Mr Stephen Laws is the author of eleven (count ’em! Eleven!) novels, myriad short stories, and the recently re-released collection The Midnight Man. He’s also a columnist, reviewer and film festival interviewer; his Spectral Book of Horror story is the intriguingly titled “The Slista”.
1. Can you remember the first horror story you read that made an impact on you?
Being an avid ‘devourer’ of comics when I was very small, I can’t remember my first real encounter with a ‘horror’ story, but there must have been multiple aspects in the science fiction and fantasy tales that I consumed. But I do recall, having joined Byker Library aged about 7 or 8, coming across The Supernatural Omnibus edited by Montague Summers – and a story by J. Sheridan Le Fanu called ‘An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street’.For some reason – perhaps the old-fashioned and straight forward way the tale was told, I believed that this was a true story, not fiction – and it terrified the daylights out of me. Years later, when I won Manor Park school’s Fourth Year Art Prize (1966), this was the book that I asked for as a prize, and it still sits on my study shelf.
2. What inspired the story you wrote for this anthology?
When Mark asked for submissions, I began a story that just kept growing and growing. I’m never quite sure how long one of my ‘short’ fictions will be when I begin, but as the deadline loomed larger I realised that what I had in mind was developing into a novella and I’d never have it finished in time. So I had to put it to one side, had a quick look in my ‘Ideas’ file and came across a scribbled title and note that I’d been meaning to develop for a long while. In an adrenalin boost fueled by Marks imminent deadline, ‘The Slista’ emerged. As to its actual inspiration, a mispronunciation by a little Geordie girl that I heard many years ago.
3. How would you describe the kinds of stories you usually write and does this Spectral Book of Horror story depart from that?
I’m a horror writer, and proud of it. One of the shuddery and pleasurable memories I have over the years was of picking up a new Pan Book of Horror Stories – something I know that many of us share – and indeed, Mark’s purpose in creating The Spectral Book of Horror Stories is a homage to that, and to create something in the same (hah) ‘vein’. When I was first published, I was so keen to have one of my stories in a Pan horror collection and, thanks to Steve Jones, this was something that I managed to achieve. I’m delighted to have a story in Mark’s first Spectral collection and am looking forward to acquiring and reading others in what I hope will become a long running and well regarded series.
4. In your heart of hearts do you prefer your horror to be of the slashy variety or of a more subtle psychological stripe?
A story is a story, and it is what it needs to be. If a writer is just aiming for ‘effect’ (e.g. lots of ‘slashing’ for its own sake) then it’s not much of a story. I like quiet horror and loud horror, subtle or ‘in your face’ horror. For me, it’s all about the tale being
5. What are you currently reading?
Wheels West by Homer Croy – the true story of the ill-fated Donner expedition in the Old West of America.