Do you have a piece of your own work that you’re particularly proud or satisfied with? Why?

I have a couple of these. As I was putting together my short story collection, Paths Best Left Untrodden, it was a great opportunity to look at where I’d come from and where I was at towards the end of 2020 as I compiled it. There were a number of stories I’d intended to include but, reading them back, I didn’t feel they made the grade. I really feel like everything in that book is solid. Readers seem to agree thus far.

The other is a short story, called ‘The Choir’ which I felt was a game changer for me, even as I wrote it. It’s been a near miss with some really big markets and I hope to find a home for it soon, so I can share it with readers.

Who is your favourite horror author/authors and why?

So many. This year, I’ve read three books by Dave Jeffery (the entirety of the A Quiet Apocalypse series to date!) and all of them have left me breathless and exhausted by the end, not to mention emotionally spent. Dave has a really great following in some quarters, but I still don’t understand how he isn’t massive. I’ve seen the series held up alongside The Road by Cormac McCarthy and I really don’t see that comparison as hyperbolic in the least. I’ve also been massively enjoying the quiet horror of Catherine McCarthy and have her recent novella, Imortelle, ready to crack on with once my latest beta read is done with. There are so so many more I could mention, but this interview would get very long. I truly believe we’re in a golden age of horror and dark fiction.

Do you remember when you decided you wanted to write stories?

I’d dabbled for much of my life with writing stories, but other creative pursuits – ten years across two metal bands where I was writing the lyrics and a five year period of travel blogging – kept me from really taking it seriously. A personal crisis in 2015 left me with a lot of emotional anguish and nowhere to channel it. That, in turn birthed a story which won second prize in a dark fiction contest and I suddenly had the idea that maybe I could do this.

If you could write for one classic monster/villain (eg Pinhead, Freddy, Ghostface) who would it be?

My early life obsession with Egypt probably brings me to The Mummy. I think there’s so much that could be done with it and, I feel it’s fair to say, the Tom Cruise action comedy ticked none of my boxes.

Recommend a recent book to our readers.

I wrote a blurb for Alyson Faye’s Silent Scream recently. It’s a novella, which takes the trope of the cursed film and adds in a good dollop of mystery. The atmospheric nature of the parts in the distant past are fabulous, while the present day attempts to understand the curse are fresh and thrilling. I think it’s Faye’s best work to date.

When do you write? 

When I can, I prefer to write new words in the morning. I find it is quite a draining process, mentally. I like to edit as I go, editing the material from the previous day, as prescribed by the legendary Joe Lansdale. It works for me and, though it often means drafting is slow, the editing process is swift and mostly unproblematic. That said, the teacher’s life means that I don’t always have the luxury of free mornings, so I squeeze in writing where I can.

Do you write every day or do you allow yourself a break?

I really think having a habit of writing is more important that “write every day”. I try not to get too het up about dogmatic rules. If I write 3 – 4 days a week, I feel like that’s ok, with a day job, household chores and life getting in the way. I’ve had periods in the past where I was more rigorous and the guilt of not writing for a day or two has had me spiralling into avoiding the task for days after, which was wholly unproductive.

How ambitious are you with your writing career? 

I am not very ambitious, generally. I want to write the best work that I can and I want the work to find readers that connect with it. My debut novella, The Balance, achieved that on a really amazing level and that, for me, was the biggest achievement to date. I still struggle with marketing my own stuff – and I think this is a British thing – because I feel somehow fraudulent. Imposter syndrome is ever-present.

When it comes to writing, are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’?

I’m about 80% pantser. These days, I write milestones for longer form work, so I have an idea of the direction something is going in, above all else. How I get from A to B to C is as mysterious to me as it is the reader.

Who is your favourite/s non-horror author?

Haruki Murakami has been an ever present in my reading life since I discovered him. I’m also a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind and the rest of the (unfinished!) Kingkiller chronicles.

If you have a day job, do you tell people you work with that you’re a writer?

I do tell people that I write, but only if I know them well. Most of my students are adults and students in their mid-late teens, so it’s not a problem to share with them as it might be were I teaching young kids or something. Sometimes they check my stuff out, but it’s more useful simply to add 3 dimensions to my character as a human being.

Do you have a current author that inspires you?

My good friends and excellent writers T. C. Parker and Ross Jeffery. Both of them are consistently at the top of their games, write wonderful fiction with fantastic prose married to diabolical stories and have that creative fire burning beneath them which means they are always producing. If I can achieve a sliver of what the two of them do on a regular basis, I’ll be delighted.

How many ‘trunked’ stories/books do you have that will never see the light of day?

Only one, and it’s not so much trunked as obliterated (for good reason). It was a quasi-vampire story I wrote at university and was a treatise of navel-gazing garbage that still makes me shudder to this day! Ha!

You can get anyone alive to blurb your next book, who is it and what do they say?

I’ve been lucky to have some really terrific blurbs already in my short career, but I’d love to get a blurb from Gabino Iglesias. I’ve read his two novels and some of his shorts and the gritty reality, fused with folklore, is something formidable and, as far as I’m aware, totally unique. He’s also such a champion of every writer at every level. His support already means a lot, but if he had something good to say about one of my books, I’d be flabbergasted.

What are you working on right now?

I’m in the very final stages of editing a shortish novel about djinn, set in the middle east. The aim is to have it finished by the end of this month (October 21) to send out for beta feedback. Then, should it make the grade, I’ll start subbing it to a few markets.

Okay, that’s it, get out of here and get to work.

Thanks so much for asking me to talk, it’s been a real pleasure. Interested parties can find my work and all about me at my website or on twitter, where my handle is @lisboetaingles