Mytherium Authors: An Interview with Steve Douglas

To celebrate the recent e-book release of the Mytherium anthology, I invited some of my fellow contributors to answer some questions on their stories, the creatures which populate them and writing in general.

First in the hot-seat is UK-based writer, Steve Douglas.

gorgon

Gorgon by Clay Rodrey

Introduce yourself, Steve!

Steve Douglas, born Manchester, 1955. Left school with one ‘O’ level, 1972, and began a 38 year spell with the Post Office that ended in early retirement, 2011. I have been writing stories and poems since I was seven, so really should have had more published! But I only write when the fancy takes… I have completed a novel, childhood memoir and numerous poems and short stories, but yet to become a household name, for which I’m thankful!

The title of your story in Mytherium:

The Boy, the Gorgon, and the Night-Magic-Man.

Which creature did you choose as your subject matter and why?

A rather prosaic reason, unfortunately. I already had the story, except it was a red bear, not a Gorgon. Because I wanted to write something for the collection it was a question of which mythical beast would best fit a pub sign. I believe there is actually a Medusa bar in Brighton! An inspiration for the story was something I recall from childhood; there was a huge billboard near our house that warned against the dangers of fire. It showed a little girl who’d gone too close to the fire and her dress was ablaze. I recall dreaming and fantasizing that I went to rescue her…

Your favorite thing about your own story?

The Night-Magic-Man coming through the sky, something that was inspired by a song and album cover by Magna Carta – Lord of the Ages (1973).

What is your favorite story, aside from your own?

I wouldn’t want to single out any one particular story, though generally I prefer the lighter, sometimes humorous ones. Some have a bit too much emphasis on blood and gore for me!

Your favorite thing about the book as a whole?

It’s good that there are contributions from far and wide. I expected all the contributors to be from the UK but they’re from everywhere! And of course the cover is brilliant.

What made you want to be involved in this project?

I couldn’t pass up a chance for publication in a real book, and I was sure there was something I could contribute, since I like fantasy, myth, fairy tale, that sort of thing.

What genre do you usually write?

There is always an element of fantasy, both in short stories and my novel. I like stories that deal with time conundrums too.

Ever seen anything which you can’t explain?

Hundreds of things, but that doesn’t mean they’re inexplicable… the success of 50 Shades of Grey… why people watch Big Brother or the X-Factor, why my computer just does things of its own accord… Okay, seriously, I had a period of recording dreams to see if they had been prompted by future events(!) (see J W Dunne’s An Experiment with Time), and one night I dreamed I was in the 17th Century and there was a fire in the house, and a pig running loose. I told my partner as soon as I woke up, and actually said ‘the key words for today are FIRE and PIG’. Later that day we visited a stately home, and while in a part of the house that was 17th Century I heard the guide talking about a fire there. ‘All we need now is a pig,’ I joked. Facing the fireplace was a table on which there were lots of modern photographs, and at the front was one of a man holding a pig. I asked the guide who he was and why he was holding the pig (probably the weirdest question she got that day) and she replied “he’s the current owner and he breeds rare pigs…” Ah, but does it need explaining…?

How long did it take you to write your story?

I can’t remember. Probably about an hour or two to write and another three weeks to fiddle about with!

Favorite creature movie?

I’m not a great ‘creature movie’ fan, though I do recall that when I was very small I pestered my parents to allow me to watch The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms – and then cried at the end… when they killed the beast! “They didn’t have to kill it!” I wailed. I recall liking the Wolf Man films back then too, but now? No.

How do you write and where?

Sometimes longhand in an exercise book in a coffee shop, but mostly at the computer in our back bedroom. Sometimes writing longhand helps because it forces me to edit, something I hate having to do, but once I’m ‘in a groove’ I’m happy to plonk away with two fingers at the keyboard.

One interesting thing people might not know about you?

There are lots of things people don’t know about me, but I’m not sure any of them are interesting. I actually got a runner-up certificate in an erotic short story competition? (It was more saucy than erotic, more George Formby than Henry Miller…)

Biggest influence on your work?

Different things at different times, going right back to Enid Blyton and her Mystery stories when I was seven. Plus all those 1960s TV shows: Dr Who, Batman, The Prisoner, The Avengers. Then as a teenager it was sci-fi, particularly Philip K Dick and Kurt Vonnegut. Then some classic fantasists: Lord Dunsany; the fairy tales of George Macdonald; more recently great writers like Jonathan Carroll, whose imagination is really wild. Graham Joyce too. I must mention Richard Brautigan, since one of my stories on Shortbread (So Cold in Alaska) is a sort of homage to him. And also John Cowper Powys, who isn’t exactly an influence (I’m not good enough) but whose idea of making a place, rather than any individual character, the focus of a book. Finally, places: my novel, The Lost Village of Shannon-by-the-Sea, was inspired by a particular seaside place. I started it there, little knowing it would be a novel at the time.

Why do you write?

Different reasons for different things. Sometimes I get a great opening line I just have to use; sometimes I see something I just have to write about to make some comment on; sometimes I want to create another world because I’m not crazy about this one. I have a very unprofessional attitude, in that I don’t write if I don’t feel like it, and once something’s finished I’m loathe to rewrite it. For Mytherium I rewrote a little because Catherine (the editor) persuaded me to, pointing out a few flaws. (Friends do this a lot, and they’re invariably right, but – with a few exceptions – I tend to ignore them. I’m a very lazy writer.)

Where can readers find other examples of your work?

I have quite a number of things on www.shortbreadstories.co.uk including an audio story exclusive to that site. Also a number of things available to buy (but not download!) on www.lulu.com

Thanks so much, Steve! I’ll be back next week with another Mytherium author in the spotlight.

Mytherium is out in paperback and now also in electronic formats. Just click on the cover (the icon to the left) to buy!

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