THE SEVEN: Nicholas Royle

Continuing my interview series called THE SEVEN, in which I invite some of my favorite authors to answer seven questions about their most recent projects, today’s guest is a long-time favorite of mine, Nicholas Royle, who I discovered in my teens courtesy of Stephen Jones and David Sutton’s DARK TERROR anthologies. His short stories “Night Shift Sister” and “The Lagoon” are among my all-time favorite horror stories, and he’s no slouch at novel-length either, Antwerp and The Director’s Cut being particularly effective examples. He also publishes some wonderful books under the auspices of Nightjar Press.

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Q. What is your most recent release?

The last novel was Regicide (Solaris), which came out last year, but just out is The Best British Short Stories 2012 (Salt), which I edited, and the latest two Nightjar Press chapbooks – Marionettes and Into the Penny Arcade, both by Claire Massey. Obviously, they’re not my work, but Nightjar Press is me (and my wonderful designer John Oakey.)

Q. What inspired the project?

Regicide was inspired by the acrobatic jumps of figure skaters, the bleak songs of Manchester post-punk band the Passage, and my love of grey areas – literally and not so literally. Actually, not literally at all. Well, kind of. I’m interested in landscapes that are not quite urban and not strictly rural. Equally I’m interested in the difference between real landscapes and landscapes of the mind. I’m also strongly attracted to the idea of monarchy. The novel was based on a short story, ‘Night Shift Sister’, that was itself inspired by a love of gasholders and the music of Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Q. What is the primary theme you’ve chosen to explore with this project?

I suppose I’m exploring the idea of monarchy and how it can act as a mirror to the idea of family. There’s a republican movement in Britain with which I have some sympathy, but I am also drawn to the idea of monarchy. We are born into families, most of us: we have a mother, a father, maybe siblings. We don’t choose to fall under the authority of our parents; they’re just there. Like the Queen – or King – is just there. We don’t get to elect our parents, so why should we get to choose our head of state? I’m kind of playing devil’s advocate here because I don’t particularly want to discuss what really lies at the heart of the novel. I’d rather let readers discover it.

Q. Of everything you’ve written to date, which project has been the most difficult for you?

Probably my second novel, Saxophone Dreams. It was bought by Penguin as part of a two-book deal with Counterparts, which had already appeared from Barrington Books. So, Penguin did a mass-market edition of Counterparts and then published Saxophone Dreams as a paperback original. But before Saxophone Dreams appeared, my editor, Fanny Blake, left Penguin and the book was inherited by a new editor who didn’t really get it. At our first meeting he took me to a wine bar and said, Nick, we’re going to let this book find its own feet, and he said it like that was a good thing. So they didn’t really do very much: they didn’t market it, they didn’t publicise it, but worst of all, they didn’t edit it. Looking back now, I can see that it would have benefited from the input of an experienced editor.

Q. Which title would you suggest as a good introduction for newcomers to your work, and why?

I think I would recommend The Director’s Cut and if people like that then the sequel, Antwerp, might be worth a look. Although Regicide is my latest novel to appear, its original version was written 20 years ago. I gave it a rewrite for publication, but it still feels to me like an old novel, very different from what I do now. The Director’s Cut and Antwerp are closer, but, like Counterparts and Saxophone Dreams and The Matter of the Heart, they are out of print. Until March 2013, when my new novel comes out, Regicide is my only novel in print. It is a lovely edition; Solaris have done a great job.

Q. What are your thoughts on the burgeoning digital market?

I’ll play along and adapt where necessary, but for me there’s no replacing the book. It’s a wonderful artefact. Curling up with a Kindle is just not the same.

Q. What’s next for you?

As I mentioned, I have a new novel out in March 2013, published by Jonathan Cape in the UK. First Novel took me six or seven years to write. I’m very pleased with it and am looking forward to publication. Also in the pipeline is a collection of my London stories from No Exit Press. I am continuing to edit The Best British Short Stories for Salt Publishing as well as commissioning and editing four new novels a year for them. The first of those are to appear in the latter half of 2012: The Lighthouse by Alison Moore, Habit by Stephen McGeagh (described by Ramsey Campbell as ‘A raw slice of urban menace as immediate as a dangerous night out on the town’), Deaf at Spiral Park by Kieran Devaney and Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon by Simon Okotie. And Nightjar Press continues to publish two new chapbooks every spring and two in the autumn. These are original stories in the gothic/uncanny vein, published in signed, limited editions. Conrad Williams is among those writers with stories waiting to appear.

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Visit Nicholas Royle’s website

Visit the Nightjar Press website


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