You wrote the 10th story in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, with Chester in his 80s. Without giving plot spoilers, what can readers look forward to in your story?
I think I bring a slower pace and some introspection to Chester’s story. Appropriately so, considering his age at the time, but also drawn from my own style. My stories tend to the darker side, either from internal or external forces, and I was overjoyed with Kelly Inglis’s story for setting me up perfectly for the next stage of Chester’s life.
The Life and Times of Chester Lewis has a fan fiction competition, for stories 2000 – 4000 words, with a $2000 1st prize. What advice do you have for entrants?
I’ve read a lot of fan fiction which would have made a great story in its own right, but the characters were unrecognisable from the source material. Take the story, make it your own, but be aware that there is a kernel within each character which makes them ‘them’. Make that quality present in your own story and half the struggle is already done.
You made the shortlist for a short story competition last year with your story The Long View. How would you describe your journey to this point in your fiction writing?
I think the phrase ‘stop start’ sums up my experience so far. I was absolutely elated to make my first sale to the first Penny Dread Tales anthology from Runewright Press, but had to wait a long time for the next acceptance. I have a self-imposed rule that at any given time I have at least one short story submitted somewhere, which keeps the pressure on my output, but which has also left me puzzled when one story warrants a single line rejection from one publication and an excited acceptance from another.
What was it like contributing to The Life and Times of Chester Lewis as an emerging fiction writer?
Initially it was surreal. Opportunities like this just don’t come up for writers still finding their feet. After that feeling passed came the fear. The rest of the stories were so good I went through a stage of doubting I could write the next chapter to the same caliber, and had images rolling through my head like the ‘hot of the press’ news headlines from old black and white films; “Emerging Writer Embarrasses Himself on World Stage: Disowned by Family”. But by that point the story had gotten its claws into my head, leaving me with my own tale which gave me no choice but to write.
Without giving plot spoilers, how would you describe the personality of Chester Lewis?
He’s a talented and driven man. That’s really as far as I can go without giving anything away. As with all good stories, it’s the ‘driven’ part which gives Chester Lewis its particular flavour, but everyone’s going to have to read the book to find out what exactly that flavour is.
What is one of your favourite fiction books you have read in the past year, and why?
Hands down, The Ritual by English horror writer Adam Nevill. It’s a tale of four university friends trying to rekindle their friendship with a hike through the northern Swedish forest, and begins just when they realise something is hunting them. That single sentence summation does zero justice to the book, however. Adam has the ability to keep tension wire tight throughout a four hundred page book, something most horror writers lack, and his style is so solid and visceral I actually winced at certain passages. If I had a fraction of his talent I would count myself a lucky man.
If you could bring one fiction author back from the dead for one day for the sole purpose of discussing writing fiction, who would you choose, and why?
HP Lovecraft. The man practically invented modern horror, and that his writing still holds millions in its sway is testament to the depth of his mythos and the inventive depravity he was willing to throw at his characters. What I’d really like to ask Howard (I’m sure he’d let me call him Howard) is just how much he put himself into his stories. Lovecraft was famously reclusive and spent most of his life in ill health, and I often wonder if his sickness was only physical, or if he actually believed in any of what he wrote.
What is next for your fiction writing?
I have a serialised science fiction story in Mantic Games’ gaming magazine Ironwatch for the next four months, and a short story I’m particularly proud of called ‘Through a Day and Into the Night’ in the November issue of the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. I’m also working on a steampunk novel based around the Napoleonic Wars, which is constantly threatening to balloon out into a multi-part epic saga and needs constant supervision to keep focused.
Michael Grey author site: www.michaelgrey.com.au