On Getting Started
I was lucky enough to start as a reader when horror was a subtle art, and just as lucky to start my career at the point where it turned into big business. So my early reading was people like HG Wells, Conan Doyle, Joseph Payne Brennan, and all those marvellous Pan Books of Horror with their tacky head-in-a-bucket covers and some of the most incredibly well-crafted writing inside.
In the 80s it was people like Stephen King and Peter Straub who led the way for writers like me by taking horror into the mass market. Although I think that Ira Levin was there ahead of them with Rosemary’s Baby, and John Farris with The Fury. Along with Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home they’d be my main candidates for the founders of the cycle that played itself out at the end of the 90s – I think horror’s back to being a subtle art again, in written form at least.
On Breaking In
Whatever it is you want to do, chuck yourself at it at whatever level. I was getting my stories rejected from The Wizard when I was nine. If you write fiction, try the small presses. If you want to do something for the screen, get together and make something with friends. At that stage energy matters more than accomplishment – do stuff for the fun of doing it and don’t try to ape big-time professionalism with tiny resources, which was one of my early mistakes.
In the case of film, read lots about the industry. And I mean lots, everything from the silents to Weta Workshop. Don’t be one of those people who thinks that film history began with George Lucas. Then when it comes to looking for actual work within the industry, have specific goals – set out to be a runner, or an editor’s assistant, or whatever. You aren’t going to direct or land screenplay work until you’ve proven yourself, so make a calculated bid for a specific point of entry. And when somebody asks you what in the business you want to do, don’t say “Anything” – there’s no such job as an Anything.