Author Nick Brown talks to HorrorCultFilms about wrapping up the Ancient Gramarye series and the upcoming film adaptation of the first Ancient Gramarye novel, Skendleby, in this exclusive interview.
THE DEAD HAVE GATHERED – A fitting name for the final book in your Ancient Gramarye series. What made you decide to write another book after Greenman Resurrection, which was originally meant to be the final part of the story?
Two things, closely connected, the first being that as soon as I wrote the last words of Greenman, “Now listen very carefully” I realised I had unfinished business. I’d added this last section sometime after I’d finished the rest of the book. Greenman Resurrection pushed open the door to a shadowy world I needed to explore. The second reason was that the character and nature of Choatmann had lodged in my mind and while I was thinking about him I had a strange dream featuring a deserted stretch of desert tormented by storms and a strong image of a small black box. When I woke up the plan of the book was in my mind to such an extent I stopped work on what I was writing and buried myself in “The Dead Have Gathered”. It was to have been called “Choatmann” but the writer Phil Rickman said he didn’t think that would mean anything to people. I’ve been lucky as my publishers were keen on another Ancient Gramarye novel and have even established a new imprint called Magpie of which The Dead Have Gathered is the first. It shows where you can get to if you start off self published which my first four books (Skendleby, Luck Bringer, The Dead Travel Fast, The Wooden Walls of Thermopylae) were.
Does it follow on immediately after the ending of Greenman?
Yes there is a gap of a couple of months: the first page features Choatmann in San Francisco after which the narrative shifts to Skendleby. It is quite a dark book and I took my time writing it even though the ideas flowed freely. I wanted it to be right. On a final point it was written during a period of extreme uncertainty in the world and I think this comes through in the text.
The last time we spoke, you talked about writing the script for the Skendleby film with your son. Can you tell us a bit about the film and how that’s progressing?
I finished the script which I co-wrote with my youngest son Gaius who works in film. The film is in the pre- production phase with an American director and a British producer.
Do you have much input in the making of the movie and has much changed from page to screen?
My input was writing the script; having talked to other authors about their participation in films I think I have been quite lucky. Film is a different world so I didn’t expect to have much of a part and anyway I’m too busy writing, so am keeping my distance and leaving them to it. The script does differ from the book, not in spirit but quite a lot had to be cut. I think it retains the essence of Skendleby.
Has the film been cast as yet?
I read press releases from time to time, I know Shayne Ward has been cast as Giles but I don’t want to expand a lot of energy in something that other people are making. I just have to trust in their creativity.
Is the film focused on the first book only?
Yes it sticks to Skendleby because there are plans to film the others if the first one is successful.
When can we expect the film to hit the screens? And is there a plan to tour it at festivals?
The plan is for it to be out for Christmas 2020 assuming everything goes smoothly. I’m sure it will tour the festivals as the chief exec of the production company Dr Rebekah Smith specialises in film festivals.
There’s so many different, engaging characters within the books but which one is your favourite?
Because Giles and Ed share so many of my own weaknesses I find them quite difficult to write. The characters I most enjoy writing about are Choatmann, Theodrakis and most of all Suzzie-Jade. She surprises me every time I write about her, she is both frightening and at times very funny and I never really know what she’s going to do next so she’s my favourite. I think I also would include in the list the tree on Skendleby mound which has begun to misbehave.
Is horror/evil a subject you enjoy yourself as a reader or a viewer?
Yes, not slasher type stuff but the more subtle elements of the genre, the type that seeds ideas into the mind that gradually grow and disturb. I find books of this nature far more frightening. My ideal horror would be an extension of the ghost story with modern grounded characters. I prefer to write about the present because we can more easily understand the psychology of the protagonists and therefore share their fear. I read the genre for pleasure but not when I’m writing because I don’t want to mix my ideas with whatever I’m reading.
Is it easy to walk away and “close the book” on the stories you create?
No, it was very difficult. The Ancient Gramarye books have allowed me to explore the areas I’m interested in and write the type of book I like reading but which it’s hard to find. I’ve been able to write about an archaeological and social landscape I know well and people it with things and emotions I need to write about. It’s been not only enjoyable to write but also a type of therapy I think. I will greatly miss it and the interaction with the readers who have been on this journey with me. Despite that, I’ve structured this one so it is definitely the last.
What’s next for Nick Brown?
I’ve just finished a book on a British artist to coincide with a major exhibition of his work. I’m writing the last of the Luck Bringer cycle which I’ve finished researching. Mandrocles, the main character, is my ultimate favourite character and I’m sketching out a horror novel to be set in Greece based on some very strange things I’ve dug up there. I’m setting it in the late sixties during the dictatorship of the colonels to add to the sense of dread and edge. It may well include a walk on part for Theodrakis’s dad as well as Vassilis and Father John so a bit of pre- Skendleby will feature.
Thank you, Nick