James Brogden Writes Original New Horror Steeped in History

British writer James Brogden
British writer James Brogden

Everyone should read James Brogden’s fiction. It’s original, fun, horrific, and did I say original? You really should Start with Hekla’s Children, I suggest the Plague Stones next. And as soon as you can the latest, Bone Harvest. Or the other way around or in any order at all. He has even more fantasy fiction, but hey…we like horror.

What was the first book that scared you silly?

The Cats, by Joan Phipson. I must have been 9 or 10 years old, and I borrowed it from my teacher’s class library. This was in Tasmania. It’s a story about a kid who gets kidnapped by some local hoodlums and locked up in a shack out in the bush, where a colony of feral cats have made their home. Except that they’re a bit more than just cats – larger, intelligent, and malevolent. It scared me so much because it was set in the kind of place where I lived, which was unusual when so much of what I read and saw on TV came from the UK or the States, and it was a lot easier to imagine being followed by shadowy  presences with glowing eyes on my way home from school. What made it
worse was that one of our home cats had taken herself off into the bush previously, and I could easily imagine her being one of those feral beasts, watching me and planning to eat me. This is also why I find Church, the cat from Pet Sematary, easily the most terrifying creature in that novel.

What is your writing process, and what does Lego have to do with it?

I have a day-job teaching English, which takes a huge chunk out of the working week, so during term-time I tend to do the plotting and planning, and then when the holidays come around I do the actual word-slogging. Lego is just a thing I’ve enjoyed playing with since I was a kid, though it does help to
take my mind off the hook (some might argue that it’s rarely on the hook). I guess it’s a physical aspect of the same impulse for world-building.

What started you off on your writing career?

The generosity of others. A chap called Peter Coleborn, who was editing the journal of the British Fantasy Society at the time, gave me my first pro sale of a short story and introduced me to a thoroughly disreputable mob of genre writers in Birmingham who were friendly and encouraging. He also put me in contact with my current agent, which was when things started to take off.

What do you find the most challenging about writing?

The writing part of it. Which is to say, the self-discipline required to sit in front of this thing for hours every day putting one word after another when you’re convinced that it’s all terrible and everybody’s going to hate it.

Will there be a nice apocalyptic sequel to Plague Stones, or you’re just not into sequels?

I get bored easily, so I tend to want to get onto the next idea while I’m halfway through the current
one, which doesn’t make for effective sequel writing. The one exception was The Realt, which is the sequel to Tourmaline. At that stage I was writing purely on spec for my own entertainment, so there were no expectations, and I blithely suggested that there would be a third – because fantasy stories work in trilogies, obviously – but then I got an agent and had to grow up and be a serious professional writer. No publisher is going to pay for a third volume in a series that they don’t already own, so that trilogy idea is on a   permanent back-burner. I’m in awe of those fantasy and science fiction authors who can plan and execute multi-volume epics. The Plague Stones was commissioned as a one-off – but if someone wants to pay me for a series, I’m there!

Cover for book Bone HarvestBone Harvest, your brand-new book, I loved it! And it has allotments, they are uniquely British, we do have common gardens in the USA, but I don’t see them often used. What was your train of thought that brought them into a horror/fantasy novel? Did you start with them in mind or did the Farrow farm bring them along as you wrote the story?

Bone Harvest was always going to be about allotments. As you say, they are uniquely British things, the most harmless, gentle places for idle pottering you can imagine, so as a horror writer that’s obviously the kind of place you want to subvert and turn into a nightmarish hellscape of cultish human sacrifice. But that may just be me. It’s why suburbia is the perfect location for slasher movies– making the safe place unsafe.

Did the Colindale allotment murder cross your mind at all when you wrote this book?

That and so much more – people do some VERY weird things on their allotments.

Do any of the characters in the book, like Dennie and the volunteer policeman, have real-life alter-egos?

Not really. There may be some character traits or biographical details that have been inspired by people I’ve met or read about, but the main characters are always entirely fictional.

It seems to me that selfishness, greed, and self-centeredness are the main characteristics and motivators of your central villains, do you feel particularly bothered by those bad traits? For example, in Plague Stones; Esther didn’t feel so much the villain when compared to some of the village’s trustees.

The thing with Hester is, as much as she is a monster she’s also a victim, and I wanted the reader to feel simultaneously sympathetic and appalled by her because we’re all monsters, given the right kind of conditions, aren’t we? We harbour grudges and commit acts of revenge – though admittedly, Hester’s at the extreme end of that. Nash is a victim of sorts, trapped by the expectations of his family and upbringing, hopefully more than just a mustache-twirling villain. Even the Gwrach Clefyd isn’t so much evil as an implacably destructive force of nature. So far as my limited understanding goes, true evil is the  exploitation and victimisation of the weak, and in that sense yes, Nash is a
bigger villain than any supernatural entity.

Any hints at all about your new book (hoping it’s horror!)?

So far it involves a small coastal village on the verge of destruction from erosion, climate-change, and post-covid economic recession. There may also be a huge, mysterious black dog involved. And Viking treasure. Because why not?

What is your favorite fictional horror experience?

Getting introduced to the work of James Herbert at the age of 15. I’d been reading science fiction and fantasy pretty solidly up until then, and my family moved to England where I met my adult cousins for the first time since I was a baby. One of them loaned me his copy of The Rats, and I devoured everything of Herbert’s that I could, and that led on to Clive Barker, and everything followed on from there.

And have you ever met a ghost?

That’s unlikely, since they don’t exist. Sorry to sound facetious. They’re great fun to write about, though!

What was your favorite part about writing Bone Harvest?

Writing Everett and Ardwyn’s story. At first, I only intended to throw in a few flashbacks to explain who they were and what they were doing, but when I realised it had to go all the way back to the trenches of World War 1 I knew that flashbacks weren’t going to cut it and they needed their whole story to be told. So what started out as a short prologue expanded into the first 20 thousand words
or so, which can come as a bit of a surprise if you read the blurb and are expecting to start off on the allotments. They’re a pair of Bonnie & Clyde, Micky & Mallory type loved-up psycho cultist killers and I was having way too much fun with them.

Where else can you find James?

Pumpkin the cat

James’ author page on Amazon
James’ on Twitter
You’ll find pictures of the amazing Pumpkin on this twitter stream, so go! Go there now and say Hi to James and Pumpkin. Grill James about his awesome books.