Feb 1, 2012

Interview with John Irvine, contributor to April Fool and other Antipodean horror stories

Okay, John Irvine. This is a little Q & A to get to know a little more about you and thicken up those stalker portfolios.

1 – Milk or dark chocolate?

A:  Oh, definitely dark. I think milk chocolate is at best a teaser for beginners, or at worst a cop-out for the weak stomached and under-cultured.

2 – What are your feelings in reference to LEGO’s?
A:  LEGO? You mean those funky wee plastic bricks? Legend has it that they were designed for kids, but if you think about it for a minute, who do you see playing with them the most? Adult men. Same with model trains… these so-called toys were invented by adult men for adult men who then spread the rumour about them being for kids so they could ‘help’ their kids play without seeming to be overly interested themselves. Personally, I prefer a good old wooden top with a string.

3 – I know a lot of people ask what their favorites are in regard to horror movies, but my question to you...what is your favourite comedy and why?
A:  No need to think much here: my all-time favourite comedy is The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Why? It has great music, outrageous characters, fabulous costumes, excellent acting and it’s off-the-wall. It’s very funny yet has some serious messages lurking in amongst the corsets, fishnets and heels… I’ve watched it in excess of 50 times. May even be more.

4 – What is the story/novel you are most proud of?
A:  This is difficult because I’ve written thousands of poems and hundreds of short stories. However, one story I really enjoy re-reading is something called Nobby, about a dog. It’s never been published, but it brings a tear to my eye every time I read it. I do have to admit to being a serious dog lover. In poetic terms, I suppose one of my favourites is a sonnet I wrote years ago called Another Drink. It’s a very introspective and revealing piece.

5 – What is the most interesting thing you have learned?
A:  Well, not standing at the windward rail on a yacht to take a leak was important. But probably not applying your expectations to other people if you want a peaceful and stress-free life is the one I’d regard as ‘the most interesting’ thing I’ve learned.

6 – Do you do a lot of research for your writing?
A:  Depends. I’m mainly a poet who writes horror stories for light relaxation.  My stories tend to be flash length as I don’t have the patience or discipline to write anything longer. I don’t have a novel in me, not even a bad one. Yes, I sometimes research for stories, mainly to get background facts right. Dates, places and so on if they’re genuine. Sometimes the research is more fun that the writing. It’s not hard to get fascinatingly sidetracked on the Internet.

7 – Tell me about the collection you have with Dark Continents?
A:  Well, Tracie McBride and I are both Kiwis, and some of our work reflects that.  When she asked me if I was interested in doing a collection for the e-book I declined at first because the requirements were for a minimum of 20,000 words. If you added all my short stories together I doubt they’d make that total. However, between us we’ve put together a collection of stuff and decided to keep an Antipodean theme throughout. Tracie currently resides in Australia with her family, and I spent 29 years wandering about all over the place there before returning to NZ in 1996. So you see we both have a fairly good grip on things Australian. Of course, not all the stories are Australian-oriented… some are NZ-based as you might expect.                                  

8 – How do you like to tell a story? Character driven, location of importance, or something else entirely?
A:  I’m not all that experienced, really. I’ve never done English Lit, for example, or attended any writing classes, on or offline. I have no degrees in anything, so I’m really at a loss trying to explain how I come to a story. I don’t ever plan a sequence of events; I usually thrash blindly along allowing the story to drag me  behind in its wake. I usually end up in a totally different place than I thought I would. The basic idea will come often as a phrase or sentence, usually unbidden and at devilish times of the night. Mostly, what comes has no reference to anything I’ve being thinking during the day, although sometimes a phrase in a song will trigger an idea. It’s the same with my poetry, although I do write poetry to prompts which can be a lot of fun. I also love writing utter nonsense. Lewis Carroll is one of my poetic heroes. I suppose, however, that my fiction writing is character-driven.

9 – What kind of music do you listen to when writing?
A:  Varies a bit, but Leonard Cohen or Pink Floyd mostly. Although I do write a lot without music playing. I don’t specifically need music to write to.

10 – What is the most difficult thing you find about being a writer?
A:  Oh, without doubt finding a reliable publisher! We’ve all got walls papered with rejection slips. Well, we did before the Internet and email of course. Now one is fortunate indeed to receive a terse, unsigned email rejection. It’s this that convinced me to accept an invitation to join up with Dark Continents… they have a fresh and innovative approach to the eternal problem.

11 – Something about you that no one would believe.
A:  That I am insecure and lack confidence. I learned to hide it many, many years ago by developing a smart mouth and honing my sarcasm. Sometimes, oft times, I think I have become the mask.

12 – Okay, now promote yourself here; what else have you done that you would like people to know about?
A:  How many pages have I got? I’ve been a drifter for a lot of my life, accumulating the odd marriage and a few kids. Never been much of a family or career man. I’ve been a lot of places and seen some amazing things, stuff that has come back to me since I started writing (seriously) in about 1998. I’ve been a company rep, motorcycle racer, bistro cook, jet ski shop manager, house sitter, web page designer, farmer, farm manager, yacht deck hand, singer/guitarist, manager of a jungle resort in PNG… there’s more, but that’s enough.

I have had several collections of poetry published, both horror and ‘normal,’ and have been a contributing editor in about 10 anthologies.  DCP recently released a new collection and an anthology of mine at the World Horror Con for which I am very grateful. Folks may see all the books I’ve been involved with on my website 
www.cooldragon.co.nz  which has samples to read and links to purchase.

Oh, and I do rather enjoy the temptations of Bacchus…


  1. Gee, Suzanne, I haven't been bothered by many stalkers so far....

  2. But you never know when the good ones are there.