CC ADAMS contributing author to the Crossroads in the Dark series of anthologies and many more.
The Burning Willow Press authors wish to help you celebrate the best month of the year, October. How you may ask? By giving you a different author from the ranks each day with in depth answers to questions that our staff have decided to ask them. Many will be generic, others not so much. Let’s get to know the authors of BWP! Oh, and did we forget to mention… the staff there are all authors too so they have decided to chime in with some answers of their own.
So first, when did you realize that the voices in your head were telling you to write stories or go mad with all that stuck in your head?
You know, I don’t know if there was a particular time or defining moment when I realized that I’d be an author. I remember in primary school where the teacher left me to read to the class. I can remember writing fanfic when I was a member of Kelley Armstrong’s discussion forum. I can remember somewhere along the way watching other forum members do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
What I do know is that somewhere along the way, I sank into the business of the craft: the writing, the editing, the submissions, etc. And that business became business as usual.
I know many writers who jump in all different genres, so what is your favorite to write?
Oh, definitely dark fiction. Not all of my dark fiction is horror, but it’s pretty dark material in terms of the stories that speak to me; the ones that beg to be written. It doesn’t matter whether some stories have a little extra flavour of romance, or mystery or whatever. The base recipe is dark fiction; mostly horror.
Currently, there are over a million books that I want to read… and some I have in the past I wish I had written myself, do you have any that you read that you thought about and said, I wish I had written that book?
No, not once. Not at all. I can think of a number of stories which have blown me away: Susan Hill’s ‘The Woman In Black’, Jo Nesbø’s ‘The Snowman‘, Erik Hofstatter’s ‘Rare Breeds’, Mark Morris’ “Full Up“, Wayne Smith’s “Thor.” There’s a long list – and all of those works have a unique flavour and feel. In each of those cases, the work moves me, to the point where it’s easier for my critical eye to take the night off, and I can just lose myself in the work. Being a reader is enough.
What is your favorite book not written by you? See that question is not the same as the other one above… to follow up, what was your favorite book that you wrote?
You know, I really couldn’t pick just one. I’ll happily cite some others though: Justin Evans’ “The White Devil”, Christopher Moore’s “Practical Demonkeeping”, Ray Russell’s “Incubus” – as well as the “Incubus” one written by Joe Donnelly. Sidenote: I picked up the Joe Donnelly one while looking for the Ray Russell one. Same title, but very different books. And both impressive; masterful works.
When the muse is off doing their own thing instead of pushing you to write, albeit by gunpoint at times, what is your favorite time-waster?
Ahhhh, see, there you go again with the favourites. And again, I really couldn’t pick just one. Time playing bass is one thing. It’s an irony that I took up playing bass to give myself a break away from typing at the keyboard. Nearly three years in now, and I appear to be some kind of proficient at it. Only today did I tell my instructor that, actually. Gifted him with a bottle of Jack (Daniels) as a thank you for the last three years.
I’m still lifting weights. Currently working back to my 140kg (308.7 lbs) squat after some downtime in Toronto. I really need to get the kung fu back in there as well. I’ve done a fair amount of baking lately. I can cook and bake, but I don’t really like to do that for me, since I find it a chore. That said, I don’t mind cooking or baking for other people. I’m what you call a feeder.
What is the one thing that you must do to get into a writing mood. For me, it is listening to 80’s hair metal.
It’s not enough for me to have quiet, but I need solitude as well. I don’t want people sat near me being quiet. You’re there. That’s bad enough. Please go away.
Certain music gets me in the zone as well. As a rule, I don’t write to music when I’m in the zone, but I do listen to certain pieces of music to get there. More often than not, it’s music from a TV show or film. The opening music from the original The Evil Dead film. Ditto for the piano theme from Phantasm. The ‘Violent Delights’ theme from HBO’s Westworld.
And it might not be the music directly, but the association that the music brings forward for me. A sense of the eerie – because ‘creepy’ just isn’t as cool a word – or something foreboding. Insidious. Once I’m in the zone, complete with quiet and solitude, I’m good. Pack of gum on my desk, chew and work. I’m good.
Is editing your story just part of the job or does it literally kill a part of you to “kill your children” as it has been said? What about making revisions?
This is where I’m gonna give the nod to one Ian O’Neill. He was the one who said, “write with your heart, edit with your head.” Actually, what I quote him for the most is when he would tell me, “now go write something” – and I love him for that. But that’s a different story.
Anyhow. For the earlier stories I’d write, I was all about the writing; the stories would spill outta me. And editing was something of a chore. Now I’m a more seasoned author, the balance has shifted. The stories don’t spill out of me so freely, but the editing is more of a joy.
The editing is a necessity. One, because I write at breakneck speed, so the first draft is littered with typos, grammar slips, plot holes – you name it. Two, because I have more of a critical eye now than ever. So, in addition to cleaning the basic draft, I’ll go back and layer in nuance, etc. Having gotten the draft down, to actually clean it up and refine it is great.
When you read a book by another author do you ever look at it and criticize it or edit it in your head as the way you would have done it yourself?
Ahhhh …no. I maintain that different people do different things differently. I’m happy to read what another author brings to the table: as long as the story engages and entertains, the job’s done. I’m less likely to edit in my head, because my head is still full of my ideas. Not someone else’s.
What would you like to be chiseled into your headstone?
Probably something along the lines of ‘Beloved Husband and Father.’ Currently I’m neither, but they’d be humbling milestones to reach.
What was your favorite candy to get at Halloween as a kid?
Man, this must be an American thing. We don’t call it candy over here, let alone have buckets of it at Halloween. See, Halloween –at least when I was a kid growing up – was never so much of a thing here. Certainly not like it appeared to be in the U.S. with trick or treating, Jack o’ Lanterns, etc. When I was growing up, we never really marked the occasion.
You might have someone tentatively knocking at your door: some trick or treat rookie who’d end up sorely disappointed, because that door just wouldn’t open. We’d be inside chilling. Ignoring them.
What is your favorite Halloween ritual? And if you do not do that… what is your favorite Halloween movie?
Just like above: no real ritual as such, since I don’t mark the occasion. Favourite Halloween movie? Definitely Halloween. That film, for me, has one of the best tropes in the genre – the monster gets away at the end. Now I love the film, how the narrative plays out, the set pieces, the music. Oh, man, the music.
But the ending is a key note in the sum of the parts. Why? Because it hammers home one crushing truth for Laurie Strode: that the horror isn’t over.
Beach, Mountains, Country, City? And follow up… favorite season… just a hint here… you should say Autumn.
Are you meaning, ‘where’s my favourite place to vacation?’ I’m a city boy at heart. As long as it’s a laidback city: good people, good food, good scenery. That said, I was in the Dominican Republic earlier this year. Sat on the beach, watching the sun rise over the water, and humming Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.” That was priceless.
I know my “To Be Read” list is never ending and grows daily… how is yours? And do you prefer paperbacks or e-books? Notice I did not ask about audio?
This is one of those things where I’d appear to be the odd one out among peers. Yeah, I have a TBR pile – but I’m not the most prolific reader. So, yeah, the pile is sizeable. Off the top of my head, I’ve got The Thirst by Jo Nesbø, The Grieving Stones by Gary McMahon, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, So I Might Be A Vampire by Rodney V. Smith, etc. I can’t remember everything in the TBR pile; those are just the ones I have in print. There are more on my e-reader.
What do I prefer? Printed books for the most part. Sphere paperbacks, like Michael Crichton’s “Disclosure”, or “Incubus” by Ray Russell or something. Having said that, I do have some decent titles on e-reader: the Spider-Man ‘Back In Black’ arc. Note how I spell Spider-Man the correct way; with the hyphen.
If you could not be an author then what would you be?
Do you mean what I would I most likely be, or what would I want to be? For ‘most likely’, I’d be some kind of analyst. What would I want to be, if not an author? Bass player would be cool. It’s about three years in so far, playing bass. Still got more proficiency to rack up.
What was your childhood ideal job to be as an adult?
So embarrassing – I wanted to be an actor. I remember throwing a fit: bawling and everything, because I wanted to be a child actor, like the ones on Grange Hill. The thing is, I remember having the ambition, but no concept of pursuing the ambition. No sense of attending stage school, or auditioning for walk-on parts or whatever.
Cats, dogs, both, other?
Cats. I’m a cat person, and generally, me and cats like each other. I have a feline sensibility as per the ‘sleep fat, walk thin’ credo.
That said, I’ve grown more tolerant of dogs in more recent years. While generally I don’t like them, for being too boisterous, there are exceptions. I have a couple of friends who have a collie, about 6 years old now. Friendly enough. My neighbours also have a collie, smaller than my friends’ dog. But when the neighbours’ dog sees me? He runs over, wagging his tail, sniffing at me. I gotta admit it’s endearing. It’s cool.
Most newbie authors are told to write emotional state in what they already know… so how did you break away from that newbie status of writing what you know in the beginning?
Good question. I tell you what: part of it for me is to push myself as an author. That, hopefully, translates into more engaging stories for both me and the audience. And I had this conversation with someone only yesterday: as an author, I bring professional game. That’s regardless of what marquee value I may or may not have, how big my audience, etc.
The same approach applies to the craft: it has to. Why would you employ top notch cover artists, editors, marketing professionals, etc. when your product is weak? Or, at the very least, not your finest effort? Sure, you can write what you know. But even if you’ve lived a full and rewarding life, writing a piece of creative fiction is just that: you’re creating. And as such, a story may call for you to write something which is outside the scope of your day-to-day. That’s not such a bad thing.
For me, most of the stories I write take place in London; a city that I know. Breaking away from writing that much of what I know has been a gradual progression. As a middle-aged black man in the capital, what I’ve written includes older men in Canada, gay women in London, old English men in nursing homes, old African immigrants in the capital, etc.
I don’t necessarily see it as breaking away from newbie status or even having a newbie status – because that partly suggests to me that as a ‘newbie’, your work will be shaky to start with. What I do believe is the more time you spend with the craft, when you push yourself and your game, you’ll elevate your craft. It’ll show more finesse, it’s more engaging, etc. All that good stuff.
Advice in one sentence to a new author who is not published yet?
Do not fold. And I think that’s a truism of life. Any time you decide to throw in the towel, the rest of the world gets an easier ride; so why give that shit away for free? From an ambition point of view, you have as much chance as the next man of snatching the title. That’s if you’re prepared to work for it and go the whole sweat,-blood-and-tears distance.
Do your siblings or other family members support your choice to write horror? Fantasy? Erotica… if you do? SCIFI? Other genres?
For the most part, they don’t support it, they just acknowledge it as something I do, which is fine by me. It’s kind of like asking if they support me scratching my head if it’s itching: it’s just what I do.
The notable case here is Mama, because the author side of things is largely abstract for her. She’s happy that I have stuff that gets me amped: another story sold, or cover art for a new book or whatever. She does have a little more interest in the mechanics of the business now: asking me the difference between a short story, a novella and novel. Stuff like that.
Where it actually hits home for her now is to see more published work with my name on it: a book that she can hold in her hand, turn the pages, and see her son’s name there in black and white.
See, it used to be lost on her. I might have a story published online (in this case, it was Blacker Magic), which was about 2000 words or so. Not long at all. I remember she’s sat down at the keyboard, pressing the Down arrow key to scroll through the story, and she keeps asking me, ‘how much more is there?’ Back then, I would’ve taken offence. But I concede: whether they’re related to me or not, my work isn’t for everyone. But she does pay it more attention now. When the novella But Worse Will Come came out, I got her a copy, which she’s been starting to read. She’ll ask me stuff like ‘is that (coarse) language allowed?’ Or, ‘I thought you’d make places up, can you write about real places?’ So, yeah, it’s kind of an about-face, but it’s amusing and cool to see.
Do you ever use writing as an excuse to get out of doing things with the family… especially the in-laws?
Mmmmm, not currently married, so the last part doesn’t apply. Generally, writing – and all the business that supports the writing keep me busy to the point where I don’t have to use it as an excuse. If anything, I need to take time away from author business to do something else, not the other way around.
If you had wrote a sex scene in your book, would you be embarrassed to have your mom read it?
Hell, no. I look forward to that shit! – just to see what her reaction is. I don’t think she’s as prudish as she may have been, but I’d say she’s more accepting that her young men are now just that: men. Not 100% accepting, but more accepting.
Beta Readers, Proofers, Editors… all are important to produce a better work of literature. So, who would you say is the most important in your team? Or do you not have those in place and are working on that?
They’re all important, they all play a part. For me, the beta readers have played the biggest part. First nod goes to one Ian O’Neill. Now the beta reader of my first novel was scathing at best, letting me know the manuscript was lacking. What Ian did was give balanced and constructive criticism, as well as that reassurance that persistence would pay off. And to work at my craft. On top of that, he’d always tell me: ‘now go write something.’ And honestly, I love the man to bits for that: hell, I’m grinning just thinking about it.
For the most part, I have a core team of beta readers. Let me say for the record I knew I had stories to write, but another thing Ian had shown me was the power of supporting someone. My heavy hitters Pat Hollett and Kelly Metz. Back when I first started writing, I’d write relatively quick and often. So, these were the two women who got a lot of those requests: on some ‘I’m looking to send a story to this market, I need a pair of eyes on it, hit it top to bottom’, etc. So, they (hopefully!) got used to working quick, thorough and often. Props also to Angela ‘Av’ Magee and Terri Giesbrecht, who’ve also picked up beta work and served as a sounding board. My friends Nella and Bea don’t necessarily beta as often, but they serve more as a sounding board for the story as a whole, in terms of feel and direction and such.
More recent years have seen me get beta work done by peers: those people whose passion is dark media. In particular, I’ll give the nod to Kit Power and Andrew Wilmot. These are the people that, in terms of approach to the craft or the aesthetic eye and such, we have common ground. With Andrew in particular: ever since we first appeared in the ToC for the first issue of Turn To Ash. Every so often, we’ll catch up, talk game, swap beta, etc. These people definitely bring something to the table, so I’m grateful for them.
In your day of writing… do you push through it all day or do you take mental breaks?
I definitely take a time out; both mental and physical. Generally, it’s more like a car would perform, like zero to 60 in 1.2 seconds or something. Again, I need both quiet and solitude in order to write. Once I have those, then I start to write and build momentum as well as more of a feel for the story I’m crafting. Think of it like a plane on take-off, and then it climbs to cruising altitude. So, it’s usually more productive for me to set a whole day aside to write, rather than just an evening.
Do you ever get to travel as an author? Do conventions? What have you learned in those endeavors?
In terms of connecting with peers, elevating my brand, etc. then yeah, I’ll travel. Doing the conventions is part of it. I don’t know how it is for authors in other genres, but for those in the realm of horror and dark fiction, they’re some of the nicest people you could meet.
What have I learned? I don’t know that I’ve learned anything that I didn’t already know beforehand in terms of hitting conventions. From a business and a personal point of view, it’s good to hit a particular convention and talk realtime and real talk with people. Doesn’t matter whether it’s someone you appear in an anthology with. Someone you’ve published. Someone you’ve sold a story to. Someone who edits or someone who does artwork, in the market for their next project. It’s good business practice, and it’s a chance for downtime and hopefully laughs with the like-minded.
Book signings? Necessary evil even for the introvert?
I’d say it’s part and parcel of the game. Ahead of it being good publicity for the author, the publisher and the venue, it’s a chance for the audience to meet you. Or at least the potential audience.
What do you have coming out in the next year and who is producing it?
You know, I’ve been so busy promoting the current novella and working on the new one that right now, I don’t have much coming out next year – not at the moment, anyway. I have a tale in the Twice Told anthology; a collection of tales of doppelgangers and such, which can be found here: https://chthonicmatter.wordpress.com/twice-told/
So actually, that’s something else on the to-do list: get more work out into the marketplace. Because there are stories which have already been written and beta-read, etc., but it’s just a question of priority. Big fish, small fish. Once the new novel/la is done, I can think clearer when it comes to, ‘okay, what else needs to be done? Short story submissions, beta work, etc.’
What is your go to alcoholic beverage of choice?
Jack and Coke, wedge of lime. I drink, but I don’t drink to access (FYI, I’ve only been drunk once, and that was in my teens). Usually, when I’m drinking, on my holiday. Like when I’m out in Toronto, hanging with friends. There, Jack comes along for the ride. We’ll go out to eat, and the wait staff take our order, starting with drinks. The first Jack disappears in one go. And that’s before the food is ordered! There’s gotta be another one with the food though. And maybe one after that.
I’ll also go with Kopparberg Pear cider as well. Clean taste, goes down well when it’s icy cold. I’ll drink it at home from time to time, but alcohol-free. The alcohol version is for nights out, where I don’t have to settle for Rekordelig or Old Mout. Still not sure how ‘Mout’ is pronounced…
In the book, Misery by Stephen King, his main character celebrates the end of the Misery books series by smoking a cigar and drinking a scotch so, how do you celebrate a finished story?
Depends. Sometimes I’ll just kick back and play some bass. Or I might call up a friend and talk their ear off. Or grab a siesta. Or grab an ice-cold Kopparberg Pear. No typical ritual on wrapping a draft.
Ideas come from all over. I get mine everywhere… so my question is what was the inspiration for the last (or upcoming) book you released?
I have a story in the DeadSteam anthology, Sanity Slips Through Your Fingers, which is set in the mythos of a previous short story and novella. I then got the inspiration to do an origin story, which, given the origin, is a tragedy. A horrific one, at that. FYI, that’s probably the most recent case of an editorial edit where there was ‘why not push the story to this place’ or ‘push this part of the narrative to a more horrific level’, and I’m thinking: ‘yeah, that’d be nasty. Horrific.’ Ultimately, that was a damned good call.
Who would you compare your work to and would love to have them read and give you a review of or even better, a tweet and post about it?
No. I wouldn’t compare my work to anyone’s, not as a frame of reference. I’m aware people may do it for themselves or others, but I wouldn’t. What I’m after is my work to stand apart from others that’s out there, that my work has a unique feel and style about it.
Now critics and reviewers, etc. may be the ones to make those comparisons, and that’s their call. But it’s not something I’ll do. It’s something I try and avoid.
Where can we stalk you at? Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, website?
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/C.-C.-Adams/e/B00J438GCI
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/C.-C.-Adams/e/B00J438GCI
Thanks for having me; it’s appreciated.