PR: Terror Films partnering with Screambox, VIDI SPACE

Terror Films.jpg

Horror distribution company Terror Films recently announced partnerships with the streaming service Screambox and new online network VIDI SPACE.

Terror Films licensed 30 films to horror streaming service Screambox, according to a company press release.

Screambox bills itself as the leading streaming service for die-hard horror fans with more than 100,000 subscribers enjoying exclusive content not available on any other subscription streaming service.

“Screambox is one of the leading streaming services dedicated to bringing a wide variety of diverse genre films to die-hard horror fans so this partnership was a no-brainer for us,” Terror Films President Joe Dain said in the press release.

Some of the films on the list include Hell House LLC, the horror anthology Patient Seven, Dead Body, and the documentary Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary. Newer titles on the list are The Barn and What the Waters Left Behind.

Check out the full slate of films on the website of Screambox, a TV4 Entertainment company.

“This terrific collection of Terror Films titles helps Screambox fulfill its mission to deliver the very best in fresh new horror to fans every week and on any device,” said Screambox and TV4 Entertainment executive Larry Baird in the press release.

The partnership with VIDI SPACE features more than 30 Terror Films titles with a separate slate of films released at a later date from Terror Films sister company Global Digital Releasing. Offering subscription and a la carte options, VIDI SPACE is founded by the host and executive producer of the shows “Paranormal Lockdown,” “Ghosts of Shepherdstown,” “Ghost Adventures,” and “Ghost Stalkers,” according to the press release.

“As an indie company it’s vital to not only have our content on major platforms such as iTunes, Shudder, Amazon, Vudu and so on, it’s also important for us to explore new and exciting streaming platforms such as VIDI SPACE, which will only help expand the digital footprint of our films and ideally increase revenue opportunities for our filmmakers,”  Dain said in a press release.

A popular feature on VIDI SPACE has been the live-streamed premieres of new content that allow customers to watch and interact through an integrated social chat, the press release said.

“Our partnership with Terror Films is a real first step towards spotlighting a genre in the industry that not only demands constant innovation but literally and figuratively keeps us all on the edge of our seat,” VIDI SPACE President and Co-Founder Elizabeth Saint said in a press release. “It comes at the perfect time as we focus on expanding our other channels, particularly The Horror Space. The films they are bringing to us truly set the bar to what independent filmmaking is all about.”

For additional details on the release calendar or how to participate in the live streamed premieres, visit VIDI SPACE. You can also check out the VIDI SPACE-Terror Films promo on YouTube here.

Advertisements

Interview with Author John Everson

Flame Tree Press released Bram Stoker Award-winning horror author John Everson’s 10th novel, The House by the Cemetery, on October 18th.

The teaser for the book hints at a perfect autumn read:

Flame Tree PressThe teaser for the book hints at a perfect read for autumn: “Rumor has it that the abandoned house by the cemetery is haunted by the ghost of a witch. But rumors won’t stop carpenter Mike Kostner from rehabbing the place as a haunted house attraction. Soon he’ll learn that fresh wood and nails can’t keep decades of rumors down. There are noises in the walls, and fresh blood on the floor: secrets that would be better not to discover. And behind the rumors is a real ghost who will do whatever it takes to ensure the house reopens. She needs people to fill her house on Halloween. There’s a dark, horrible ritual to fulfill. Because while the witch may have been dead … she doesn’t intend to stay that way.”

Everson’s novels are dark and visceral, often blending horror with the occult and taboo sex. The Illinois author won the Bram Stoker Award for a First Novel in 2005 for Covenant. His sixth novel, Nightwhere, was a Bram Stoker Award finalist in 2013. Check out Everson’s website by clicking here.

In an exclusive interview with HorrorAddicts.net, Everson discusses his new novel, his past works, and what scares him.

THE INTERVIEW

john-everson-mugshot

HORROR ADDICTS: Your 10th novel, The House by the Cemetery, arrived October 18th from your new publisher Flame Tree Press. Does this release personally feel any different than your previous releases in terms of anticipation and excitement? Or do all of them feel the same?

EVERSON: They’re all a little different, but this one is special because it’s the debut release on my fourth major publisher. My first couple novels debuted in hardcover on Delirium Books, a small independent press, and then made their big “mass market” paperback debut a couple years later on Leisure Books, which put them in bookstores across the country. Both of those debuts were big because – first book ever, and then first book ever in bookstores.  Then after the dissolution of Leisure, my sixth novel NightWhere debuted on Samhain Publishing, which was my second “paperback” home. After four books with them, I am now with Flame Tree Press, which is issuing The House By The Cemetery in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audiobook. That is the first time I’ve ever had a publisher do all versions of a novel, so… it’s a big release for me!

HA: You set The House by the Cemetery in Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, one of the most haunted sites in Illinois and near where you grew up. What part of the cemetery’s history or legend intrigued you the most?

EVERSON: I  am always fascinated by ghost stories, so I love the stories of the Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove, a ghostly woman sometimes seen walking with a child, and sometimes on her own. I wrote a short story about her for the Cemetery Riots anthology a couple years ago. And she’s really the inspiration (along with a famous gravestone) for one of my earliest stories, “Remember Me, My Husband.” But the ghost story that inspired the novel is that of a mysteriously appearing house, which people see in the back of the cemetery. I decided that for the novel, the house would be a real, physical place. But the combination of the ghost stories about that, the Madonna, and the devil worship legends about dark things that occurred in the cemetery 40-50 years ago, really fueled the book though they were inspirational, not directly “retold.”

HA: With horror movies breaking records at the box office and tons of quality horror fiction being released the last couple of years, the media is reporting that the horror genre is more popular than ever. Does it seem that way to you or is it just hype? Have any movies or horror fiction blew you away in the last couple of years?

EVERSON: Horror as a film and TV genre does seem more popular than ever. The popularity of series like Stranger Things and The Walking Dead, in particular, has galvanized a huge fan base. I haven’t seen that turn into a huge fan base for horror novels, because at this point, published horror fiction is still divided between Stephen King, Anne Rice and a few others published by the major labels, and … everyone else being published by independent publishers. When you walk into a bookstore, you’re not blown away by the preponderance of horror books, at least not in any of the stores I walk into. I hope that changes because certainly, this is the age of horror video. And without “writing” there are no films and TV shows!

As far as what’s blown me away … I don’t have a frame of reference because I don’t watch most modern horror films and I avoid TV series – because while they may be great, I just don’t have the time! I can either watch TV or write … and I choose writing. I have seen Stranger Things, which is awesome. But that’s about it for me on the screen over the past couple years. My movie watching (which happens every Friday or Saturday night around midnight in my basement!) is centered around older horror, giallo, and exploitation films, particularly from Europe, from the ‘60s-’80s. At the start of the year, I did see and love the films The Shape of Water from Guillermo del Toro and Endless Poetry from Alejandro Jodorowsky. Ironically, both of those films also look backwards in time, to other ages. My favorite things that I’ve seen lately are Hitch Hike, a 1977 film by Pasquale Festa Campanile, Death Occurred Last Night, a 1970 film by Duccio Tessari, and Pets, a 1973 film by Raphael Nussbaum.

HA: You’ve written a horror trilogy titled The Curburide Chronicles about a reporter named Joe Kieran battling demons. What about Joe caused you to return to his story two more times?

EVERSON: I never intended to. After the first novel was initially finished in 2000, I wrote a few short stories, and a year or two passed as I tried to find a publisher for Covenant, the first book. One day in 2002, I heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I thought … what a great way to jumpstart a book – write 50,000 words in four weeks? That’s insane! But I took the dare. I had an idea about what happened to Joe after Covenant, and in some ways, it felt like a better, more adventurous story than the first novel. So…I decided to use NaNoWriMo as my prod to knock out a big chunk of a novel. I still hadn’t sold the first book – and didn’t know if I ever would! – so I tried to write Sacrifice as a standalone novel, though it directly follows the first book.

So … when I finished Covenant I hadn’t had any thought of a sequel. When I finished Sacrifice, though, I thought almost immediately of how I might want to return to the world again, because I’d left a couple characters in limbo. However, the publisher wasn’t interested in a third book (third books in a series don’t usually do great unless you’ve got a mega-bestseller thing going on). So I had to sit on the idea of the third and final book in the series for almost a decade. A couple years ago when both Leisure and Samhain had collapsed and I found myself without a publisher, I decided, “what the hell …” and I dove in and finally wrote Redemption, the final chapter in the trilogy.

Curburide-trilogy-bookcovers-only.jpg

HA: I cite The 13th as one of the best horror novels I’ve ever read and one that’s influential on my own writing. Do you have a favorite amongst your children (why or why not)?

EVERSON: I don’t have a favorite, but I have a few that I tout a little higher than others. Ironically, those are the ones that seem to have either sold less or been reviewed harder than the others! I am really a fan of Sacrifice, though it hasn’t sold half as many copies as Covenant. I love The 13th because it’s just over-the-top crazy horror fun (I think!) I really was proud of Siren, which had a dual narrative structure that was adventurous for me and dealt with some personal themes that also were important to me. While I’ve seen some people call it their favorite, that novel has faired the poorest in overall reviews (a lot of people are not happy with the ending), though personally I think it’s one of my strongest pieces. NightWhere is a big one for me because it dealt with dark, taboo themes that I was afraid to write about (and sign my name to) for years. But when I finally did it, I was really proud of the way it turned out (and it turned into an award finalist and has been reviewed pretty well).

NightWhere

HA: Was there one of your works that kind of fell through the cracks that you wished more people would’ve discovered?

EVERSON: Redemption. It had everything going against it – it’s the third and final part in my Covenant trilogy, but it was released a decade after the second novel, and it was released on my own independent Dark Arts Books label – the only book I’ve done that with on a first run, because the original publisher of Covenant and Sacrifice was gone.  So … most of the thousands of readers of those first two novels have no idea the finale exists, and there’s no way to let them know unless they’re actively looking for it. But I think it’s one of my best books, and really ties up the threads of the first two books. It’s also my longest novel.

HA: Taboo sex plays a large part in the plots of almost all your novels, but it’s also popular in a lot of other horror novels. Why do you think sex and horror are so intertwined in horror fiction?

EVERSON: Horror is in a lot of ways, a “Christian” genre (there are people bristling all over reading that!) in the sense that, because a lot of horror is based on the crime and punishment philosophy of “people who do bad things – like have sex before marriage – are punished by DEATH!” There are a lot of “sin and retribution/punishment” themes in horror. Being punished for killing someone … and being punished for cheating and/or premarital sex are big themes that horror tales frequently tackle. Horror has always explored the “what happens when you cross the moral line” factor.

And I think that sex comes into horror a lot too because – when are you at your most vulnerable? When you completely open yourself to another human being. We’re afraid of the potential danger of that intimacy, and thus … horror stories!

Launch Party-2018-10-11 20.jpg

John Everson signing his latest novel, The House by the Cemetery.

HA: I know you’re a music lover. Does music influence or inspire your writing at all (how)?

EVERSON: Music is a huge part of my life and I don’t ever write without it. I can’t say that music influences my writing direction in a way (I don’t hear a song and write a story about it) but I do put on types of music if I’m writing particular scenes. Most of the time I have on ambient “dreampop” kind of bands like Cocteau Twins and Delirium and The Cure which set a particular “mood” for writing. But if I’m doing very aggressive scenes, I might put on mixes of harder techno stuff, from Covenant to Rob Zombie to Marilyn Manson.

HA: What music are you listening to now?

EVERSON: I’m listening to a MixCloud mix by one of my favorite DJs, DJ Mikey. I have bought so many CDs because of his mixes! I listen to this particular one all the time at night because it’s nice and lowkey. Here’s the link: https://www.mixcloud.com/strangewaysradio/space-between-us-dreampop-dj-mikey/

HA: Are you binge-watching anything on Netflix?

EVERSON: The only thing I’ve ever watched on Netflix was Stranger Things … which is actually the only reason I subscribed (the rest of my family now won’t let me cancel it). I’m not a fan of most streaming services because their libraries aren’t deep enough for me. I have a lot of niche, cult film tastes and really, the only way to get most of those movies is to buy them from the cult film companies that remaster and produce them for Blu-ray and DVD. Plus, one of my favorite things about watching an old movie is to watch the bonus DVD extras – all the interviews about the making of the film. You don’t get that stuff on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

HA: Have you read any fiction recently worth recommending?

EVERSON: The last novel I finished was David Benton’s Fauna, which is excellent!

HA: When you’re not working, writing, or spending time with your family, what do enjoy doing with your downtime?

EVERSON: Watching cult 1970s/80s horror, giallo and exploitation films – often from Europe – is one of my favorite things to do. Give me a beer and a new discovery from film companies like Vinegar Syndrome, Severin, Raro Video, Mondo Macabre, Shameless or Synapse, and I’m a really happy guy.  If I’m not going to collapse in a comfy chair to watch obscure movies in the dark, I also love to cook and garden and occasionally even do some woodwork – I’ve built an oak bar for my basement and a couple of DVD cabinets.

HA: Give me some breaking news about your next project or tell me something your fans don’t know about you?

EVERSON: I’m currently just a few weeks from wrapping my 11th novel, The Devil’s Equinox. It’s an occult-based Rosemary’s Baby kind of story that maybe shares a few themes with NightWhere, The Devil’s Equinox, and The 13th.

HA: What scares you?

EVERSON: People! I’m a big fan of the core message of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In the end, it’s really not the monster that’s dangerous.

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Triple Axe by Scott Cole

Triple Axe by Scott Cole is an outrageous grindhouse exploitation novella packed with plucky porn stars, frozen sex toys, and a B-movie vibe straight from the gritty screens of 1970s drive-in theaters.

Triple Axe coverReleased by Grindhouse Press on July 2, Triple Axe is about Jesse Jinx, a porn star who dreams of starting up her own film company, one that treats the actors more fairly and respectfully.

The problem is a killer is on the loose, using an ice-cold sex toy to dispatch porn stars at an alarming rate. The villain’s motive is as equally outrageous as the plot.

Likable leads Jesse and her friends Selina and Foxy Roxoff are survivors, not victims, and decide to protect themselves with, you guessed it, axes.

Triple Axe never takes its plot too seriously and works as a horror-action-comedy. Imagine Uma Thurman’s Bride character from Kill Bill if she were a porn star fighting off serial killers instead of international assassins. Now, multiply Uma by three.

I could tell the author had loads (sorry) of fun creating names for the porn actors.

At 89 pages in length, Triple Axe is a quick read with an over-the-top climax (sorry again) and a feel-good female empowerment theme.

BOOK REVIEW: Fat Free Nation by Naomi Downing

Fat Free Nation cover.jpg

Fat Free Nation by Naomi Downing is a compelling indictment of an out-of-control bureaucracy and the unintended consequences of government meddling. It’s also a damn fine dystopian novella every bit as intense as The Hunger Games.

Downing sets the stage of her dystopian world with a quick introduction:

“The year is 2148 and because of the rise of overweight people, our government created a law that everyone must be within a certain weight range. All junk and fast-food has been outlawed but can still be found in the many black markets. All citizens from the age of eight to twenty-nine who are overweight are sent to government-run weight loss camps. Over the age of thirty and overweight is a death sentence. The camps are split into three age groups. Camp One is for anyone ages eight to twelve, Camp Two is ages thirteen to seventeen, and Camp Three is ages eighteen to twenty-nine. If you age out of a camp and are not within the healthy weight range, in other words you can’t go from one camp to another, you die.”

Fat Free Nation is a fast-paced, dialogue-driven story about Jenna, an overweight 17-year-old who along with her twin brother is on the run from the fat police. From the opening, Downing efficiently establishes the relationship between the likable, feisty, book-loving protagonist Jenna and her protector-brother Will.

By the end of the first chapter, the twins are captured in a raid by authorities, including a sadistic bureaucrat named Major, and transported for orientation into a fat camp where failure results in execution.

Jenna enters fat camp weighing 210 pounds, which is 90 pounds over the government’s limit by law for her age. Jenna and Will have been on the run for 10 years, so adjusting to the highly regimented rules of the camp are tough on their free spirits.

The camp reminded me of an extreme amalgam of prison and Army basic training where the instructors enjoy torturing teenagers. Campers are tagged with trackers on their ankles, forced to write truthfully in journals, and given every opportunity to exercise.

I liked how Downing describes Jenna’s attitude when she arrives at her cabin at fat camp.

“The screen door creaked as Jenna walked in, there was no solid door. There were eight beds, four on each wall. As Jenna walked to the one at the end the smell of sweat and blood filled her nose. The door to the bathroom area was open and inside Jenna could see five toilet stalls, a row of sinks, and an open shower area. At the foot of her bed there was a closed door. Jenna dropped her bag onto the bed, wafting the stale odor of dried piss into her nose.

“Charming,” Kasey wrinkled her nose.

“I’ve lived in worse,” Jenna shrugged.

The fat camp boss Major is as cruel of a villain as I’ve encountered in a story. I winced every time Jenna forgot to address Major as “sir” because the omission usually resulted in physical abuse for the heroine. I wondered how much more punishment Jenna could take.

Major is extremely unhinged psychologically. If he finds contraband, he punishes the teens with ten or more lashes of his whip or 24 hours in a sweat box. Disrespect gets a bullet to the face. Escape attempts result in slit throats. Major revels in intimidating and torturing the campers.

My favorite moment in Fat Free Nation is in Chapter 4 when Jenna understands her desire to survive is stronger than she realizes.

“I don’t want to die, Jenna thought, this world sucks but I want to live.”

That’s as raw and honest of a self-assessment as a character can make.

Major’s right-hand woman is Starling, an assistant who follows the sadistic camp leader’s orders to the letter but doesn’t feel any joy about her job performance. Starling shows a surreptitious sympathy for Jenna.

About a third of the way into the story, a tragedy results in a bombshell revelation followed by another stunning disclosure. I’ll stop here to avoid any spoilers, but the rebellious Jenna’s will is tested time and again.

The only issue I had with Fat Free Nation is the final scene — really the final sentence — because I’ve never been a fan of cliffhangers. With that said, the last sentence is a hell of a moment.

Published by J. Ellington Ashton Press and released August 17, Fat Free Nation is a gritty dystopian novella as well as a powerful metaphor for prejudice and government overreach in our own world today.

Perhaps the most telling moment in Fat Free Nation is a scene where rage and vengeance are about to overtake Jenna, but a voice from the past lends her strength.

“I know you’re hurting and want to hurt them, but you can’t. We need to stay the sane ones in this fucked up world.”

That’s not only a powerful reminder to Jenna, but to everybody as we go forward in the highly charged political and socio-economic atmosphere of the 21st century.

Terror Films unleashes Freaky Fridays in October

Fridays are a little freakier for Horror Addicts thanks to Terror Films.

“Terror Films is set to release a new horror film every Friday in the month of October in a special promotion aptly titled Freaky Fridays,”  according to a press release from the horror film distribution company. “Each week a new film will be released in North America exclusively on Amazon Prime. An expanded release will follow on November 9th across multiple digital platforms, including iTunes, Vudu, and Tubi TV. Additional platforms will be added at a later date.”

The Freaky Fridays lineup features The Chair (October 5th), Furry Nights (October 12th), Flesh Blanket (October 19th), and What the Waters Left Behind (October 26th).

The Chair

The Chair is based on the Alterna Comics graphic novel of the same name and follows the story of a man on death row, struggling to escape his fate at the hands of a violent warden. The cast includes Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story), Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Noah Hathaway (The NeverEnding Story), Emmy Award-winning actor Bill Oberst Jr., and Roddy “Rowdy” Piper in his final on-screen performance.

Furry Nights

Furry Nights is a joint project for Terror Films, Cyfuno Ventures, and director J. Zachary Thurman. The film is about a group of teens on a camping trip who are terrorized by maniacs dressed in animal costumes.

Flesh Blanket

Flesh Blanket is a mockumentary starring late comedian Ramsey Moore as a morbidly obese killer.

What the Waters Left Behind

What the Waters Left Behind caps Freaky Fridays. The film is set in the Argentinian tourist village Epecuén, known for the healing properties of its thermal waters. A documentary film crew descends on the village 30 years after a flood destroyed it and finds themselves stranded and not alone.

BOOK REVIEW: Cannibal Creek by Jon Athan

The title of Cannibal Creek, an extreme horror novel by Jon Athan, is the epitome of truth in advertising.

Cannibal Creek cover.jpg

There’s a creek with a community of inbred hillbilly cannibals living nearby in the remote West Virginia woods.

Enter the Bakers and Riveras, two families who arrive in an RV for a family camping trip not far from the creek.

I immediately tallied the numbers: four adults plus three children plus one teenage girl named Jasmine.

That’s potentially eight meals for the price of one book.

Wait a minute. There’s Jasmine’s boyfriend, Joshua, who’s secretly following the family in anticipation of a romantic rendezvous with his girlfriend when the parents are sleeping.

So, a potential ninth meal.

The first third of the book lacks any real action as it introduces the characters, which are typical middle-class Americans. They’re nothing special, but I like reading about ordinary folks facing extraordinary circumstances.

Then, with one shocking scene of unexpected tragedy, Cannibal Creek starts delivering the goods expected in a cannibal story as the surviving characters respond emotionally and instinctively to the unthinkable adversity.

Released August 31, 2017, Cannibal Creek is heavily inspired by classic horror movies, The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so much so the book could’ve been titled The Woods Have Eyes.

But like a solid cover version of a favorite song, Cannibal Creek is respectful of the original material and a worthy addition to the cannibal horror subgenre.

 

 

 

 

Interview with Artist Luke Spooner


Spooner 1.jpg

Carrion House is the online domain of England artist and illustrator Luke Spooner, whose work has appeared in projects featuring stories by horror masters Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Stephen King.

“I have a First Class degree in illustration from the University of Portsmouth,” Spooner says on his website. “My current projects and commissions include illustrations and covers for books, magazines, graphic novels, books aimed at children, conceptual design and business branding.”

Spooner’s projects include the interior artwork for Crystal Lake Publishing anthology “Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories” and the interior artwork for Bram Stoker Award-winning Crystal Lake Publishing anthology “Behold: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders.” Both feature stories by horror masters Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Ramsey Campbell.

Spooner’s illustrations are also featured in the anthology “You, Human,” which includes the short story “I Am the Doorway” by Stephen King, and in “The Dead Song Legend Dodecology” by Jay Wilburn.

 

In an exclusive interview with HorrorAddicts.net, Spooner discusses his career.

 


THE INTERVIEW

Spooner 4.jpg

HORROR ADDICTS: Where did your artistic eye and talent originate? Any artists, books, or movies inspire your style?

SPOONER: I was doodling from the moment I discovered pencils and things to scribble on. In those early formative years, it was just a way of emulating what I loved; I used to draw my favourite characters from television shows, books – even imaginary characters that I’d make up and try to explain to others and write stories about. In hindsight; the desire to communicate ideas through visual means actually developed earlier than my attempts at communicating through spoken language. I’m not saying I was any good at it – I’m just saying it was my first port of call once I realized there were things I needed to get out of my head, but gradually, over time, it became a tap – a leaky faucet that you really had to put your back into if you were to have any hope of turning off. It never occurred to me that some people just didn’t do it. It seemed so important and instinctive but as with most things in life; once you arrive at school and find peers of your own age staring back at you, you notice people and they notice you, the things that separate you from them start to become clearer and more definitive.

Spooner 2.jpg

HA: How long have you been a cover designer? What compelled you to start your own business in this field?

SPOONER: When I reached the age of 18 I had gathered enough understanding of the world to know that there was a chance I could do something creative, something that involved creating images to convey meaning, for a living – a way of making money to allow me to create images for as long as possible with no interruptions. It was suggested by my art teacher that I undertake a Foundation Degree at the Wimbledon College of Art in London.  Following this suggestion and applying myself to getting accepted was a confirmation that I was indeed going to do something creative as a profession; I’d sat across tables from other students with artistic prowess far greater than my own for years by this point and despite this I still felt very strongly that I could find a niche for myself that they couldn’t fit into. That degree, in total, lasted a year and was essentially, what became known in retrospect, as an ‘options year,’ a term suitably vague and confusing. I ended up in a scary umbrella option called ‘visual communication,’ which basically meant commercial imagery in the broadest and (sadly) vaguest sense. I was trapped in a room, right on the edge of Wimbledon like a dirty secret, shoulder to shoulder with photographers, graphic designers, typographers, traditional illustrators, children’s book illustrators and even a couple of fine artists who had severely lost their way but decided that it couldn’t have possibly been there fault. I barely made it out of that year purely through the department’s constant need to try and cover every discipline’s needs on a daily basis. We were essentially a broth with too many chefs and I lost any sort of direction or idea of what I truly wanted to be. However, I did survive it and based on the few tethers I’d managed to grasp over the course of a year under the degree’s instruction I decided to sign up to The University of Portsmouth’s illustration degree.

When I got to Portsmouth everything was confirmed. I was reminded of what I truly enjoyed and what I wanted to do more of in the future. The degree provided the perfect platform for me to start from and presented the bare bones truth of what the world I was trying to install myself into was and would be like, so any second thoughts I would have had were put aside fairly early on. The unofficial mantra that got passed down by the lecturers, and made frequent appearances in our group tutorials like a support meetings code of conduct was “what you put in – you will get out,” and while that obviously sounds like common sense, I can assure you that you’d be amazed at how many people decided to sit back, put in minimum effort and just assume the work would find them both during University and out in the big wide world of work. I heard from one of my friends at a London based art degree while I was Portsmouth that her department’s stock phrase was “nobody wants you,” which although incredibly depressing is an unfortunate truth.

Spooner 3.jpg

When I left University in 2012 I had finished my illustration degree; handed in work, filled 14 sketchbooks, written a dissertation on film noir, even wall mounted my work for an exhibition to be looked over by a horde of complete strangers – all over the course of the final third year. What I didn’t realise was that we although the work was handed in on 11tth May – we didn’t officially graduate until the 23rd July. This meant that we effectively had two whole months of not having a clue who we were supposed to be; were we students? Were we graduates? Could we start working without knowing whether we’d passed or not? The list of open-ended questions goes on and on but when you’re talking about a department full of potential freelancers you knew you weren’t going to get any answers – even the lecturers gave the impression that they now saw you as competition as opposed to the subordinates they were teaching a week previous.

There was absolutely no hope of turning to your fellow artists and finding out what they had planned because competition was verging on blood thirsty, so rather than dwelling on it I decided that I didn’t need to know what grade I got, or even whether I’d passed, to be a practicing freelancer. I had a portfolio to my name and a desire to work and seek out potential projects so, for those two months, I emailed and searched, rinsed and repeated, sending upwards of fifty emails a day until eventually one client, just as fresh and new to ‘the game’ as I was, said they wanted me on board for their new project and were willing to pay me actual money in return for my services. That was six years ago, and I haven’t stopped since

HA: You call your online domain, CARRION HOUSE. Why that name? Does it have a special meaning?

SPOONER: I didn’t actually live in the city I studied in when I was at University. I lived forty miles away and was working two part-time jobs, so I didn’t really socialise much with other students outside of the formal lessons and group tutorials attended at the University. I used to commute via bus and train and when you couple that with the fact that our schedule, especially towards the end of the course, was pretty lax it meant that not a lot of people actually knew me beyond being able to recognise me in passing me in a corridor. However, during the second year of the course there was a big emphasis placed on creating an online identity for ourselves as prospective illustrators through online portfolios, social media, blogs etc. We were encouraged to represent ourselves as more of a brand than a person, where possible, and so for two weeks I went through all sorts of names that I thought would highlight the dark work I was creating, and hoping to create, for other people.

There were some truly awful names amongst the list of potentials and some downright laughable, so I eventually decided to take stock of how people already viewed me within the course as they were, to a point, pretty unbiased and probably a good indicator of how people would view my work having not really known me personally. In the first year we had done a project where we were set the task of researching and illustrating an animal of our choice over the course of a month and producing some sort of ‘end result’ based on our research and development. I had chosen a crow as my subject and had jumped head first into my research almost gratuitously. The end result was a series of illustrations based on ‘The Crow’ by Ted Hughes and when it came time to present the research and final product to my teachers, alongside everyone else, the other students were slightly taken aback by how ‘into it’ I had become when they saw the bulging sketchbooks and development folders. Subsequently people started referring to me as ‘the crow guy,’ not in a negative capacity (as far as I know) but simply as a convenient moniker based on simple fact — I did nothing to dissuade this.

So, knowing that I was already known as ‘the crow guy’ I took the word ‘Carrion’ and coupled it with the word ‘House,’ because I liked the idea of appearing as a professional house, or style of illustration as opposed to just some guy who could colour in really well and that’s how the name came about. It may also interest you to know that I also work on children’s books under the name of ‘Hoodwink House,’ a name chosen because I don’t feel that the child friendly style of illustration I utilise under that name is an honest representation of my artistic self, therefore I feel like I’m tricking/hoodwinking both customers and myself when I put on that particular hat style.

Spooner 5.jpg

HA: I read your website where you have worked on projects that include works by Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Stephen King. That’s impressive. Can you talk about how those projects developed for you? Do you feel more pressure when creating covers for high-profile projects with big-name talent attached?

SPOONER: All of those stories have come to me as parts of anthologies, so they are packaged alongside other stories, by other authors and therefore it diffuses that pressure by normalising those particular names and reminding the elated fan in you that they are just people. I try to make a point of going through anthologies avoiding any knowledge as to who has authored what as it’s the story I’m illustrating – not the writer. It also prevents me from trying to mimic any sort of aesthetic that they or their publications are synonymous with and in turn raise the chance of me coming up with something genuinely original and honest.

HA: In the age of Amazon and ebook readers, are covers as important in this digital age as they were in the days when hardcovers and paperbacks ruled?

SPOONER: Yes, of course. Covers are very important for conveying a theme or the essence of a book, ultimately providing an insight into what you might stand to gain or experience should you decide to have a look inside. On a simpler level; humans are sensory creatures so if you can appeal to someone’s imagination simply through the power of sight and image then you’ve already enriched their experience of a publication before they’ve even opened it. I would almost suggest that ebook covers need to be more illustrative than that of a physical copy as they are at a sensory disadvantage by not having that physicality and appeal to touch that humans enjoy so much.

Spooner 6.jpg

HA: What’s the key to a successful collaboration with authors and publishers in creating cover designs? Do most authors and publishers have a specific cover in mind or do they give you a lot of latitude in your design?

SPOONER: I think a successful collaboration comes from a mutual understanding and respect between the client and the illustrator. The writer should never see themselves as some sort of divine benefactor that has stooped to the illustrator’s level and offered them work that they are lucky to get – even if that is the case, and the illustrator should never be tempted to hold their skills to ransom and demand inordinate sums of compensation. Writer’s should realize that illustrators are a key part to making their body of work, not just a marketable and interesting package, but a complete and fully realized one with multiple layers. Illustrators should also realize that; yes, they are artists, they should never work for free because it undermines the entire profession, but they should also be open to the needs of the writer and understand that just because they are talented does not mean they are entirely right when it comes to understanding a writer or publishers’ vision. Working in tandem with each other towards the same goal, making all criticism fair and constructive from both parties – they seem like common sense things to keep in check, but they are often the first things to suffer when a collaborative effort starts to break down.

HA: I see your art incorporates visceral colors but also you have black-and-white illustrations. Which do you prefer and why?

SPOONER: I genuinely don’t know. I spent a long time simply sketching in standard pencil, sticks of charcoal and standard black ink so colour rarely made an appearance in my work during my infant to early teenage years. Around seventeen/eighteen years of age I had access to my A Level college’s entire art department, pretty much whenever I wanted, so I took the opportunity to explore the use of colour in my free time (lunch breaks etc.) and did so quite sporadically. The result was that colour would tend to explode within my images, as if the fact they were no longer repressed was reflecting a sort of violent display of annoyance at me personally through the very paper or canvas I’d set myself to. So I don’t know which of the two I prefer but I’m very happy that they are both present and hope I treat both equally well.

HA: On your website, you have a section for your illustration work. You also have a section titled “Self Directed Work.” What is the difference?

SPOONER: That simply refers to the work I make out of sheer impulse and self direction. None of it is commissioned by a third-party, they are simply the things I create because I have to create. Therefore, there are a few slightly weird pieces up there as well as a few canvas pieces, which is a medium I don’t advertise as a service to anyone. As you can probably imagine; there is a massive amount of work that I’ve produced for myself that isn’t on that page and is instead going completely unseen by anyone other than me.

Spooner 7.jpg

HA: What scares you?

SPOONER: The idea of not being able to create or be creative in my pursuits or hobbies scares me tremendously. Once, while in a group tutorial at University, after summer holidays through which we’d been told to maintain a visual diary, a teacher asked to see what I’d amassed. Upon opening my book and flicking through it she went very quiet, looked back over everything and asked me if I had produced as much as I had because I was perhaps scared of not being able to one day. That question caught me completely off guard with how direct it had been but also provided me with the quickest, most uninhibited ‘yes’ I had ever given in my life.