I had the extremely fun chance to interview author I.E. Lester for my site. I enjoy his books immensely and I hope that you will check them out and read them also! This is going to be fun so lets get down to the questions!
In a Parallel Life you got the music scene down, are you a musician? Do you play an instrument? Any fun stories?
~Thanks for the praise on the music part. But no, I’m not a musician. Although I am married to one. My wife is a saxophonist in a jazz band. I did try my hand at playing guitar… and bass guitar… and drums when I was younger but I was completely terrible at them all and decided the world would be better off without me polluting the air with my pitiful attempts at making music. Trust me, it was bad.
I am however a lifelong fan of music, of rock music, folk music and most especially progressive rock and have music playing at all times when I’m working/writing.
Hmm, funny story? First one that comes to mind was back from my school years. A number of my school friends formed a band, as teenagers do, and did actually play a number of gigs around the Birmingham area. Being my size, I’m more than two metres (between 6’7″-6’8″) tall and back then played rugby so was well built, I used to help out with the band, carry the instruments and help work the door, collecting the moneys on behalf of the band.
Before each of these gigs I would have the usual conversations with the venue’s regular door security team and it one key topic would be the age restrictions. Depending on the type of venue this was either 18 or 21. We could not allow anyone in if they were under that age at it could risk the publican’s license. All makes sense, except for the fact I was 17 when we were doing all this. My being there broke the conditions. I guess being my size they just assumed I was old enough. No one ever checked.
What are some of your favorite bands and what music helps inspire your writing? (I listen to a lot of John Carpenter 😉)
~The first band I ever listened to seriously back in the late 70s was the Who. I saw a documentary about them on TV and liked the music. I badgered my mother after seeing it to take me to a music shop so I could buy an album by them, and came away with a double LP compilation of the first ten years of the band. I absolutely loved it and was hooked on music from that point.
The Who are still a favourite although they have been joined by many others over the years. Here’s a sampling – Rush, Dream Theater, Bruce Springsteen, Yes, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Metallica, Tom waits, Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention, Pink Floyd, It Bites, Tanita Tikaram, Suzanne Vega
I could go on.
I find any of these excellent music to inspire me when writing. But there are some artists I struggle to listen to when writing. I quite like the surreal pop/rock of They Might Be Giants but as the lyrics are such a stand out part of each of their songs I find they get in the way of my own words.
I’m listening to Neal Morse’s Testimony 2 as I complete this interview. I find his music, his solo work, and in the many bands he’s been part of, absorbing – well maybe his prog work. His non-prog, more singer-songwriter isn’t quite my thing, even though I do like a lot of singer-songwriters.
Why write horror?
~The first adult books I ever read were horror books albeit by accident. I was reading Roald Dahl’s kids books borrowed from the school library and with Christmas coming up my mother decided to buy me a couple as a present. Only she didn’t realize Roald Dahl wrote adult horror stories as well as children’s books and that’s what she bought. I was nine… and I loved them. That was my fate sealed.
Add to this the fact I watched more horror films over the years than I think I can count, most of which were truly terrible, and I have this repository of horror-ness lodged into my brain so I guess it’s natural that when I think of ideas for stories a significant number of them are going to be dark.
Horror also fits well for someone who lives in a country like England. There are just so many places here that seem a little spooky. This country is filled with castles, prehistoric sites like stone circles, Gothic churches – history wherever you look. To me old places naturally go with the idea of ghosts and other supernatural creatures. Just take a look through any of the folk tales from all over Europe and you’ll find a lot of supernatural
The town where I live (Ashby de la Zouch) has hundreds of years of history, traces of which you can see by walking around if you just take the time to look.
That and the other reason – if someone annoys you in life you can write them into the story then make them suffer.
What are some of your favorite horror movies, books, and authors?
~My favourite horror writer has to be Stephen King, the Stand, admittedly not a straight up horror book, being my favourite of his. But add in Misery, It, Carrie, Salem’s Lot, the Shining (plus, plus, plus) and you have an incredible body of work.
But I also love Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon (the Stake is brilliant), Brian Keene, Phil Rickman, Graham Masterton (has to be Tengu or Manitou) and James Herbert (Secret of Crickley Hall, Fog, Rats).
I do tend to find British horror differs a lot from American. As mentioned above I find creepy in history. But a lot of American horror, given the shorter history, has it in people. There’s a lot more tales of teenagers with freaky powers, puberty seemingly being a big bad switch on in US horror, maybe it’s something in the water, and lot more of the hicks in the middle of nowhere horror. The UK doesn’t have enough space to have towns and villages that cut off from the rest of civilization so I don’t think those stories would work here.
With films I have an all-time favourite – the original Halloween. Absolutely brilliant film. I thought Saw was great and have enjoyed the rest of the series although none are a patch on the first. I enjoyed the latest version of It although find it falls short of being a great on one count. It doesn’t have Tim Curry. I think if I’d not seen the TV mini-series and Curry’s performance I would consider it great. Bill Skarsgård was great but Tim Curry is one of my favourite actors.
What inspires you?
~Anything and everything. I know it’s a trite answer but it’s true. I’ve found ideas reading science papers (yes, I’m that sad), history books, visiting odd places, reading about other cultures, antiques I’ve bought at antique fairs (the Intersection is based on an old movie projector), and watching movies, especially bad movies.
My novel the Stairs Lead Down came from one movie session. I was watching a particularly terrible horror movie with my wife and at the end I went on a rant about just how bad I thought it was and how I’d have done it different. So she said, ‘Ok, do it’. Well I went through the plot of the movie (I wish I could remember which one it was) and started making changes. Pretty soon I’d thrown away everything single aspect of the film story – the location (I moved it from the US to the UK), the characters (the original had adults, my leads are teenagers), the basic story (I think it was zombies or something like zombies in the original, mine has ghosts and a necromancer), and pretty much everything else besides. The film, in the end, was a catalyst to get my mind going, and for that I can thank it. Still wish I could remember which film it was, but having watched thousands of horror movies I lose track.
How do you get past writers block?
~This is a tough one. To be truthful I don’t know. I do know that when I’m not in the mood for it forcing it is a bad idea; or at least with regards ending up with anything publishable. I have a file on my hard drive of random typing. If I’m stuck I open it and start putting words down. Not words in a random sense, I do form them into sentences which tend to be linked. But I don’t worry about characters, plot or anything like that. I just go for stream of consciousness rambling. It’s led to more than one story.
It doesn’t always work, though. When I’m truly stuck I find getting away from the keyboard is the best idea. When it comes to starting a new story, there’s something far easier about doing it with pen and paper. And I find it works even better when I’m not able to do anything other than scribble down thoughts. If I’m in a writing funk and there’s a TV nearby it’s hopeless. I’ll spend an entire evening skimming through YouTube watching total rubbish.
But put me in a car in the middle of nowhere for several hours with a notebook and pens (always take a spare) and great things can happen. I’ve whiled away many hours filling pages with my barely legible scrawl and by the end of these hours usually found I have a new story underway. My current work in progress, a Gothic horror novella called Alabaster started in just such a way two weeks ago.
Why write a YA book and was is hard for that mindset?
~When I was creating the plot for the Stairs Lead Down I wasn’t thinking about writing a ya book. I just wanted to come up with a story I liked enough to try writing. When I’d molded into the plot I liked I found my focus was on a pair of fourteen year old twins. With that focus it felt kind of natural to aim it at young adults.
As for hard, not really. My thoughts about ya fiction is there should be little difference between it and adult fiction, once you take out the obvious no-nos for ya books. So no erotica, no over the top violence or language and all should be good. Well it would as long as the content of the plot isn’t outside the life experience of your average teenager. I’ve often said that (apart from the erotica I mentioned above) the only subject I don’t think would be suitable for younger readers is political intrigue. But I am happy if someone proves me wrong. Young adults are on the cusp of being adults. They should not be treated all that differently, so a good young adult book should be readable by all age groups from then up.
But it’s an odd thing, classifying a book as young adult. My two novellas, the Intersection and a Parallel Life, feature no content more obviously adult than the Stairs Lead Down; maybe the occasional curse word but that’s it. But the main character is a 49 year old accountant and the things that happen to him are in the “odd” category so it probably wouldn’t appeal to a younger reader.
What do you want people to know about you?
~I’m tall. I may have mentioned that – Two metres, one centimetre, or a little over six feet seven in old measure. But I’m friendly, so don’t get scared. And I’m not as pompous as I seem to be.
What scares you?
~I used to say nothing did. But after my wife’s serious illness at the start of this year I know that was just a flippant reply. My biggest fear, one I came too close to experiencing, would be to lose her.
Do you have a personal mantra?
~I have a couple of thing I try to live by. Enjoy life and be nice to people.
I want to thank Mr. Lester for taking the time to answer my questions because there is nothing better for me then getting to probe the minds of the people whose works I enjoy! If you want to learn more, we have included the following links:
@ielester on Twitter
In the UK
Stairs Lead Down
A Parallel Life
And in the US
Stairs Lead Down
A Parallel Life