I first bumped into Chris Limb on the pages of the annual South African Horrorfest Bloody Parchment anthology. I knew that when I started working on the Suspended in Dusk anthology he’d be one of the first people I’d like to invite to submit a story. Thanks Chris for dropping by my blog!
Tell me a bit about yourself, where are you from and what brought you into writing? What drives you to continue writing?
I was born in London and have spent most of my life there or in Brighton aside from a brief period when I was very young and my dad’s job took us to Belfast and then to Birmingham.
I’m not sure what brought me into writing – I was always interested in reading from a very young age and I suppose the idea of writing came from that – having enjoyed other people’s stories I wanted to make some of my own. It’s similar to what I discovered later in life about music – the only thing better than going to a gig is playing a gig.
I used to draw comics (as many children do) and creative writing was always my favourite subject at school even though I found the actual act of writing longhand difficult. However for some reason the school always saw me as a scientist and steered away from the arts. I think it was because I was interested in science as well.
Once at university studying biology I still wrote the occasional short story or had ideas about novels. I did still want to write/draw comics at that stage (or graphic novels as they had become known by then) but never quite got there even though I did write a number of scripts.
When I got my first computer I wrote a novel that I edited a fair bit and then sent to people in the publishing business. There was a record company at the time who were considering branching out into publishing and they were nominally interested until circumstances beyond their control gave them pause for thought and they decided not to pursue this line of business after all. For some reason I stopped writing at this point although it was always at the back of my mind.
I decided to get back into it around 2005 and started going on courses, one of which (an undergraduate certificate that ran from September 2007 until June 2009) helped me a lot – both in teaching me to recognise what I was doing wrong and any bad habits I had got into – as well as what I was already unconsciously doing right. Getting feedback from the other students was invaluable. I started another novel, Comeback, while on the course and was so fired up by the end of the course that I continued writing it, finally completing it at the end of 2010.
I’m not sure exactly what drives me to continue writing – it’s a compulsion. I enjoy creating these worlds and would probably do so whether anyone else read them or not – although when I get a story accepted for an anthology it does feel as if that particular story has ‘succeeded’ in some way.
What genres interest you most and which do you write in?
When I started reading in earnest as a child it was the fantasy and science fiction genres that interested me the most. Even though some people consider these genres as something to be grown out of, for me they were actually a gateway to more adult writing. As a child and young teen I used to get science fiction anthologies out of the library some of which had very adult themes – but because of the genre they were considered “kids’ stuff”, despite material that writers like James Tiptree jr, Michael Moorcock, J G Ballard or Kurt Vonnegut were turning out.
Although I had a love / terror relationship with ghost stories as a kid I didn’t read much horror (mainly because I was worried I’d be too frightened by it) but when I eventually did I found it just as compelling and far from what I was expecting. However it never occurred to me that I would write horror. I assumed I’d be an SF writer and then once I started writing more, an SFF writer. I’ve no idea where the horror came from although a lot of my ideas always had a dark side. The first novel I wrote was SF, Comeback is Urban Fantasy and its sequel is bordering on Horror.
But when it comes down to it there are only two genres, the possible and the impossible, and even the line between those is blurred.
What are your thoughts about short stories and the short form? Do you have a particular favourite short story?
I always enjoyed reading anthologies of short stories – the very first SF I read was an Arthur C Clarke collection and another big influence was a collection of Stanley Weinbaum short stories. In some SF stories the short form can allow for thought experiments – “what if?” flights of fancy – but the ones I enjoy the most are those with a twist in the tail, a reversal of fortune or unexpected reveal that changes the way you see things and disturb enough to embed the story in your memory for a long time to come. John Wyndham was very good at this – the endings of some of the tales in his The Seeds of Time collection still trouble me to this day.
It’s difficult to pick a favourite short story as they’re all so different but I think one of the best and one that illustrates the haunting twist perfectly is More Tomorrow by Michael Marshall Smith http://j.mp/MOREtom
For those who submitted new stories: (without giving your story away!) What did you find interesting about writing a story for an anthology with the suspended in dusk title/theme? Was there anything in particular that you wanted to write about or explore?
Even though this is a new story and one I only finished writing in 2013, it’s had a long gestation period. The basic concept came to me in 2000 and crystallised further when on a coach trip back from France in November that year a sinister-looking old man in a smart black suit got on at UK customs without needing a ticket. Who was he and why did he have carte blanche to waltz onto a coach without paying? The closing scene of the story – including the last line – came to me shortly after that.
However I feel the story does fit to the theme, as it is true that governments all over the world keep their people in the dark about most things. We may think we can see clearly but at dusk the things in the shadows are not what they seem.
What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?
I don’t think I’ve done enough writing so far to qualify as a career although one day I hope to have… The most important moment so far was when I had my first story accepted for publication just over a year ago – my story Alibi was a runner up in the Bloody Parchment 2012 competition. Finally someone had taken my writing seriously. This had a very positive effect on my confidence and since then I’ve written more short stories than ever before.
Do you have any outstanding writing goals you’re working to achieve? (sale to a particular market or publication/book deal/award/NaNoWriMo/etc)
My main goal now is to get Comeback – and eventually its sequel Ghostdance that I’ve completed the first draft of – published.
Even though I have dabbled in the self-publishing / print on demand world (publishing an 80’s pop memoir I Was A Teenage Toyah Fan) I’d like Comeback to be published using the traditional model if possible. It’s hard work. I completed it in 2011 and have since submitted it to agents, open submissions and contests but have yet to have someone bite.
I will be taking part in NaNoWriMo again this year – the last two years I used to get the bulk of the raw material for Ghostdance down. This year I will try something else – I have an idea for something involving Space Opera…
Do you have any interesting projects on the horizon that you’d like to share some info with us about?
Nothing specific – my main goal for the moment is to get Ghostdance into a beta readable form. I also have my NaNoWriMo Space Opera project to think about – might be nice to get something of that down before November.
Plus there are a few short story competitions and opportunities I’d like to enter as well.
What advice do you have for new or aspiring writers?
I not sure that I’m in a position to offer advice, but one thing that made a huge difference to me was when I understood that I just had to keep at it, to write whether or not I was feeling inspired. To misquote Edison, what it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. NaNoWriMo was a great help when it came to this – forcing at least 1667 words a day out of me whether I liked it or not. And more often than not when I revisited this text it was nowhere near as bad as I thought at the time. A website called 750words.com was also a great help.
Another epiphany was when I learned not to be too distressed by editing, even by throwing out entire scenes or chapters. Even though I spent valuable time writing them I realised that the effort wasn’t wasted – they still happened, just off screen and still inform and affect the actions of the characters even if the reader can’t see them.