Zombies, Vamps, and Fiends is a short story collection that gathers several of your stories together. Were they ever published before?
A couple are re-writes of previously published stories but the others are completely new and unpublished. I wanted to write a collection of fresh material so the reader didn’t feel cheated. There’s nothing worse than buying an anthology and finding you’ve already read half of it. The two that have been re-written are stories particular favoured by family members and are therefore there almost by request.
This is a story about monsters, what inspired you to write it?
I didn’t write them as monster stories and never considered them as such until you asked me about it. They’re stories about society and the monsters that lurk there, not the monsters themselves. Is Frankenstein about the monster or Dr Frankenstein’s obsession with creating (re-creating) life? The first story involves zombies, but they are not the horror. The horror is the never-ending war and a teenage girl’s survival in the trenches. The zombie simply depicts the inhumanity of war.
As for the inspiration, I wanted to create an anthology that crossed styles and genres to give the reader an insight into my writing. I think there’s something for everyone in here, but hope the reader enjoys all the stories. If the stories make them think a little about what’s between the lines, then so much the better.
Do you have a favourite monster?
What in this collection, or generally? I’ll give both answers, Amanda. In this collection, I have two. The voices inside Marianne’s head, and the Biogulag’s official. Both represent something intangible, yet powerful, twisted and seemingly invincible.
My wife, Nicki, on the other hand, has a soft spot for the zombie, Pendragon.
My favourite monster is probably Dracula. He is the personification of evil, yet somehow a small part of you wants him to triumph. I must also give an honourable mention to The Blob from the original Steve McQueen film. Probably the first horror I saw and the alien goo was also symbolic of the fears of American society at the time.
While there are several straight horror tales in ZV&F, there are a few satirical and humorous ones, do you enjoy writing these as much as the horror titles?
Yes I do. I think mixing humour, especially dark humour, and horror gives each element more strength. Referring you back to my previous answer, then horror and comedy are all part of the rich blend that is ‘life’ and the society in which we live those lives. I think the particular story you refer to as satirical gives a gentle rib-kicking to the world of dog shows and beauty pageants. Yes, I did enjoy writing that one, and yes, they do deserve it. Some pageants are nothing more than modern-day freak shows.
Do you have a favourite story in the collection? What do you like about it?
It’s hard to pick just one because they are all so different, but The Serpent’s Charm holds a special place for me as I wrote it in homage to Arthur Conan Doyle who was a particular favourite of my late father. The story has an emotional edge over the rest for that reason.
There’s a classic horror tone to the book, is this your preferred horror style or just the tone for ZV&F?
Good question. I have no idea. I wrote each one differently with a different style and genre. Apocalyptic(ish), Gothic, sci-fi, splatterpunk and Psychological featuring Zombies, depression, deranged killers, bi-polar disorders and more. I think to a degree I was experimenting with my own style, a voyage of discovery with the reader coming along for the ride. If it turned out to be classic then I guess that’s how I wrote, but I wouldn’t like to pigeon-hole myself. I write what appeals to me at the time in the style I feel comfortable with for that particular tale.
What other projects do you have in the works or are hoping to begin in the near future?
I’m slowly writing a novel length story, my first, which is terrifying (the writing off it, not the story itself) It’s an alternative history story based on one of the initial stories submitted to JEA but not included in Zombies, Vamps, and Fiends. I have just begun editing anthologies for 13 O’Clock Press, at Horrified Press and I’m still writing short stories for various anthologies.
I already have notes for my second novel so I’d better get back to writing the first.
Bio: Ash Hartwell was born in Maine but grew up in England where he still lives with his wife and four children. Having spent over a decade working in customer service he enrolled in University and trained as a nurse, spending a number of years working in an intensive care unit just outside London. He now breeds Cavalier King Charles spaniels with his wife, while writing his tales of horror. He is currently working on his own novel as well as writing short stories for a number of anthologies.
Ash Hartwell is a Fictioneer and member of a number of horror related Facebook groups, he is also a supporting member of the Horror Writers Association