Dead Head Reviews (DHR): You tend to have a unique cosmic or unexplainable element in your stories. Have you always been drawn to cosmic horror?
Rich Hawkins (RH): Yes, most definitely, and more so as I’ve gotten older. I’ve been drawn to it even before I knew what it was called.
DHR: Fair to say, that passion shows. A few years ago you released The Last Soldier, to complete your epic plague trilogy. It’s easily in my top five for favorite trilogies of all-time. I’d like to talk about those books for a bit. Did you outline the first book or all three before you wrote them?
RH: Thanks for the kind words, man. There was only a vague outline for the first book – it was never intended to be a trilogy at all. But once I thought more about the fictional world of the Plague, I saw the potential for more stories. Plus monsters and horribly mutated people are fun to write about…
DHR: There also really fun to read! What was it like to have your debut novel nominated for the British Fantasy Award for Best Horror Novel of 2015?
RH: It was a massive shock, and pretty surreal. I remember checking who had been nominated alongside me and thinking ‘Those people are proper writers. What the fuck am I doing there, I’m a country bumpkin from Somerset?’
DHR: Ha, yes, the old imposter syndrome. Of the three books, do you have a favorite?
RH: It would have to be The Last Plague purely because it was my debut book. It’s my favourite baby. A tentacled, bloodthirsty baby.
DHR: One of the creatures you created—in book two, I believe—is an amorphous cluster of crying babies. That image sticks in my mind years after first reading it. That’s my favorite of your gruesome creations. Do you have a favorite creature from that series?
RH: My favourite creature would have to be the Plague God featured in book three, just because it’s my own version of a Lovecraftian alien god, and the only other times they are seen in the books is in vague glimpses and the occasional giant tentacle dropping from the sky.
DHR: The neat thing about showing us the Plague God, was you showed just enough to scare us, but left enough out for future expansion. Some of your books end with a stark hopelessness. Do you prefer dreary endings to happy ones?
RH: I prefer to write bleak endings, but it’s the opposite when I’m reading a story. As a reader, I’m a big softie. I cried my eyes out reading Marley and Me.
DHR: I never read the book, however, I did see the film adaptation and my best friend and I teared up watching that. Do you have a favorite zombie movie or book?
RH: I have far too many favourite zombie novels to pick a favourite, but if I had to mention two it’d be Autumn by David Moody and Outpost by Adam Baker. Both are stone cold zombie apocalypse classics. My favourite zombie movie would have to be Dawn of the Dead 2004, closely followed by Romero’s Day of the Dead. I also have to mention 28 Days/Weeks Later despite not being zombie movies in the purest sense.
DHR: Those are some damn good choices. Did you research any real plagues for influence?
RH: A little, but I’m too much of a germaphobe to go too deeply into that kind of research.
DHR: Understood. Are there plans for any future books within the Plague trilogy universe?
RH: Well, Plague Monsters has been in ‘development hell’ for a couple of years, now. I’m determined to finally write the damned thing.
DHR: Do it, man! We need it! I need it! If you were a character in that trilogy, what are your chances of survival?
RH: Very low. I’m far too clumsy to survive for long in that scenario.
DHR: Let’s talk about some of your other books. Do you have a favorite unpublished story?
RH: My first attempt at writing a novel was back in 2006. It was titled Ghost of You, a supernatural thriller about creatures that force people to commit suicide so they can take their souls. It’s never gotten anywhere near being published and should probably stay that way!
DHR: Every writer certainly has their share of trunk stories. Your latest release that came out in July of this year, The Cold, what can you tell us about that story?
RH: It is, like much of my work, a bleak apocalyptic tale about ordinary, everyday people fighting for survival against bloodthirsty monsters. Plus the entire world has been covered in snow. It’s like The Mist mixed with a sprinkling of The Thing and a dollop of The Day After Tomorrow.
DHR: Now that some time has passed since The Cold’s release, how has the overall response been?
RH: It’s been very good. Some of the reviews have been a bit hit and miss, but it’s probably been the best-selling book of mine since The Last Plague back in 2014. It’s nice to see the hard work pay off. Much of the credit should go to Graeme Reynolds at Horrific Tales Publishing for doing such a great job with it.
DHR: The cover for The Cold is absolutely mesmerizing. Who is the illustrator? Have you used their work before?
RH: Ben Baldwin created the cover. It’s fantastic, isn’t it? He’s a superb artist.
DHR: It really is. Are your books connected? If so, which ones?
RH: There is a loose connection between The Plague series, Black Star Black Sun and Maniac Gods – it’s the closest I’ve gotten to creating some kind of ‘mythos’…
DHR: I know you appear at many conventions in the UK, but do you have any plans to travel overseas to do a con in the states?
RH: I wish I could afford it, man! But I’d love to visit one day.
DHR: I’d certainly love to meet you at one. What authors inspire you?
RH: David Moody, Adam Nevill, Gary McMahon, Cormac McCarthy. Also, I’d have to say Matt Shaw, too, because he’s a one-man-wave of horror, whether it’s writing books or making films. He makes me wish I wasn’t such a lazy bastard.
DHR: I don’t think that guy sleeps. He’s a mad man. Do you listen to music when you write or read?
RH: I like to read in silence. I’ll usually listen to either ambient, orchestral or film/game soundtracks when I write.
DHR: Outside of horror, do you gravitate towards any other genres?
RH: I like science fiction and crime, although I don’t get to read much in those genres. Trying to fit in the time to read horror books is hard enough!
DHR: Does your wife beta read for you?
RH: My wife doesn’t read my work until it’s published. Anyway, she doesn’t have enough spare time to beta read for me!
DHR: You’ve tackled the apocalyptic theme so often, yet every time you do, it’s different from its predecessors. Do you have a grand apocalypse (one that dwarfs all others in both scale and volumes within that series)?
RH: Not yet, but I’m sure I’ll think of one!
DHR: Besides writing incredible tales, you’re a Master Meme Promoter. I hope I’m the first to deem you with that title. You’re also a family man. How do you make the time for all of those things?
RH: That’s a great title, thanks! I do love the memes, but I’m trying to stay away from social media as it sometimes becomes draining and tedious, and it’s not good for mental health especially in today’s somewhat ‘toxic’ atmosphere. Time is better spent with family or doing some writing.
DHR: I couldn’t agree with you more on that one. Are there any upcoming books for the end of this year or next year that we can know about?
RH: I’ll be re-releasing The Last Outpost and The Last Soldier in 2020, and hoping to get some new works out there, too.
DHR: Very exciting stuff! Is there anyone you would like to make a shout out to?
RH: My family. They keep me sane.
DHR: Rich, always a pleasure, man. Thanks for taking my questions.
RH: Thanks for having me over, mate!
You can follow Rich on:
Amazon: UK Amazon Author Profile
Interview conducted by Patrick R. McDonough