Welcome to my writing!

For a long time I've wanted to set up an online repository of my interviews, reviews and other writings ... and here it is! Use the Subject List to the right to select an author/topic and you will get all the entries which relate to the selected subject. Have fun browsing through!

Tuesday, 14 April 2020


Stephen Laws should not be a new name to Starburst readers as we have been covering his rise to prominence in the horror genre ever since his first novel was published back in 1985.  

Now he sets
The Frighteners on us.  Following demonic trains (Ghost Train), personalised killing forces (Spectre) and a timeless and ancient evil (The Wyrm), what are we up against this time?  What are the Frighteners?

"The Frighteners are revealed in the new novel.  It's about a 
small time crook, Eddie Brinkburn, who does little jobs like car licence changes, petty theft, that sort of thing.  He is set up by a large criminal organisation when a petrol station robbery goes wrong and he ends up in prison.  While he's locked up, some bad things happen to him including the fact that his family are murdered by the organised crime mob.  This gives him a rage and a keen desire for revenge.  But also while he's in prison, he comes into contact with something that gives him a supernatural power. He uses this power to gain an early parole and once he's back on the streets he sets about bringing down the whole criminal underworld in London.  The Frighteners are the essence of that power.  If you don't do what Eddie wants then he can put the Frighteners on you; he can send these things around to your house to convince you to do what he wants you to do.

"Frighteners can be created from any raw material available, they 
can take a myriad of forms, but basically they're the worst thing in the world that you would ever want to see and they're very, very brutal.  They'll go and they'll get whatever Eddie wants and by God you'd better do what he wants or ...

"The novel is, at its most basic, a revenge thriller, but the 
plot is a springboard for bigger things.  The power that Eddie inherits has its own ambitions and ultimately the whole fabric of reality starts coming apart at the seams."

Ghost Train begins with the words 'It was another day in hell' and this would seem to sum up Steve's approach to the horror genre - put the hero through hell.  "In Ghost Train, the fun fair barker says at one point 'You paid to come in, didn't you?  You wanted to be scared?'  So my characters often face the consequences of their dealing with the supernatural.  That's one aspect of it.  Perhaps more importantly, I have always been interested in dealing with people who face up to their worst fears made real - and actually overcome them.  I'm being a little optimistic here, because the little, insignificant people can sometimes call upon hidden reserves and face up to the threat - they may get completely flattened by it, but I like to think that they have won as well.  There is a sense of elation about their defiant stance.  This is another theme of my books in that often the external threat is a distorted reflection of the inner turmoil in the characters up against it.  This is probably most evident in The Wyrm"

The Wyrm, Steve set out to create 'a new monster', something that would have its own history and weaknesses.  "I was pleased with the way that turned out.  I wanted a completely new entity with its own modus operandi and the creature in The Wyrm was something I was able to play around with.  In The Wyrm, the hero ultimately defeats the monster with words and the implication, which is not fully stated, is that if he goes back on his word then bad things could start happening again.  

"It was a reaction against accepted lore.  We all know that 
silver bullets kill werewolves and that vampires abhor crucifixes.  These are well defined rules that writers go to great pains to break and bend, so I thought hell - the Wyrm is going to be something new.  The human characters are going to be well acquainted with the standard supernatural cliches which won't work.  They will be faced with having to confront the Wyrm to find out what the rules that govern it are."

Hailing from Newcastle, it is understandable that Steve would set 
his novels in and around that industrial town - Ghost Train concerns the railway connection between London and Newcastle, Spectre is set in the Byker district of the town and The Wyrm takes place in a fictional northern village called Shillingham. Steve has coined a new term for his style of writing: Industrial

"It's all about back alleys and streetlights and deserted 
factories rather than castles and cobwebs and things that go bump in the night.  It's a new kind of gothic.  The Frighteners is industrial gothic as well, although I moved all the action down to London seeing as it's the crime mecca of the country.  Let's face it, it's where the roots of organised criminal activity are. 

"I'm also looking at Good and Evil (with a capital G and a 
capital E) in a different way.  In the past my books have tended to take a view that evil is an external force.  The Frighteners says that Evil is indigenous to Man, it's generated within, it's not an entity that comes from beyond, it's something  that's in all of us.

The Frighteners is, so far, the book that I'm happiest with, that I feel most strongly about.  It's taken me longer to write and I think it's probably the most powerful and uncompromising thing I've written.  It's basically a 'head-on-collision' novel. Some people have been upset by this head-on aspect but that's the way the book is and I make no apologies for it."

As well as the novels, Steve has also turned his hand to short 
fiction.  'Guilty Party' - a werewolf story - appeared in issue number 2 of Fear and 'Junk' - a tale of terror set in a Junkyard - appeared in Scare Care, Graham Masterton's anthology for children's charities published in 1989.  (This collection has yet to be published in Britain but the US hardback edition was published by Tor and can be found in some specialist bookshops). I asked Steve why he hadn't had more short fiction published. "Because I haven't written it!  I just don't have time as what little I have is taken up with writing the novels.  I have only written short fiction when someone has asked me specifically. Graham asked me for Scare Care and I was pleased to hear recently that 'Junk' is on a short list for a best horror collection of 1989.  I have a day job as well, and working part time it takes
me about a year to complete each novel.

"I like to know exactly what I'm doing when I'm writing.  There 
has to be a strong sense of logic.  I develop that when I outline the book and consequently that takes a long time.  The outline is written in the present tense and basically describes what happens.  The completed outline is perhaps a quarter of the length of the finished novel, and the transition from outline to final novel is a case of putting all the meat and description onto the bones. 

"My next novel,
Darkfall, which I am writing at the moment, involves the police and I've been researching it with the Northumbria constabulary for the last year or so.  I want to present the police professionals with an overtly supernatural situation and see how they would react.  It's working well and I'm pleased with it so far.  It should be ready for the publishers in about three months time and after that I have plans to start on a novel which will be looking at vampires in a new light.  I can't tell you any more than that, but it will be completely different from anything about vampires that you've
seen before.

"I think that when you write in the horror genre, there is a 
danger of going down a dead end.  There are some people who are experimenting in the field but I don't think that there is enough pioneering going on.  I'm particularly interesting in cross-fertilisation which is about taking standard themes and doing something different with them.  A writer like Steve Gallagher is a prime example.  He can take a police procedural novel and, using its rules and its readership, write it from a supernatural point of view.  I believe that cross-fertilisation is going to inject a new breath of life into the genre and that  writers and readers should embrace the concept and simply enjoy the results. 

"Some other good examples are Thomas Harris'
Silence of the Lambs and Peter Straub's KokoKoko is a brilliant non-horror, horror novel.  Is Silence of the Lambs a horror novel or not?  It won the 1989 Bram Stoker award from the Horror Writers of America, but I argue that it's not actually a horror novel in the accepted sense.  Some people in the genre have been offended that it won a major horror award, but I think they should welcome it as it will only serve to refresh the horror genre.

"At the end of the day the writer's job is to entertain the 
reader.  You have to make them feel as though they've been through something, that it counts for something - that's certainly what I want when I read a book.  "I have a basic creed:  'People like to be frightened because they don't like to be frightened' and as long as that is the case, I'll be writing to frighten them."