The 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories: Cliff McNish


Cliff McNish, acclaimed as ‘one of our most talented thriller writers’ (The Times), has written numerous award-winning fantasy, SF, horror and supernatural novels for children and young adults. His initial fantasy series, The Doomspell Trilogy, was published in 26 languages worldwide. His 2006 ghost story Breathe was voted in May 2013 as one of the top 100 adult and children’s novels of all time by the Schools Network of British Librarians.

What inspired your story “Who Will Stop Me Now”?

I’ve always pitied Medusa. Perseus is such a sanctimonious ass. He’s given every advantage, the gifts the gods supply him lay Medusa’s death pathetically easily in his lap, and yet he’s remembered … as the HERO. Uh-uh. Don’t like that. And I just enjoyed the idea of a girl totally embracing terror’s destination. Exulting in chaos.

What’s the first horror story you can remember making a big impact on you?

An SF story I read when I was about 12. What appeared to be a boy walking with his father through an exhibition of aliens at a zoo. The last ‘creature’ turned out, of course, to be a real human boy – the last of his kind. Such an obvious switch, but as a kid I had no idea it was coming and was totally devastated. I’ve never been able to find out who wrote it.

Name your three favourite horror writers.

Impossible. But I’ll name three I love: Steve Rasnic Tem, Melvin Burgess (not heard of him? He writes YA fiction, and his Bloodtide is one of the most impressive slices of pure horror I’ve ever read). Oh, and I’ve loved more than one Graham Masterton. His best passages are insanely good.

Is your writing generally firmly in the horror arena or do you do occasional jaunts into other areas of speculative fiction? spectral-horror-2_design

“Who Will Stop Me Now” is actually my very FIRST pure adult horror story. (We’ll, I have written one more, but it’s in my drawer.) I’ve written an adult comedy-horror film script, though, and an adult ghost script.

My 14 published novels so far are for 9-12 year olds and YA, but to be honest they are (mostly) full of horror. My novel Savannah Grey is about a girl who has a weapon in her throat, and is stalked by three monsters. It’s outright horror. As (with a supernatural slant) are my YA ghost novels Breathe and The Hunting Ground. I do occasionally write nicer animals stories, though. It’s nice to pretend you have a gentling aspect.

What’s in your to-be-read pile at the moment?

I’m just about to start China Miéville’s short story collection Three Moments of an Explosion. His Perdido Street Station is often classed as ‘fantasy’ but is probably the most extendedly beautiful and accomplished horror novel I’ve ever read.

The 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories can be pre-ordered here.

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