Taking up the ‘Edwards Q&A Challenge’ this week is horror writer and award winning film maker Dean Drinkel:
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING
Hi – I’m Dean. Primarily I am a horror writer but in 2016 I moved to France to write a historical film script called “The Tragedy Of The Duke Of Reichstadt” with the French writer, Romain Collier. The script won two awards at the Monaco International Film Festival. Right now I am writing a horror / historical script set at the Battle of Waterloo called “The Scum Of The Earth.” A collection of four novellas (Romain Collier, Jan Edwards, Phil Sloman and myself) I compiled / edited called “Into The Night Eternal: Tales Of French Folk Horror” has just been published electronically and very soon in paperback. I have my own small press (Demain Publishing) and currently I am editing a WW1 anthology called “The Darkest Battlefield” which will be released in November – there are then a number of smaller books we will be releasing through the ‘Short Sharp Shocks!’ and ‘Murder Mystery Mayhem’ series. Also – I have been commissioned to write two other horror films which I am, as we speak, plotting out and hopefully getting some sales in for a Christmas theme antho I previously put together for Nocturnicorn Press called “12 Dark Days: One Helluva Christmas”. Busy times!
WHAT WAS THE THINKING BEHIND THE BOOK – THEMES AND SETTINGS
For “Into The Night Eternal” it was simple really. The last few years I had been spending more and more time in France before my eventual move – I realised that France (and in particular Paris where I was spending a lot of my time at that point) was creeping into my work. So many of my stories were becoming set there, my characters were invariably French and where as a teenager I thought American was where I was going to end up, things changed as I grew up and it was only a matter of time before I took the plunge and crossed La Manche for good. Moving to Cannes was a massive influence on my work, particularly my short stories and novellas. I had always wanted to do a specific French book – one night I was out with Romain and spoke about a concept I had for a project for four / five writers. He said he would be interested in doing something and pitched me the idea which would eventually become his entry: “Past By One”. I then spoke to Jan and Phil (who were both Francophiles as well as being folk horror writers – to some extent anyway) who immediately said yes. From a personal point of view, I have always been interested in ‘folk’ tales but wanted to try something perhaps a little different so set my tale “Le Chemin De La Croix” in modern day Paris using Christianity as a ‘folk trope’. The four novellas in the book are very different but complement each other very well. I knew what I was getting when I chose the other three contributors and I wasn’t let down. It was a pleasure to work on this project – we are also hoping to have it published in French and that’s something I’m beginning to actively seek.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT WRITING – DOES IT COME IN USEFUL FOR YOUR STORIES
I’m afraid to say that in 2018 I have only had a handful of days where I haven’t worked at all. It has been very very busy. I’ve actually spent more time in the UK than planned – I came back to work on two proposed pilot tv scripts and because of some follow up meetings and a couple of other scripts I’ve been drafting it’s been difficult to escape. I have to admit that my social life has suffered a little bit because of this – in Cannes, I will be often out in the pubs / cafes chewing the cud or singing karaoke (and yes, that has worked itself into my work on more than once occasion) or going for walks (as you can imagine it’s a great part of the world). Because of the workload whilst I’ve been in the UK, I haven’t managed to get out much – not even to see my beloved Tottenham Hotspur. BUT as these last couple of months of 2018 approach, I’m hoping to change that and get a bit more balance back in my life – I need it and I’ve got some meetings in Lille and Paris I have to go to during October / November. I’ve never been one for sitting by a swimming pool but you know what, right now a couple of weeks in Spain or something certainly appeals. Better make the best of it I suppose as I’m soon gearing up for a feature film I’m directing Easter 2019…a British farce…and talking about farces, we have Brexit to look forward to next year.
WHAT IS THE ROOT OF YOUR CURRENT BOOK / STORY
So, I’ll speak a little about “The Scum Of The Earth” and obviously I don’t want to reveal too much – but safe to say, for another project I had to read up on Waterloo as it was going to factor slightly. Anyway, I was always aware of Wellington’s comment about his men being “The scum of the earth” and I thought some day it would make a great title of either a book / film (the musician / film director Rob Zombie – who I am a massive fan of – also did a song with the same title) I then read an obscure (and perhaps not even true) fact that for several hours during the battle Napoleon ‘disappeared’ before returning all bloody / battered…he was never one for shirking a physical fight so I began to plot out what I thought (and from a horror point of view) what had happened during those missing hours. I think I’ve come up with something special – which will be incredibly scary and I’m really happy I’ve been able to merge my two genre loves of history and horror. Right now the script is in English but I think I want to make it in French – I’ve got an excellent French actor in mind to play Napoleon (Vincent Rottiers) so I’d better speak to his agent asap to see if he can do it. I have to add that this is a very ‘serious’ film and not one of those horror / comedies such as “Pride and Prejudice And Zombies” or “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer” (though they’re both good in their own way). There is one scene in particular in “Scum” that even gave me goosebumps as I wrote it. Just need about five million Euros to film it now!
YOUR WORK SPACE: CHAOS OR CALM?
In France, I would say calm – well, mostly anyway. In the apartment there was a table which had my two laptops, my research books, my note-pads, a pot of pens and a coaster for my many cups of tea. I was lucky in the first apartment I rented as there was a terrace and small garden and I could sit outside and write…in the UK I am in the family home and I have to say, it’s more chaos as my work space can change on a daily basis depending on who is there / visiting etc. On sunny days though I can sit out in the garden and use the table / chairs there so I suppose it’s not that bad. I like to think that calmness surrounds me but I know, with so much going on. that chaos reigns.
DO YOU HAVE MUSIC PLAYING WHEN YOU WRITE? WHAT ARE YOUR TRACKS OF CHOICE?
This is a must for me. My routine is that when I start a new project I buy a batch of new cds, download them onto my mp3 and away I go. I find that the new sounds / music inspires me. It’s funny too that a year or so later I can go back to a story or script and as soon as I start reading it then I instantly recall the music I was listening to at the time. For instance when I was working “The Tragedy” or some of the other novellas I was writing at the time I was listening to lots of (inevitably!) French artists such as Renaud, Orelsan, Christine and the Queens, Stromae (though technically he’s Belgian) but also – because my musical taste is eclectic to say the least – David Bowie, Taylor Swift, Wolf Alice, Florence And The Machine, The Vamps, Marilyn Manson, Circa Waves…as we speak I’m listening to a lot of: Throwing Muses, Pixies, Belly, Breeder, Declan Mckenna, James Blake, Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Enigma and (personal friends!) Yuma Sun. When I’m not in France I do keep my ‘end up’ by listening to Cannes Radio most of the day – I’m kept up to date. Happy to mention too that I do do a unique version of Justin Bieber’s “Baby” at Karoake – I take that song to a very very dark place.
YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE FROM ANY BOOK
I used to get (and probably rightly so) slagged off for quoting myself but the French poet Rimbaud has been a massive, massive influence upon me and there is a line that has always resonated. The English translation reads: “I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.” As a horror writer I think that’s perfect – I even used part of the last line as a title of an anthology I did in 2017. The Italian writer Umberto Eco is someone I’ve always aspired to be, he once wrote: “What is life if not the shadow of a fleeting dream” (from his book “Baudolino”) which seems to sum up our existence perfectly. I remember once referring to myself as “an echo in someone else’s dream” but as I said, it’d be wrong to quote myself wouldn’t it?
DO YOU HAVE A TYPICAL WRITING DAY?
When Romain and I wrote “The Tragedy” (it took nine months) we would drink tea, eat, chat, look at stuff on the internet, do a couple of hours writing then more often or not then go to the cinema, the pub, play darts, sing karaoke, watch the football on tv and somewhere in between perhaps do another hour or so writing (we’d always have a laptop with us) so now looking back I can see why it took so long ha ha – but actually, we found there was so much of ‘us’ which went into the script that we needed to experience things together so then we could write about them (in a historical context obviously). This year because I’m juggling a lot my day has been a lot more structured and it goes something like this: up, breakfast, emails, social media, two hours on a project, break, one hour on a project, lunch, emails, two hours on a project, emails, an hour on a project, two hours on publishing companies, dinner, an hour on a project, final emails of the day, social media. There’s probably some other hours of research / reading that I’ve got to throw in there and recently I’ve been helping another publisher build his website…I definitely need a break now that I’ve read that.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN YOUR BIOPIC?
I quite like what they did in that Bob Dylan one (“I’m Not There”) where they had a few actors play him – including Cate Blanchett – but if we were making the film today and though he’s older (and obviously not English) than me: Mads Mikkelsen; if it was for the American market and we’re about the same age (and we obviously look very similar ha ha) I’d say Leonardo Dicaprio. If it was me as a child then let’s go for Isaac Hempstead Wright from “Game Of Thrones” and if it was me in thirty odd years then…Patrick Stewart, yeah, I’d be happy with that.
IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH ANY WRITER IN YOUR FIELD THEN WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I’m going to name a couple here – first, it would definitely have to be Clive Barker. He is the reason I do what I do. I’ve been lucky to direct one of his plays in the past and I’d love to do another in the future – I also want to do a HELLRAISER, but that’s a discussion for another time – so the coenobite actors too, Barbie Wilde is a must! As I’ve mentioned Rimbaud, yes, he would have to be there, as would Umberto Eco. One of my favourite books is John Fowles’ “The Magus” which I so want to make into a film; there are so many French writers but not particularly horror…okay, Ramsey Campbell – so much knowledge about our genre and a good guy; Steve Jones; Paul Kane, Marie O’Regan…I’m back thinking French now, Victor Hugo…Napoleon, yes, definitely Napoleon…have to tell this quick story: when Romain and I collected our awards in Monaco they were handed to us by veteran French actress Dominique Frot (who has actually also been in a number of horror movies), she is a very unique individual and during the second award she began to have a vision on stage where she saw Napoleon approach, clapping and giving us his blessing on writing something about his son…true or not that struck a chord with me so yeah, she could come too…there are so many people I think it would turn into a finger buffet rather than a sit down meal so we could all mingle.
WHAT IS THE ODDEST FACT THAT YOU HAVE UNEARTHED WHEN RESEARCHING A BOOK?
I have to mention two here and both related to “The Tragedy”. First, the story of Napoleon’s son is not well known at all – in fact, not many in France know that there was in fact a Napoleon II – they all seem to know that there was a Napoleon and then a Napoleon III, so surely they must realise then that there was a ‘II’ but no, apparently not. Anyway, though born in France, Napoleon II was brought up in Vienna, Austria as a virtual prisoner and then died at the age of 21 of TB. As he was half Austrian, his body was buried in the Imperial Crypt whilst his heart was put in the crypt of St Stephen’s Cathedral…anyway, the French (particularly after Napoleon’s body was returned from St Helena) asked, demanded, bullied the Austrians to return the body but for a hundred years was told no and then, there was, finally, an Austrian who said yes…do you know…okay, I’ll tell you – Adolf Hitler! It was his gift to the French people once the Nazis had occupied Paris…the other fact which was quite moving was that in the script there is a reference to a bird which “The Duke” has a pet – we didn’t know anything about what pets Napoleon II had but we invented this bird mainly for its symbolising etc etc – at that point of writing the script we hadn’t been to Vienna…anyway, in 2017 we did (as we had to do some additional research for the project as a whole) – we went to Schönbrunn Palace and saw the room where Napoleon II lived and died…and there…by the window was a glass bell-jar and in that jar was a bird…exactly as we had described! It was incredibly incredibly unnerving…
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I’m actually reading quite a lot right now by my peers first because I want to but also because I’ve promised to review them! These include works by Dave Jeffery, Mark West, Iain Grant & Heide Goody. Outside of these I’ve just read Christopher Rice’s first novel: “A Density Of Souls” and am almost finished with Italo Calvino’s “The Castle Of Crossed Destinies” and am halfway through Ronan Farrow’s excellent: “War On Peace.” I’m also attempting to read in French, Michel Foucault’s book (English title): “Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond Roussel”.
LITERARY FESTIVALS AND CONVENTIONS: WHERE / WHEN WILL YOU BE APPEARING NEXT?
I will be attending Fantasycon in Chester in October – though due to pressures of workload it will only be a flying visit. I do need to attend more and hope to improve that in 2019 – perhaps taking in a couple around France.
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO NEXT
Besides what I have mentioned already, I am hoping in 2019 to work on my novel which will be a very dark horror / fantasy novel entitled “The Keeper Of The Bees”. I’ve been planning this for a while and if it comes off the way I want then…wow…it will be amazing – but we will wait and see because not many things end up the way you think. I will probably go somewhere remote to write it – I love Gothenburg and it would suit the book…yeah, lock myself away for a few months and write the damn thing…I’ll let you know how I get on.
Thank you for taking the Edwards Challenge, Dean!
You can find more information on Dean Drinkel at@
“Into The Night Eternal: Tales Of French Folk Horror” published by The Lycopolis Press.
“12 Dark Days: One Helluva Christmas” published by Nocturnicorn Press.
“The Darkest Battlefield” will be published by Demain Press in November 2018.