I had pitched the book to legendary horror editor Don D’Auria at Dorchester Publishing’s infamous Leisure Books imprint in 2009, and I was excited to receive a full manuscript request from Don by return. I submitted the book and waited anxiously for the outcome.
…and then Dorchester Publishing went under.
It was difficult not to take that as a sign. Ha ha!
But when Don D’Auria became Executive Editor of the new Horror line at Samhain Publishing, my manuscript followed him there. Don told me he loved the book and thought it would be a fine addition to the line.
Contracts were finalised 26th April 2011, and the e-book was published in November of that year, followed by the paperback in February 2012. An audiobook followed in 2016 (now out-of-print).
Things went a little bit crazy from there. The Lamplighters was selected as a Finalist in the Bram Stoker Awards for ‘Superior Achievement in a First Novel’ from all the horror debuts published that year. I enjoyed sitting up at 4:30am in freezing cold England, watching the Stoker Awards webcast broadcast live from the USA. Don had written to me prior to the awards ceremony and asked me for an acceptance speech ‘just in case’. I wrote some waffle about not winning because I knew I wouldn’t, and I didn’t, so that was that. But as I always say to my creative writing students: “Remember, it’s cooler to be nominated. Unless you win and then it’s cooler to win.”
The Lamplighters was a Finalist again, this time in the Book Pipeline Contest for books deemed suitable for film/TV adaptation, one of only 6 from almost 1,000 entries. I wrote a screenplay based on the novel, and that went on to be a Semi-finalist in the Screencraft Horror Screenplay Competition, from over 2,000 entries.
Close, but no close-up this time Mr DeMille.
I still think The Lamplighters would make for an excellent scary movie, but then I would think that, wouldn’t I? (Ha ha #2)
The book became my first translated work, with the Japanese edition published by TakeShobo in 2015. I was really thrilled about that, especially when I learned that the Tokyo-based publisher has Stephen King and the Star Wars books on its roster. Getting my author copy was a surreal experience, and it’s a very beautiful object, that edition. Hey you guys! My other books are available for translation, just sayin’.
And then, just as Dorchester Publishing had during my initial pitching of the book, Samhain Publishing went under. IT’S NOT MY FAULT, OKAY? STOP MAKING OUT LIKE IT’S SOME KIND OF WEIRD CURSE THAT FOLLOWS ME AROUND… (Ha ha #3).
I like to keep my work out there and available and soon after, I signed with Crossroad Press/Macabre Ink for all my Samhain backlist titles. My thanks to the two Davids at Crossroad for keeping my malformed offspring in circulation.
And so, without any further ado, here it is.
Ten years and a day since I became a fully signed-up novelist, a new 10th anniversary paperback edition of The Lamplighters is now available.
The nightmare continues!
And coming soon… There will be a limited edition hardcover, too.
Happy anniversary, old thing. My thanks to Don D’Auria & all at Samhain, to the two Davids at Crossroad Press, and to all my readers (yes, all 3 of you! Ha ha #4) and reviewers for the last ten years.
Here’s to a few more, eh?
About The Lamplighters:
Life on Meditrine Island is luxurious…but brief. Marla Neuborn has found the best post-grad job in the world—as a “Lamplighter” working on Meditrine Island, an exclusive idyllic paradise owned and operated by a consortium of billionaires. All Lamplighters have to do is tend to the mansions, cook and clean, and turn on lights to make it appear the owners are home. But the job comes with conditions. Marla will not know the exact location of the island, and she will have no contact with the outside world for the duration of her stay. Once on the island, Marla quickly learns the billionaire lifestyle is not all it is made out to be. The chief of security rules Meditrine with an iron fist. His private police force patrols the shores night and day, and CCTV cameras watch the Lamplighters relentlessly. Soon Marla will also discover first-hand that the island hides a terrible secret. She’ll meet the resident known as the Skin Mechanic. And she’ll find out why so few Lamplighters ever leave the island alive.
I’m devastated to hear of filmmaker Norman J. Warren‘s passing, and touched to see social media buzzing with fond memories of, and tributes to, this gentleman of horror.
My friendship with Norman began just over a decade ago, when a producer recommended me to him as a potential screenwriter on his new movie project. We met in a hotel bar in London and got along like a haunted house on fire. I was hired to do rewrites on Norman’s script ‘Beyond Terror’, which was both a sequel to ‘Terror’ and a ‘greatest hits’ showcase. I was thrilled to be working with him, as I was a fan of Norman’s cult-occult movie ‘Satan’s Slave’ (aka ‘Evil Heritage’) from my VHS video nasties days.
Our collaboration continued and we met up for coffee-fuelled story meetings and regular chinwags at the National Film Theatre café on the South Bank, and sometimes at Norman’s home in West London, where I got to see his vintage movie posters and memorabilia over mugs of tea. Norman had so many great stories from his decades in the film industry, and I loved hearing about him driving around in an open topped car with ‘Terror’ star Glynis Barber in the passenger seat.
‘Beyond Terror’ was retitled ‘Delusion’ (we joked that we were deluded if we thought it was going to get made) and Norman eventually took the project to China with producer Yixi Sun, to pitch for financing. Sadly, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Following our work on ‘Delusion’, Norman invited me to brainstorm ideas with him for a horror/thriller film called ‘Shadows’ and I worked up a story outline based on our creative discussions with producer Yixi Sun.
Horror can be a notoriously hard sell when trying to attract funding, especially state funding, and so Norman decided to pursue the art house/surreal thriller route. Following on from ‘Shadows’, Norman and Yixi then developed a script called ‘Susu’, which Norman was going to direct in China. When ill health prevented him from directing, Norman moved into a producing role, with Yixi directing. Norman made a fun short too, for the ‘Turn Your Bloody Phone Off’ segment at FrightFest London.
Alongside all this, I was hard at work on my short folk horror film ‘The Stay’, and Norman mentored me throughout the process with his trademark enthusiasm and words of encouragement. You’ll see his name on the thank you credits at the end of the film (I apologised in advance, in case he didn’t like the movie!).
Norman was a lovely friend and collaborator who always had time for others, even when he was unwell. And I have never known someone to be so excited and upbeat when discussing grisly death scenes over lunch! Norman survived polio during his younger years, and I think that maybe gave him some of his appreciation for life’s possibilities. He was a proper gent, and I will miss him.
Listen to Norman discussing his filmmaking roots and influences on Radio 4’s The Film Programmehere.
And you can relive Norman J Warren’s greatest hits in this stonking Indicator Blu Ray box set.
“Lee creates an atmosphere of unease and foreboding that culminates in explosive violence and terror. Rife with frightening imagery, ghosts, and visceral horror, this tale will please the most ardent of horror fans.” (Booklist)
Here are some nice things that nice people have said about my novel (which is decidedly not nice).
“Lee creates an atmosphere of unease and foreboding that culminates in explosive violence and terror. Rife with frightening imagery, ghosts, and visceral horror, this tale will please the most ardent of horror fans.” – Booklist
“HEARTHSTONE COTTAGE is a nonstop riveting read and the suspense never slackens. Prepare to lose sleep.” – The Haunted Reading Room
“A story which is worthy of being on the big screen! Full of tension, suspense & good old-fashioned heart-thumping scary bits” – Stardust Book Reviews
“This was a fantastic spooky read! The writer pulls you in and does not let you go until the very last page.” – Secret World of a Book
“Hearthstone Cottage is the first folk horror book I’ve read, and what a great introduction to the subgenre…Every chapter represented a new horror for the protagonist as he delved deeper and deeper into madness. Frazer Lee is fantastic.” – The Bookdad
“Gripping from beginning to end, Lee knows how to spin a horror story that makes your flesh crawl. Filled with suspense and tension you will struggle to look away.” – Bunny’s Pause
“Outstanding writing, intriguing layers, the tension and suspense was edge of your seat stuff, relatable characters that I could see myself getting along with and the twists and turns left me aching for more. The author certainly has gained a new fan. Thank you, Frazer Lee, for scaring the crap out of me!” – The Coycaterpillar Reads
“This book had me on my toes until I reached the very last line…I really, really, really enjoyed it.” – Nightfall Mysteries
“I was actually scared to go to sleep at one point…part of the book hit me so hard, I actually had to put it down and have a break…a great read if you enjoy being on the edge of your seat, it was very creepy and suspenseful” – Ally’s Book Corner
“A trippy tale of isolation set in the Scottish countryside that really takes the reader off guard.” – Hedwig’s Books
“A fun, creepy read” – Book Reviews by Shalini
“This is a fantastically creepy tale, with a sense of gradually building menace. Gripping, spooky and thoroughly entertaining.” – Lesley Budge, Orlando Books Blog
I did mention it’s only $0.99 until January 24, right?
2020. A year during which any horror writer would be hard pressed to outdo real-life events with any of their fictional terrors.
Glancing back, here’s my horror writing year in review.
Greyfriars Reformatory my sixth novel, which was published by the fine folks at Flame Tree Press, got some of the most positive reviews i’ve ever had (from Chicago Review of Books, and others). My thanks to all the readers, raters & reviewers!
The inaugural UK edition of Stokercon was postponed, and then became Chillercon, with the Bram Stoker Awards & Final Frame Film Contest (for which i was a Juror) moving online. Congratulations to the winners & nominees!
I was looking forward to screening The Stay and doing a Q&A about my film work at Contemporary Folk Horror in Film & Media conference, Leeds, until the pandemic delivered its own persistent brand of viral horror. Hopefully it will happen in 2021.
Looking forward? I’m hoping to get all kinds of things done in 2021. Making horror stories sometimes helps me to face the real-life ones. And i hope reading/watching them helps you sometimes, too.
If you’re still reading this, I’d just like to wish you & yours the very best of health. And i’ll close on a plea, if i may:
Don’t you dare be one of those characters in horror stories — you know the one who goes down to the basement with a faulty flashlight? Or the one who says, “We’ll cover more ground if we split up.” Just don’t. I’ve written and consumed enough horror stories to know those aproaches rarely pan out so well — for anyone.
Wear a mask. Wash your hands.
Stay safe out there, and keep others safe.
And if you need to borrow a flashlight, just scream!
In the first of an occasional series, I’m marking the anniversary of The Cure concerts i’ve attended over the years, because they are my favourite band and I love them, and because 2020 has made such things into impossible dreams.
The first post has to be my first gig!
On 6th December, way back in 1987, I boarded a coach from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, to go see my first ever Cureshow at Birmingham NEC Arena.
I had seen a few gigs already. Clannad, Big Audio Dynamite, Spear of Destiny, INXS, The Cult, and Fields of the Nephilim (to name a few i can actually remember) but this was the big one.
This was The Cure.
Earlier that year I had seen The Cure in Orange concert film at my local cinema, in Hanley, Staffordshire, with my school friend Susan Greaves. I played ‘The Blood’ to her on my cassette Walkman because she’d never heard it before. We got up & danced at the back while the movie played. It was magic, but (to coin a phrase) I wished it was all real, I wished it couldn’t be a story.
This time, in Birmingham in Winter, it was brilliantly real.
The seats were the cheapo ones, very near to… the back of the arena. But I didn’t care so much about the seats, I had no intention of staying seated in mine anyhow. The arena lights dimmed and… There was no support band, just ‘Eyemou’ — an experimental film of close-ups on Robert Smith’s mouth and eyes, projected into a screen that covered the stage. The casuals were getting a bit restless during the film, but sixteen year old me was absolutely bloody loving it. The film was the magical bridge between the In Orange movie, and the actual, physical Cure i had yearned to experience live for so long.
I can still feel the goosebumps i felt then, when the opening bars of ‘The Kiss’ kicked in, and the screen dropped to reveal the band I would see again & again & again & again after that fateful first time. Robert’s voice opened like a flower and the crowd went bonkers. And it got better and better.
The next couple of hours were my induction into by now familiar Cure traits:
⁃ The mixed crowd of casuals (one guy was very disappointed they didn’t play The Lovecats and couldn’t believe it when i told him the band couldn’t play it live — true at that time) and die-hards.
⁃ the random b-side/obsCure-ity thrown in to the set to rapturous applause from those in-the-know (that night it was ‘A Japanese Dream’ that surprised the most, i’d been playing my copy to death in the run up to the show).
⁃ and Robert’s charming inability to do onstage banter (’ello! is sometimes the only decipherable phrase to be uttered by our hero).
The coach journey home was a blur as i replayed every note in my backcombed head. I was bewitched, besotted, bewildered — and utterly hooked.
But i’d have to wait until 1989, and The Prayer Tour, to see them again.
And that is another story.
See what The Cure played on 6th December 1987 here.