Craig Wallwork lives in West Yorkshire, England. His short stories have appeared in many journals, magazines and anthologies in the UK and US. He is the author of the novels, The Sound of Loneliness, and the story collections, Quintessence of Dust, and Gory Hole.
1. How old were you when you first wrote your first story?
Too old. Probably about 30. The story was about my grandfather who died of dementia. It was picked up by Laura Hird, a Scottish writer moving in the same circle as Irvine Welsh. She gave me my first publishing break. No payment, and it was online only, but damn was I happy. I felt like I’d arrived and was soon to be a bestselling author. I’m 45 years old now. Fifteen years of having more rejections than acceptances. And I’m still waiting to write that bestseller. I don’t get disheartened much now if a story isn’t accepted. I just remind myself that William Saroyan received 7,000 rejection slips before landing his first short story. So I did better than him.
2. How many books have you written?
Eight and counting. Half have been published by indie presses. The other half are like children staring out of the window of some orphanage every time headlamps flash by. I’m sure they’ll land a home soon, but until then I’ll keep each fed and watered. But never after midnight. Oh, man. I never feed any after midnight.
3. Anything you won’t write about?
If you would have asked me that five years ago I would have said no. But time, and perhaps being a parent, has mellowed me. I’ve written some really terrible stories, not bad writing, just the subject matter was terrible. I’m sure they’ll come back to haunt me one day. Their my skeletons in the closet. My dirty family secret. The affair and misdemeanours. But I was a different writer back then. I’ve changed. Honestly, judge.
4. Tell me about you. Age (if you don’t mind answering), married, kids, do you have another job etc…
In five years I’ll be fifty. When I was at school, my grandparents were fifty. They had grey hair, no teeth, and had lived through a world war. I have all my own teeth. Don’t even have any fillings. Any grey I may have is limited to my face when the stubble grows. As for war; Syrian, Iraq, Afghanistan – maybe not as close to home to what happened in Europe, but nonetheless. I will say I’ve aged more since having kids. My oldest is ten this year. My youngest is five. Being a parent accelerates the ageing process. It’s like that scene in Interstellar when Mathew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway go to that planet for about twenty minutes but when they return back to the spaceship, twenty-three years has gone by. Being a parent is like that, and you’re the one on the spaceship where time moves slower compared to everyone else around you. I’ve had friends drop off presents when my first child was born, returned a month later, and tell me I looked like I’ve aged five years. It’s scary. But hey, I love them now they’re sleeping in.
5. What’s your favorite book you have written?
That’s like asking, which of your ex-partners did you like the most? I liked them all at one point, but you always love the one you’re with right now. So I would say it’s the novel I’m currently editing. I won’t mention the title, only because I’ve said it before in interviews that go back about three years. Yeah, that’s how long it’s taken me to polish that baby. Once it’s done, I’ll start something new, which I’m sure I’ll love more than any of my others. Basically, I have commitment issues.
6. Who or what inspired you to write?
I wanted to be a cartoonist but failed. Then I wanted to be a filmmaker and failed. I then attempted to be in a band, and I failed. Failure inspired me to write. And continues to do so.
7. What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy grave robbing. Something about leaving the house late at night, sneaking into a cemetery with shovel in hand looking for a fresh grave. It keeps me fit too. Excavating six-feet of earth is a great workout. I’m thinking of releasing a fitness video: Tone and Bones, maybe. The bind is selling the bodies on the black market. People are so fussy. Does the body still have all its limbs? Is the skin attached? How many teeth does it have? Sheesh. And returns is just a nightmare. So I do that for fun. And I enjoy lying too.
8. Any traditions you do when you finish a book?
Berate myself for not writing a better book.
9. Where do you write? Quiet or music?
I write at home. Mostly in the bedroom, sometimes in the living room, but it depends if the kids have had sugar. Writing is a bit like going to the toilet; you really need your privacy, but sometimes that’s impossible when you’ve got kids. But I do prefer quiet when I can get it. I used to buy those ear protectors, you know, those little orange foam things that look like thimbles. I’d push them into my ears so all I could hear was my heartbeat and blood in my skull. Now I have attained the ability to write anywhere in the house, even downstairs while the kids are watching Colin’s Key make slime or eat ultra sour candy. I can write to Victorious, Sam and Cat, Mr Bean, Hotel Transylvania 2, Sister Vs Bro and Funnel Vision. But I still struggle when they watch Ed Sheeran videos.I walk out then.
10. Anything you would change about your writing?
I’m trying to make it more accessible. By that I mean, a lot of my old stuff had a literary edge. There was plot, but the language and structure was more important to me because that’s what I love reading. To this day, I get very giddy when an author performs alchemy and creates these perfectly formed similes or descriptions out of very little. That was my goal back then, to seduce the reader with words. Now I’m trying to find a balance by retaining some of that magic, while at the same time offsetting it with decent good old fashion storytelling. Yes, it’s taken me fifteen years to reach this epiphany, and I’m hoping the time I’m putting in will be appreciated. If not, I’m going to begin writing trashy erotica.
11. What is your dream? Famous writer?
If I’m being honest, I’d like to earn some money (any money) from writing so I can drop my hours at work. If I could go part-time and write for maybe, two days during the week, I’d be more than happy. That’s the dream. If that doesn’t come off, and please, no one hold your breath, I’d settle to see just one of my books in hardback, cloth bound, and in a library.
12. Where do you live?
A small village in West Yorkshire called, Ripponden. It has three pubs, a couple of restaurants, a tea room and convenience shop. It’s semi rural, lots of agriculture and livestock grazing the fields that back onto moorland. I used to live in a large town growing up. People shot each other, whereas here they shoot grouse and pheasant. Before moving here the only deer I saw was in Stand By Me, but the other day I was picking my daughter up from school, and as I was backing into the parking spot, I saw something brown flash past my rear window. I then heard a large clattering noise and saw a fawn hurtle itself at the school fence. It must have got lost and the car spooked it. The car park backs onto a few residential bungalows for retired folk. There were steps leading down to a house close to the fence the fawn had struck. When I looked toward the bungalow the fawn sprang out of a hedge, kicking and flailing around on its back. I wanted to try to stop it, to tell it I wouldn’t hurt it and to calm down, but it was manic, frenzied. Then it just stopped and went quiet. I ran to the school to speak with one of the staff to get the number of a local vet or rescue service. A few of us went back to make sure it was still there. It was. But it wasn’t breathing, and flies were resting in its open eye. The speed and power of hitting that fence could have broken its neck, but I honestly think its heart gave out. It was such a beautiful creature. It’s fur was the colour of autumn leaves and its legs were long and graceful. My daughter cried all the way home when she heard. She’s got heart that girl. I guess this place is quite wonderful, but even in paradise you can’t help but have your heart-broken once in a while.
A goldfish only. We used to have a rabbit but it went suicidal on us. It began chewing wires and trying to crawl up the flue over the open fireplace. I just don’t think it liked us. We treated good. Fed it, gave it a nice hutch, but It would stare at us all with this one black eye like we’d murdered its family. My daughter began to think she’d awake in the night and see it there at the end of the bed, staring at her with that one black eye. It was called Fluffy, but after about three months it also went by, Psycho Rabbit, Weirdo Rabbit, Stupid Rabbit, What the Hell, Rabbit?! We eventually took it to a sanctuary to be re-homed. We felt a little like that family at the end of Poltergeist once it was all over, but instead of wheeling out a TV, we wheeled out a hutch.
14. What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I enjoy the process. I mean, I actually love creating worlds, people and all the problem solving and outlining, adding depth and shade and listening to how the characters talk and where they take the story. To me, writing is a kind of medicine, it’s the cure to something broken inside me. Without it I’d be sick.
15. What is coming next for you?
I’ve got a few stories coming out in anthologies this year and next. Right now I can only announce one called, Farewell Valencia, that’ll be in, Takes From the Lake vol 5, edited by Kenneth Cain and published by Crystal Lake Publishing in early November. The story was partly inspired by a real place in Sweden where euthanasia is legal. Around the same time I found out Terry Pratchett had been diagnosed with dementia there were a lot of documentaries the U.K. about people who wanted to end their life because they had no quality of life. These were people who were paraplegic, terminal, or were awaiting a slow and agonising death. One documentary featured this place in Sweden. I never saw the documentary but a friend told me about it the next day. In my mind I’m seeing this place as a plush hotel with Egyptian cotton sheets, Tempur pillows, turndown service, free porn, concierge, fine dining, the lot. I was never so wrong. It was described more as an industrial unit on a Business Park. Okay, low overheads, I get it. But surely it’s nice inside and the end is peaceful, right? Wrong again. You get a bed and a cup of poison. It sounded horrific. There was no dignity. No afternoon massage and favourite meal. No quick game of tennis followed by a gin and tonic on the veranda. You got poisoned and you died in agony. This felt wrong to me. It’s bad enough these people had reached a point in their lives where dying was the preferred option. So I set about writing a story where a hotel similar to the one I envisaged existed. Someplace nice. At least on the surface. Farewell Valencia is essentially about an euthanasia clinic, and because the subject is so heavy, I wanted to make it quirky, like the Shining seen through the eyes of Wes Anderson. But there’s a twist, which I won’t go into. You’ll have to read it to find out. I think people will like it. It’s dark, sad, with a little Gallows humour thrown in. It should fit well in the anthology. It’s already got some great voices in there; Tim Waggoner, Gemma Files, Lucy A. Snyder, Gene O’Neill, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Allison Pang, Paul Michael Anderson, Bruce Boston, Andi Rawson, Samuel Marzioli, Joanna Parypinski, Lane Waldman, Peter Mark May, Meghan Arcuri, Jason Sizemore, Robert Stahl, Marge Simon, Laura Blackwell, Lucy Taylor, Jonah Buck, Cory Cone, and Michelle Ann King.
16. Where do you get your ideas?
Keep with me on this. There’s a magic trick where a street magician fans out a deck of cards and asks someone to choose one. They do, and they show it the camera. Queen of hearts, say. Then the magician asks the card be put back in the deck, and then in a display of madness they throw all the cards at the side of a building. One card sticks to the window. Just one. And yep, when he peels it off, it’s the queen of hearts. I don’t know how it’s done and I don’t ever want to know. It’s a great trick and to understand the trick would dilute the magic. That’s the same with ideas; I don’t know how they work, or where they come from, and I don’t ever want to know, because I fear once I discover the secret it won’t be as magical. Magic is great writing.
You can connect with Craig Wallwork here:
My Amazon pages for the UK and US:
A free ebook copy of Quintessence of Dust, a short story collection by me:
And finally, Crystal Lake Publishing:
Some of Craig Wallwork’s books: