. At the time, I was reading a lot of Charles Bukowski, John Fante, Dan Fante, Mark SaFranko and other Underbelly and Beat writers. I was caught up in the whimsy of suffering, the poor starving artist self-sacrificing everything in the hope to create a masterpiece. I loved, too, how those writers viewed the world, how brutally honest they were. They never held back, and when they threw their fist you felt it in your gut. Naturally, I wanted to write something similar, but I didn’t want it to just be a facsimile of those works. Then I stumbled on Knut Hamsun’s Hunger and it all made sense. Hamsun showed me a different way to write, more lyrically and less brutal. Poetic, you may say. It was important for me to capture the feel of those types of books, but also present humor in a tragic way, while still being true to the main character and the world he inhabited. You could say that The Sound of Loneliness grew out of envy and bitterness, and I sense that’s why the main character, Daniel Crabtree, is so unlikeable. He was my inner most secrets personified; angry, misanthropic, delusional and scared. His despair at not being recognized as a great writer was my despair. His indifference toward his hometown was mine. But more importantly, his vulnerability that he kept hid lest he get hurt was the same that held me back in life. Crabtree is your typical, naive writer struggling to understand why no one wants to read his work, or publish him. Writing that book, and committing that character to the page, helped me realize my own flaws and the flaws of many other young writers. Since its release, I’ve had a lot of people say how much they identified with Crabtree, how they felt the same way he did about the world, or love, or life. This assures me of two things; the first is that my perspective of the world was more universal that I first assumed, and the second is, I got it right.
E: To Die Upon A Kiss is from Snubnose Press. That’s a fabulous title. What was your inspiration for the story and what can you tell us about it?
C: I was always interested in the idea of writing a story where love was doomed from the onset. I captured that mostly in The Sound of Loneliness with the relationship between Daniel, a young man in his early 20s, who becomes emotionally attached to a girl of 14. But where Daniel and Emma’s love could never begin, I wanted to explore a relationship that was not restricted by age, nor judged by society. But there had to be something that pulled them apart, something that inevitably would get in the way of love. It also had to be built upon unconventional beginnings. Much like Bonnie and Clyde, Wisdom with Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore, and Romeo and Juliet, love is skewered by misfortune, and that interested me. So I set about writing the story of a man with a rare heart defect that means he will die within six months. To allow him to overcome his fear of death, he is embroiled in a sick game led by a strange, beautiful woman named Prudence. She allows the man to see death firsthand inducing overdoses in the elderly and manic depressives; the intention being that if he sees how peaceful death can be, it will pacify his own fears of mortality. So that was the seed, and from it grew this strange, existential story that deals with some weighty issues. But really, it is a love story, much the same way The Sound of Loneliness is a love story; flawed and broken.
E: On top of being an author, you’re also a fiction editor at Menacing Hedge Magazine. What is the one submission mistake you keep seeing that you wish everyone would stop making?
C: Not reading the submission guidelines is a big one. I can’t really chastise the writers because I’m a culprit of blind submitting in the past too, but only now do I realize how frustrating it is when the slush is inundated with stories that fall into genres that really turn me off. So yes, please read the submissions. They are there for a reason.
E: What was your journey as a writer like? Was it something you always wanted to do or did it come later on?
C: I never wanted to be a writer. I’m still unsure about being one now. I think that’s why when people use the word author, or they praise my writing, I’m always looking over my shoulder to see who they’re talking too. I much prefer pictures to words. It’s true. I can spend a good hour on Pinterest and it can seem like only 5 minutes has elapsed. I pull out a book, and invariably, time slows to a crawl. There are great novels out there, and when I find them, I realize how much I love literature again, but those moments are becoming few and far between. This is why I favor movies over books, music, art and photography too. They are less time consuming, and you gain instant gratification, or indifference, whereas books can take you days to reach that point. I’m more an anti-writer, a person who is somehow connected spiritually and has a vested interested, but whose destiny is to be banished to obscurity, but not before being publically ridiculed for their efforts.
E: What was the most helpful piece of writing advice that someone gave you?
C: Quit. You don’t need the hassle.
Craig Wallwork is the pushcart nominated author of the short story collection Quintessence of Dust, and the novels To Die Upon a Kiss, and The Sound of Loneliness. His fiction has appeared in various anthologies, journals and magazines both in the US and UK. He is also the fiction editor at Menacing Hedge Magazine. Craig lives in West Yorkshire, England. You can find him on his blog.