I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Colin F. Barnes, editor and one of seven international authors for the City of Hell Chronicles (CoH), to be released on December 1st. Before I plunge into the interview questions, here's a quick look at CoH:
There is no god, no angels, no redemption; only suffering. The Ant-headed Old One ‘The Great Maurr’ has risen and brought hell to earth. The land is scorched and the human race decimated, eaten or tortured. Only three cities remain, a crumbled dying version of their former selves: London, Moscow and Hong Kong.The Great Maurr’s own City of Hell dominates most of North America. Its diabolical influence has turned ordinary citizens into torturers, debased slaves, lunatics and zealots.
With an eruption at Yellowstone, the likes of which humanity has never seen before, The Old-One tore apart the land, and ascended to rule, aided by its faithful army of acolytes. From the core of the earth it crawled up on to the land, spreading disease and insanity to all corners of the globe.
The City of Hell Chronicles tell the tales of survival, death and debauchery.
So, without further delay, let's dig into this interview...
I happen to love the dark and twisted, so I’m very curious about City of Hell – particularly The Great Maurr. He sounds about as cuddly as a Cutco knife…dipped in acid with a jagged edge and a hook for gutting. What exactly is he/it? A mutation?
Colin: Well, the Great Maurr is an old god risen. You can think of it/him as the Satan figure, an Antichrist, although he doesn’t bring a religion with him as such. Maurr is the central figurehead for this new dominant species on earth. Think of him as the ultimate queen ant, only completely amoral and malevolent. The Great Maurr won’t be inviting the vicar round for tea. In future City of Hell releases, I fully intend to explore Maurr in great detail.
Tell me the significance of the title as it relates the story?
Colin: The actual City of Hell is where Maurr resides. I set it in the Yellowstone Caldera – Maurr and his minions rose up through the volcano from their slumber under the earth. As for as ‘Chronicles’ goes, it’s to tell readers that this is part of an on-going series of tales from the few survivors of Maurr’s dominion. Throughout the ages, in great conflicts, people have written journals and accounts of their experiences. I wanted this to be the same, but in story form.
You’re not only the editor of the CoH anthology, but you also wrote the first story, Genesis. The short blurb on the site is intriguing, described as ‘…grisly, insane and a little bit twisted.’ What inspired you to write this gruesome tale?
Colin: I have thing about clockmakers. When I was a freelance web developer, I used to work in residence a few days a week with a traditional clockmakers, and the main guy who repaired these ancient clocks was such an amazing character. These old guys with skills that aren’t taught anymore just have something special about them, and that inspired the character ‘Franklin Garrett’ in the story. I also needed something to kick off the series with. I needed there to be a catalyst for Maurr to rise and claim the earth. I didn’t want to have readers hit the book without a solid foundation of why it happened. So the idea started to evolve, and I just went with the character as he descended into madness.
There are eight stories in the anthology. What is the story behind each of the stories?
Colin: Well, all the stories are quite apart and distinct from each other. Although they do fit well together and share the same world, they explore the experiences of various groups of survivors. Each tale is a glimpse into a different situation and looks at the effects of survival in the face of insurmountable odds. We have a nice range of tales; some are based on individuals, while others are of groups. We even have a family story, and a couple that explores the role of feminine reproduction in such an environment as the City of Hell.
Who is your favorite character and why?
Colin: This is like asking a father who their favourite child is. I’m naturally swayed towards Franklin because he is based on someone who I knew, but to be honest, all the stories have really strong characters. I like Victoria Griesdoorn’s character in Sanguine, and ‘Jin’ in Ren Warom’s The Door From Below is bonkers fun, but really I could name all the main characters, I love them all equally.
In the story, only three cities remain after the ascension of The Great Maurr and enslavement of the population: Hong Kong, London, and Moscow. Without giving away anything significant, can you tell me why these three cities?
Colin: I wanted to frame the stories to help keep cohesiveness to the anthology, but at the same time, I wanted to give my wonderful contributors plenty of scope for creativity. I chose those particular cities because of their differences from each other. As the City of Hell itself is set in and dominates the vast majority of North America, I wanted to have a few spots around the world that we could play in. I might add more locations in future volumes though, to keep the locales fresh.
What can readers take away after reading City of Hell?
Colin: Life is short, and there is always something bigger and badder than us, so enjoy life. Also to never trust a clockmaker, especially around edged weapons.
Who are your literary influences?
Colin: I’ve got loads. I get inspired by good stories all the time. In terms of authors, I love Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft, Bradbury and Lumley above all others. King and Phillip K.Dick come in close, along with Albert Camus. But then there are others recently like Ryu Murakami, Jeff Vandermeer, and even some of our contributors (I won’t name them as that is creepy, I’m honestly not stalking anyone. Really. That wasn’t me who hacked the web cam. Stop looking at me like that.)
What does your writing routine consist of?
Colin: It changes quite a lot. I’ve a very busy life so I go through periods of being organized and periods of clutching at words as and when I can find the time. At this present moment I get up about 6:30am and write until about 8:00 when I head for dayjob hell. I usually write during my lunch break, and then again in the evening. I’ve stopped drinking and watching TV these days, so that’s freed up a lot of time. I’m quite productive at the moment. It doesn’t always last though, and I sometimes go through periods of only writing a few hundred words a day. I do write everyday though, even if it’s something small.
Where can readers purchase your City of Hell Volume 1? Will it be available in paperback as well as ebook?
Colin: City of Hell will initially be available on Amazon (US, UK Germany and France) as an ebook. The paperback is produced through Lulu and will be available from there on launch. Eventually though you’ll be able to get the paperback from Amazon as well. It will also be available as an eBook through Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble.
Has a book or movie ever creeped you out to the extent that it stuck with you long after you’d read/watched it?
Colin: Not really creeped me out – I’m mostly desensitized to horror these days, but there are certain stories that stay with me for their sheer brilliance. Clark Ashton Smith’s ‘Vaults of Yoh Vombis’ and Lumley’s ‘Necroscope’ are stories that really stayed with me for being so brilliantly written that I was completely absorbed. Murakami’s ‘In The Miso Soup’ is a recent story that I’ve read, and I just know that is going to stay with me for a very long time. So atmospheric, so brilliant.
Thank you for the interview, Colin!
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Be sure to check out the City of Hell website for more information about the CoH authors and for updates!