“Overhead, he heard the black birds cry.” – Tag Line Tuesday with G.R. Yeates.

22 May

Today, Tag Line Tuesday is pleased to welcome author and noted skull enthusiast G.R. Yeates from Across the Pond (and boy, are his arms tired…from the rowing. Rimshot!). With any luck, that will be the worst joke either of us makes during the course of the interview. Though I wouldn’t put money on it.

Ed: Welcome! As I am told writers are creative people, please answer each of the following standard biographic questions twice: Once with the truth and once with a lie.


GRY: G.R. Yeates, or Edward Elizabeth Hitler.

Ed: That name may get my blog some really scary search hits this week. Where you from, Mrs. Hitler?

GRY: London, a small village on Mars just outside the capital city, Wibble.

Ed: Day job on Mars?

GRY: Associated Societies Executive, Jelly-in-the-bath Taste Tester.

Ed: Dream job?

GRY: The Joker. Batman.

Ed: …and of course the inevitabe: Why do you write?

GRY: Because I want the letters you send me to stop. Dear god, have mercy. To keep me (and you) in baths full of jelly.

Ed: I’m a little concerned which one of those last answers was true. While I stew on that, you may now return to full honesty (if you want.) for…the LIGHTNING ROUND!

Quick! What’s yo’ favorite…

Band: Current 93 with Britney Spears on vocals

Food: pizza covered in blackcurrant jelly

Game: Laser tag strip-poker

Album: Yes – Tales from Topographic Oceans (Ed: Nice! Nous sommes du soleil.)

Word: Particularly This One

Color: Rupert-Murdoch’s-Fatal-Heart-Attack Red

Animal: Spiderine (cross-bred spider and wolverine)

Piece of clothing: a well-used and surprisingly salty leather jockstrap

Movie: My Little Pony: The Movie

TV show: The Apprentice: The Human Centipede & A Serbian Film editions

Drink: Brandy straight with cherries, avocado, little umbrella, sparkler and a slice of lemon

Song: “Viva Forever” by The Spice Girls

Line from a song: “Oooh-eee, ooo-ah-ah, ting-tang, walla-walla, bing-bang.”

Pizza topping: Michelle Pfeiffer (Ed: Best Answer Ever)

Crime: The white slave trade

Place: Bed

Quote: “Backstreet’s back, alright!”

Ed: I have no response to that.
And now, on with BOOK CHAT portion of the evening, beginning with books not authored by G.R. Yeates. W.B. Yeats is fair game.

Ed: What’s the biggest consideration when you are deciding what book to read?

GRY: If the cover gets my attention then I’ll read the blurb and if that works then I’ll probably give it a whirl. I also follow up on the recommendations from people whose opinions I trust. I rarely pick something up just because it has been heavily promoted. Case in point from another medium, I have yet to see Avatar because the ubiquitous marketing pissed me off.

Ed: You certainly showed James Cameron on that one. 😉

Let’s say you are looking at the back of a book in a bookstore, reading on online blurb, or whatever.  What sort of thing makes you say “yes,” what sort of things makes you say “pass?”

GRY: Interesting concepts or ideas tend to grab my attention more than storylines that emphasise personal conflicts, I guess. Also, I tend to get turned off by black and white storylines as I don’t believe in good and evil as being anything other than something humans have come up with. There’s a lot of grey shades to the world, about fifty.

Ed: If only it would stop at 50.

What genre do you enjoy most?

GRY: I would have said Horror a couple of years ago but, more recently, I’ve tended to lean more and more towards the Weird. As a reader, I need to be stimulated and I’m pretty familiar with the conventions of genre fiction, which tend to be replicated across genres once you get past the superficial layers, so I now tend require someone to break with those conventions to arrest my attention rather than someone who plays up to them. The Weird tends to attract writers who do the latter.

Ed: What genre would you read only if you lost a bet?

GRY: I can’t think of anything in particular, as I’ve read most genres. So I guess something that really was mediocre, adhering to every convention, cliché and trope without the slightest hint of originality, individual voice or imagination. Or someone who confuses Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style with the Bible.

Ed: Do you have a favorite author, and do you think they influence your own writing?

GRY: It tends to be a toss up between H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti for me and yes, they are definitely an influence though I like to think I’ve learned from them and therefore grown as a writer rather than slavishly ripped them off.

Ed: Do you have a favorite book, and how many times have you read it?

GRY: Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti, and I have dipped in and re-read the stories that make up the collection more times than I can remember in the last four years.

Ed: What’s the first book you remember buying with your own money?

GRY: That would probably be issue one of the Real Ghostbusters comic in about 1985 or so.

Ed: Any books you have been told you should read, and know you probably never will?

GRY: Loads, but The Grapes of Wrath will do as I hated Of Mice and Men when I had to study it at school. Put a book on a curriculum and you will kill that author’s chance of being read and enjoyed by children.

Ed: Ever lied about reading, or not reading, a book?

GRY: All the time. Every day. I’m an indie author, which makes me an unscrupulous vagabond, congenital liar and talentless wanker 😉

Ed: Ever read a book you were sure you were going to like, and not liked it?

GRY: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick would be one. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road would be another. I think I have a problem with Great American novels – they’re too dull and worthy for me.

Ed: Luckily, we Americans quit writing Great Novels several generations ago. 😉

Ever grudgingly read a book, and loved it?

GRY: I wouldn’t say I loved it but I read Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks and it was alright and well-written. Not a particularly painful experience to read. It didn’t convert me to the Romance genre but it showed me it could be done well.

Ed: What’s your favorite line from a book? (not your own)


“I have seen the dark universe yawning
Where the black planets roll without aim,
Where they roll in their horror unheeded,
Without knowledge, or lustre, or name.”

“Nemesis,” (1917). H.P. Lovecraft

Ed: Now on to the book chattery about those books which you did just so happen to write.

How, and when, do you tend to come up with titles?

GRY: Before I start writing. I need my title, otherwise I don’t have a story as my title usually encapsulates my theme and serves as my pitch-line to the reader.

Ed: How do your characters get their names?

GRY: No idea. I just cycle through names in my head until I have something that fits. I have changed names at the last minute before publishing as the name, like everything else, needs to be right otherwise the overall effect of the work will be diminished.

Ed: If you could live in the world / with the people of one of your stories, which one would it be and why?

GRY: Well, the world of The Vetala Cycle is World War One, so I doubt I’d live for very long. I’ll be cheeky and choose the world of a book I haven’t written yet because, as I said, I’m an unscrupulous indie author and I can do things like that. I have a sword and sorcery saga planned for next year about a man called Kale Fellhorn. It will be set in a world inspired by Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse, Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age and Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane stories. I’d like to live there as an adventurer amongst haunted misty steppes and across deserts of green glass and black mica.

Ed: What do you think your books say about you?

GRY: That a good Christmas present would be a variety of plastic cutlery, ten rolls of rubber wallpaper and a big padlock for the front door of the house.

Ed: Is there anything you have written which you would now like to change or revise, wish you had written differently, etc.?

GRY: The Vetala Cycle has made my name critically so it might sound churlish if I said I’d like to go back and revise them all and make them better. But that is the truth. I started work on them in 2006 so, for me, there are lots of elements that I would change now, certain scenes that I’d rework. I’m very happy with them as they are and they have done well for me but I also look on them as products of who I was back in 2006 – 2008 when they were written. That’s four years ago and I’m a different writer now, I hope I’m a better one, which is why I am now working on my first brand new draft in over a year. I now need to prove to myself that I have grown and I can tackle material outside of the universe I created for myself with those novels and short stories and even the horror genre itself.

Ed: Tell me about your favorite character.

GRY: Private Wilson from The Eyes of the Dead is still my favourite. He’s been with me for six years and probably has more of me in him than his successors, Jerry Reinhart and Tom Potter. He was my first character really – without him, there would be none of what I have achieved now. He’s special.

Ed: Have your favorite character tell me about you.

Priavte Wilson: “Yeats? Utter bastard. I’m gonna poke him in the eye with my bayonet.”

Ed: Fade back to GRY, what’s your favorite line which you have written?

GRY: “Overhead, he heard the black birds cry.”

Ed: Now the writerly “How do you do that?” sort of questions:

Plotter or Pantser?

GRY: Pantser – it’s all in my head and I rarely make notes. I just start writing and gradually build up a book.

Ed: Best/Worst advice you ever got as a writer?

GRY: Best advice would be from Stephen King’s On Writing where he says just sit down and write and let the story take over.

Worst advice was my former agent trying to get me to write in the spare, bald style of writers like Hemingway and to pad books out with ‘market-friendly’ American characters. That’s just not me knocking Hemingway, I’m a different writer to him, I have a different voice so my style ended up being butchered and, at the time, self-publishing had yet to take off significantly so, like many new writers, I was in the position of being fed shit and being told it was good and thinking that I had to put up with this in order to get somewhere. Not anymore. And never ever again.

Ed: Best/Worst thing about being a writer?

GRY: Best thing is finishing the book, after the editing and formatting is done and you know its ready to put out there.

Worst thing is starting the book, when you see this proverbial mountain you have to climb but the more books you write, the more you come to know you can do it, which makes the challenge bearable if not easier.

Ed: Why Indie?

GRY: It’s the smart option right now, as simple as that. The publishing industry is haemorrhaging and with that, you’re going to get people cutting corners, marketing pushes being smaller and weaker as budgets are cut, agents and editors not doing their jobs properly etc. And once the big court battle with the Big Six is over and done with, ebooks prices will come down and so will advances which means that a traditionally published author will soon be in the position where the same small amount of money is effectively being spent on creating their books as with ours, only they will get a shred of the royalties and we get about two-thirds or more back.

Also, the control we have is important as well because we are able to have the covers we want, the stories and characters the way we want them to be and be completely happy with the final product. I’ve spoken to many contacts in the publishing industry who have told me that I would have none of that, or very little of it, if I went with a traditional publisher. I’m also not a fan of the deeply unpleasant internal politics which runs throughout the publishing industry. Self-publishing means I can avoid that shit altogether.

Ed: Is being a writer what you expected? How so or how not?

GRY: I think it would be better if I answered it as ‘is being a self-published writer what I expected’. Yes and no. It has been gratifying to gain critical recognition, a loyal fanbase and some wonderful friends over the last year. I expected to find my niche but it has not been the way I would have expected it to be as my fanbase has largely grown from fans of dark fantasy and paranormal romance which I did not expect to happen as I don’t write either of these. Also, the writers who I largely consider my peer group come from genres I either don’t or have not yet written in – with a very honourable mention going to the Indie Writers Unite! mob – which I did not expect to happen.

This is not to disparage the horror genre and community around it, I have made some great friends there and gained support too from presses like Dark Continents Publishing and Nightscape Press, and I had a review go up on The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog last week which was great to see. But, particularly on this side of the pond, there is still a lot of negativity about self-publishing which I can’t respect because I know too many people working bloody hard at doing this and doing it well who have also supported and shown loyalty towards me. When someone shows me respect, I will repay that and back them all the way. If someone does not or, worse, disrespects people who I respect and value then I’m just going to turn around and walk away. So yes, that has been disappointing, particularly when it comes from people who like to tout themselves as being ‘professionals’, whatever that means these days.

Ed: Have you, or would you ever, collaborate on a story?

GRY: Not done yet and I would like to. It’s just a case of finding the right person, which is never an easy task. So I can’t say more than that really at the moment.

Ed: If you were starting to write for the first time, what would you do different?

GRY: If I was starting now, I’d go straight into self-publishing and wouldn’t give traditional publishing a second glance.

Ed: What is the most important thing you have learned about writing?

GRY: To stay true to your own voice and to trust your own judgement. Just because someone has experience and calls themselves a professional doesn’t mean that experience is necessarily relevant to you and doesn’t mean they actually are a professional.

Ed: What’s the moral of the story?

GRY: Never focus. Look at the blurry bits instead, they’re far more interesting.


Your computer is smoking, wheezing, and sparks are shooting out of the back.  You can save one thing off the hard drive.  What is it?

GRY: My collection of disabled granny porn.

Ed: You have one perfect day of free time, no obligations, needs, or responsibilities.  What do you do?

GRY: Based on the week of holiday I had recently, end up working on writing and sorting out my taxes. I know how to party.

Ed: Someone “in the business” suggests you change something you feel is a critical part of one of your books, and guarantees it will increase sales.  What do you do?

GRY: There are no guarantees in the business. We spin the wheel every time with every time and hope we’re going to strike gold, so no, I wouldn’t let them change a thing because I’d know from that statement that they were talking shite.

Ed: You are offered just enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life, if you will just stop writing.  What do you do?

GRY: Doodle on the walls in invisible ink.

Ed: What question do you wish I had asked?

GRY: What’s wrong with you? For god’s sake, what’s wrong with you?


G.R.’s books may be perused below, UK links first this time, in honor of the Queen, or something. And yes, I made him write the super-brief, 5-word synopses, as I’m mean like that.

The Eyes of the Dead 

Vampires in the WWI trenches!”

Shapes in the Mist

“Jack the Ripper is back!”

Hell’s Teeth

“Hell waits off Gallipoli’s shores!”

The Vetala Cycle – A Collected Edition

“All the horrors trapped together!”


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2 responses to ““Overhead, he heard the black birds cry.” – Tag Line Tuesday with G.R. Yeates.

  1. acflory

    May 22, 2012 at 11:20 am

    I can’t resist – “What’s wrong with you?” Sorry but I love the mad, larrikin tone of this interview. You would be very welcome in Australia GRY! And you can be an honorary aussie as well Ed. 😀

  2. medmcn

    May 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Fair dinkum, AC. 😉


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