Exclusive Interview: David Bishop
Born and raised in New Zealand, David Bishop worked as a daily newspaper journalist before immigrating to Britain. He spent the 1990s as a comics editor, first on the award-winning Judge Dredd Magazine, and then on legendary science fiction weekly 2000 AD. Since turning freelance in the year 2000 he has since written 15 novels, numerous audio dramas, comics, and great screeds of nonfiction. His Black Flame tomes include A Nightmare on Elm Street: Suffer the Children, Nikolai Dante: The Strangelove Gambit and Fiends of the Eastern Front: Operation Vampyr. He hopes one day to write a novel with a single word title, if only to make his author biography shorter.
— David Bishop’s Biography
In late April 2005, Black Flame began their venture into the Nightmare on Elm Street mythos with David Bishop’s novel Suffer the Children. David took some time to tell us about Suffer the Children, his favorite Nightmare on Elm Street film, the possible Suffer sequel, his future projects and more.
NOES Companion: Tell us about your novel Suffer the Children.
David Bishop: Six teenagers volunteer to be test subjects for a new anti-insomnia drug. But something goes horribly wrong when they are injected with the experimental serum.
It allows Freddy Krueger access to their minds and he starts messing with their heads, his power over them increasing by the day. He wants them to be his disciples outside the dreamscape, spreading his influence into the waking world. Their dreams get more and more bizarre, people start dying and—but that would be telling! You want to know more, read the book.
Suffer the Children is an old school Elm Street story that aims to get back to basics of the Nightmare series. Red-blooded teenagers get into jeopardy from the bastard son of a hundred maniacs in small town America.
Dismemberment, death, and some really, really bad dreams. Who could ask for anything more?
Can you give us some background on you became a writer?
I grew up in New Zealand where I became a daily newspaper journalist. In 1990 I shifted to Britain and became a comics editor for the next ten years, working on horror, science fiction and fantasy comics. During that time I started getting novels published, so in the year 2000 I quit the day job and turned freelance. I’ve had 12 novels published with another three already written and more to come. I also write comics, including the adventures of a classic American hero called The Phantom. (The Phantom first appeared in a daily newspaper strip 70 years ago and still fights crime in many papers today—he also featured in a 1996 film starring Billy Zane and Catherine Zeta-Jones.) I also script audio dramas and write nonfiction books.
How did you become involved with Black Flame’s new Nightmare on Elm Street novel series?
I heard Black Flame had acquired a license to publish new stories based on several New Line properties. That same day I sat down and write a pitch for an Elm Street novel—that became Suffer the Children. I was determined Black Flame must choose me to write the first Elm Street novel, simply because I love the films so much. I didn’t want somebody bolting Freddy on to some story they couldn’t sell elsewhere and calling it a Nightmare novel—that sort of crass publishing sucks like a black hole. Fortunately, Black Flame agreed with me and I was lucky enough to get picked, along with Christa Faust, to write one of the opening novels in the series. It took eight months between when I submitted my ideas and getting the go-ahead. That’s the longest I’ve ever had to wait for a project to get the green light, but it was worth every second.
Are you a personal fan of the Nightmare series? Do you have a favorite film?
I’m old enough to have seen every Nightmare film at the cinema when they were first released. Personally, the original is still the best for me. The central concept is so strong and the execution is stunning. The first Elm Street film did give me nightmares after I saw it and the effects hold up remarkably well, more than twenty years later. Dream Warriors is almost as good, and Suffer the Children certainly owes a debt to that film, but to me it looks more dated than the original. The art direction and costumes really underline the fact Dream Warriors is a film from the mid-1980s. New Nightmare is a brave change of pace and showed you could do something different with the concept. More recently Freddy vs. Jason did an amazing job of fusing key elements from two horror movie icons into a single, surprisingly satisfying movie. I had a blast watching Freddy v. Jason.
I’ve heard many compliments for Suffer the Children. The most common is that “the novel feels exactly like a Nightmare movie.” Was it your intention to have this novel carry the same feel as one of the films?
Absolutely—and I take it as a massive compliment when fans of the films say that. I love the Elm Street movies and wanted to write something that felt like an unfilmed entry in the series. To me, a Nightmare novel has to be true to what Wes Craven created. There’s no point throwing away the essence of Elm Street when you write your own story—it’s disrespectful to the movies, all the people who worked on them and all the people who enjoyed them.
The joy of writing a novel is you can go inside the minds of the core characters, find out what they’re thinking and feeling at any moment during the story. It’s like having a freeze-frame on your DVD player and getting the chance to see what one person in the middle of the action is experiencing first-hand. You can share their terror, their excitement, the realization of how deep in the **** they are when Freddy is about to kill them. Another great thing about Elm Street is you can use dream logic to make almost anything happen within the dream sequences—the only limits are your imagination. There’s no budget to worry about, you can have a cast of thousands if you want.
The novel ends with an interesting twist. Are you going to be able to follow up on this story in the future, or is it your hope to leave it open-ended?
I have a proposal for another Elm Street novel with the working title House of 100 Maniacs slowly working its way through the approval process at Black Flame and New Line. If that gets the nod, House of 100 Maniacs would definitely feature some of the survivors and dangling plot threads from Suffer the Children. I enjoyed creating the character of Alex Corwin. Having put her through hell in Suffer the Children, I’d love the chance to share with readers what happened to her next. Alex and Freddy have a special bond that cannot easily be broken, no matter how much others might try…
What other works from your catalog would you recommend to Nightmare fans?
If you like grim and gritty horror, I am writing a trilogy for Black Flame about vampires in World War II. It’s full of gore, creepy monsters and blazing battle action. Not too many teenagers in distress, but it’s a rip-snorting bloodbath with a body count in the thousands—and that’s just the first book.
The trilogy begins in Fiends of the Eastern Front: Operation Vampyr. That’s being published by Christmas and I’ve just finished the second volume, The Bloody Red Army. The third book, Twilight of the Dead, is due by the end of 2006.
If you like creepy, supernatural ghost stories, you could try my new audio drama Sapphire & Steel: All Fall Down. That’s based on an old TV series that used to scare the every-loving **** out of me when I was a kid. Audio dramas are like radio plays but are sold on CD instead of being broadcast. My Sapphire & Steel story stars David Warner—who’s featured in so many horror films (The Omen, Scream 2, The Island)—and Susannah Harker, who appeared in a great vampire series on British TV called Ultraviolet.
Lastly, any future projects we should be on the lookout for?
One of the projects I’m proudest of is another trilogy of novels being published by Black Flame, starring a 27th Century rogue called Nikolai Dante. Imagine if Han Solo had gotten the light saber instead of Luke, back when Han was still a pirate and scoundrel—that’s what Dante is like. When he’s not getting into trouble he’s getting into bed with some gorgeous woman—talk about your wish fulfillment character! The first book of the trilogy is Nikolai Dante: The Strangelove Gambit, where Dante goes undercover (and under the covers) at a girls’ finishing school to stop a deadly genetic experiment. The second story, Imperial Black, has just been published by Black Flame and I’ve recently completed the third book in the trilogy, Honour Be Damned!
In my dreams (the good ones, not the nightmares), I’d love the chance to write a new Nightmare on Elm Street screenplay or comic. I don’t know why, but Wes Craven’s creation struck a real chord with me. Anybody gives me the chance to do something new with Freddy Krueger and I am there.
The NOES Companion would like to thank David for his time. You can order your copy of A Nightmare on Elm Street: Suffer the Children here.