Praise for Twisted Tales Events

'In the past few years Twisted Tales has become a major force in the promotion and appreciation of horror fiction. As well as putting on author readings and signings at bookshops it has expanded into organising larger events, bringing authors and critics together for discussions of the field. I've been involved in quite a few of both and have found them hugely enjoyable and stimulating - I believe the audiences did as well. May Twisted Tales continue to grow and prosper! If you love the field, support them! I do.' - Ramsey Campbell

‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill

'Twisted Tales events are wonderful... a great way of promoting 21st century horror fiction. Supported by Waterstone's Liverpool One and really well organised, Twisted Tales brings together established names in the genre as well as new voices and of course readers. Looking forward to much more to come...' - Alison J. Littlewood

Monday, 9 May 2011

John Connolly interviewed by David McWilliam

John Connolly was born in Rialto, Dublin in 1968. After a few fairly dead-end jobs, he ended up studying English at Trinity College, Dublin, then took a masters in journalism at Dublin City University, graduating in 1993. For the next five years he worked as a freelance journalist for the Irish Times newspaper, to which he still contributes as regularly as he can. He began writing Every Dead Thing, the first novel in his bestselling Charlie Parker series, in 1993. It was published in 1999 and received nominations for the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel and went on to win the 2000 Shamus Award for Best First Private Eye Novel (he is the first author outside of the US to have won the award). For more information about his books and person, visit

DM: What attracted you to crime fiction?
JC: Well, like most writers I wrote what I read, and the two genres in which I had most immersed myself were supernatural fiction (albeit mainly 19th and early 20th century ghost stories) and mystery fiction. It never really struck me that I might write anything else, which now seems a little strange. Whatever I had to say, and whatever subjects I was interested in exploring - guilt, compassion, empathy, redemption - seemed to me to be best explored through the medium of mystery fiction. I kind of prefer the term 'mystery fiction' to 'crime fiction' because it offers a little more breadth, as well as accommodating more naturally those elements of the supernatural that the hardcore conservatives in the genre most despise.

DM: Who are your influences from both crime and horror?
JC: Well, in mystery it was James Lee Burke and Ross Macdonald, Burke for the beauty of his prose and his engagement with landscape, and Macdonald for the empathy that suffuses his work. Horror is a little more complicated - and, funnily enough, just as I prefer 'mystery' to 'crime', I also prefer 'supernatural fiction' to 'horror', which we can probably go into on the night - but M R James would be the big one for me. I don't think short supernatural fiction, which I think is ultimately the ideal form for the genre, ever got better than James. Apart from him, Stephen King is there, obviously, particularly the books preceding IT. We have a slight parting of the ways after IT, I think. 

DM: Do you see a correlation between the merging of crime and horror with the increasingly Gothic narratives about crime in the news media?
JC: No, not at all. The coverage of crime in newspapers has always been sensationalist, so any influence that such narratives had inserted themselves a long time ago. I think it's simply the case that a generation of writers has emerged that is uncomfortable with the artificial divides between genres, and is quite happy to create hybrids. I liken it to the musicians in the 1980s who created alt-country by combining elements of rock and country, thereby alarming the purists. The interesting stuff is always done at the margins, and then is absorbed into the mainstream. 

DM: Yes, the blurring of genres has been happening for quite some time now, but perhaps the purists are finally starting to lose the battle to those who want to experiment. Which current genre-splicing authors do you most admire from the past five years or so?
JC: I think Charlie Huston has been doing some interesting stuff, and I've always admired Joe Lansdale a lot. Oh, and Charles Stross: that's an interesting horror/ sci-fi hybrid he's engaged in.

DM: Is the tendency to label an offender 'evil' of necessity invoking supernatural horror in creating monsters in our midst?
JC: No.  I mean, that's a question upon which one could write an entire thesis, let alone offer a simple answer, but as human beings we constantly struggle with the nature and definition of evil. Among the professionals that I meet in the course of research, the subject of empathy is the one that arises most often, with evil being equated with an absence of empathy. Most human evil is just selfishness, and those who commit acts of evil borne out of it would reject the definition of themselves as evil. Where it becomes more complex is in those acts that are seemingly so far beyond the norm, either due to scale or sadism. When they occur, those with a system of religious or spiritual belief will wonder if there's a deeper wellspring from which the impetus for such acts is drawn. 

DM: Also, this is a very subjective area. After the trauma suffered by your recurring protagonist Charlie Parker at the start of Every Dead Thing, we are made to empathize with his view of the evil of criminality. Is this one of the strategies you consciously adopted to make Charlie unique?
JC: I'm not sure that I was deliberately adopting strategies, to be honest. It's odd, but it's only when you're asked questions like this that you begin formulating answers that might not otherwise have existed. It's one of the reasons why I rather like doing interviews: they force you to think about what you do in a way that's otherwise quite alien.  Most writers operate on instinct, and you only know that your instincts were right when readers like what you do. To try to answer the question though, Parker wasn't immediately likable in the first book: he was too damaged for that. I think that any identification readers have with him has been gradual, and incomplete. In the end, I'm not sure how interested I am in the 'evil of criminality'. I'm much more interested in the necessity of empathy, in that inability or unwillingness to allow others to suffer if you can do something to stop it. If Parker has a finest quality, then that's it: empathy. 

DM: What is the appeal of returning to the same protagonist for an ongoing series? Conversely, what are the limitations/frustrations?
JC: The appeal is in allowing a character to develop and age at a pace that's very close to real life. It also allows readers to invest emotionally in a character or characters over a period of years. Reader loyalty is to characters, not writers, I think. The danger is that you can move on to autopilot in the writing of a series and it won't really affect your sales, because readers will allow a writer a lot of leeway in terms of deteriorating quality if they can still have access to those characters. In other words, the challenge is to keep it fresh, and to keep yourself fresh. To do that, I've allowed Parker to change, and to age, and it's clear that there's a larger narrative taking place as a backdrop to the individual novels. They're a sequence, I guess, rather than a series.

DM: With The Gates and Hell's Bells you have started to write for young adults. How have you found the transition?
JC: Very easy, and hugely pleasurable. It allows me to be funny, to indulge the magpie aspect of my writing self (Look, a shiny, interesting thing!), and to write the kind of books that I would have loved as a young boy. On the other hand, I'm kind of starting at the bottom again: this isn't my readership, and I don't have the same following for them that I do for my adult books. I also earn a whole lot less for them! But it's worth it, and I view them as part of an ongoing fascination in my books with childhood. In that sense, they fit into the larger pattern of my novels.

DM: What are your writing plans for 2011 and beyond?
JC: Well, I have an essay in a book about Irish crime fiction, Down these Mean Streets, which comes out next month, and then the new Parker book, The Burning Soul, will be out in September. Now I just have to find some time to write!


  1. Thanks Lee, glad you enjoyed it. The third and final interview in the "Killer Inside You" series will be published tomorrow - a really good interview with Steve Mosby.


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