I'm delighted to bring you yet another cracking instalment in our ongoing interview series here at Smash Dragons. This week I had the great pleasure to chat to writer and artist Greg Chapman. Greg has an international reputation as an artist of the highest quality, and his literary work is fast gaining a cult following. He took time out of his hectic schedule to chat about his latest work, and what's coming up for him in the future.
Greg Chapman, welcome to Smash Dragons!
First up, tell me a little about yourself.
I’m a former newspaper journalist, turned PR man, father of two fiery redheads and husband to another. I’m also a man obsessed with his own imagination and I put it all down on paper, whether it be writing or art.
You're an accomplished artist and writer. Before we go any further I’m curious, is there anything you are actually bad at?
Hah! Yeah, basically any and all sports. Total rubbish. Also rubbish at all the stereotypical things a guy is supposed to be good at. So safe to say I’m not your average bloke.
The Eschatologist is your latest story. Can you tell me a little bit about it? What was your inspiration in writing it?
I wanted to write a story about the end of the world without any zombies or other typical end of the world scenarios. So I asked myself “How far would people of faith go to ensure the world ends according to God’s final plan”. It’s a story about faith, but from the perspective of how bad faith can be. I’m pretty sure everyone, regardless of what they believe, can relate to that in this day and age.
Can you tell me about some of your other stories that you've published? What sorts of themes do you like to explore in your storytelling?
I've had 4 novellas published, (Torment, The Noctuary (2011), Vaudeville (2012), The Last Night of October (2013) and The Eschatologist (2016), a short story collection, and Vaudeville and Other Nightmares (2014). My debut novel, Hollow House comes out this July. I've also had a bunch of stories published in anthologies. My full bibliography can be found here - https://darkscrybe.com/bibliography/ I like to write about the human condition as it relates to horror and throw in a bucketful of the supernatural. The idea of hidden worlds encroaching on our world fascinates me.
A friend of mine has described your writing style as evocative and powerful. Is that how you would describe yourself?
Who said that? I suppose I should pay them for such kind words. :P That’s very flattering. I guess I can see the evocative part. When I write the entire story plays out like a film in my head and I try to echo that in my words. I always aim to ensure that the reader remembers my story after they’ve finished reading it, not because of the scare factor, but the messages I’m trying to convey.
My biggest weakness is probably brevity. I write very sparsely. I wonder sometimes if that’s a turn off for some readers. My biggest strength is that I’m never short of an idea.
What writers and stories have helped shape you into the artist and writer you are today?
A lot of people already know that I love Poe, M.R. James, Clive Barker and Stephen King. But I also adore Thomas Ligotti, Graham Masterton, Richard and Laymon. You’d probably find I’ve borrowed from all of them in my work.
You mentioned that your never short of an idea. Do you tend to write down all of these ideas when they spring to mind and revisit them down the track? Or are you someone who has to take an idea and run with it as soon as it forms in your head?
Usually if I have an idea for a novel or novella I'll write it in a notebook or scrap piece of paper (I have many of them) or if it's a short story I'll start writing it straight away. I guess it all depends on how formed the idea, the setting and the characters are in my head.
Take me through a day of creative work with Greg Chapman. Do you have a particular space you work in? How many hours a day do you spend writing or working on your art?
Well, as I say I have a full-time job and I’m a dad, so writing and art is something I only indulge in during lunch breaks, after work and on the weekends. I’m most productive on the weekend and I try and pen one story and do a couple of drawings during those two days.
What’s your take on the local horror scene at the moment? What do we need to do better in this country to make the scene more vibrant?
I think the Aussie horror film scene is certainly making a come back with films like The Babadook, Wyrmwood, Wolf Creek and its TV spin off. I think Australia is a hot bed for speculative fiction. We’re so diverse with many authors writing across many genres. I think the only thing that’s hindering us is the mainstream publishing industry. Very few authors are making it into the mainstream, which is a shame.
You write about some incredibly harrowing things (biblical apocalypse for example). I’m curious, what scares Greg Chapman?
Spiders. I bloody hate them. That’s all I’ll say on the matter.
You recently had the misfortune to discover some of your artwork had been stolen and was being printed on shirts overseas. What can artists (and writers for that matter) do to protect themselves from this? What would you say to people considering stealing an image, or pirating one of your books?
Sadly there’s not a lot you can do to protect yourself, but I’ve come up with some ways to minimise the risk of it happening again. An artist friend told me not to violate my art with a watermark and I tend to agree. I think you just have to be careful about where you share your art. People steal stuff, and that’s never going to stop, but I think if you see it happening then you should definitely say something about it.
Do you remember the first art piece that you sold? What was it?
I used to draw a lot of caricatures and I remember doing one for a birthday present when I about 15 or 16 I think.
How would you describe your art style? Have you always had an innate talent for it?
I try and mix it up using different mediums. I like to dabble and I also like to work quickly. It all started with comic books when I was little. As soon as I read one I wanted to draw my own. I taught myself how to draw by studying comics.
What are you reading right now? What was the last amazing horror story that you read?
Right now I’m jumping between Into the Mist, a military horror novel by Lee Murray and a non-fiction book on the discovery of chloroform, which is utterly fascinating. The last amazing horror story I read was Lee Battersby’s Magrit. Sort of a middle reader’s ghost story.
I have prints of most of my art at society6: www.society6.com/darkscrybe
What are you working on right now? What projects do you have coming up?
I just finished the new version of my colouring book, The Horrible Colouring Book, which should be available in a week or so. My debut novel, Hollow House, is also coming out from Omnium Gatherum Media in the US next month. I just this weekend finished penning a Halloween-themed tale. Apart from that I have a regular gig creating art for Dark Discoveries Magazine.
What's your debut novel Hollow House about? Can you give us a sneak peek?
I can't give you a sneak peek of the actual work, but I can give you a run down on the concept and themes: It's basically a tale centred around the people living in your average street. On the corner is a house that they all think is empty. In a sense it is and it isn't, but they all come to learn the truth about the house as it reaches out to infect them. Some of the themes include teenage suicide, family dysfunction, psychological abuse, marital discord, abnormal behaviour, and of course dark magic and murder. It's basically Neighbours, as directed by David Cronenberg. :) Well I hope it is. It's my first novel, so of course I hope everyone who reads it, likes it.
If you had to pick one writer or artist to have a coffee with who it be and why?
Man I'd love to have a coffee with Stephen King and just shoot the shit. I mean he's Stephen freaking King.
Will you be appearing on the convention circuit over the coming months?
Sadly no. Being so far away from the big smoke, and my work and family commitments makes it hard.
Best tip for aspiring artists and writers?
Read, write and draw!
And finally, to what dark god must I offer a sacrifice to get a caricature done of myself?
Probably Cthulhu. Send me proof of sacrifice and I'll think about it :P