Interview with Author Fiona McGavin

Fiona McGavin bw

IP: When did you begin creating stories? Were you an imaginative child? What are your earliest memories of writing/being creative?

FM: I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up stories. I remember being about 3 or 4 years old and being in bed making up a story in my head about a boy called Navy Blue. Apart from having to write stories at school, I probably started writing them down when I was about 12 years old. Paper was like gold dust in our house, and I wrote a long involved school story on a wodge of computer printout paper my Dad gave me. When I was a little older, I used to spend my pocket money on refill pads from Woolworths. I wrote an Adrian Mole type diary thing with pictures that was very roughly based on my family. It was the first thing I let them read and it made them laugh – I think that was the first time I thought I might be good at writing. Sadly, I didn’t keep that piece of writing. Sometime after that I must have started writing fantasy, but I don’t remember exactly when.

IP: What influences you most creatively? What were your original influences?

FM: All sorts of things influence me – books, TV programmes, quite often song lyrics or lines from poetry. I have a habit of scrolling through Pinterest looking for images to inspire me and I usually listen to music when I’m writing. Sometimes, a character from a film or TV will spark something.

I’ve always been intrigued by villains and anti-heroes. There’s a bit of a joke in my family that when I was little, the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was my favourite character and I felt sorry for him and that he was misunderstood

I read a lot of school stories as a child – the Chalet School books in particular and I think what I liked about them was the drama in the interactions between the schoolgirls and I think this has carried over into my writing. I remember watching Star Wars and Return of the Jedi and being completely enthralled but again, I think it was the characters more than the story that appealed to me. I think a lot of people say this, but once I read The Lord of the Rings, I knew I wanted to write a fantasy novel. I didn’t even understand it properly the first time round, but it definitely influenced me (the films too) if only to get me reading more fantasy novels.

As a teenager, I read a lot of anthologies of ghost stories. I took them out of the school library, and I think there was a series of them called something like Spectre 1 – 4. I read a lot of teen novels around that time. There was a book called ‘The Outsiders’ by S E Hinton that I loved so much I stole it from the school library. I still read the ‘The Chocolate War’ and ‘Beyond the Chocolate War’ by Robert Cormier every couple of years because I think the way he depicts the misuse of power is very powerful. Those books were probably the first I read where the good guys didn’t win, and the villain wasn’t punished.

When I started writing more seriously – in my early 20’s – I was reading more and more fantasy and writing more of it too. I read a lot of Anne Rice and at the time her lush, descriptive style appealed to me as well as her immortal characters. I was also reading Tad Williams’ epic fantasies and Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu trilogy and out of this mish mash came A Dream and a Lie. It also came about because I couldn’t understand why anyone (even an evil over lord) would want to live in Mordor – it’s horrible and uncomfortable there and orcs are not nice people to have around. That got me thinking of alternatives. So, the Big Bad in A Dream and a Lie lives somewhere that’s quite a bit nicer than some of the places where the good guys live.

ADreamAndALieOriginal Cover Illustration for ‘A Dream and a Lie’ Omnibus
by Ruby

The Wraeththu trilogy was important to my writing because I’d never read anything like it. I loved the characters, the plot and the setting but I also liked the way that it treated with gender. I’d been writing male characters that spoke and behaved in a way I felt was more female and I thought this was a fault with my writing. Reading the Wraeththu books showed me that there were ways round this, things I could do with the building of my worlds and without changing my characters’ personalities

IP: Several of your stories concern life in a humdrum office. Clearly, you have worked in such an office, and have experienced the pitfalls! Can you expand upon your inspirations for these stories?

FM: I’ve worked in a lot of offices, so I guess I’m just writing what I know. There are a lot of small dramas that go on at work and people get very territorial over desks and chairs and stationery. I’ve witnessed arguments over some ridiculous things and seen grown women revert to schoolgirls over whether to have a window open or closed (this resulted in someone very pointedly wearing a winter coat in the office in the height of summer.

There’s a lot of backstabbing and some quite despicable behaviour that goes on but is somehow condoned because it happens at work. In my story ‘Cosmic Ordering for Vampires’ the vampire kills someone because she gets given his desk at the window because she’s more senior than he is. This happened to me in one of the jobs I had, and it just seemed utterly petty to me. I didn’t complain, but I didn’t like it much and I may have harboured some revenge fantasies that have come out in this story! In that same office, the girl I was moved next to, very pointedly moved all her stuff to another desk so she wouldn’t have to sit next to me, and one evening someone took my monitor and chair and then when I came in the next morning I was told ‘no one here would do that’ when my empty desk made it obvious they had. They really didn’t like me there.

In one team I worked in we did a lot of overtime in the evenings and at the weekends. A couple of times, I got there before 8 am on a Sunday morning and there was hardly anyone else in the massive building. It was quite eerie. The lights were on a motion sensor so only came on when you walked under them, past all those empty desks with papers and coffee mugs left on them as if their occupants were expected back at any minute. There were lots of creaking noises and any footsteps from upstairs were amplified because it was so quiet. It was always the same group of people doing overtime and we got to be quite a close knit group. At some point, I thought I’d worked out how to defraud the bank and I was pretty sure at least one of my colleagues would have helped me. So, from all that, I got the ideas for ‘Cosmic Ordering’, ‘The Lottery Lady’ and ‘We Are Not Who We Think We Are’.

I also really enjoy reading about people at work and apart from some chicklit and a few crime novels, I haven’t come across a lot of stories set in offices, so I’ve had to write my own. I’d be interested to know of any fantasy or horror stories set in offices.

9781907737992-Perfect.inddLord of the Looking Glass Cover
by Danielle Lainton

IP: Your stories of a post-apocalyptic world are vivid and strange. How did this world make itself known to you, and what are your plans for it in the future? Could you tell us about your favourite characters in this world?

FM: I’m not sure where this world came from. I suppose it might have come out of what I was reading at the time that I started to conceive of it – the Wraeththu books, Elizabeth Hand’s ‘Winterlong’ and ‘The Stand’ by Stephen King. I was at school during the Cold War and in English lessons we were studying works with a Cold War theme – novels, poetry and short stories and we watched the film ‘Threads’ in class. I don’t remember being very interested in the bomb blast, but in what would happen in the centuries afterwards when there was nothing left but ruins of our world.

I do have plans to write more about this world. The world of ‘The Census-Taker’s Daughter’ appeals to me a lot and I’d quite like to expand this short story into a novel length piece of writing. I’d keep the Sleeping Beauty theme and the talking animals and include the back story around what happened to Maya’s mother. The idea of there only being a finite number of people left in the only inhabitable place in the world, and then an extra person being half glimpsed in the shadows, really interests me.

I’ve also got an idea for a portal fantasy where several cities are interlinked and where one of these is a post-apocalyptic city. I’ve started sketching out a few ideas in a notebook, but it’s a slow progress.

IP: Are the stories of the Blood twins associated with the same world as that of the Walking Man?

Originally, they were, along with the ‘Ginevra Flowerdew’ and ‘The Plague Doctor’ stories. I wrote the stories to try and get some ideas of this world clear in my mind.

The Walking Man is a character/concept that particularly interests me – I’m not sure if I’ve ‘borrowed’ him from a film or a book, I have a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that something inspired him, but I can’t remember what. The idea of a stranger just walking and walking and not actually going anywhere but creating his own mythology along the way appeals to me. I have an idea for a novel that mixes the vampire from ‘Cosmic Ordering for Vampires’ with the Walking Man that really excites me, but I think it’s probably unpublishable.

I’d also like to write some more about the Blood twins, and I can see that having them encounter the Walking Man in one of his many incarnations might be interesting.

IP: How many of your stories are inspired by events and people in real life, and are there any anecdotes you can share about them?

FM: The bridge in ‘Bridge 52’ is a real place in Milton Keynes which is apparently haunted by an Irish labourer who was murdered, and his remains walled up in the supports.

I was part of a lottery syndicate until quite recently and we rarely won anything, and I got the idea for ‘The Lottery Lady’ from that. The mortgage fraud in that story is a little like the fraud I thought I’d worked out how to carry out, and when I was working in that same team, a colleague and I found a staircase in the building we’d never noticed before one day, despite having worked the building for years. All that found its way into ‘The Lottery Lady’.

There are elements of someone I used to know in the character of Terz in ‘A Dream and a Lie’ – the idea that you can get away with doing something despicable if you can make people laugh and you’re fun to be around.

IP: You’re currently working on a revised edition of your trilogy ‘A Dream and a Lie’. Could you talk about how you’ve felt coming back to those novels after quite a long time away from them?

FM: I had mixed feelings about revisiting it. My initial feeling was that it was written and done with and I wasn’t particularly interested in looking at it again, but when I flicked through it, I could see that there were still parts of it that excited me even though it’s probably not what I would write now if I was starting a fantasy novel from scratch.

What surprises me now is the hugeness of the world I created and the sheer number of characters. I didn’t have any plan when I started writing it – I just wrote it without any idea of where it was going. I don’t think I intended on writing something so epic when I started it. The first three or four drafts were hand written and there were a lot of characters (Traize, Nym, Nightshade) who were late additions. Every time I added a new character, I had to start rewriting again at the beginning to weave their story into the plot. Revisiting it now, I can remember those first drafts and how I began to slowly realise I was writing something that might actually go somewhere.

One thing that’s struck me on revising it is the lack of strong female characters in the original, so I’m trying to address that. The beauty of having a shape-shifting, gender-fluid race of people is that this isn’t as problematic as it might be though it hasn’t been as simple as just changing ‘he’ to ‘she’. What’s struck me is how something like changing the gender of characters can change the whole feel of certain scenes. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but there’s one particular thing that has a completely different feel and much more interesting slant to it when the gender of one of the characters is changed from male to female.

I’ve enjoyed revisiting it and I’m glad I’m doing it. I love it when I come across something that I’d forgotten I’d written, or a description or turn of phrase that surprises me and I find myself thinking ‘Wow, I wrote that’.

IP: What unfinished works and ideas do you have awaiting further development?

FM: Lots of ideas, some that I’ve already mentioned – a vampire/walking man novel; an expanded version of ‘The Census Taker’s Daughter’ and the portal novel I mentioned. I’ve got a crime type novel that I wrote at the same time I was developing A Dream and A Lie that I’d like to do something with and an angels and demons novel that I wrote and have some plans for. I’d also quite like to revisit the world of A Dream and a Lie and write a bit more about what happens next to some of the characters. I started doing this a few years ago but rather infuriatingly I can’t find the file.

IP: What is the strangest/weirdest thing that has ever happened to you?

FM: When I was very little, maybe 3 or 4 years old, I was in the garden with my Dad and there was something grey and metallic in the sky that only I could see. I can see it very clearly in my memory – it looked a bit like a sideways metal pyramid. I pointed at it and asked what it was, but my Dad couldn’t see anything. Strangely, I’ve never given this much thought or questioned what it was or if I just imagined it.

Generally, nothing particularly odd has happened to me – I think I write strange fiction to fill that gap.

IP: Please give details of all social media you’re involved in, so that people can keep up to date with your work.

FM: I’ve got a Facebook page and a Facebook author page that I’ll endeavour to keep up to date. I also have a website at where I’m keeping a weekly blog about my reading, writing and other stuff that interests me. I’ve also got a Good Reads author page.

Interview with John Kaiine

John Kaiine is an artist, sculptor, poet and story-teller, who’s worked with Immanion Press since 2011, both as an author (through his novel Fossil Circus) and an artist, in providing the sumptuous cover artwork for most of the books by Tanith Lee we’ve published. John and Tanith were married for 25 years, a relationship that ended with her death in 2015. John is currently working on intriguing new material, including the cover art he’s providing for the Tanith story collections we’re publishing this year. We thought it was time we asked him to tell us more about his work and what has and continues to inspire him.

JK Self Portrait 2018Self-Portrait by the artist, April 2019

 IP: It’s clear you’re interested in the peculiar and the macabre, John. What were your early influences in respect of films, TV shows, fiction and music?

JK: I didn’t go looking for the weirdness, it was just there. Perfectly natural. Environment was part of the influence. I was brought up in a weird part of London, Roehampton. (Roers) More on that later. It was early 1970’s, all was grim-garish post-hippy pre-punk inbetweeness. Fifty shades of brown tartan. There was still some respect in the air. Not much, but enough. Precious little hope, the three-day week with Gothic candlelit shadow’d evenings, but we had colour TV, so that made it alright. (Yeah.) But it was always the old black and white movies viewed on those screens that entranced me. King Kong, the original with Fay Wray, was the first film I ever saw. BBC2 showed old horror flicks on Friday nights; Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula. Beautiful visions, so much detail and emotion compared to TV with its old game show queens in sequin suits, Carry On movies, Northern soaps. Jimmy Savile O.B.E.  Kids TV was surreal and shite. Monty Python was cool. And wonderful Dr Who. Radio 4 spewed out the Goons. That was enough to be going on with. Fiction, to me, was all of the mythologies and American comics; same thing. I was what would now be called the Geek, who knew all the names of the DC and Marvel heroes and villains, and Atlas and Charlton’s, too. When all the school was drooling over Kevin Keegan, I was finding out as much as possible about Lon Chaney Snr. I was never really into music as a kid, although I always had a huge crush on Suzi Quatro. My brother had a massive record collection and I would sometimes root through some of the boxes, looking at the cover artwork. I recall some cool Roxy Music, Budgie and Wishbone Ash. He played me Napoleon XIV’s ‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha Haa!!’ one night and then he played the B-Side, which is the same song in reverse. That did something to me. Later on, the first album I heard and fully took on-board was Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Kinda went downhill from there… And so, early creative influences and absolutely no respect at all must go to my prescription junkie psychopathic father who taught me to read and write when I was 2 or 3, respectively. My rest of ‘early’ was stuff that Universal Studios couldn’t, and really wouldn’t wanted to have churned out. Dear old Boris and Bela withstanding.

IP: How did you begin writing and creating art? Can you share details of your early career with us? 

JK: I was always drawing, making notes. It was a form of escape. I don’t have old artwork, just a remnant from when I was making notes/sketches for Fossil Circus. I have some early photographs. I always wanted to be a comedian – laugh or cry. That thankfully didn’t happen, but I was apprentice for a while to the wonderful special effects expert, Ian Scoones. That was amazing. I love the working film crew atmosphere. Other stuff happened. I was always creative throughout.

IP: Tanith wrote the previously unpublished story ‘Iron City’, which appears in ‘Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata’, around the time she met you. How did you meet? Would you say that the creative sensibilities – including a love of the unusual – you shared were part of what forged your relationship?

T&J1991John and Tanith in 1991

JK: We met at a Forbidden Planet publishing ‘do’, (‘Crying in the Rain‘) London 1987. We had never met, had no idea either existed and were both going to leave for different reasons. We were both persuaded to stay by two different lots of people. We ended up being in the upstairs bar and the old cliché (eyes across a crowded room etc) happened. We met for dinner a week later and that was that. When we first got together, because of age difference, Tanith was 39, I was 20, there was a lot of negativity from others. Age and also height discrepancies, I’m 6’6, she was 5’2. I recall some twat saying, ‘I give it six months’. Twenty-eight years later, twenty-five of those married, the only way we were parted was by death. Tanith literally died in my arms. But that was only the physical. She’s still around. And always will be. ‘Unusual’ to the both of us was natural for different reasons. That was apparent from night one. Iron City came around from word play. We both wrote a line each and at the end of the evening, she said. ‘Whatever happens with us, I will never be bored with you.‘ Creative sensibilities may have had something to do with it, we just liked throwing words and ideas around. Nothing more, nothing scholarly or pretentious. Kids who had finally re-found one another’s imaginary friends. Just the love of creating with images which came to be stories sometimes. Novels. Even trilogies. Our joint love of cats was integral too. We were forged by one another. (I have almost three decades worth of ornate tins/boxes full of notes, ideas, scribbled details, possible character names, titles. Some got used. The rest are gathered together.) I have an entire book of Sherlock Holmes short story ideas we came up with over the years.

Tin of IdeasThe Tin of Ideas, photograph by John Kaiine

IP: You collaborated on many of Tanith’s works. Could you talk about some of these collaborations?

JK: After Iron City ~ October ’87. We were walking through Richmond Park the weekend after the ‘nothing like this for 80-100 years‘ hurricane had arrived in England. Tanith had just signed up for a massive commitment. An epic erotic vampire novel. That was her real first time ‘ Vampire novel’. (Aside from, Sabella) Her working title was ‘The Colour of Blood‘. I said, ‘That’s crap, and it’s already been done.’ She laughed, nodded, agreed and for the rest of our afternoon picking through the devastation of uprooted trees, we came up with the title’ The Blood of Roses.‘ We worked well together; I could think of ideas as swiftly as she could write. Tanith had written so much; she appreciated a new fresh voice in her vast cacophony. Sometimes my suggestions fitted, sometimes not. At the end of the working day, we would sit down together, and Tanith would read what she had written, we would talk about it, very seldom making small changes. Any other editing was done when she typed it all up on her electric typewriter. Sometimes what I was making on Photoshop would trigger an image and she would write about who or what that was. (Israbel. Cold Fire.) She was always being asked to contribute to anthologies and when approached for a tale on vampires, dragons etc, her response would normally be “OMFG, I’ve done that to death!”

My response, “Do you want me to have a think about that…?”

“Yes, please.”

Then after dinner I would approach with a possible idea. If it struck the right note, the question would be if I ‘had written that down’.

We would always talk about plots, characters, ideas when out at lunch. Many a heavily-scribbled tablecloth was purloined, and fellow diners freaked out by enthusiastic new ways of killing. Sometimes we did that on purpose. Death by flamingo will always take first prize for that. (A Bed of Earth ) Another perfectly normal Indian lunch wrapped up with another unique death. The novels/ideas that come to mind are: Vivia – I suggested the whole kicking in the castle door, walking up to the bridal chamber with the dead horse image and actually quite lots of it, as she was getting to the stage where she wanted to write contemporary or at least not fantasy, however dark. Elephantasm – which came from a sketch of a skeletal giraffe looming over/through a Victorian four-poster. Reigning Cats and Dogs (how to find a new way to kill in a Jack the Ripper style… do it by time. Victims found ancient, bits newborn, child, embryonic) and all of The Scarabae Blood Opera. We had so much fun with that. She loved the true historical myths/legends of vampires, I just added new insights, days out wandering around the weird London that I knew and introductions to odd contemporary stuff. East London then was in the beginnings of being ‘gentrified’, so there were still real people and real places alongside the encroaching suits and overseas investors.

Tanith 1999Tanith Lee in 1999, photograph by John Kaiine

The highlight of OMFGness was when Tanith couldn’t get into the first Piratica book. It was meant to be about real pirates, yet she had a massive block on it. We found out why later. She went away with friends for a few days and I had that time to think about it. Return. Lunch. ‘About that pirate thing…’

<sigh> ‘Yes…’

‘You don’t want to write about real pirates, so why don’t you write about your favourite people.’

‘Do what? (it was actually, ‘what the fuck are you on about, John?’)

‘Who do you like best?’

‘Actors, you know that.’

‘OK, so they’re not pirates, they’re actors convincingly playing pirates.’

Long, silent stare, wine glass in hand, not knowing if she was going to launch it at me, then a lift of an eyebrow, and ‘have you written that down…?’ Result. Those books were always an excuse to intrude upon each other’s workrooms with lists of stupid names and surprisingly intense newfound pirate facts. She had a wall full of intricately detailed illustrated fighting pirate ships and everything else I could find for her.  Another short story, Black and White Sky, came about from one of our monotonous hour-long journeys to Maidstone when she was having to have radiotherapy every day. We were out in the wilds, stuck behind a tractor. I looked out the window and saw a magpie flying up out of a field of reeds, and then another, then another. I told Tanith to look and she saw what I was seeing, magpie after magpie rising up, rising up. She only said, “Are you writing that down?” I wasn’t, but I did later.

Years ago, when Coronation Street had excellent writers, we happened across an episode where an old witless guy was left to a character in a will. The germ of that became the short story, ‘Antonius Bequeathed.’ See, it was all very intellectually cultural and stuff. An idea could happen from a passed remark from a cab driver, and often ended up fifty pages later. I would begin writing novels or more often than not, long short stories and me being me, would hit ‘bored now’ and discard it. ‘Unlocked’ was one such, and Tanith asked if she could add to it. She did, I did some more, and the end result was especially beautiful. There are endless such examples, short stories, novels. All genres. I will always miss it, but so damned pleased that I wrote most of it down.

IP: I know there’s a story about what gave you the idea for ‘Fossil Circus’. Would you tell us about it?

Jerusalem Car Chase‘Jerusalem Car Chase’
Illustration from ‘Fossil Circus’ by John Kaiine

JK: Early 1970’s, I grew up in South-West London. Roehampton Village. Roers. <sigh> OK… Enviroment can manipulate character. It was one of the biggest housing estates in Europe, slab blocks, point blocks, low-level housing nestling within the Georgian landscape, ‘considered by many British architects to be the crowning glory of post-World War II social housing.’ Everywhere was concrete grey and leaf green. Science fiction architecture growing up, out of an endless forest. Now Grade II listed buildings. To the East and to the West the wilds of Wimbledon Common and miles of Richmond Park skirt the perimeters of the village. It was the home of a massive hospital, Queen Mary’s. Base of original false limbs making, burns unit, psychiatric specialist wards. Most of the patients there were encouraged to live within the local environment. So everywhere you looked were either limbless, horribly burnt, psychiatric, geriatric passers-by. Or any mixture. There was a substantial head count of Down’s Syndrome folk too, ministered to by heavily-veiled and wimpled nuns. It’s the home of The Priory, where celebs rush to now if they have any ‘bad’ publicity. In its glory days, Mervyn Peake convalesced there for a while. Looking back at it all, I don’t think I could have lived anywhere else. Everything was twisted, distorted, disfigured, beautiful, brutal… Different. Double amputee war veterans with tall steel crutches loomed on every corner. Shell-shocked old geezers rattled through Le Corbusier’s walkways. I recall a woman who had been in a terrible fire – she had no face, just an empty black shape held in place by a metal cage. A glamourous tobacconist lady with a wooden hand. Dangerous inpatients would often go AWOL from P1 and be at large. There were colourful fly-by’s from the pandemonium of escaped parrots that lived on Wimbledon Common. 1960’s bronze sculptures – The Three Watchers and The Bull, all verdigrised. It was near Heathrow and the planes were so low and loud. The first episode of Minder, Gun-Fight at the OK Laundrette, was filmed there. The Pope visited in 1982 and all the pubs in the district ran dry. Epic twilights. There always seemed to be a full moon. There is a tiny graveyard dedicated to the bones of nuns. It was totally fucking Weird and I loved it. (You can see now why I lost my job at the English Tourist Board advertisement agency…) My Mum worked at the hospital and sometimes brought me home junked artificial hands and arms to play with. I was brought up in an atmosphere of violence and nearly always threat in the air (my C word of a father was the inspiration for the seemingly indestructible serial killer Jerusalem Lamb), so losing myself in the much-needed escapism of myths, comics and horror films, it’s little wonder that my future landscape had already been painted for me. These memories and encounters forged the characters and backdrop to Fossil Circus. A much-used piece of advice to aspiring authors is Write about what you know. I did.

IP: What are your current inspirations for your art? Are there any stories behind the pictures displayed on your new Instagram page?

JK: OK ~ Instagram. It’s a free gallery for my art until I decide what I want to do about/create my own website. It’s waited this long, it can wait longer. I’m no lover of social media, (Neither was Tanith. She was offered a financially substantial publishing deal 2 years before she died, and she/we knew she was dying, and turned it down because contractually she would have had to have blogged the trilogy’s ongoingness. ‘Why fucking blog when you can use that time to write?’ Unquote.) I don’t FB, Tweet or whatever solipsistic rubbish. But I do understand the commercial viability of such. Instagram seemed the most contact-free option.  Inspirations… Not really. There are book covers there spanning twenty years. Life, therefore illness, death, grieving, mistakes and consequences got in the way and needed to. Art happened when it did. Art (for me) is easier than writing. Right now, and for a while, writing has been tucked away until I can be in that fucked up arena of luscious thought again. It’s coming.

MotherWentAwayToMakeYouCry‘Mother Went Away to Make you Cry’  by John Kaiine

Stories: There are quite a few Doctor Who images there. Reason ~ I had an art show in USA where I couldn’t attend. Apparently photographic images of mine of cemetery angels were taken to be Weeping Angels. These were popular and sold. Therefore: Doctor Who images sell. Gosh, really that obvious… Yep. So, taking advantage of several long weeks of disability last year, when all I could do was be stretched out and immobile, I opted to be stretched out in front of my lovely big work screen and submerged myself in hundreds of hours of past and present Who. I/We (Tanith and I) had been lifelong fans. I had been lucky enough to operate a working Dalek and she was asked to reincarnate the Doctor years before BBC reinvented the series. (The actor name in that particular Doctor frame then was Brian Blessed). I created myriad Who images, past, present and future. There will be (all being well) a Doctor Who art exhibition of mine later this year. (More on that later.) Other images are Giger inspired, long term doodles that slotted into others and become complete, and/or just stuff sitting around in ancient files and re-layered and re-curved.

WUTHERING DEPTHS‘Wuthering Depths’ by John Kaiine

Can I vent about Doctor Who here now…? Who is Epic, legendary, mythological. Enchanting, much-needed escapism since 1963. We/I followed it from Hartnell/ Pertwee through good, bad, indifferent, heart-rending, stupid, ‘wow, I wish I’d thought of that’, ‘meh’… We stopped watching during the 12th Doctor era (Capaldi was, and is, brilliant. But criminally let down by erratic writing: Midlife crisis sunglasses, electric guitar playing, bursting into scene on a “I don’t like soldiers, don’t like guns, weapons” Sherman tank forchristsake, and totally miscast choice of co-actors, feeble must-have PC companions, misandry and hijacked rank SJWness. Fair and equal rights to all, but please (no pun intended), please stop trying to ram it down our throats. To cannibalise a quote from a much-loved, wonderful writer friend of ours, who puts it so succinctly ~ “As if Tanith gave a fuck about this faddish, ridiculous PC stuff. She just told stories, since that was her vocation in life, and her own wisdom shone through as a natural part of her work. Others simply seek to demystify authors’ work, making it fit a certain agenda. They’re just draping their whatever’s trending right-on clothes on the mannequin of others’ genius.” (That being said, I’m really looking forward to that new possible Marvel movie re-boot with Dame Judi Dench playing the lead role in Black Panther.) I truly hope The Doctor returns one day, in whatever gender, beautifully written, acted and supported. With more Cybermen and Zygons.

IP: Do you plan to produce any more fiction or graphic novels in the near future?

JK: Yes. Absolutely. An editor has recently very unwisely approached me to participate in a Weird Landscapes U.K anthology, which will be a good way of easing back into writing all day long again. Bliss. Before Tanith died, I was working on (writing, photographing, Photoshopping) an on-line graphic novel, Flowers, for inclusion in David Lloyd’s, (V for Vendetta) online magazine Ace’s Weekly, but stuff happened and it’s sat on a hard-drive somewhere for four years. I’m not sure if I’ll revisit it or dramatically change it or offer something new. I have three unfinished novels which all need completing; Hollow. Mind-Sea-Wreckage. MoonThief. Or I may just piss everyone off with a sequel to Fossil Circus.

FlowersFrom ‘Flowers’ by John Kaiine

IP: Can you tell us what plans you have for your artwork? Is it available for people to buy?

Fuchsia copy‘Fuschia’ by John Kaiine
(Appeared on the cover of ‘Animate Objects’ by Tanith Lee (Immanion Press 2016)

JK: Some of my work is on Instagram, if anyone wants to buy an image, they can DM me. I am looking in to having an E-Commerce website build sometime this year. I offer a unique service – especially for Doctor Who fans. They tell me their favourite Doctor, companion, monster and I create an image incorporating all of those elements. One image, one layer, printed, Photoshop file deleted, they own the only copy. I will frame the image too from one of my many effected frames. I am going to begin having some of my designs printed on to fabric material and wallpaper too.

Our Lady of Maggots‘Our Lady of Maggots’ by John Kaiine

IP: Now, on to more frivolous things. What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you?

JK: How long have you got… Aside from my childhood and things that blur legality ~ a séance on a ripped-up snooker table, coming face to face with rutting stags in Richmond Park in 3am darkness and steaming, misty rain. Shopping trolleying down Caterham hill at great speed into oncoming traffic, falling off a cliff on the Isle of St. Mary’s, my time gravedigging and un-ivying Howard Carter’s neglected gravestone, meeting my doppelganger on the roof of Notre Dame cathedral, having my ‘soul realigned’ by my kinesiologist, Beryl. Walking through ghosts in The Stag pub, Hastings, being the only audience to an brass band of Down’s Syndrome folk playing Christmas tunes (1975), being accused of being German by Japanese tourists in Utrecht on our honeymoon! Being banned from Cornwall (1985), unearthing a Victorian human jaw bone while mud-larking on the Thames, and any of our numerous meetings with Harry Harrison and/or Ken Campbell. Every visitation in The Clown pub, Hastings. And just living in Hastings. I wouldn’t call Tanith and I meeting, weird. That was written, meant to happen. Weird is relevant. All of the above were great fun and very interesting. Weird to me is how the majority exist.

pirate day 2012
Tanith and John at Hastings’ ‘Pirate Day’ in 2012

IP: Who are your favourite authors, musicians and film-makers?

JK: Writers ~ Mervyn Peake, Graham Greene, John LeCarre, John Banville, Jean Rhys, Isak Dinesen. Angela Carter. Kafka. John Fowles. M.R. James.

Artists ~ Klimt, Beardsley, Edward Gorey, Howard Pyle, Durer, H.R. Giger.

Films ~ Plunkett and Macleane, Brotherhood of the Wolf, The Hitcher, BladeRunner 1 and 2, Freaks, The Man Who Laughs, Nosferatu, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dog Soldiers, Alien, Karloff’s Frankenstein, The Legend of the Holy Drinker, Fatherland, The Happy Time Murders, Mad Max 1, Mad Max Fury Road. Jumanji 1 and 2.

Recently – the excellent series Taboo, Bosch, The Punisher and of course every single episode of South Park. The Tick is very funny too.

Music ~ depends on what I’m doing – art or writing. Gary Numan, Tubeway Army, The Stranglers, Fields of the Nephilim, Marillion old, Marillion new, Curve, Gorecki, David Bowie, Killing Joke, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Dead Can Dance, Rammstein, David Sylvian, Depeche mode, Sisters of Mercy, Fever Ray, Peter Gabriel. And my guilty Youtube video secret – Panic at the Disco

My favourite albums to work to are The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis, The Tubeway Army album, Marillion’s F.E.A.R, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Outside by David Bowie. Security, Peter Gabriel.

Favourite tracks ~ Sinister, The Stranglers. Freaks, Marillion. Jo the Waiter, Tubeway Army. Comfortably Numb. Rakim, Dead Can Dance. Carpet Crawlers, Genesis. Small Idols by Cyclefly. Panic at the Disco – We Write Sins Not tragedies. Anything by Rammstein.

IP: What is your ambition for 2019?

JK: I’m just 52 now and have an overwhelming feeling that my time is running out, so I need to achieve lots more. Working towards getting more of Tanith’s work back in print, The Blood of Roses will be republished by Immanion in 2020, more art shows, getting back into writing, a massive Doctor Who art project (Time is a Forgery), my own website and creating a series of Gothic portraits made from a hybrid of antiquing mirrors, photography, Photoshop and lots and lots of dirty white candle wax…

 Thank you, John, for all these wonderful stories you’ve shared with us.

John’s Instagram page:

 John’s novel, ‘Fossil Circus’ is available from Immanion Press. Following the recently-published Tanith collection ‘Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata and other Uncollected Tales’, we’ll be releasing two further collections of rare stories and curios in ‘Love in a Time of Dragons’ and ‘A Wolf at the Door’. John will provide the cover artwork for these as well as the forthcoming ‘The Blood of Roses’. All details will appear on this blog, and our page on Facebook.


Is your author website a commercial website?


You write books. You have a website, where you offer those books. You also write blog posts and you consider your website to primarily be an information site. Actually, however, its a commercial site and the reason its a commercial site is because you are selling books on the site. If you sell a single product on your site, you now have a commercial website. The reason I bring this up, is because I think for many authors they don’t necessarily think of themselves as owning a business. They’ve written a book, and that’s what they think it is…a book, but the book is much more than just a book. It’s a product, a commercial good with your name on it.

Recently I was contacted by Getty Images because of a picture I used on one of my websites. You can read the story here. In their letter to me they explained that my site was a commercial website (which is true because its a business), but it got me thinking about my other website and I realized that was a commercial website as well and that the criteria for establishing if something is a commercial website seems to boil down to whether or not you are using the site to sell something (ergo you run a business).

You may not have thought of your website as a commercial site, but its worth considering that even if you don’t other people do, and this consequently effects you in certain ways. You may not be taking full advantage of business deductions related to your site or products. You may also not be accurately reporting information that needs to be reported for the purposes of taxes. It’s important that you recognize what your site is and treat it accordingly, as well as recognize that you don’t just have a commercial website, but also a commercial enterprise, albeit one that may be limited to selling copies of your books.

Another reason you want to be clear about this is because if your site is deemed commercial it can limit what you can use on your site. For example if you are using pictures on a site, but your site is considered commercial you need to be careful about what pictures you use and make sure that if you are using “free” pictures that they are free to use even if you are a commercial site (with proper attribution). That’s just one example of how website being categorized as commercial can effect your choices of what content you are putting on the site. So take a look at your website. Do you want it to just be an information site or do you want to sell your books on it. Know what the distinction is so you can make the appropriate choices.