The most excellent aspect of Horror is how it holds appeal and can be adapted across all different mediums. In this interview I speak to the very versatile writer Dan Weatherer, who has written for the page, stage and screen, spilling the scares from novels to short films. He announced this week that he is working on a true crime piece, exploring the case of the notorious Dr. Crippen for a brand new novel. Not only that, his impressively darkly comedic short film Beige will screen at this year’s Stoke Your Fires Film Festival. He has also been shortlisted for an award for his collection Neverlight for the Arnold Bennett Literary Prize.
Before we get into the interview where Dan discusses his writing roots and upcoming projects, here is a little bit more info about the man behind then pen:
Award-winning author Dan Weatherer, was first published by Haunted Magazine in Spring, 2013. The Legend of the Chained Oak was an immediate success and was made into a short film which won the award for ‘Best Horror’ at the Portobello Independent Film Festival (2014), ‘Best Short’ at The Bram Stoker International Film Festival (2014) and also the ‘Best UK Short Film’ award at the Stoke Your Fires Film Festival 2014. The film featured at numerous film festivals around the world during 2014. The premiere screening took place in his hometown of Cheadle.
In 2015 Dan was shortlisted for the prestigious position of Staffordshire Poet Laureate 2016-2018.
Aside from the publication of numerous short stories with a multitude of presses, his next major project was a solo collection of short stories titled The Soul That Screamed (Winner of the Preditors & Editors™ Readers’ Poll ‘Best Anthology 2013’.)
A further two collections Only the Good Burn Bright (Spring 2015, James Ward Kirk Fiction) and Neverlight (Spring 2016, Spectral Press) quickly followed. In 2017, Neverlight was shortlisted for the first annual Arnold Bennett Literary Prize.
His first non-fiction book titled ‘What Dwells Within’ was released in the Autumn of 2015 and details the life’s work of paranormal investigator Jayne Harris.
An accomplished playwright, Dan was a finalist in the Blackshaw Showcase Award 2016 and a two-time finalist of the Congleton Players One Act Festival, 2016. Dan has had several of his plays appear at festivals and fringe events.
Completed novels The Underclass and The Tainted Isle are currently with his agent. Expect to see The Dead Stage, a book detailing Dan’s experiences as a novice playwright appear via Crystal Lake Publishing in 2018.
Continuing on from the success of Legend of the Chained Oak, 2017 has seen Dan’s short film Beige added to The British Comedy Guide, and it continues to appear at film festivals nationwide.
Dan lives in Staffordshire, where is married to his wife Jenni and is a (proud) full-time dad to his daughter Bethany, and his son Nathan.
- What inspired you to become a writer?
As a child I always enjoyed creative writing, though never gave serious thought to a career as an author.
I was made redundant in 2013, and decided that I would try my hand at writing, now having time to dedicate to the craft. At the time, my daughter was two years old, and I fit my writing around her needs. My son is now aged two, and I still continue to work the same way. Being a full-time parent and writer seems to work for me, though the two aren’t without their challenges!
- You’ve written literature and written for the screen and stage, do you have a favourite medium or do you enjoy them all in equal measures?
I enjoy them all equally. Each medium presents its own challenges and rewards.
Writing for the screen is probably the most instantly gratifying, in that you write the action exactly as you intend the audience to see it on screen. Strong dialogue is a key factor in a good screenplay, but much of the writing centres on what the audience “sees” on screen.
Books enable you to delve deeper into a character’s mind-set, and literally construct the world around them. Every part of a characters psychological make-up is explored, resulting in a much richer final product.
Writing for the stage falls some way between writing for films/books. Again, very little direction is supplied by the author (leaving room for the actor/director to craft the piece as they interpret it), but the dialogue tends to drive the story here, as opposed to the visual element of film.
I find that stage plays are ideally suited to telling stories involving fewer characters/locations, where the level of intimacy afforded by a live performance heightens the impact of the piece.
- Your first publication The Legend of the Chained Oak was adapted into a short film as was your stage play Beige. What was it like transitioning those works to film?
The Legend of the Chained Oak was my first introduction to film, and I learned a lot working on the project.
The film is actually a spin-off from my original story, and was entirely written to suit our non-existent budget, and limited shoot time.
Very little was scripted. The actors were given the outcome of the scene, and much of their dialogue was improvised. I would argue that this lends a natural feel to the film, though must add that this is due to the strength of the actors involved.
However, all of my screenplays/stage plays since have been tightly scripted. While I do agree that the method above can achieve results, most projects require a solid foundation of dialogue; Beige being a perfect example of this.
- What appeals to you about the horror genre?
There are so many angles with which the genre can be approached. I’d say much of my work could be classed as dark-fiction, as opposed to horror.
It is rare that I write anything that could be classed as outright horror, choosing instead to deliver more subtle, but equally unnerving pieces.
However, my recent short story/screenplay ‘The Home’, is possibly the most horror orientated piece I have written to date!
- You’re working on an upcoming project that centres on the infamous murderer, Dr Hawley Crippen. What interests you about true crime and what is your overall goal with the piece?
I remember visiting The Chamber of Horrors, in Blackpool, as a child. One of the exhibitions featured Dr Crippen and his dismembered wife, Cora; it was an image that remained with me for many years.
I’d often recall the blank expression on the Doctor’s face, and I’d wonder what possessed him to commit the atrocity that he was executed for.
Many years later, I discovered that there was new evidence with regards to the case, and having read the report, decided to retell the story of Dr Crippen as a stage play.
The idea to further develop the story into a novel was one I have been toying with for some time. Now, having started work, I can attest that I will be supplying a much richer story than my stage play first hinted, and I am having fun exploring the minds of the characters.
Of course, this is to be a work of fiction – where I present a possible alternative theory as to what happened to Cora Crippen. However, it is based on a true story. I aim to present Dr Crippen, not as a monster, but as a person, flawed though he may be, and attempt to explain his actions.
Time will tell if I am able to achieve this.
I will say that I do believe he is guilty of murder…
- What do you think makes a genuinely scary story?
The reader has to feel for the characters. If bad things happen to them (and they inevitably do), the reader will feel. Whether you choose to scare the reader, or instil a sense of warmth, neither is achievable if your characters are throwaway.
- What has been your favourite project to work on?
Tough question. Each has its merits. However, I had great fun working on a script for a well know Hollywood horror franchise…
That script is now in the hands of my agent.
- You will be showcasing your work at Birmingham Horror Con this Halloween, what are you most looking forward to about the event?
It probably sounds extremely unprofessional, but I’m looking forward to exploring the convention, and enjoying it as an attendee, rather than a stall holder.
I will be showcasing my short films, and hosting a Q & A panel afterwards, but most of my time will be spent meeting other authors/film makers working in the genre. These are people I respect, yet have only ever spoken to online. It will be great to say hello in person!
- Who are your literary influences?
Clive Barker, Stephen King, James Herbert, and Arnold Bennett. (Arnold did not write dark-fiction. He is the most successful author to come from my home city, and I am an admirer of both his work and his legacy.)
- What advice do you have for new and aspiring writers?
Rejection is never a “no.” It’s a “not for me.” Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t – you just need to find that one person who believes in your work as much as you do.
I would like to thank Dan for taking his time to do this interview with me. Be sure to check out all of his awesome works.
For more information about Dan and his work, visit www.danweatherer.com
Hayley Alice Roberts