Graham Masterton does not need to be introduced - every fan of horrors and thrillers knows his books, now counting in over a hundred novels plus more than a hundred short stories. Personally, I value his numerous sex instruction books, read by my whole high school class under desks during math lessons. But most of all I admire Graham Masterton as a person. He’s a passionate writer, always very open toward his readers, valuing their feedback and support. He’s known for contributing to charities and social responsibility initiatives. And I'm charmed by his love and admiration for his beloved wife Wiescka, whom he lost four years ago after 38 years of being together.
Monika, OpenBooks.com: In a recent interview, you said that you supported women's rights. Could you tell us more about what you think is most urgent to be changed in that field?
Graham Masterton: Enormous advances have been made in women’s rights in the past three decades, but if any urgent changes are needed it is not so much in the area of “rights” but in promoting the understanding that being equal doesn’t mean being the same. Young men in particular need to be taught that women’s brains are wired differently, and just because they are different that doesn’t mean that their thinking or their emotional responses are in any way inferior. Almost all of my closest friends are young women, because I find their reaction to the world and human relationships so interesting, and I won’t pretend that I don’t also find them attractive company.
M.: I read that your compassion for women started when you were working for Penthouse, where you treated girl models like human beings. But there are many women who claim that using the female body in such magazines and adverts means objectification and humiliation. What is your opinion?
G.M.: All of the girls who appeared in Penthouse did so not only voluntarily but enthusiastically. They were aware that they were sexually attractive and they were proud of it.. They weren’t stupid, either, although I am not saying that any of them could have explained the Theory of Relativity -- I can’t, either! Men and women have widely different sexual responses when it comes to pictures. Men can be aroused by a photograph of a naked woman even if they have no idea who she is or what her personality is like. They can be aroused by a picture of a naked woman that doesn’t even include her face. We tried producing a magazine with naked men in it -- Viva -- but it went down like a lead balloon. Women simply weren’t turned on by pictures of naked men in the same way. In every way you can think of, it was a flop.
M.: In my opinion, you have personally done a lot for improving the lives of women, by writing loads of sex-self-awareness books. As you said once, "I shall never forget the frustrated rage of a 43-year-old married woman I interviewed who had only just discovered that it was possible for women to have orgasms." That was in the mid 60's. I hadn't been born yet back then, but I guess the world has changed entirely since then, as now sex is present everywhere. How do you value these changes and would you still say that "Sex is everything" ;-) as one of your books is titled?
G.M.: Sex is everywhere, but then it always has been, except not so blatantly. There is a fashion at the moment for pop stars and actresses to wear evening dresses that are little more than a wisp of gauze with a few sequins stuck on to hide the intimate bits. Nobody says that they are “objectified” or “humiliated” -- especially when most of them are successful and very wealthy. Pretty women enjoy showing themselves off and that’s all there is to it, but just because they enjoy showing themselves off that doesn’t give men the automatic right to take sexual advantage of them. Talking about sex openly is a good thing, and you would be surprised how many women send me messages on my Facebook page asking questions about their sexual problems or their relationships with their boyfriends.
M.: I watched and read a lot of interviews with you, and read about your charity activity. You are such a warm, compassionate, affirmative, family-oriented person. And your books are so full of evil, both in the form of supernatural beings, or just performed by humans. What makes such a good man get pleasure from writing about such disastrous things??? Is it for the pleasure of the people who are fond of reading about it?
G.M.: Careful, or you will make my head too big to get out of the room! But as you mention in a later question, we have invented demons and ghosts to explain some of the darker fears that we have, and when I write about them and bring them to life, I think that in some way that goes towards exorcising those fears. People in real life inflict the most horrible pain and torture on each other, and it is difficult to write a horror book that is worse than what happened in both world wars, or what is happening now in the Middle East. I have written several stories and two novels (The Chosen Child and Forest Ghost) about the appalling butchery that took place in Poland during World War Two, because so few people in the West were aware of it. I think that writing horror stories is a way of confronting reality and hopefully making us a little more human.
M.: In Western culture, sexual content is regarded as “inappropriate” for children, while violence is not. E.g. the “Narnia” books and movies feature war and killing, but they have no age restrictions. But if lovemaking and life-giving are shown, the book/movie is considered “adult”. Does that make sense? What do you think?
G.M.: It is impossible to shield young people these days from extreme violence or explicit sex, but the answer is for adults to be more responsible and guide and educate their children. I think that most children understand that it’s wrong to stab people, but there have been increasing numbers of stabbings in schools and on the streets. Because parents are usually too embarrassed to discuss sex with their children, there have also been an increasing number of young boys treating their girlfriends as if they were featuring in a pornographic video -- in particular an incidence of boys insisting on anal intercourse, which for a very young girl can be damaging both physically and emotionally. It really is time for more adults to stand up to the challenge of a digital world and make sure that their children are well-informed.
M.: You said, "There are no real demons or devils or gods or ghosts. We have simply invented them to explain our internal anxieties and to excuse those feelings of lust and anger and resentment and greed. (The devil made me do it.)" If so, what is the nature of evil and why does it exist in people? Why have people of all cultures invented non-existent evil creatures, when it is a fellow human who can do the worst to us - kill, enslave, torture, rape?
Don't you believe in any kind of supernatural existence? Haven't you ever experienced anything scientifically unexplained?
G.M.: I am not saying that I don’t believe in the so-called “supernatural”. We don’t yet understand the world in which we live, and probably we never will. I am simply not prepared to accept the explanations of “supernatural” events that were devised by people hundreds (if not thousands) of years ago. Before we start worrying about the existence of God or ghosts, perhaps we ought to ask ourselves what we’re doing flying around at 63,000 miles an hour on a ball of rock in the middle of a vacuum.
M.: You said, "eBooks are one of the best things that ever happened to me as a writer". What do you think about our OpenBooks.com proposal of a paradigm shift in eBook distribution? All our books are in open download to be paid for only after reading, according to the reader's satisfaction, but with the risk of not being paid for at all. In contrast to horror, we believe in the good in people ;-)
G.M.: As a professional writer, I am all for changes in book distribution, and you rightly say that eBooks have dramatically changed the landscape -- and very much for the better, as far as I’m concerned. One of the reasons I have also started writing crime novels (although they’re just as horrific as my horror novels!) is that crime has a wider readership than horror, and eBooks have allowed me to access that readership. Sales have been spectacular. I am not totally convinced by open download and I am certainly not convinced by crowd funding. I tried to get my spooky 18th century crime novel Scarlet Widow crowd-funded and it was a waste of time. It has now been published as an eBook by conventional publishers (and by Albatros in Poland). We will just have to wait and see how open download works out.
M.: What's your opinion on economy of trust, based on mentality of abundance, instead of fear of scarcity? Is it possible for trust-based economy to have a significant share in global economy?
G.M.: I believe that people are more generous these days, and prepared to pay for what they really like. I have been working closely with a young woman friend of mine who runs a cancer research charity shop and I have seen how generous people can be.
M.: What are your plans and hopes for the years to come? Are you a positive-thinker?
G.M.: I have been commissioned to write four more novels in my Irish crime series. The main character Detective Superintendent Katie Maguire has taken on a life of her own. She even has her own website www.katiemaguire.co.uk. I always think positive. All I would like to do is have more time to write more horror novels and all of the other ideas that are jostling around inside my head. I am working with my agent to develop a new eBook business which will improve eBook distribution even more.
M.: Do you have an advice or special message for OpenBooks.com readers? And maybe a Christmas wish?
G.M.: I hope all of your readers have a wonderful Christmas. I have only one message, which in my opinion supersedes every religion and every code of ethics that ever was. That is: be kind.