Friday 18 November 2011

Of Devils and Dark Forces...An Interview with Steve Emmett

Today, I am delighted to be able to chat to Steve who has recently published his chilling short horror story, ‘Kid’.
If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a bit of background to the story:
‘Born hideously ugly, his mother never even named him. When illness made him deaf he was cast out to live alone in the forest. The sheriff found him ideal as torturer and executioner. Then, one night, a visitor called bearing a gift. All Kid had to do was choose.’ 

Catherine:  Welcome Steve and congratulations on ‘Kid’. It’s a very different story to your first novel, ‘Diavolino’ and is set in medieval times. Where did you get your inspiration from?
Steve: Blimey, start with a hard one, why don’t you! You know, I don’t know precisely. The thing is, my mind never stops absorbing the world around me, be it literally what is going on in my vicinity, or some news report, or some slip of the tongue by someone who should know better. Every little thing is filed away in my brain. When I’m supposed to be relaxing or falling asleep, I rummage through all the drawers and pick out bits to hang stories on. The notion of some poor soul whom luck has avoided all his life seemed a good start for a bleak tale. As for the setting, well I’ve always had a thing about medieval times and, if you remember, Diavolino opens in that period. It also seemed a very appropriate time for the story; I mean, Kid wouldn’t suffer the same now, would he? Well, maybe in some remote hellhole, just about, but the world does seem to be disposing of the despots at last.

Catherine:  Both ‘Diavolino’ and ‘Kid’ are highly visual. Do you think your experience as an actor has any influence on your style of writing?
Steve: Perhaps it would be more accurate to say my love of film and my desire to act have influenced my style, because I haven’t done a lot of acting yet (hint to all casting directors). At the same time, I am a very visual person – that’s why I was drawn to study architecture. I am very aware of my surroundings and it’s always me who notices the little things others don’t. When people read my stories I want them to see where they are and feel what is happening. At the same time, I detest over description; my goal is to paint the picture and the action with as few words as possible.

Catherine: In addition to writing and acting, I believe you are also a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books and Suspense magazine. How did this come about?
Steve: Both publications were looking for reviewers. I applied, submitted a piece of work to them and they both accepted me. I should review more books for them but time is tight.

Catherine: You are a very busy person, Steve because I also happen to know that you are a writing coach. Tell us more about that.
Steve: Oh, for a moment I thought you said ‘you are a writing couch’! Well, I have the padded seat and arms; maybe it was Freudian intervention made me name my writing website. Since I became a writer I have helped others to improve their work. It seems I have a natural ability to explain. I hadn’t thought of doing it professionally until my own tutor said to me, ‘You should offer coaching, Steve’. So there you have it; was born.

Catherine:  Whose writing do you most admire and why?
Steve: It’s my lucky day that you’re not doing the old ‘yes or no’ business. The thing I find more and more is that I might love one or two works of a writer, but not like all their works. For example, when I read Alan Hollinghurst’s ‘The Line of Beauty’ I would have said that I admired his writing. Later, I read ‘The Spell’ and loathed it. I didn’t like the lack of plot or the characters (I wanted to strangle them all) but above all I found his writing tiresome and contrived. So, I can say that at times I admire Stephen King for his economy with words; Clive Barker for his ability to conjure up hell on earth; and Karin Fossum for her cool directness. James Hamilton Patterson deserves a medal; I admired him across the entire ‘Cooking With Fernet Branca’ trilogy. Patterson is a bit niche and it surprises me, because he is so incisive and makes you laugh so much you gasp for air.

Catherine: Now the great debate.  E-publishing and print publishing. Can they have a symbiotic relationship, or do you foresee the demand for print books diminishing over the next decade?
Steve: How many stone tablets or scrolls do you have at home? It’s the same. We are at the dawn of e-books, the revolution hasn’t even started. One of my friends has spent her life working with libraries, books and promoting reading. She said to me many times that she would never read e-books because she liked paper books – the feel, the smell, the interaction she had with them physically and emotionally. She called me yesterday to say she’d just unpacked her new Kindle. “I just can’t be bothered carting all those bloody books around anymore,” she said. So, I have no doubt that e-books will take over for general literature. I feel that print books will prevail for specialist graphic and illustrated works, but you never know what technological advance lies around the corner. The only possibility I can see of paper winning is if mankind ends up living in a world where electricity is a thing of the past.

Catherine: What is on your ‘To Be Read’ pile at the moment and what attracted you to those books?

Steve: My TBR pile is very small because I never know what the New York Journal and Suspense Magazine are going to toss my way. I’ve just read your own ‘Cold Revenge’ (I loved it) which was on the pile, and Kiran Hunter’s creepy ‘Bedevil’. I’ve just started ‘Lenin’, a biography by Robert Service and then I will read ‘Caligula: The Corruption of Power’ by Anthony A Barrett. Caligula is for pleasure but also research for my current novel. I can also feel myself being drawn to ‘The Borgias’ by Christopher Hibbert.

Catherine:  What are you currently working on?
Steve: If you can believe it, a vampire novel. Not sparkly, cuddly, truck driving vampires but the real blood-thirsty variety. I already gave you a clue above with Caligula. It’s very Roman, very hellish and, I hope, very different to anything you’ve read so far. At the same time I have a dark, psychological novel well underway, and the Diavolino sequel.

Catherine: A light hearted question now. If you could live at any time and any place in history, where and when would it be, and why?
Steve: But for the state of medicine and dentistry at the time, I would opt to be someone comfortable but obscure in ancient Rome. Otherwise, I’ll say 2,000 years in the future, around 4,000 AD, but I’d have to be World President so I could travel through time and space continually. Well, you asked!

Catherine:  Thank you very much for joining us today. Where can we find out more about you and, crucially, where can we find your books, ‘Diavolino’ and ‘Kid’? 
My website:
My Publisher:

 Diavolino is available from:
Diesel ebooks:
Barnes and Noble:

Kid is available from:
Barnes and Noble:
Sony e-books:
Here’s an excerpt to give you just a flavour of each:


Before long, they were all back in the car with Paolo, hurtling down the serpentine road from Cortona to the main route that led back to the lake. Poggio del Lago rose in front of them; the sun glanced off the surrounding water and animated the pale stone walls of the old fortress.

A motor launch waited for them at the jetty. Paolo took the wheel and started up the engine. The diesel motor chugged away, and the vessel edged forward in a cloud of blue-gray smoke, forcing ripples across the otherwise still water.

“Are there any monsters in the lake?” asked
Alice, peering intently over the edge of the boat.

“No, darling,” said Tom, “there are no monsters. Only fish.”

“And not too many of those, I gather,” said Roger. “The water is shallow, about seven meters at the most, and centuries of overfishing have done nothing for the stocks, so they say.”

Tom stood in the stern and looked back. Poggio del Lago was the highest point for many miles, surrounded by agricultural lowland. The slopes below the old walls were thick with ancient olive trees that once must have reached almost to the shoreline. At some time, they’d been cleared to make way for the scattering of buildings that scarred a landscape otherwise unchanged for generations.

As they approached Diavolino, Roger pointed out the temporary landing. Paolo slowed the engine and brought the vessel alongside, leaping onto the pontoon with the agility of an athlete, securing the boat fore and aft.

“Where did you learn to tie knots like that?” asked Tom, climbing onto the pontoon.

“My father. He was a fisherman. When I was little, I used to help him.”

“You should have a talk with
Alice. She’s something of a knot expert,” said Elspeth. Alice ignored her and marched on, eyes fixed firmly on the ground.

“I thought you said something about temporary accommodation being nearly ready,” said Tom, his mind distracted by
Alice’s uncharacteristic temper. He reached out to her. “Alice, please don’t—”

“Everything we do here must be within the woods.” Roger was not to be diverted. “It has to make as little visual impact as possible. Follow me.”

Tom hesitated, distracted by Paolo, who was settling himself on an upturned log with a pack of Winston One and his mobile phone.

“I’ll be here if you need me,” said Paolo with a smile.

Tom ran to catch up with
Alice and took her hand. Dark veins laced the sand-rich earth. A fleshy, leafless weed formed a patchy covering over the surface. Tom had never seen such strange vegetation. The shadow of the towering canopy cast a darkness as they entered the wood, and Tom felt something astringent on the back of his neck, a creeping chill, like frozen pinpoints marching across his skin...

Kid watched the cart sway down the track. The driver appeared headless as he hunched over to urge the oxen along. Once the cart had slipped out of sight, Kid sat down on the fallen tree trunk and stared at his hands. The blood had dried, leaving a thin dark crust that fragmented around the knuckles and wrists like earth baked under an unrelenting sun. He flexed the joints and they worked free, dark crystals swirling in the rays of sunlight. Doom motes, he called them.
He had long ago given up asking the driver to slake his thirst with him. The old man never stayed, always in a hurry to turn his cart around and get back to town once he’d delivered Kid to the cabin in the forest. Kid had grown used to it. No one ever stayed. If anyone did happen to pass by, they ran into the woods as soon as they caught sight of him.
He sighed, dragged himself to his feet and stumbled into the cabin for a tankard of ale. The single room had been his home for almost as long as he could remember. He’d been about eight years old when he realized he was destined for a solitary existence. His father had fled the day he was born. His mother said the sight of Kid’s face had scared him off. So traumatized was she by the creature to which she had given birth, she never named him, and he had been known simply as Kid ever since. He was kept out of sight and, after long nights of fever left him deaf, moved in with the pigs down the yard. This cabin, albeit filthy and stinking, was paradise in comparison.
As he headed outside with his ale, he caught sight of himself in the looking glass he kept on the back of the door. It hung there lest he forgot what others saw. Some of the townsfolk said the gargoyles on the new cathedral were there because the head mason had stumbled upon Kid before he’d learned his way around the place. Kid smiled at the thought. Would his mother have been proud of him?
The smile faded and his lips resumed their tight line across his face. For all that she had treated him worse than an animal, she still lived in his heart. What curse had been put on him to be born this way? To be rejected by his own family? He shook his head, stepped out and slammed the door.
Kid returned to the tree trunk with his eyes fixed on the ground, raising them only when he was almost at his destination. He stopped short. His heart beat against his ribs. The light shimmered over the log and a figure appeared.
From the back it had all the semblance of a man, sitting down in Kid’s usual place. But what man, and from where?
“Come and sit with me, Kid.”
Kid lost control of his muscles, dropping his ale to the forest floor. His pants felt warm and wet and, as the sensation crept down his legs, he knew it was not the ale. How could this be? He hadn’t heard a voice for years. The singing of the birds, the clatter of the oxen, even the cries of pain as he went about his work had all been denied him. Yet now this voice spoke to him? He looked up into the trees, his mouth gaping as if to corral the sounds into his head.
Silence. The same deathly silence as always.


  1. I laughed at your stone tablet and scroll question. I think there are some who wish we'd go back to that because they are really digging in their heels against the ebook revolution. :) Great interview!

  2. I was one of those who rebuked e-books for quite awhile, but my library was getting so big, my wife bought me a Kindle. Now, I like e-books.

  3. I agree with you, Steve, you never know what technological advance is around the corner. Can't wait for your new vamp book based on Caligula - totally intriguing.

  4. World President, huh? I figured you were a man of high ambition, but that would cut deeply into your writing time.

  5. I held out against ebooks for a while too. Great interview. Caligula and vampires--sounds perfect!

  6. Thanks Sheila and everyone. Like you, I can't wait for Steve's next book!