Lee Mountford wrote a chilling piece of haunted-house-horror called The Demonic. (You can read the review here). Not content with just reading about the tormented souls, I took it a step further and sat down with Lee to find out more about ghouls and ghosts and Lee’s scariest life experiences.
What inspired you to write The Demonic?
A few things really. One is a real-life event that took place in my home town of Ferryhill, in 1682. A young farm-hand killed three children with an axe, and did so because he claims to have been possessed by the devil. Lots of ghost stories sprung up around that macabre event, and the mill on the farmland still stands today. I wanted to incorporate this into the backstory of The Demonic.
Other than that, I wanted to tell a really good ghost story, and one of the biggest influences was actually a TV programme that aired way back in 1992, a BBC production called Ghostwatch. It’s aged a bit but still has the power to creep you out and get under your skin. That’s what I was going for. I’m also a huge fan of The Conjuring films, as well as the classical ghost stories of M.R James. Lastly, Lovercraft will always be a huge influence on me, and the Demonic is kind of a mix of all these inspirations.
Your characters are extremely strong and individual. How do you work on your characterization? What is needed for such individualist characters?
That’s great to hear! I think it’s always tricky in genre fiction to give your character real emotion and depth without derailing the story. But when I have an idea to work with I always fully map it out first before starting a first draft. At the same time I also flesh out the characters as much as I can as well, and try and make sure their arcs mesh with the plot. I also try and make sure I build different personality traits into each character that gives the opportunity for conflict with each other, even if they are on the same side (or in the same family). I think conflict is where we really see who these people are are.
In doing this I tend to get a strong feel for the characters, and know them very well before I type a word of my first draft. Things obviously change as the first draft progresses, but if I have a good sense of my characters then that isn’t an issue.
The Demonic is a creepy book. How does one ramp up the fear without making it cheesy? Any tips?
I’m so happy you think that, as it was my main aim with The Demonic – to create a creepy story. As to how to do it, I like to have a bit of a build with the scares. Smaller ones at first that build tension, then ramp them up.
And as for the creepy scenes, I tried to use scenarios I find scary myself, and to also keep things relatable. For example, who hasn’t looked up and seen something in the reflection of a mirror or window that has shocked you? Of course, it’s always something explainable (usually just a family member who you didn’t hear enter the room). But we can all relate to that sudden chill you get, and that brief moment of what the hell is that?! And have you ever woken up in the middle of the night from a nightmare, and feel like there was someone standing in the dark corner of the room, watching you?
I took those moments that we can all relate to and expanded on them. Yes, there is someone standing in the corner of the room, watching you sleep!
What’s your favourite horror book?
This is a hard question. I don’t
know that I have a single favourite, but I love the works of Lovecraft, as well as Stephen King’s IT, the ghost stories of M.R. James. And another one that has always stuck with me is Adam Nevill’s Last Days. But after reading your review of my book, I plan on reading The Entity soon – sounds like my kind of story.
What gives Lee Mountford sleepless nights?
Other than the normal stresses of everyday life? Reading a genuinely scary book, or watching a scary film at night can keep me from falling asleep. And waking from a nightmare is virtually guaranteed to keep me wide-eyed for a few hours!
Tell us a bit more about yourself. Who is Lee Mountford?
Well, I’ve been happily married
to the love of my life for two years now, and we are expecting our first child very soon! So that is hugely exciting. And in my day job, when I’m not thinking up horrific stories, I work in architecture. And when I do have some down time, I love to read, take walks with my wife, watch movies and, when I can, play video games. Guess I’m a product of my generation, but don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
If you could have written any book instead of the original author, which one would it be? Most people would say a Stephen King novel. What’s yours?
I think I’d be proud writing any of Stephen King’s novels, especially IT, but if I could pick any one book to claim as my own I’d say Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. I think it’s an almost perfect example of strong story and pacing, and something I’ve learned a huge amount from. If I can ever produce anything even close to that level, I’d be beyond ecstatic.
Do you believe in demons and ghouls and things that go bump in the night?
It depends when you ask me. In the cold light of day I think I’m fairly skeptical of things like that. But if I’ve woken up in the middle of the night from a scary dream, then I know – I just know – that there is something under the bed waiting to get me!
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever experienced?
Giving a speech to a hundred people at my wedding! Other than that I always remember the time I snuck into a graveyard one night with a childhood friend. Not something we should have done but, well, we were young and stupid. We had to climb a wall with a large drop to get in, but we couldn’t get back out the same way. So we had to walk past all of these old graves in the dark and the fog, over to the other side, where we saw an opening in the wall. We thought it would take us out, but it turned out to be another section of the graveyard. We were stuck in there for over an hour and it’s fair to say I was scared as well. We ended up having to climb a tree to get back over the wall.
When did you start writing?
I was quite young when I started, about twelve or thirteen, and I always wrote scary stories. Over the years I would dip in and out of writing, always starting projects but never finishing them, until about five years ago when I actually pushed myself and finished a novel that I’d started. It was terrible, but it taught me to finish what I started. It also taught me the value of plotting and mapping out my work. I would love to be able to sit down and have a story unfold as I type, but that just isn’t how I work. I end up meandering and the story just loses itself.
Why horror? Why not fantasy or science fiction or insert-genre-here?
Horror has always been my go-to genre, no matter the medium. Books, TV, film, video games, I’m always drawn to scary stories first. I do like other genres, and may dabble with them in the future (such as sci-fi), but horror is always what I’ll call home. I believe that if you are going to write, write what you love.
Is there a sequel in the works?
Well, The Demonic is actually set in the same shared universe as my first book, Horror in the Woods. I’m hoping to build up this universe and mythology with all the books I write, so the characters from The Demonic could well make another appearance. I think it’s fair to say that there is more to Leah and Alex’s story than what we have seen so far.
To get your own copy of The Demonic, just click on the link below: