By Becca Arlington
Professor of Creative Writing and joint Booker Prize winner of 2019, Bernardine Evaristo is currently hosting The Brunel Writers Series at the university. This series of five events sees successful and established writers being interviewed each week. Students and attendants also have the opportunity to ask them questions, listen to live readings and watch screenings of their work.
On Wednesday 4th March, the writer being interviewed was Brunel lecturer and established novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker, Frazer Lee.
Lee was a Bram Stoker Award Finalist for his debut novel, has had six films produced and has won an extraordinary eighteen international film awards for his directing and writing.
His colleague at Brunel and fellow writer, Max Kinnings began by asking Lee a series of questions about his work and the latter expressed his love for all things gory and gloomy. He amused the audience with humorous anecdotes and allowed them to visualise the world of horror writing, with many frank and personal tales of his journey to success.
The audience were then treated to two short films and a clip of the horror writer’s first feature film. This was certainly no place for the faint-hearted, and the audience jumped in shock, gasped at the gore, and laughed at Lee’s clear delight in alarming his audience. The short films can be found on Vimeo – for those with a strong stomach!
I took the opportunity to ask Frazer Lee a few questions and his responses were just as detailed, helpful and witty as they were during The Writers Series event:
As a successful and multi-award-winning horror writer, what would be your best piece of advice to others who wish to pursue a career in horror writing/writing in general?
Thanks for your kind words! My general advice to emerging writers is to read a lot, and write a lot. Soak up the inspiration in your brain, which is rather like a creative sponge, and then squeeze it out into your next work. Only by reading what does (and does not) work for us can we begin to develop our own styles, and our own voices as writers. If horror writing is your thing, then write what really scares or disturbs you. Don’t hold back. If you do it honestly enough, then it will scare or disturb the reader too.
Which of the films/trailers we viewed last night was your favourite? And why?
Ah, all my films and stories are my dark, twisted little offspring. I try not to have favourites, or the others will get jealous. I have fond memories of making all of them, but those memories are infuriatingly countered by seeing the flaws in each of them, too. If you look over your shoulder too much, you’ll get a sore neck. So without really answering the question (sorry!) I’ll say that my *next* project is always my favourite! I’m working on developing a movie version of my new horror novel Greyfriars Reformatory. Fingers crossed!
Do you ever find yourself with writer’s block? If so, how do you combat this?
I rarely get creatively blocked, but sometimes I experience burnout from taking on too much at once. Nothing a walk in the deep, dark woods or a The Cure concert can’t remedy. My ‘problem’ (if it really is a problem?) is that I have too many ideas and not enough time. I’d better get back to the desk, just as soon as we’re done chatting!
Your ideas are so unique and interesting, how do you think of them?
Thank you! That’s very kind of you to say. I’m not really sure where they come from in the first place. They say ‘write what you know’ and I mostly write horror, so I can only imagine the ideas stem from a grim childhood in the industrial gloom of Staffordshire, and a lifelong fascination with things that go bump in the night. When I write my characters and their stories though, I can tell you that I do have one important question to ask of them: What are they most afraid of? In my recent folk horror novel ‘Hearthstone Cottage’, the main characters are all 20-something graduates, so I identified that what they are most afraid of is loss of independence – they have their whole lives ahead of them, plenty of time to figure things out. What if something ancient, and dark, messes with that? My film ‘On Edge’ (which we screened last night) taps into pretty much a universal fear – fear of the dentist! I think most people can relate to that, although I actually enjoy dentistry. I guess it’s the way I’m hardwired after all.