2007 Snapshot Archive: Gary Kemble

Interviewed by Kathryn Linge

First published at ASiF!

Gary Kemble is a horror writer and journalist for the ABC’s online art blog Articulate. His blog is http://garykemblenews.blogspot.com and he will be appearing on the ASif! Q&A Forums from August 29 to September 11.

1. I think it’s fair to say that you’ve come to prominence in the Australian spec fic scene because of the significant promotional work you do through your job at the ABC’s online arts blog ‘Articulate’. What came first – the fiction or the journalism? Do you ever feel that your work at Articulate overshadows your writing career?

I wouldn’t describe what I’ve been doing in Articulate (http://blogs.abc.net.au/articulate) as ‘promotional work’ – from my perspective it’s news. There are some fantastic, newsworthy things going on in the Australian spec fic scene and I can’t believe they don’t get more coverage in mainstream media. The newsworthiness is demonstrated by the elevation of spec fic-based features from the blog to the general News Online website. For example, ‘Adelaide author delves into Cthulhu mythos’ (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/09/1973526.htm) and ‘Aust sf fan discovers *new planet*’ (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/08/04/1996652.htm).

The fiction came first. Through my own writing I became involved with the Vision Writers group in Brisbane, and then the Australian Horror Writers Association. Via their news lists I realised there were a lot of really interesting projects that were getting little/no coverage in the Australian media.

The launch of the ABC’s Articulate weblog, gave me the opportunity to write about an area I’m passionate about, which is always a bonus! And then when the Australian Science Fiction Convention came to Brisbane last year, I blogged it live (http://www.abc.net.au/news/arts/articulate/200604/s1618204.htm). It was exhiliarating for both sides of my creative persona – the writer and the journalist – and gave me the opportunity to really engage with the community.

I’m not at all bothered by the fact that my work in Articulate has garnered more attention than my fiction. Success in any endeavour comes back to how much effort you put in and, because of family commitments, I’ve had little time to work on my fiction, whereas I’ve had a bit more time to work on non-fiction for Articulate/News Online.

I’ve got stories slated to appear in Dark Tales (http://www.darktales.co.uk/), Borderlands, Robert N Stephenson’s zombie anthology and Brimstone Press’s Macabre over the next few months, so I’m happy with that. I think it reflects the amount of time I’ve had to put into my fiction writing over the past 12-18 months.

2. Do you consider yourself a writer or a horror writer? What makes people (and you) so passionate about the genre? There seems to be a growing organization within Australia’s horror ranks, with the incorporation of the Australian Horror Writers Association, emergence of Horrorscope, and the Halloween collaboration with ‘The Writing Show’, to name a few. Do you think the trend will be sustained?

I wear the ‘horror writer’ badge with pride but not everything I write is horror. I’ve also published stories other genres: lit-fic, sf, ‘lad-lit’ and even romance (“Lines in the Snow”, Espresso Fiction).

I’ve always had a penchant for dark fiction. In primary school I ‘published’ a book called Back From the Grave, about me (Gary Kemble, Master of Weapons!) battling a creature that had come back from the dead. (I won’t say ‘zombie’ because this was many years before I discovered the works of George A Romero). In my teens I read Stephen King’s The Shining, and my love of horror grew from there.

The other aspect that appeals to me is that, even within the broader speculative fiction community, horror is on the fringes. In my youth I was a bit of an outsider, and now I guess I like the idea of going in to bat for the underdog. (I’m a West Ham supporter – say no more). And it irks me that ‘horror’ became a dirty word some time in the late 80s, early 90s.

There’s a lot of cameraderie amongst Australian horror writers. I’m not saying horror writing is going to return to the glory days of the 80s, although there are some promising signs (Brimstone Press, the fine work Hachette Livre Australia did with Jason Nahrung and Mil Clayton’s The Darkness Within, and now Tasmaniac launching its line of horror novellas). But at the very least, I think Australian horror writers are working well together and supporting each other’s efforts. (How’s that for some happy crappy?!)

3. In the ideal Gary Kemble world, would you be a full time fiction writer over a journalist? Do you have any plans to branch out into novels?

Full-time writer. (My boss isn’t going to read this, is he?)

Regarding novels, I’ve written or co-written five unpublished novel-length manuscripts (you can read the full sorry story here… http://garykemble.newsvine.com/_news/2007/04/24/679837-novel-writing-learning-the-hard-way).

After these unsuccessful attempts I decided to hone my skills on short stories. I’m now gearing up for a collaboration with a US author and a UK author – it’s a crime/horror novel but that’s all I can say. I don’t want to jinx it at this early stage.

4. Enough about the writing, what’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

‘Best thing’ – that’s a tough one. Because I’m on the judging panel for the Australian Shadows award I’m going to leave out the local stuff (and there has been some great local stuff) and say Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill. For a debut novel, it’s frighteningly good (although, given his pedigree, maybe that should come as no surprise).

5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’re given the opportunity to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most. Who’s it gonna be and why?

Well, if I wasn’t happily married… and if I had the ability to ‘get it on’ with fictional characters… it’s a tie between Jacqueline Cooper (Prismatic, by Edwina Grey) and Emily Winters (The Darkness Within, Jason Nahrung and Mil Clayton) – because they both know how to kick arse and take names.

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