Chris Priestley has found great success with his marvellously macabre stories for young readers. He is the author of the chilling and brilliant Tales of Terror series, the haunting The Dead of Winter and the fantastically frightening Mister Creecher, to name but a few. He is also a talented artist and illustrator. His cartoons have been published in the Independent and other national newspapers. Chris lives in Cambridge, where he continues to write his seriously scary stories.
To find out more about Chris, visit his blog or follow him on Facebook.
How would you describe your Tales of Terrorcollections to potential readers?
The Tales of Terror are collections of short creepy tales, but they are told by a different storyteller in each book. During the course of each of the books, we learn about the storyteller and about the listeners. Each of the books is set in the past – in the Victorian and Edwardian era that is the setting for so many classic English ghost stories.
What was the original inspiration behind these terrifying tales?
There were lots of different inspirations, but more than anything they came out of my love of short uncanny fiction – ghost stories, weird tales, sci-fi, horror. I wondered if I could write psychological chillers for a young readership. I wanted to see if kids today would like the kind of stories I liked when I was thirteen or fourteen or so.
You’ve added new bonus stories to the back of each of the Tales of Terrorthat bring all three books together. Were these difficult to write?
It was actually a lot of fun to return to those books and those characters after writing a couple of novels. I am really pleased with the way the stories have worked out. I was determined that we shouldn’t just tack a story on to the end. I wanted the books to be better for the addition, and I think they are. The new sections link the books together in a way that did not happen before.
Do you see Uncle Montague as a creepy character? Did you have fun creating him and is he based on anyone you know?
Uncle Montague gets his name from M. R. James – Montague Rhodes James – but as I wrote about him I had those greats of horror movies in mind: people like Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, John Carradine and Boris Karloff. Rold Dahl was in there too, I suppose, with his introductions to his Tales of the Unexpected television programmes.
Some people think that horror writers must be a little weird to come up with their stories. Would you agree with them?
Yes. It is weird. But writing is a weird occupation whatever you write. One of the strongest impulses for me to try to get published was that I kept thinking how weird it was to be keeping notebooks full of stories when I was not (then) a published writer.
Mister Creecheris a twist on the Frankenstein story. Could you tell us a little about it and the inspiration behind it?
Ever since I read the book in my teens, I was fascinated by the fact that Frankenstein, his friend Clerval and the creature all come to Britain, going on a tour through London and Oxford, up into the Lakes and eventually to Scotland and the Orkney Islands (where Frankenstein will build – and then destroy – a mate for his creation). Mary Shelley whizzes through this journey in a few paragraphs, but I wanted to zoom in on the potential of having that huge, angry, vengeful monster loose in the England of 1818. Mister Creecher imagines a meeting between Frankenstein’s creature and a young street thief in Regency London and charts the strange and dangerous bond that develops between them as they leave London and head north.