Friday, October 28, 2016

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 22: AMONG THE STACKS: Alistair Rennie


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Alistair.  Welcome to The Gal!  I'm so glad you decided to join us today.  You are *Day 22* of The Gal's 62 Days of Horror.  Let's start off with an easy one: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Alistair Rennie:
I'm a writer of weird fantasy and horror fiction.  I've recently released a novel called BleakWarrior which I tend to describe as Sword and Debauchery.  I come from Scotland.  I lived in Italy for 10 years.  I go wandering in the mountains and, when a child of 9 or 10, I wanted to be a ghost investigator, which, in a sense, I am.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Alistair Rennie:
I'm a qualified painter and decorator.  I like musicals.  I strive to live by routines which are surprisingly difficult to maintain.  My favourite food might not actually be a food (Balsamic vinegar).  I once worked for Ducati motorcycles.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Alistair Rennie:
The first book I remember is A Dictionary of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts by Carey Miller.  The first novel I read was Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Stackhouse Atkinson.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Alistair Rennie:
The Lure of Devouring Light by Mike Griffin, Secret Language by Neil Williamson, and just started reading The Godless by Ben Peek.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

Alistair Rennie:
Greyfriar's Bobby!!  I absolutely loved it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Alistair Rennie:
When I was little, I read a lot.  Once, returning from the library, my mother noted my love of reading and asked me if I'd like to be a writer.  "What's a writer?" I asked (I was about 7 years old).  She explained what a writer was and, ever since that day, that's what I wanted to be.  I started writing when I was about 12 or 13 years old, mostly song lyrics and poetry, which later developed into fiction.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Alistair Rennie:
I try to write anywhere and have actually trained myself to do it any time, any place.  I don't think it's good to convince yourself that you have to have a special place to write.  It's better to be psychologically prepped for writing whenever the chance presents itself and the mood is there, I feel.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Alistair Rennie:
None.  I think it's important to be completely bloody-minded about it and not go through rituals which are really based on the fear of facing up to the task.  Face up to the task and do it!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Alistair Rennie:
I think the whole process is extremely challenging and requires tremendous mental effort in order to be done well.  Doing it well is the greatest challenge.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

Alistair Rennie:
Without a doubt, my novel BleakWarrior.  Novels are big pieces of work, so it gives you a sense of satisfaction to complete one.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Alistair Rennie:
Some books would be:
Authors who've impact on me regards to style would be: AneirinChristopher MarloweRobert BurnsWalter ScottRobert E. HowardDylan ThomasW.B. YeatsHugh MacDiarmid, and Edgar Allan Poe.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Alistair Rennie:
Ideas.  I think the ideas that underlie a story are what make it compelling.  In addition, the ability of a story to generate a strong emotional response is what makes for good storytelling.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Alistair Rennie:
I think a character has to be interesting - not necessarily likable, but interesting.  Characters who are not interesting are not lovable.  For me, I love characters we describe as Byronic - like Ravenswood from The Bride of Lammermoor.  Byronic heroes are not necessarily likable characters, but are mysterious, dangerous, and abiding by their own, personal moral codes.  Elric and Conan are modern interpretations of Byronic figure, 
            I think any central character I create would carry that combination of attributes in them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Alistair Rennie:
To be honest, I don't think I've created any who are remotely like me!  I'm too gregarious and good-natured, and too nervous in a crowd.  All my characters go out there with a distinct lack of inhibition.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Alistair Rennie:
I wouldn't be turned off if I had received a recommendation, but I could be put off by a bad cover, yes.  Sometimes, in the past, I would buy books solely because I liked the cover, so it might be more accurate to say that I'm very much attracted by a really good cover.
            I had some initial input with the cover design for BleakWarrior in terms of passing on materials or suggestions that I liked, but I was insistent on letting the artists have total freedom.  I think it's vital that artists have the freedom to produce their work without interference.  Such freedom allows us to produce our best.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Alistair Rennie:
I've learned that typos that slip through the net are inevitable!  I've also learned that you have to work very hard to try and sell them.  Books don't sell by themselves!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Alistair Rennie:
Combat scenes are, I think, among the hardest to write.  They require a variation in the pacing at just the right times in order to make them effective in a way that doesn't apply to other types of scenes.
            To choose a specific example, however, there is a scene in my novel where BleakWarrior and a character called The Ever Decreasing Circle of Choice embark on an epic philosophical discussion which are very difficult to write in a way that would make sense for the reader.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Alistair Rennie:
The excessive sex and violence coupled with complex philosophical content and a complete absence of magic and mysticism (which are replaced by ideas relating to metaphysics). 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Alistair Rennie:
I was lucky.  I had the title before I started writing the book!  I wanted to create a graphic novel and wanted a character around which it could be written.  I wanted a very tragic and bleak figure to fill the role, and I thought of the name 'BleakWarrior,' which became the title.
            I think getting a title your'e comfortable with is extremely important.  And I do think it can make a tremendous difference to how it will be noticed when it's out there.  An arresting title can be an extremely effective way of drawing attention.
            I just got a copy of Mike Griffin's The Lure of Devouring Light.  That's an example of what I'd call an irresistible title.  You see it and you simply must investigate.  Joe Pulver always had wonderful titles for his books - for example, A House of Hollow Wounds.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Alistair Rennie:
For me, it's a novel all the way.  I like to write at length.  I love following ideas that lead to other ideas that lead to others, and so on, until the larger plot is formed.  I enjoy that process.  With short stories, the same process is there, but on a much reduced scale, and can sometimes be secondary to other elements of storytelling.  I prefer the big scale.
            One thing I like with writing a novel is that you can take a single scene and make it last as long as you see fit.  With short stories, you're limited, which is part of the whole point of writing short stories - to convey the experience in one sitting.
            At the same time, I sometimes think to myself, is there really an aesthetic or technical difference between novels and short stories beyond length?  I don't know.  In many ways, I prefer to see stories as stories.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Alistair Rennie:
I tend to write a species of fantasy and horror that incorporates various strands of each - sword and sorcery, body horror, splatterpunk, new weird and the weird, philosophical horror, grimdark.  But I also like to incorporate what we could probably call literary elements.  I like to create scenarios where the drama is accentuated in the way we see, for example, in Elizabethan revenge tragedies.  And then I like to throw in influences from manga and graphic novels, as well as folklore, and mix it all up.
            I try and break rules that are normally taken for granted as sacred to writing - switching randomly between narrative viewpoints, or switching between grammatical tenses within the same timeframes, and so on.  Maximum disruption.
            I tend to think of my stories as being aimed at the outcasts, the weirdos, the misfits, at people who share my alternative musical tastes, or people who prefer the rawer gradations of fantasy fiction, or horror fanatics who also like fantasy.
            Above all, I'd like them to take away a feeling of having received a good deal of emotional stimulation from reading my work.  I want them to feel excitement and, if possible, a sense of awe.
            That's what I like to get out of stuff that I read - a sense of awe and yearning.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Alistair Rennie:
There was a certain thread of the narrative that I removed altogether, taking the characters with it.  We did this so we could concentrate on rounding off the other threads to better effect.
            The thread that was removed is now the basis for a follow up to the first novel.  It features a couple of characters who're not in the first book, one of whom, Head Wrecker, is mentioned, however.
            That's the only major scene, or series of scenes, that was removed.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Alistair Rennie:
I've got a few short stories I'm working on, all of them horror stories, but, to be honest, that's all.  I'm concentrating on the follow up to BleakWarrior more than anything.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Alistair Rennie:
More BleakWarrior!  And maybe a couple of short stories in a similar vein.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Alistair Rennie:
My websitebook site, and blog.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks again for stopping by, Alistair.  I look forward to reading your book... and having you back.  Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Alistair Rennie:
I'd like to wish anyone who's reading this the very best of everything!  And please feel free to join me over on my blog or on Facebook, where I tend to hang out.
            I'd very much like to see you there and talk about what YOU'RE doing!


About the author:
Alistair Rennie is the author of sword and debauchery horror novel, BleakWarrior.  He has published dark fantasy and horror fiction, essays and poetry in The New Weird anthology, Weird Tales magazine, Fabulous Whitby, Electric Velocipede, Mythic Delirium, Pevnost, Schlock Magazine, Horror Without Victims, Weird Fiction Review, and Shadowed Realms.
            He was born and grew up in the North of Scotland, has lived for ten years in Italy, and now lives in Edinburgh in the South of Scotland.  He holds a first class Honours Degree in Literature from the University of Aberdeen and a PhD in Literature from the University of Edinburgh.  He is a time-served Painter and Decorator and a veteran climber of numerous hills and mountains in the Western Highlands, the Cairngorms and the Italian Dolomites.

About the book:
For eons, the ancient and powerful Meta-Warriors have betrayed, despoiled, and slain each other in a relentless pursuit of their total mutual destruction.  Who they are, what they are, what purposes they serve - none can tell.  As they exact their dismal retributions against one another, with whatever skulduggery proves necessary for achieving those ends, they do not care to wonder why.
            Except for one.
            And he will kill all who stand in the way of him discovering who - and what - he is.  Or die trying.
            They call him BleakWarrior.
            Descend into a world of dark metaphysics, ultra-violence, senseless mayhem, and transgressive sex with a simultaneously brutal and brilliant fantasy novel unlike any other.

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