Colin is Irish and used tales of his homeland to create his horror novel, Country Roads.
When Luke Sheridan moves out of Dublin city to rural Kilcross with his wife and baby, he imagines the worst part will be his extended commute to work. They can look forward to enjoying the countryside and being part of a small community. After all, his old friend Declan Maguire lives in the house next door and is a Garda in the nearest town.
But Declan’s devilish attitude towards drink, drugs and women means trouble is never far from his door. And worse, gruesome murders and the appearance of sinister figures at night mean the countryside is becoming a very dangerous place to live.
Country Roads —don’t go outside alone.
Stephen: today on discover wordsmiths, I have Colin Leonard, how are you doing today, sir?
Colin: I’m great. Thanks very much.
Colin: please. No. I’m my book was just released yesterday and we had a launch party the day before. So I’m this is a timely interview as well. I’m all about the book at the
Stephen: moment. Nice. Awesome. All right. So launch party, congrats. Was it fun?
Colin: Yeah, no, it was great.
It was Bridgescape Press, my publisher organized this and we had a good few people online and yeah, just had a great time and nice chat about folk horror.
Stephen: Nice. And that’s the book Country Roads, which we’re going to talk about in a few minutes. But before we get to the book, tell us a little bit about yourself where you live and some of the things you like to do besides writing.
Colin: So I live in County Mead in Ireland in a little rural, it’s not even a village, it’s a little tiny cottage with a scrap of land that keeps me busy when I’m not writing, repairing the house and trying to keep the field from growing too wild apart from that, I have a young family. So the rest of my time is taken up with.
Their activities, which they are big into sports and music. So we get to bring them here and there, watch their matches and watch their performances. So that’s Yeah, it’s a lovely age that they are at the moment. What do they play? Two of them play piano, one plays violin and they play soccer and cricket as
Wow, nice. Yeah I had piano lessons when I was young and still play music. So it’s a great thing for kids. Yeah, definitely approve.
Colin: Yeah, no, it is. It is fantastic to do it.
Stephen: So let me ask with a family and everything, why did you want to start writing and why’d you want to write horror?
Colin: I’ve always been writing on and off.
From when I was a kid, I was always encouraged by my parents and my school teachers my, we were made aware. All the time that my grandfather was a poet, he had stuff published in the national newspapers. So he was a farmer in the truck driver as well, but he took the time to write poetry. Then leading into secondary school, I continued writing genre type stuff and entering it into competitions, some of which I won and got into the school magazine and that kind of thing. But life takes you in different places. Even though i did english literature in college i didn’t end up working in that i did different things travel different places but once my life became more settled and i got a bit older i became more focused on trying to get published and concentrating on.
Learning my craft a bit more and given a bit more time to writing.
Stephen: Nice. Nice. Okay. So your book is called country roads. And it’s full core. Tell us a little bit about the book. So
Colin: it’s as you say, it’s called country roads and it’s set in Rural ireland in somewhere similar to where I live and where I grew up.
It’s about a guy called luke sheridan who moves to Displaced from the city with his wife and his baby, and he does that kind of at the behest of his old college buddy Declan McGuire, who’s a local Garda but it just so happens around this time, there’s a series of brutal murders in the area, and, but it’s coming from a supernatural element.
There are some horrible Creatures from Irish folklore that are creeping back into our domain. I
Stephen: love that. And I love my, my son has a book with Irish ghost stories. He picked up when he was over there. And I’m imagining that you don’t read this book to your kids. Oh, it’s set right here by us.
And it’s got monsters. Let’s read it for bed. No,
Colin: I did get a congratulations from one of my daughters. And she said, I can’t wait till I’m old enough to read it.
Stephen: And then it’ll be on you, kid, not me. So yeah, you remember that field you were in? Let me tell you about the monster I wrote about in that video.
Your wife will love you. You’ll be on the couch forever. And
Colin: all this was true
Stephen: based on true events. So why did you choose a horror genre to write specifically?
Colin: Ireland. Is very kind of spooky. I think there is does the weight of religion and that kind of gothic Catholicism around and then there’s that mixed in with the the sense of folklore and myth, things like the banshee and all that.
So that was always around me. And then I grew up watching. Things like critters and gremlins and the omen and all that. So as well, I think so much more writing than that than gets labeled horror is horror. I see horror as nearly anything that’s a bit off that’s in a minor key. The kind of music that appeals to me.
TV shows and all that, that mightn’t just be labeled horror, but I think they have a horror element. If you think of things like musically radio heads, the pixies, all that, just a little bit off.
Stephen: And I agree, especially for movies, music is huge, but horror is just so broad that you can have multiple.
Types of stories within horror and it’s easy to get horror elements in lots of other types of stories. If you’re not straight horror too that’s a benefit.
Colin: Yeah, exactly. And even there’s so many different types, whether it’s slasher or ghost stories or, but yeah, no, apart from that, I just like.
Giving myself a good fright.
Stephen: And I like that you used elements from Ireland because Ireland’s got a great history of supernatural folk stories and things. You’ve got a lot to draw on from the country.
Colin: Yeah, absolutely. I try and base most of my work in Ireland, just apart from right.
What, I just I feel there’s so much here to explore. In that
Stephen: spooky sense. Agreed. Agreed. What type of feedback are you getting from readers other than your kids?
Colin: No, everyone seems to like it so far. Of the ones that I’m reading, I’m not going to read the bad ones. But They’re focusing a lot on the fact that it’s a small town horror, with unlikable characters and A creep, creepy imagery and it’s funny, I wouldn’t have described it as small town horror so much because our small towns over here are much smaller than American small towns but it does have that sense of a community and how they.
Clash against each other and how, so I’ve based a lot of things on warring characters against each other as much as against the evil elements in the story.
Stephen: Nice. If you were given a choice between movie or TV show, what would you rather turn this into? I
Colin: would see this more as a TV show to tell you the truth.
And it’s because it’s multi P O V and I first envisioned it as episodic. Okay. I see it like those little miniseries from Nordic countries or the uk things like Kala or Requiem. That kind of low budget, grainy, acted, but spooky vibe to it.
So I’d say as a TV series more
Stephen: I love that you described it as grainy. That, that feel of that. That’s. That’s a great description. I know Netflix uses tags and that’s a great tag that they should put on some horror. Yeah, it fits very well so you mentioned multi point of view that’s a lot of times harder to pull off Why did you choose the right multi point of view instead of focusing on one character through the whole book?
Colin: Yeah, I that was just the way I envisioned it and as well I would have been reading a lot of stuff that was, that’s the kind of thing that was appealing to me at the same time. So all the different characters popped into my head and I just didn’t want to stick with one. I wanted to to pop in and out of the others.
And also some of the characters whose POV you’re in. Die. So I wanted to have the reader a little bit on edge that he’s not quite, they’re not quite sure whether the head that they’re in is going to be attached to the body by the end of the chapter.
Stephen: And it does help bring people in closer to the characters.
Like you said, that slasher feel almost where you. You empathize with each character and then they start getting knocked off. Who’s next? Oh man, don’t let so and so be next. As long as it’s not, Hey, he killed my favorite character. I can throw the book aside. I’m done with that. So Colin, do you have a website that people could go to and check out your book?
Colin: I do indeed. I’m at Colleen Leonard dot com and that’s C O L Y. L e o n a r d dot com. Why,
Colin: Colin Leonard. com was taken up a long time ago by other people. I was wondering, do you remember when we had to get invited to get a Gmail address? I’m of that vintage. So Colin Leonard was gone, but Collie Leonard was still there.
And since then, everyone started calling me Collie as well.
Stephen: Okay. I love that. So do you have any plans for the next book?
Colin: I’ve written a few I’ve written a couple of novellas that I’m polishing up and I have completed another novel and I’m hoping to start sending that out soon once I complete edits on it.
It’s this one’s really tight single point of view. Just to go completely the other way. And it’s it’s set in a city as opposed to the countryside. Okay.
Stephen: But it’s still horror. It’s
Colin: still, Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s still horror.
Stephen: I love horror. It’s my favorite genre myself. I sometimes don’t read enough of it anymore, but it is my favorite.
So let me ask you a couple of questions about. Where you live in that. So growing up or as an adult, what are some of your favorite books and authors that you’ve read?
Colin: So at the moment, my, who I’m really into is Nathan Ballingrude. I think he’s just amazing. He did became deceived TV series, monster land, North American lake monsters.
Is his collection of short stories and it’s mind blowing. I think he’s the best writer working in the genre at the moment. Apart from that, there’s another, an English writer called Tom Fletcher, who has a story called which bottle or a novel called which bottle, and it’s very much in that folk horror vein as well.
And I’ve read some of his other stuff and he just writes exactly the sort of thing i’m into I would read outside of horror as well. People like emily sanjohn mandel, Who did station 11? I don’t know. I know that. Yeah. Yeah, and jg ballard was always a Someone I’ve been really into.
Yeah, there’s tons and tons,
Stephen: but most of the writers are readers and have good lists of books to read. Yeah. Do you have a favorite bookstore? Close to you that you like to go to,
Colin: I don’t have any bookstores close to me. Then depending on how you define close, there’s there’s one about an hour away called academy books in draw that I like to browse in and they support local
Stephen: Okay, nice. I like to put links and maps. So if people are going to the website and go into any of these locations where we’re mentioning books, they’ve got a bookstore to look up and go to and support which I totally push people support bookstores, go to bookstores on vacation. So we’re going to talk a little bit of author stuff, but before we do if somebody stopped you on the street and said, Hey, Colin Hey, Colin, I hear you wrote a book, why should I get your book and read it?
What would you tell them?
Colin: I would say, if you want to read something that’s set in a creepy Irish setting, with a feel of wrongness creeping into the contemporary society from ancient evil, then give this one a go.
Stephen: Ancient evil, I love that. That’s one thing. We talked a little bit about folk horror and the rich history of some of the creatures from Ireland.
We don’t quite have as much of that because, the conquerors came and took over America 200 some years ago, wiped everybody else out. So we don’t have that long history behind us with the monsters so much. We’ve got newer ones and we’ve usurped things like Bigfoot, There’s a long history with Native Americans, with Sasquatch and Bigfoot.
You have to really dig. It’s not part of our culture anymore, which I think is a shame. Other countries like Ireland, you do get that as part of your mythology and culture. We don’t have it quite so much, unfortunately.
Colin: Exactly. And we a lot of that stuff is passed down. True generations my grandparents would have told us spooky stories and pass them down.
And there’s really good work. I think being done here as well by the folklore commission where over the years, they’ve collected handwritten accounts and oral accounts from older generations about little myths and local legends and all that kind of stuff. Some of which can be quite
Stephen: Yes. Yeah. And I think that’s great. I love that. I actually do a horror movie review podcast with a friend and we’ve watched movies from all over the world. And there, there’s some really great ones from, Ireland, Scotland, other parts of England Turkey and, various other places.
And I love seeing some of the. The difference in how different countries perceive the horror and supernatural.
Colin: Yeah, no, exactly. There’s there’s a bunch of good Irish horror out at the moment. There’s a movie called you are not my mother, which is based on the changeling myth as well, which is very scary.
If you haven’t seen
Stephen: that. No, I know the myth. I haven’t seen the movie.
Colin: Yeah, no, it’s very grim. That movie really captures a certain essence of urban Ireland
Stephen: as well. So nice. I’ll have to look that one up. We did watch Grabbers, which was set in Ireland. You know that one?
Colin: I do. Yeah. And that’s, it’s funny. Some of Irish horror as well.
Does have that comic element or that absurd element to it as well. I think we go two ways. We either go nasty and absurd or sad and grim.
Stephen: Yeah that one cracked me up. Obviously I’m not Irish at all. I’ve not been to Ireland. But you got that stereotype. Americans have stereotypes different countries.
Everybody has a stereotype of people from our countries. So what are you going to do if you have aliens invading Ireland? You find out that they are basically allergic to alcohol. And they can’t suck your blood, so let’s all get drunk at the pub. And it was just, that premise was hilarious to me.
Colin: Yeah, exactly.
Stephen: No, it’s very good. Okay. So there’s the book. Let’s talk a little author stuff. You mentioned What, before we get to that, what are some things that you’ve learned in your writing from when you first started to now that you’re doing different or that have changed?
Colin: One thing is I know a lot of people say, write every day.
You don’t have to write every day, but Write as many days as you can. No one’s going to discover you if you don’t put in the work. And there was a podcast I used to listen to called the bestseller experiment, and they were very inspirational where they would talk about just doing a 200 words a day challenge.
So even if it’s just 20 minutes, you can grab here or there just to Keep you writing fish as it were because sometimes I would have gone months and months without putting pen to paper and on that same topic I I discovered ways to be able to write all the time So whereas before I might have needed to be in a particular setting sitting down with a laptop or whatever I’ve learned to write on the run whether it be in Car parks or snatched moments of any day.
Stephen: Okay. And do, what do you use to write? Do you use like word or Scrivener? Do you have any other tools that you really like?
Colin: I use, I will do a lot of stuff in the Google verse. So I use Google docs on a tablet is how I wrote most of my first drafts. And Use a note taking app if I’m doing stuff really on the fly.
Stephen: Okay. All right. So you mentioned for our discussion for authors about opportunities. So what type of opportunities are you talking about?
Colin: I’m talking about, as I said, no one’s going to Discover you or come along and find you the way a soccer player might get spotted by a talent scout. So you have to go out and look for opportunities.
And what I mean by that is, and what I did later in life is studying. The kind of writers that you’d like to be like the kind of stuff that interests you, the presses that publish the books you’re interested in. And then if you look for the open calls, they have the anthologies they put together.
And if you try and, learn how to format things properly to submit all that sort of stuff the things to the, around the sides of writing that you have to learn if you want to give yourself the best opportunity of being published.
Stephen: And I think a lot of authors still get into this not, they’re new, they’ve never written and they get into it thinking, oh.
I’ll write a book and everyone will love it and I publish it and I’ll make a ton of money and put my day job and I think in the back of the mind, a lot of authors still think and feel that way, though I don’t think it’s ever really been that way. And but then there. almost ashamed to, stand on the soapbox and say, Hey, take a look at my book.
And the opposite or the connected part of that is the opposite. The same type of wrongness is the people that stand on their soapbox everywhere and say, Hey, look at me, read my book. It’s Hey, this is a NASCAR convention. Nobody cares about your horror book. You know what I’m saying?
There’s a lot of opportunities, but just Shouting to the wind everywhere. Doesn’t necessarily provide you opportunity.
Colin: Exactly. Yeah. You have to focus. And like I over the last few years, I really tried to find out as much as possible about the kind of people who are putting out the stuff I like to write.
And cause if you don’t like to write it, what’s the point? And. Just going for things there’s often low, I had a mentorship as well that I applied for about getting your book published and that was quite local. But if you, if I wasn’t looking for that and applying for that, then, that taught me how to improve my cover letter and my pitch and all that sort of stuff.
So there’s more to it than just sitting down and writing you to give yourself the best chance possible. You have to do that bit of research and that’s interesting as well. It’s really interesting to listen to podcasts like the one you’re doing here and. One’s on craft and one’s by other publishers just to find out what’s going on.
Stephen: And talking with other authors and sometimes, authors, it’s funny, the same author that will get on Facebook and blast every single group they’re in with, Hey, read my book. are afraid to go and set up a table at the library for an author event. They don’t want to do it in person, but they want to do it anonymously behind.
But with the way things are really, if people see you and shake your hand and talk to you, that’s how they get to know you, especially in a local community. I know a couple authors that they will. They do one of those like on a Friday night different bands come in and set up and, they call it rock the lock cause it’s an old locking lock system for moving barges.
And so they, they do rock concerts on Friday night throughout the summer. And I know an author who sets up a table cause you can rent tables and set up for your business and people get to see your face and get to know you. You may not sell a lot but it’s the community getting to know you. And that’s.
A big thing for authors, just getting people to know you and see your face.
Colin: Exactly. And you learn so much from that and even things like beta reading for other authors and helping out that way. Yes. It’s invaluable to improving your own craft.
Stephen: Have you done gotten involved with maybe an open call or some other opportunity that maybe you were hesitant, but turned out really well and you were surprised.
Anything like that you’ve done?
Colin: Oh yeah. Though I submit to lots of anthologies and I’ve been lucky enough to get into a few, the horror library series by dark moon books. i’m in seven and eight which was just released now and if you don’t Give it a go. You’re never going to you’re never going to succeed.
I used to back when covid was on and we were all sitting around I used to There was a flash fiction competition for a publisher in the uk And I was determined They had a competition every two weeks and I was determined I was going to get selected by it. So I wrote on the team every couple of weeks, never got in.
But each of those stories became the kernel of something else. And three or four of them got published in other venues since then.
Stephen: Nice. Yeah. So sometimes you just gotta… Keep trying, take the plunge. I know people get discouraged. They had this writing contest and I entered and I didn’t get chosen.
Okay. But you understand like 2, 500 people entered that and you entered it one time that there could be a ton of reasons. It may not have been your writing. It may just have been somebody else had something that just caught the fancy of the judges and nailed it. Or maybe you, what you wrote was good, but.
It was very similar to something that won the week before. So they’re doing, so you gotta just keep doing it and over and try multiple,
Colin: yeah. Like the numbers for until open calls and competitions are phenomenal, but. The more of them as I say, that’s why you have to keep looking at and whether it’s true social media or listening to podcasts you’ll find out more places to submit The more you do that, the more you learn and the more, the better you’ll get as
Agreed. All right. Colin, I appreciate you coming on today, chatting with me. Before we go, do you have any last minute advice for new authors?
Colin: No, just that keep writing keep reading as well. And Read widely
Stephen: agreed If you’re in a horror author read some romance and learn some things from it, right?
Exactly. Yeah All right. Thank you for being on call. It was great meeting you. I wish you luck.
Colin: Thanks so much you too. Thank you Stephen