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, 20 June 2011

Mark Morris interviewed by David McWilliam

Mark Morris became a full-time writer in 1988 on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, and a year later saw the release of his first novel, Toady. He has since published a further sixteen novels, among which are Stitch, The Immaculate, The Secret of Anatomy, Fiddleback, The Deluge and four books in the popular Doctor Who range. His short stories, novellas, articles and reviews have appeared in a wide variety of anthologies and magazines, and he is editor of the highly-acclaimed Cinema Macabre, a book of fifty horror movie essays by genre luminaries, for which he won the 2007 British Fantasy Award. His most recently published or forthcoming work includes a novella entitled It Sustains for Earthling Publications, a Torchwood novel entitled Bay of the Dead, several Doctor Who audios for Big Finish Productions, a follow-up volume to Cinema Macabre entitled Cinema Futura and a new short story collection, Long Shadows, Nightmare Light. For more information, visit Mark’s website at

DM: What were your formative influences as a horror reader?
MM: As a reader I guess I started almost exclusively with anthologies ― first the Armada Ghost and Monster and Sci-Fi collections, and then the annual Pan and Fontana Horror and Ghost story collections, which I devoured from the age of 11 or 12 onwards. Being a child of the 70s, James Herbert and Stephen King were the first horror novelists I read that I remember making a real impact on me ― to the extent that I would actively seek out their work. I wasn't that discerning in my teens, I have to say, and would basically just hoover up anything that looked scary. Because of that I read a lot of dross, along with the good stuff ― lots of ten-a-penny novels in the wake of Herbert's The Rats about killer crocodiles and killer spiders and suchlike, and also lots of stuff about haunted houses and demonic possession in the wake of The Exorcist, The Omen and The Amityville Horror.

DM: What was your first introduction to Clive Barker's work? How did it affect you and how did it alter your perceptions of what horror fiction is?
MM: I first came across the first three Sphere paperback volumes of The Books of Blood in a second-hand bookshop in Huddersfield around, I guess, 1985. I'd only discovered Ramsey Campbell's work a year or so earlier, thanks to reading Stephen King's Danse Macabre, and his skewed, disturbing vision of the world had absolutely blown me away. I suspect I was probably looking for more of Ramsey's books (some of them were hard to track down back then) and picked up Clive's stuff because the books looked interesting, and because the first volume contained an effusive introduction by Ramsey. I read the first three volumes one after the other over the next couple of weeks, and, as with Ramsey's stuff, was utterly blown away by Clive's audacious ideas and imagery, and by what seemed to me a totally original and fresh approach to many of the familiar tropes of horror fiction. Although I'd been reading horror stories since my teens, those couple of years (84-85) were like an epiphany to me. Suddenly, through reading Ramsey's and Clive's work, the boundaries of the genre seemed to expand, to become limitless. Horror, to me, suddenly became about far more than just scaring people; it became about subverting expectations, exploring the imagination, trying to push the parameters as far as they would go. I found it incredibly exciting and inspirational.

DM: In what ways do you consider yourself to be influenced by Clive's work as a writer of horror fiction?
MM: I think my first couple of novels, in particular, were hugely influenced by both Clive's and Ramsey's work. As I said above, it was all about exploring the limits of my imagination, pushing the boundaries as far as they would go. Both books are fairly traditional in structure, in that they're set in small communities which are besieged and corrupted by something from outside, something terrible and evil, but within that traditional structure are wildly surreal, phantasmagorical set-pieces.

DM: Were you attracted to Clive’s evocative body horror or to the huge, cosmic scope of his mythologies (or both)?
MM: I’d say probably both. It was the whole package. I loved Clive’s vision, but the sheer inventiveness of his body horror I also found startling. I love The Books of Blood and Clive’s first two novels – The Damnation Game and Weaveworld. I love the way he almost mythologises the body, sees flesh – and more particularly, what can be done to the flesh – as a way of gaining enlightenment or status or of transporting oneself to a different realm. With the Cenobites, for instance, there was a sense that by torturing their bodies (or having them tortured), and by embracing that pain, they had broken through some kind of barrier, achieved a state of ‘otherness’. Clive embraced that whole sado-masochistic idea of the exquisiteness and attraction of pain with a relish and an inventiveness I had never encountered before, and I found the audaciousness of that both original and thrilling.

DM: What do you think of the numerous adaptations of Clive's works in various different media?
MM: I'm only aware of the Hellraiser movies and the Nightbreed movie and some of the early comic book adaptations of his Books of Blood stories. I love the first Hellraiser movie, because it is wholly Clive’s vision, and captures that atmosphere of both beauty and degradation which go hand-in-hand in his work. After that the franchise (like so many before it) subscribes to the law of diminishing returns. Because of Clive’s involvement the second film has some interesting and wonderfully inventive ideas, but the later films, in which he is only minimally involved, lose that sense of particular menace and dread and reduce Pinhead and his cohorts to the roles of bog-standard (and sometimes wise-cracking) demonic entities.  As for other adaptations, I loved the novella, Cabal, again for its sheer inventiveness, and thought that the Nightbreed movie captured the imagery beautifully (in fact, I remember buying a book of all the different creature creations and poring over it, entranced by the ideas). Having said that, the actual film itself, I must admit, didn't make a huge impression on me – though perhaps I ought to re-watch it and re-assess it, as I haven’t seen it for many years. The comic books are fine ― and contain some great artwork from the likes of Les Edwards and John Bolton ― but I'm not really a comics fan, and so would always rather read the original stories.

DM: A lot of your writing over the past few years has been devoted to Torchwood and Doctor Who novels. Do you see this as a continuation of your earlier horror work or as a new direction? What are the appeals of writing within a pre-existing fictional world?
MM: In some ways Doctor Who felt a little bit like coming home to me. It was the first genre material – by which I mean book, movie or TV show – I remember being frightened by. I was four and saw a story called "The Abominable Snowmen" which contained robotic Yeti, which terrified me. Over the next few years I was also terrified by the Cybermen, the Autons and the Silurians… but in such a way that every week I was eager to go back for more. My love for Doctor Who has never diminished, but in my adolescence the programme also became a springboard to a plethora of other scary genre delights – the Pan and Fontana anthologies, as I’ve already mentioned, Hammer and Amicus movies, and other TV shows such as Brian Clemens’ Thriller and Nigel Kneale’s Beasts.

So yes, I see my Doctor Who and Torchwood work as very much a continuation of my earlier work. And in fact I intertwine the two – I certainly haven’t left the horror genre behind. It’s harder to get horror novels published these days, as the prose fiction side of the genre is in the doldrums and has been for a long time. But I have a novel out there doing the rounds at the moment, which is a strange combination of horror, crime and sf, a new horror novella due out soon from Earthling Publications in the US called It Sustains, and a new collection of my short horror fiction due out from PS Publishing in September called Long Shadows, Nightmare Light. Aside from this I have stories either recently out, or upcoming, in various anthologies – one of which, ‘Fallen Boys’, which appeared in the Solaris anthology, The End of the Line, having the rare distinction of being picked up both by Ellen Datlow for The Best Horror of the Year Vol 3 and Steve Jones for Best New Horror 22.

And also my Doctor Who and Torchwood work continues apace, and hopefully will continue to do so. But these aren’t the only ‘franchises’ I’ve worked within. I’ve also written a Hellboy novel and a Sherlock Holmes story, and I have one or two other projects connected to existing franchises in the pipeline. The appeal of working within these existing boundaries is the challenge of adding to the mythos (if you want to call it that) and of wrapping yourself so completely in the world that you know it inside out. With Doctor Who and Torchwood it’s easy – both shows are ingrained into my DNA – but with other things it’s a case of immersing myself in the fiction, getting a feel for the characters, the tone, the style, the kinds of stories they tell.

DM: Speaking of which, how did you come to be involved with the Hellbound Hearts anthology? What was it like to go back to one of your formative influences and work with his most famous creation?
MM: I’ve known Paul and Marie [Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan, editors of the volume] for a long time, and they simply approached me and asked if I’d be interested. As I say, I love the Hellraiser movies – particularly the first one – and the whole atmosphere of mystique which surrounds the Cenobites, that hellish culture of dread and pain. And what appealed particularly was that there was huge scope to do something new – to create a new Cenobite, a new set of rules, a new part of the mythos. It was great fun to do, to let my imagination fly, to push the boundaries, to be perhaps more graphic and out there than I would normally be in my fiction. Sometimes themed anthologies can seem a little restrictive, a little samey, but that wasn’t the case here. The parameters were so wide that I think most of the stories in the anthology can be seen both as Cenobite stories, but also as stand-alone stories in their own right.


  1. For some reason, this content posted in between some older content further down the blog (I think because I formatted it for publishing a while ago). Sorry for any confusion folks. Enjoy the interview, Glyn.

  2. Interesting interview; The Books Of Blood has a big impact on my writing too, although I've never liked his novel-length work quite as much. Ramsey Campbell is a big, big influence too - a truly astounding writer.


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