Today, I bring you an interview with fellow Aussie author Phil Hore. I have no doubt that having worked in both a comic store, and a cinema, would fuel your imagination when it comes to story telling. I'll let Phil tell us more.
Tell me about yourself
I’m from Canberra, but for the last 20 years I have been a museum educator and have managed to work at some of the world’s leading institutions. These include the Australian War Memorial, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Capricorn Caves, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Chicago’s Field Museum, and a few others. I’ve also managed comic shops, been a cinema projectionist, worked in the theatre, and gutted chickens for a deli. This wide variety of subjects somehow all seem to get mixed together and end up in my writing.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I was a small kid. Sure, it took me a long time to get my first article published (on pterosaurs), my first short story published (just a few years ago), and my first novel printed – but it was never really about that. Creating stories was what I loved, getting them read always seemed secondary. This also means I have an enormous back catalogue of stories and books that I am slowly sending out into the world.
What drew you to your chosen genre / genres?
I was into dinosaurs ever since kindergarten, when they showed us an 8 mm film of the prehistoric section of Fantasia. Science, history, biographies, sci-fi and fantasy have just always been an extension of that early influence. As for horror…truth is I’m not a horror guy. I don’t read and watch much horror – not because I’m prudish or anything, I just find them obvious. To me it’s so obvious when a horror film is building up to a jump scare – and so I’m not really their audience. Though I’m tagged as a horror writer, I don’t think I actually write horror. I write stories, and some of these stories have a far harder edge than the rest.
Can you tell me about your book titled ‘The Brotherhood of the Dragon’, and the inspiration behind the story?
This is the perfect example of ‘never close yourself off to a genre’. I had a book ready to go with a publisher in the early 2010s and at the last minute they decided not to publish as it wasn’t really the thing they released, but the editor felt so bad, he asked me if there was anything else I had ready to go? I sent him a list of the books I had ready to go, a list of those underway, and then I mentioned this one idea I had running around in my head. I had recently discovered A. C. Doyle and Bram Stoker were not only cousins – they were both around London during the Ripper murders. How could you not do something with that? Of course, the one thing the publisher was keen for was the Ripper book – and so I now had to write a novel and send it in ASAP…and that novel has to be a ‘horror’.
Now I’m sure most authors have notebooks everywhere (next to the bed, in the car etc) so that when they have an idea, they can jot it down. I began going through these books, pulling every idea I had that could be attached to a Ripper story – and within a few days I had a pretty decent story put together. By the way, that original book was HORROR – and it’s just been published by a UK comic book company, so never give up on anything folks. You just need to find the right market for your work.
As for Brotherhood – I had Doyle and Stoker – but I did not want them as my main characters. What I wanted was my two heroes – let’s just say a Sherlock and Watson type – with a newspaper man (Stoker) and a doctor (Doyle) tagging along. This could not only create a lot of humour, it allowed me to drop some easter eggs for the reader (for example if something ‘Sherlock-e happened, Doyle could note it down as a good idea for a story…the same for Stoker if anything Dracula-e happened).
The second inspiration for the book was Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Big Sleep’. I’m a big fan of Glen Cook, and one of his series is about a fantasy hard-boiled detective called Garrett. I recall reading the 3rd or 4th instalment ‘Old Tin Sorrows’ when it suddenly struck me that many of the plot points were from the Big Sleep. In fact, the entire series is also heavily influenced by Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books – so I decided I wanted to join in the fun and also use these mechanics in Brotherhood… see if you can spot them?
I am intrigued by your new release titled ‘HORROR: The First Time America’s Paranoia Infected the World’. Can you tell me more about it?
If you ever have anything to do with comic books, you’ll soon learn they have a dark history. In the 1950s this came to a head when child delinquency was blamed on the various horror and crime comics published at the time – and I’m going to get some hate mail for this – but not without some justification. Some of these comics were extremely graphic and clearly never meant for kids. WW2 had just ended, and a lot of soldiers had spent the war reading comics – and now that the war was over, and their tastes had…let’s say matured… these men were looking for harder edged stories and many of these new comics were aimed at them. The problem was, there was no rating system, and so many of these brutal stores ended up in the hands of kids.
Soon psychologists, critics and church groups were calling for something to be done, and the US government began a senate hearing into comic books. These hearings not only influenced other countries like Australia - where conservative states like Queensland banned numerous comics – they also led to the search for communists in Hollywood. Yes, comic books helped create the McCarthy hearings.
I feel this paranoid filled time is mirrored in what the world just suffered thanks to what we all just went through with Trump and how he infected the world recently.
I have spent nearly twenty years collecting stories about these events, and finally realised what would gel them all together was if you watched all of this occurring through the eyes of some boys reading comics at the time.
If you like history, the media, comics classic science fiction – or just looking for an interesting read…well, do I have the book for you…well…books. If I may, I have another book coming out shortly called GOLGOTHA. This is a murder mystery set in the First World War trenches, and it’s based around the myth that some allied soldiers moving though No-Mans-Land discovered a soldier crucified to a barn door. This almost caused an army-wide mutiny, and to try and settle the troops down High Command orders that one soldier from each army (an Australian, a Canadian and a Englishman) with police credentials joins a task force to look into the murder.
Again, like Brotherhood this is based on real history, just the real events flow around my characters and their story as they try to solve this bizarre crime. A story with military history, crime, and a plot point based on the Orson Welles film The Third Man…I think you can see how my interest influence my writing.
What does literary success look like to you?
Now that’s a brute of a question. I will give you two answers. Both are true…just one’s a little truer than the other. See if you can pick it? I like the idea of influencing a reader. Now this could be as simple as some one has read something of mine and enjoyed it. That’s an amazing feeling. It could also be they have learnt something new, or they have picked up on an in-joke.
I have a lot of friends who are writers, and I often see them at conventions with a table brimming with all the things they have written. Those images have always made me envious – and for the first time thanks to a great run of successful submissions I think I now have enough books and magazines to fill a table...and that feels freaking great.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
On travel. I have sailed the world and seen many things…and made many great friends. Travel not only expands the mind, it helps you focus and create. Travel can help you create stories from your own experiences. Its hard to write about life if you haven’t really lived.
Also a good chair and a cordless, illuminated keyboard. If you are going to be a writer, make it easy on yourself. Be comfortable and productive with the tools that will help you get the job done.
What do you like to do when not writing?
I love to learn something new, so I devour information the way most people eat. I am listening to podcasts or audiobooks in the car, I’m watching documentaries constantly- and I’m always on the hunt for a new tune.
A great example of all this coming together is the pure elation I just had watching a documentary on Netflix. It’s called Bathrooms over Broadway – and that’s all I’m going to tell you about it so that you can have the same experience I had. GO…NOW…WATCH IT (after of course ordering copies of my books) If you’re not grinning at the end with pure delight, you’re not human!
Thank you to Phil for his entertaining, and educational answers. If you would like to check out his work, click on the links below.