Q: Today I’m joined by horror author David Watkins! If you can, I’d love it if you can share a little bit about yourself and what types of stories you enjoy writing as well as which genres you write in?
A:Hello, and thanks for having me! I’m a horror/thriller author based in Devon in the UK. My stories are hopefully more tense and exciting than ‘gross you out’. I take my hat off to extreme horror writers, but I most definitely am not one. I prefer to ground my work around the characters and then unleash the grimness around them. No blood and guts just for a reaction!
Q: What can you tell me about your latest release?
A: My most recent release is Rhitta Gawr, a short story released by Demain Publishing as part of their Short Sharp Shocks series. I’d read a few of them (mine is #73) and they’re all great, so I was really pleased when mine was accepted.
Q: When writing this one, what was your greatest inspiration?
A: Rhitta Gawr is an old Welsh legend about a giant who used to battle the lords of the land. He would take their beards and weave them into a cloak. The only person who defeated him is King Arthur and he is meant to be buried at the summit of Snowdon.
The inspiration for the story came after I climbed Snowdon with my family and some friends a couple of years ago (so pre-pandemic when you could do things like go to a bar on a whim). It was glorious sunshine when we set off, but as any climber or walker will tell you, that means nothing on the mountain itself. Fog rolled in and it became bitterly cold. Luckily there is a café at the top of Snowdon so we took refuge in there. Whilst we ate our lunch and had a cup of tea (tea is a more essential drink than beer in my view), I read the information boards in the café. One of them was about Rhitta Gawr.
I ran through the story in my head as we walked back down (everyone was tired, so it was a much quieter walk!) and surprised myself by having it almost fully formed by the time we reached the bottom. I also thought it would be a comedy: a couple of hipsters climbing Snowdon in the dark. I had this idea of hipster beards that I found hilarious. Turns out I can’t write comedy and so the story is a little dark.
Well, probably more than a little dark.
But hopefully funny in parts too. I prefer humour to come out of characters, rather than zingy one liners or similes and hopefully that’s worked in the story. Certainly, reviews have been overwhelmingly positive so far. Phew.
Q: Do you have any upcoming releases you can tease us with details about?
A: My novel The Exeter Incident is going to be released next year by D&T Publishing. I’m really excited to be working with Dawn O’Shea and her team.
The novel is set in Exeter in Devon and has hordes of monsters unleashed on the city. It took me ages to write, with frequent bouts of writerly doubt (‘This is complete nonsense’, ‘I am a genius’, ‘oh god, no this is rubbish and my career is over if this sees the light of day’… and repeat, most often skipping the second step altogether). I hope people will like it, and it would make a terrific film (hint, hint).
Q: When reading horror, do you prefer to read longer or shorter works?
A: I prefer novels when I’m reading. Short stories are ok, and I enjoy writing them, but when I read them, I spend too much time analysing and studying, rather than actually just reading. It’s much easier to get lost in a book. That said, maintaining a sense of dread over the course of a whole novel is difficult, although people like Adam Neville and Ramsey Campbell make it seem easy. I think I’m going to duck this question and go for novellas. For me, they hit the perfect length – long enough to get under your skin. Recent novellas that I’ve enjoyed are Dave Jeffery’s A Quiet Apocalypse, CC Adams’ There Goes Pretty and JR Park’s Mad Dog. Kit Power’s The Finite is a superb piece of writing, and Kit really should be on any self-respecting horror fans must buy lists.
Q: Where were you born (and/or are you from) and how has that affected your writing?
A: I was born in Aberdare, South Wales. I grew up there during the 70s and 80s, just as the coal industry was being torn apart by a callous government. Being Welsh certainly informs my world view – some would say we’re a naturally dour race. I’m not sure about that. You couldn’t be a rugby fan from Wales in the 90s without having a sense of humour. My dad’s favourite expression is ‘It’s alright, aye’, which could mean anything from ‘That was a great meal’ to ‘I wouldn’t have served that to the dog, but I don’t want to offend the chef’.
I guess any writer is forged by their surroundings and experiences, but I’ve written only two stories set in Wales (so far). One is Rhitta Gawr, and the other is called The Line. It’s about three boys walking along a disused railway line near where I grew up, with nothing overtly supernatural going on. It needs an edit, then I’ll be looking for a home for it.
Q: Having a full family of humans and animals, which is your favorite? Just kidding! I’m actually curious as to how you fit your writing time with everything else that must surely be going on?
A: Clearly Dexter, the dog. We got him when we were visiting some friends a few years ago. My mate’s neighbours were breeding dogs and they had some for sale. We went to see them, telling the boys we weren’t buying a dog. Dexter was on his own, whilst all the other dogs were playing madly. We all fell in love with him instantly. Unfortunately, the owners weren’t in, so we had to leave. To cut a long story short, a few beers later, the owners came back and we bought Dexter.
When he returned to school, my son had a dyslexia test where he was asked to write a sentence for them to analyse. He wrote: ‘My dad got drunk and bought me a puppy’.
Actually, my wife just walked into the room, so she’s my favourite. Definitely.
Oh, hi boys…. Dammit.
How about definitely not the cat? She’s a killing machine and a bell-end.
Back to your question, finding time to write is hard for sure, and every single person who has actually written a book has given something up to do so. I read something once, but I can’t remember who said it, and it goes like this: if you think you haven’t got time to write (or do whatever you claim you haven’t enough time to do), then make a list of the top ten tv shows you watched in the last week, in order. Never watch whatever is in position ten again, and you’ve just gained at least half hour per week. That resonates with me.
Whenever I sit down to write – story, review, interview, novel, whatever – I don’t get up again until I’ve written a minimum of 500 words. That doesn’t sound like much, but it builds up. If you look at writer spaces online, there’s a lot of competition around word counts and I just can’t get excited about that. It is a common misconception that writers are in competition – we’re not, be that with sales, word counts, promotions etc, etc. There’s more than enough readers to go around.
Q: You share a lot from indie authors and horror online, what typically catches your fancy on what to share?
A: Sharing takes less than a second, so it’s not that hard. I love to help authors get the word out. My reach is not that large, but it’s growing. If I personally know the author then I will definitely share, and if I like it, review too. As I said before, we (writers) are all in this together, so if I can do anything to help, I will. There are so many talented people out there, and everyone has the same problem: how to get work in front of people.
Q: What are your favorite author resources online, from websites to tools?
A: I have Pro-Writing Aid, which is a bit like Grammarly but more in depth. No automated tool will ever beat a real life editor, but it’s great for finding errors once you think you’ve finished editing yourself (hint: you haven’t). It helps find those sentences where you’ve messed up, and double check those ones where you really mean to say what you’ve said, even if it’s not strictly grammatically correct.
There’s a Facebook group called Get Writing Horror run by the multi-talented and tireless Joe X Young which is absolutely superb.
Great websites for readers to discover more horror writers would be Ginger Nuts of Horror and Kendall Reviews. A special shout out here to GBHBL, who were early supporters of my work.
Q: If you could sit down with any author for a conversation, living or dead, who would it be and why?
A: Joe R Lansdale. He is an absolute hero of mine, and is so generous with advice and tips online. His books are great too – and not just the Hap and Leonard ones. I would love the chance to chat process with him over a beer.
Finally, if there is anything else you would love to share with our readers, please do so here!
Does anybody want to buy me a Breitling? No? Well, if enough of you buy one (or more, please buy more) of my books, I could get one myself. Just saying.
My website: www.david-watkins.com
My Amazon page: author.to/DavidWatkins