‘Fear lives inside me’

Photo: Chris Farrugia Studios

Photo: Chris Farrugia Studios

Writer Anton Grasso, whom many consider the forefather of horror on a local level, recently announced his intention to retire after a career spanning four decades. I found that the author is not as scary as his books. This interview first appeared on the Sunday Times of Malta’s Culture section.

What does fear mean for you?

The simplest things, most mundane things instil fear in me: from spotting a cockroach to a visit to the doctor’s.

But the biggest fear is death. Not the actual death itself, but all the suffering that leads to the final act. Because death is a process and my sensitivity does not allow me to forget this.

I consider myself to be more sensitive than most, which often means that fears are amplified. This is probably one of the main reasons why my chosen genre was horror. In these 40 years I’ve been writing I’ve simply wanted to share my fears with my readers.

I thought that this would help make them easier to live with, but I was wrong. By translating my fears to the written word, as interpreted by my imagination, I actually gave them more space to develop.

Fear is an intrinsic part of my life; it lives within me. I lost my father at a very young age, when I was barely eight.

He was 49 years old when he died and I often think that, perhaps, it would have been better for me had I died before him, before becoming acquainted with the fears that life brings with it.

My world is like an alley that always converges upon one point – that of fear. My father did not influence my writing. I lost him too young for that. But his death did influence my life and the route it took.

My books are not intended to scare people, but merely as a vehicle to share my thoughts. Of course, because it is fear that drives me, my thoughts tend to relate to horror.

I write about what I live, from a fantastic and imaginative point of view, of course. My stories are about the fears that I experience in a fictional format.

My world is like an alley that always converges upon one point – that of fear. Many people actually enjoy being scared by horror stories or films. I’m not one of them.

When I read a horror book, or watch a horror film, it’s not because I enjoy the sensation of being scared. Some do, but I am not one of them.

You have been very prolific with your publications through-out your four-decade career. That translates into a whole lot of fear…

Yes, I’ve never missed a year. I have published 52 books, 13 of which are reprints.

I am particularly proud of the fact that people buy my books because they actually want to read them, because they enjoy the stories and not because they are part of some syllabus .

Not that I wouldn’t want them to be, of course, but I like the fact that my readers go out of their way to choose me. I published my first book when I was 22 and last October I celebrated my 40th anniversary as a published writer.

One thing I love about my books is that they are uniform size – it might sound like a trivial observation to some, but in truth I take great pride not only in the writing of my books, but also in their design. Together with my publishers I like to give priority to the whole process.

You expressed a wish to retire. Have you changed your mind?

Well, I have a huge amount of unpublished material that I still go through upon occasion. However, I do not really have the desire to publish it, mostly because as the years go by I find myself becoming more and more of a perfectionist.

Even Ġorġ Peresso, in his recent review of one of my reprinted books, pointed this out.

I have become very critical of my works and I think I am more happy refining works that have already been published and perhaps re-issuing them.

I do not want to give anything to my readers that I am not 100 per cent satisfied with.

My regular readers ask me for new material very often, but I do not know.

For now, I have no plans to issue anything new, that’s all I can say, but I may soon be working on a re-issue of Iħirsa (Ghosts) to be published by Horizons.