Christian Saunders, who writes fiction as C.M. Saunders, began writing in 1997, his early fiction appearing in several small-press titles and anthologies. His first book, Into the Dragon’s Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales was published in 2003.
After graduating with a degree in journalism from Southampton Solent university he worked extensively in the freelance market, contributing to numerous international publications including Fortean Times, Chat, Its Fate! Bizarre, Urban Ink, Enigma, Record Collector, Nuts and Maxim, and a regular column to the Western Mail newspaper.
Since returning to dark fiction he has had stories published in Screams of Terror, Shallow Graves, Dark Valentine, Fantastic Horror, Unbroken Waters and several anthologies.
His novellas Dead of Night and Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story are available now on Damnation Books, while Devil’s Island, is out now on Rainstorm Press. His latest book, From the Ashes – The REAL Story of Cardiff City FC is available now. He lives in London, England, and works as a freelance writer.
TDBW: When did you start writing?
Christian: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I used to write stories when I was at comprehensive school, and get told off by the teachers because they thought I copied them out of books! I remember telling my careers advisor I wanted to be a writer, and he just laughed and told me to get a real job.
TDBW: What was the first story you remember writing?
Christian: That’s a tough question. I used to write longhand in notepads, most of which are long disappeared now. I do remember the first thing I ever had published. It was a short story called Monkeyman, and it came out in fiction magazine called Cambrensis back in 1997. Having my work accepted somewhere was a huge confidence boost. I recently dusted the story off, gave it a bit of a facelift, and included it in my new book, X: A Collection of Horror.
TDBW: What genre is your most preferred?
Christian: I like the dark fiction tag, because it encompasses quite a lot. Sometimes I drift towards out-and-out horror, other times more toward crime or thriller. A lot of my stuff is threaded with what one reviewer called a ‘sardonic sense of humour.’ Most of my fiction is dark, so ‘dark fiction’ fits!
TDBW: What challenges you the most in your writing?
Christian: Apart from the practical stuff like finding time to write, submit, and promote myself, I think creatively, trying to be original is the hardest thing. There isn’t much you can say or do that hasn’t already been done a million times before. All you can do is try to put a different spin on things. I also have a bit of a problem actually finishing stories. I must have about 25 unfinished manuscripts gathering virtual dust on my hard drive. I’ll get around to them one of these days.
TDBW: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Christian: The sense of achievement that comes with starting a project from scratch and seeing it through to completion. I also love getting comments from readers. It’s so gratifying to know that someone on the other side of the world, who I never met before, made a leap of faith on me and took something from my work.
TDBW: What do you like least about being an author?
Christian: Self-promotion, because I’m really bad at it. To be successful, its not enough to just write good stories. You also have to be your own marketing manager, agent, editor, and accountant. All that, plus a day job and the usual day-to-day stuff like commuting, eating and sleeping, and watching the Walking Dead, takes precious time away from writing.
TDBW: How many books do you currently have available?
Christian: I have three novellas with different publishers, and two non-fiction titles available. I recently decided to take the plunge and go independent. I wanted complete creative control over my work, and got tired of greedy publishers telling me what to do and taking a large chunk of my profits for the privilege. The internet makes things so easy. Like record companies, publishers are becoming largely redundant. It’s so easy to just cut out the middleman. My first independent effort is a collection of mostly previously-published short stories, called X: A Collection of Horror.
Visit Christian Saunders’s Amazon Authors page for a complete list of her books.
TDBW: What projects are you currently working on?
Christian: For a while now I’ve been busy collecting all my old short stories together. The first volume is already out, and X2 will hopefully follow in the not-too distant future. I have enough material for three or four volumes altogether. There are a few issues with who owns the rights on some stories, and some of the more recent ones are still locked in the submission cycle, but things will become clearer soon.
TDBW: Do you have any books coming out soon?
Christian: The first volume of X: A Collection of Horror came out in February. It was like an antidote to Valentine’s Day. And I have short stories coming soon in The Literary Hatchet and a couple of anthologies.
At the moment I’m re-writing the first book I ever published, called Into the Dragon’s Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales, which will hopefully come out later this year. The original came out in 2003. Recently I went back and read it again, and saw a lot of room for improvement. I’m a much better writer now than I was 11 or 12 years ago.
TDBW: Which book, or series, is your favorite?
Christian: At the moment I’m all over the X books. Going back through all my old files and digging out all the stories was quite a strange experience, but also a lot of fun, A bit like getting reacquainted with some old and very dear friends you haven’t seen for a long time. There were a couple of stories I’d completely forgotten all about. Then came the awkward job of deciding which stories to include in the first volume, and in which order they should go.
TDBW: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Christian: Stephen King is the master. He had a bit of a dodgy spell in the 90’s, then got hit by a truck and turned brilliant again. I’m also a big fan of Dean Koontz, Joe McKinney, Ramsey Campbell, Richard Matheson, and classic M.R. James.
TDBW: Which book(s) inspire you the most?
Christian: True stories about people doing remarkable things, or triumphing against all the odds. The most inspirational book I read recently was True Grit by Bear Grylls.
TDBW: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what band(s) do you play?
Christian: It depends on my mood. Sometimes I write in silence, but if I’m editing, or writing a review or something, I often have music on. Usually I like music that moves me and makes my foot tap. Blink 182, New Found Glory, Bouncing Souls, Less Than Jake, and Allister are some of my favourites. I like a bit of metal, and I’m a huge Springsteen fan. When he reformed the E Street Band in 1999 I travelled from my home in Wales to Philadelphia to see him live. When I arrived at the venue I discovered the gig had been cancelled because of a hurricane. Devastating news.
TDBW: Any hobbies?
Christian: Apart from reading and writing? I’m a big martial arts fan. I did karate for a long time, until I got too old and lazy. These days the closest I get to competing is watching UFC. I also love travelling. It broadens the mind. I spent 2008 – 2013 in China, teaching English language and western culture. Interesting experience.
TDBW: Tell us some more about yourself including your website and where we can find you on social media sites:
Christian: I’m a nice guy really. Come and make friends. I won’t bite! Unless you ask me nicely
My website: http://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/
TDBW: Care to share a bit of one of your books with us?
Christian: No problem. This is the beginning of one of the stories in X: A Collection of Horror. It’s called Monkey Man…
“And they all lived happily ever after…”
Toby’s mother closed the book and gazed down at her petrified son with a look of compassion only a mother could give. She knew he was scared. She could feel it. Since the moment he came home from school the fear had been slowly building, and as the afternoon marched relentlessly on towards night, he became increasingly jumpy.
Toby wouldn’t tell her what the problem was. Throughout the evening she had gently poked and prodded at his defences trying to make him open up, but he remained tight-lipped. He was a stubborn little so-and-so, just like his dad.
She leaned in closer to her son and planted a delicate kiss on his forehead. “Okay?” she asked.
The boy nodded a little too emphatically.
He was tying to hide his fear, probably for her sake. But she could almost smell it coming off him in waves. It was in his voice, his eyes, his movements, like a dense black cloud threatening to engulf everything.
As a last resort, she decided on the direct approach. “Toby, what’s wrong, love?”
The boy remained silent, but the expression on his face spoke a thousand words.
“Monsters?” she asked, tentatively. “Is it the dark? The Bogeyman? Did someone at school say something? What is it?” She fought to keep her voice from rising. Not in anger, but in pure frustration. “Do you wan to sleep with the light on? Would that help at all? For Goodness sake, just tell me what you’re so scared of!”
She was getting ready to give up when Toby finally spoke, quietly and deliberately, as if worried about who or what else may be listening. “I’m not scared of the Bogeyman. I’m not a kid. I know it’s not real.”
“Then what is it, honey?”
“The Monkey Man. I’m scared of him, because he’s real.”
What a strange thing for a six-year old to say! In all her years she had never even heard of anything called the Monkey Man before, but decided that it must be some variation of the time-honoured Bogeyman theme.
Adopting her softest, most understanding tone, she met his eyes and tried to look sincere. “Toby, listen,” she began. “Nothing and nobody is going to hurt you, okay? I promise. Not the Bogeyman, the Monkey Man, or any other kind of stupid man. Or woman. Do you trust me? Do you trust mummy?”
Toby nodded again, as if he had known all along such creatures didn’t exist. But he didn’t look entirely convinced. There was more than a shred of doubt lingering on his face, and that shred of doubt was causing all the problems. But what more could she do?
With a sigh she stood and went to the door, then turned to look back at her son. She didn’t want to leave him alone like this but it was getting late, and surely this was the best way? She remembered reading an article about good parenting in the Daily Mail. Left to his own devices he would confront his fears, win the battle, and be all the stronger for it. It was a necessary stage of development.
“Remember, Toby,” she said. “Monster’s aren’t real. I promise. They only exist on television, and in your mind. So don’t you be afraid, okay?”
“Okay, mum,” Toby’s voice was small and weak.