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A Walk in the Dark
An Interview with Simon Clark

conducted by Sandy Auden

Simon Clark
Simon Clark
Simon Clark was born in 1958. He sold his first ghost story to a radio station in his teens. Before becoming a full-time writer, he held a variety of day jobs, that have involved strawberry picking, supermarket shelf stacking, office work, and scripting video promos. He lives with his wife and two children on the border of Robin Hood country in England.

Simon Clark Website
ISFDB Bibliography

An author's world can be very different to anyone else's. Take horror and science fiction writer Simon Clark, for example. His book, Vampyrrhic Rites (sequel to 2001's Vampyrrhic) sees his four brave protagonists returning to the Yorkshire town of Leppington to stop a world invasion of life-sucking Viking vampires. When you're writing such a tense and deadly adventure, even walking the dog becomes a trek into the depths of your imagination.

'I'm always on the look out for ideas and even my black labrador, Sam, can inspire,' says Clark. 'He's got a habit of catching mice, which he promptly swallows whole. And you can't help thinking it's horrible, but then you start wondering what it would be like if a human did that. If he swallowed a mouse whole, would he feel it squirming on the way down? Would it be jumping and wriggling? Would it drown in the stomach juices? So, in the original Vampyrrhic story, Jack Black did exactly the same thing.'

'Just look at the word horror, it's from the French word horreuse which means "to bristle." Looking at my dog, I try to look through his eyes sometimes. He's a creature who responds at an emotional and purely instinctive level, rather than at an intellectual level. If something scares him, his fur literally bristles. When he sees something that frightens or disturbs him, he's pulling away but he's also looking at it, he's fascinated by what it is. So fear is somewhat of double headed emotion for him and the same applies to humans. In some ways, you want to pull away and flee, but then you're also attracted by it.'

Walking the dog can open up another set of inspirations too. 'The walk itself goes past a storm drain that discharges itself into a stream. Sometimes it's only a trickle but after a heavy downpour the water comes out with a real colossal force. And I'm wondering what would happen if someone has actually managed to crawl up it for some reason and there's a heavy thunderstorm and the water comes gushing down. That can form the basis of a grisly death or somebody having a nail biting escape.'

It's not only modern day life that has repercussions on Clark's fiction though. 'I was born in Yorkshire,' says Clark. 'So I set a lot of my stories there, like Vampyrrhic and Vampyrrhic Rites. One thing I've developed over the years is to read about a place and its history. Then when you walk through the landscape, you try to overlay what you've read about its history and its past with what you see now.'

'When I was writing Vampyrrhic Rites, I rented a house in North Yorkshire and did a lot of walking and driving around imagining my characters doing the same. I looked for any interesting locations like streams that led into rivers or lakes. I imagined what would happen if my character turned the corner to the lake and saw these weird looking people standing on the shore, half-naked in decaying clothes, waiting for them. How would you react?

'I used to live in a tiny little village called Thorpe Audley,' he continues. 'And it wasn't bombed in the Second World War except for one occasion, when a parachute mine fell into the local field where they now play cricket. Everyone gathered round looking at this strange object on the ground. Then one fellow came up, said I wonder what it is and tapped it with his walking stick. The bomb blew up and killed ten people. You can walk there now and it's a peaceful field, but if you project your mind back, you can almost hear that fateful day when a quiet metallic tapping was followed by a massive explosion and people dying. That's how I invoke the ghosts of the past to work into my stories. It's something that's happened a lot with Vampyrrhic Rites -- the story is basically about people from the past become like toxic matter, leaking into the future and polluting it.

'I have a three-dimensional world to set my stories in -- the contemporary world -- but I try to make it a four-dimensional world and overlay the past into the present.'

(This interview first appeared on Sci Fi Channel Europe.)

Copyright © 2005 by Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.

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