These days I’m a very confused lad. I haven’t got a clue who I should be – or at least, I haven’t a clue about how I should project myself to readers. I’m bemused about how to speak, what to wear and, most importantly, how to behave. And it’s driving me nuts.
It all began about six months ago when I clinched a three-book deal to write Gothic horror and dark fantasy novels and had to put my previous writing career as a humorist to one side to concentrate full-time on creating monsters and supernatural mayhem.
From a keyboard angle it wasn’t much of a switch, merely going for gore instead of gags, screams of fear rather than screams of laughter. But from the PR and author brand point of view it wasn’t so straight-forward.
I assumed that I’d present myself as a dark, eerie, mysterious figure in black, scowling at the camera and hanging around in graveyards for inspiration. I’d look like I’d just emerged from sleeping in a coffin in a crypt in Whitby, part Goth, part mystic.
And for a while that’s what I plumped for. All my publicity pictures made me look more like a vampire than the ones I wrote about. I managed to avoid becoming a Victorian dandy in leather and lace, but I certainly didn’t come across as approachable or someone you’d trust to look after your cat. In fact, some friends said I looked like a third rate stage hypnotist and quizzed me on whether I was going to grow a ridiculous goatee beard and go around with fake stage blood around my lips.
But two things quickly suggested a rethink was in order. The first was the realisation that I was falling into the trap of going for a stereotypically hackneyed image of what I thought people would assume horror writers looked like. It only took a fairly fleeting glance at my fellow dark fantasy authors to note that they weren’t going in for the cheap theatricals. They looked normal, friendly, happy and, dare I say it, – nice! And indeed, the more I conversed with them, this proved to be the case. And it didn’t seem to harm their sales that they appeared like the boy or girl next door and not a deranged undertaker.
The second thing that made me think was the fact that I started doing podcasts, Meet the Author slots and Facebook lives and couldn’t keep up the spooky Vincent Price act. I naturally like to joke, smile, laugh and mess about. And the disjoint between real me and scary fantasy me was growing too wide to bridge.
So I’ve arrived at a bit of an impasse. And I need advice. Do I abandon ALL the Halloween hi-jinks If so, how do I convince people that this gormless, grinning gagster in jean and t-shirt is capable of turning out genuinely scary historical horror books? Or do I try to achieve some sort of happy medium? Perhaps looking like an happy medium, if not an amused clairvoyant.
Please tell me, because I’m genuinely baffled – and the Hammer Horror outfit has to be back at the costume shop by this time next week or they’re going to charge me double.