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Meet Dave Watkins

Every Friday, we meet a member of the BFS and peer deep into their soul (or, at least, a form they filled out). Want to be featured? Email us: online@britishfantasysociety.org

Name, including preferred pronouns
Dave Watkins. David is my writing name. Pronouns: he/him.

Which region are you based in?
Right in the middle of Devon. If you threw a dart at a map of Devon, it would probably hit my house. I love it. My house, not the dart.

Genre you write 
Horror (although I’ve written some science fiction horror too).

If you don’t write, what do you do?

I’m a teacher as my day job, which severely cuts down on my time to write, but like nature in Jurassic Park, I find a way. I am a pretty lazy writer though – I don’t write every day and when I do it’s a minimum 500 words before I can stop. 

Are you drawn to any specific SFFH sub-genres?

Not really, although I’m not a fan of extreme horror. I have a big soft spot for creature features. I’ll read anything from fantasy to hard science fiction – I’m really not that fussy! My favourite is probably small town horror – for example It by Stephen King. 

Your influences

Tell us about the book/film/thing that got you into SFFH: What was it? How old were you? What impact did it have on you?

My usual answer to this is Christine by Stephen King. Bought by my parents as part of an introductory offer to a book club. Think it was about 25p – and yes, that’s how long ago that was. I was drawn by the cover, something about the car just exuded menace and so 13 year old me though ‘how cool is that?’. I wasn’t prepared for the great characters, which I think is King’s greatest strength. He doesn’t get enough recognition for how good his writing is, in my opinion.

Thinking on it now, however, I was always drawn to the genre world. I read The Hobbit when I was around 10, devoured the Narnia books at about the same time. I tried reading Lord Of The Rings, but couldn’t get past the songs (sorry LOTR fans, it wasn’t for me. If it helps, my wife is called Tinuviel, so don’t hate me). And the elves. And the fact everyone had three hundred different names. I’m easily confused!

The Fighting Fantasy books had a big impact as well. I remember me and my brother getting horribly lost in Warlock of Firetop Mountain but it was an amazing experience. Reading a book and playing a game at the same time? Wow! We bought loads of those books when they first came out. Deathtrap Dungeon was probably my favourite. 

How does that early influence show up in your writing now?

Well, I haven’t written a choose your own adventure… yet. To find out if I intend to, turn to paragraph 9. If you’re not bothered, go to 10.

I think King’s influence is all over my work, but I wouldn’t even begin to suggest we’re comparable. For me, character is important to any story and needs to be front and centre. Give me someone to care about, and then do dastardly things to them. I love fiction that does that and try to do it in my own. It’s not my place to say whether I succeed. 

(Pictured right: Stephen King)

Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

Is this a clever way of rewording ‘where do you get your ideas?’ Sneaky!

No idea, is the honest truth. Ideas can pop into my head at the worst times (e.g. during a lesson….) and at the best (when I’m sat near a computer/pad of paper). Tim Waggoner wrote (in the excellent Writing In The Dark) that to get inspiration, he looks at a situation and then says ‘what’s wrong with it?’. I like that a lot. 

Who do you look to as a genre hero? Why?

‘Genre hero’ is an interesting phrase. There are many, many people who are tireless in promoting others. The first person who springs to mind is Dave Jeffery. An awesome human being who spends much of his time promoting others rather than himself. It would be easy to overlook his own writing, but I would urge anyone who hasn’t done so to read his A Quiet Apocalypse series. Superb books. 

People like Kit Power, Phil Sloman and CC Adams need their dues as they are so welcoming to newcomers. They are a large part of why I look forward to Fantasycon every year. All three are quality writers too, so check them out.

Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan have done a sterling job with the British branch of the Horror Writers Association, and it is a great shame they are standing down. 

Writers such as Ramsey Campbell and James Herbert, Adam Neville and Tim Lebbon have done so much for British genre writing that they could all be rightly considered genre heroes. 

Jim Mcleod, of Gingernuts of Horror and loving bizarre snacks fame, works tirelessly to promote the genre and his website is a must-read. I guess I’d pick him. He’s a good bloke too, so that helps. 

Pictured left to right: Alexa K Moon (horror comic guru), CC Adams, Dave Jeffery, Phil Sloman and me, trying to make myself as tall as Phil.

Your work

You’re stuck in an elevator for 60 seconds with that hero, and they want you to describe your work. Give us the pitch.

Well Jim has read my previous novel, The Exeter Incident, and he loved it, so I guess I’d just buy him a pint when we got out of the lift. 

Anyone else, I’d say: “Monsters in Exeter. Everyone dies. What’s not to like?”

What are you working on right now?

I have two novels on my laptop that I’m working on. The first is The Memory Shades, which is a foray into light science fiction, but I didn’t stray too far from horror. Basically, prisoners on another planet have their memories of their crimes wiped and are working out their sentences as slave labour. The local fauna are not too impressed by their arrival and it’s not long before carnage ensues. Sounds a bit like shit Avatar, but it really isn’t (or at least I hope its not).

The other novel, and the one that’s closer to release, is the third book of my werewolf trilogy: The Original’s Rage. I never set out to write a trilogy, but it just sort of happened. Jack was in my head and he wouldn’t shut up. My goal with the first book was to write a werewolf book that didn’t rely on any of the usual tropes of full moon, silver bullets etc. I also decided to never use the word ‘werewolf’, which was cool in the first book and super hard in the third. 

Thinking about all of your stories/work you’ve done, which one sticks out most in your mind? Why?

St Neith came out last summer, courtesy of the wonderful Demain Publishing. I wrote about teenagers and used my daily observations of them to help deepen the characters. It was hard work, but I think it really helped. It’s also about giant spiders and, given my abject terror of them, was a challenge! I now know far too much about the hateful things, much to the delight of my brain when I’m trying to sleep. 

Sarah Deeming reviewed St Neith for the BFS blog and compared it to Stephen King’s The Mist. She also called me ‘a master of the horror genre’. I’ll take that, but would be really happy if more people read it! Any BFS members who would like an e-copy, please reach out to me and I’ll sort you out.

Where and when do you create/are you at your most creative?

Great question which I wish I knew the answer to. I work a demanding job full time, so I guess the truthful answer is ‘when I sit down to write’.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about creativity?

Stick your bum in a seat and get on with it. If you wait for the right conditions or the muse to strike, you’re going to be waiting a long time. Get your first draft done – and it doesn’t really matter if its crap. Most writers will tell you the magic happens in editing. 

The quickfire round

Sci-fi, fantasy or horror?

Horror.

Quiet or loud?

Loud, man, play it loud, okay?  Film reference alert…

Dark or light?

Light – sunshine just improves your mood. Unless you mean in fiction, in which case the darker the better. 

Strict lines or genre blend?

Genre blend is fine. Do whatever the story wants you to. 

Awards or bestseller?

Bestseller. Awards don’t heat your house, even if they do give you kudos. My opinion on this may change if I ever achieve either.

Fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction.

Poetry or prose?

Prose. I’ve tried to read poetry, but I just can’t get into it. Sorry, poets. 

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser when I started, but that really doesn’t work with a trilogy, so I’m more of a plotter these days. 

Reading or listening?

Both. Reading is a simple joy, but listening sure makes chores around the house less dull. 

Notebook or computer?

Computer.

Favourite SFFH book of all time?

Probably The Stand, but I’d need more time to think about it – there are so many great books out there. That book was the reason I was shouting ‘close the borders’ at the TV from about the beginning of Feb in 2020. 

Last book you read?

The Hollows by Daniel Church. Excellent.

Any SFFH author on auto-buy?

Too many for a healthy bank balance. 

Favourite podcast?

I don’t really listen to many podcasts. This is Horror is obviously superb, but I also like The Rest is Politics. Although, to be fair, the latter makes my blood boil fairly regularly. 

The home stretch

What’s the best thing about being a SFFH writer?

The people you meet and the playground you get to play in. 

Time to plug your stuff! Where can we find you and your work? What have you got coming up? Consider this your advertising space

All my stuff is available on Amazon.

I have a short story called ‘Mari Lwyd’ coming out soon in a Christmas anthology from Kevin J Kennedy. A number of my beta readers said they thought this was the best thing I’ve written yet. Some Welsh readers may recognise the title, and if anyone googles the title they’ll probably come away thinking WTF?? However, it did really used to happen!

(Pictured right: an actual Mari Lwyd! [Source])

Hopefully The Original’s Rage will be out before the end of the year, but early next year is more likely. 

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