Author, goth DJ, crustacean and cephalopod enthusiast, web series presenter, Tim Mendees is everywhere. A devoted Lovecraftian horror writer, he is with us today to talk about life as a writer and his upcoming short story collection “The Pseudopod That Rocks the Cradle”.
- For those that don’t know you, can you give us an elevator pitch about what kind of horror you write?
The vast majority of my work falls into the cosmic/Lovecraftian category. I’m a massive fan of the classic weird fiction of people like Lovecraft, Machen, Chambers and Blackwood. When I started out, my main goal was to carry on in the pulp tradition of my heroes and write the sort of thing that scared the crap out of me as a kid. I’ve done the odd conventional horror story here and there but I don’t get the same kind of terror from vampires and things that I do from malevolent squid gods and unnamable abominations.
What is the first book that made you really emotional? What was the emotion?
One of my earliest reading memories is being absolutely terrified of Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows.” I must have been only about seven or eight when I read it. My grandfather had all kinds of weird fiction tucked away in his bookcase and I liked to work through them on wet afternoons.
My uncle had a farm near the River Severn in Shropshire and there was a dark stretch completely engulfed by weeping willows. I went there just after reading it and was absolutely terrified of what might be lurking just beyond our comprehension. Absolutely brilliant book. It still creeps me out to this day.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think a lot of aspiring writers get disheartened by rejections. I’ve seen so many people throw in the towel because of a bad run of luck. I had so many rejections before I finally got published and it made my writing better. Every time something came back I gave it another pass and a polish then sent it back out. Nine times out of ten, the rejections you get aren’t down to the quality of the piece. It’s often down to whether or not it fits the publisher’s vision. It’s often a case of trying to get the right story to the right editor at the right time. It’s a bit of a lottery.
My advice has always been to not dwell on the rejections. We all get them. They are just another part of the process. Remember, there are so many publishers out there. It’s just a question of finding the right one.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Word counts. Seriously, I struggle with word counts. It’s become a bit of a running joke that I couldn’t keep under a word count with a gun to my head. I’m always asking publishers for wiggle room.
Because of this, drabbles are my kryptonite. They hurt my head. If anyone wants to see a grown man cry, just commission me to write some drabbles and watch me blub like a baby.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It certainly made me pay more attention to editing. I’m not a great editor but working through the editing process a couple of times definitely tightened up my writing. It’s all about learning little tricks. Going back to some of my early work makes me wince. There are some clunky mistakes that I certainly wouldn’t let through now.
How did you celebrate your first book getting published? What about the last book?
I always end up doing the same thing. I like to do live launch parties over Facebook Live. Pretty much have a few beers and introduce the book to the world. It came out of lockdown and trying to find new ways to promote. It’s become a bit of a tradition now.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I think it’s more overlooked than under-appreciated but I’d have to say “Our Lady Of Darkness” by Fritz Lieber. Absolutely brilliant book that more people need to read. An absolute master-class in cosmic dread.
What’s your favourite horror publication? Could be a magazine, a blog, an annual anthology, anything…
I’m a big fan of Lovecraftiana Magazine and Cosmic Horror Monthly. I’ve had the privilege to be published in Lovecraftiana which was a bit of a highlight for me.
What is your favourite horror franchise? Why are you drawn to that franchise?
I’m a huge fan of the Silent Hill games. They have all the right elements for me. The occult and cosmic aspects of it really get me thinking. No other game or film has freaked me out the way Silent Hill 2 did when I first played it. There is so much subtext to it. I love horror that makes you think and some of those games are proper chin-scratchers.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I’ve got two novels kicking around. One of them needs a top to bottom rewrite as it’s the first thing I wrote and is clunky as all hell. The other one just needs editing. I’m also working on another novel at the moment.
Of your unfinished works, which is your favourite? Tell us about the plot.
My favourite always tends to be what I’m working on at that moment. The novel I’m working on now is about a young ghost hunter called Mary Hopkins who gets drawn into a plot to awaken one of the great old ones. There are more abominations than you could shake a stick at and comic relief in the shape of Polly, Mary’s pet poltergeist. It’s a bit bonkers.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
I think the last thing I read that made me look at the world differently was Thomas Ligotti. That man can send you into a full-blown existential crisis. It’s bleak and nihilistic. Right up my street.
What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
For me, it’s all about atmosphere. You can have a great idea and great characters but if there is no atmosphere it falls flat. I like to almost feel and smell the world I’m reading about. It’s little details such as light and shadow that make it real for me.
Of all the characters that you’ve written, which one is your favourite and why?
I think my favourite is Eugene Angove. He’s a bumbling British adventurer that stumbles across various nefarious plots. I’ve written a whole load of Eugene Angove stories now. He’s the sort of old-fashioned idiot that I’d love to go drinking with.
Can you tell us about the last book you published?
My short story collection “The Pseudopod That Rocks The Cradle” releases on October the 5th from Mannison Press. It contains eighteen tales of cosmic horror and I’m immensely proud of it. Ron Linson did an amazing job of the editing and I absolutely love Deidre J Owen’s cover.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on now?
Aside from the aforementioned novel, I’m currently working on a steampunk weird tale for a secret project so I can’t really go into details.
For your latest release, Would you and your main character get along?
It depends on which one. Some of my main characters are despicable bounders. If it was Eugene, I’d say yes. We would definitely have a good drinking session.
If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?
“Don’t read that book!” Seriously, don’t do it. No good comes from reading The Necronomicon.
If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?
Most of my stuff is linked so characters pop up in other stories. One I intend on using is Gertrude Green, the grumpy old librarian that terrifies all who cross her path. I could have some fun with her. She’s a proper old battleaxe.
If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?
Lovecraft, but he’s dead unfortunately. Of living authors, probably Ramsay Campbell. I grew up a big fan of his. We are both from the North West of England so he was ‘our’ horror writer. His cosmic horror stuff is some of the best ever written. “Cold Print” is an absolute classic of the genre.
If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?
I’d like Eugene Angove to be played by Brian Blessed. He would absolutely nail it. Stephen Fry would be perfect as his valet, Hampton.
If your book were made into an audiobook, who would be your dream-narrator?
I have an audiobook of my novella “Spiffing” read by Christopher Brissini. I was blown away by his work. His range of voices was absolutely staggering.
My dream would have been Christopher Lee but sadly he passed away. From living people, I’d say Doug Bradley. Pinhead would nail it.
Want to do a writing exercise? Use this random word generator ( https://randomwordgenerator.com/ ) to provide you three words to use as a prompt. Write a one horror story with those words as your muse - it can be only a few words or a full book, totally up to you.
Ooh. I can definitely do something with those. I’ll have a crack at something when I get time. I’ll keep you posted.
Pick up The Pseudopod That Rocks the Cradle on Amazon!