RAVELLO MAGAZINE INTERVIEW (ENGLISH VERSION)

Posted: June 9, 2014 in Uncategorized
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This is the English version of my interview with Emilia Filicamo for the Italian Ravello Magazine, located here in Italian http://www.ravellomagazine.com/alla-scoperta-dei-romanzi-horror-con-jim-goforth/

(Intro translation may be a little rusty, but you get the gist)

Jim Goforth, Australian author of horror novels and passionate about metal music, he agrees to tell me about his career and his passion for horror, is forced to delay a little ‘this appointment due to a sudden family problem, fortunately resolved. And it is just this little incident, this unexpected to do justice to one of his statements, when he says, in fact during the interview, that the only thing he is seriously fear that his family can take risks. Raised up by the resolution of the problem, Jim “surrender” to these pages with all the sincerity possible, telling of hopes and failures, his passion for music and for a fantasy world, what you find in his novels, mostly in shades bleak. Almost to a sort of “moral obligation” are forced to start from a question about the horror genre.

1) You write horror books. Why you chose this kind of genre? Just because it’s popular or there is something more?

I have a lifelong passion with horror in all its mediums and I have been writing in the genre for a very long time, though it is only relatively recently that I have had material published. When I first started writing, which was way back when I was very young, I was writing in all different genres, different stories about a wide array of things, but I gravitated towards the horror side of things. I have an affinity for all things dark and twisted, and there are so many directions one can take with horror, it is far from a narrow field to work in. In terms of genres there are certainly many that are far more popular than horror, but horror is what I love and it is where I do my best writing.

2) I read you began with music, how did you decide to go from music to the books and how did all begin?

Actually the writing came first, since of course I started to write very early in life. I had two books written by the time I was in my late teens, though the first one was more of a thing heavily influenced by all the horror writers I was reading at the time and a combination of ideas from all of them, not exactly at a point where I had my own style. When I realised I didn’t need to write like anybody else, but just to do my own thing and write what I wanted to, how I wanted to, my efforts were a lot better and much more natural. I attempted to get one of the early books I wrote published way back then, but this was well before the age of social media and the ease of communications we have today, so I didn’t exactly have a clue where to send manuscripts or who would be likely to have any interest in them.
After a lack of success getting anywhere with that, I didn’t write anything in the way of horror fiction for a very long time and instead pursued a variety of things in the extreme metal scenes. Eventually my wife and I created Black Belle Music, which was formed for the purpose of promoting, supporting and bringing attention to universal extreme metal scenes, primarily underground, unsigned or unknown acts, though along with a bunch of bigger recognisable names as well. This was done in a number of ways, reviews, interviews, articles, CD distro and similar things on our website, while we also branched out into putting on gigs and shows, becoming most known for annual all day events featuring ten or more bands.
Ultimately, after hundreds and hundreds of reviews for bands all over the world, multiple shows for local (Australian) bands and assorted other things, we put Black Belle on indefinite hiatus, or more to the point closed it down.
From then, I happened to reread an unfinished story I’d started to write years prior to beginning the metal promotions and felt the burning desire to complete it. Reading, and consequently finishing this, reignited my passion for writing horror and after that I have never looked back.
Though I seem to have been writing horror for a long time, it is really only recently that things have taken off for me, and in terms of having material published this year has been the greatest. My debut novel Plebs came out in January, I have a couple of stories in anthologies this year, a collaborative novel with five other authors will be out in a couple of months and I currently have a collection of my own short stories/novellas in with my publishers.

3) Metallic music and horror books seem to be related intimately, I find that a metallic piece is maybe perfect to be in a particular frightening scene. What represents for you this kind of music?

One of my favourite things to make reference to in interviews, and one I will make mention of here in this one, is that to me, horror and metal music go hand in hand. A lot of my stories and pieces make reference to metal bands, artists or songs, some are heavily inspired by a variety of metal related things, in particular of the more extreme genres such as black and death metal. I even have one specific story which is solely created from the lyrics of a song and all elements happening in it are drawn from names, occurrences etc. specific to that band responsible for the song.
A current novel I am in the midst of writing is strongly rooted in those aforementioned extreme metal scenes and takes place within them, though as one of my first ventures into writing about zombies and the undead, it is of course very much a horror novel.
I often write to a soundtrack of music which more often than not is some form of metal. There is a vast amount of different styles, genres and types of heavy metal, just like there is with horror, so different things playing in the background as I write serve to cater to separate parts of stories, or as you pointed out, to cultivate a certain aura or mood.
As I have an immense love for metal music and a background in working with it, and in its assortment of scenes, it is natural for me to make prolific use of it in writing horror and tying the two together, and there is a huge amount of inspiration and subject matter within metal to draw upon and create some thoroughly dark and frightening pieces of work.

4) You love to write since you was very Young, but who was your first fan, the first person to tell you that you were born to write?

My parents of course. Also teachers at school when I was young would be pointing out the fact that writing was a thing I was good at. I was a kid who always managed to write spooky, creepy tales with my own created monsters and other dark subject matter and often these would be stories read out to the other kids in class.

5) Who are your models in writing? I mean horror Writers, even from the past

Richard Laymon is my chief inspiration and my number one influence. Prior to discovering his work I voraciously read authors like Graham Masterton, old Dean Koontz, Clive Barker and many others like this, and even wrote things which I’d say were a little too influenced by what they wrote. After finding Laymon and becoming wholly enamoured with his work and his style of writing, I honed and altered the way I wrote to create more of my own style than something adopted from another.

6) I suppose you met a lot of people during your career, who left on you a great impression?

I have met quite a few people, but most of them are in the various extreme metal scenes rather than the horror scene. Because I am based in Australia which is a long way away from bigger horror scenes such as the United States and so forth where a vast majority of the big conventions take place, opportunities to meet and chat with legendary folk in the genre are minimal. I’ve never been a person to be star struck in any capacity, people are all just people to me, regardless of what career path they’ve taken, or what they do, what celebrity status or anything of that nature, so mostly, leaving any impression on me would be irrelevant.

7) Many horror or fantasy books become movies. Have you ever tried this path? I mean, did you ever think to change a book of yours into a screenplay and then into a movie?

I have never tried my hand at any sort of screenplay writing, though I’ve often entertained ideas of attempting to write scripts. Maybe some time down the track I will have a go at adapting some of my works to screenplays to pitch as movie ideas, or perhaps somebody else may become interested in doing so. Naturally, though I don’t write for my books to be considered as movies, sometimes reading the finished product I think, damn if this was a movie it would definitely be something I would love to watch. Several of the reviews that have been posted on Amazon, Goodreads and various places about Plebs have made reference to the book being a grindhouse horror with a cinematic quality, so who knows, possibly one day it will be adapted as a movie. Of course if that were ever to happen I would want to be heavily involved to ensure the integrity of the story was preserved, for so many wonderful books remade into movies have not been able to transfer the magic of the written word to screen and I would rather no movie be made rather than something which cannot remain faithful to the work it is drawing from.

8) If you never decided to write horrors, which kind of genre would you love to write?

I haven’t ever considered anything beyond horror at this point in time because horror is where I want to be, it is what I love to write. In the past I have dabbled with all manner of different genres such as thrillers, fantasy, adventure, even western styled stuff, but ultimately horror has always been my favourite and where I see myself staying for a very long time. Since it’s only relatively recently that I’ve begun to have things published there are loads and loads of horror stories I have left to write and with a nicely twisted and dark restless imagination, the ideas will keep coming.

9) The book you love the most and sometimes you tell to yourself ” I would have written that book!”

Technically there are no books that I wished I had written or would liked to have written, but I do have many many favourites who have been extremely important to me along the way. First and foremost is virtually everything written by Richard Laymon, notable mentions being Darkness Tell Us (as the first book of his I ever read), Blood Games, Endless Night, Funland, One Rainy Night and Body Rides. Aside from works by Laymon, other important books to me which helped shaped my passion for the horror genre include Graham Masterton’s ‘Walkers’, Dean Koontz’s ‘Watchers’, Clive Barker’s ‘Cabal’, Thomas Page ‘The Spirit’, as well as most things written by Bentley Little just to name a handful. I have a long list of authors and books I grew up reading and still love them all. I was a voracious reader as a kid and while I would, and still will, read just about anything, I read as much horror as I could get my hands on.

10) Do you have Italian favourite authors in horror genre?

Because I don’t read or speak Italian I am not particularly familiar with any Italian authors in the horror genre. I do however have plenty of favourite Italian horror film directors including the likes of the genius Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and of course it would be remiss not to make mention of Ruggero Deodato.

11) Can you talk us about your last book or work?

Plebs was my last work, a full length novel that is 600 pages long. It has been described as such things as ‘grindhouse splatterpunk’ and ‘old school horror with a cinematic quality’, both flattering descriptive terms which I use to promote it with. When I first started to write it, the plan was for it to be just a short story or novella at most, yet the more I wrote, the more I enjoyed writing it, developing the characters and doing all kinds of things with them, so consequently it became a novel with plans for a follow up once I manage to clear some of the projects I’m currently working on.
At the heart of it, it is a horrific adventure story, a tale of revenge on the parts of several of the main characters which many of the grindhouse style movies and mediums it has been compared to have as a core element.
It revolves around three intoxicated young men, carefree harmless slackers, who decide after a night out celebrating a friend’s birthday that they want to carry on partying elsewhere. A random walk takes them way out of their usual realms and deep into the woods where they encounter a mysterious band of fugitive women. While these potentially dangerous ladies are quite open to the idea of continuing the party with the boys, it won’t come without a price and from that point on, things take a turn for the worse.
It isn’t a story for the faint of heart, it involves a whole lot of violence which is carried out by an assortment of factions, including the feral entities known as the Plebs who happen to share the woods in a very uneasy co-existence with the women, sex, blood, depravity and death, so plenty of visceral elements of horror.
There are a host of underlying themes to the book, it isn’t merely a violent splatterfest of murder and mayhem. Anybody can churn out material that is wholly blood and guts, but a story is always important and I’d like to think the storyline contained within Plebs is a strong one.
It certainly isn’t a book that everybody is going to be into, in fact it isn’t a book targeted for everyone, it is a story I wanted to write and I imagine some people are not going to find it to their liking. So far though, all feedback, reviews and word from those who have read it has been pretty spectacular so I’m extremely happy with how it is going. I’d always planned on writing a follow up to it, even prior to completing it, but the great enthusiastic response I’ve received from it and the requests for a second book in the Plebs saga to come, ensures that there will be at least one more. I also have some plans for some projects, potentially shorter stories or novella length pieces, involving side stories related to some of the characters from Plebs.

12) Is there between all the ones you wrote, a book you prefer the most, a kind of ” favourite child?”

Considering Plebs is my debut novel, it is currently my favourite child, though irrespective of that, it would probably still be one work I am really proud of. I do have other completed works which have yet to be published, including of course that one I wrote many many years ago, but Plebs still stands as a favourite in comparison to those. I have multiple novels in the works at the moment which I am immensely enjoying writing, so once they are complete we shall see if Plebs remains my ‘favourite brainchild’.

13) Is there a way, a kind of formula to write a good horror? And which are the mistakes to avoid writing a book of horror?

No, I don’t believe there is any formula to writing horror and I certainly don’t follow any formula at all. When people start to place rules or stipulations on what or what not should be involved in writing horror, that’s when it becomes too rigid, too by the numbers. There should be no restraints on what can be written in terms of horror, and while no doubt there are writers who do tend to use a formulaic approach in their writing because they have discovered that is what works for them, I am not one who is going to follow anything specific in the way I write. As for what mistakes to avoid, I’m not entirely sure that there are any particular mistakes, it is all a matter of learning what does and doesn’t work. There are a whole host of things in the way of subject matter or topics used in horror which some may feel have been overdone or too frequently written about, but in saying that, if a writer still feels like exploring these often travelled paths, then it is up to them to find a new approach or angle, a different spin on it that will make it interesting again.
I wouldn’t suggest to anybody that there are mistakes or topics to avoid, that’s for them to discover, but going into the thought of writing horror with a preconceived notion that they should be actively thinking there are things they need to avoid is going to have their creativity stifled and that goes back to the formula notion. In that event people will start writing to a specific formula which makes things mundane and ordinary, and horror needs to remain fresh and vibrant.

14) How do you understand if a horror book is a good one or is totally awful?

That all depends on individual taste, opinions and views on what they consider to be good or abysmal. It is the same as individuals choice in music, what movies they like to enjoy, even the types of food that may be their favourite. It is all a matter of personal choice, and what one person absolutely loves isn’t necessarily going to be viewed the same by another. I know the type of things that I love to read and to write, but I don’t expect that every single person is going to share the same tastes and opinions as me, and that also applies to the music I love and all the other things mentioned.
Even if a particular horror book for example, might be universally maligned or denigrated as being something that is completely terrible, that doesn’t essentially mean that everybody is going to hate it, that just indicates that the majority aren’t overly fond of it. There are still likely to be some fans of it out there, if for no other reason than the fact that the community as a whole doesn’t like it.
Consequently, the measure of whether a book is good or awful is entirely up to the opinion of each person who reads it.

15) When you write, you are in the arms of fear and of suspense. But what does really scare Jim?

In all honesty, not a whole bunch scares Jim. Perhaps only the notion of being away from my family would be the only thing as my wife and two little children are the most important things in my world. Other than that I’m not easily frightened by much and have no immediate fears that I can think of. I write scary and horrific stuff so there isn’t too much outside what I can conjure up in my mind that can compare.

Thank you Jim!!!

Emilia

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Comments
  1. EMILIA FILOCAMO says:

    Grande Jim! It has been a pleasure talking with you!

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