The most imminent event was the release of her first horror novel when I spoke to Janine-Langley Wood in 2014 for the first time. It was MELT, supernatural horror novel: http://janinewood2012.wix.com/melt—horror-novel
The MELT book release was on December 11th 2014 for ebooks, January 2015 for hard copies.
Over the past few years there have been several anthology appearances, but since gaining a place in The Screaming Book of Horror alongside greats like John Burke (original screenplay – The Sorcerers) and Charlie Higson (The Enemy series & Young James Bond author), plus her first horror novel MELT having achieved a runner-up position in the international ‘Rogue-Writing Contest’ and a contract with US publisher, Assent, Janine-Langley Wood is now firmly set on course as an author of the macabre; something of a contrast for an animal loving, bird rescuing pacifist.
In fact, 2014 was the origin of this interview with Janine-Langley Wood.
Your real name and pen name?
Janine-Langley Wood: As with my pen-name, my real name is Janine-Langley Wood, though I often drop the Langley for secular work.
Please share some of the best memories of your childhood
Janine-Langley Wood: My dad always had the crappest car in the neighbourhood. When everybody else’s dads were driving Escorts and Avengers my dad had an old Ford Popular, which he affectionately nicknamed ‘the Pop’, with seats that tipped forward in their entirety to allow passenger to clamber into the back. One time when he turned up unannounced in it to pick me up from school, I jumped into a ditch until he’d gone.
And yet, on sunny days, or when the new Bond film came out at the pictures, it was the crap old Ford Pop that all the kids on our street were queuing up to pile into – this was in the days before seat-belts became compulsory, of course – because my mum and dad took me and my sisters out as often as they could manage: to the beach, to Ilkley Moors and river, or the old cinemas in Headingly. Any time they had to spare, they spent it with us.
Early memories of reading experiences take me back to my grandma and great auntie’s council flat in Swinnow, where I’d stay quite often. I didn’t read that many children’s books, more comics, but once I’d caught a glimpse of the worm-riddled skeletons and bloodied corpses on the covers of my Aunt Greta’s collection of Pan Books of Horror, I was hooked on the genre for life. It was probably at around age nine that I first started reading the quite complex stories inside. I heard Charlie Higson on Radio 4 recently, talking about how fascinated kids are with death. That was certainly true for me and was an early influence on what I write today.
About your education?
Janine-Langley Wood: Call it working class modesty but I don’t apply the letters I’ve earned after my name. I have an MA in Literature / Creative Writing, plus two diplomas, one in teaching and another in teaching English. Quietly I am quite proud about it, considering all I came out of secondary school with was one bouncing baby boy, now in his thirties. I remember one time at secondary school going to see the careers officer for some advice and him suggesting I go get a job as a shelf stacker at Asda, the most common vocation for Pudsey women at that time; the first Asda in the UK having been built slap-bang at the bottom of our street. Not that there’s anything wrong with shelf stacking; in fact by the time he suggested it, I’d already tried it out as a part-timer, it’s just, all my life a strong part of me leaned towards the creative, and the frustration at having no outlet to vent that manifested itself in different ways. I certainly never considered university, nor was it suggested to me. It wasn’t something anybody on either side of my family had ever done, and seemed at that time to be the privilege of a higher class of people.
One of my stories, A New Life, in the anthology ‘Even The Ants Have Names’, although not factually about me, reflects the frustration of working-class teenage girls in Leeds in the 1970s.
The first actual qualification I gained was my Masters Degree when I was forty-one. I had no first degree, A-Levels or GCSEs, just the strength of my writing and the passion I felt for it, plus the threat from my course leaders that if I didn’t read more I could take a hike. I read more than I ever had and loved it.
More recently, with 2 colleagues at my own Creative Writing students’ graduation.
What career did you plan during your educational days?
Janine-Langley Wood: From the age of sixteen I did various jobs: shop assistant, petrol pump attendant, modeling and promotions work, but I didn’t have a plan, as such. I did write a few books before I was twenty but didn’t know what to do with it all. I knew my grammar wasn’t up to scratch, and in the end, I just threw the manuscripts away, something I still don’t like to think about, although I’d probably be embarrassed to look at them now.
What languages can you speak and write?
Janine-Langley Wood: In my twenties and thirties I became a rep then sales manager, and learned ‘German for Business’ for a big expo I never attended in the end, so not having practiced it, I only remember the basics; mostly I remember how to order a beer. I also learned a little French at school and a little more from going there on business and for holidays, but again only remember the basics. I know how to say, ‘Shut your mouth’ because that seemed important at school.
What is your biggest source of inspiration in life
Janine-Langley Wood: I could say all kinds of authors, certainly Alice Walker and Irvine Welsh, who’d penned the first great books I read and loved as a student at Uni, or Stephen King as my favorite horror writer, but in all honestly, my children have been my greatest inspiration. Your kids make you want to do better, to be better; and the act of giving birth, for me, released a mass of creative energy each time. Finding time to write all the ideas down around being a mum was the trick. My kids are both creative too. My son is a film-maker and my daughter a musician.
What hurts you most in this world
Janine-Langley Wood: That a select few people have so much while so many have squat; while children are starving and dying of unnecessary diseases. In his criticism of American Foreign Policy, the late comedian Bill Hicks reminded us that the world is round; thousands of years before him the Bible described the earth as circular. When will we get it?
What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?
Janine-Langley Wood: Bringing up two kids on my own, for the most part, convincing them that they were better off having me around some of the time, rather than having that £100 pair of trainers or latest mobile phone that I’d have to take two jobs to be able to afford. In order to overcome the obvious difficulties and strike the right balance, I had to care less about my own status in life and how others might judge me and just get on with it, basically have less. Now I understand why my dad drove a Ford Pop, not an Escort.
If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?
It’d have to be Billie Holiday because I love her work and think about her all the time. Oh, to sing like that even just for twenty-four hours. I’d throw an all day party and be on-mike right through, inviting requests from all the people who’ve ever had to put up with my off-key caterwauling.
What is your favorite genre and why?
I’ve always read more horror than anything else, not splatter-gore particularly, though I don’t mind some as part of a good plot. I’ve tried a lot of writers but prefer the well-written stuff like Shirley Jackson, Stephen King and James Herbert. I also like the ghost stories of MR James and their adaptations by the BBC for a great Christmas scare. I’ve recently been collecting some of the old Pan Books, revisiting those. And here’s a coincidence: Screaming Dreams’ editor Johnny Mains, who compiled The Screaming Book of Horror, also wrote the introduction to the recently rereleased 1st Pan Book of Horror Stories, and the biography of their late editor Herbert Van Thal.
When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?
My first attempts at original writing, rather than something that was set in a school lesson, were in comic strip form. I picked up that genre from the teenaged-anxt comics I was reading prematurely at the time. I suppose I was about ten or eleven. In fact, I did the artwork too. I really hope they never turn up – cringe-worthy. Whenever I tried an original writing exercises at school I always got commended for my efforts. I lived for those lessons, but they were few and far between.
The main purpose of my writing is to express my own ideas. Audience is more important to me than it used to be. Although there’s a pile of work I’ve written, especially poetry, that’s never seen the light of day, let alone reached an audience, I do want people to read my work. And I want to entertain those who bother to read it. So I strive to make every word count. At university I was told I had the gift of finding the comedy in horror. If I have a motto it’s Never write in a bad mood; it’ll find a way through the text. Horror needs a little humour more than anything.
Which of your work has been published so far?
· Due out: short story ‘Relentless’ in the December 2014 issue of Malevolent Magazine: http://emoryslone.wix.com/malevolentmagazine
- Currently shortlisted: short story ‘The Deepest Point’ with Midnight Echo: http://midnightechomagazine.com/2014/11/22/midnight-echo-11-short-list-announced/
- Former publications include Even the Ants Have Names, Diamond Twig Press, Lyrical Laboratory, Forward Press, Under the Bridge, A Centre for Northern Studies Publication, Braqemard, Hasty and Krax magazines. Most recently my stories have appeared in The Screaming Book of Horror, a Noose and Gibbet Press anthology, in the 2nd edition of Corvus, and in the 5th edition of Horror Library anthologies, Cutting Block Press.
- Horror Library vol 5 was shortlisted for a Bram Stoker Award for Excellence in an Anthology.
- Baby-Trap, which featured in Screaming Book of Horror alongside John Burke, Charlie Higson and Robin Ince, also made it onto Ellen Datlow’s longlist for Best Horror of the Year.
- In 2003 I gained a Northern Promise Award (Northern Arts) and Mentoring by renowned author Sara Maitland.
- 2009 – short play, What’s in a Name?, read at The Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse.
- First play, A Minor Catastrophe, shortlisted for BBC’s comedy-script competition Falling About.
What are your forthcoming writings?
I’m currently adapting my Northern Promise Award novel, Perfecting Beverly, which was a work in progress at the time, into a horror novel. I have also started a horror ‘who-done-it’ novel. Both of these works incorporate UK mythology, a long-time fascination of mine.
What keeps you motivating towards writing?
I’ll quote the intro to my website, which goes like this:
‘As a writer I’m constantly plagued by ideas that need to find their way onto paper or screen lest my brain should explode in Aldi or Farm-Foods, showering unwitting shoppers with untold visions of dark and sinister places, of hideous crimes and befitting punishments, along with some unsavoury characters they’d rather not introduce their grandmothers to.’
Basically, I’m driven to write, and if I don’t make time to do it the ideas pile up and drive me nuts.
How do you plan, schedule and monitor your writing commitments?
I make time to write or work on upcoming publications every day now. Having a publisher this last year has helped a lot because I no longer have just myself to answer to.
What are your future plans?
I’d like to have three horror novels in circulation by 2018.
What four top most things do you take care of while writing a book?
Character development (believability), convincing dialogue, humor and constant editing.
How much real life goes into your fiction writing?
Most of my character voices begin in real life. But then on paper, they go off and do their own thing, develop into something unique and at some point become essentially fictional.
Is a high level of imagination important to have as an Author?
I believe so. Even if what you’re writing is a factual account of something, you must entertain your reader on some level. Even a shopping list would be imaginative in the hands of a great writer like Shakespeare.
Your dream destination on Earth?
I do like France, and I know there are plenty of warmer places than Yorkshire, but when I’m up at the top of Ilkley Moors, I think even if I fell out of the sky this land couldn’t hurt me, I love it so much, and it’s mine.
Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?
I was born in Leeds, England. I’ve lived in the North East of England for over twelve years and that’s where I got my first round of adult education. It’s still my second home. Places I’ve visited abroad include France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Greece and Corsica in Europe, Tangiers in North Africa and Chicago in The States.
Your favorite time of the day?
Weekdays, whatever time is right to cork a bottle of wine. Of the week, Saturday morning; two lazy cups of coffee and the weekend ahead.
Your zodiac/ sun sign?
Your favorite color and why?
Purple. I love the novel, The Color Purple, plus as a redhead, I always avoided wearing it thinking it would drown me out, but as it turns out it livens me up a bit. In fact, I have a lot of purple and lilac flowers in my garden. I like bees and bees like lavender.
What is the last book you finished reading? What is the current book you are reading?
Dark Matter by Michael Paver. I’m currently rereading Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dhal.
Your favorite book and why?
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. It opened up a whole new world for me. Writing in a voice that felt real and, at times, unaware of itself. Stunning prose.
Your favorite movie and why?
The one I keep pulling out of the cupboard is the box-set of Mad Men. It’s not a film as such but the script is superb and the cast are an absolute dream (1950s talk). I tend to follow good producers/ directors rather than specific films. Shane Meadows is a great English film-maker; my favorite of his is A Room for Romeo Brass. From Scotland, I love the Danny Boyle / John Hodge collaborations. The USA, Martin Scorsese. From Mexican (also in Spanish), Guillermo Del Toro; The Orphanage being my favorite. Sorry, I can’t pick one.
Your favorite celebrity and why?
The comedian Stewart Lee. He tells it like it is, and even when he’s totally making it up to press a point he is utterly convincing. Oh, and he’s very funny. You just have to hear his take on the ‘Big-Brother racism scandal’.
Your favorite food?
I like good old British winter-warmer stodges like stew and dumplings and steak and kidney pie, but I also love fruit and veg. I pile the sprouts on at Christmas. I’ve dabbled with vegetarianism on and off and don’t find it that hard to go meat-free most days, especially not now there’s quarn, but I wouldn’t put it in a stew.
Your favorite sports?
To do: horse-riding, and I swim and walk quite long distances. To watch: nothing really; I’m not sporty. When I was a sales promoter I got a free trip down to the Grande-Prix at Silverstone. I loved the raucous atmosphere of the live event but have never liked watching it on TV.
What is the force that drives you?
Creativity and a hint of self-loathing (I must do better but I’m a bit lazy at heart).
What comes to your mind when you think of India?
A vast unexplored landscape, for me. Iconic buildings. Mountains – a friend of mine who spent half her life in India named her son Kailash. I’ve seen pictures of Kailash; it looks like a huge golden nugget in the sun. An unhealthy union with old England captured brilliantly in Salman Rushdie’s short story, Free Radio. Heart-warming music and the art of dance. Colorful weddings with lush food – I’ve been to one, but only in the UK.
What three words come to your mind for each – Technology, Life, God, Humanity.
Freedom, infinity, slavery. Beauty, love, loss. Brotherhood, belief, oppression. Struggle, imagination, growth.
The first thing you do in the morning after waking up?
Flex my spine, let the dog out, make coffee, switch-on Classic FM, my morning station.
Last thing you do before sleep?
If one fine morning you wake up and find your sex changed to the opposite, what will be your first reaction?
If life were a 12A film, I’d check the size of my penis, of course. In reality, I’d search my thoughts and feelings on women and try to understand the differences and age-old conflicts.
State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote
What with my tendency towards solitude, a strong taste for independence, and having hand-reared the odd carrion crow, five hundred years back I probably would’ve been burned as a witch.
The last line of your autobiography would be…
I’m not done yet.
The title of your autobiography would be…
One more try.
Links & other relevant details:
Author website with books: http://janinewood2012.wix.com/janine-langleywood
Book website (MELT): http://janinewood2012.wix.com/melt—horror-novel
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/wood_melt
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/janinelangley.wood
Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Janine-Langley-Wood-Author/1502648733335767?fref=ts
Facebook – Fans of Gothic Horror group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1489578137973891/?pnref=story
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/12375727-janine-langley-wood
Even the Ants Have Names: http://www.diamondtwig.co.uk/books/ants.html
It was a nice interactive talk with Janine-Langley Wood and learning about so many facts of life from her. Probably horror will not remain horror now onwads.