Book Name and Description: Death Wears A Top Hat
What gave you the idea for Death Wears A Top Hat?
I’d recently watched a TV series on real life psychic detectives who work with the police, and already had a germ of an idea for a crime thriller where the killer is possessed by an evil entity that drives him to kill. Some serial killers in actual life have claimed this. Putting the two ideas together, I came up with this story. Alison Graves, the psychic, seemed to develop a life of her own and decided to be a transgender woman in the end, and a reluctant heroine who hunts the entity down and pushes it back to its own dimension. Alison’s own struggles with herself mirror her involvement in the case when the ghost of the last victim contacts her. Sue McKentee, the detective, also has her own emotional struggles as the case develops.
What got you into writing in this genre?
Horror, ghost stories and psychological dark fiction have always been my favourites. I’ve loved reading since I was a kid and started out on the Pan Book Of Horror series. There were always second hand copies of these on the bookshelves as I was growing up as my parents were both big readers.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was a kid. Then it was mostly pony stories though, with a haunted house here and there or a lake monster. I’ve worked as a commissioning editor for a trade union magazine and was a member of the National Union of Journalists in the UK for a while.
Tell us about your past books and stories?
I’ve had 15 short stories published in various horror anthologies over the past 4 years or so, by Dark Alley Press, Grinning Skull Press and Zombie Pirate Publishing, among others. Dark Alley Press also published my novella ‘The Tale of Storm Raven.’ I’ve also self-published on Amazon a collection of my own short horror/ghost stories called ‘The Obsidian Path.’
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?
I tend to write in fits and starts, when I feel the mood takes me but I work quite fast so get quite a lot done. I keep a notebook to hand for ideas that may come up. Short stories I tend to do in one sitting initially, then edit and run past the writers group. I split my creative time between writing and art, my other hat being a designer under the name Boom Beetle Design. I have shops on Zazzle and Redbubble.
What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why?
I’ve enjoyed too many books over the years to have a fave really.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I’ve learned a lot now about the craft of writing, both from reading other peoples work and having my own critiqued by the members of the writing group I belong to. Things like pace and character development I’ve improved on, plus making words count and not rambling and being over-descriptive.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Being self-critical, able to take criticism and learn from it.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
If it doesn’t move on the plot or character in some way of interest don’t waste the readers time putting it in.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I’ve got a Facebook fiction page and made sure I set up an author website and author page on Amazon. With my novella, The Tale Of Storm Raven, I submitted it for some reviews to online sites like Hellnotes magazine. With the latest novel I’ve been sending out a mobi of the manuscript to various online horror mags and asking for reviews and a plug if possible.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
This one so far, published by J Ellington Ashton Press, Death Wears A Top Hat.It’s my first full blown novel so it feels like a bit of a milestone.
For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
The Obsidian Path probably gives an overall picture of my range through the short stories.
What are you doing next?
I’ve an idea for a dark dystopian satire I want to work on, plus more short stories.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Don’t give up at the first rejection. Keep submitting work to publishers and entering competitions. That’s how my first stories got published.
Growing up in the suburbs of London, and coming from ‘East End’ working class roots, I’ve always been a keen reader, story writer and artist since childhood. I was brought up on a diet of graphic novels, classic ghost stories and sci-fi comics (remember those Pan Book Of Horrors and 2000AD comic?) My teens and twenties were an adventure into life, playing drums in a crappy punk band, hanging out at gigs and clubs in London’s underbelly – Soho, Camden – many of my stories are set in these places. Since I can remember, I’ve had a consuming interest in mysticism and spirituality in all of its many worldwide forms (but don’t buy into religious dogma of any kind!) as well as the paranormal, UFOs and the occult. These subjects always sneak into my writing.
My professional career has been pretty varied. I originally trained in horticulture after finishing school, going on to work for Epping Forest Council Parks Department before supervising gardening therapy projects for people with learning difficulties. I later studied graphic design at the London College of Printing and worked for several years in print and publication management, including a post as Commissioning Editor for a national magazine. I’ve also custom spray-painted motorbikes in the past (as well as riding one) but I currently work part-time as an administrator at a local hospital, which leaves me with some free time for my writing.
I’m a member of Stokes Croft Writers, a small Bristol-based writing group which is actively involved in story-telling events in the Bristol area, including the Bristol Festival of Literature.
I’m also a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and British Fantasy Society.
Website – https://stephminns.weebly.com/