The Infernal Clock was the brainchild of David Shakes, a long-time writer friend from my early flash fiction days, and previous editions bore both our names. This time, due to circumstances, David had to step back from this role but still provided us with a terrific story for the Seventh Circle, ‘Reunion’.
Infernal Clock: What was the inspiration behind your story?
I’ve always been fascinated by The Wood of Suicides, I used to stare at illustrations and artwork – William Blake’s in particular. I wanted the original story to be a bright seam running through the story but also wanted to treat the subject matter with respect, whilst maintaining the horror. I leave the reader to judge how successful I was. I’d done a lot of research for my CalenDark story ‘The First Visitor’ so I returned to WW2 for the setting, and that’s helped drive the detail of the story. I also have to thank Dr Lauren McIntyre (@noddinggoth) for her support in understanding the process of body decomposition under various conditions. Finally – the music I listen to always flows in and around my writing, that’s why Steph and I get along so well.
Infernal Clock: What is your idea of hell on earth?
Children’s Soft Play warehouses, anything that’s billed as team-building or requires role play, a world where one half wastes money on diet fads because there’s an obesity crisis whilst in the other half children die of starvation and malnutrition.
Infernal Clock: The Inferno was created on old ideas of sin. If you had to label the nine levels now, what would you call them? Would you keep it at 9? Increase or decrease?
I’d keep Limbo, entry-level hell is where I’d meet all my favourite people I’d imagine. Lust can go and we’ll combine Gluttony and Greed. Anger becomes conscious unkindness, with the next layer becoming deliberate cruelty. Heresy is gone, so all the religious types who backed the wrong side can breathe a little easier. The fifth and final layer would be for the completely inhumane. Think we’re covered at 5:
2 Gluttony and greed
3 Conscious unkindness
4 Deliberate cruelty
5 Complete inhumanity
Infernal Clock: They say the Devil has all the good tunes. What song would you recommend as an accompaniment to your story?
I should probably say something by The Screaming Trees, but I’ll go with I’ll Never Smile Again by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra which makes an appearance in the story. Alternatively, The Garden of Jane Delawney by Trees for on-point lyrics and a nice folk-horror tinge.
Infernal Clock: If you were able to visit the Inferno, what level would you want to go to and who would you want to see there?
I’d visit Limbo, make sure there were people I could get on with there and that they still had pubs. I’d hope to see a barman who wasn’t Lloyd from The Shining.
Infernal Clock: What is the hottest food you’ve ever eaten? Can you share a recipe?
I live in Birmingham. My brother came to visit and, as we both love hot food, I took him one of the original Kashmiri restaurants in the Balti Triangle. I’d warned him how authentic it was, but after embarrassing himself by trying to order lagers (it’s unlicensed as you can’t bring your own, plus we’d both had enough already) he made a great show of asking how hot they could make the Jalfrezi as he only liked hot stuff. One mouthful was the hottest thing I’d ever tasted. His hell on earth would be having to eat that forever! He tried to save face by asking for it to go, but the waiters knew, the chef knew, the owner knew – we all knew!
- 2 tsp Indian restaurant spice mix
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder or 1/4 tsp cayenne mixed with 3/4 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
- 1/2 tsp tandoori masala
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 Tbsp oil
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped green pepper
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
- 1 tbsp garlic/ginger paste
- 1 tbsp tomato paste with enough water to dilute to the consistency of passata
- 1 tbsp coriander stems – finely chopped
- 10-12 oz pre-cooked chicken or lamb
- 2 finger hot green chillies cut into half then split (or 20 for my brother’s version)
- 4 cherry tomatoes halved
- Mix the spices and dilute your tomato paste.
- In a separate pan fry off your meat or veggie supplement – but don’t cook thoroughly.
- Heat the oil and fry the onion and the green pepper skin side down (you want it to blister)
- Add the garlic and ginger paste plus the coriander stems, stirring vigorously.
- Turn down the heat and add the dry spice mix and the chillis.
- Then turn it up again, adding the diluted tomato paste. You’ll probably see the oil separate at this point – don’t worry.
- Add the meat to finish cooking in the liquid.
- Watch it thicken.
Infernal Clock: Who is your ‘favourite’ villain in history or fiction?
I really like Negan as portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan on The Walking Dead – he does a really good job of giving that character great depth. I’ve always liked anti-heroes, going back to an early affinity for Pinkie Brown in Brighton Rock. I’d steer clear of history – one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.
Infernal Clock: What is your long-term ambition for your writing?
To actually get it started properly and to stop postponing it. (Yes, he must – Steph.)
Infernal Clock: Top-tip for other writers
I threw out more than 50% of my Inferno story because small parts of it weren’t good enough. I probably lost at least one good idea and a number of great images. My advice is to keep all your notes, all your drafts – learn from what didn’t work as much as what did.