Birmingham-based Jay Raven has written multiple horror/fantasy short stories which were published in many anthologies. He is an author with multiple books under his name, not all of them in the horror genre. Jay has been in the writing world for a while, as a journalist at first but now as a full-time novel writer. Let’s get to know Jay a bit better.
Tell us a little about yourself…
I have passion for all things horror, especially vampires. As a teenager I’d skip school to sneak into the cinema to watch Peter Cushing staking Christopher Lee.
I’ve been a full-time fiction writer for 25 years, widely published on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was only a few years ago that I began to focus on my dark fantasy output. Most of my stories are set in the past – I jokily label it “harpsichord horror”.
In my free time I do a lot of baking, although I’m not sure the description free time is strictly accurate as that’s when I dream up my best plots.
What is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you?
Just before Christmas I was signed up by Junction Publishing to write two Gothic horror/dark fantasy novels. It’s since become a three-book deal.
What is your favorite childhood book, and why?
Alice in Wonderland. Even as a child I loved its creepy, menacing atmosphere, laced with barely controlled mayhem.
How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?
I grew up in Glasgow which had more than its fair share of Victorian grave robbers in its past. The cemetery near us had a small building where relatives would stand guard through the night to protect their newly buried loved ones. Learning about that made a huge impact on me.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
While still at school I used to write local history pieces for my local newspaper. One was a three-part reconstruction of a notorious murder of a foreman by gangers building the railway between Glasgow and Edinburgh. My articles documented the manhunt to bring the killers to justice and the resulting public executions.
Just after part two appeared I was taking a shortcut home from my girlfriend’s house and I bumped into the school bully in the dark. I thought he was going to beat me up, but instead he was all excited and in awe, demanding to know what happened to the killers in the final installment.
Who is your favorite author? How much is your work influenced by his or her works?
Michael Crichton, author of best-sellers Jurassic Park and WestWorld amongst others. His writing is so tight, pacy and cleverly structured that it leaves you breathless. There isn’t a wasted word, character or scene. He is a master storyteller. I try to make my writing just as fast-paced and lean.
Music or silence?
I write with earphones on, music pumping. It blocks all external distractions and helps inspire me. You could say that my stories are created with their own soundtracks.
Do you outline or just write?
Before I begin a book I spend two weeks creating a highly detailed blueprint – every chapter, scene, major hook, key pieces of dialogue all go into it and I end up with a 30-page mini version of the novel, which I just need to flesh out.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I’d bake artisan cakes in the shape of coffins and sell them at Dracula events in Whitby.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym, and if yes, why?
I already do. Jay Raven is the name I use for my dark fantasy work. I write humour under my real name. I try to keep both sides completely separate. As Ghostbusters advises: “Top safety tip. Don’t cross the streams!”
What is your writing style?
I concentrate on making the work as visual as possible. I want readers to forget they’re reading and imagine themselves watching a movie. I inhabit the boundary between horror and fantasy. My work relies more on suspense than gore.
Do you try to be original in your storytelling or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to do both – I obey the rules of the genre but mix in loads of new elements to keep things fresh. In Blood Riders, for instance, my vampires have demon horses and can communicate with each telepathically.
Do you have any difficulty writing characters of the opposite sex?
No, I started out writing short stories for women’s magazines. That’s something many people would be surprised about.
Out of the protagonists you’ve written about so far, which one do you feel you relate to the most?
Anton Yoska, the marshal caught up in the jailhouse siege, is an idealised version of me. But where he is brooding, I am just moody. He is noble and high minded, I come across simply as pompous.
What do your plans for future projects include?
Witch Hunt – a series of whodunits set in an alternative history (1930s) where a Russian empire warlock is a homicide detective investigating murders that involve supernatural elements.
What writing wisdom would you bestow upon new writers?
Write the kind of books you would want to read, don’t slavishly try to recreate what is currently hot!
How do author friends help you become a better writer?
I kick about ideas with my fellow writers. They see things from a different angle, and are brutally honest – which is exactly what you need.
What has been the best compliment?
A magazine editor who paid handsomely for my first short story said – “Love this – do you have any more?”
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. Their support makes it all worthwhile.
Can you give us a bit more about your latest book, Crimson Siege (Blood Riders – Book 1) as it is launched today, the 22nd of May 2018?
When ruthless bounty hunters target one of 19th century Europe’s most feared vampire clans, the last place any lawman wants to be is caught in the middle…
But for Anton Yoska, Lord Marshal of the Imperial lands south of the Carpathian Mountains, fate has trapped him in a supernatural stand-off that can end only in terror, pain and destruction.
A gang of mercenaries led by Anton’s former army comrade Milosh Drubrick have captured vampire aristocrat Stefan Modjeski, wanted for a string of bloody ritualistic murders, and have come to Anton to claim the reward and seek shelter and protection. And as Stefan’s predatory undead kin lay siege to the jailhouse, Anton is faced with an agonising choice – hand over his prisoner and abandon the treacherous hunters to their unspeakable fate, or stand and fight.
What’s more, the vampires have made him an enticing offer if he co-operates – they’ll save his dying wife by turning her into one of their kind. He can join her, and the devoted couple will live forever.
The jailhouse defenders are outnumbered and out of options. It’s a battle that can’t be won, certain slaughter for them all, and Anton can’t trust his scheming allies. But Lord Marshal Yoska isn’t about to surrender.
For he’s an experienced vampire hunter, a dangerous man when cornered, and a single minded warrior who knows there are worse things to fear than death…
Why it is a must-read?
It’s pacy, visceral and packed with twists and turns.
Here’s the trailer for Crimson Siege:
Thank you so much, Jay, for letting us get to know you a little bit better. Besides reading your books, I’d love to try one of your cakes one day!
You can follow Jay Raven via the following social media: