Jeff Clulow

Tales of Mystery, Magic and Myth

Australasian Horror Writers Association Newsletter

Interview with Leanbh Pearson

May 2024

Leanbh: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Jeff: I’ve been writing fiction seriously for about the last six years or so. Before that, I was an advertising writer for thirty-five years. But don’t worry – I’m clean now, and I only use my powers for good.

Leanbh: How would you describe your writing style, and what are the major influences on your writing?

Jeff: My natural style is a form of romantic horror (not to be confused with paranormal romance) and I like emotional, rather than physical impact. Most of my work contains a supernatural element. I grew up in Cornwall in the UK so the myths and legends of that part of the world influence me greatly, as do Cornish writers such as du Maurier and William Golding. Poe is a major influence, as are Ian McEwan, Iain Banks and Steven Millhauser. For the classics I turn to Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene and Thomas Hardy among many others.

Leanbh: Was there an event or moment in your life that you feel put you on the path of writing?

Jeff: It wasn’t an event so much. I’ve always wanted to write but never felt I was grown-up enough to write anything coherent or meaningful. Life also had a habit of getting in the way. So I’ve come to it later than most, but now writing is such a part of me that I can’t stop. It’s a drug like that, isn’t it?

Leanbh: Which of your works are you most proud of, and why? What would you recommend a reader new to your work start with?

Jeff: I’d have to cite ‘Rat’s Alley’ from Clare Rhoden’s ‘From The Waste Land’ anthology which was an Aurealis finalist for best horror novella. Also ‘The Crossing’ which picked up an Honourable Mention in the Robert N. Stephenson short story competition. And I’m very proud of my short story ‘Pinkie Preston’s After You’ which won last year’s ghost story comp at Asylumfest. Performing that work onstage was a blast. Anyone interested in sampling my work should head to my website where some freebies are waiting.

Leanbh: Have you got any new projects in the works that we should keep our eyes open for?

Jeff: I’ve just released ‘Remixed Myths’ a collection of short stories available from my website. These are modern-day reimaginings of world myths. The original tales are deliberately obscured, leaving the reader to guess at the myths that inspired them – but I do reveal all in the end. Some are funny, some sad, but mostly they end very badly. As myths do.

Early next year I’ll be releasing a novel. It’s a ghost story called ‘Veil’, set in a crumbling house by the sea. The main character, an emotionally repressed young woman, inherits her dead mother’s wedding dress. Through her mother’s veil she begins to glimpse the house as it once was. There’s a mystery to be solved and the veil is trying to show her.

Leanbh: Writing both long and short forms can be a challenging process. Are there tips you would provide new horror writers on how to move from an idea towards something more substantial they can flesh out into a story?

Jeff: First, you have to identify the heart of your story, the idea that drives the narrative. If you don’t know what it is, if you can’t define it, then you’ll never know what you’re dealing with. For me, it’s not always obvious and I sometimes only identify the core idea during the actual process of writing. Then, when I can wrestle that beast to the ground, the story will unfold for me.

The next thing is to relax and let the story tell you where it wants to go. Some of my best writing is done while I’m awake at 3am. I let the story play out like a movie, a kind of lucid dream. I don’t interrupt, just watch. This is the story fleshing itself out. When I’m up and about I try getting it on the page. Even then, I remain open to what the story might throw at me.

Leanbh: Horror writing covers an incredibly broad range of styles and topics. Is there anything you feel crosses a line that you won’t write about as an author?

Jeff: I don’t think any subject is taboo for a writer of horror. But I think it’s important to make a point about the horrors you’re recounting. Are they a result of human stupidity, abuse or societal issues? What’s the lesson to be learned? Horror stories are like fairy tales for grownups in a way. If you’re not making a point, then your horrors are gratuitous.

I do get very nervous if an idea leads me close to subjects of race, religion and culture. Also areas of mental health. Like most writers I’m keen not to appropriate or misrepresent. In such cases I either back away very quickly or I research like hell and talk to someone qualified to comment. Often this is a sensitivity reader.

Leanbh: Are there any pieces of your work you would like to hide, pull back, or rewrite?

Jeff: Not to date, thankfully. The publishers and editors I’ve had the pleasure of working with have already done an admirable job of that. Of course, as my writing evolves there’s always something I think of revisiting but I feel it’s more important to forge ahead.

Leanbh: Could you name three other horror authors that you think we should search out?

Jeff: I’m going thank you personally Leanbh, for introducing me to Andrew Michael Hurley. I loved ‘Starve Acre’ and I’ve devoured everything by him since. I’d also say check out Rebecca Netley’s ‘The Whispering’ and ‘The Fisherman’ by John Langan.

Leanbh: How do people find out more about you and your work? (social media, website and such).

Jeff: Just go to my website at www.jeffclulow.com

There’s a bunch of giveaways there, including my free collection of short stories ‘Remixed Myths’. There’s also some sample chapters from my new novel. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook.