Today I have an interview with the amazing screenwriter, director, and author Frazer Lee. Straight from England, he and I had an amazing time talking about books and writing…and we laugh….alot! It’s one of a couple of my favorite interviews so far. Whether you’re a reader, writer, or film buff, I recommend making time on your agenda to read this one and leave us some comments.
Frazer’s The Lucifer Glass, the first novella in a series, just published yesterday from Samhain Horror (June 4, 2013) and you can get it for a couple bucks. Here’s the cover. You can read more about it and click links at the end of the interview. You’ll also get to view the cover for his upcoming Fall title, The Jack in the Green! Enjoy!
Hi Frazer! So happy to have you by Oh, for the Hook of a Book today and look forward to a rousing interview of epic proportions (no pressure or anything – ha!) I jest, but really…glad to have you hear to discuss your newest novella series (The Lucifer Glass), upcoming novels, and whatever other questions come up!
Frazer: Thank you Erin. It’s a rousing pleasure of epic proportions to be here, and feel free to apply the pressure!
Erin: Get ready then….Let’s plop back with a cocktail of choice (find any good ones from that cocktail contest you had for readers?) and discuss…
Frazer: Sounds good to me. I’ll mix a couple of Frazizors, a brutal cocktail of my own devising – though neither of us may live to tell the tale. The last one i made melted the glass…
Q: You’re an author, director, screenwriter, and I believe give college lectures as well! When you aren’t scaring students into major creative breakthroughs for the screen, how do you divide your time to accomplish it all?
A: I’m guilty on all counts – Jack of all trades, master of none, ha! It is difficult to cram it all in, but somehow I stretch the days (and sometimes nights as well) to hit my deadlines. A lot of my novel-writing happens on train journeys and in hotel rooms, and when I’m working on screenplay commissions concurrently I often split the day – so I do half a day on the novel and the rest on the screenplay. The craziest time of year for me is when all the grade marking comes in from the Universities, I have to put my own creative work aside for a few weeks during that period as the coursework submissions are in the hundreds. Then, as is the case right now, I get straight back into it.
Q: When did you first decide you wanted to become “a writer?” What inspired you and guided you on your creative course?
A: I started telling stories when I was a kid, in school I helped other kids with their reading as I was just blazing through as many books as I could read. When I had homework assignments to write stories I really enjoyed them, and just became hooked.
Q: What type of creative outlet did you first begin with and why?
A: The story writing and my love of movies converged when I started writing and performing little radio plays – sequels to the movies I was a fan of at the time – and recording them (with music and sound FX) on my little mono tape recorder (I’m a child of the 1970s and was seven years old when Star Wars was released). Luckily none of the tapes survived! But in retrospect I do think that was a very early, very naive attempt at screenwriting.
Q: Your debut novel, The Lamplighters, came out last year (published by Samhain Horror) and you immediately felt writing success by being bestowed as a Bram Stoker Award Finalist for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. How did you decide to take the plunge into publishing a novel? What inspired you to do so?
A: The Lamplighters was one of these ideas that just wouldn’t let go of me. It was wriggling around in my brainpan just insisting to come out. At first I thought of writing it as a screenplay, but I just knew somehow that it had to be a novel. I’d had some short stories published, which boosted my confidence, and author friends of mine encouraged me to read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. I did so, and found it to be hugely inspiring, I highly recommend it to anyone starting out. I wrote chunks of the novel at The British Library in London, and did a lot of my research there. Getting into that routine helped discipline me to treat novel-writing as a job of work.
Erin Comments: That’s great advice as well for others looking for inspiration.
Q: Has the positive reviews and acknowledgment caused you to say you’ve done enough, or has it propelled you into further writing challenges?
A: Well, I never really stop working, so by the time that praise and the award nomination came in I was already well underway on other things. Anything positive like that really helps of course, you need as much energy as you can get to keep going. But the bad reviews keep you on your toes too, there’s always so much more to learn. All I can hope for is to learn more from, and keep growing with, each project. If it ever stops feeling like a challenge, then I’ll stop too.
Q: Your newest publishing adventure, again with Samhain Horror, is The Lucifer Glass (Daniel Gates Novella #1). It’s the first part of a novella series. With all the serials emerging, as well as short stories and novellas, how did you decide to create a series of novellas, and why?
A: The character, Daniel Gates, drove me in that direction, toward writing a series. I found that when I’d completed a series of drafts of The Lucifer Glass, Daniel Gates was still present in my mind, vividly so. And I realised there were story elements I’d edited out of earlier drafts that might later pave the way for future installments featuring the character. So readers can expect two or three more Daniel Gates novellas at least, and I really hope they enjoy them as much as I am enjoying writing them.
Erin Comments: Since I’ve been promoting it as a three-part series, I think you’re stuck. *wink*
Q: What is the basis for The Lucifer Glass? What inspired it? What’s it about? Why might readers enjoy it?
A: The Lucifer Glass is inspired, in part, by the ‘derring-do’ adventures I read as a teenager by the amazing author Dennis Wheatley. That cigar-smoke scented world of gentleman’s clubs, ancient artifacts and occult rituals – I was a sucker for all that, and still am. I think any writer must have obsessions, and the novella draws on many of my own. If you like what’s loosely termed ‘weird fiction’, with a robust dash of the occult, then this might be the one for you.
Erin Comments: I like what you said about obsessions (or interests), as that is what makes writers unique.
Q: Did you have to do much research for The Lucifer Glass novella series? If so, what and how extensive was it? If not, make something up to fill the space. Kidding….
A: Well, I had to fill that damned glass with plenty of single malt whisky as part of my ‘extensive research’ (hic!) And when I’d sobered up… Just kidding!? (Erin Comments: Ha!)
I’ve been reading about the occult since…well, since I could see basically, so a lot of it was stored up just bursting to be used somehow. It’s fun working little references and in-jokes into the text, I so enjoy that aspect of writing this particular series. For the next novella I’ve been reading up on my demonology and a few other dark and nasty surprises that lie in wait for Daniel Gates.
Erin Comments: Sounds awesome, really! The realm of the occult is frightening, but such a vast space to draw from for writers who are intrigued with the topic.
Q: How does your mind come up with such creative ideas? Do you think of them anywhere and everywhere or does it take quiet, peaceful moments alone concentrating on an idea?
A: Thanks for calling them creative – not all ideas pass muster, I can tell you that. They come to me as images, sometimes fragments, and sometimes entire scenes. Often when I’m travelling, or walking/running in the woods – or taking a shower! I really have to focus and hold onto the ideas so I don’t forget them before I can write them down. Sometimes I leave myself voicemail, and I once text-messaged a passage from The Lamplighters to myself. Oh, the pre-Smartphone era! 🙂
Erin Comments: Funny thing about the shower…..I always do my best thinking there too! And what did we do without smartphones? Write on napkins, I guess.
Q: Are you a writer that writes quickly and without outline or are you methodical, planning it out and staying to your notes?
A: For novels I rough out an outline, but if the characters take me off in another direction I just go with them for the ride and see where it takes me. My screenplay work always follows the methodical 1-pager, treatment, beat sheet/scene breakdown approach as that’s usually contractually required by the producers anyhow. Best of both worlds.
Q: How do you describe your writing style in regards to books? If it varies by book, go ahead and describe each and why?
A: I don’t know if I even have a style! If I did, then what I would hope for is for it to be visual, sensory, and above all else – unsettling. But that is really not for me to say. I just write ’em how I see ’em.
Q: How does your writing style for books differ from your writing style as a screenwriter? Also, how are the various styles different in general and how can authors use the skills of screenwriting to create better books?
A: Technically, the styles of screenwriting and novel writing are vastly different, and the word counts are insanely different too. But the voice is always mine, so in one project I might be dragging you screaming into the darkness and dumping you there alone, to claw your own way out. In another project I might be gently coaxing you, leading you gently by the hand into a dark place. That tone of voice varies project-to-project, whether for page or screen. Both forms are immersive in their own way, but I think both can benefit from hard editing – “kill your darlings” as The King once said.
Q: When you lecture on screenwriting, without giving a course I’ll need to charge for on my site, what are a couple main things you urge them to remember? Might be good advice for aspiring or current authors looking to improve their novels?
A: Some of my post-graduate students are working on debut novels for their final project. A couple of them in the past told me that the advice I gave them in class regarding screenwriting, namely ‘show don’t tell’ and ‘less can be more’, along with the overall main character focus, was invaluable to their novel rewrites. And a couple more decided to adapt their own novels into screenplays during the course. I think the discipline of writing and rewriting (whether for the screen or books) can only come with hard work and a willingness to try things out, even if you ultimately change them back afterward.
Reading material aloud is a great way of cutting the crap – there are always sections that come across as “too much”, or are simply too convoluted and difficult to read aloud. I believe experimentation is also key to writing what you love, and then you’ll maybe love what you write. But hey, what do I know? Just write!
A: I had a lot of fun working on Panic Button. The producers had read a spec script of mine and invited me in to talk about their story idea. I turned that idea into a screenplay for them, several drafts, and they went and raised the finance, got a director, cast and crew on board real quick. While the movie was in post-production they floated the idea of me writing the novelization for them, but the deadline was insane. Never one to turn down a challenge, I went for it and had an absolute blast revisiting the material. Both the movie and the book have had some great reviews so I’m real pleased about that. I’ve been a rabid fan of movie novelisations since I was a kid, so it’s an ambition fulfilled for me to have my name on one. I would definitely do more.
Erin Comments: That’s so interesting. I didn’t think many books started as movies first. I’m interested in reading one. I should have asked you what some other good ones are…
Q: Some of your favorite all-time films? What are some of the best films ever made, in your opinion?
A: Ah, we could be here for weeks if I went into all of them. I have to enthuse about Robert Wise’s The Haunting, because it teaches us how to do so much with so very little. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser stopped my in my teenaged tracks because I thought I knew all I needed to know about horror at that point – but how wrong I was. I stayed in the theatre and watched it a second time – it was a real game-changer for me, that film.
I also obsess about Argento, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Del Toro, Bava, Von Trier, so many greats – like I said, we could be here for weeks! I used to dream of buying an old crumbling cinema so I could curate endless film festivals. But I’m lucky to have attended a lot of film festivals through my work, and to have seen so many classics old and new on the big screen.
Erin Comments: I would so help you run that restored cinema and maybe attach a bookstore to the side of it….ah, dreams…
Q: Do you feel that horror related movies and books are becoming more main stream and more widely accepted (I suppose I am speaking from a US perspective)? Why?
A: I think the YA market has perhaps helped open the genre up to younger readers and viewers, but there are always people for whom horror is just too much, and they say they “can’t even look at it”. But if a car crash happens, we’re all taking a peek. If the rolling news has some atrocity with “images we might find disturbing” we all watch through our fingers. The genre is so vast, so wide, with everything from dark psychological pieces, through brutal pain and gore, to romantic fantasies about gym-bodied werewolves – there really is something for everyone right now. Perhaps even for those people who say they “can’t look” at horror.
And hey, show anyone a picture of a guy in a cape with pointy teeth and they’ll know he’s Count Dracula, right? When I was studying, I wrote a paper on the popularity of the Freddy Kruger character and I remember how shocked a lot of my fellows were when I projected images of Freddy lunchboxes and pillowcases during my presentation! That trait of being fascinated by a villain runs deep in so many of us.
Erin Comments: So true, so many facets of horror. The word gets a bad rap sometimes. It’s like my mom said about sprouts…don’t knock it till you try it. You might find you like something you never thought you would….
Q: You have another full-length novel coming up at the beginning of October as well, called The Jack in the Green, which encompasses a village with green rolling hills (I am picturing) and their strange pagan ritual. How did you come up with the idea for this novel? It sound like it’s based on a legend.
A: You pictured it just right! The Jack in the Green is partly inspired by old rites and ritual and my travels to pagan sites in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, along with some dodgy political moves here in the UK where the government tried to sell off some of our ancient forests to big business. Those two worlds, paganism and commerce, clashing together in my fictional forest village setting of ‘Douglass’ made me excited about the possibilities for some good old-fashioned rural horror. Bottom line though, I am just a little bit too obsessed by trees and forests and needed to put that somewhere.
Erin Comments: I am SO EXCITED about this book!!! I want it to be a movie too.
Q: Why do so many nightmares we have as children transform into stories in our adulthood? Are they planted there as seeds for aspiring authors? Or are dreams phenomenons without explanation?
A: Great question. I think dreams, nightmares maybe help prepare us for the real traumas in our lives. And as we grow and experience those traumas, our dreams and nightmares help us to siphon them off, to process them. They become parables, cautionary tales – or else a way of expressing the idea that, “Hey, it could always be worse. Much, much worse. There was once this dark old house where…” And that’s where us authors cynically come in and try to make a quick buck out of them!
Q: How do you make time for all your writing in your life? What advice do you have for other authors?
A: There are times when other things, like a social life, have to be neglected while you write. I would advise, if you want to write then just get to it and keep at it. Write, and read, as much as possible. And then switch the bloody internet off and write and read even more. Concern yourself less with what the other guy is doing and focus on your own shit. Have a sense of genre, yes, but write characters and their stories first and foremost, paint pictures, build sensory worlds. Let it come out of you how it comes out. Then be prepared to alter some, or all, of it. And if you don’t drink coffee, I’m sorry but you are probably not going to make it.
Erin Comments: I couldn’t survive without coffee…
Q: What has been your biggest challenge? Why? And in contrast, your biggest success?
A: Completing the first draft of The Lamplighters was gruelling. There was a lot of personal stuff going on in my life, a lot of death and madness and pain that took my eye off the target. My biggest success was to have The Lamplighters to channel all that stuff into. It just took me a little while to figure that out.
Q: What else are you doing to keep busy? Any summertime plans?
A: Well I have a couple of books and screenplay projects on the go, along with post-production on my new short film The Stay. Oh, and moving house!
Q: Share with us something not many people know about you….strange habit? Hobbies? Just don’t freak us out too much.
A: Some people are surprised to hear that I’m a vegetarian (well, pescetarian actually – I started eating fish again about 4 years ago). “A vegetarian horror author?” they ask, incredulous. “Sure,” I say, “you mean you’ve never heard of Count Duckula, the vegetarian vampire duck?”
Erin Comments: My children were cracking up when I told them this one! LOL 😉 Very funny. In our house we only eat things with feathers or fins. We’d prefer to be herbivores.
Q: If you’ve done any reading this year, some of the best books you’ve read recently…or if not, some of your all-time favorites for us please.
A: I have to say Redheads by my new Samhain Horror labelmate Jonathan S. Moore is a fantastic debut novel. But be warned, if you’re a redhead it’ll have you eating your fingers down to the bone… As far as all-time favourites go, look no further than Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It has everything you could possibly need from a book and I am yet to find its equal. Probably never will.
Q: Where can people connect with you at?
A: When I’m not writing and I switch the modem back on, my website/blog is at http://www.frazerlee.com and I’m on Twitter http://twitter.com/frazer_lee and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AuthorFrazerLee – come say Hell-o!
Erin: Frazer, I am honored and happy that you’ve joined us today and really enjoyed our discussion. Look forward to talking to you again soon and best of luck with your writing! Thank you!
Frazer: Erin, it has been an absolute pleasure and I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my cold, dark heart. Now, about that Frazizor cocktail…
Erin: Another? You’ve made me at least five and I’m barely able to see straight……