Peter Crowther is one of those annoyingly multi-talented folk. He’s a journalist, short story writer, novelist, editor, publisher, anthologist, and he cannot decide between donuts and danishes – and why should he have to?
His short fiction has appeared in myriad anthologies and magazines, as well as being published in several volumes, including Lonesome Roads (1999) and The Spaces Between the Lines (2007). His novels include the Forever Twilight trilogy (with Angry Robot), The Hand That Feeds (1999) and After Happily Ever (2000). He’s interviewed the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison. He’s been a judge for the World Fantasy Awards, been on the Horror Writers’ Association Board of Trustees, and PS Publishing (of which he was a co-founder) has received the British Fantasy Award for Best Small Press not once, not twice, but seven times.
He’s also a nice man – not only has he been writing shiver-inducing fiction since the 70s, he bought one of my stories for Postscripts. His contribution to A Book of Horrors is the wonderful “Ghosts with Teeth”.
1. Writing or editing – discuss.
That’s kind of like asking me to choose between food and water: I need both of them. But, you know . . . I need each of ’em most when I’m on the other one: so like, when I’m editing, I miss my writing; and when I’m writing, I’m kind of thinking about the publishing business. Go figure.
2. To make a character truly compelling you need to …
Make them behave in character at all times. If a character isn’t believable then you’ve lost the whole thing. You’d be amazed (or perhaps you wouldn’t) at how many manuscripts we receive from folks who just don’t understand that basic rule. It’s like, they get to a point in their story where they need someone to be really macho and the only character available to them is this wimp guy . . . so thay have him save the day. But the worst of all is the language or dialogue. New writers just don’t spare enough time for their dialogue. Me, I read out what my characters are saying and every once in a while you come across a piece of dialogue that sticks out like a sore thumb.
3. Your dream anthology would contain which ten stories?
Crumbs, that’s a toughie. I play these “Ten Best” games all the time (particularly when the port and cheese come out at dinner parties) and they change every time. But, just for fun, let’s go with these:
‘The Long Silence After’ – Ed Gorman
‘The Companion’ – Ramsey Campbell
‘The Love Letter’ – Jack Finney
‘The Million Year Picnic’ – Ray Bradbury
‘Helen O’Loy’ – Lester Del Rey
‘Mrs.Todd’s Shortcut’ – Stephen King
‘Malvern Hills’ – Kazuo Ishiguro
‘When God Lived In KentishTown’ – Michael Marshall Smith
‘Cold Equations’ – Tom Godwin
‘The Whimper of Whipped Dogs’ – Harlan Ellison
4. Really chilling horror is best achieved by …
Not showing the reader what’s behind the door. This is something that Stephen King said best in his Danse Macabre. I’d been championing it long before that book but Stephen’s take is the most articulate. It boils down to this: let the readers do all the work and scare themselves – it just makes such perfect sense. After all, you make your monster a giant spider and, sure, you’re gonna scare the bejabers out of every reader who can’t stand giant spiders. But it won’t matter diddly to all those whose main fear is vampires, or flesh-munching zombies, or werewolves, or chainsaw-wielding inbred mountainmen, or shape-changing aliens, or man-eating giant worms and so on. But if you keep your monster in the shadows then you’ve got everybody by the nuts. Then all you have to do is keep on squeezing. Ouch!
5. Donuts or danishes?
Hmm . . . I really love the donuts you get in fairgrounds . . . deep fat-fried and covered in castor sugar. But a freshly-baked Danish pastry jam-packed with almond paste is pretty hard to beat. I guess I’ll have to go for one of each (which might go some way to explaining just why my trouser waists seem to be shrinking while they’re locked up in the wardrobe – I mean, I ask you – who’s doing that!).