Fellow writer and friend Colin F. Barnes stops by to chat about influences, old and new…
AM: I’ve always been attracted to the darker side of things in music, movies and books, and I often try to remember where, how, when and what started it…but I guess it’s always been a part of me since I can’t recall what triggered my passionate affair with the blackest of nights. What was it for you? Do you have a better memory than me?
Colin Barnes: Like you it’s quite difficult to remember a specific time or event that triggered my interest in the darker things. I think for me personally, it was a culmination of cultural and personal situations. When I was younger, I was a bit of a rebel and was never interested in the popular media of the time, and being a budding artist and dealing with teenage depression I was naturally attracted to darker music, fiction and art. This fascination with all things dark continued to my adult years where I use writing as a medium.
On the topic of media, what were the standout films, bands or books that made the most impact on you.
AM: I remember being scared out of my wits by the original Amityville Horror and ET (still can’t watch either), and then The Shinning (cannot believe my sister made me watch it so young) probably contributed to my vivid nightmares.
I LOVED historical books until I realized they weren’t fictional and got me worried about Humanity. ‘The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it,’ Elizabeth Bennet said and I couldn’t agree more. I was engulfed into Anne Rice’s vamps world right after and decided I prefer to spent my time with goths:)
Music? Let me shout it out: THE CURE! I was ten the first time I heard Close to me and never looked back. The lyrics, the melodies, the voice! I will never get enough of them, and they are an endless source of inspiration. They opened doors for Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Chameleons, James, Skinny Puppy, and a bunch of others that I still listen to. Old school, I’m not good with new bands.
How about you? Which movies, bands, and books triggered your dark side?
Colin Barnes: I think we have a very similar timeline of influences. For me, the standout horror films that got me hooked were The Thing, Amityville & Nightmare On Elm Street. I was probably 9 or 10 when I was home from school ill and I found some of my parents’ VHS tapes. I started watching The Thing and despite being terrified (of the film and of being caught watching it) I was hooked. The next big memory was when I was about the same age, probably the following summer. I was staying at a friend of my parents place in a really seedy part of London. It was an apartment block and we could hear druggies shooting-up outside the bedroom. The kid of the parents decided it would be a good idea to watch Nightmare on Elm Street – I didn’t sleep that night, and had nightmares for weeks, but I still loved it.
As for fiction, that came quite early. I was bored with the books we were reading at school and my reading ability was more advanced than was expected. So while most people were reading books for children (Roald Dahl) I was reading things like Dune, and The Shining and Carrie. Like you I got into Anne Rice and read everything that she wrote. Which was an odd choice for a teenage boy from Essex! But the goth lifestyle appealed to me greatly. I also really got into H.P Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith amongst a bunch of other horror writers.
I had two distinct musical tastes growing up that informed my worldview. The first was metal. Metallica and Black Sabbath specifically. And then the more gothic stuff. I was really into Bauhaus, and later Switchblade Symphony, Anathema, Katatonia etc… I too am pretty old-school when it comes to music, there’s very few modern bands that I like as much as my old favourites.
AM: People used to think I was so weird as a child: Freddy Krueger was my official crush for several years. Then Jason (so tall and dark and mental) and anyone who wasn’t a preppy and popular. And instead of thinking what’s wrong with me, I’ve celebrated my love for the monster, not the hero.
So how does it transpire in your work? When you write a crazy shit scene, do you put a specific band on? Have you ever been so inspired by a book or a movie that you wrote a story from it?
Colin Barnes: I’ve been there with the whole ‘weird’ thing. When I was in secondary school and we first got computers, I started a project to create a Freddy Krueger computer game. The teachers didn’t approve.
Music is a great catalyst for me. To write certain things I have to be in the right frame of mind. I’m usually gloomy most of the time anyway, but I’ll select certain music for certain scenes. Early Metallica is great for action scenes, and the doomy atmospherics of Anathema or Kyuss, for example, are good for slower paced weird stuff.
As for inspiration, I’m inspired on a daily basis by so many things. I think all my work in some manner comes from something else — it can just be something small. For example, I wrote a flash piece called ‘From Dust to Joy’ because my workplace reminded me of the dusty smell of a library carpet. With regards to other books and stories, I think the thing that inspires me the most is my own arrogance in that I think i can do better. When I read a story I like, I instantly think of things that I think would improve it or make it more weird, dark or extreme – and then that melds with other ideas.
How about you? Is there certain media that moves you to write particular types of stories?
AM: I get most of my ideas from drifting thoughts, mostly when I’m reading or watching a film. More often than not, it’s the failed opportunity of a plot that gets my mind going, wanting to rectify the situation in my own words. Especially if a story takes the easy way out, I jump on the chance to mess it all up with my own characters struggling in my own worlds. Much like you, some ideas come from the fact that I want to do it better:)
And of course, I always turn the dark notch to the max, because I really don’t want to see a happy fairytale ending when we’re going to die, some sooner than others. Speaking of dying, what do you want the world to remember you by?
Colin Barnes: I have a bit of a pessimistic outlook to death and legacy. I just see myself as a pretty inconsequential mote of dust floating about. When I die, I don’t expect anything of me to be remembered. Perhaps a few people might pick up a book or something, but I don’t think there’ll be any lasting memory. As to what I want the world to remember me by — well, I suppose as I don’t believe that I will be remembered in a great detail, I suppose being remembered as the finest writer of my generation would be nice – but then again, I won’t be around to be aware of that acknowledgement so it seems kind of moot. In the end, I guess ‘a good guy’ would be enough.
What about your legacy? Do you write to leave a legacy?
AM: Yes. I want to change the world.
Colin F. Barnes blogs, and I highly recommend his #fridayflash:)