HHAC Day 28: Francis H Powell

I was born in a “dormitory town” called Reading, not famous for much, apart from a huge Rock festival, and for the fact that Oscar Wilde was sent to prison there and wrote “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”. My family then moved to a farm in the country, in Sussex, not too far from London. I was sent aged eight, to a boarding school, so I would spend long periods away from my family.  Imagine having regular prison sentences, imposed upon you, as a child. At some of the schools I attended, there were psychotic teachers and cruel nasty children.  I used to count the days when I could be reunited with my family.  I became a recluse in the art room and painting was my salvation. I had a teacher who encouraged me to paint and introduced me to various artists, including Kandinsky. I went from austere harsh boarding schools to Art College, a very different environment. Later I moved to a remote village in Austria. It was not far from Vienna, but a very oppressive and strange environment. I thought I should try writing a book. I launched into it…nothing came of it. I do many creative activities, painting as well as writing music. Writing lay dormant, put to one side. Then later, living in Paris at this point in time, via an advert, I made contact with a man called Alan Clark, who had a literary magazine called “Rat Mort” (dead rat).  I submitted four short stories for this magazine, encouraged by Alan, I began to write more and more short stories, and developed a style…I guess if I compare these stories to earlier efforts at writing…there has been a huge development…I am sure my early attempts were imaginative but raw.

1.) When did you first get serious about writing?

A.) I moved to a remote village in Austria. It was not far from Vienna, but a very oppressive and strange environment. I thought I should try writing a book. I launched into it…nothing came of it. I do many creative activities, painting as well as writing music. Writing lay dormant, put to one side. Then later, living in Paris at this point in time, via an advert, I made contact with a man called Alan Clark, who had a literary magazine called “Rat Mort” (dead rat).  I submitted four short stories for this magazine, encouraged by Alan, I began to write more and more short stories, and developed a style…I have written many short stories of varied length. 

2.) What is the hardest part for you about writing?

A.) Keeping cohesion.  Keeping the intensity from the start of the story to the end.

3.) How did you feel upon publication of your first completed project?

A.)  It is quite a big moment, it’s like when you get given your first one man show in a proper Art Gallery,  or have your first track released by a record company on vinyl, you have a sense of personal satisfaction.  You spend hours looking at this story on a computer and it is strange to see it in this new format, in paperback.  Also I was intrigued because I did the illustrations as well as the cover for my book, so I wanted to see how they turned out.

4.) What is more important to you, story, or character? Why?

A.) I suppose in a way they both are of equal importance.  I start my stories from different starting points. Sometimes a vague outline for a story comes into my head.  Sometimes a character name comes into my head. For example “Little Mite” came to me,  then I imagined what kind of character this person might be. Then I came up with the idea that she might be a sister bitch from Hell, who ruins her older sister’s dream wedding by carrying out an audacious appalling act.  Story generally comes first but sometimes I build a story around a character I have imagined.

5.) What is a typical day like in your world?

A.) There is no such thing as a typical day for me, I try to fit in as much as I can.  Generally I am woken up by my young son, much earlier than I would choose. I like to catch up with my  e mails and also check out the news. It’s not a good thing to switch on a computer before breakfast, but I have to grab what opportunities I have.  I travel to wherever I am working by bus or metro, or sometimes train.  Most of my days are hectic.  I am the kind of person who has many plates spinning at the same time.  In the evenings I spend a lot of time on my computer.  By the end of the evening I  sometimes get to see a DVD, at the moment I am watching “The Prisoner” the 60s series with Patrick McGoohan. 

My  short stories are dark and surreal. They usually have an unexpected twist at the end.  If the reader is enthralled enough to want to get to the end of the story and is entertained by the story, then the story has worked.  I see my readers as being the types who stuck away in dingy bedsits, who never go out, not even open the curtains in the morning. I write about outsiders, freaks, odd balls, people rejected by society. I am championing the hard pressed. I guess, a lot of my characters are outsiders due to the fact that  for long periods in my life, I have felt like an outsider. Maybe there are a few readers that fit this description…out there…I also have a lot of despicable characters in my story, the hunting, shooting fishing aristocracy, who I portray in a negative light. I don’t consider myself to be a horror writer. It is true some of my stories are very dark, but I like think they also contain elements of wit and wisdom. My favourite sentence in my book comes from a story called “Opium”. A Gangster, (named Gecko)  confronted by a Preacher sent to rid a town of sin, says "Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man,"

Reality and paranoia get mixed up in the first story of my book. The story is called “Arrival”. A name pops into a man’s head and he can’t place it.  The name Mr Weisler, becomes an obsession. Perhaps the crux of the story is when, the main character Branden Jay Houseman, believes that Mr Weisler is lodged in his stomach and then exits his stomach, in a manner not unlike the "creature popping from a man's stomach" in the 1979 alien film.  Again we have to suppose that Branden’s imagination has gone wild, he is suffering a cruel  hallucination.He simply has this  absurd preoccupation with Weisler, who he fears is going to some terrible deed,  steal his live in partner from him, for example.

The story never genuinely introduces Weisler, he is a shadow.

The second story “Snatched” is about a man who goes out for a walk with his new born baby, returns home only to find the infant is missing.  There then follows many strong recriminations from his wife.  I wrote this before I became a father or husband …was I writing about my fears about being an inadequate father or husband?

What are some of my other demons? Sibling rivalry seems to be one.  “Slashed” is about a man who is the brother of a much lauded painter who in the story is simply called “Maestro” .  The younger brother has lived in his older brother’s shadow all his life; he is also a painter, but a struggling one.  Consequently he vandalizes all of  his brother’s major works, having spent a drunken evening with his artist friends.  He discovers other painful things his brother has inflicted upon him.

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 “Flawless” is a story that among other things also seems to delve into sibling rivalry.  The older brother develops an inexplicable skin disease, at the point of marrying  a beautiful young girl. She then rejects him (rejection and betrayal are other demons that reside within me) and her younger brother steps in and asks the young girl to marry him.  The older brother locks himself away, unable to bare the pain of this terrible betrayal. 

“Seed” a story about a woman, desperate to have a baby, her husband can’t seem to provide,  who then turns to an officer in her barracks to provide her with vital “seed” came about after watching a TV documentary about the United States and the fact that so many fathers are not the biological fathers of their children.  An academic  study from Liverpool John Moores University in the UK has come up with an eye opening discovery which is that 1 in 25 fathers are unknowingly raising another man's child. This story was again written before I became a father, the thinking behind this story, is extremely alarming, not only to me, but I imagine many other men.

“Blackwidow” is a story about a woman who has to kill any man who utters any words resembling love, after they have made “love”.  This story has to be born out of some trauma or traumas,  I have suffered, following a relationship with a woman who has not wanted a relationship to develop further than sexual contact. 

Lack of trust and paranoia also seems to be part of my story “Blindshot”.  This is about a man, blinded in the war.  While treated in hospital, he is seduced by one of the nurses.  She reads him letters from his wife, but we can’t tell if the nurse is making them up. One of the letters is a letter of confession, in which his wife tells him she is pregnant, but the child is not his…but the result of an affair she is having in his absence.  A lot of the paranoia is played out in his mind and he is driven towards suicide. Even this is beyond him.

Three preachers play leading parts in my stories. Preacher Moon is sent into a town that has fell under the spell of opium. His adversary is a gangster called Gecko.  Preacher Moon is a “John the Baptist” type. He is very pious, but comes across as inhumane. This story features one of my favorite lines…"Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man," which is a line Gecko says following one of Preacher Moon’s threats.  In my story Gomford, there is another preacher …The Reverend Salmon…who perhaps is the worst of the three.  He is a dictator who rules over a village. The village is disrupted when a man comes back with a beautiful young bride and the men in the village fall under her spell and one by one seduce her, before falling into a deep depression and a deep sense of guilt.  The Preacher has to save the village that is falling over the abyss.  He has to break the spirit of the young girl, but it turns out he has a murky past and is a highly flawed character. 

The last preacher is called The Reverend Bawdy, who features strongly in “Seed”.  He is an alcoholic, who is licentious and has acquired a reputation for impregnating woman in Africa. He is the Regimental chaplain.  He is intimidating to the main character, whose husband is absent on military duty.  He is always probing and very sarcastic and seems to revel in the idea of being a womanizer, despite being married and a “man of the cloth”.  My final story in my book is called “Cast from Hell”.  In this story a man is rejected by Hell (for being too good) and is sent back to earth in the form of a beautiful woman.  Hell is seen as being not a such a terrible place, more a boring existence.  Back on earth  the main character goes about “her” evil ways.  As a child I was always shunted off to church.  I came across an array of sometimes eccentric priests, some who doubtlessly took to the bottle.  Religion certainly plays on my mind even today  and I believe it is wrong to enforce notions of “hell” on  an innocent child. What is Hell anyway? Isn’t there enough Hell on this earth anyway?

All of my stories are characterized by “outsiders”, “freaks” the “underdogs of this world”.  In the end they rise to the challenge and defeat their oppressors.  Manifested in my stories lay a lot of my demons, some of which have lain dormant for many years, but have been roused in my book “Flight of Destiny”.

Win your very own  horror library.

Enter for your chance to win an electronic horror library that contains the following ebooks. Simply tweet to your friends about the Halloween Horror Author Countdown, enter as often as you want. On October 31st one lucky winner will be chosen at random to receive a library containing the following titles.

Blood Lily by Jenny Allen
The Misadventures of Bob by Jaime Johnesee
A Jar of Fingers by C.L. Hernendez
A Coin for Charon by Dallas Mullican
The Human Condition by Mark Taylor
Spook Lights by Eden Royce
Mateguas Island by Linda Watkins
In the Hands of the Unknown A.E. Hellstrom
Winchester Over by Dave Lund
The Complex by J Rudolph
The Dead Song Legend by Jay Wilburn
Zombie and Chainsaws by Mike Evans
Flight of Destiny by Francis H Powell
Through a Mirror Darkly by Kevin Lucia
Awfully Apetizing by Leod D Fritz
Darkly Wood by Max Power
Family Reunion by P. Mark DeBryan
Slice Girls by Carmilla Voiez
Cannibal House I by Shaun Adams
Zombies Inside by Rebecca Besser
Dark Crescent by Dev Jarrett
Werewolf Nights by Mari Hamill
There is more to come and the list will be updated as books are added.

Author T.W. Brown has added the first nine books of his Dead Series to the prize pool.

There are several ways to enter to win.

On Twitter tweet the following message:

Have you read Flight of Destiny?
#2015HHAC #BookBoost

Don't forget to use the hashtag #2015HHAC so your entries can be tracked.

On Facebook go to my Facebook fan page, like and share the daily post about the countdown.

Or you can comment on any or all of the countdown posts by answering the following question:

What kind of horror do you like?

During the month we will track everyone's activity, assigning each action a number and at the end of the countdown a random number will be drawn. The person whose name appears next to that number will be the winner.

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