The third novel due for re-release at the end of May is Blood Fugue, a reimagning of the vampire myth set in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. As I looked back over the (far too) many years since the idea first came to me, I realised that the novel’s background is rich with unusual events. I reveal a few of them in this new foreword…
Blood Fugue’s history is as quirky and unexpected as it could possibly be. Even the novel’s genesis was so random that I still find it hard to believe it resulted in an actual book.
Its story goes all the way back to 2003, when my wife and I were living on a small island in the Indian Ocean. I’d been writing for a couple of years and had hardly sold any work. Our move to the tropics had included the promise of work for us both but my job never materialised. Suddenly, I had the opportunity to write full time and hit the short story market with everything I had. My real dream, though, was to write and sell a novel; a desire that was to remain unfulfilled until MEAT came out in 2008.
Whilst I took writing very seriously – too seriously, perhaps – coming up with ideas was a much more playful process in those days. I often created fiction out of the most whimsical prompts. One of my favourite techniques involved using two columns of words; one a list of human abilities or activities, the other a list of nouns.
Keen to write a novel but uncertain about subject matter, I asked my wife to place a pencil tip on one word from each list. With eyes closed, she chose Ritual and Outdoorsmanship. With those two words as my polestar, I attempted my first piece of full-length horror fiction. It was called Fugue Hunter. I wrote it over three or four months but, after ten years of rejections had passed, I’d pretty well given up on it.
In 2013, a very odd thing occurred. An editor named Steve Haynes got in touch to say how much he liked my work. He’d read my novella The Kill Crew and wondered if I had any unpublished horror novels he could look at. I’m laughing as I write this because this kind of thing never happens in publishing.
Did I have any unpublished horror novels? I had four by then, all of which had been turned down by every agent and publisher I’d approached. I sent all of them to this wonderful, quietly spoken man who’d made the bold step of taking a chance on me. He read them all and selected Fugue Hunter, which he went on to edit (severely – see the afterword). A decade after I wrote it, Fugue Hunter was published by Salt as Blood Fugue; a perfectly conceived renaming, also conjured by Steve.
I like to have a little fun at a book launch. After all, most of my writing life is spent in quiet solitude. Once the venue had been agreed – Blackwell’s on Charing Cross Road – I hatched a launch stunt with the organisers of the event, This is Horror. The brains behind the set-up was the evening’s host, Jasper Bark. Those attending the occasion had no idea what they were in for.
As he interviewed me, Jasper developed a sudden illness. He exited the room, leaving his compere’s chair empty. Unbeknownst to the audience, he was being made up to look seriously unwell in a side room. When he returned, zombie-pale and staggering, he suffered a very convincing seizure and, following a sneaky gulp of fake blood, proceeded to wrestle me to the ground and tear my throat out with his teeth.
Members of the audience were dialling 999 at this point but Jasper’s perfect comic timing brought the act to a close moments before the emergency services were actually alerted. I’ve since learned that Jasper has been banned from all branches of Blackwell’s, which strikes me a little unfair, especially given the brilliance of his performance.
If you have expectations of Blood Fugue, you’ll probably be disappointed, though I hope it will be in a very fulfilling way. As one reviewer said of the novel, it “…owes more to Fifty Shades of Grey than to Dracula.” Though it was intended as criticism, that quote still raises a smile of quiet pride. Blood Fugue is a down and dirty vampire romp that came out of nowhere and was a ton of fun to write.
I hope you have as many surprises reading it as I had writing it.