Hailing from the U.K., Marc Damian Lawler is a writer, an editor, an R. Chetwynd Hayes enthusiast and more. I first discovered him when Jim Moon cited an anthology Marc edited titled Before You Blow Out The Candle on his Hypnogoria podcast ( https://hypnogoria.libsyn.com/hypnogoria-136-before-you-out-the-candle ). Having enjoyed a story from it that Jim read during that same podcast inspired me to seek out more (especially given that Jim Moon also had a tale in it as well), leading to my ordering a copy of the book for myself. I found it to be a great assembly of supernatural horror stories which I reviewed here earlier this year ( https://horrordelve.com/2020/03/23/before-you-blow-out-the-candle-anthology-review/ ). Along with editing Before You Blow Out the Candle, Marc also included two great stories of his own in it and has since published a second volume which I recently purchased with a third one planned for this Christmas. He is a big proponent of the late, great horror writer R. Chetwynd Hayes and has worked to unite his fans online. Given his knowledge and work in the genre, I thought he’d be an ideal subject for this year’s Horror Delve Halloween Interview. Read on and I think you’ll agree, he was more than up to the challenge!
1. Horror Delve (H.D.): You’re a big fan of classic horror literature. With Halloween rapidly approaching, please tell us about some of your all-time favorite spine-chillers?
Marc Lawler (M.L.): I’m sure we all know and love Dracula. The first four chapters—narrated through the means of Jonathan Harker’s diary entries—is surely the most effective and influential piece of Gothic / Horror literature ever written. I read the seventy plus pages once or twice a year—to remind me of how good it can get.
Going against M.R. James’ advice—that all ghosts in ghost stories should be malevolent—my second choice is The Ghosts by Antonia Barber. The restless spirit of a kindly old gentlemen enlists the help of a brother and sister to go back in time and save the boy and girl he should have listened to and protected when he was alive. It was short-listed for the prestigious Carnegie Medal, and filmed wonderfully well as The Amazing Mr. Blunden, but has not taken—what I believe to be— its rightful place on the bookshelf of Children’s Classics.
My third choice is Mirror—which, earlier this year, I interviewed the author, Graham Masterton about for an article in Phantasmagoria Magazine.
1930s murdered movie star, Boofuls (a boy Shirley Temple) steps out of the demonic mirror which witnessed him being hacked into 100 pieces by his grand-mother—and into the A-Team 80s to kick-start his sicko cinematic plan to bring his daddy—Satan—amongst us for Armageddon and all that.
2. H.D. : Are there any specific traditions you keep for Halloween?
M.L.: I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never celebrated Halloween—which means that I’ve never dressed up in a spooky costume and gone Trick or Treating around the neighbourhood. There is no explanation as to why other than on this side of the Pond we don’t go wackadoodle for it. This is probably due to its proximity to our pyromaniacal Bonfire Night five days later. But if I did go Trick or Treating, I’d go as Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies.
3. H.D: What initially drew you to horror?
M.L.: When I was five, I discovered a book in my local library which was full of horror film posters from the 1920s—30s—40s—and 50s. The artwork fascinated me—filled me with a longing to see as many of the movies they advertised as I could; which thanks to the BBC’s late night horror double-bills (as well as those shown on ITV & C4)—I eventually came close to achieving. Notable exceptions include:
1933’s Murders in the Zoo (described as ‘astonishingly grisly’ by Johnny Morris)
1938’s The Walking Dead (no Rick Grimes)
1942′s Dr. Renault’s Secret (his wife is horrified to find out he drives a Porsche)
1954’s The Snow Creature (I keep hoping it will be on at Christmas… but, alas, it never is)
4. H.D.: You’re a big fan of the late, great writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes. What was it that drew you specifically to his stories?
M.L.: The way he includes his sense of humour.
I’m sure the majority of readers prefer to read spooky stories that are told entirely straight; no comedy; no tongue-in-cheek moments; but I like it best when the author is flexible; bends his writing one way and then the other—some fun before the fear; and perhaps a little afterwards too. But by no means are all of R.C-H’s stories like that—there are plenty told without a trace of humour; no shenanigans—as some readers will consider it—to lessen the foreboding atmosphere. So, both tastes are catered for—and more.
5. H.D.: Which of his stories are some of your favorites?
• The Thing (His first horror story; published in the Seventh Pan Book of Horror Stories.)
• Housebound (A housewife asks a ghost trapped in the woodwork to murder her husband. Adapted by Rod Serling for his Night Gallery series.)
• An Act of Kindness (Probably familiar to your readers—as it was the second story filmed for From Beyond the Grave.)
• The Door (Probably familiar to your readers—as it was the fourth story filmed for From Beyond the Grave)
• The Ghouls (The answer to why you should never trust a policeman is answered within its pages.)
• The Holstein Horror (The Holstein Horror—a seven-foot-tall, black-bodied demon from hell—also shows up at the end of my own short story, The Resurrection of R. Chetwynd-Hayes.)
• The Humgoo (a traveller gets lost whilst driving through the Hampshire countryside and ends up trapped in the grave looking village of Loughville. Third story filmed for The Monster Club.)
• The Cost of Dying (The ghostly fingers of an executed strangler are itching to get back to work. To do so, he requires a flesh and blood accomplice to perform the dark deed.)
• Which One? (Which of the watchmen was killed in the bomb blast? Not an easy answer to decide upon when all six men believe they are still alive.)
• The Underground (the identity of a ghost who haunts a woman on her daily journey to work is guaranteed to cause her grief at home.)
• Plus, his two Dracula books: Dracula’s Children and The House of Dracula.
6. H.D. : Who are some of your other favorite horror writers?
M.L.: Richard Matheson (So many great works to choose from—his early novels: I Am Legend and The Incredible Shrinking Man; his screenplays for Roger Corman’s Poe Cycle /The Comedy of Terrors; his Twilight Zone episodes for Rod Serling; his short story / screenplay Duel; his novel / screenplay Somewhere in Time.)
James Herbert and Graham Masterton (When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with their horror novels. I’m enjoying Masterton’s new one at the moment: The House of a Hundred Whispers.)
7. H.D. : What inspired you to create the Before You Blow Out the Candle series of anthologies?
M.L.: My initial idea was to publish The Ghosts of St. James’ Cemetery, but I didn’t have enough stories completed to fill a whole book—so I asked the authors I’ve become friends with on Facebook if they would like to contribute a creepy conte for a alternative collection.
The title of the collection is inspired by Frederick Smallfield’s Preparing For a Nightmare—which shows a young man reading The Night-Side of Nature by Catherine Crowe (who was once found wandering the streets of Edinburgh naked— convinced that spirits had rendered her invisible). To the right of the young man, a candle is burning bright—as I stared into its flame, the title Before You Blow Out the Candle materialised in my mind’s eye.
8. H.D. : How do you go about choosing which stories to include?
M.L.: I have great faith in the writers: A.P. Sessler—Lemuel Caleb Gonzalez—David Little—Brad C. Hodson—Jim Moon—Trevor Kennedy—Vince Stadon—Adrian Cole. Right from the get-go, I was supremely confident that they would come up with the goods, so there were never any hard choices to be made—their stories were always going to be included.
9. H.D.: What are some of your all-time favorite anthologies by other editors?
M.L.: Herbert van Thal’s Pan Book of Horror Stories (I prefer the writers he picked—such as Martin Waddell—whose contributions tilt towards humorous horror, rather than the writers—such as Alex White—whose contributions could be considered as snuff stories.)
The Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories #9 to 20—primarily because the stories were chosen and edited by R. Chetwynd-Hayes.
10. H.D. : You’re a writer as well as an editor. What are some of your favorites among your own stories?
M.L.: I think Grave Drawings and A Hard Day’s Fright are the best examples of what I’m trying to achieve with my creative writing: to be a fantastical—supernatural—and humorous author.
11. H.D.: You’ve written a few stories featuring the ghostly inhabitants of the St. James Cemetery and their interactions with each other. What was the origin of this series of tales?
M.L.: Three reasons…
• I have family ties to the place—several of my Victorian and Edwardian ancestors are buried there.
• Just like the character, Penny Newton, my mother—who was also training to be a nurse—ate her sandwiches on the bench closest to the gloomy stone tunnel.
• I had a ghostly encounter there in 2014. I’m in the long-standing process of trying to get it off my quivering chest by adapting it into a short story; so I won’t go into details about it here and now—better to wait and let the finished piece of writing do the talking.
12. H.D. : Do you have any editorial tips for future prospective contributors?
M.L.: I love the correcting process, so don’t worry about all that side of it—just let your imagination flow in a nice and nasty way. It’s not too late to submit a story for the third book: Before You Blow Out the Candle at Christmas. So, if anyone reading this writes super-fast, or has a creepy Xmas story ready, please contact me on Facebook / Messenger.
13. H.D.: What horror creature or element in literature or films consistently gives you the chills?
M.L.: I felt like a brick thrown through a window when I saw the ending of Don’t Look Now for the first time… and, to be honest, it still throws me into death obsessed thoughts I’d rather not have. And the fear of home invasion has kept me up many a night… starting as far back as when I was five—after I saw The Fearless Vampire Killers for the first time and fell in love with Sarah Shagal (Sharon Tate)… only to be told of the real life horror that followed on Aug. 9th, ’69.
The Resurrection of R. Chetwynd-Hayes Facebook Group
Eldritch Art + www.facebook.com/groups/eldritchart/
Interview conducted by Matt Cowan