Ash Hartwell was born in Maine, USA, but raised in England and now lives in the Northamptonshire countryside with his wife and four, almost grown up, kids. He began writing about five years ago and has had stories published by Horrified Press, Static Movement, Stitched Smile, Wetworks (JEA) and Old Style Press among others. His own collection of ten diverse horror stories Zombies, Vamps and Fiends was published by JEA in 2015 and he is currently working on his first novel and several short stories.
Terror Realm (TR): What is your first memory of horror?
Ash Hartwell (AH) : The old Hammer House of Horror films, I used to watch them when I could get away with it and the old Dr Who (Tom Baker) from behind the sofa! I think I was hooked on the genre when I read James Herbert’s The Rats, after that I couldn’t get enough. The Rats got me reading horror, I was about 10. I think it created a whole new direction for the genre and blazed a trail for what was to come. It had short, sharp punchy chapters that left you breathless and demanding more. I think there are many horror fans of a certain generation that attribute their love of the genre, at least in part, to this book.
TR: What is your favourite horror movie of all time?
AH: That’s a hard question. I’ve got a few but for different reasons. Nightmare on Elm Street because it just was terrifying and I was about 16 so it was the film to see. Psycho because it was so well made and acted and it set the benchmark for the genre for so long. Anthony Perkins’ expression in the final scene is so unnerving it never seems to leave you. Honourable mentions to 30 Days of Nights, Let Me In, The Ring, The Evil Dead, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Gary Oldman) Night of the Living dead, The Omen and so many more that have entertained me for a few hours but never really left me!
TR: How long have you been working in the horror industry?
AH: I’ve been writing about five years but I wouldn’t say I’ve been working in the horror industry. I don’t put on a hockey mask and head off to the local factory I just write because I enjoy it if other people enjoy it, then great (if they don’t then maybe I’ll put on a hockey mask and pay them a visit)
TR: What advice do you have for anyone starting out in horror?
AH: Speaking from a writing perspective, I’d say read, read and then read. Read horror, read outside the genre, read the classics of the genre. Write every day. Write your own style. Stephen King writes like Stephen King, you don’t. Don’t be afraid to try something new – if you write about zombies, try writing about ghosts. You can only learn from the experience. And most importantly, take rejection on the chin and keep going!
TR: What has been your greatest success so far?
AH: There’s an anthology in the early stages of completion about Werewolves and it features some really good, established and up-and-coming writers and I’m included in it. Also Stitched Smile accepted a submission on a blind read (no author names included) and I beat some big names to the punch on that one too. I got the news about both acceptances in the same week and haven’t stopped smiling since.
TR: Tell us about your most recent horror project.
AH: I’m writing a story now for Rejected for Content 4. After my cannibal story made the grade for Rejected 3 (see Amazon page) I decided to write a tale about a priest who, under stress from the death of his sister, loses touch with reality. He gets possessed by the spirit of a torturer from the Spanish Inquisition and is urged to obtain a confession from a local prostitute. It is, as the anthology title suggests, an extreme horror tale and I won’t let on about the ending – because I haven’t written it yet!
TR: And finally – as we’re all fans of horror here: if you could be in any horror movie what would it be and why?
AH: Easy, Night of the Living Dead. Why? To work with George A Romero. Enough said.
An excerpt from Ash’s Rejected for Content 4 short story –
The work contained hand drawn illustrations of the techniques used by Rojas and featured naked men and women enduring to all manner of physical punishment. The text stated many of the victims died of their injuries regardless of whether they confessed to their crimes or not. A few of the pictures clearly depicted Rojas casting the broken bodies of the dead into the Fires of Hell. Others he left hanging from the walls of his chamber to serve as a warning to the heretics to confess their crimes and avoid a similar fate. It was Father Cornelius’ favourite work from the period written from first-hand experience it contained none of the stylised propaganda later pieces contained. He’d read it often, lingering over the illustrations depicting the most suffering and rereading parts of the text describing the physical tortures and victim’s screams of pain and pleas for mercy.
Once he’d finished reading he removed his shirt, laying it carefully over the back of his chair before taking a leather whip from the desk draw. The whip was two feet long, the business end fashioned into nine flayed straps each with sharp metal studs riveted into the leather. Standing slightly bent over the desk he flicked the whip over his shoulder, scoring deep red welts onto the already scarred skin of his back. The pointed studs left a series of stinging wounds with each of the twelve flagellations.
He knew his enjoyment of the work was wrong. He didn’t study it for academic enlightenment otherwise he wouldn’t become so aroused at descriptions of torture or the detailed illustrations of sexual deviance committed in the name of salvation. His thoughts were carnal in nature, pleasures of the flesh and depravity. In Rome, secluded away in the Vatican City, away from temptation and under the watchful eyes of the Cardinals, he’d supressed these urges, and his religious duties kept him busy. But here, in this small-town, and following the death of his sister, the beast had awakened. Temptation and solitude combined to feed it, giving it power and dominion over his soul, compelling him, forced by his servitude to the Almighty, to scourge the seeds of its fallacious yearnings from his body before they took root within his heart.