Interview with Andy Graham, author of ‘An Angel Fallen’
We recently reviewed the wonderful supernatural horror novella, An Angel Fallen, from talented author Andy Graham. An Angel Fallen combines elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror to great effect, weaving a story together that is impossible to forget. We were thrilled to speak with Graham about the novella, his writing background and upcoming projects, and his love of the genre.
10 QUESTIONS FOR AUTHOR ANDY GRAHAM
Mike’s the sheep. Raph’s part shepherd, part butcher. Mike needs someone to run with, to look up to, someone to follow. He knows what Raph and he get up to is wrong, but he doesn’t have the strength to stop it. His reasons for staying are manifold: a fear of violent consequences (and if I know Raph, those repercussions wouldn’t necessarily target Mike directly), a fear of loneliness, a teenage rebellious streak against his absent parents, and possibly a blood-lust that is stronger in Mike than he likes to admit. As for Raph, he’s an evil s**t. His pleasure in what he does is not dependent on, but is enhanced by having a crowd to play to, someone to corrupt, the ‘deflowering of innocence’ that some people get off on.
2. Were there other works (books, films, stories) about creatures “falling” to earth that inspired ‘An Angel Fallen’?
I don’t think so. The main inspiration was a post on social media about two sick teenagers that had mutilated and killed a dog. That idea then grew into a ‘what if’ type situation – what if the dog could get its own back. The dog became an angel, possibly because my wife has a couple of angel figurines by her bed. The issue of making an angel weak and in need of help (and so giving the boys a choice) led to it being fallen. I like the idea of the interpretation of good and evil being flexible (up to a point) and flipping established norms on their heads.
3. As a writer, when presenting a plot with such otherworldly elements, how do you keep the story believable and grounded in reality?
Most of what I have written to date is firmly rooted in reality. With An Angel Fallen, I wanted to push the ‘otherworldly’ elements and try and distort reality. I kept the ‘tech’ in the story normal and didn’t give the people any special powers, precisely in in order to keep things realistic. I did, however, twist the environment and what was going on in Mike’s brain (the voices he hears). I thought that by keeping the people relatively normal, it would keep the story believable. (As believable as a story with a fallen angel can be.)
4. The conclusion of ‘An Angel Fallen’ suggests that there could be more of Mike’s story to come. Is there a plan to continue his story?
There wasn’t initially but I think he maybe popping up again. I like the idea of a series of interconnecting stories that can also stand alone. For example, there’s a reference (a bucket) to my short story Sunflower in An Angel Fallen, and I have an idea for a follow-up to the latter which features Mike (slightly older) and a character from Sunflower. The story is tentatively titled A Devil Risen and will be similar in style and length, but not a direct sequel. It’ll be interesting to see how/if Mike has changed since his experiences in this novella.
5. An ‘Angel Fallen’ combines fantasy, science fiction, and horror into one gripping novella. Was that an intentional mixture of genres?
Was there a question in there? I just saw someone describing my novella as ‘gripping’ and came over all weak-kneed. 😉 But, no, there was no intentional mixing of genres. If anything, I was trying not to do that. My main work (The Lords of Misrule) does blend genres: dystopia, dark fiction, politics and light sci-fi, which doesn’t seem to sit well with some readers. So, with An Angel Fallen, I wanted to do something much more genre specific. I do think horror is a natural bedfellow for sci-fi and fantasy (though, to be honest, I’m not sure I can see the sci-fi in An Angel Fallen) and in a sense, I consider horror and romance to be the ‘master genres.’ Love and fear are essential parts of being alive and, as such, fit anywhere.
6. I found certain plot points in the novella to be very surprising—in a good way! As you wrote the story, did anything surprise you? Did characters suddenly do things you didn’t expect or hadn’t outlined previously?
Yes! It happens all the time and I love it when my characters start doing things I wasn’t expecting. Interestingly, I hadn’t planned this novella as much as I do my novels. Those were described as ‘sprawling’ by one reviewer (I prefer the term ‘epic’) and, as such, need more planning to keep on top of things. With An Angel Fallen, most of it was written with a vague idea in mind. As I was writing it, two main things cropped up that I hadn’t anticipated. One was the biblical plagues. Once the boys found the angel in the first draft, I knew I wanted something odd to happen, something to try and ramp up the tension. I started writing the plagues before I realized what I was doing. I think the frogs and flies appeared on the page first and I then fleshed it out with the rest of the plagues. The major event which I hadn’t planned for (without giving away the plot here) was what Ariel does at the end and why she does it. That, as often seems to happen with the good stuff, came out of nowhere.
There’s a guy called Stephen King, who’s written a few decent books (you may know him). He recommends not planning work to keep it fresh (or writing blind, as I call it). That’s what I did here and I think this King fellow may be onto something.
7. Were there any themes or topical issues that you were trying to explore with ‘An Angel Fallen’?
Not really. Again, it was trying to step away from what I do in my main series. The Lords of Misrule explores various things, such as social issues, politics, even pain science. I didn’t want An Angel Fallen to do this. I think I did end up touching upon why people can be so cruel to each other, but it wasn’t a conscious choice and it was much less obvious than some of the similar passages in my novels.
8. When did your love of the genre first develop, and what authors/books first inspired you to start writing?
Writing is something I’ve wanted to do from an early age. I read LOTR as a kid and then moved on to a whole host of fantasy novels. When I hit my teens, the desire to write was buried under a desire to play bass guitar. My life was aimed at being a bassist for the next twenty-five years and everything else came secondary to that. I played successfully for a long time and am lucky to have achieved what I did as a musician, but it did mean the writing got sidelined. The desire to write resurfaced a few years ago when I stopped gigging so much. I stopped thinking about writing and started actually doing it. I haven’t looked back since.
As to what I write, I read across a lot of genres (mainly grimdark, fantasy and dark fiction) but I didn’t set out to write in any particular genre. I just wrote and, out of those scribblings, I got my main series of novels. Those novels have a dark edge to them but are not horror. I had ideas that didn’t fit into my novels, so I wrote a set of short stories which explore the dark side of human nature. Those short stories led me to An Angel Fallen. So, writing horror wasn’t planned as such, it seems like it has been a natural progression.
9. What book(s) are you currently reading? Are there any horror novels you’ve read recently you recommend to our readers?
I’m a monogamous reader, I don’t cheat on my authors – strictly one book at a time. At the moment I’m reading The Stand (by that King fellow again) and loving it. It’s been on my hitlist for a long time. I’m not sure why I avoided it up until now, maybe because my TBR list is so long and I thought I could finish three (or thirteen!) books in the time it’ll take me to get through The Stand. Then I realized how stupid that was as a reason and started reading it. If you haven’t read it, I would get hold of a copy now! The only downside is that when someone starts coughing on public transport, I have an urge to shout “We’re all going to die!”
As for other recommendations? The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is fantastic. It’s more dark fiction than horror but a great read. You could also try Mark Cassell’s new novella, Hell Cat of the Holt. I really enjoyed that and it serves as a nice intro to his ever-expanding Shadow Fabric Mythos.
10. What’s next for you? What are you working on now and where can readers go to find out more about you and your work?
I’m struggling my way through the first draft of book four of my main series. I’ve had so much other stuff going on this year I’m finding it hard to dedicate the time to it that it deserves. I have some short stories set in that world which I need to polish and then they’re ready to go. (One of those is gloriously gruesome!) I would also like to write the follow-up to An Angel Fallen and get that out before 2018 hits. But, we’ll see how the rest of the year pans out. Apparently, summer has started (didn’t we just have New Year?) and the months seem to be slipping away from me.
As for keeping in touch, the easiest place is my website, www.andygrahamauthor.com, where you can also pick up a free copy of Aijlan (Book One of The Lords of Misrule).