World of Horror: Interview with Eric Nash
Eric Nash (he/him) lives with ghosts in Southwest England. His dark tales have been published in numerous venues, including Bleed Error magazine, Coffin Bell Journal, Demain’s Short Sharp Shocks! series, and by WyldbloodPress. Read more of his work at https://eric-nash-inked-up-and-earthbound.com/, or give him a follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EANash1.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
When I was knee-high, my Irish grandmother babysat me regularly. During those evenings, I’d sit by her side, drink milk stout, and watch black-and-white horror movies such as Cat People, Dracula, and The Ghoul. I discovered the thrill of being scared.
A few years later at my school book fair, amongst the display of bright glossy covers full of wistful or serious-looking children and cute animals, one paperback stood out: the 11th Armada Ghost Book, edited by Mary Danby. The cover depicted an undead highwayman brandishing a pistol, his face was a skull, and a mask made of black cloth covered his eye sockets. He hid behind a gnarly oak tree, and rode a horse that looked as if it lived a nightmare. The cover promised something beyond my small and relatively safe world, a danger that couldn’t be thwarted.
In my teens, I went back to movies. Films like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, et al; Raimi’s Evil Dead; later it was Cronenberg. Looking for the same adrenaline rush I used to get, I also found something else. I realized I was attracted to the genre’s subversive nature. One can do a lot within horror. The genre can be a creator’s license to analyze humanity; one is able to reflect society’s underbelly directly into the face of the audience.
Is there a horror tradition in your country, in your culture? A taste for horror, a market? Not necessarily literature; perhaps oral tradition too.
I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s watching kids’ TV programs like Children of the Stones, Jigsaw, and Pipkins (the last two series featured Mr. Noseybonk and Hartley Hare, respectively—both nightmarish characters). As an adult, I struggled to sit through an episode of the brilliant, but deeply disturbing, British comedy sitcom The League of Gentlemen. With this in mind, I’d definitely say that we do Weird very well. This is historically evident in the writings of English authors during the late 19th, early 20th century, such as E. F. Benson, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Edith Nesbit.
We’ve had a major influence on both Gothic fiction and the ghost story. We do like our folk tales, too, the spookier the better. However, where there are people on this small, blue planet, there is horror.
Who are some of your favorite characters in horror, internationally and/or in your own culture?
The Hungarian noblewoman, Countess Bathory. The image of her bathing in blood—mirroring Cleopatra bathing in milk—is so opulent. A perfect way to highlight the total disregard the rich have for the lower classes.
The hands in “The Body Politic,” the opening story in Clive Barker’s Book of Blood. The idea that a body part can run riot without the mind being conscious of the fact creeps me out.
As a trope, I find zombies, and the notion that we can just shut down yet function without thought, terrifying. The satire of this monster truly hits home with the craving of brains.
The thing in the forest at the end of The Ritual by Adam Nevil. It’s old—not old and living out its twilight years in a retirement home in Bournemouth, England, or Florida, United States – but old-as-the-earth old. I won’t say anymore in case you haven’t read the book.
I still maintain that Hartley Hare is the most terrifying character I’ve encountered. Do an internet search for this wire-haired puppet and tell me you don’t agree.
Do you make a conscious effort to include characters and settings from your country in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
They’re in my blood, so I’d be silly not to. Folklore often features in my work and, along with shapeshifters, I’ve included the Wild Hunt, Celtic kings, and the Green Man a few times. You’ll also find coastal, woodland, and town settings, each tending to play an integral role in the story. The first two allow me to explore our troubled relationship with nature and what we leave behind in our technological race, whilst the use of towns helps me to explore the way urban landscapes impact us, and examines the relationship we have with ourselves and each other. I like to find horror in the mundane.
If you are not a native English speaker, but write in English, do you first think of horror in your native language or English? How do you draft them in your mind, in English or your mother tongue?
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
That there are a lot of zombies in the world. The genre is held in embarrassingly low regard, which suggests people tend not to like critical studies of themselves, especially through a dark lens.
Writing, in general, has taught me to become more resilient to rejection.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve, both in the US and in your country?
Whenever I tell people I like horror, I’m always saddened by their responses, the distaste in their expressions. Yet, horror is resilient (another reason why I love it so). It’s always loitering in the back alleys, picking up whispers, feeding from trash like rats. Societies shape horror’s dark shadows into relevant nightmares, which, now and again, allow the genre to rise up into semi-acceptance, as fresh fears of a culture force people to seek out fictionalized horror as an aid to accepting their reality, or often as a means to comfort.
In this present time of global turbulence and instability, a time when most people on this planet live in fear, hunger for the horror genre has returned. The internet coupled with the rise of the small independent publishing house has led to some truly amazing work being made available to the world. Despite this, a small part of me wishes to see the genre’s popularity fade, in the hope of a more stable and peaceful planet.
How do you feel the International horror writing community has been represented thus far in the market and what hopes do you have for representation going forward?
The aforementioned evolution of small presses and social media has helped the international horror community a thousandfold, and slowly, recognition is happening. Each society and every culture has its own peculiar horrors. Bring it on. I, like many horror fans, would love to read about them. Borders shouldn’t exist in publishing.
I’d love to see more readers shout out about all the works they like, give the work that crucial rating or a brief review on book or shopping sites. I’d like to see an abundance of translators, and presses working together to bring great international horror fiction to the reader.
Who are some international horror authors you would recommend?
I’m currently studying the short fiction form, and for me, the following authors and their story collections shine like stars:
Alison Moore’s Eastmouth and Other Stories, published by Salt Publishing.
Craig Wallwork’s Human Tenderloin: A Collection of Horror Stories, published by Underbelly Books
Julia Armfield’s Salt Slow, published by Picador
Lucie McKnight Hardy’s Dead Relatives and Other Stories, published by Dead Ink.
Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge (translated by Stephen Snyder), published by Vintage.
There are two other authors that I’d like to recommend:
Agustina Bazterrica, for her powerful dystopian horror novel, Tender is the Flesh (translated by Sarah Moses), published by Pushkin Press.
Jean Ray and his gothic novel, Malpertuis, which I believe is a must-read for lovers of the gothic. My edition of Malpertuis is published in English by Atlas Press and translated by Iain White.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
I don’t believe I’m particularly qualified to offer advice to my peers. What I keep telling myself, though, is to not to give up. Keep writing, keep submitting.
And to the writers from your country out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Read. Read good fiction. Read outside the genre. Study other writers to learn how to write fiction. The horror will come from you. And write for yourself and your readers, nobody else. Write not for riches or fame, because chances are they’re not going to be part of the package. Write because it’s what you love to do.