Thursday, 14 July 2016

They Move Below Blog Tour - Karl Drinkwater

Today is my stop on the They Move Below & Other Dark Tales by Karl Drinkwater blog tour. I'm really excited to bring you a review of one of the sixteen short stories contained, Harvest Festival, as well as an interview with the author! 

I read Harvest Festival on possibly the best or the worst day possible, depending on how you look at it. The story starts off with Callum dealing with family life on his farm. During the night he wakes up covered in sweat due to how warm it is and there is quite clearly a storm coming. As I read this there was an actual storm brewing outside and it was extremely close so it was very warm. So for me the atmosphere I read the book in certainly helped add to the overall effect of the story - read that as I was really creeped out. 

As I don't want to spoil anything about the story I won't be saying anything else about that, I will however say how much I enjoyed the writing. The story is incredibly well written and it was a very easy read. The characters are also very well fleshed out even though this is a short story. I felt that I really got to know the whole family really well and understood their motivations and actions. I particularly liked Callum the main character, he seems like your normal dad and husband who does what he needs to protect his family. 

I really enjoyed this story and I flew through it holding my breath when the action started, waiting to see what would happen next. I would recommend both Harvest Festival as a story on its own, but the whole of They Move Below as the stories and the writing is just all so good. 

That is my very short and cryptic review of Harvest Festival so it's time to move onto the interview:

When did you first know that you wanted to be an author?

I've been writing since I was about 9. Once I gave up the career options of spaceman, rock star, secret agent and police man, all that was left was librarian and author. People close to me soon got used to it. I’ve been a librarian for over 20 years, so it’s time for the author part to come to the front.

Have you always been a fan of horror? What is it about horror that draws you to it?

I loved horror as a kid. I liked nothing better than reading ghost stories with a torch under the duvet, or climbing the weeping willow with a collection of monster tales and letting the sighing branches take me to spookville. I think it was pure escapism. Nothing transported me from real life as quickly as something scary. I think I wanted to believe in things beyond this world; and if they were reflections or cast-offs from this world, I would expect them to be dark. And so any horror story was already halfway to convincing me that it could be true.

They Move Below is a collection of short stories, what made you choose short stories over a novel as I believe writing them can be a lot more difficult as you have to get so much information into a lot fewer words?

Different but equally satisfying. When there are limits they force you to be creative in different ways. Poetry is a good example of this – any restrictions of line length, rhyme, rhythm and so on lead you to write differently from your normal pattern, and like any detour that change of pattern can lead you to exciting places. In my case I had a lot of stories already written and just needing a polish – I felt that I needed to get them out in the world so I could move on to new projects.

Where do you get your inspiration, does it come straight from your imagination or do you take from real life?

No single place. It could be a news article, or a dream, or a real event. In the notes section of They Move Below I gave the example of the time I saw a huge jellyfish below my kayak – the image stayed with me, and eventually worked its way into my fiction. Ideas simmer and only rise to the surface when they’re ready. I’m always having conversations in my head, especially when washing the dishes, and they can spark ideas for characters or scenes.

When writing, do you have to set the mood to get into the right mind set or do you have a certain routine that you have to follow?

It does help when you’re in the mood to write, but sometimes you have to force yourself. For writing horror I like a grey day, and to be alone in the house. But it can be interesting to write it on a sunny day in a busy pub or cafĂ© or on a bench – if you can still frighten yourself (and any horror writer who can’t do that should switch genres) then you are on to a winner. Also external prompts can be a great help – last year I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time (you’ll find his posts about it here) and that really helped me to get a lot of words written in a short space of time.

I know this might be a hard question to answer, but do you have a favourite story in They Move Below?

Mmm, that is difficult. I like them for different reasons: some entertain me or make me smile; some have been with me for a long time; some have technical elements or ideas I’m happy with. The title story is one I’m really pleased with, because I can really feel like I’m there when I read it. However, Web stands out because I had to get into another head and the voice just started to pour onto the page. It’s horrible but in a different way, and maybe the hint of hope is something we all need to cling to in dark places.

When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Computer games; boardgames with friends; playing the guitar (badly: I can’t get the hang of barre chords and suspect my fingers just bend in strange ways; possibly an idea for a horror story right there). Also films, exercise, food, nature, wildlife, and books. Not in that order.

Do you have a favourite author?

I think I am more likely to respect individual works than like everything from a single author. Unless an author only rewrites the same book – which gets boring fast – then each work will be different, and inevitably you will then enjoy some more than others. Which is fine. However, as an early teenager I tried to read everything by Stephen King and Dean Koontz. They both impressed me so much in their different ways. My favourite Stephen King book is Night Shift, and for Dean Koontz it is Phantoms – in both cases they were the first book I’d read by that author.

Following They Move Below, what can we expect next from you?

I tend to alternate between literary/contemporary fiction, and horror. So my next book will be a collection of short stories in the other genre, about life and relationships. Though it is interesting that for a few stories I was torn as to which genre they fell into. For example, Web could just as easily fit into a non-horror collection; and some of what I think of as my literary stories are pretty dark, such as Miasma fromSecondary Character. I suppose that’s one of my author fingerprints.

Thank you so much to Karl for taking the time out to answer my questions and for allowing me to read his wonderful book.

I received a copy of They Move Below in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour. 


  1. Many thanks Helen! I'd be interested to see which of the other stories you liked. :-)

    1. Thank you :) Keep your eye out soon for another blog with a review of all the stories!