Thursday, 28 July 2016


I was recently interviewed by Frank Duffy - here is a transcript of said interview - sorry, goes on a bit but hopefully if you get to the end you might find it interesting! I certainly enjoyed doing it.

NEWS: Continuing a series of interviews with authors from around the literary globe, today we're chatting to Dean M. Drinkel
Who the hell are you?
DD: My name is Dean M. Drinkel. I am an award winning script writer / director (three time Monaco Int. Film Festival winner); a compiler / editor of horror anthologies (working with publishing companies such as The Alchemy Press, Dark Continents, Western Legends, Lycopolis, Black Shuk); I have had a number of short stories published to date (various magazines and publishers – such as Crystal Lake) as well as several collections and novellas (Exaggerated Press and Hersham Horror as examples). In 2016 I relocated from London to Cannes to write a historical feature film script with the French writer Romain Collier. This script, which should see me making my feature film directing debut, has already garnered a lot of interest from French, Austrian and US producers and it’s not even finished yet! We also have a number of European actors (Belgian and French in particular) who have expressed a desire to appear in it. The second half of 2016 will also see several new anthologies released which I have compiled / edited as well two novellas and some stories I have penned appearing in other anthologies. I continue to be ‘Associate Editor At Large’ for FEAR Magazine. Creatively – life is good.

In the modern age of the jobbing writer, is there such a thing as an average writing day for you?
DD: I am a full time writer and at the moment because I am working on a number of commissioned projects I am literally spending the whole day writing. I get up around 9h, fire up the laptop and whilst I’m waiting for that I have some breakfast and sit out in the garden and settle my thoughts for the day. As I’ve said above, I now live in France as I’m working on the historical script – as well as the script itself I am also writing a ‘film diary’ of the writing process around that as well as my new life in Cannes. Whilst I eat, I churn out some words for that as I try to write something interesting about the film every day – I find doing that keeps the brain ticking over and keeps the creative juices flowing. It can also be quite cathartic revisiting an issue in the story which we may have had from the day before and perhaps by ‘sleeping on it’ and then writing about it, I might be able to come at it from a different angle and solve it. Of course, as an ‘ex-pat’ there have also have been a number of humorous incidents which have occurred to me that I feel were worth noting. I have never collaborated with another writer and that has also had its...challenges (and I mean that in a good way.)
If it is a day when Romain and I are working directly together on the script (sometimes we write scenes separately) then I’ll wait for him and then when he arrives, we will have some tea, have a chat and then spend several hours writing – of course we may break that up by going for a walk, getting something to eat somewhere or even having a drink if we need to celebrate or if (on those rare occasions) that it’s just not coming together that day.
If it is a day when I’m alone then after I’ve finished on my scenes, I will check my emails, make notes for other stories I will write at some stage, read stories for proposed anthologies etc. etc.
I / we do have a lot on and once our current script is finished (we are aiming to have it completed lock stock and barrel by the end of August) then we are looking at writing a horror script set on an island just off Cannes and possibly a dark fantasy / horror novel tentatively called “The Keeper Of The Bees”.
I aim to finish the writing day around 18h when I will have something to eat, take a shower and then head out to the local bars for a few wind-down drinks. Naturally I will always have my notebook with me – I never know when I will be inspired and I have to make sure I am ready when it hits me.

How often do you feel a seething envy whenever one of your writer friends posts about their latest publishing success?
DD: Not really seething envy no. Of course when you read about a colleague’s success you think bloody hell I wish that was me and when you see your actor friends (particularly my French ones) getting nominated for Cesar Awards or even films they are in winning the Palme D’Or you think when will that happen to me. I work a lot in the small / indie press so when you see a friend go ‘mass market’ you think damn...but I know some of my stuff will never be ‘mainstream’ and that’s fair enough – I work on roughly five year plans and the last five years have seen me having my own successes and with every passing year I feel it’s just getting better and better. Without sounding like a clichĂ© – the way I look at it, we are all supposed to be one community so I don’t see other writers as ‘enemies’ and we should all be supporting each other. A victory for one in the genre is a victory for the whole genre as a whole – well, that’s how I feel about it anyway.

Should prolific writers be tied to a chair for a few days, before being allowed to post constant updates on social media sites relating to their literary prowess?
DD: Let them do what they want – if they feel that’s what they need to do then who am I to stop them? If I think it becomes too much I can easily un-friend them / block them / turn off their posts. Writers such as Sarah Pinborough and Stephen Volk (just as two examples) often turn their FBs profiles off when they are super-busy and have deadlines approaching and maybe that’s the best way forward so you don’t get caught up in other people’s ‘boasting’– right now I don’t have enough time to be on social media, so whilst I keep my profiles active, I’m sure a lot of it is passing me by anyway. I think, like Sarah and Stephen, we all really should have better things to do than being on social media all the time. And anyway – just because some writers keep posting updates about their projects – it doesn’t actually mean they are any good does it?

How long does it take you to complete a short story from start to finish in the age of the internet and Facebook?
DD: There isn’t an average time for me. Some stuff this year has taken far longer than I hoped – and that was because I needed to find the right angle about a subject which ‘turned me on’. Once I find the subject, once I find the angle then everything usually flows quite nicely. Last year when I wrote CURSE OF THE VAMPIRE for Peter Mark May / Hersham Horror, I actually wrote three or four different novellas before I literally threw them away and started again and then wrote something which I am extremely proud of. Some of my readers have asked if there is to be a follow up – and whilst I have a plot / idea where I want to take it – if Peter says yes then I will do it...I will say as an aside that a French producer got in touch with me last week about the book and asked to see a copy of it because he had heard some great things and maybe, just maybe, he might be interested in doing a film version – now that would be interesting! In fact getting it published in French would definitely be a step in the right direction!
When my imagination flows, it usually flows quite quickly – I’ve recently written a 10,000 word story in roughly four hours which is great going for me I have to say. I was really inspired and enjoyed the world I was creating. I also liked the form I wrote the story in – a hybrid of William Burroughs / Brett Easton Ellis / Dennis Cooper – and I think I will write some more stories like that later this year and perhaps a 25,000 / 30,000 word novella if there’s a publisher out there who wants to take a look at it...

Can controlled substance abuse really aid the writing process?
DD: Interesting question. I admit to having several cups of tea during the day (Russian Earl Grey, Green, Darjeeling, Tetley) but that’s about it. I don’t drink coffee and now again I might have a hot chocolate. As noted previously, I will go out more often or not for a few Cidres (not Ciders) but that’s just to ‘unwind’ because it definitely is intense at the moment writing wise and living in a new country isn’t always easy – I know a few people down here for sure but they’re busy people too so not always wanting to hang out with their ‘famous English writer friend’ – don’t worry that’s said with humour. I certainly don’t drink during the day while I am writing (if it’s not working then sure we might go for a half somewhere to try and connect all the thoughts together) – and I’ve never touched drugs.

What are your thoughts on setting word targets each day? Are they constructive, or is it something only an insufferable pedant would claim essential?
DD: I’m afraid to say that because of the numerous projects I’m working on I have to set daily targets – of course some days I might not hit them and other days I will surpass them but for me having a target does provide me a good guideline for the length or a particular project and how long it will take to complete it. I can then be assured that I will hit the deadlines. Call me a pedant if you want – I’ve been called worse.

Would you like to be a reviled and unpopular obscurantist if it meant having worldwide success in the literary world, or are you a true artist who would never dilute the substance of their art?
DD: Well, we’ve all got to put bread on the table haven’t we? Some of my work isn’t going to be mainstream so that’s fine but now and again I do try to write more ‘normal’ stuff because I think at the end of the day we all want to be ‘loved’. You take EL James – she is reviled and her ‘literary’ output is attacked and YET I bet she has very expensive bread on a very expensive table in a very expensive house – so for me, as long as I can have worldwide success and now again write my non-mainstream stuff then you know what? I’ll be happy.

More importantly, how often are you involved in an online argument among other genre writers bemoaning the state of the writing community?
DD: Not at all. I totally totally stay out of that. I do not talk politics, I generally don’t talk about current affairs – sports yes but that’s about it. I sit back and watch other ‘professional’ writers tearing chunks out of each other and I think to myself – haven’t you got better things to do, shouldn’t you be writing? Why are you attacking someone who is trying to do the same as you and just get by through the day – if they are Tory, if they are Labour or any of the other parties, really what has that got to do with you? I’m up for honest debate for sure but not the hatred / vitriol I see being spewed on a daily basis. I just think why, why, why...what is that saying: not my circus, not my monkeys...something like that anyway. And it’s so easy to do it from a keyboard – perhaps we should look at some of these conventions such as Edgelit / Fcon etc etc hosting some ‘political debates’ and let’s see what happens in real life. It is very easy just to unfriend someone when they don’t agree with you – a little bit different when they are standing only a few feet away from you and they want to argue with you / defend their positions...

What are the most common gripes that authors make on social media sites which drive you bonkers?
DD: More often than not that the books they’ve written or contributed too aren’t getting enough reviews. They don’t seem to bother pushing their work but then moan when no-one is reviewing them. From an indie / small press point of view, those publishers can’t always afford to send out paperback copies out to reviewers and it’s not always easy for them when reviewers say “we won’t accept PDF or ebooks” – so it can be hard for them. All authors / editors should be involved in pushing their work surely but I have heard some writers say “no, not my job” and you think, oh okay. Of course it is bloody annoying when you know you’ve created something great and it doesn’t reach a bigger audience. It’s hard sometimes bridging that gap between sales / reviews and a debate I often have with some of my writer friends.

How long does it take for you to decide if the story is a work of genius or utter drivel?
DD: I’ve never written anything that is utter drivel!!!! Don’t worry I’m laughing again – I think even if there is a story which hasn’t been going as great as you wanted then you can stop, move onto something else and if you look at back at it and say, no forget it – there will always be something that you can salvage and use at a later date. I know sections of abandoned stories which didn’t work at the time I’ve then been able to ‘lift’ and use elsewhere. It can be fun looking back at the ‘abandoned’ folder on the laptop every now and again and finding some inspiration hidden in that ‘rough diamond’.

Are beta readers a good idea, or are they the equivalent of your Uncle Bertie’s friends from the local library reading group?
DD: Personally, I stay clear because there are enough ‘experts’ in the genre as it is. It is my firm belief that the more stories you write and the greater publishing experience you have, you begin to understand what works / doesn’t work (reviews can help to some extent on this also). What concerns me sometimes is that you can put your heart and soul into a story and then let a friend (or family member) read it and then they utterly tear it apart – does it mean that it’s a rubbish story? No – of course not – it might be that your friend / family member is jealous that they can’t do what you do, they might not want you to be successful, they might not like the genre or subject which you’ve written about...there might be any number of reasons why they don’t like your story – similarly they may turn around and say that it’s the best thing they’ve ever read – do you believe them? Do you walk about thinking you’re the next Stephen King or Clive Barker? I think, once you’ve written something which you feel is of the highest quality, properly formatted, with no typos / spelling mistakes etc and if you are proud of it then send it out to magazines, publishers and see what happens.

What is the most difficult form of fiction to write, a short story, a novella or a novel?
DD: I’m presently finding that short stories are very difficult for me to write – this is because I am having problems keeping to the required word count. When I first started out I was worried about having enough juice in the bank to hit 5,000 now I fly by five thousand easily and start hitting 10,000 or even 15,000 and think okay I need to rework this because at the most I can have is 5.5 / 6,000 – I’m definitely moving more and more into longer form stories.

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym to kick-start a lengthy career as a writer of erotica?
DD: Ha ha, yes I do write now and again under a pseudonym and have had quite a few stories published under that name (no, I’m not telling you what it is) – and I wouldn’t have a problem having a lengthy career as a writer of erotica – as long as it was dark erotica!

What has been the longest writing project you’ve embarked on? Was there any point at which you thought of abandoning the story so you could get absolutely sh**faced?
DD: I suppose the script we are working on is the longest project I’ve constantly worked on – Romain and I met last May, I came back to Cannes a couple of times during 2015, we then met in Paris in October and agreed we would write something – we spent New Year together and then I moved here in January. We started actually writing the script in February and to date there have been about six full drafts. Of course we haven’t been writing every single day on it due to ‘life’ but there have been lots of lessons learnt and for the next project we might actually get out of Cannes, hire a house somewhere and just write all day / every day for a month or so and come back with a 100% completed script! And yes, there have been a couple of times where we’ve gone to the pub and got totally smashed. I think sometimes that we may have started the project a lot sooner if alcohol (and karaoke!) hadn’t been a big part of our friendship – though saying that that was exactly how we met – Alcohol / Karaoke – both good for creativity, no?

Have you ever lain awake at night and wondered why you write? Have you ever considered if other people lie awake at night also wondering why you write?
DD: I write simply because if I have to. I try to write every day even if it’s only a couple of thousand words – if I don’t I become incredibly tetchy and my head becomes full of all these random words bouncing around my brain – so whilst I don’t think I’ve actually not been able to sleep because I’ve pondered ‘why’ I am a writer – I know that definitely I’ve been kept awake by my writing – deadlines, characters, plots, projects, stories people owe me, stories I owe people, new ideas for anthologies, films, stuff I’d forgotten to write down but then comes back into my head, scripts I’ve promised actors – that list can go on but it’s stressing me out as I type it.
For the second question I would say that I know people have thought about the stuff I write because some of it can be graphic and they wish I could / would tone it down – I’m trying but sometimes it creeps out when I least expect it.

Do you conduct research for everything which you write? Have you ever broken into a top secret facility to add authenticity in the name of research, or is Wikipedia your ultimate guide to authenticity?
DD: For the historical script there was a lot of research which we carried out – including a visit to Les Invalides in Paris and walking some of the Route De NapolĂ©on itself. And yes we did use Wikipedia – but only as a starting point. As the subject we are writing about is French we found that there weren’t many English sites that were of use so it was trawling through lots of French and Austrian (and some German) websites trying to gleam as much information as we could. We have tried to make sure that the script is as historically accurate as possible BUT of course it has to be dramatic so we need to have a fine balance – which we are hoping we have achieved. For my horror ‘stuff’ I generally don’t need to do research but there are on occasions that I’ve had to do fact checking etc. I haven’t yet broken into a top secret facility because I haven’t had the need though I will admit I better tell you that...all I will say is that it included a BBC international news presenter and a swimming times!

What piece of research might show up on your internet history and give your family cause to worry about your stability?
DD: None because for that sort of stuff I have a third mobile phone (yes – one English, one French and one ‘other’) ha ha. Anyway – I think if they found something like that they would just say ‘Oh it’s Dean being Dean’ – my stories are proof in themselves that I’m not exactly ‘stable’ and I revel in that. When did being normal get you anywhere?

What life experience has been the most advantageous in terms of writing a story?
DD: I’ll try and keep this one brief – I’ve always liked France as a country, the culture, the history etc etc but I couldn’t stand the people – not at all. I found them so rude it was beyond belief. I was coming to Cannes for the festival but wanted to see much more of the country but didn’t because of them. I was then in an excellent financial situation and felt like taking a short break so decided to give them another chance and went to Paris. I enjoyed myself so much that I started going several times every month – staying in different hotels in different areas of the city and getting to know all the bars, restaurants, clubs etc etc – it took a little while but slowly, surely I came round to liking them and now I can say that some of my good friends are French and definitely my best friend is! This I then noticed started to appear in my stories – they became more ‘French’ – not just based in Paris / Cannes etc but I realised the stories were French stories and also the film scripts I started to write were far more French than they were say Hollywood – it was always just a matter of when I moved to France I think.
I definitely think I am ‘different’ when I’m over here too – I notice I walk around a lot with my head up taking in the architecture etc rather than when I lived in London and it was head down, don’t look or talk to anyone and just get to the place where you are going as quickly as possible. Here it is very different. Without getting political it will be interesting to see where the whole ‘Brexit’ takes me / us and I hope, no I pray, I don’t get to a situation where because I am British that I lose out directing my own bloody film – that would be so typical wouldn’t it?!

Should authors give advice to aspiring authors , or should they leave them to do things their own way? What was the worst bit of advice you ever heard?
DD: I think new writers should have a ‘mentor’, someone to guide them through the whole process particularly. I wish I had. When I first started I didn’t know what the hell was going and on after my first book came out from a small publisher (who is no longer with us) I literally sat at the front door waiting for a film company or one of the major publishing houses to come knocking and offer me a massive deal. That didn’t happen so I ended up cleaning airplanes at Heathrow Airport (the money was good!). If I could give my younger self some advice it would be write, write, write – keep sending stuff out there – you go and knock on doors, don’t wait for them. I made that mistake and ‘stopped’ writing for a few years because I got ‘down’ about the whole thing. I then got bogged down with 9 – 5 jobs which I had to do as I lived in houses with friends – perhaps if I could do something different it would be that after Uni I’d gone back home to live my parents and said “Yeah, I’ve just had twenty odd stories published at Uni and now this book has come out so I’m going to be a full time writer and I’m going to live here” etc etc but it wasn’t possible then so I had to get my head down, get a job and write when I ever had spare time. I did have successes but wasn’t really able to capitalise on them – there were also some mind-blowing meetings I had in Cannes with some big time producers – I’d go back to London and get on with them but then realised I didn’t have any toilet paper or tea-bags because I’d spent all my money on champagne in the Carlton Hotel so I had to ‘buckle’ down and work in an office for a bit and those opportunities were lost. Well, things are different now somewhat I’m happy to say – but always remember your roots.
The last couple of years I would like to also think I have helped several young writers. I have read their stories and offered suggestions here and there and tried to point them in the right direction – particularly with format, layout, proof reading etc and when they submit to ensure they follow what the publisher / editor wants – not what you think they want (there can be a big difference) or because you think you are the next Stephen King (because your granny said so) that you think you can do what you want to do – it doesn’t work like that and don’t piss people off at the beginning of your career because you can quickly get a bad name for yourself. I have also been in the position to publish stories from young writers too – they did what was asked of them and in the end produced quality work and I was more than happy to publish their work and hope to again in the future.
Well – I’m not sure about the worst advice given to me – except perhaps this: I once lived near Heathrow Airport and I was looking for a short film to direct. A friend said that he had some ‘advice’ and that was to come along to the pub one night to meet a friend of his who was ‘an up and coming scriptwriter’ who had just written this ‘kick ass’ script but he didn’t know what to do with it (well, afterwards I knew exactly what he could do with it!) and perhaps I could take a look at it with a view to produce / direct. Okay – I thought, why not. So I go to the pub – I end up getting drunk with three or four guys (I think I paid for everyone to get smashed) and wondered which one was the actual writer – anyway, near closing time, this guy...we will call him Rob...reaches into his pocket and takes out a wad of torn handwritten pieces of paper and throws them down on the table. His friends look on very proud and stay silent as he ‘pitches’ me the story. I ask him where is the script – he points to the papers – he tells me to read them – what now? Yes, now – we want to know what you think. Well, did I really need to go through this...but okay, I pick them up – nothing reads in order, handwritten in different coloured pens, pencil, crayon – then there were these little drawings...two of which was a rather large woman with a chicken sticking out of her posterior. The drawing had absolutely nothing to do with the story but he had included it so “you don’t think it is porn.” Was he being serious? His friends are staring at me with their large bug eyes thinking I’m going to write him a cheque for millions of pounds to direct / produce this drivel. I excused myself and said I needed the toilet and yes did a runner! The funny thing is a year or so later I’m in Cannes walking down the Croisette and I hear someone shout “Dean! Dean! It’s me, Rob!” I kept walking.

What are some of the most popular misconceptions about writers from the perspective of the public?
DD: That we do nothing all day except play video games or are on social media. They don’t realise that writing is ‘working’ – yes, it might be something that we enjoy and yes it might be ‘vocational’ but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. I am a writer because I have to be – not always that I want to be – there is a difference. If I didn’t write then my head would explode. I think also because you are a published writer or award winning writer then you must be the life and soul of the party – but there are many writers who are the complete opposites and are incredibly introverted. Also – some of my stuff, as I’ve said before, is very graphic and some of the characters find themselves in some quite sordid situations. BUT that doesn’t mean that I am like that – in fact I’m the complete opposite. I think I’m quite normal it’s just the fact that I create stuff that isn’t. I’ve met people in France that have actually been scared to come and talk to me because they’ve read my work and therefore think I have done the things I write about...I’m not naive but that did shock me a little.

What was the worst rejection from a publisher you’ve ever had?
DD: When I was starting out a German publisher got in contact because they knew I liked Clive Barker and they were looking for an English writer who wrote like Clive. Well, Clive is a massive influence and a lot of my work has been ‘compared’ to him so I was honoured to be asked – I wrote some stories, sent them off and six months later they came back to me saying that I should find my own voice and not be like him- okay...but hang on, wasn’t that exactly what they did want? Not so long ago I was also told that my work wasn’t ‘graphic’ enough for an anthology someone was putting together which made me smile quite a lot. I think what they were planning must have been a literary ‘snuff film’!

Have you ever thought of launching a secret hate campaign against a publisher who simply misjudged your literary genius?
DD: No chance – what a waste of energy. Anyway and sadly there are enough people ripping others apart in the genre at the moment, whether they are attacking other writers, editors and / or even small press publishers so again, I step away from all that. If you submit correctly and a publisher says no – if you do it correctly you can go back to them at a later stage with something new. There is no need to burn bridges. Of course there may be people / publishers I detest because they’ve rejected something – but they don’t know it and at conventions etc I’ve shaken hands with them, smiled for photos with them, even had a drink or a meal with them. That doesn’t make me a hypocrite – just a pragmatist. You’ve said no now but don’t worry – we’ll get there in the end.

And finally, which would you choose: a commercial contract with stipulations about what you’re allowed to write, or a career in the Small Press with no restrictions on what you are allowed to write?
DD: Okay – I have ghostwritten a non-fiction book in the past and there were various stipulations around that. I admit I found it difficult at the beginning but then as we worked through the process I found that I was able to use those constraints to my advantage and actually had a lot of fun – it wasn’t easy all the time but I look back at that period with a sense of pride.
I am happy to work with small presses and write what I want – but saying that sometimes even for anthologies I’ve submitted too and then been accepted I’ve been asked to ‘tone’ down the violence or sexual imagery – so there can be restraints everywhere.
I guess though – as I’ve said in the previous question – it’s always going to be about putting bread on the table and if now and again you’ve got to take one for the team then fine, then no problem at all. You know where to find me – just make sure that pay cheque is a big one because I don’t come cheaply!

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