C.L. Raven are identical twins from Cardiff who love all things horror. They write novels, short stories, comics and film scripts, and their work has been published in magazines and anthologies worldwide. They spend their time looking after their animal army and drinking more Red Bull than the recommended government guidelines.
Their short story, “Penny Dreadful” was published in Beside the Seaside – Tales From the Daytripper by Things In The Well in 2019.
Tabatha Wood invites them deep into the Well to talk about their inspirations, achievements, fears, and pole dancing…
A very warm welcome to you both. Please ignore the creatures in the corner, they are mostly harmless, and I hope it isn’t too dark down here for you. I’d like to begin with some quick-fire questions to get to know you a little better. These are best answered in short, controlled bursts.
Describe your writing style in five words.
Gothic, humorous, dark, descriptive, visual.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Probably some overly gothic description.
What three themes/tropes make your writing instantly recognisable as yours, and yours only?
People die, even the main character. Dark, descriptive writing with flashes of humour.
Who are your heroes of fiction?
Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Dean Koontz and Jim Butcher.
What three books would you want with you if you were stranded on a desert island
Dracula. Dresden Files series. A serial killer book.
If you could go back in time to do so, what wisdom would you impart to your teenage self
Don’t go back to sixth form to sit your A Levels, go to college instead. You will recover from the social phobia. One day you will do things you never expected.
Name three traits you find deplorable in others… And three you most admire.
Deplorable – dishonesty; selfishness; bigotry.
Admirable – kindness to animals; intelligence; ambition.
If you could go for a coffee with any fictional character (including one of your own) who would you choose and why?
Frankenstein, so we could tell him to stop being a selfish, whiny coward and face the mess he created!
Consider these lines from a poem by Fran Landesman: “If you ever find my house on fire, Leave the silver, save the photographs.” Your house is burning, what three things do you save?
Pets, laptops, photos.
How do you want to be remembered?
As horror writing, ghost hunting, pole dancing mistresses of the macabre.
Those are all fantastic answers. I especially like what you say about Frankenstein. I’m curious, what prompted you to start writing?
CLR. We loved writing stories in primary school. All of our stories were filled with gruesome murders, decapitations and Tudor tortures. We’d draw pictures with lots of blood. Our drawings haven’t improved, but we hope our writing has!
I’m sure it has. How old were you when you started?
CLR. We started writing books when we were 12 and wrote every day. We would come home from school and write and refuse to do our homework because it interfered with our writing. We would do homework in lunchtime detention, which freed up our evenings for writing.
That sounds a little like a Mark Twain quote, never letting your schooling get in the way of your education. Do you think of yourself as “proper” writers now?
CLR. We don’t tend to introduce ourselves as writers. If people ask what we do, we tell them, but it’s a hard job for very little pay! We prefer to tell people we’re pole dancers as it impresses people more. People seem more interested in our upper body strength and strong cores than our horror stories.
Pole dancing is a very impressive skill. You said you started writing at age 12, can you tell me about the first story you remember?
CLR. It involved children from Tudor times going to watch executions. Apparently, girls weren’t allowed to go to executions, but we decided that we would write the story from their point of view anyway. We started our fight against sexism at a young age! We described them seeing heads rolling down hills instead.
That sounds pretty gory.
CLR. It was, and it’s indicative of some of what we write now!
So what inspired your story for Beside the Seaside: Tales From the Daytripper?
CLR. Honestly? The deadline! We can’t actually remember what gave us the idea.
Deadlines can certainly be quite the motivator. Tell me, what sort of things interest and inspire you?
CLR. History and the paranormal, ghost stories of places we visit, and folklore and culture from other countries. We like art too, particularly dark paintings or photographs.
And what scares you?
CLR. Failure. The thought that we will never achieve the writing success we crave.
I really hope you do. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a writer?
CLR. That just because you get one story accepted, it doesn’t mean it will be easier to get the others accepted. When we had our first story published, we thought, “This is it. We’re on our way to having a career”. It was the only story we had accepted that year. We’ve now been published for 11 years, and it’s still just as hard now as it was then. Just because you want it, doesn’t mean you’ll get it.
So what do you think is your biggest obstacle when it comes to writing?
CLR. Depression and anxiety — what we call The Darkshines — are our biggest obstacle. It can be very hard to write when they make us feel like we’re not good enough, and that we’ll never be good enough, especially when we see loads of other writers online being published. We’re starting to not be so hard on ourselves, and we’re learning to stop listening to the Darkshines.
Does it stop you from writing?
CLR. No, but recently we’ve started competing in pole fitness, and we’re doing an instructor’s course, so writing has taken a bit of a back seat. We’re opening a mobile polefit studio in the new year, with aims of eventually having our own studio. We’ll have less time to write, but it might also feel a bit more like a ‘proper job.’
Are there any topics which you wouldn’t feel comfortable writing about?
CLR. Rape, or animal abuse. We hate reading about it, we hate seeing it, so we couldn’t write about it. Seeing animals abused, or the photos of the aftermath haunt us. Writing about it would be worse.
What piece of advice would you give to any new and upcoming writer right now? What advice do you wish you’d been given?
CLR. Don’t expect instant success, or even a great deal of success. To make an actual decent living off writing can be nigh on impossible! Never work for free unless it’s for a charity anthology. Yes, you may feel desperate to get something published, but exposure doesn’t pay the bills, and it doesn’t help further your career. The publisher makes money by selling the anthology or magazine, so you should receive something too. Remember, without writers, they have nothing to sell.
What do you say to those people who think writing is “easy”?
CLR. Writing can be easy if the words are flowing. But writing well isn’t easy. Always edit your work. Nobody writes a perfect first draft. Nobody. And always get someone else to look over it. Someone who will be honest with you and not just tell you what you want to hear. It may do wonders for your ego, but not for your writing.
What kind of responses do you get from friends and family to your work? Who is your biggest supporter?
CLR. Our mum and sister are very supportive of our work. Our is always the first person to read our work and the first to buy our books when they’re released, even though we tell her not to. Other family members tell us to get a proper job, that we will never be as successful as Stephen King.
Has writing made you more friends or expanded your community in any way?
CLR. We’ve made lots of new friends from writing and from selling our books at horror conventions and comic cons. One of our writing friends, Peter Germany, is the most supportive guy. He always shares our links, buys our books on kindle and paperback, and even drove for four hours to support us at a book signing.
That’s so lovely to hear. It’s really important, I think, for writers to have a strong support network. Are there any stories you’ve written that you’ve purposely hidden from those close to you?
CLR. Ha ha! No. Our mum has to read EVERYTHING. Even our necrophilia story.
Do you have any amusing or terrifying submission/rejection stories? Or any interesting tales linked to your writing experiences?
CLR. Sadly not. It’s always just the form rejection.
So what are your goals for 2020?
CLR. Aside from starting our mobile pole studio and doing more pole competitions, we’re hoping to release our gothic novella, The Curse of Ravenhall. It was supposed to be released this year, but pole took priority. Sadly this means this is the first year since 2012 that we haven’t released a book.
And for the next decade? (If you’ve thought that far ahead!)
CLR We have difficulty thinking ahead to the next week, let alone the next decade! Hopefully we’ll have our own pole studio by then. Writing-wise, we’ll probably still be at the same level of success we are now. Although we’ve racked up about 500 odd rejections in the past ten years, so by 2029 we should be well over 1,000. That’s an achievement, right?
It certainly shows your dedication and commitment to keep going, which I think is very commendable. As well as your story in Beside the Seaside, do you have any previous works which you’d like to draw attention to?
CLR. We have nine books out which you can find on Amazon:
Disenchanted is a collection of fairytale retellings. Romance is Dead is a funny, gory anti-Valentine’s collection. Deadly Reflections is a collection of ghost stories. Soul Asylum is a gothic novel set in a haunted asylum. Bleeding Empire is a dark comedy about incompetent Horsemen of the Apocalypse and their terrible attempt to end the world. Silent Dawn follows a computer game character who steals players’ sanities. And The Malignant Dead, The Devil’s Servants and Empty Graves are historical supernatural novels set in Edinburgh.
That’s an impressive body of work. Do you have any upcoming books or work which you’d like to mention?
CLR. Our next release will be The Curse of Ravenhall, a gothic epistolary novella about a cursed castle that drives people insane. It’s kind of our love letter to Dracula. We’ve just finished writing a novel about a woman who is possessed by Ammut, the Egyptian deity that ate the hearts of the unworthy. We’re also editing a novel about a necromancer that helps the police by raising the dead. As well as that, we are in the middle of creating a ‘choose your own adventure’ horror game, based on the game in Silent Dawn. And we’ll be directing a film based on a story in Romance is Dead. We recently starred as killers in a short indie film, called School Hall Slaughter, which will hopefully be released in 2020.
Wow, that all sounds really exciting. I wish you very well with that. Thank you so much for talking to me, and I look forwards to reading more of your work in the future. Now I see the Creatures are getting hungry. It might be time for you to leave…