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Writer vs. Writer: Bam Barrow | Author Interview

Exciting News! Today's author interview is with Bam Barrow. Bam is an East Anglian writer renowned for his work in occult fiction and folk horror, has gained recognition through publications in Grinning Skull Press and Punk Noir Magazine, and as a co-editor for Urban Pigs Press. His debut collection, 'Arcanum Fabulas,' explores various genres, reflecting his unique style and profound interest in the dark and mysterious facets of human behavior.

Bam's creative process involves instrumental music, leading to a daydream-like state where his ideas take shape. I'm eagerly anticipates the release of his upcoming collection, 'CVLT of CTHXS,' with Translucent Eyes Press, promising to further establish his distinctive voice in the literary world of occult and horror fiction.

Bam Barrow author photo

Hey Bam. I'm so happy to have you here. I'm excited to know about your journey as a writer and what drew you to the world of occult fiction and folk horror? And can you tell us what is occult fiction?

It sprouted out of filmmaking I think. Film has been a pronounced passion in my life for as long as I can remember, but as our ideas began to outgrow our budgets, which were basically zero anyway, the passion for it died and it wasn't until local author James Jenkins gave me some precious motivation that I started writing things down, trying to translate those visual ideas into written ones.

Occult fiction is typically a genre which explores the supernatural and paranormal through esotericism and the occult; witches, rituals, magic, paganism, satanism etc. The word occult literally means ‘hidden from view’, the idea being that a person looking in from the outside wouldn't be able to understand what is going on. Things are hidden under languages, codes and secrets only known to the initiated. Secret societies, businesses and religions all use this practice. It is a tool I often use in writing to leave ideas or clues hidden between the lines so to speak, which allows the reader to take things in on a surface level or delve a little deeper, it has to work either way.

Talking about films, imagine your book, "Arcanum Fabulas," were to be adapted into a movie. Who would be your dream director and cast for the film?

That's a fantastic question! It would have to be either Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse, Northman) or Panos Cosmatos (Beyond The Black Rainbow, Mandy) directing and cast wise I would love to see Patricia Quinn, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Meg Foster, Bill Moseley, Reece Shearsmith… if we're going full fantasy casting I'd have Vincent Price and Christopher Lee in there.

Arcanum Fabulas book cover

Fantastic choices. Specially Vincent Price. I would cast him too. In this book, you featured a mix of genres from crime to horror to gritty realism in this book. How do you navigate the different genres while maintaining a cohesive theme or atmosphere? What inspired the title "Arcanum Fabulas," and can you tell us the significance behind it in the context of your book?

That's a tough one. The same seed was used to grow the tree so while there are many different branches, they all come from the same original idea, so I think while the subjects and genres can change freely, there is always that same core foundation there, guiding how the work comes out. Arcanum Fabulas means mysterious stories in Latin. I wanted to go with something along the lines of weird tales or strange stories, and as Latin is commonly used in occult practices as a way of keeping things secret, it felt right.

Do you have any personal experiences or encounters with the supernatural or the unexplained that have influenced your storytelling?

I wouldn't say so, no. Not from lack of trying! As teens we'd walk around the countryside at night. I've done ouija boards and read grimoires but nothing has ever come from it. Saying that though, in Arcanum Fabulas there is a story called ‘The Eucharist of Mara’ which is a compilation of strange things that happened to us as kids; being chased by robed, torch wielding folks, finding a pit of dead pigs which mysteriously disappeared, seeing strange lights in the sky etc. I grew up by RAF Woodbridge which is where the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident happened in the eighties, so take from that what you will… There are lots of stories and urban legends in the area but I've never seen anything I could put down as paranormal unfortunately.

It makes me wonder, what's the strangest or most unexpected source of inspiration you've encountered while working on a story? Did it come from such incidents? How did it influence your writing?

Probably from reading the story of Oedipus. It sparked some questions that added a whole new dimension to what I was working on at the time. Assuming that the story is real, how logistically would the Greek gods ensure that poor Oedipus would end up killing his father and sleeping with his mother, no matter what he did to try and avoid that happening.

That's what I thought when I read that story as well. May I know if daydreaming play a crucial role in this creative process? Could you describe a particularly vivid daydream that led to the birth of one of your stories?

There is a feeling you get when you hit a certain point in daydreaming, where the words come out without prompting. I try to only write when I'm in that very special place, so pretty much all of the stories end up feeling just as vivid as each other. If I just sit at a desk and force myself to write it always ends up terrible! I guess it is a similar thing to something like meditation, I can't say for sure, but it's a very strange and fleeting thing to chase. I can say though, there is a story I wrote for my upcoming book called ‘Dropsey Rabbit & The Glomechild’ which was an actual dream I had.

There is a feeling you get when you hit a certain point in daydreaming, where the words come out without prompting.

That's an interesting analogy. Just like me and many other transgressive writers, you have an interest in exploring the dark, mysterious, and extreme aspects of human behavior. How do these themes manifest in your writing, and what do you hope readers take away from your exploration of these topics?

I've always been fascinated with the darkness humans hold in their hearts, whether it be the mind of a serial killer or a cult leader, a story out of history or something random that comes out of the news. They say the truth is stranger than fiction and I tend to believe in that. Behind every mystical veil seems to lay a terrible secret. Mother Teresa was a vain sadist who loved the suffering of the poor and Ghandi was a racist, misogynistic paedophile. I say no more! As far as how these topics affect my work, it's just something that naturally happens. There are stories in Arcanum Fabulas which are comedic and absurd and still, these elements of nastiness manifest themselves; for example, the story ‘Synesthetic Therapy’ pokes fun at hypnotherapy and while it is comedy really, there is still an unnerving undertone, there are desperate people who fall for this type of thing and put their faith and money into the hands of people who prey on them for a living.

As a co-editor for Urban Pigs Press would you share how has your experience as an editor impacted your own writing, and vice versa?

I'm not sure if it has impacted my work directly, I've always tried to do my own thing creatively really, keeping the two things separate is important; the last thing you want to do is let someone else's work bleed onto yours or you theirs, not to say that other people's work isn't fantastic or inspirational, it's just important to let works be what they are, and say what they want to say in their own ways unique to their writers. It has definitely been an honour to work with so many talented people across the globe who trust us with their work, we're all a supportive family but it's also important we keep our own identities if that makes sense, different flavours are so important.

The last thing you want to do is let someone else's work bleed onto yours or you theirs.

I agree. It should be difficult to separate editing someone else' work and avoid it to impact your own writing. Now, let us discuss your upcoming collection, "CVLT of CTHXS"? What can readers expect from this release?

CVLT of CTHXS has been something I've been working on since just before covid started. It is a selection of short horror stories set in East Anglia but these ones all run on the same timeline with each other, although the timeline and connections between them have been fractured. Everything I know about how occult practices work functionally has gone into it. Imagine if David Lynch and HP Lovecraft had a baby, and that's pretty close I think.

That sounds wonderful. Finally, aside from your own work, do you have any favorite authors or books in the occult fiction or folk horror genre that you would recommend to readers who are interested in exploring this genre further?

Oddly enough, my main inspirations where authors are concerned are J R R Tolkien, Frank Herbert and Hunter S. Thompson which are about as far from folk horror or the occult as you can get!

As far as exploring the genre though, definitely check out ‘The King in Yellow’ by Robert W. Chambers. There really isn't anything like it. It was a huge inspiration for HP Lovecraft's work. And it is one of those books that will stay with you. ‘I have no mouth, and I must scream’, by Harlan Ellison is a very disturbing read. Check out the Horrorbabble YouTube channel, they have loads of audio books on cosmic horror, folk horror, the occult etc. and Watch ‘The Witch’ or ‘The Lighthouse’ by Robert Eggers and The ‘Lords of Salem’ by Rob Zombie also.

Thanks for the recommendation and joining us for this interview.

If you're interested to ask a question from Bam please comment on this post or you can contact him via following links:

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