With the publication of his new novella, There Goes Pretty, from the ever reliable Dark Minds Press, I decided to ask CC Adams some questions...
For Denny and Olivia, life is good. In a lavish wedding, the couple have taken another step forward, with a beautiful honeymoon and bright future to look forward to.
Like many relationships, theirs is one that needs love, trust and commitment – qualities that are slowly and surely tested, with insidious forces at work. And, gradually, the couple and their relationship will start to suffer, as the cracks begin to show.
...as does something else.
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Denny and Olivia seem to have it all, they’re deeply in love, they’ve just got married and they have a wonderful honeymoon and life to look forward to. Except there’s something else in the house, something that clearly doesn’t like Olivia.
Opening with their wedding, this follows the early part of Denny & Olivia’s married life, both of them full of life and happy until Olivia wakes up one night to find a featureless ghost in bed with her. From there, cracks rip through the relationship and these are handled well, with a nice sense of realism. Olivia worked well as a character, believable and strong, but I wasn’t so sure about Denny (he’s very much of the TOWIE generation, which I’m clearly not) and that made it hard for me to sympathise with him as his life literally went to hell. The ghost story aspect is well-handled (though it shifts at the end, so who you think is being haunted isn’t) but I might have preferred them to be a little more shocking than they’re presented. London is well used as a location and there’s a definite sense of place about the whole thing, rooting the supernatural aspects into a hard reality which helps ground them. On the downside, it felt a little too long and at least one character seemed superfluous, but these little glitches don’t detract from the whole. Well paced and told, if you’re looking for a very London ghost story, this might be just your thing.
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MW: CC, thanks for agreeing to answer some questions. Where did the initial spark of the idea come from?
CC: Probably from the notion that a wedding – at least, if it’s done right – should be a happy day. How then does something that joyous lead into something so horrific? I guess there’s some wishful thinking in there – as yet, I'm not married but I think about the kind of wedding that would move me; push the ring slowly onto her finger, lose ourselves in our first kiss as husband and wife. I love romance, I won’t lie. London’s a big enough place; I just picked a venue that spoke to me as something romantic and wondrous, something I’d want for my wedding.
Of course, in the realm of the story, that euphoria doesn’t last.
MW: Without giving too much away, there’s a smart little shift/twist towards the middle of the book - was that in place before you started writing or did it come to you as the story unfolded?
CC: I guess a little of both. Partly because people in relationships rarely see eye to eye on everything; so they might compromise. That’s what comes with having different viewpoints as different people. So I had in mind from the off that things would come between them and test them. The other aspect to it is that, yes, I outline my work – I’m not a ‘pantser’ – but there’s room in there to improvise as I’m writing. Again, people won’t always see eye to eye, and they sure as hell won’t agree on everything. That, and the fact that people can still be driven apart without interacting with each other.
|Me and CC, chatting horror, at the 2017 FantasyCon in Peterborough
(you can read my Con report here)
MW: London is almost a character in itself - how important was it to ground the novella in the reality of the city?
CC: You know, I’m glad you say that. And it’s something I pride myself on – the vast majority of my work is set here in the capital. There are exceptions where my work takes place in other countries, or at least elsewhere in the UK but my work is mostly set here. As someone born and raised in the capital and proud of it, it’s very important. My work is very much the everyday nudged – or shoved – to darker places; anything from off-kilter to downright terrifying. And because those tales are set against the everyday, so the everyday needs to be detailed, nuanced and authentic. All of which serves to make the eventual threat(s) more authentic and, hopefully, more terrifying.
London’s my territory. I’m hoping now that those across the globe don't harbour the clichéd idea that it’s a cockney place; all about The Queen, Big Ben, fish and chips, etc. You’ve got one of the major cities on the planet that’s host to distinctive transportation (London Underground/the tube), nightlife, restaurants (don’t get me started), bars, fashion, scenery, cultural diversity, music, entertainment. The Shard, The London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, South Bank, Covent Garden, et al. – the landscape across the city. Those slices of the capital I show you in my work barely scratch the surface. But as someone who loves this city and is proud to call it home, I’d be doing a grave injustice if I didn’t bring it to life in my work.
MW: Have you ever experienced anything supernatural? I have - though it didn’t put me on the path to being a horror writer - and I’m endlessly curious about it.
CC: There was an example I used to cite from childhood, back when Mama used to put up the Christmas tree in December. I don’t think I was any more than ten years old, but here’s the thing. Back then, we used to have a mirror hanging behind the door of the living room, which was where Mama put the tree, by the window. So I’d gone into this room, in the dark to look at the tree glowing with all the lights on. But I didn’t figure on this ghostly shape, hovering behind the door, the classic/cliché ‘hiding under a sheet’ look. I don’t know whether it was my mind and/or the mirror playing tricks on me, but I ran back out. But now, with that buried by the weight of years, I’m not sure how genuine that was.
The more recent example is more disconcerting. Out in Toronto a few years back, and lying face down in bed in my hotel one night, I woke up feeling myself pushed down into the mattress, a force between my shoulder blades. Right now, I can guess it might have been cramp (which I think was unlikely) but there and then? Disturbing, for sure.
MW: What’s next for CC Adams?
CC: Currently outlining the next novel. When that’s done, I might move on to outlining and writing the next novella, partly because of juggling work for submission windows from different publishers, as well as what speaks to me. What I’m also overdue on is working on a collection. And I don’t mean a random assortment of stories dumped in a goodie bag, like ‘here you go’ - no. Something more than that, where the stories have a common theme, and they’re interlinked.
What I’m mindful of, as productive as I might be, is that what takes me weeks and months to write is something a reader would devour in a fraction of the time. Which means I’m usually working on something. Suffice it to say you shouldn’t have to wait too long before I bring you something new. Hopefully nasty.
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|Photo by Clem Onojeghuo
London native C.C. Adams is the horror/dark fiction author behind books such as But Worse Will Come, Forfeit Tissue and Downwind, Alice. A member of the Horror Writers Association, he still lives in the capital. This is where he lifts weights, cooks - and looks for the perfect quote to set off the next dark delicacy.