The english author Steve Mosby was born in Horsforth, Yorkshire, in 1976. Since he was a child writing has been his passion. After studying philosophy, the novel „The 50/50-Killer“ gave him the worldwide publicity as a high class thriller author. He lives and works in Leeds.
Obviously you really like horror stories. Have you ever thought about writing a love story?
Ha ha! Not specifically (I don’t think my publishers would be too impressed), but I always try to include some kind of romantic story within my books. And in a strange way, I think of some of the books as love stories – just very twisted ones. The 50/50 Killer, for example, is about love. The serial killer aspect enhances the underlying theme, but it’s basically a book about relationships and what people are prepared to do to save them. That’s what I tell myself anyway?
What is so fascinating about horror stories?
In general, I think readers have always enjoyed seeing characters in extreme circumstances, and it’s appealing to explore the darker side of life from a position of safety. For me, in my writing, horror is often a means to an end. I’m not a big fan of zombies and vampires, for example, but I’m always more interested in what those monsters represent than what they do to their victims. The same with ghosts. Although we all love a good scare, I’m more interested in the person or place being haunted and why. Horror stories are a good way to address social and psychological issues within an entertaining story.
Where do all the dark ideas come from? Where does your inspiration come from?
I always struggle to say – I had a happy childhood and am generally very light-hearted and relaxed. But that interest has always been there, as long as I can remember. The books themselves usually start with an image or an idea: something I want to explore. Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. Black Flowers began with a music video I saw years ago (Peter Gabriel’s Digging in the Dirt), that had mushrooms growing in the shape of a body. I was fascinated by the notion that a dead body might affect the environment in that way – a conscious sort of decay. And I’d been thinking about exploitation within crime fiction – using real crimes as a basis for stories, which then have their own effect on the world – and the novel slowly took shape from that.
What is your impression – are there people who fear you because of all the eerie ideas you describe in your books?
Ah, probably not. Honestly, in person, I’m the exact opposite from what you’d expect reading my books. It was strange when I met my wife, though. It was on an online dating site, and before we met in real life, I’d told her I was an author. Unfortunately, my book (The Third Person in the UK) was about a woman who gets murdered meeting a man on a dating site. Not a great impression! I was pretty lucky she agreed to meet me anyway…
What do you think about Stephen King – is he genius or lunatic?
Genius, definitely. I love many of his books, and admire his work ethic. He’s a hero of mine.
What did your family think about your idea of becoming a writer?
They were totally fine with it. I was brought up to love and treasure books, and began writing my own stories at a really young age. I think they always knew that was what I wanted to do. It probably helped that I never relied on it though. I worked full-time in various jobs and then wrote early in the morning or late at night. Basically, the same as Neil in Black Flowers. When you’re starting out, you have to treat it as a hobby, although a serious one.
Please be honest: Are you able to make your living from writing?
Yes – I’m very lucky in that regard. I have The 50/50 Killer to thank for that, which sold to various countries and allowed me to write full-time. At the moment, I’ve been writing for a living for four years, and it’s a lovely existence. At the same time, it’s very precarious. You can’t guarantee it will continue. But for the moment, writing is my life.
What kind of personality and what attributes does a good writer need?
The practical things: you need perseverence, determination, and an ability to take criticism and learn. But the most important thing, I think, is a love of writing. I was writing for ten years before I finally had a novel published. If I was never published again, I would continue to write exactly the same. If you’re in the business to make money, you’re most likely going to be disappointed. Write because you really want to, or really need to, and do it from the heart. That’s the most important thing.
Where and when do you like writing most?
It varies. If I manage to start first thing in the morning, that will probably be a good day. Often, I go out to a pub in the afternoon to write. (Which is more peaceful, as I have a two-year-old son at home!) But I don’t really have any set routine, and it depends where I am in the book. In the planning stages, I might be happy to work out a scene, or even just an idea. When I’m writing the first draft, I want an average of 1500 words a day. I don’t really care when, where or how I get them.
When you start writing, do you already know how the book will end?
Most of the time, yes, although things can change. Basically, on Day One of writing the first draft, I’ll have what I think is a solid plan – but I always treat it as a rough ’shooting script‘. As I write it, other ideas will come. The sad fact is that I have to write the book first to work out the book I should have written. So I edit a lot afterwards, and it could be the beginning, middle and end all change slightly. Cry for Help, for example – I only kept half of the first draft, and the ending changed totally.
What was the nicest compliment you got for one of your books?
I couldn’t pick. It sounds pathetic, but it’s true: I appreciate every single comment I get from readers. It’s enormously flattering when anyone says they like my writing.
What was the most exciting challenge during writing your last book „Black Flowers“?
The structure, definitely. It has a book within a book, which I know some readers have said is confusing at first – difficult to keep track of the different characters – but which gradually becomes more obvious as time goes on. I worked really hard to get the extracts of the book within the book in the right places and telling the right portions of the overall story. My intention was that, as you read the book, you understand everything without trying. All the separate stories within the book are part of the same larger story and gradually build to the same conclusion.
Which of your own books do you like most?
I like them all in different ways. I have enormous fondness for The 50/50 Killer, as it changed my life, and I think it works well as a premise and a twist. Cry For Help is intensely personal (a scary amount of that novel is true). Still Bleeding does exactly what I set out to do, and is different from anything else out there. Black Flowers is a current favourite, obviously, as it was the most recent. I think it achieves what I wanted it to, and the structure is something I’m fairly proud of.
Do you know self-doubts and how do you handle these feelings?
Totally – but I think all writers do. It’s a good thing, because it shows you care about the book and want to make it as good as you can. I’d be worried if a book felt easy to write, because it shouldn’t. By now, I’m used to the self-doubt, misery and depression that sets in as you write – the feeling that it will never be finished, and that even if it is, it will be rubbish. The feeling isa familiar friend now. You just have to write through it. While you’re working, it’s very intense and you can’t necessarily see the material as a new reader would. At the end of the day, you just try to do the best you can and listen carefully to the editorial advice when you’re finished!
What kind of subject will you deal with next time?
I’ve just finished my seventh novel, Dark Room, which will be out in the UK in July. It’s about a very prolific serial killer, apparently choosing victims at random, and the policeman chasing him, who has to confront the idea that evil exists. It’s much more straightforward in structure than Black Flowers, but goes to some interesting and unusual places. Someone that’s read it describes it as the darker, more intense big brother of The 50/50 Killer. I’m happy with that!
Steve Mosby. Schwarze Blumen
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