Ladies and gentlesouls, it is with great pleasure that I get to introduce to the ‘verse of Jack…a Brit for all occasions, Mr. Ricky Fleet.
Okay, maybe not all occasions…but certainly those of the undead type. Why? Because Mr. Fleet is a fellow writer of the apocalyptic fantastique. And thus, without further ado, let’s get to the getting.
JW: Welcome, welcome, welcome. I have to say that, upon reading the description of your upcoming novel, Hellspawn, I was thrilled to see a fellow author who gets it. What is it that you get? Language. Without our chosen genre, it seems that language so very often takes a back seat to a sort of “trimming the fat” action. But, truth be told, we are writers. Words are our weapons…and we must use them with grace and artistry. Otherwise…we are just storytellers (not to lambast the storyteller—as they are very important within our universe). It’s just that the true art of writing seems to have been relegated only to select genres, none of which are horror.
So when I find a kindred spirit in words, it’s reassuring to me that the art has not, nor will not perish at the hand of pedestrian prose.
Such horror that would be.
RF: Thank you for having me Jack.
I have to agree with you on the pitfalls that any ‘action’ genre can create, be it horror, thriller or other variety. The temptation to default to simply expressing, blow by blow, the events of any scene without embellishment is quite strong. With the right words, we can create a visceral assault on the senses in a scene. Ignoring the visual nature of writing, I try to bring the olfactory, auditory and other senses to the table. When being attacked by a zombie, it’s not good enough to just have the fear of being bitten. It’s very one dimensional. When you can bring in the smell; how the flesh has entered the putrefaction stage, you can imagine the reader wrinkling their nose.
The tactile sense and how it would feel trying to fend off an attack. The cold, clammy feel. The suppurating skin as you desperately push it away. The guttural groan as the monster gets excited at the thought of a warm, screaming meal. All of these aspects can come together to give a deeper, more engaging read.
I have been lucky in reading some great authors: King, Koontz, Laymon, Lumley to name a few. Their rich writing was capable of drawing me into the world in a way that other authors couldn’t. The characters became as real as anyone stood in front of me, and I found myself laughing with them, crying with them and feeling their sense of loss. If I wanted to read about X doing this to Y who then retaliated by doing something to X, I would read newspapers.
I had some feedback in the beginning that my descriptive style was slowing the action and enjoyment of the reader. As with everything in life; you can’t please everyone. I am heartened to see that there are people that appreciate my style.
JW: Exactly…and so many writers (especially those new to the craft) forget that writing has a rhythm. It’s imperative that every writer find their voice and know what kind of rhythm that voice has. Once you know your rhythm, you can then break it up. Say, for example, you have a very jazzy rhythm (like David Mamet). You can bring about change in your style simply by approaching a charcter with, say, a prog rock rhythm or classical rhythm.
A lot of writers speak of Purple Prose. The standard definition of this would be when a writer spends too much time describing and too little time sending the action of the story forward. There is definiately a happy medium there…but it doesn’t mean, in any shape or form, that you have to avoid waxing poetic. I always tend to think of my work as more poetry than prose…it’s my style and I will take it to my grave.
RF: I have to confess that my understanding of the rules and structure of writing were alien to me at the beginning. If you had spoken to me of purple prose I would have smiled politely and nodded, totally oblivious. My writing career began about 6 months ago and I was lucky that I had such great people with me from the start. I wanted to astonish the reader with my descriptions and characters, but I found I would get carried away and ramble, bringing in deep backstories that tripped the flow. The beta readers were able to curb my enthusiasm in and keep me on track with the meat of the story, so to speak. I can’t explain how hard it was to break the habit of going off on a tangent, but with book 2 finished and book 3 started I have been sober for over 3 months now.
I think as time goes on and my skill grows, I will be able to do as you do; direct the style one way or another. For now, being able to maintain a solid storyline that readers enjoy is a good start to my knowledge and understanding of the art of writing. If I can develop my style to be more poetic, to be able to put smooth silk in the form of words on the page, that would be great. For now, I just have people getting munched.
JW: First off…rules were made to be broken. Period. To force yourself into the confines of rules created by “dead white guys” is doing you and your art a disservice. I break rules all the time. It does, however, help that I understand the rules in the first place (that allows me to have more success when breaking them because I understand what the “breaking” actually does).
But I have a very simple process that helps keep my stories on track. As I write, I imagine the story is unfolding like a movie. If that movie within my mind becomes boring to “watch”, I’ve gone off track. This technique allows me to write first drafts that are tight and need very little beyond my editor cleaning up the grammer and catching the accasional goofs (thank you Sara Marian). Yes, I realize this might be counter to what literature is (especially considering that historically the “book was better than the movie”), but readers have evolved over the years and they now want stories that are visceral and as immediate as film.
RF: Absolutely. Let me rephrase; the guidelines for writing. As with anything that requires artistic flair, be it writing, music, art, the boundaries change. Otherwise who would have thought to market a car alarm, mixed with screeching, and calling it dubstep.
It is an exciting time to be a writer, with more and more people able to bypass the traditional avenues of publishing to get their ideas to the public. I never knew there was an ‘extreme horror’ genre, for instance. The most deranged violence (not necessarily a bad thing as long as it’s on paper) to the most beautifully imagined fantasy worlds are now available at the click of a button. The chance to satisfy our desire for escapism from the obnoxious world we currently inhabit, is one of the only things to keep me sane.
Ha! It’s fantastic to hear the way I write described so well. I do the same when I am typing; I become an observer of the events. I can pause, rewind, fast forward and, best of all, change what doesn’t work. There is something magical about being in the world with your characters, feeling their angst, their hope or despair as events unfold around them. You can look around, seeing the sunset, the light reflected on the clouds as it fades from incandescent yellow, to orange, to darkening magenta. You can feel the chill of the wind as it caresses your skin or the heat of a fire as it dances in the hearth.
About Rick Fleet
Ricky Fleet has been a lifelong horror fan ever since he was (almost) old enough to watch the original Romero trilogy. Those shambling horrors gave birth to an insatiable appetite that has yet to be sated.
After spending years working in the plumbing trade, he then decided to start teaching, passing on his knowledge to the next generation of engineers.
Born and raised in the UK, cups of tea are a non-negotiable staple of the English life and serve as brain fuel for his first love, writing.
Today he shares his time between his real life students, and the students of the zombie apocalypse in his first series: Hellspawn. At least the fictional students do as they’re told. Most of the time anyway.