Author Connor Grant drops in to The Bandwagon to talk about his writing process.
Connor Grant is a 23 year old writer based in the north of England, specialising in Lovecraftian Horror, Thrillers, and Crime fiction. When not writing, he’ll be found reading, or at the least pretending to. Connor studied Journalism at Huddersfield University, before moving on to his real passion in life – writing.
What inspired you to start writing?
One of the main things, really, was that I’ve just always loved reading. There’s something timeless about getting a book, a good one, and spending decent time reading it. Growing up, I read alot of the classics; The Narnia Books, things like that. As I grew up, I got more into science fiction, fantasy. I remember seeing the Lord of the Rings books as a child in the school library, and thinking what huge hulking things they were. It was a little over my level, so I waited.
As I hit secondary school I started to get more into horror writing, Stephen King, some of Gaiman’s stuff. I was also kinda fascinated by things like the movie Platoon. I ended up writing as part of my GCSE a 64 page novella titled “The Changing Man,” which dealt with things such as PTSD at the like. I got an A* on it, so that was pretty reinforcing that I must’ve been doing something right.
Then I hit college, and a friend of mine by the name of Aiden gave me a copy of “At The Mountains of Madness” by H.P. Lovecraft. It was unlike anything I’d read before – it was sort of mythological, and contained elements of horror and science fiction that I loved but felt hadn’t been explored properly. Things like the Ancient Astronaut Theory, and how humanity started. It was just fascinating to read.
After that, I kinda started metabolising the idea of my e-book “The Visitor”, which came out in around about February time. I started getting a little more momentum, think about what worked and what didn’t in that book. I then kind of wrote Years of The Worm as a semi-autobiographical piece, and as a kind of back-up placed it in the same world as The Visitor. It was an idea just to add a little more depth, but I’m quickly finding that writing stuff in a shared universe is actually pretty fun and a little daunting – you put ideas and seeds and references and try not to step on the other books toes. It’s fun.
Back on topic, it’s those early books, definitely; and also my friend Aiden and that old beaten up book he gave me once on the walk to the bus station after College.
What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process?
I wish I’d known a few things – especially because I was shooting for a self publishing angle. I’m considered shopping around, looking for an agent, but to test the waters, I settled on going on the old fashioned route.
Self publishing is a strange beast – there are things that you go into it expecting, sure, but there’s things in there that I certainly wasn’t aware of. I have a marketing and PR background, but even so, getting a name out there for yourself can be very, very challenging.
One thing that I wish I’d known before was formatting. That’s a big, big part of self publishing – you can slave away at a 85+k book, and then find that due to the requirements size wise for your print edition, it can end up taking just as long to format. That’s a big one. That applies with things like covers, too – I try and keep mine relatively simple, just because I think there’s an old kind of qaulity to it. Even then, there’s things like the format and size of your cover which you need to consider. They seem obvious after the fact, but beforehand it can be easy to not even register them. Spine size relative to page length, color of paper, finish on the cover – a great many heads to that particular thing.
Which authors do you look to for inspiration?
I mentioned H.P Lovecraft earlier, and I think he’s a good one. His views outside of his work are a little sketchy, but his actual creativity is envious. I also quite like a chap by the name of Thomas Ligotti – he writes philosophical horror, and it can be a very heavy thing to read. There’s something in the way he can construct a sentence, though, that reminds me of a more refined, arguably better Poe.
I quite like Stephen King, too, because he’s a very honest writer. His books can be a little daunting to read; I think The Stand was some monolithian thing that took me a couple years on and off to read. Neil Gaiman is a good choice – mostly because there’s a quality to his writing that makes it seem almost like magical realism. He’s just a great guy.
One guy who I also like is a Graphic Novel Writer called Garth Ennis. He’s a big one for me at the moment. There’s a few people who don’t consider Graphic Novels and comics literature, but I think that’s silly. Ennis, for example, can take some horrible situations, and with his dialogue, craft a strange kind of heartfelt beauty to them. His series Preacher, for instance. There’s a line in that near the end which goes something like “Now take my hand and I’ll love you till the stars go out.” It’s a horror franchise, kind of, but there’s lines like that which can take you back and make you feel something. End of the day, that’s what books are supposed to do, doesn’t really matter in terms of format.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep at it, and if people start to scrutinize or belittle what you’re doing, do it more. It can be hard starting out – there’s the conversation when you meet people of “what do you do?” and you say “a writer” with as much dignity as you can, but there’s the sense that they might not consider that a real job. Screw them, do it more.
Another thing I’d advise is, if you’re struggling, ask yourself a “what if” question to get the ball rolling. That’s the best, most honest thing you can do – two juxtaposing ideas, no matter how farfetched, and make it work.
Tell us more about your book.
I have two currently, a third one on the way. That sounds like I’m talking about kids a little. Weird.
Anyway, the first one is called The Visitor, and deals with a small town in Oregon called Point Truth where a local girl was killed. A man comes out of nowhere with a promise to the grieving mother that he not only knows who killed her daughter, but that he can get them for her. It’s kind of about small town paranoia, and also government exploitation and the treatment of PTSD. A little heavy, sure, but fun to write. I kinda tried to get that vibe of the old 80’s action movies like The Terminator and spin a little bit of Lovecraft in there.
My second is called Years of The Worm and is set up the road from my first one; and deals with a writer who goes back to his old home town in the Dakota’s to try and find out what happened to them as kids, after a friend from his youth turns up at a book signing and later goes out to commit murder, then commit suicide. It’s a dark thing, but I put a lot of myself into it. There’s some stuff about young love that hurt to write, but that’s why it works.
My next one (currently like ¾ of the way done) is called Eden Parish, and is sort of a strange mix of detective and noir, with supernatural horror, vampire fiction, and Lovecraftian influences. It’s a fun little thing, and has a pretty dense chunk of lore to it that was fun to write. I can’t say too much, but if you like books with moral ambiguity in a protagonist, then you’ll be fine.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading a few things – Bazaar of Bad Dreams by King, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and also a book called Uzamaki by manga artist Junji Ito. It’s pretty damn creepy, and his artwork is beautiful.
What’s next for you?
Well, I’m aiming to get Eden Parish done with the next month or so, then after that I have another book that I’m drafting called A Place to Bury Horses, which is kind of a vigilante book within a book. It’s a tricky thing, because I’m experimenting with formatting and seeing how it goes. After that, in May I’m gonna be selling Eden Parish,The Visitor and Years of The Worm at a horror convention in Sheffield.
After that, we’ll see how it goes, really. Got a feeling it’ll be a good year, all the same.