Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your horror novella! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Ashley Lister: First, thank you for giving me a series of questions that have really made me sit down and think.
The blurb for Fearless says: Innsmouth University is a place with a sinister past and a terrifying present. Two brilliant students, involved in illicit and unethical practices, believe they have found a cure for fear. The unwitting subjects of their experiments are subjected to a range of horrors as the students try to discover if it is possible for any individual to be truly fearless.
The decision to write this series (and publish them independently) came about because of the first pandemic lockdown in the UK. I’ve written for a range of publishing houses in the past, but I wanted to see if it was possible to independently produce, package and promote a series of original stories. Lockdown was a challenging time for a lot of people, and I figured it would help me to remain focused on a writing idea rather than worrying about circumstances beyond my control.
BD: The novel deftly combines horror with sci-fi elements. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
AL: The science-fiction aspect of this novel came whilst I was reading about the importance of the amygdala in relation to fear in the human psyche. There was a discussion in the book I was reading about the case study of a patient who’d lost her amygdala due to brain injury, and she no longer feared anything. She would happily handle dangerous snakes and spiders, sit in allegedly haunted houses, or camp out in graveyards, watching horror movies, and being unmoved by any of these disquieting stimuli. That case study made me wonder what would happen if someone had their fear surgically removed. I then started to wonder what sort of lunatic would be removing a person’s fear and the story began to fall into place.
BD: As this is part of a larger series, what can readers look forward to with future installments?
AL: The stories are written to be standalone narratives, but each one is contributing to a much bigger story. Fearless looks at mad scientists, in a similar fashion to Lovecraft’s Herbert West. The second title, Unearthed, deals with secret societies and the reanimated dead. The third title, Cursed, shows a group of urbex storytellers congregating in abandoned buildings, sharing stories of the uncanny. The intention is to reintroduce characters from earlier stories to deliver a larger world that’s made all the more unsettling because of its familiarity.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Fearless’ story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
AL: For me, the key factor in any story I read is that it must be entertaining: and that’s what I want to include in each of the stories I write. I found myself listening to a very dull audiobook over the weekend and, because it was a title that I’d heard friends recommend, I was determined to finish it. But those last few hours were an absolute chore. I want to produce stories where readers are anxious to know what happens to important characters. I want to produce stories where characters interact in ways that are shocking, hilarious, and addictive. I think entertainment through escapism is the most important thing we can take from stories and that’s what I hope to provide for readers.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
AL: I’m currently recording my own audiobooks. I’ve been lucky enough to perform poetry on stage, which lends itself to developing vocal techniques, and I happen to have access to recording equipment. When you add to the mix that I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, and try to keep a handful on my phone for whilst I’m at the gym, it makes sense that I would want to produce something for similar consumption. The one I’m most excited about is the recording of Raven and Skull, which was my first full-length horror novel.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Fearless: A Dark Tale from Innsmouth?
Dark Tales from Innsmouth
Ashley Lister - https://ashleylister.com/