Book Name and Description: Lamplight is a contemporary ghost story about smartphones and social isolation, and horror that doesn’t need to hide in the shadows.
Amy and her friends don’t know what to make of the weird anonymous messages they keep getting, but that’s nothing compared to the fireworks when Jack’s beautiful sister, Jessica, returns to town and starts an all-out war between her admirers. In the ensuing drama, none of the group notice that they’re being picked off, one by one, by a force beyond imagination…
What gave you the idea for Lamplight?
I noticed that a lot of modern horror stories try and get away from the characters having mobile phones – either they go somewhere with no signal, or their phones get lost or broken – so I wanted to write something that showed how you can rack up tension even when the characters all talk to one another. Smartphones are at the heart of Lamplight, and they show how you can become isolated by them in a very different way.
What got you into writing in this genre?
I find the supernatural really interesting – not just because of the idea of what might be hiding out there in the dark, but because of what it says about us. Horror is a mirror for when it’s written – you get the nuclear-monster films of the 50s, the gothic revival of the 60s that reflected new sexual norms, the zombie-centric social breakdown of the 70s, the individualistic serial killers of the 80s – and all of them cast into sharp relief what society was so troubled about at the time.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been trying to write stories and poems of various kinds all my life, but I’ve been doing it seriously for about seven years now.
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?
I have a full-time day job that I rely on to pay the bills, so I normally either try and fit some writing in first thing in the mornings, or last thing at night – at least an hour a day if I can. Even if I don’t seem to get much done on any given day, it’s really helpful to have a routine, and I find writing comes much easier when you build up some momentum instead of working on it sporadically.
My biggest influences have probably been Ursula Le Guin and M R James, but there are dozens of others!
What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why?
Right now it’s probably Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle – it’s an incredible gothic fantasy about two teenage girls fending for themselves in an isolated house after most of their family mysteriously passed away. I can’t say any more without ruining it!
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Accept that you need to write at least one bad book before you can write any good ones. My first attempt at a novel was 200, 000 words of unreadable waffle – but it taught me a lot of things to avoid with my later stories.
What are you doing next?
I’m working on a dark fantasy about personality disassociation, from the viewpoint of a girl stuck in hospital. It’s turned out pretty challenging to write!
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Keep going! You will get rejected, you will get discouraged, you will find the whole thing to be incredibly hard work, but keep at it. There’s no feeling quite like typing ‘The End’ after months of grinding away.
Benjamin Appleby-Dean is a complex event sometimes mistaken for a writer. When recognisably human, he lives in the North-East of England with his wife and a trio of dysfunctional cats.