After reading an amazing horror novel called The Lamplighters, I'm thrilled to have Frazer Lee as my guest this month. Hi, Frazer, welcome to my blog. It’s an honor to interview a horror writer from the United Kingdom. As we say here in Texas, “howdy” and “make yourself at home.”
Frazer: Thanks Brian, it’s a pleasure to be here, thanks for the hospitality.
Brian: You have a great new book out called The Lamplighters. I have to admit I was hooked the moment I read the back cover copy. I can’t express how much I enjoyed reading your book. It’s one of the most riveting books I’ve read in the past year. I love the setting on a mysterious, remote island in the Mediterranean, the characters, your writing voice, the constant twists and turns, and I thought the story was absolutely brilliant! Can you give readers a glimpse into the world of Marla Neuborn and summarize what your book is about?
Frazer: Very kind of you to say all of that, thank you and I’m glad you enjoyed reading The Lamplighters. In short, the book is about a down-on-her luck gal called Marla who gets a job offer she cannot refuse - as a ‘lamplighter’ or caretaker on a luxurious island, taking care of the homes of the billionaires who own the place. She soon discovers the billionaire lifestyle isn’t all it’s made out to be, especially when she encounters a resident known as ‘The Skin Mechanic’.
Brian: What sparked your imagination to come up with such a story?
Frazer: A friend told me about the ‘real’ lamplighters, who are employed in places like Monaco to tend mansions so the owners can continue to enjoy resident status. This piqued my interest and I got to thinking about what might happen if such an enterprise were to involve the isolation of an island. Then Marla came to me, fully formed, and I got stuck into the writing.
Brian: What kind of research did you do for The Lamplighters? Did you visit any of the locations you wrote about or do it all from the Internet?
Frazer: I’ve been to Cannes a couple of times with my film work, so there were elements of that Riviera layout, lifestyle and culture to draw from. Bits and pieces of the island came from aspects of my travels in places like Ireland, the USA and Ibiza. The rest was simply a product of my overactive imagination.
Brian: In addition to churning out great horror fiction, you also make horror movies. Much like one of my heroes, Clive Barker. Tell us about some of your movies and how writing for the screen has impacted writing novels.
Frazer: I’ve worked on over a dozen feature screenplays and the first of those to go in front of the cameras was ‘Panic Button’, which premiered at London FrightFest last year. Wherever possible I work concurrently on my latest novel and my film commissions. Sometimes the screen work take precedence due to deadlines, so the novels can take a little longer if I have a run of screenplay drafts to deliver. I enjoy switching between both styles of writing and find both challenging in different ways. An enjoyable crossover between the two forms happened when the producers of ‘Panic Button’ hired me again to adapt the screenplay into a movie novel, which is out now. I also wrote and directed a couple of horror shorts. ‘On Edge’ and ‘Red Lines’ starring Doug Bradley, both of which are still active on the film festival circuit and have won a bunch of awards. Another of my short screenplays, ‘Simone’ was optioned and produced and that, too, is picking up awards at the festivals. I’m involved in several other feature length productions, either as writer, director - or both - but can’t say too much about them as I’m under contract.
Brian: Which did you start first, fiction writing or filmmaking?
Frazer: I started writing at an early age, pretty much as soon as I could hold a pen, so I would say fiction happened first. But I am a very visual person, so I guess I was always writing ‘the movie inside my head’ to an extent.
Brian: Do you plan to adapt The Lamplighters into a movie?
Frazer: Yes, dependent on any interest in a movie version of course.
Brian: How long did it take you to write your first novel? And how do you motivate yourself to make the time to write fiction?
Frazer: It took around two years on and off while I worked on film commissions. I went through a lot of personal shit while I wrote the book, so I found the best way to keep motivated was to channel all that angst into the writing. It took me in some dark and surprising directions and once I’d taken some time to edit and polish, I couldn’t wait to get stuck into writing the next one.
Brian: Reading The Lamplighters was effortless. How did you learn to write so well? Who were your influences?
Frazer: Brian, it’s very kind of you to say so. I’m still learning the craft of writing, and each new piece presents new challenges to tackle and new lessons to learn. My influences are far and wide; from Mary Shelley through J.G. Ballard to all the genre giants like Poe, Lovecraft, King, Herbert and Barker. I’m also getting vibed-up on a lot of the new voices I’m reading - especially from Samhain Publishing!
Brian: Describe the journey you took to getting your first novel published?
Frazer: First off, I was careful to pick the right project. Novels and screenplays are very different and as soon as I dreamt up ‘The Lamplighters’ I just knew somehow it was my first novel, not another screenplay. That was important, because the idea had to stand the test of the time it would take to draft it while working the day job as a screenwriter. I made sure to polish my work at least a couple of times before sending the pitch and the opening chapters to potential publishers. Don D’Auria (then at Leisure/Dorchester) liked it and that gave me the drive I needed to complete and redraft the thing. I was dismayed when I saw what was happening at Leisure, and felt awful for the authors and staff there, but then the news broke (via the official website of Brian Keene, to whom I am indebted) that Don had joined Samhain, so The Lamplighters followed Don there and to my delight he picked it up for the new horror line.
Brian: Do you have any advice to share for aspiring writers?
Frazer: Make time to read and make time to write. The longer you talk about a project, the easier it will be for it to go ‘off the boil’. Never send out a first draft of anything, and always, always read outside of your genre. Even if you don’t ‘like’ a piece of writing, there can be much to learn from it. Think about all those movies that don’t work out for you. By analyzing why something that sucks, sucks - you can avoid those selfsame problems in your own work.
Brian: Excellent advice. You live in the United Kingdom—one of my favorite countries to visit. I’ve been to London three times, plus Dublin and Edinburgh. Tell us some activities you like to do for fun when not writing or making movies.
Frazer: For fun, I like to hang out with my family first and foremost. I also like walking and running in the countryside. But I’ll be honest with you, I am usually thinking about writing/filmmaking when I’m having fun anyway!
Brian: Do you have any upcoming books that you’re working on?
Frazer: I’m working on a new horror novel and a couple of screenplay projects. Let’s hope they see the light of day.
Brian: Frazer, thanks so much for visiting. Now, where can people buy your books?
Frazer: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure! All the details about ‘The Lamplighters’, ‘Panic Button’ and my other work can be found at my website: http://frazerlee.com/ . And if you Tweet, or use Facebook, you can also find me at @frazer_lee and http://www.facebook.com/AuthorFrazerLee .
Frazer Lee is a writer and filmmaker whose screen credits include the award-winning short horror movies On Edge, Red Lines, Simone, and the horror/thriller feature film screenplay and Amazon #1 Horror/Thriller movie novelization Panic Button. His Bram Stoker Award™ Nominated first novel The Lamplighters is published by Samhain Horror and his short stories have appeared in anthologies including the acclaimed Read By Dawn series. He lives with his family in Buckinghamshire, England, where he is working on new fiction and film projects.