Interview with John C Adams

Published 2020-09-24.
For readers who haven't read 'Souls For The Master' before trying 'Blackacre Rising', how would you describe the situation when the sequel opens?
Ivy and Don were an integral part of the resistance to the Master's cruel power, and they manipulated Gerald, a trainee surgeon whose father was a senator in the regime, into helping them. When he learned more about what they were trying to achieve in the face of the Master's plans for humanity, Gerald's natural decency convinced him to join their cause and stand up to his powerful father Ian Flint. Just as they ousted the authorities, they were betrayed and the resistance crumbled. They're fleeing north to Blackacre, where Gerald's cousin Brett lives, to seek refuge until they can work out how to fight back against their new enemy, Janus Fidens.
What is the key theme of 'Blackacre Rising', and why is it important to you?
Most of the main characters are grappling with the consequences of being manipulated to fulfil someone else's agenda. That's a pretty uncomfortable and unpleasant. They've totally lost control over their lives, and it's terrifying. In 'Souls For The Master', Don and Ivy were ruthless in doing this to Gerald in the interest of helping the resistance succeed, but now they're finding out what it is like to be on the receiving end of that sort of treatment.

Ivy is sent to assassinate Dr Honigbaum, only to find out that he knows precisely who she is and has plans for her that revolve around bringing him closer to Don, his estranged son. Don is also given a mission by The Seven, but they are fundamentally untrustworthy and he's very reticent about what they're asking him to do. He has to use his own moral compass to find a way to achieve good without risking his actions being subverted by a group he knows little about and can't rely upon. Gerald is the most vulnerable. He embraced Don and Ivy's cause, but now that he's a prisoner of the regime, Sinistra and Hendra are tearing him apart in their power play.

This matters to me because we all know how horrible it feels to lose control, and how hard the battle to regain it can be. In essence, that is the basis of every horror story ever told. Sometimes, the horror becomes reality. In 2003, my husband suffered a near-fatal heart attack when I was seven months pregnant (I'm nonbinary, remember) and was severely brain damaged as a result. Our family has been fighting to get back control of our lives ever since.
'Blackacre Rising' features an existing location from your Blackacre universe short fiction. Where did you get the inspiration for this dark and twisted setting?
We live in rural Northumberland, and although the farmhouse at Blackacre is physically located near to the Lake District and the uplands of Cumbria, alot of the inspiration for the farmhouse itself, the community of which it is a part and the odd goings on in Hellhole Village comes from our lives here.

Blackacre is essentially a cross between HP Lovecraft and Wuthering Heights. Much of the bizarre events and creatures living there are simply accepted by the family and their community. They've lived with its oddities for so long that they are no longer aware of it because it's simply become a feature of everyday life. It's liminal horror, which contrasts nicely with the overtly horrific events at other locations in the novel, such as the secret medical facility where Gerald is imprisoned or the asylum where Honigbaum hides Henry.

The farmhouse has appeared in quite a few of my horror short stories, with individual members of the Flint clan taking the lead in telling those narratives, but this is the first time it's appeared in a full-length novel. It was great to have more space to develop just how malignant the place is, and what a terrible effect it is capable of having upon those who seek shelter under its roof. It came alive as a character in its own right.
The novel sees characters from 'Souls For The Master' running up against new characters as well as one or two from the Flint family who also appear in your short fiction? How did that feel as a writer?
In many ways it was a very odd experience, but in terms of writing those can be the most exciting and productive. I'd created characters like Brett and Radclyffe Flint, who farm at Blackacre and who lead strange lives in this malevolent farmhouse miles from anywhere, high up in the northern uplands, where everyone and everything is just so weird because it's so isolated. The Flints are a huge family, and I loved that Gerald's father Ian was the younger brother of Brett's father, who inherited Blackacre as the eldest son. Gerald and Brett are first cousins but they've gone in such different directions in life, yet they are bound together by childhood and blood ties.

When the resistance crumbles, I needed somewhere for Ivy and Don to run to with Gerald, somewhere that would take them in without question. But I wanted it to be a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire. If anything, they're in far more danger inside the walls of Blackacre than they were fighting the Master and his forces down in the Metropolis. And because Ivy and Don aren't on home turf anymore, they have to start from scratch in working out the terrain and learning how to defend themselves from dangers very different to the ones they faced back home.
How does reviewing for Horror Tree help you grow as a horror writer?
Reading is always the best way to improve as a writer. I'm so lucky that reviewing for Horror Tree gives me a chance to read amazing classics of our genre and share my responses to these books with visitors to the website.

Horror is in many ways a quite conservative genre and quite hierarchical. It's easy to see lines of development from writers like Lovecraft through to, say, Ramsey Campbell. Readers know what they like, but they are rightly constantly demanding fresh, innovative approaches to traditional themes.

My remit with Horror Tree was to review the best of the classics with a view to helping growing writers learn how the masters of our genre have succeeded in their writing. It's helped me as much as anyone!
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Books by This Author

Blackacre Rising
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 80,420. Language: British English. Published: September 24, 2020 . Categories: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction, Fiction » Horror » General
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
One is a ruthless assassin sent to kill her most dangerous adversary yet. The other possesses strange cosmic skills he does not yet fully understand. Together, they will end the bizarre, sadistic experiments taking place around the world. Edited by Jim Graves.
Dagmar of the Northlands
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 203,030. Language: British English. Published: September 26, 2019 . Categories: Fiction » Romance » Fantasy, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
A brave young woman who leaves her female lover behind to go to war. A powerful king determined not to let his empire crumble. Together, they will come to blows over Orkna. Edited by ES Wynn-Rubsam
Souls for the Master
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 79,090. Language: British English. Published: May 5, 2019 . Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias, Fiction » Horror » General
(4.00 from 2 reviews)
One is a surgeon terrified by the Master’s genocidal plan. The other is an assassin working to bring down the government. Together, they will fight to save the people of West Metropolis. Edited by ES Wynn-Rubsam
The Red Dawn and Other Stories
Price: $1.49 USD. Words: 52,730. Language: British English. Published: April 25, 2019 . Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Horror, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
A thirty-thousand-word anthology featuring short fiction in horror and fantasy, edited by ES Wynn-Rubsam, Glynn Owen Barrass, John Kenny and Suzie Wargo Lockhart. The short stories in this anthology include Dining on Horrors, I Seek the Green Pain, The Rose Has Thorns, The Red Dawn, and The Reverend Dies. The fantasy novella Gortah Comes of Age completes this anthology.
Aspatria
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 209,570. Language: British English. Published: December 6, 2016 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Romance » Fantasy
(4.40 from 5 reviews)
One is an inexperienced queen anxious to protect her country from invasion. The other is the most powerful man in the world. Together, they will make their common enemy pay.