Interview with Richard L Markworth
Author of Igor and the Twisted Tales of Castlemaine
I am an author and independent filmmaker. I have a diverse range of influences, including Harry Harrison, Douglas Adams, Stephen King, Christopher Fowler, The League of Gentlemen TV series and classic horror films from the studios of Hammer, Amicus and Universal. My chosen writing genres are primarily horror, sci-fi and comedy. Sometimes a mix of all three.
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Quick description of the book for a new reader - what should they expect?
- Igor and the Twisted Tales of Castlemaine is a comedy horror (or, to put it another way, a horror comedy) novel which serves as a love letter to the classic horror films and television sitcoms my co-author, Ian J Walls, and I grew up with ("grew up" being a subjective term).
The book relays the story of Igor, Victor Frankenstein's downtrodden, browbeaten, and generally put-upon lab assistant. We learn how Igor acquired his dubious position as lickspittle to one of horror's premier mad scientists and witness his adventures as he finally breaks free from his ungrateful employer and sets out to make a life of his own. How long that life will be however, is open to debate as Igor finds himself in the cursed village of Castlemaine, a place of monsters, murderers and maniacs. The food is terrible too.
We have included a mix of both famous and brand new monsters for Igor and his friends to contend with and there are plenty of nods, winks and other facial tics towards the classic horror films and literature we both adore. However, you do not need to be a horror anorak to enjoy the book and we hope to appeal to readers unfamiliar with the genre as well as those who fondly recall huddling in front of the telly box for BBC2's Saturday night horror double bills of the 1970s and 80s.
What was your inspiration for this book?
- Ian and I were acting in a music video (no, really) and, between takes, we discussed our individual writing paths. We have known each other since our early schooldays so have a shared cultural background and sense of humour. As the conversation progressed, it seemed a natural idea to combine forces and work on a project together.
The character of Igor, whilst ubiquitous in pop culture, never actually existed in the original novel, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and in fact, barely exists anywhere as a fully formed entity. He is a stock character rather than an existing property. He therefore presented a unique opportunity for us to have a character with a recognisable name but still presenting as something of a blank canvass for our imaginations. Of course, Igor's B-movie associations made the character a marvellous framework on which to hang a tale inspired by the classic horrors. Once filming on the music video had wrapped we began to formulate ideas for our embryonic project.
Our original plan was to create a sitcom but, based on the small matter of our lack of scriptwriting experience, we felt more comfortable translating our episode notes and plots into an all encompassing literary work and so, like Frankenstein in his laboratory, we set to work.
Which authors do you admire? How have they influenced your writing style?
- Unsurprisingly, I've always loved horror icons such as Stephen King and James Herbert. I particularly admire King's ability to transplant the horrific into the everyday world. His descriptions of small town America are incredibly immersive which makes the addition of the fantastic all the more credible. Whilst Castlemaine, the setting for IATTTOC, is far from an ordinary village, King's world building has inspired me to add as much texture to this fictional location as possible.
I also enjoy classic chillers, with Bram Stoker's "Dracula" having had a huge effect on me when I first read it at the age of 9. We simply had to have Igor in the Carpathians after Jonathan Harker had visited there!
I've always enjoyed stories with a healthy dose of humour and Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series was a favourite growing up. The way Harrison combined exciting story-telling with witty satire and rich characterisation is masterful and Slippery Jim diGriz is a fantastic antihero. There is certainly a dash of Jim and his deadly wife Angelina in our Igor and Esmerelda.
Douglas Adams is a giant in sci-fi and comedy and I genuinely believe The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy will live on as a classic for all eternity. His amalgamation of the two genres proved a huge inspiration.
I also have great respect for the classic sitcom writing partnerships of Jimmy Perry & David Croft and Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais. Their prolific work has become part of the fabric of British consciousness and a bedrock of television comedy. The way both partnerships have created such memorable characters was very much something to aspire to in writing the book.
I also have a love for the more dark and twisted end of the sitcom spectrum and hugely admire the members of the League of Gentlemen. The array of grotesques that populate Royston Vasey are brilliantly realised and the cunning mix of humour and revulsion in the scripts of Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson set a high bar for comedy writing with a horrific slant. Shearsmith and Pemberton's Inside No. 9 has pushed the bar even further!
Can you tell us a little about the locations in your book?
- The story is set in the mythical Transylvanian village of Castlemaine. We have based it very much on the generic European village settings in the Universal and Hammer films as opposed to providing an accurate representation of any genuine Romanian locations. It is a dark place containing a variety of monstrous inhabitants and set to become more of a character in it's own right as the series progresses.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Write every day. It doesn't matter how much, just get something down to build the habit of writing. I know it's not always easy, I have a black belt in procrastination myself, but it really is the only way.
Also, record any ideas you may have. They may not be fully formed but these mental seeds can often flower into storylines, characters etc. that will come in useful further down the line.
Finally, once you have an idea, don't be afraid to get started. Every piece of art had to begin somewhere. You can iron out details and revisions in the re-writing process (and you will find there will be a lot of that) but get the thing off the ground in the first place otherwise all the daydreaming and all the chat you may have indulged in about how one day you are going to write a book, will be wasted.
Could you talk a little about your writing process?
- Generally, once I have an idea for a story, chapter etc. that excites me I get down as many notes, inspired by the idea, as I can.
I find it helps to pen an outline to the section I'm writing so I have a good idea of what happens in the piece and how it will end. This outline is usually a very rough guideline but it often inspires different creative paths which I can follow once I actually come to write the piece in full.
Once I have the outline, I simply sit down and commit as much of the story as I can to paper (or rather Word document). Sometimes, this only results in a short burst of work before inspiration suddenly becomes frustratingly elusive and I'm left staring despairingly at a blank computer screen wondering if I will ever be able to write anything again. At other times, I feel as if I'm almost possessed, the words run freely and I can lose myself for hours. The key is to just try and keep going even when the ideas are not flowing as they might.
Occasionally, when I feel I simply don't have sufficient ideas to satisfactorily continue a particular passage, I will jump forward and write a further section, perhaps a different scene entirely, that will occur later in the chapter. This usually has the effect of inspiring me to create a link-up piece between the section I've just written and the part I had previously stumbled over thereby resolving the initial problem. The act of writing the additional piece helps free the creative logjam in my mind.
Once I have a completed first draft I will leave it for a while then re-read and re-write until I'm satisfied with it.
Which character has had the greatest impact on readers?
- The book has a large cast and different readers appear to have warmed to different characters.
We have tried to add sufficient depth to each character to ensure they are all memorable to the reader, whether or not they are their particular favourite.
Did Han shoot first?
- Ask George Lucas
Was letting you edit the questions a bad idea?
Where next? What are you working on now?
- We are currently toiling away on Igor Book 2 (it will have a better name than that!) and planning of the third book in the trilogy is well underway. Once complete, we have a further series planned. This will be different to IATTTOC but will share some of the same DNA
Ian and I also have our own solo projects to work on so we won't be putting our feet up anytime soon.
We all know Igor. You know, Victor Frankenstein’s lickspittle assistant from the ye olde horror B-movies of yore.
One of popular culture’s most forgotten, and yet oddly loveable horror characters, finally Igor arrives with his own
hilarious backstory in Igor & The Twisted Tales of Castlemaine, an episodic comedy-horror tale that sees Igor
pluck up the courage to leave Frankenstein’s castle and set up on his own in the village of Castlemaine – a place
even stranger than fiction. In this fully realised universe, and with an ensemble of many deliciously despicable
characters all desperate to steal the storytelling glory, Igor’s fresh take on an old legend is a witty, silly and loving
modern homage to the classic horror genre.
Following decades of torture at the hands of his cruel master Victor Frankenstein, the once-downtrodden and
pathetic Igor finally rises up and walks out on Victor, in the hope of finding a fulfilling life-less-ordinary elsewhere.
Instead, something wicked his way comes, and Igor finds his way to Castlemaine, an accursed village nestled
deep in the Carpathian Mountains, where terrors stalk the waking world and ale is more expensive than in
London. Among the perverted inhabitants and spooky-goings-on, Igor meets Esmerelda, the beautiful but
occasionally violent daughter of Castlemaine’s homicidal innkeeper. Together, they find themselves in a whole
heap of eerie trouble, fighting dark forces and demons, murderers, mediums and monsters, spirits and zombies,
and, naturally, a very disturbing nun, all in the form of five neatly packaged adventures.