|Adam Nevill, photo by Tania Glyde|
DM: Who are your greatest influences, and why?
Outside of the genre weird tale, Cormac McCarthy, James Ellroy, James Joyce, Alan Warner, all dropped major pennies for me too, as did Nathaniel West, Bernard Malamud, Knut Hamsun and Dostoyevsky.
Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel and Francis Bacon have a guiding hand in my work too.
DM: All three of your novels to date feature a supernatural threat. What is the continuing appeal of the otherworldly in your writing? Do you ever see yourself writing a mundane horror novel, in which danger stems from the world we know?
There are few more liberating and terrifying and dreadful and awe inspiring experiences than realising you are close to something so immense that a glimpse is nearly too much, but a full revelation would be unbearable. Lovecraft’s wonder and awe. That’s the force I want underwriting my horror fiction. I am still overwhelmed in this way. Quite recently while lying on a couch, in the early hours of the morning, outside a farmhouse in Catalonia (where I was a guest writer), I looked at the largest and clearest night sky I had ever seen―just dense with stars and debris disintegrating as it hit the atmosphere―while a violent electrical storm set fire to trees in the forest around the farm (in which boars could also be heard crashing around from time to time). I’d watched the storm get closer as it came in from the sea, and it looked like the end of the world. It could have been for all I knew in an unfamiliar place while alone at night. And for a few minutes I realised with the fullest comprehension possible, that I was on a planet for a miniscule fragment of time in a universe so vast I couldn’t even understand it. I nearly screamed. For a few moments I completely lost my mind and expected to be yanked up and into the sky. Is there anything more significant than our crushing insignificance within this wondrous and utterly dreadful universe and its infinite possibilities? So why would you write about anything else? There is nothing bigger than the mystery of life and the unmapped vastness of existence. Much derided, but horror is the best vehicle, in my humble opinion, for exploring this.
[NO DRUGS WERE INVOLVED IN THE ACTUAL EXPERIENCE IN SPAIN BESIDE NICOTINE]
As for the second question: if not in physique, but in temperament, I’ve always shared an affinity with Conan, who only feared the supernatural and not men. But Lovecraft’s more atheistic sci fi horror really appeals to me, so I wouldn’t rule out that in the future. But I haven’t felt a significant enough pull yet, toward realism without mystical embellishments. I’ve tinkered but end up in the usual place. I once tried to write in a social realist style and before I knew it, the characters I attempted to draw from life were grotesque puppets and hyper real … perhaps I was on to something. But I think my reading of more social realist writers has taught me to prepare the ground for the uncanny in a believable world, which inevitably amplifies the supernatural when it appears. Or when, as M R James wrote, it “put out its head”.
DM: The atmospheres you evoke in your novels have a distinctly cinematic quality to them. Do you draw inspiration from horror films? If so, can you name some favourites and explain why they are important to you?
Often with films, it’s a scene, or an image, or an aesthetic that stays with me and can inspire me years later. For instance, in recent years, the last fifteen minutes of REC (2007) are as good as anything I have ever seen in a horror film; the photographs and the cult in Martyrs (2008) made me shiver; the interview with the Dachau survivor in The Nameless (1999) took me out of myself; the teeth in the rags in Blair Witch (1999), preceded by the cries of the victim in the dark of that wood, have never left me; the peep over the door in House of Blood (2011) made my head spin. Even before I’d seen the original Nosferatu (1922), as a child I’d seen a clip of Max Schreck walking up the stairs with those long fingers and probably came as close to paralysis through fear as I have ever done since. The clown under the bed in Poltergeist (1982), the jackals bones in the grave of Damien’s mother in The Omen (1976), the Venice of Don’t Look Now (1973) … these are a few of my favourite things. One day I will edit them all into one long loop and play them on a huge screen in a dark room, and listen to ‘A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh’ by Celtic Frost at full volume, and just wait for the men in white coats to be called … Perhaps I’m a supernatural terror junkie.
DM: There is a recurrent theme of ancient beings with whom we should not meddle via rituals and occult magics. Do you have a personal fascination with/fear of the arcane?
DM: With Apartment 16 and now your story 'Florrie' in Jonathan Oliver's House of Fear anthology, you have demonstrated your love for the haunted house subgenre. At Alt.Fiction you stated that we are currently enjoying something of a Renaissance of the haunted house story. Can you list some of your highlights from recent years, with a little explanation as to what you think they are adding to the subgenre?
It’s a popular subgenre because we’re all frightened in houses at one time or another, and particularly at night when we’re young. The haunted house story probably has more universal appeal than any other horror story because most of us spend at least half of our lives at home, in places older than us where others dwelled before us. Buildings are the places (and the older they are the better) where presences are probably more likely to be sensed. The places we live and visit are loaded with history and atmosphere and the curious things that get left behind.
At my current address, I still receive mail for an elderly woman who used to live here. I have a horrible feeling she either died here alone, or was transferred from here to a hospice. She may have lived here since the war, had children here, loved, lost, and suffered here – it’s an old place. Who has more right to the house now? I’d probably say she still does, or my family with her blessing. It’s probably the safest way to think of houses. That’s what the story ‘Florrie’ came from. Few would say we are not influenced by or affected by our environments, but who can really define what is influencing us, or at least watching us … just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there …
DM: What are your writing plans for the next 12 months?