Deadbeat – Makes You Stronger (review here) proves that sometimes death is only the start of our problems. We recently chatted with author Guy Adams about his new novel, what inspired its dark moments and what lies ahead for the Deadbeat series.
AMANDA DYAR: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. To start off, can you tell us a little about yourself and your recent work as a writer?
GUY ADAMS: No problem at all, thanks for asking me!
I’m an English writer currently living in Spain because if you’re going to lock yourself in your office all day, it may as well be a nice outside world you’re not seeing.
I’ve done a real mixture of stuff over the years. I wrote a novel called THE WORLD HOUSE for Angry Robot books followed by a sequel RESTORATION. I’ve written three novels based on movies from Hammer Films and a couple of original Sherlock Holmes novels for Titan Books. This year is about three vastly different series: HEAVEN’S GATE, a trilogy of weird westerns being published by Solaris, THE CLOWN SERVICE, a horror/espionage series coming from Del Rey UK and this book, which launches the DEADBEAT series with Titan.
I also write comics. I’m the regular writer on THE ENGINE from Madefire, and I’m writer and co-creator of PHOENIX and the forthcoming GOLDTIGER (all with artist Jimmy Broxton). I’m also doing some work for 2000AD, which makes the ten-year-old me very excited indeed as it’s been a dream to do so ever since I clapped eyes on the thing in my local newsagents.
AMANDA: What can you tell us about Deadbeat – Makes You Stronger, and what did your process for writing the book entail?
GUY: It’s about Max Jackson and Tom Harris, two ex-actors who see something weird when they’re stumbling home after too much to drink. They see a coffin being carried out of a churchyard. The men carrying the coffin stumble, the coffin spills and the woman inside it falls out. She’s breathing. The men put her back in, load the coffin into a van and drive off. Max and Tom, having nothing better to do, decide to investigate. They will soon regret doing so.
I like to blur genres when writing, and the DEADBEAT books are no exception. There’s a pulp crime feel there but some humor as well, all rolled up with some fantastical, horror stuff. I don’t want to give away too much about them, but they’re very character-led, good fun I hope, with some sharp edges.
The process of writing was a little different for these books in that the first two in the series are based on two novellas I wrote many years ago. These novels are heavily re-written of course and vastly expanded, but I wasn’t creating something completely from scratch; I was returning to a world and set of characters I’ve lived with for a long time.
AMANDA: Who or what inspires your work and method of writing? Is there anyone in the horror world (writers, directors, actors and so forth) that you would like to meet and why?
GUY: I think writers are inspired by so many things it becomes hard to separate the sources out and pin them down. I can definitely cite comics as an influence in that I like to write stories that play at several genres, big, bold narratives that aren’t afraid to have fun. Most of my books have that quality; they’re rarely consistently grim in tone or slow-paced. Not that I have a problem with either in the right hands; it’s just not something I tend to do. That’s not to say they don’t contain their fair share of horror either. DEADBEAT has some very dark and violent moments; I just like to switch mood a lot. I think that’s what life’s like.
Music’s a big influence too. I watched a documentary about David Bowie recently where his songwriting process was explored, lifting tones, riffs and flavors from all over the place and building them together into something new. That’s certainly an attitude that resonates.
As for people in the horror word I’d like to meet… I’ve been lucky in that I’ve met a number of my writing heroes; I can even count some of them as friends, which is always strange and yet lovely. I would have loved to spend time with Peter Cushing or Vincent Price though…
AMANDA: Tell us about the characters Max and Tom. The duo used to be actors before starting their own nightclub, Deadbeat. You have also done some acting, so did your own experiences play into the development of your characters?
GUY: I first created Max and Tom about ten years ago. At that point I was an actor; writing was something I did for fun in the little spare time I had. Max was completely based on me, his attitude and his experiences.
The interesting thing is that as time has gone on, we’ve grown apart. When I went back to those original stories, I found I didn’t like him very much! Which either says a lot about the man I used to be or the man I have become.
Both Max and Tom have changed a lot now. In a novella you can afford to keep the characterization quite light; in a novel things need to be deeper. I’m a believer in having a light touch in that area anyway, let dialogue do a lot of the job for you rather than long exposition, but I think it’s fair to say that Max Jackson is carrying a lot more on his shoulders now than when I first wrote about him.
AMANDA: Why should horror fans pick up Deadbeat – Makes You Stronger?
GUY: Hopefully because they’ll find much to enjoy. At its heart there’s a great deal of darkness in the lives of Max and Tom. For all they try and black it out with drink and banter, they both share a life that would be impossible to bear for some. The plot also goes to some very scary places I think. They start off thinking they’re having fun, playing at being private investigators, but once the truth begins to surface, they realize they’re dealing with some exceptionally bad people.
AMANDA: Out of all the projects you have worked on in your writing and acting career–which would you say is the most memorable?
GUY: On the acting side I’m lucky as I had a lot of fun and played some great parts. I performed a dance routine as Hitler, I simulated sex with a woman dressed as a horse, I toured a comedy show for eighteen months performing material I’d written to tiny crowds of drunks, I’ve been Hemingway, Ebeneezer Scrooge, George Bernard Shaw and Sherlock Holmes. All parts that I was too young for. I had a whale of a time.
Writing is different. Honestly, I don’t enjoy the process very much. I like the ideas when they’re fresh, but the business of writing – and it is a business – not so much. I’m not a planner so there’s lots of self-doubt, panic and the perennial “This is all shit; what am I going to do?” moment round about the halfway mark.
Still, you remember the firsts. The phone call from Angry Robot confirming that they wanted to publish my first original novel, getting my first gig in comics from Liam Sharp, Matt Smith at 2000 AD asking me if I wanted to have a crack at a series for them.
Possibly the greatest single moment came with my most hated book, a biography of actor Leonard Rossiter. That book nearly killed me, it was the most awful experience and yet… I got to spend the afternoon with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, scriptwriting geniuses and two of the loveliest and cleverest men in the game.
AMANDA: Do you watch any horror movies or television shows while writing, and what are they?
GUY: I’m a huge fan of horror cinema, particularly British horror in the Sixties and Seventies and Italian Gialli, but my tastes are pretty diverse. I own something in the region of a couple of thousand movies and co-curate a blog looking at B-movies with fellow writer and idiot John Llewellyn Probert. It’s on a slight hiatus at the moment because life has been too full for a couple of months, but we’ll get back to it shortly.
TV shows? In terms of stuff that’s on the air now, I love “American Horror Story.” It’s big, mad and relishes what it’s doing. It’s a show that knows how to have real, Grand Guignol fun. People criticize it for borrowing from other sources, but I think that’s missing the point. It’s a great, simmering stew of horror that bubbles away deliciously for thirteen weeks a year.
AMANDA: What projects do you have in the works, and what does the future hold for the Deadbeat series?
GUY: Prose-wise I’m working on the next in the HEAVEN’S GATE series and the second DEADBEAT book, which is bigger in scope than the first; the threat is more fantastical, and the whole world of the series opens up a lot more. It contains monsters, the ghost of a cat that was run over and now likes to smash up cars and a shady character who deals in magic. Wildness aside, it also looks into Max and Tom’s past a bit more and finds some particularly unpleasant skeletons in Tom’s closet.
In comics I’m developing a series that I’m really hoping I can find a home for. I’m far too superstitious to tell you anything about it, but I suspect it will be called THE GOOD GUY unless I decide in five minutes time that it’s an awful title, which it may well be…
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