Skip to content

Andrew Cull #Interview

Andrew Cull profile photo

Andrew Cull is an award-winning writer and horror director. He wrote and directed the horror hit The Possession of David O’Reilly. His story collection Bones was released to acclaim in 2018. It has been described as ‘a masterclass in emotional cinematic horror fiction.’ Andrew lives in Melbourne, Australia. He loves horror and Hitchcock, and, like you, he’s not easily scared.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Tell us a little bit about your new novel, Remains. What was the inspiration behind the story?

Andrew Cull: First of all, thank you very much for having me on Sci-fi and Scary! It’s great to talk to you!

Remains is a very dark ghost story. It’s the story of Lucy Campbell, who’s driven to a breakdown by the murder of her young son, Alex. After spending six months in a psychiatric hospital she discharges herself, seemingly without reason. She attempts to start a new life, but finds herself drawn back to the abandoned house where Alex was murdered. In one of the upstairs windows, a figure is waiting for her. 

Remains is a fictional story, but was inspired, in part, by a real case that took place in San Francisco in the ‘70s. The story of that haunting was relayed to me by a family friend who investigated the case during the winter of ’74. That investigation involved a series of seances conducted using a Ouija board. The messages that were received during those sessions were so disturbing that they stayed with our family friend long after that winter.

You’ve worn quite a few creative hats over the years – author, screenwriter, director, video game photographer. What originally brought you into the horror genre?

AC: Oddly, that pretty much happened by chance. I hadn’t long been working in TV, when a new channel started up in the UK: Channel 5. My agent put me forward for a horror anthology show they were launching called Urban Gothic. I had a weekend to put together a series of pitches for 25 minute horrors. Well, something just clicked, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve loved horror since I was a kid but hadn’t really thought about writing it myself. I really wasn’t sure if I’d be any good at it. About twenty years later, here I am, still loving it as much as I did that first weekend.

Your stories always have quite a cinematic quality to them. How has your experience in filmmaking impacted the way you approach your writing?

AC: I’d say it’s definitely played a part. I’ve always had a very visual approach to writing. I guess working in film has refined that. Often, when I’m first planning a story, it’ll come to me as a series of scenes, like shots from a movie. Those will include a very strong sense of how each scene should look, along with dialogue and plot points. I joke about that being the trailer stage of writing a story. It’s when you first follow that thread of an idea and all these scenes burst out of your imagination. It’s like watching a trailer for your own story. It’s really exciting, but you also have to take a step back and make sure that there’s really a story there. We’ve all seen movies where all the best bits were in the trailer! I’ll generally walk around with a story developing in my mind for a month or two before I’ll attempt to wrangle all those scenes onto paper. I guess I’m still directing in a way, only now I do it on the page.  

Since we’re spotlighting Australia this month, are there any Australian authors or filmmakers you’d recommend people check out?

AC: Like most avid readers, I have a ridiculously big TBR pile that, for every book I read, I add three more to the pile. I recently started reading The Darkening by Stephen M Irwin, and I’m enjoying that a great deal. Alan Baxter’s collection, Crow Shine, was excellent. I’m looking forward to checking out his new collection, Served Cold, soon.

How has your move to Australia impacted the stories you choose to tell?

AC: That’s a good question. Moving to Australia from the UK was probably the biggest adventure of my life so far. At the age of 38, I packed up everything I had and moved to the other side of the world. I’ve found living here to be deceptively similar to the UK and incredibly different at the same time. That’s definitely fired my imagination. Australia is a vast, wonderful country. I’ve been here seven years and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to see. 

When I moved from the UK, I knew that I was going to be leaving working in film behind (at least for a time). That turned out to be a fantastic opportunity. If I hadn’t moved to here, I might never have made the decision to start writing the stories in BONES or my novel REMAINS. I’m very happy with how that’s turned out.   

I know you’re a big fan of Hitchcock. If you could put your own spin on one of his films, which one would you choose?

AC: Hitchcock was a one-off. For me, he’s unrivalled as the Master of Suspense. His work has definitely influenced mine, both in film and now in my fiction writing. I was lucky enough to see Psycho when I was a young teen, with no idea of what was going to happen in the story. Well, that blew my mind! That experience shaped my career. From the closing credits, I knew I wanted to try to write stories that would be as suspenseful and exhilarating as the one I’d just watched. Now, I could write for a hundred years and I’ll never be as good as Hitchcock. But, if I can write stories that have one-tenth of the suspense Hitchcock infused into his movies then I’ll be a very happy writer. 

I guess my answer to the question is: I wouldn’t. But, I would absolutely recommend you watching each and every Hitchcock movie you can get your hands on.     

Remains is your first full-length novel. Was there anything different about the process of writing a novel versus short stories that surprised you?

AC: It was a very different experience to writing a screenplay or a novella. I can normally produce one of those in around three months. That’s the writing part, not the planning. REMAINS took over a year to write. It’s a test of endurance, and I don’t think I was entirely ready for that going in. Sustaining my concentration and immersion for that length of time was the hardest part. There are days (weeks) when it’s a real slog. That said, there are a lot more times when it’s incredibly rewarding. My advice for anyone wanting to write a novel, is to be prepared for those hard times but to remember that it is absolutely worth fighting through them.

What’s the last book or movie that really spooked you?

AC: Anything by Adam Nevill. His books get under my skin in a way very few writers do. I’m very much looking forward to The Reddening. In terms of movies: Hereditary. It’s unnerving from the very start, and doesn’t let up for a moment. Incredible filmmaking. 

What are some of your favorite Australian myths and legends? 

AC: I think probably The Hawkesbury River Monster or the Westall UFO sighting. Given the opportunity, I’d love to spend time investigating them both.

What can we expect to see from you next? Anything in the works right now?

AC: I’m currently working on my next collection of stories. It’s going to be called HEART and it’ll be out late next year. It’s a collection of stories about love, loss, friendship and family. All horror, of course. If I can keep the momentum going, I’d love to produce a collection one year and a novel the next. 

Thanks again so much for taking the time to join us. Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t had the chance to touch on before we wrap up?

AC: It was great fun to talk to you! Thanks for having me on Sci-Fi & Scary!

Page break indicator for Sci-Fi & Scary

Grief is a black house.

How far would you go? What horrors would you endure if it meant you might see the son you thought you’d lost forever?

Driven to a breakdown by the brutal murder of her young son, Lucy Campbell had locked herself away, fallen deep inside herself, become a ghost haunting room 23b of the William Tuke Psychiatric Hospital.

There she’d remained, until the whispering pulled her back, until she found herself once more sitting in her car, calling to the son she had lost, staring into the black panes of the now abandoned house where Alex had died.

Tonight, someone is watching her back. 

Remains is available for purchase on Amazon: US | CA | UK

Published inInterviews
©Sci-Fi & Scary 2019
%d bloggers like this: