Crimson Quill’s Exclusive Interview with C. William Giles
In April I was approached by a gentleman by the name of C. William Giles, a first-time Author who had noticed Rivers of Grue and was interested in me running an eye over his first novel. I accepted instantly; never one to shirk a new challenge, I was keen to appraise my first piece of literature but moreover, he just came across as a really cool, really humble guy so I wanted to help.
If you have read Appraisal 106 …of Tortured Faustian Slumbers then you will be aware that it blew me away like a strong gust of demonic wind. Quite literally, from the first moment I focused in on Chapter 1 it had Crimson Quill hook, line and sinker! An exceptional piece of work, it dealt with the most frightening of all antagonists, namely ‘him downstairs’, the illustrious Prince of Darkness. Giles exhibited an acute understanding of what gets under the skin of his readers and the novel seized hold of me forcefully, as if I was bound by imperceptible barbed wire until completion.
Now, the Quill has already championed this fine author’s cause with my beaming Appraisal, but now it is time to dig a little deeper and find out more about the inexplicably artistically endowed C. William Giles…
At what age did you find Horror or did it find you?
My earliest recollections, I was probably 5 or 6, was of a Christopher Lee poster in my sisters bedroom. All red eyes and bloody fangs, I just wanted to be him!! Then as I grew up I started to watch all the Hammer films, Appointment with Fear and the Hammer TV series, I was hooked on horror big time. When I was about 12 I was babysitting for my sister & her husband, I knew they had a copy of The Exorcist (which I’d heard so much about) but they wouldn’t let me watch alone. Anyway when they came back we watched it together, I couldn’t believe how much it blew me away. It was everything I’d hoped for. Unfortunately I had to go home, back to my bedroom in the creepy attic, with the light switch on the opposite side of the room to the bed, to say I had a sleepless night was an understatement but there are definitely no regrets!!
What was your most primal fear as a growing lad?
To be honest, I didn’t have any, not that I can think of anyway. But I see that as a very good thing because I was wide-eyed with wonder at all the Technicolor Grue out there! As opposed to hiding behind the couch or covering my face with a cushion like you’re supposed to do with horror films, apparently. No, I took it all in, I’m so glad that I wasn’t afraid of the dark or cellars or attics or rats or anything like that, whatever it was, just bring it on!!
Was there a moment of significance when you knew that you were placed on the Earth to scribe or did it happen organically?
Well, I didn’t start reading until relatively late in life (mid 20’s) I got Brian Lumley’s “Vampire World 1” at an airport. Long story short, I got really bad sunstroke and was stuck in the hotel room for the first week while my mates were out on the lash!! But, that proved very significant because I just devoured that book and it sparked something in me, a need to create I suppose, when I got back I got his other books and was immediately hooked. Then I’d be going to work with notepads and constantly jotting down ideas and little bits and pieces. I’ve still got all those scraps now and may use them here and there in my writing now.
Then I saw an advert in the vampire magazine “Bloodstone” (sadly now defunct) asking for short erotic vampire stories for a new anthology of un-published authors. I found a suitable one of mine and sexed it up a bit and sent it off. To be honest I was just hoping for a little encouragement or feedback but to my shock and delight, they accepted it!!
When I held it in my hands it was such a thrill, to see my name there, wow, how cool was that. Looking at it now, it’s naive and pretty poor but I’m still so proud of it. That was the start of my dream that I could be an author and I’ve been struggling towards that goal ever since.
As an Eighties teen like myself was there any particular inspirations to you undertaking horror fiction as your chosen ‘muse’ as it were?
I suppose my main influences were movies and music, as I said, I didn’t really come to books for a while but my love of horror was already deeply embedded in me. I just wanted to do something creative, I had ideas of getting into special effects but didn’t have the skills or qualifications to pursue that. Especially after seeing things like The Howling, The Thing & Hellraiser, that would’ve been such a cool career.
My other abiding passion is music, Metal in particular, from the Motorhead, Judas Priest & Scorpions that I grew up with to the darker side of the street where I reside with Mercyful Fate, Morbid Angel, Emperor, Overkill & Death Angel (to name just a few). The darkness, the lyrics, the album covers, the aggression, the power & the speed all had me hooked. Though, much like the special effects, I had ideas of being in a band, I bought a cheap crappy guitar but was simply not disciplined enough to learn and practice. I was still having all these wondrous ideas and stories, I thought of being a lyricist but didn’t want another band getting recognition for my work.
That was why I started writing fiction; it was my only real outlet I suppose.
As a fellow scribe, I have been alarmed at the fluidity of my writing once proceeded with. Have you surprised yourself and how long did it take to complete once commenced with?
I have to admit, I’m very guilty of procrastination, I complain constantly of not having time to write but then when time arises I seem to find something else to do and keep putting it off. Then I get angry with myself for wasting my own time!!
Once I do get writing though, it seems to flow well and then when I’ve finished for the day I’m usually very pleased with myself and my mind is racing with ideas and new plot twists etc etc. But inevitably I then go through the whole twisted parody of complaining about not having enough time haha.
As far as the time that “Faustian Slumbers” took, well a number of years actually but there were mitigating circumstances as to why though. I lost the whole thing, not once but twice, to dodgy computers and early on I lost the first 15 chapters for the same reason. I thought many times of just packing it in but I thought it was pretty good. Before I lost it for the final time I managed to print a copy off so at least I had it. A mate read it and loved it so I decided to forge ahead. A girlfriend gave me her old lap top and I got to work yet again, re-writing the whole book turned out to be a good thing because I saw it all with fresh eyes and improved it massively.
Then I had to try to get published, agents didn’t want to know and I was becoming very disillusioned, however Authorhouse called me and we sorted out a deal for self-publication, then I had to save the money for that. So to be honest it was sat there for a few years before I got it published, hopefully if I can organise my time better I can start knocking out my work on a more regular basis.
What proved the most challenging aspect of converting your ideas onto paper?
Well, hopefully I’ve had the last of my major computer failures, so it would have to be time constraints. Because I have to work full time my normal days off are all I get aside from using my holiday entitlement, which I do use to write. Sometimes it’s extremely tiring in my job so by the time I do get to my days off, I’m exhausted and my brain is mush, therefore I can’t write then because it turns out shit and I ended up re-working it all.
I just want to get to the point where I can write for a living, I’m not saying I want to be a household name or anything but there are lots of authors out there who make ends meet. If I can do that, I’ll have more time, my quality improves, I can research and study and become more prolific, that’s all I need.
At the commencement of your novel you mention your Fallen Heroes. It appears that writing “Of Tortured Faustian Slumbers” maybe aided in your coming to terms with your own personal tragedies?
Well, for those who don’t recognise the names, Quorthon was founder and main man of Bathory, a Scandinavian extreme metal band from the 80’s & early 90’s, they just had a massive impact on me. The fact he was only two years older than me & died so young is tragic. Ronnie Dio, again was a huge influence on me, his amazing voice conjured castles, demons, dragons & medieval knights (when I was a kid I wanted to be a Viking, a knight or a musketeer!!).
Unfortunately my father lost his battle with cancer & I think there was a lot of anger, bitterness, grief & sadness while I was doing the final re-write. Then my brother died once I’d finished it but I did have time to put him into my Memoriam.
I got the distinct feeling that there were elements of your own make-up in the character of Seth, particularly in your affectionate mention of your musical preference, much like the superb Shaun Hutson. Was this the case and if so, how was this crucial to shaping his characteristics?
Oh, Seth is TOTALLY based on me! As I mentioned earlier, music is arguably the single biggest influence in my life. For a start, I couldn’t write about clean cut, all-American jocks & cheerleaders. I HATE reality TV and the sort of people on it so I could write about or for those people and I hate celebrity culture so every now & then I’ll have a dig at it. I wanted the characters and their surroundings to be what I know and love, so I’d already decided that Seth would be a rocker & he would go to the sorts of places that I go to.
Then as I was writing I had to put my thoughts and words into him, it seems to have worked because people comment on him a lot. Plus, once I’d sorted his environment I could fill it with people I know, friends etc which was great for me and a bit of a laugh for people looking for themselves in it.
I also managed to get a few little name checks in there now and again, for instance Simmons & Stanley Books, Kiss legends Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley, another big influence on me as I was growing up.
You work in a hospital environment; therefore you must have been faced with plentiful Grue. The Great Sultan of Splatter Tom Savini found that the lens provided him with sufficient distance from the atrocities he faced as a photographer in Vietnam. Does the pen have a similar effect for you?
That’s difficult to answer; I’ve never really been squeamish about blood & gore. I see plenty of blood daily but thankfully not too much gore!! I did spend some time in the operating theatres and got to see a lot of operations and amputations, that was really interesting, you see how amazing the human body is in that it can recover from such things but also you see it as a piece of meat as well, then you look at the brilliant consultants and nurses doing all this amazing work yet it’s just another day at the office.
So I suppose I can be analytical describing such things but I don’t want to be too analytical, there has to be a rawness in horror as well, one minute cold and distant then right in your face!!
How do you feel about the complimentary comparisons being drawn between Severin Frost and the highly distinguished Hannibal Lecter?
I honestly didn’t intend that as I was writing him, the guy had to be sinister & very, very dark and I wanted him to be a physically menacing character. I like the fact that he’s cultured yet an animal at the same time, considering he’s manacled for the entire length of the book was difficult but I think gives it more resonance when he’s talking about his kills. Plus I like the nervousness of the guards whenever they’re in the room with him, hinting at just how he can explode at any time.
If he’s being compared to Lecter well then that is hugely flattering, though as I said it wasn’t intentional. Never fear, you haven’t seen the last of Severin Frost haha.
Your depiction of the Prince of Darkness was, in the Quill’s opinion, spot on. Did it feel daunting tackling such an emblematic figure?
Oh no, far from it, when I was coming up to his first real entrance (not the hints of somebody watching) I actually got goose bumps, I was so excited about what I was going to do. First of all I’d had to decide how I was going to portray him, so I decided he could be different here on the mortal plain compared to him on his own turf.
Now some of my favourite portrayals of his Black Majesty are by Tim Curry in ‘Legend’, Al Pacino in ‘Devil’s Advocate’ and the much over looked (in my opinion) Robert DeNiro in ‘Angel Heart’. So I decided to take inspiration from the masters and have him Curry-esque in Hell but an urbane DeNiro/Pacino on Earth. I had a lot of fun trying to blend the socialite with the beast, I think it worked out very well and I’m glad you thought so too.
Did you have any idea when you finished your novel that it would find a publisher?
Well, as I said earlier, it was very difficult, I was getting knocked back regularly by agents and I came close to quitting a number of times, I just kept thinking what’s the point? Self-publishing was my only option at that point and Authorhouse were great with me, I think the quality of the physical book is great. Obviously to progress I’m going to have to find an agent who believes in me and a publisher too. The problem with self-published books is that they can be expensive and I don’t see that much of the returns. But fingers crossed that with the right exposure thanks to yourself; people will take notice and get in touch with me.
What aspect of the novel fills you with the most satisfaction and sense of accomplishment?
The simple fact that I’m a published author just thrills me, when I realised that I had enough material to create a full-length novel I had to go for it. This may sound corny but initially I said that the thrill would be to go into a library or shop and see my book there. I also love the idea of somebody getting in touch to tell me that they enjoyed it. Obviously now it seems that a lot of people are being incredibly complimentary so now my goals are shifted because I want to get better and write professionally.
Crimson Quill would regard you as the most promising horror author this country has right now. How does that feel for you, knowing your art has resonated so strongly?
To be honest it’s a little over-whelming but an amazingly good feeling. I thank you for that, and I hope desperately that other people will check out the book. It’s pressure too but in a good way, there’s nothing like striving for perfection to get your adrenalin going. I just hope that I can back your words on a consistent basis with my future works, I’d hate to disappoint.
Give it to the Quill, your ten most cherished Horror films, old & new?
2. The Howling
3. Near Dark
4. Devil’s Rejects
5. Halloween (Rob Zombie Remake)
6. Exorcist 3
7. Razor Blade Smile
9. Company of Wolves
10. Omen 3
They are in no particular order aside from Hellraiser as number one, notable exceptions, The Thing, House of 1,000 Corpses, Exorcist, Dog Soldiers, Faust, Dagon, From Beyond etc etc
Are there plans for another novel and if so, we can we expect to see it?
I’m writing a second book now, I’m about a third of the way through and it’ll definitely be longer than “Faustian”, this one isn’t a follow up, I didn’t want to go straight in with a sequel. Hopefully people will like “Faustian” so much that they will be eager for a sequel, then that one can come out, in the meantime this is a whole set of other characters in a different situation. I’m hoping, time permitting, to get it finished by the end of the year but right I’m still trying to push my debut.
Are you planning on returning to the depths of Hell again in future work?
Definitely, a lot of my work will involve that, I think there is so much to explore from different angles, let’s just say I have many trips to make though it won’t be in every book, although the darker side will always be a powerful part of all my work.
Can you give us a whiff of what to expect next time around in terms of feel?
I think the feel of my work is set how I want it to be, it comes very naturally and isn’t forced, I like the idea of normality with the occasional punch to the gut when you least expect it. Then as you get into the book and you’re drawn in by the pace, everything starts to melt, reality crashes and the helter-skelter starts. I hope that’s how the book comes across and my next one will have a similar feel but hopefully a lot darker & more claustrophobic.
If there was one person alive or dead who could read your novel, who would it be?
Obviously, my Dad, my mum said that he would’ve been so proud of me, just wish he could’ve seen it. Professionally, I’d love Clive Barker or Brian Lumley to read it because they influenced me so much.
If you could encapsulate “Of Tortured Faustian Slumbers” in one extended sentence, how would that read?
A roller-coaster of darkness, littered with viciousness and lust, evil and insanity as one man’s decent into despair threatens to engulf the world in flame……….
…of Tortured Faustian Slumbers is available now via Authorhouse and I implore you to seek it out as it is a remarkable piece of Horror Literature.