Michael Kamp is a brilliant Danish writer. We recently reviewed his English debut, Clowns, and gave him our first five star review. We had no choice but to speak to this man and find out what makes him tick.
1 Who is Michael Kamp?
Well, I’m 43 years old, the father of two boys and I love everything spooky and macabre. I live in the frozen wasteland of Denmark and while I’ve written 16 novels so far, I still have to work full time to support my family. So I work the nightshift at a facility for the mentally ill.
Pay is good, hours are good and I get to write at work since the residents sleep most nights. Most.
2 A Danish writer trying to break into the English market is quite a feat. What made you decide to do this?
It’s a numbers game. The Danish market is tiny. The horror market has always been small compared to other genres, but we are only 5.5 million Danes in the world. The Danish horror market is simply miniscule.
But just over there – beyond the language barrier – there lies a market with a billion potential readers.
A writer needs readers and there’s so many more in English.
3 What’s the story behind Clowns?
I was reading the paper about a year ago when the Creepy Clown craze raged and suddenly realized that it was almost a horror story in itself. What if Creepy Clowns were not people in costumes? What if they were real?
I called up my publisher and asked if they would go for it, and they greenlit it immediately.
Took me about a month to write it.
4 People have an irrational fear of clowns. Would you say you played on this fear for your book?
Oh, definitely. I tried to hit all the right notes on the phobia. Silence. Twisted faces. Ugly teeth. Inhuman behavior.
5 Clowns has been done before, e.g. It. What makes your book different from the clown books out there?
I’ve trimmed the fat. It’s a straight up horror story right from the get go. It doesn’t try to be something it’s not. You like cannibalistic creepy clowns? Then that is what I got for you ☺
6 You’re a remarkable writer. Clowns didn’t have any bells and whistles with overblown adjectives. This is unheard-of in the horror industry. What made you decide to focus on the story instead of the relentless verbosity that’s so prevalent in the US and UK markets?
I pride myself of having a fairly straight forward language, but still deliver a good story. In the beginning I just wasn’t very good at descriptions and could never figure out where to put them, but it turned out that people liked the way I wrote in the first place.
I compare story-telling to building a house. Sure, we can all appreciate a master builder with special bricks, but you can get pretty far with the good old fashioned square brick.
And of course some of it is due to the language. Danish typically does not use a lot of imagery, and when you translate you tend to cut away more than add words. So it ends up leaner.
7 What do you think makes you, as a Danish writer, different from your peers?
I hope to bring intensity with my writing. A Scandinavian perspective, perhaps, all though most of my work is not really steeped in local myth.
That is a hard question ☺
8 Who is your favourite author and why?
Terry Pratchett. The way he combines silly stories with very serious social commentary is masterful. His Discworld novels are amazing and the way he weaves a tale filled with slapstick humor and then suddenly make a real point about racism … That’s what I aspire to.
I tend to use social commentary in my stories too, although discretely, and Terry Pratchett has set a very high standard for how it’s done. I was really sad when he died.
9 What truly terrifies you?
I have a real phobia for watery depths. Thalassophobia. It got triggered when I sneaked in to watch Jaws behind a couch in the living room, being WAY too young for that movie. To this day I have a really hard time swimming where I can’t see the bottom. Which in Denmark means everywhere. Our seas are greenish-black.
Outside phobias I would say fire. I’m terrified by the thought of my house catching fire with my family inside. It’s part of being a parent, I think. Old horrors loose their bite and new ones take over.
10 Any advice for aspiring writers? What pitfalls should they look out for?
First of all, they should never quit. Never give up. I dropped writing for more than ten years after my initial three novels didn’t find a publisher. I could be ten years ahead right now, if I had kept doing it.
Secondly, beware of self publishing. I started out as a self publisher and liked it, but I’m SO glad it was not an option when I was a teen. When your first story gets rejected – and it will – the lure of self publishing will be strong. Resist. Grow thick skin. Learn to take criticism. Learn to handle rejection. Keep going. Always keep going. Being a writer is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You are never done.