Featured Author: J. M. Lawrence
Story: “Insatiable Angola”
State of Horror: Louisiana Volume II
Jamie Lawrence is a 28 year old journalist, currently editor of human resources publication HRZone. He is originally from the flat, straw-coloured county of Suffolk on the east coast of England but now lives in historic Bristol on the west coast with his fiancée Sophie. Jamie has been writing for much of his life and has had several short stories published, as well as non-fiction that reached #2 on the New York Times Children’s Bestseller List. Aside from writing he likes watching films, staying fit and healthy and traveling to new places around the world. Like many writers, he’s currently working on his first novel, which will of course take the world by storm and win every prize under the sun. Of course.
Synopsis: “Insatiable Angola” from State of Horror: Louisiana Volume II
A man is contacted by his long lost father. The father, who had been wrongly convicted of murder, had escaped Angola—a prison farm–and the son never knew what became of his father. The father wants to reunite with his son. The son has been waiting for the reunion his whole life and is anxious to see his father. In a strange twist the father writes to the son and tells him to meet him at the now abandoned Angola. When the son arrives the prison has been closed for years and is in disrepair, but the fence is intact. It takes effort for the son to get into the prison and from the moment he crosses the fence he is hit with the unbearable despair and desperation of the former prison camp. The son will find his father, but the reunion is bittersweet. Angola wants its pounds of flesh.
The day was heat hazed and close, the smell of mouldy pecan husks thick through the barroom windows, when I received the letter.
Time to Meet J. M. Lawrence
Charon Coin Press: What inspired your story in State of Horror?
J.M. Lawrence: I’ve always been intrigued by prisons. They are terrible examples of Darwinism in action. Imagine the fear of being the new person in a prison. It’s just obscene. And Angola is a vicious example of a prison. And I started to wonder about whether all the evil and suffering that ever happened at Angola was greater than the sum of its parts. And finally, I wanted something horrible to happen to someone hard working and full of hope. I knew I wanted a good v evil story for this state. It just made sense to me. There are so many people who work hard, treat everyone with respect, and they still get pulverised and spat out.
CCP: Is there a reason this particular state appealed to you?
JML: Everything about Louisiana is evocative and I fell in love with the state through James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series. Underneath the most beautiful imagery, food, culture, history, there’s a whole load of suffering and pain that takes many forms, from slavery and intolerable racism to neglect. It’s so important not to forget the things in the past that make us question our humanity. They keep us grounded, keep us human.
CCP: What do you look for in a horror story as a reader?
JML: A horror story should make me feel uncomfortable. That’s a very specific emotion and it’s worse than being scared or frightened because nothing is pinpointed when you’re uncomfortable. There’s no reason behind it. It’s just a sense that something is wrong. And that wrongness can manifest in many ways. Some really good horror stories make us question deeply-held societal beliefs that we hold dear. If words can make you question what you believe in a way you don’t like, that is incredibly powerful.
CCP: What is your favourite writing snack food?
JML: I write best when I’m feeling healthy, alive and clean. I eat pretty healthily anyway but if I get hungry I find my mind wandering to food so I like to be well-fed on complex carbohydrates, vegetables etc, so I feel full and can crack on with writing. I like drinking cold water when I’m writing, it’s great for ‘pause for thought’ moments.
CCP: What other works do you have out there?
JML: I just had a story come out in Torched: Anthology, called ‘He Ain’t Heavy,’ about a man trying to save his pyromaniac brother from destruction. I’ve also got a story about to be published called ‘War for the Water,’ an apocalyptic tale about the last group of humans battling an evil creature called the Motherlode that has infected the oceans with hate.
CCP: What is one important thing the readers need to know about you?
JML: I’m engaged to a wonderful woman called Sophie and we are planning our wedding for 2016!
CCP: Who are your favorite authors?
JML: James Lee Burke is my favourite, by a country mile. In joint second place, I’d say Ray Bradbury – Something Wicked This Way Comes is brilliant – and Neil Gaiman.
CCP: What drew you to State of Horror?
JML: The concept is simple, the possibilities are massive. You get the richness of the state, as explored by a diverse group of writers across the world, with their own sense of what evil could dwell below the surface. It’s a fun ride that just seems to spark people’s interest.
CCP: Do you have a favorite state or state you are waiting to open?
JML: Louisiana is my favourite state, but I am looking forward to Maine. Such breathtaking, timeless beauty – just think what insidious evil lurks underneath!
CCP: Music or no music when writing?
JML: No music, never. Quiet is the best soundtrack to a good writing session. I like to explore scenes, places, characters in my imagination and it’s hard to hear the sounds and the dialogue over music or television or a film.
CCP: If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would you go and why?
JML: Probably Louisiana, to be honest! That and some of the South American countries, especially Peru and Brazil. I love capybaras and would really like to see them in the wild.
CCP: What was the hardest part about writing your story?
JML: Evoking the sheer amount of suffering that was caused by Angola and helping readers get a sense of the depravity that occurred within its walls.
CCP: Do you have any writing rituals?
JML: I’m a very novice mindfulness practitioner – I’m trying to get more into it. But I do try to spend some time focusing on my breathing/clearing my head before starting writing. Of course, there are times when inspiration feels like an adrenaline rush so I run with that, but I tend to like to be calm and relaxed because I can find the words more easily and stay in the zone. For me, it’s important to stay in the zone – if I lose my train of thought it can be hard to regain the momentum
Finding J.M. Lawrence is not difficult. Stay in communication with this UK author by following him on Twitter @lawrencejamie or here on Facebook . Also visit him at his website and stay up to date with all his projects, www.jmlawrence.co.uk. Thanks to J. M. Lawrence for taking the time to visit and share some insight. Look for more features to come or visit some of our past feature authors.