Monday, March 5, 2012

A Conversation with G.R. Yeates about Shapes in the Mist

G.R. Yeates is one of my favorite writers, and reading his work has brought me back to the horror genre after many years away. Shapes in the Mist, his second novel, is quite scary and dark. It is set during the first world war, and if that wasn't unusual enough, it is in London during the Zeppelin air raids. He does an excellent job of portraying the terror that was felt by the populace during this horrific time in history, and there is a lot of history woven into what is at it's core a supernatural story. There is a different kind of monster set loose in London, one that is recreating the murders of Jack the Ripper. I highly recommend this tightly edited, page turning work.

I give it five cocktails

And now for something a little different. G.R. Yeates had a little chat about Shapes in the Mist with myself and a friend of mine. Here is an edited version of that conversation; I took out any plot spoilers. This conversation was not originally meant to be part of any blog, but he was kind enough to let me share it with you here. I hope you enjoy! 

Me: So Greg, what made you decide to write about vampires and why ones based on Hindu mythology?

Greg:  The first book, The Eyes of the Dead, I started working on in 2006 when vampires were not the big deal they are now. I wanted a challenge as I have never been particularly over-awed by vampires. Also, I wanted to ensure they were distinctive and some research yielded the Vetala from Hindu mythology. The only other Western horror writer I'm aware of using vampires from Asia is Bentley Little who I'm a great admirer of so I knew I'd be in good company there.

Dianne: Why did you choose the time period you did?

Greg:  I've had an interest in WWI since I was a teenager and read Wilfred Owen's poetry at school. It seemed like a good setting for a bleak horror story and also it had not been used overmuch in horror fiction - it's only this last year or so that I've read two short horror stories that are set in that period; 'Minos or Rhadamanthus' by Reggie Oliver and 'A Question of Obeying Orders' by Mark Samuels.

Me:  I mean do you set out to write something lovecraftian or is that what just comes out?

Greg:  I think it just comes out that way. Lovecraft is a writer I'm feeling more and more kinship with as I get older and the cosmic perspective for horror fiction appeals to me. I will be writing some Cthulhu Mythos fiction later this year - something I avoided for a long time because I was concerned to develop my own literary voice before diving into another writer's creative universe.

Me: yeah I can see where that can get tricky

Greg: Also, I think all writers are influenced by their peers and predecessors - it's how you put your influences together and let them speak through that creates your voice and who you are as an artist.

Dianne:  Can I ask what is your plan for the next Vetala Cylce?

Greg: Well, the third book comes out in late Feb/early March. I have plans for a further trilogy set during World War Two followed by yet another during Vietnam and a final three that bring the story up to the present day in Afghanistan.

Dianne: Why the military theme? I like your themes because there is more going on than just fighting and politics.

Greg: horror and weird fiction work best for me when dealing with isolated protagnists and using soldiers is one way of doing that. Despite the camaraderie, you are still very alone in that position particularly if you kill and have to come to terms with that or even when you come home and have all these experiences you're unable to share with close family and friends who did not go through the same.

Dianne: did like how the vampires sort of took on the persona Jack the Ripper. Was there a reason why? For me, I like it because it made it more understanding for me in that I already had some knowledge of who Jack the Ripper was.

Greg:  The basis of that was my own realisation that Jack the Ripper was unique as a human being who has become a monster on a par with the vampire, werewolf, zombie etc, and this is because he was never caught, is faceless and thus a figure of nightmare. A lot of Ripper fiction deals with identifying who Jack was but I wanted to explore what he represents as a nightmare by having the Vetala recreate him using the psychological spoor left behind in Whitechapel by the murders. On a sidenote, I went on a Ripper walking tour in london and there are still some very atmospheric parts of Whitechapel surviving to this day. You get a tinge of what it was like back then even though Whitechapel now stands in the shadow of The Square Mile - London's central business district.

Me:  how much damage did the zeppelin air raids do?

Greg: The zeppelin raids damage was primarily psychological. Their bombings, with a few exceptions, were often off-target or fell into the sea on the return trip.

Me:  so...I'm lazy and I have been wanting to know what exactly is the Hindu mythology of the vetala? how much of it did you take directly from there and what did you change to make fit with the world you created?

Greg: hey are reanimated corpses that delight in driving men insane, causing miscarriages and torturing their victims with riddles and games. Additionally they can also be bound to protect places such as villages and graveyards - which should be remembered for future books in ther series.

Me: well speaking of sex, it does play a big role in your book in the form of lots of abuse and rape, forced prostitution since people had to choose between that or being in the factories that would kill them...did you add the more loving relationship between jack and liz to give a break from all that, or was that just how it worked out in your head? I guess what I am trying to ask is how much do you plan out in advance and how much of the story develops as you go

Greg: It was initially written in my younger and more optimistic twenties which is why I gave the reader some relief there. Not sure that will be the case in the future ;-) Plans can change from day to day depending on how I am developing as a writer. I write the story out as I go but I don't use a synopsis as that was only a requirement when I was looking to be published the old-fashioned 

Me: just sit down and start writing until you come up with the whole story? initially I mean...I know it goes through lots of edits and changes as you go on

Greg:  It can do but my imagination does tend to go off at right angles so sometimes I do need to make notes as I go and exercise some control before I end up in space talking to sentient planets made of blancmange.

(final comment that I will include in here from Dianne- our conversation went along with some other chitchat as they often do, but I think this sums up Greg's work nicely) 

Dianne:  Reading back through some of the posts triggered my memory to say something, lol. Before I knew what a lovecraftian style of writing was or who Lovecraft was I always found your stories to be poetic. Not poems of love necessarily (which is what I always associated poems with) but just a beautiful flow of words put together to create a world/story and an atmosphere in which you can't help, as a reader, to immerse yourself in. Now I realize the style of writing that you have. So thank you for being my first introduction into the lovecraftian style of writing. I absolutely love it.

Greg:  And thank you for saying that is my style. That's made my day. . My literary relationship with Lovecraft is deepening every year so for someone to say that to me I take as the highest compliment.

Here is a link to a guest post that Yeates did on another great blog. It explains a bit about the novel that follows Shapes in the Mist, Hell's Teeth.

1 comment:

  1. Great read! I am not big into horror, but I really enjoyed the book!