I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with one of the coolest, funniest and genuinely good guys in the genre, Frazer Lee. Frazer and I talked everything from Samhain to giallo and everything in between.
Frazer has also been kind enough to offer a free e-copy of his Stoker-nominated novel, THE LAMPLIGHTERS to one lucky reader who leaves a comment in this post. I hope you have as much fun reading this as I had being a part of it.
Pat Dreadful: First off, thank you so much for taking time for Dreadful Tales. We greatly appreciate it.
Frazer Lee: Thank you for having me! Does that sound dirty? Or dreadful? I hope so!
Pat Dreadful: How about we settle for dreadfully dirty?
Frazer Lee: We have a winner!
Pat Dreadful: Since this is a celebration of Samhain and the amazing stable of authors they have published, I want to ask how your relationship began with them?
Frazer Lee: I’m excited that you guys are celebrating Samhain, it’s great to see you have been enjoying the books as much as I have. It was such an honor to have THE LAMPLIGHTERS come out shortly after the launch of the new line. As to how my relationship with them started, it’s all down to editor extraordinaire Don D’Auria. I pitched the novel way back when he was still at Leisure. He liked the pitch and requested the full manuscript. During the time it took me to polish up the first draft, then edit and polish a second, the shit had hit the fan (and the fans!) at Leisure. I felt awful for the staff there as well as the authors of course, but then I heard (via Brian Keene’s website, thanks Brian!) that Don had moved to Samhain and was starting a new horror line there. So THE LAMPLIGHTERS followed him to Samhain and I couldn’t be happier – their wholly supportive attitude to the genre, through advertising and giving the line a strong identity and presence has been awesome to say the least.
Pat Dreadful:Don is a personal hero of mine. In fact, I could gush over him for hours….but I won’t.
So THE LAMPLIGHTERS was written back in the Leisure days? When did you actually finish writing the story?
Frazer Lee: The first draft was complete in 2009, rewrites happened in 2010, then the book was edited and prepped at Samhain for November 2011 release. The paperback followed in February of this year. Initially there was a three month gap between the ebook and paper editions of Samhain Horror releases, but now they’re up-to-speed the two formats release simultaneously.
Pat Dreadful: I thought the story was absolutely fantastic! I mentioned in the Dreadful Tales podcast that it reminded me of a beautiful giallo. Did you draw any inspiration from that sub-genre?
Frazer Lee: Thanks! That’s quite the compliment and I had a big grin on my face when I heard the podcast. I hope I can quote you on it?
Pat Dreaful: Quote away, my friend!
Frazer Lee: Glad to know it wasn’t just the Stoker Award night drinkies talking anyway hehe. And yes, I am hugely influenced by the giallo sub-genre. Over the years I’ve been lucky to meet some of my spaghetti slasher heroes, including Dario Argento and Claudio Simonetti, on my travels. I gaze at a signed Phenomena poster above my desk every time I sit down to write. Come to think of it, some of THE LAMPLIGHTERS was drafted while listening to the soundtrack from that movie, so yes, I guess the giallo universe is ever-present in my writing and my approach to writing. Leather gloves and prog rock… What’s not to love?
Pat Dreadful: I love the idea of you listening to Goblin while writing THE LAMPLIGHTERS. To me Sergio Martino is the master of the giallo and what I like most about his films are the beautiful settings and calculated atmosphere. I got both of those from your story. The island setting was so frighteningly unique. I loved it.
Frazer Lee: Cheers, I’m glad you dug the island setting. And yes, Martino’s films are masterful, really beautiful. To have THE LAMPLIGHTERS mentioned in the same breath is too flattering! With all this talk of giallo, I am also reminded of Bava’s Bay of Blood, which I finally got to see projected on the big screen at a festival in San Francisco (where my short Red Lines won the Best Short Film Award). I never realized it until now but I do think I was channeling that type of setting, maybe the whole aesthetic approach of giallo, which is to take a beautiful frame, a landscape in oils or a photographic portrait, and then splatter blood all over it.
Pat Dreadful: Are Lamplighters real and if so, where did you hear about them?
Frazer Lee: My good friend Joseph Alberti (producer of my films On Edge and Red Lines) told me about caretakers who housesit for the super rich denizens of places like Monaco. I thought they might work in a horror scenario if the locale was isolated enough and that led me to dream up Meditrine Island. When I’d completed the draft, a news story broke about a contest to become a caretaker on a tropical island – see, fact is always crazier than fiction!
PatDreadful: Time for the question you probably get asked during every interview….
Frazer Lee: No, I don’t know where the bodies are! Oh…you meant a different question…oops.
Pat Dreadful: Ha! You mentioned your films so I have to ask- how does the creative process differ when your writing a book as opposed to directing a film? Also, was there ever a time when THE LAMPLIGHTERS was being thought of for a film project?
Frazer Lee: All my ideas are little movies in my head. They’re always more than just the words, although the words are the driving force there’s music and lighting and the look of the characters and locations. It all shunts into my head like a freight train – each carriage with different parts that make up the whole. I guess THE LAMPLIGHTERS could have become a spec screenplay, but the story dictated that I wrote it as a novel. That’s not to say it would never become a film project, I’d love for that to happen, but maybe if I’d drafted a screenplay first I might never have gotten around to adapting it into a novel. Now directing is a different thing entirely, because with that process you are working with upwards of forty other people from day one, even before you’ve shot a single take. With writing, you’re on your own. Of course you eventually collaborate with editors and cover artists, but initially the writing is a solitary process. I’ve enjoyed both (writing and directing) because they offer different challenges.
Pat Dreadful: Nice. If it ever becomes a film and you’re looking for a grisly old lighthouse keeper, I’m your man!
Frazer Lee: I’ll bear that in mind! You’re a braver man than me though – we know how that particular story ends…
Pat Dreadful: Fair enough. Now, what was it like to have The Lamplighters being nominated for a Stoker? How did you find out about the nomination and how did you spend the night of the awards?
Frazer Lee: It was one of those true oh my gods moments. I joined the HWA last year with a first novel and produced feature film under my belt, and positive reviews were coming in, but I never imagined THE LAMPLIGHTERS would be long-listed, let alone become a finalist! I heard THE LAMPLIGHTERS had made it through via the HWA members newsletter and I had a big grin on my face all day. To be included with such amazing authors and works was and is a great honor. Sadly I couldn’t be there for the awards banquet, so I got up at 3:45am UK time and tuned in for the live webcast – during which I had fun drunk tweeting along with you guys at Dreadful Tales, except I was drinking cups of tea! It was a nice surprise that Samhain had placed huge standees for mine & Ronald’s books on the stage – I had no idea until I saw them on the webcast!
Pat Dreadful: I’m glad you checked out our drunken antics on Stoker night! We had a blast at the Dreadful Tales HQ.
Frazer Lee: I really enjoyed your post-Stoker podcast wrap up too. See you next year for more of the same I hope, except this time I’ll bring tequila!
Pat Dreaful: I’m looking forward to it! What does the future hold for Frazer Lee?
Frazer Lee: Well, in the immediate future I have new novel called THE JACK IN THE GREEN and a couple of film projects I’m working on. Beyond that, I have outlines for a further novel and a couple of novellas. Hopefully most, if not all of them, will see the light of day!
Pat Dreadful: Well, the DT staff wish you nothing but the best going forward.
Frazer Lee: Thanks for your support, DT rocks!
Pat Dreadful: I just have one more for you, my man. What are you currently reading or watching that you feel everyone in the genre should be checking out?
Frazer Lee: I’m biased of course but I’ve been enjoying my fellow Samhainers’ output and am particularly looking forward to Ronald Malfi’s THE NARROWS – his FLOATING STAIRCASE is outstanding. I’m currently reading HELL TRAIN by Christopher Fowler and it’s the most fun I’ve had since watching beautiful women walking on crutches. I’ve been a fan of Chris’s ever since reading his short stories (he even allowed me to turn one – ON EDGE – into a film) and urge fans of what I can only call ‘steamgoth’ to check out Hell Train. It is the Hammer Horror flick that Hammer never made – and as Chris told me, he spends the entire budget in the first couple chapters – it’s that good.
As for movies, biased again but I’m hoping Panic Button will be unleashed in the US soon, it’s already out in the UK and Australia to rave reviews, and I’d love for more people to see it, it’s a true indie and I’m so proud of the team for what they made on such a modest budget. And last, but not least, Norman J Warren’s Satan’s Slave just got a well-deserved re-release and is well worth a watch – like Norman himself it is one of a kind!
And there you have it! One of the coolest guys working in the genre. Please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of THE LAMPLIGHTERS here and be sure to keep up with all things Frazer at his site.
I would like to thank Frazer again for sharing in the Dreadful Tales Samhain Celebration and REMEMBER TO LEAVE A COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN AN E-COPY OF THE LAMPLIGHTERS!!!!