Meghan: Hi, Austin. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?
A.S. Chambers: Well, I seem to have been majorly busy. I now have four Sam Spallucci novels out, with a fifth one on the way. 2019 also saw the publication of a collection of vampire short stories entitled Children of Cain and a stand-alone novella Songbird, both of which are set in the same universe. Also, at the end of 2018, my fourth short horror anthology, Mourning Has Broken, hit the shelves.
Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?
A.S. Chambers: What is this thing called “outside of writing”? I have to say that it more or less dominates my life. For me, it’s a nine to five thing. If it wasn’t, then life would just elbow its way in and stop anything from getting written down. I have to be ruthlessly strict with myself and make sure that I approach my writing in a determined, professional manner. Having said that, I do chill out in the evenings. This summer I’ve been doing up my garden, planting in lots of flowering plants. I also love to go walking. I live in Lancashire in the UK and there is just a mass of beautiful open countryside to go and enjoy.
Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?
A.S. Chambers: They don’t read it until it’s finished. I tend to very secretive and keep the work closely under wraps, probably in case I have a major change of mind and swerve plots off in a completely different path. Once it’s finished, I have no problem. They can read away.
Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
A.S. Chambers: I fail to see how writing could ever be a curse. You are creating something from within you, expressing it and putting it down on paper. This is a wondrous thing, an art form. It takes a long time to perfect and there can be times when you feel like screaming, but all beautiful things take a lot of work and effort to get right. They should never be rushed.
Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?
A.S. Chambers: I hold fast by the old motto, “Write about what you know.” I live in the beautiful city of Lancaster, so my urban fantasy books about the paranormal investigator Sam Spallucci are set here. I draw upon local places and even local people and events. My upbringing has also had a profound effect. Sam shares certain parts of my life: the death of his father, his education, his health. I know these things about him in an incredibly intimate way, so I can really use them to make him feel alive as a person.
Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?
A.S. Chambers: Oooooo… That’s a good question. I wouldn’t say it was strange, but I had to research the workings of the Victorian household and their use of servants for my vampire novella, Songbird. It was fascinating. The conditions that the young girls were forced to live and work in were deplorable. It was very close to a being a slave.
Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?
A.S. Chambers: If I had to choose one of the three, it would probably be the middle. I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest, per se, but certainly the most time consuming. I always know how my stories are going to start and finish. It is up to my characters to develop the journey between the two points. When I start a novel, I always have certain scenes in my head. I make sure that I write these down first, then I see how my characters would join the dots by moving between them. As that happens, the story develops.
Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?
A.S. Chambers: I always start with characters. My works are very much character-led. Sam is at the forefront and his friends and acquaintances around him. It’s normally a case of, “Well what shall we do to them this time?” Once I have certain pertinent scenes written, I then sketch a rough outline, highlighting flashpoints in the story which I will need to write next as they will be pivotal to plot and character development. After that, I reassess the outline and start ticking off “joining scenes” and develop other areas of the story which start to call out to me.
Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?
A.S. Chambers: Go with the flow. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. If I’m writing something and think to myself, “Nope. They would not be doing that,” then I stop and have a break. Go for a walk and see the world through the character’s eyes. I then come back, start the scene afresh and let the character lead me down the rabbit hole.
Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?
A.S. Chambers: I don’t need motivation. I need peace, quiet and nice coffee. I have never had problems making myself write. It is one of the greatest pleasures in my life. However, due to my health, I do get very fatigued, so I have to make sure that I don’t overdo it and I take regular breaks. This keeps the whole process fresh and enjoyable.
Meghan: Are you an avid reader?
A.S. Chambers: Oh yes. It’s kind of hard to move for books in my house. They cover almost every wall.
Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?
A.S. Chambers: I tend to read absolutely anything. I feel it’s really important to give anything a shot at least once because you don’t know whether you’ll like it if you just avoid it. Personally, I love Philip K Dick and Ray Bradbury. They both have a wonderfully quirky yet clean style which has me gripped from the moment I start reading. I also enjoy the Kathy Reichs Temperance Brennan books. They are good, character driven stories which I feel carry me along on an interesting ride as I try to solve the case before the heroine. However, two series which stand out the most for me are the Dexter books by Jeff Lindsay and the Barney Thomson novels by Douglas Lindsay (no relation to Jeff). Again, very character driven and thoroughly enjoyable. The Barney Thomson books, especially, stand out as they are so surreal at times due to the things that Douglas puts his characters through and you can’t help but laugh out loud.
Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?
A.S. Chambers: Absolutely depends on the movie. For example, The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson was adapted by Robert Carlyle and was an absolute hoot. They changed a considerable amount to bring it to life, but the feel and the atmosphere was exactly the same as the book. Likewise, Blade Runner. One of my favourite films, the original plot of the book is almost totally unrecognisable compared to the film, but the feel and the texture remain. However, you do get those productions where you think to yourself, “Dear Lord. Have you actually read the book?”
Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?
A.S. Chambers: Technically no (Sam was “killed” but went back and changed history), but I have killed off side characters who readers liked. At the end of the day, the stories need to have a real feel to them to engage people. One of the truths of life is that bad things can happen to nice people. You need a certain amount of peril.
Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?
A.S. Chambers: I wouldn’t say that I enjoy making them suffer, but like in the previous question, bad things can happen to nice people in real life, so fiction has to follow that too. We are the sum of our experiences, bad as well as good. The way that my characters react to suffering will ultimately determine what path they will choose. (Hmmm… I wonder if that could be some sort of spoiler?)
Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?
A.S. Chambers: A Bondage-loving Banshee. I had a twenty-something who had been cursed by her mate and every time she got “aroused” would scream and kill electronic devices in the surrounding area. Needless to say, she was fun to create.
Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?
A.S. Chambers: My short story Needs Must was published in a charity anthology some years back and one reviewer singled it out saying that “This is what horror should be.” Can’t really get much better than that. Then there was the person who read Casebook and grumbled that there was very little historical matter about Lancaster. I think he had probably been reading the wrong sort of book…
Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?
A.S. Chambers: They mean a hell of a lot. It’s great seeing them getting hyped about a new book or theorising about what’s going to happen. I’ve even had one come to an event cosplaying as the werewolf of Williamson Park. How cool is that? As an author, it’s so satisfying having people (many of whom I have never met) becoming totally invested in characters and storylines that I have created.
Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?
A.S. Chambers: Easy one. In the later Barney Thomson books, Douglas Lindsay created a hunchbacked, deaf barber’s assistant called Igor, whose job is just to sweep up in the barbershop. All the guy can say is, “Arf,” and yet everyone knows exactly what he means and, on top of this, he is a hit with the ladies. Pure genius and, in my opinion, the best character in all the books I have ever read.
Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?
A.S. Chambers: I couldn’t possibly write in a series that has already been established by another author. It would feel like I had broken into his house, crept into his bed room and stolen all his kinky underwear that he wears at those special kind of parties. So, I’ll just stick my own series about the down at heel paranormal investigator, Sam Spallucci.
Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?
A.S. Chambers: I am actually working on one at the moment. In the next Sam Spallucci book, Troubled Souls, Sam will get transported back to Victorian Morecambe where he will team up with a pair of detectives, Mulberry and Touchstone, who were created by the wonderful Peter Cakebread and first appeared in his book The Morecambe Medium. We are basically taking the story and writing it from our own characters’ points of view. Sam’s adventure will appear in Troubled Souls as The Case of the Time Travelling Tea Room and Peter’s will be published at a later date.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
A.S. Chambers: Like I’ve mentioned a few times already, I am currently working on Sam Spallucci: Troubled Souls. This is the fifth book in Sam’s series and will contain angels, haunted checkouts, Indian burial grounds and at least two serial killers. I also have my fifth short story anthology at the editing process and I am working on a Young Adult set of stories set in Sam’s universe.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?
A.S. Chambers: In the immortal word of Igor from the Barney Thomson books, “Arf!” I think that covers it all.
Lancaster’s master of the macabre is well known for marking his home town’s place on the horror map of the United Kingdom. His Sam Spallucci books, with their quirky blend of urban fantasy, film noir and dry humour, have gained a cult following over the last few years with fans journeying from around the country to see where reality meets an ever expanding universe of vampires, werewolves, angels and a plethora of other supernatural characters.
He has a dark and brooding website.
For the first time, A.S.Chambers collects the popular stories of the vampires that feature in the expanded universe of his paranormal investigator, Sam Spallucci. Follow Justice the Wild West gunslinger as he tries to come to terms with his newfound supernatural abilities and heavy weight of being a king in waiting. Then, when finally reunited with his father and newborn sister, tragedy strikes. Accompany Nightingale, the all too human regent, as she creates her first offspring before attempting to train him to shrug off his own human nature. Go out for a night on the tiles with party-loving Scorpion and Tigress, the mute blonde and the bouncy redhead, as they hunt down an unsuspecting victim, before travelling back in time to when their supernatural lives crashed into the peaceful solitude of a medieval craftsman.Also includes a new foreword by the author.
Follow a young Nightingale through the late Victorian era as she escapes from abject poverty to become the ruler of the secretive vampire society known to its members as the Children of Cain. She travels from begging on the streets to a life of servitude under a sadistic parish priest before being liberated under the light of the moon by the vampire king, Doulos. With her new father, she travels to the Wild West in search of her older sibling, only to be cast into a tale of tragedy and bloodshed.
Songbird – A Nightingale Story is set in the same universe as the Sam Spallucci series and is penned by Lancaster’s master of the macabre, A.S. Chambers.
Welcome to the world of Samuel C Spallucci; whiskey drinking, chain-smoking, trumpet playing, sci-fi watching investigator of the paranormal.
When we start a new job all we normally encounter is overbearing managers, jealous co-workers and a dodgy toilet that needs that certain wiggle to make it flush. During Sam’s first week, based in the small university city of Lancaster, he is abducted by a cult of Satanic actors, has to baby-sit a new-born vampire, investigates a teenage poltergeist and escapes the clutches of a werewolf that works in a local zoo.
Not your usual first week on a new job, but certainly one you will never forget.
Contains the stories:
The Case of the Satanic Suburban Sitcom
The Case of the Vexed Vampire
The Case of the Fastidious Phantom
The Case of the Paranoid Poltergeist
The Case of the Werewolf of Williamson Park