Next year I celebrate two decades as a professional writer (and by professional, I mean when I first started selling articles and reviews for money, making my living that way… I’d actually been writing these for nothing for a few smaller press mags since the early ‘90s). Not long after I began, I started selling my stories as well, and the best of these will be brought together in the collection Shadow Casting from SST publications. And it’s a funny thing, if you’re lucky enough to have been able to do something as weird and enjoyable as write for living for such a long time, you start looking back and thinking about past stories. Thinking about catching up with characters in these stories, perhaps a little down the line. This has been happening more and more to me of late, the evidence of which is in some of my current and imminent releases.
Now, I know I’ve written sequels before – most notably my Hooded Man tales – but when I signed on to do Arrowhead, back in 2007, neither I nor commissioning editor of Abaddon at the time, Jonathan Oliver, thought it was going to be anything other than a standalone Afterblight Chronicles book – or at least that’s my recollection of events. As each book sold well, another was commissioned, until we had a trilogy on our hands – finally gathered together in the Hooded Man omnibus. At time of writing, it’s been almost five years since Arrowland and a couple of years since Hooded Man, and – as you do – you start to think about what might have happened to Robert and his band in the time since we left them. Luckily, those kind of ponderings coincided with new Abaddon editor David Thomas Moore contacting me and asking if I’d like to write a brand new Arrowhead novella, which I had to think about for precisely no seconds before agreeing to. And so Flaming Arrow was born, which has just recently been released and you can buy here. I’m really grateful for it as well, because it gave me a chance to drop in on my characters almost a decade later and write about an older Hood and generation gap between him and his son.
The same was also true of my werewolf stories ‘Nightlife’ and ‘Half-Life’, which detailed the life of my character Neil when he’s in his twenties and then in his forties. Alchemy Press bringing out my collection Monsters – with a cover by Clive Barker and introduction by Nicholas Vince – gave me a chance to finish off what I’ve called my ‘Life Cycle’ of stories. But it also gave me a chance to write about a much older Neil, trying to get through to a younger werewolf and stop him from making the same mistakes he’s made himself. You can read the results in the collection when it launches at Edge-Lit in July, but the tale did at least give me a chance to comment on the differences between generations in a more specific and recognisable way, and one I’ve experienced myself to some extent being a Dad.
Of course, some stories simply take up when the previous one left off, like my sequel to RED out soon, the novel Blood RED (another one from SST, with Dave McKean cover art and an Alison Littlewood intro) which picks up barely an hour after events in the first book. But they’re sequels all the same, fuelled by time passing and thinking more and more about adding to what the wonderful Stephen Volk once termed ‘Kane World’ (which makes me sound like Disney or something, I know). Yet it’s how mythologies and bodies of work are built up. This is something Steve knows all too well, having just penned a sequel of sorts to his awesome and award-winning Whitstable: Leytonstone.
So, that’s sequels. Why Monsterama? Well, I’ve already mentioned Monsters coming out, which has every conceivable kind of monster from vampires to zombies, from demons to witches. Fans of RED will know that this is a modern horror reworking of Little Red Riding Hood, which contains one of the most famous monsters of all time. But also Flaming Arrow, actually, features its own set of monsters – humans that have been experimented upon, and fashioned into an army that threatens Robert Stokes and his men. I do so like killing two birds with one stone… or one journal entry in this case, seeing as I do so few.
I’ll try and remedy that, though, in the months to come – as there are more books still ahead this year, and events where things are happening (as well as Edge, I’m a Guest at both the third SFSF Social in June which you can read about here and Horror Con UK in July, which you can find details about here). In the meantime, stay safe and be kind to each other people.
Catch you on the other side!