Saturday, 14 November 2015

An Interview with Hannah Raven

Internet gremlins (something even Poe couldn't have imagined back in his day) gobbled this interview up, but now it's back with a vengeance. Hannah Raven tells me about her work with Poe Productions Australia and Poe Burlesque Theatre.

Poe Productions Australia and Poe Burlesque Theatre. These two titles immediately grab the attention of any fan of all things mysterious, macabre, and Poesque. At the risk of unveiling your secrets, who are you?

I am the creative director of Poe Productions Australia and the curator of Edgar Allan Poe Australia.
I first began my research into Poe’s life in early 2010. His writings had always struck a cord with me. His grotesque unapologetic imagery, his use of cryptography. His influence always seemed to leak into my work. Whether it was a one women cabaret, or a devised short piece of theatre history for a class presentation, romance and gothic undertones were always evident.
When I began to dig into Poe’s personal history, it became very clear that his relationships with the women in his life influenced the much of his work. Being a theatre maker, I came up with the concept for Edgar’s Girls in 2012 in my final year of drama school at The Actors Centre Australia. So much of his work marries parallels; The Macomb and the comical (Never Bet the Devil Your Head) the sickly and the beautiful (Eleonora)
Burlesque in the 21st century is a wonderful eclectic art form. It honours the traditions of classic striptease while bringing Parody and Satire to the mix in Neo forms. I threw my three loves into one big melting pot and Poe Productions Australia emerged.  Our premier production of Edgar’s Girls celebrated the women who loved, inspired and challenged the most prolific writer of the 19th Century  

Australia in the twenty-first century is far in time and space from the world of Edgar Allan Poe, yet his work endures and influences a number of contemporary writers and artists. Why do you think that is?

There is no doubt in my mind that Poe was an intelligent individual. He studied Latin, French and Greek mythology, was a skilled cryptographer and was more than versed in the English language. These qualities made him a great writer and poet, but what made him the brilliant artist he is known and respected as today?

Two words…Psychological Introspection.
Many people who read his work for the first time in the 19th century voiced the true horror and uneasiness they felt after reading a story of his (Helen Whitman being a very notable one) Well before Freud,  Poe was asking his readers to look within and come face to face with the morbid and frightful reality of the human psyche. Many of his stories deal with grief, loss and trauma …which then propels the protagonist of the tale into a state of guilt and a sense of lost identity. This is what makes Poe’s work so relatable….we identify with the subtext. Fear of the unknown and consequences of our actions haunt us, more often that not, subconsciously. It comes as no surprise to me that writers and artists who explore the deeper levels of human psychology are inspired by Poe’s unapologetic presentations of what it is to be human.

Of all the women in Poe's opus, who fascinates you the most? 

Signora Psyche Zenobia. The most prominent female protagonist in any of his stories. In A Predicament and How to Write a Blackwood Article, Poe’s unapologetic black humour is executed perfectly through this bolshy women from high society. It is very clear he is taking a stab at the Literati of the time. But what fascinates me most about Zenobia, is that she is in stark contrast to all the other women of Poe’s stories. She is not sickly, and there is no indication that she is a young, kept women.

What else should we know about your upcoming performances and projects?

Poe Productions is currently working on a play inspired by one of Poe’s most famous short stories….which one? You’ll just have to be patient I’m afraid.


In February 2015, I flew to California. It was my first pilot season in America and I had a few meetings and auditions with casting directors. I had worked very hard to save the money to get myself over there to be seen by the top industry professionals. But in the last week of my trip, I dropped everything, flew to JFK Air Port, and made my way to Baltimore in a matter of days. The man who had been my muse for so many years was buried only a train ride away. I reached the Westminster Church to find the Cemetery that surrounds it locked. Heavy snow that time of year had made parks and burial grounds to dangerous to be walking around in. The 8 foot high iron gate was not going to stop me from standing in front of his grave and paying my respects…I hadn’t come half way across the country to stare at his monument from behind an iron gate.  So I hoisted myself up and over the gate, slipping over on a patch of black ice as I landed on the other side, picked myself up and ran as fast as I could to the foot of Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. I made a promise to him then and there that I would dedicate a significant portion of my life to keeping his memory alive. To find a way of sharing his life story, his stories, his poems, with people on the other side of the world. I want people to admire Poe for his work, and how hard it was for him to accomplish the things he did. The first American writer who attempted to make a living solely from writing short stories, editorials and poetry. For me, it’s such an injustice to him when you mention his name, and people say “oh yeah, the Raven guy?” He wrote reviews, essays, created the detective fiction genre, and achieved all this with next to no financial aid. People are always amazed when I tell them how tough he had it…but that he never gave in to go work in finance, or a factory where he could have made a decent wage for himself. For me, he is the poster boy for the tortured, struggling artist. He set the bar.

I take my research into his work very seriously and am always keen connect with other Poe activists and fans.  My pages are listed below. Please feel free to drop me a line and share any Poe inspired work.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Crows of Eildon Hill

It's not every day that a writer finds himself penning a tale that explores the very essence of what it is to be human, and, more particularly, a man. What separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom? Is evil the inability to guard the veneer of civilisation we have constructed over time and to resist our most bestial urges? In writing "The Crows of Eildon Hill", I found myself seeking to answer these questions. The story follows a protagonist who deals with a horrific situation the only way he deems morally acceptable and dares the reader to walk in his shoes. It wasn't an easy work of fiction to write, and I suspect it won't make for light reading either.

For three weeks, Blue Crow Magazine #4 will be available for just $17.99 AUD

Thursday, 17 September 2015

In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep

You can order your copy of the debut anthology from the Australian Horror Writers' Association for the special launch price of just $9.95 USD. This offer ends after Halloween.

In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep is an anthology like no other. The tales herein will take you on a weird and terrifying journey. You will set out on a road trip and find yourself trapped in the arid Australian outback where a little girl and her grandfather struggle to survive. There are isolated farmhouses threatened by bushfires and bullets, and rainforests teeming with bloodthirsty bugs. The cities are full of trouble too. The murky waters of the Brisbane River hide spiteful spirits and the suburbs are infested with insane inhabitants masquerading as ordinary human beings. Then, you will leave Australia, departing from Melbourne, to hunt down vampiric gangsters in Southeast Asia, before sailing future seas and visiting realms beyond this world altogether.

This inaugural showcase anthology features the work of just a handful of the many talented and darkly imaginative authors who make up the Australian Horror Writers' Association. If you are unfamiliar with Australian horror, let this book be just the first step on a long voyage of discovery.

Table of contents:
The River Slurry Rue Karney                                              
Triage Jason Nahrung                                              
Upon the Dead Oceans Marty Young                                  
Beast Natalie Satakovski                                
The Grinning Tide Stuart Olver                                          
Our Last Meal J. Ashley Smith                                             
Veronica’s Dogs Cameron Trost                                          
Bullets Joanne Anderton                   
Saviour Mark McAuliffe                                
The Hunt Mark Smith-Briggs                                               
The Monster in the Woods Kathryn Hore               
Road Trip Anthony Ferguson                                               
Bloodlust Steve Cameron                                          
Elffingern Dan Rabarts    

Friday, 10 July 2015

An Interview with C. C. Adams

It was an honour to have organised this year's Australian Horror Writers' Association Short Story and Flash Fiction Competition. Congratulations to the winners, J. Ashley Smith and Zoe Downing. The three judges also gave several honourable mentions, and C. C. Adams was one of them. I enjoyed his tale and invited him to answer of few questions about his writing.
1. Congratulations on your honourable mention in the Australian Horror Writers' Association Short Story and Flash Fiction Competition and thanks for the opportunity to read your work and ask you a few questions. You have a devilish tale being published this Halloween in "Crossroads In The Dark" from Burning Willow Press. Without giving too much away, can you tell us what inspired you to write "I'm Taking You With Me"?
Every summer, I'm out in Toronto with friends, one of whom is Nella - who the story's dedicated to. Last summer, she'd told us a story about the apartment block she grew up in. There was a suicide nearly twenty years back where a guy jumped from one of the higher floors. The part that stuck with me was that he landed with such force that the impact tore his fingers off. And the more I rolled this scene around in my head, the more I began to craft a story from it.
2. You live in London, one of the world's great literary capitals. Do you have any favourite haunts where you go to write or think your stories through?
Mmmm, it's less about where I go to kick-start the process and more about what scenery I want to capture. London's one of the major cities on the planet. I might want to capture the London chic of the Shard bar, 32 floors up with a panoramic view of the city. Or the sweaty intimacy of the Jazz CafĂ© where you're packed shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Maceo Parker on stage, or whether it's raining in the city and my aunt's old block of flats is all damp and cold in the stairwell. Even if it's just a crowded late-night Tube/subway train full of flirty high-heeled women: I just want to paint that picture of London as a character, just like the people in it.
3. Do you find that there are recurring themes in your stories or are they all different from each other?
I like to explore fear, which I think is perceived as only a human sensibility. Sure, a mouse might be scared of a cat, but that cat isn't likely to see the mouse as anything more than food. The mouse's fear is of little consequence to the cat - and so it goes with the characters I write. Of course, the cat may have something else to fear too.
4. What are you working on at the moment?
Currently outlining a novel/la called Akhtar's Veil. Now I take more of a cinematic view with the outlining in terms of how I want the scenes to look and the characters to be. Once the outline is strong enough for me, then I can start hammering out the first draft.
5. Tell us about your writing rituals. Do you have a drink, music, special underwear that helps you get the words out?
Special underwear? Man, my team will love that one... I tell you what I do: it's not enough for me to have quiet, but I need solitude. I don't want to hear doors opening and closing near me, no conversation/TV/etc. from a neighbouring room, no roadworks/maintenance outside, nothing like that. Once I have that level of isolation, it's easier to fade out from this world and sink myself into the one I'm writing.
6. If you could invite any five authors from any time period to dinner, who would they be?
Whoa! I'm not sure I could come up with five. That's a tall order. Probably the first pick would be Michael Crichton. What I like about his work is that even though the narrative is very kinetic and visual, he's meticulous with the detail and rationale behind it. Jo Nesbo for his Harry Hole books because those are engaging and entertaining. Brian Keene for his blunt and visceral narrative: The Rising is still my favourite zombie story anywhere: book, TV or film. Kelley Armstrong, since she provided the forum where I got deeper into writing and beat my first NaNoWriMo challenge. And Ian O'Neill who's always been on hand to support and offer wise counsel.
7. Have you read any Australian horror or seen any horror movies from down under?
Not entirely sure - my bad. Do Ghost Ship and Queen Of The Damned count?
8. What scares you?
Horror films! Which surprises people, given what I write. I don't watch them now, but I grew up watching them: The Evil Dead, Salem's Lot, Phantasm, Halloween, etc. FYI, my favourite film of all time is John Carpenter's "The Thing". I watched that since I was about 10 years old. Not scared once by it - it's just well-crafted work and wholly absorbing. But that's scared a lot of people.
9. What are your passions besides writing?

Food - definitely food. I'm known for a decent appetite, plus I'm up for different cuisines. At 5 meals a day, I'm often at the mercy of my stomach. Lifting weights helps keep some degree of size and strength on me, but I really do need to get back into kung fu. The muse and the business of writing have kept me busy over the last few months, so none of the joyful stretches, sparring, etc. for a while now.
10. If somebody reads one of your stories and enjoys it, what should he or she do next?
Engage with me: love it or hate it, I wanna hear about it. It's just humbling and cool to move people. And maybe scare seven shades out of them.
You can find out more about C. C. Adams here:

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Welcome to the Library

Dear reader, I welcome you to my library. If you would like a sample of my fiction, simply click here. If you are already sure that my tales are to your liking, please click here to purchase my short story collection.

Enjoy the suspense!

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Freedom to Create and Criticise

Having lived in France and read this provocative publication, the recent murder of the Charlie Hebdo staff was a crime we had all been expecting. The cartoonists knew that their murder could have happened at any moment. Despite this, they continued producing the magazine. We all know the saying that tells us the pen is mightier than the sword. These artists truly lived by the pen and died by the pen.
  The staff of Charlie Hebdo understood the power of satire. By mocking corrupt and self-serving politicians of all inclinations, misguided religious zealots of all denominations, and more general idiotic and hypocritical practices in society, these cartoonists fought for a better world. Satire has long been a weapon used to encourage progress in society.
  Aristophanes was one of the best known early satirists. He criticised politicians and commented on social habits and trends that he considered to be negative through his plays. In particular, he criticised the powerful Cleon, and his play, Drunkenness, contains an attack on the politician, Callimedon. His reader is meant to question received knowledge and to seek reform and progress.
  It seems to me that now, in the 21st century, we seem to have forgotten that the Golden Age of the Greeks and the Renaissance that later sought to light the flame of humanism once again, ever happened. Satire is a confronting form of comedy and it easily offends. Why? Because those targeted by it are acutely aware of their absurdity.
  The staff of Liberation, another passionate French publication, will produce the next issue of Charlie Hebdo. This issue is expected to sell well over a million copies, more than ever before.
  As a writer, I assert my freedom to create and criticise, and following the initiative of fellow writer, Lee Battersby, here is my humble cartoon in support of Charlie Hebdo and all who fight against fascism, violence, and sheer stupidity.
If you are a cartoonist, or a writer, musician, or artist of any kind, please create your sketch for Charlie Hebdo and all who strive to use their art to make the world a better place. Here's your post-it note - get creating, and please share it with me on Facebook.