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Interview with Peter Coleborn & Jan Edwards

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Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards to talk about their new anthology The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, the joys of editing, horror and short fiction!

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Today sees the launch of your latest anthology The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors – what inspired you to choose the theme and what horrors can we look forward to seeing in it?

Peter: Besides the very general theme ‘horror’ the book has no theme. I feel that stories in themed anthologies, especially tightly themed ones, can become too similar. I enjoy variety. I enjoy coming across something unexpected. In this I mirror the views expressed by Mark Morris, editor of the wonderful New Fears series.

I use the word ‘horror’ as a wide catch-all net. What you will find between the covers is 25 well-written yarns that will hopefully chill you, or at the least make you go: wow, I didn’t expect that. Weird stories. Creature features. There are stories that may have been at home in The Pan Book of Horror Stories, perhaps in New Terrors (edited by Ramsey Campbell), or in one of Stephen Jones & David Sutton’s anthologies. Other anthologies are available.

Jan: Taken at its roots the term ‘horror’ is a wonderfully broad remit that encompasses everything from Hammer Films to Grimms’ Tales. Horrors gave writers scope to write about anything and everything – and they did.

Tightly themed anthologies can become frustrating. After the first six tales about two-tailed dogs in a bone factory any sense of tension and wonder has pretty much worn away.  Of course the answer is not to read a tightly themed anthology at one sitting.

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With the APB of Horrors #2 opening for submissions in January 2019, what are your long term aims for the series and are there any particular types of tale you’d like to see submitted for Volume Two?

Peter: All being well – health and wealth wise – I’d like to see this become an annual event. I’d like to see a few more ghost / supernatural stories next time, otherwise more of the same – good quality horror fiction. I rather not see the usual horror tropes unless handled well / differently.

May I also mention artwork? Well, I am! One of the things I liked about the British Fantasy Society days was that there were so many pen & ink illustrations. I wanted to emulate that in Horrors so I managed to get 26 original Jim Pitts drawings for volume one – and all being well I hope to do the same for volume two onwards. The illustrations, I think, add a little class to the book.

Jan: I can’t add much more to the points Peter has raised. Yes, a few more ghost stories are always welcome. I am a fan of the good spooky tale – and folk horror, naturally – that uses imagination without resorting to ‘jolt’ tricks. Whether supernatural horror or not, anyone submitting work will always do well to avoid the ‘tropes of fashion’, for want of a better term, unless they have a genuinely different twist to perform.

What are the qualities of a good short horror story for you? What horror tropes turn you off?

Peter: Well-written tales are a must, otherwise it is difficult to describe the quality of a good story. If you can be precise about definitions then the story may lose that sense of wonder that grabs you. Generally, I like stories about people in strange or weird situations. I’m not a fan of people becoming victims for no reason whatsoever except to end them in particularly gruesome ways. Bloodshed is fine, but keep it in check. Subtlety is good!

Jan: As with the previous question, it is the things that go bump in the night that most people find scarier. The mad axemen will make you sweat a little yet they can usually be fought off or outwitted. We are hardwired to be far more afraid of the unknown, those things we cannot see or touch. The horror is always in the anticipation. Yes, there is horror in the more visceral but that relies far more on revulsion than genuine fear in many cases.

Who are your favourite short horror authors, and what short horror stories do you keep coming back to? 

Peter: I find this sort of question difficult to answer, to be truthful. I enjoy a range of short stories from a range of writers. Of those no longer with us, I would select Karl Edward Wagner as one of my favourites, as well as Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, etc… As for living authors: I rather not say because I’m bound to miss someone out.

Jan: I always hate these favourite or most influential writer questions. Partly for the reasons Peter has given but also because the moment I have delivered my choice I come up with a half dozen others. So not going to name names because they know who they are. But if pushed then I’d have to say that Daphne du Maurier will always take some beating in the short story stakes.

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What would you say is the appeal of short fiction anthologies for the reader? What anthologies would you recommend new readers try? 

Peter: Read Alchemy Press anthologies (and collections)!

I’ve mentioned a few earlier. In the UK I would always recommend you seek out any anthology edited or co-edited by Stephen Jones. Jones and David Sutton probably taught me more about anthologies than almost any other editor. Mark Morris’s New Fears series promises to be a top-notch home of quality horror – long may it exist. There are also several anthologies in the UK small press arena that are worth checking out.

In the US, go for Ellen Datlow anthologies. If you can find them, try Dark Forces edited by Kirby McCauley, Prime Evil edited by Douglas Winter, Masques edited by J N Williamson, Unknown Worlds edited by Stanley Schmidt and Martin Greenberg (this last is more weird fiction rather than horror).

Also, read the best of annuals, those currently edited by Stephen Jones, Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, Johnny Mains. And dig around second-hand bookshops for the best of series edited by Karl Edward Wagner and Gerald Page.

And of course, read the magazines such as Black Static.

Jan: For me at least, though the novel allows scope for building tension and ramping up the chills, horror often works best in the brevity of the short form. For example I have always found Stephen King’s short fiction far more thought provoking than the majority of his novels. It brings us back to the unknown. The less you know, or is explained to you, the more scope your brain has to speculate.

What would I recommend? The best of annuals are a showcase for the best in the field selected from the plethora of anthologies and collections produced every year. Peter has listed most of the better known in those categories but there are always others. The great thing about them is finding authors who are new to you and appeal to your tastes. Like Forest Gump’s infamous box of chocolates, ‘you never know what you’re going to get.’

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You’ve edited a variety of publications for the British Fantasy Society as well as your work for the Alchemy Press, Penkhull Press (and Jan’s work for Fox Spirit Books) – how did you get started with editing short fiction? When and how did you realise it was something you wanted to do, and who were/are your editor influences?

Peter: I first edited magazines for the British Fantasy Society, including Winter Chills (aka Chills from number 5), which received some favourable comments from Ellen Datlow. That started me off. In the late 1990s I felt that the BFS wasn’t able to do the kind of thing I was after so I started The Alchemy Press. The first publication was a slim collection of Damian Paladin stories by Mike Chinn. (I should say here that Mike has been a huge help with all this editing and publishing lark – thanks Mike.) The next books included story and poetry collections by Kim Newman and Jo Fletcher. The first anthology Alchemy did was the loosely themed Beneath the Ground edited by Joel Lane (RIP, Joel. He would’ve been 55 this year), then Swords Against the Millennium edited and co-published by Mike Chinn/Saladoth Productions.

After a break of a few years – blame the BFS and FantasyCon – I decided to launch the press again with two anthologies, The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders (edited by Jan and Jenny Barber) and The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes (edited by Mike Chinn). Then there were several other anthologies and collections. I usually did the backroom stuff – final edits and design work.

The first Alchemy Press book with my name on the cover was Something Remains in 2016, a tribute to Joel Lane – I’m very humbled to have produced this book. And now we have The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors due on 1st November (and launched at FantasyCon in October).

Jan: Like Peter, I started small, editing anthologies for writers’ groups and graduating through journals such as Dark Horizons up to open call anthologies. So yes, the BFS has a lot to answer for! Dark Horizons, and its later siblings, spawned many an anthologist and championed many a writer in its time.

I teamed up with Jenny Barber for both Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit to produce some dark fantasy anthologies. When we first started planning Ancient Wonders almost all anthologies being produced in the UK at the time were more traditional horror. We wanted to produce volumes that were dealt with the themes of fantasy and folklore. From that came the two Alchemy Urban Mythics and Fox’s Wicked Women.

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Editing The Alchemy Press Book of Horror with Peter is a return to editing after a little break, mainly because I have been more heavily involved in writing crime fiction in various forms.

And finally… what are you up to next? 

Peter: Besides The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, I’m also publishing this year the second collection by Bryn Fortey, Compromising the Truth. Bryn’s first collection, Merry-Go-Round and Other Words was also published by us, a few years back. Bryn is a wonderful gent who had stories published in The Pan Book of Horror Stories – so we’re going full circle in a way.

I sent Bryn a mock up of the cover, based on one of my photos, which he liked so much he wrote a new and brilliant story for it, ‘Ain’t that the Truth.’

Otherwise, I’ve decided that I will keep Alchemy Press low key and publish just two titles a year, one anthology (Horrors 2, obviously) and a collection (which is hush hush at the moment). As you can tell, I am a short story fan.

The Penkhull Press is a non-fantasy/horror imprint formed by a few local writers, a sort of co-operative. Penkhull has published novels and short story collections, for which I seem to end up doing all that backroom stuff – but that’s okay, that’s fine. One of our books, Winter Downs by Jan, a World War Two crime drama, won this year’s Arnold Bennett Book Prize, which is fabulous news.

Jan: I have three more WW2 crime novels in the pipeline, and intend to get my urban fantasy trilogy out at some point (which is also crime in its way, but with supernatural elements thrown in).

I also have my novella, ‘A Small Thing for Yolanda’ just out in the French folk horror anthology Into the Night Eternal and have several short stories in gestation that are intended for crime anthologies, and at some point I will finish my ‘Captain Georgi’ cosmic horror collection, though as always its finding the time!

Thank you for joining us Peter & Jan!

The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors is available in ebook and paperback formats from Amazon and all good retailers!

Peter Coleborn created the award-winning Alchemy Press in the late 1990s and has since (co-)published a range of anthologies and collections, including The Alchemy Press Books of Pulp Heroes and Urban Mythic, and collections by John Grant, Anne Nicholls, Marion Pitman and others. He has edited various publications for the British Fantasy Society (including Winter Chills/Chills and Dark Horizons) and co-edited with Pauline E Dungate the Joel Lane tribute anthology Something Remains in 2016. Besides editing and publishing he mucks around with Photoshop a lot, as you can tell by the cover artwork.
www.alchemypress.co.uk

Jan Edwards has edited been anthologies for various presses, notably Fox Spirit, The Alchemy Press and the BFS for over twenty years, including: (co-edited with Jenny Barber) Wicked Women, Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders and APBO Urban Mythic 1&2. The Alchemy Press book of Horrors (co-edited with Peter Coleborn) is just released. Several of her anthologies have been shortlisted for awards.

Jan is also a writer of short fiction, which can be found in many crime, horror and fantasy anthologies. Her fiction has appeared in books as diverse as The Mammoth Book of Moriarty, Terror Tales of the Deep and the Dr Who DVD and anthology Daemons of Devil’s End; some of those tales have been collected into: Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties and Fables and Fabrications. Her supernatural crime novella ‘A Small Thing for Yolanda’ appears this year in Into The Night Eternal: Tales of French Folk Horror.
Her novels include Sussex Tales (winner of Winchester Slim Volume award) and more recently, Winter Downs: Bunch Courtney book #1 (crime novel; winner of the Arnold Bennett Book Prize). In Her Defence: Bunch Courtney #2 is due out late in 2018. Jan is also a recipient of a BFA Karl Edward Wagner award.
Blogsite: http://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @jancoledwards

 

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Interview with Marie O’Regan

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Today I am pleased to welcome Marie O’Regan to the site to chat about her latest anthology Phantoms, the joys of short fiction, and all things horror!

Today sees the launch of your latest anthology Phantoms – what inspired you to choose the theme and what kind of haunting tales can we look forward to seeing in it?

PhantomsCoverI’ve wanted to do another ghost story anthology ever since I edited Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, back in 2012, but anthologies are a hard sell with publishers these days. I’m very grateful to Titan Books for the opportunity to go back to working with ghost stories, which I love. Phantoms is a very different beast, as all the stories are contemporary. Four are reprints, including: John Connolly’s beautifully told ‘A Haunting’, the story of a man revisiting the hotel he always spent anniversaries in with his wife, this time, for the first time, alone; Joe Hill’s ‘20th Century Ghost’, which is a wonderful story about a movie-loving spirit tied to a cinema; Paul Tremblay’s story ‘A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken’, which is a ‘choose your ending’ style tale, beautifully told; and Muriel Gray’s emotive ‘Front Row Rider’, first published in Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories. Add to that original tales such as: Alison Littlewood’s ‘The Marvellous Talking Machine’ set in a Victorian entertainment emporium; Robert Shearman’s ‘Tom is in the Attic’, a haunted house story with a difference; M.R. Carey’s ‘My Life in Politics’, which deals with spirits seeking a new home and a corrupt politician, told from a young girl’s viewpoint… There are also stories by Kelley Armstrong, Gemma Files, Josh Malerman (‘Frank, Hide’), Tim Lebbon… the list goes on, but hopefully there’s a story in there for everyone.

What are the qualities of a good short horror story for you? What horror tropes turn you off?

A good short horror story, to my mind, should leave you feeling slightly uneasy – not necessarily because a story is gory, or shocking, but because it creeps you out and that feeling remains after you’ve finished reading. If you’re talking about classic ghost stories, a great example of this would be Edith Wharton’s ‘Afterward’ which I included in The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women; you’re aware throughout the story that there’s something not quite right but there’s nothing overt until the end, when you realise there has been a ghost after all, you just didn’t realise it at the time. If you’re talking contemporary short horror fiction, then I think an excellent example is Angela Slatter’s ‘When We Fall We Forget’, which is in Phantoms. The setting is very atmospheric, the characterisation is very well done and the story plays on the emotions beautifully, every thread weaving together to an affecting conclusion.

Horror tropes that turn me off? There are a few, I admit. I’m not a fan of the ‘woman in distress’ trope; some poor female is degraded in any one of a number of ways (chased, raped, abused, tortured, killed – always joyfully depicted), and the hero of the piece is some man, of course. Both men and women can be strong, and both can be weak.  And they can both be monsters; that’s not exclusively male. To me, good fiction shows the complexities of all the characters, and isn’t dependent on gender. I don’t like overly graphic violence that’s unnecessary. Sometimes it is, and that’s fine as long as it’s not glorified, but sometimes too much graphic violence just reads like torture porn and that’s a complete turn off for me.

Who are your favourite short horror authors, and what short horror stories do you keep coming back to?  

My favourite short horror authors are: Christopher Fowler, John Connolly, M.R. James, Charles L. Grant, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Angela Slatter, Gemma Files, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Crowther, Lisa Tuttle… the list goes on. There are loads of stories I keep going back to. Christopher Fowler’s ‘The Rule Book’, from his collection Red Gloves, or ‘Hater’, both excellent but I’m a huge fan of his writing in general. One of my favourite Stephen King short stories is ‘The Monkey’ from Skeleton Crew – and another favourite, although it’s a novella rather than a short story, is ‘The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet’; there’s also ‘The Reach’… I think you can tell I’m a fan! Peter Crowther’s ‘Eater’ is excellent; Charles L. Grant’s ‘Confess the Seasons’ and ‘The Last and Dreadful Hour’; John Connolly’s ‘Sometimes Children Wander by Mistake’ or ‘A Haunting’… So many that I love.

What would you say is the appeal of short fiction anthologies for the reader? What anthologies would you recommend new readers try?

joe-roberts-ghost-stories-by-women-x-portrait-designI think a short story anthology holds a certain kind of appeal. The stories are ‘bite-sized’, if you like, so you can dip in and out as and when you have time. There’s also the fact that you’re less likely to have to leave the story part-way through, as you would with a novel. And with an anthology, there’s also the fact that you get the chance to sample writing from a number of different authors, some of whom you might not have read before – introducing you to new possibilities as well as reading work from some of your favourites.  As for anthologies I’d recommend, I’m bound really to recommend mine – Phantoms, and the last one, Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, or the ones I’ve edited with Paul (Kane), Hellbound Hearts, short stories based on Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, or our anthology of circus-themed horror, A Carnivàle of Horror: Dark Tales from the Fairground. I love Stephen Jones’ long-running Best New Horror anthology series, now published by PS Publishing, although any anthology he edits is going to be great value. Or any anthology edited by Ellen Datlow – I’m particularly fond of The Dark. PS also do the Postscripts series, always a good read.

Do you prefer anthologies with a narrow theme or a wider theme and why?

I prefer as wide a theme as possible, purely because then you stand a chance of getting the widest range of fiction possible. Ghosts, for example, is a broad church; you can set your story anywhere or anytime.

You’ve edited and co-edited an assortment of magazines and anthologies – how did you get started with editing short fiction? When and how did you realise it was something you wanted to do long term, and who were/are your editor influences?

I got my start editing short fiction with the British Fantasy Society. First I edited their newsletter, Prism, as it was called in those days – and then moved on to their fiction magazine, Dark Horizons. With Paul, I co-edited an anthology (BFS- A Celebration) for them, and we’ve also edited many other magazines – FantasyCon programme booklets etc. I’ve taught writing, I’ve been a judge on short story competitions, a juror for the Stoker Awards two years running… and of course Paul and I have edited a number of anthologies together, as I’ve said above. We’re currently working on a few more, to be released over the next two years, but I can’t really say too much about those here.

As an ex-Chair of the British Fantasy Society and current Co-Chair of the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, what would you say are the benefits of being part of such organisations?  And what are your aims and future projects with the UK HWA?

I would say the value of both organisations lies primarily in their ability to form a community of sorts for people working in the genre. Writing is a lonely business, or can be, and it’s important to make friendships and keep abreast of developments in the genre as well as attend events and mingle with others working in the same field. Both societies also publish fiction by their members, which is a great way to get those vital first few stories out there. The HWA goes a little further in that it provides things like a hardship fund, legal advice for publishing disputes, a mentor scheme – it’s always looking for ways to help its members in a practical way.

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As to our aims with the HWA UK – we’ve been organising pub meets, similar to the BFS Open Nights, as a way of allowing members to meet up and socialise, as well as discuss what they want from the HWA or talk to us about any things they’d like to see… we usually have a guest author to read and answer questions as well. So far we’ve had M.R. Carey, Catriona Ward and A.K. Benedict as guests – we’re trying to organise another one at the moment, but can’t confirm just yet. We’ve run two day long events – a Scriptwriting Day last year, with screenwriters such as Joe Ahearne, Stephen Volk, Stephen Gallagher, James Moran and Cat Davies, Jason Arnopp, producer Jen Handorf, among others, giving up a day to give talks/run panels on various aspects of screenwriting; we finished with a screening of Alice Lowe’s PREVENGE, produced by Jen, which went down very well. And this year we ran a Crime Writing Day, as there’s a huge crossover between horror and crime fiction. Again, it was a great day, with authors such as Stuart MacBride, Fiona Cummins, David Mark, Steph Broadribb, Roz Watkins, Paul Finch, Jo Jakeman, to name a few, giving up a day to run panels on all aspects of writing in that genre.

StokerConLogoAnd in 2020, we’re bringing StokerCon™ to the UK for the first time, over the weekend of 16th to 19th April, in Scarborough. We’re working on that now, and it promises to be a brilliant weekend. You can find more details on www.stokercon-uk.com.  What we want to do is build a community for fans of the horror genre and those working within it; there isn’t really an organisation purely for horror in the UK.  We’re also looking at ways to improve what we offer here; perhaps an ezine for members only, that sort of thing. All members, worldwide, get monthly emails that include market information, members’ news etc.

And finally… what are you up to next? 

So much stuff! First up, Paul and I are about to hand in another anthology, but can’t release more on that just yet. I have a collection coming out from Luna Press next year, called The Last Ghost and Other Stories, several short stories in various anthologies – three are due out this month: ‘Pretty Things’ in the Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, ‘Before the Parade Passes By’ in Stephen Jones’ Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories, and ‘Tap, Tap’ in Black Room Manuscripts Vol. 4. Two of those launch at FantasyCon this month, as does Phantoms, and I have a Forbidden Planet signing for Phantoms on Saturday 27th October (https://forbiddenplanet.com/events/2018/10/27/join-best-names-horror-fiction), with a number of authors coming along: M.R. Carey, Joe Hill, Catriona Ward, Laura Purcell, Robert Shearman, George Mann… and me. I’m trying to organise a couple of local events for that as well. Paul and I are working on two more mass market anthology projects that are due out over the next year or so, I’m working on a novel that I hope to finish pretty soon now… and various script and short story projects are in the pipeline. And StokerCon UK, of course. That’s just going to keep getting busier.

Marie O’Regan, thank you for joining us!

Phantoms is available in ebook and paperback format from all good retailers!

Marie O’Regan is a three-time British Fantasy Award-nominated author and editor, based in Derbyshire. She has released two collections, Mirror Mere and In Times of Want, and her third, The Last Ghost and Other Stories is due from Luna Press early in 2019, Her short fiction has appeared in a number of genre magazines and anthologies in the UK, US, Canada, Italy and Germany, including Best British Horror 2014, and Great British Horror: Dark Satanic Mills (2017), and The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories. Her novella, Bury Them Deep, was published by Hersham Horror Books in September 2017. She was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Short Story in 2006, and Best Anthology in 2010 (Hellbound Hearts) and 2012 (Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women). Her genre journalism has appeared in magazines like The Dark Side, Rue Morgue and Fortean Times, and her interview book with prominent figures from the horror genre, Voices in the Dark, was released in 2011. An essay on ‘The Changeling’ was published in PS Publishing’s Cinema Macabre, edited by Mark Morris. She is co-editor of the bestselling Hellbound Hearts, Mammoth Book of Body Horror and A Carnivàle of Horror – Dark Tales from the Fairground, plus editor of bestselling The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women and Phantoms. She is Co-Chair of the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers’ Association, and is currently organising StokerCon UK, which will take place in Scarborough in April 2020. Marie is represented by Jamie Cowen of The Ampersand Agency.

You can visit Marie at her website: http://www.marieoregan.net

[Author photo credit: (c) Ellen Datlow]

Interview with Mark Morris

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Today I am delighted to welcome author and editor Mark Morris to the site to chat about his latest anthology New Fears 2, the joys of short fiction, and all things horror!

18th September saw the launch of your latest anthology New Fears 2 – what kind of fearsome tales can we look forward to seeing in it?

As in the first volume, the stories extend the genre in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions. Some are very dark, some are fantastical, some are humorous, and some may not at first glance seem like horror stories at all. They’re all united, though, by the fact that they get under your skin and unsettle you. More than anything, I hope they show that the horror genre is an incredibly vibrant, varied and imaginative place right now.

The New Fears series specifically celebrates non-themed horror – what appeals to you about keeping the remit so open?  And what are your aims for future volumes?

New_Fears2I was brought up reading the Pan and Fontana books of horror stories – not to mention many other non-themed anthologies. I’ve nothing against themed anthologies – I’ve read some excellent ones – but I do find them a bit restrictive sometimes, both as a writer and a reader. Keeping the anthology non-themed both allows writers to let their imaginations roam wherever they may, and also showcases what a vast and infinitely inventive genre horror can be. I love the fact that you can read New Fears not knowing what kind of story to expect next. Life is full of surprises, and these two volumes mirror that.

As for future volumes, at the moment it’s looking as though there won’t be any, I’m afraid. Even though the first volume of New Fears received fantastic reviews, was included on various ‘Best Horror of the Year’ lists, and has been nominated for several awards, the anthology simply hasn’t sold well enough for Titan to commission any further volumes. It’s nothing to do with whether the anthology is themed or non-themed, it’s simply a sad fact that anthologies don’t sell well unless there are massive names involved (and I’m talking people whose novels sell millions of copies like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman). Unfortunately to get those kinds of names you have to be prepared to pay them vast amounts of money – but because anthologies don’t sell well, publishers are reluctant to commit themselves to big advances, added to which I personally believe that all contributors to an anthology should get the same rate of payment, and so you’re stuck in a vicious circle of little money, which means limited publicity, which means low sales, which inevitably leads to premature cancellation.

As a passionate short story reader and horror fan you’ve stated that short fiction is the life-blood of the horror genre – what are the qualities of a good short horror story for you? What horror tropes turn you off?

A good horror story for me is simply one that surprises me, or thrills me, or does something new, or compels me to read on. I try not to impose restrictions on myself, and if I were to list my favourite horror stories, it’s unlikely you’d find many points of similarity between them. By the same token, I’m not opposed to horror tropes as such, because I still think there’s plenty of scope for telling great stories involving vampires, werewolves, zombies or whatever. What I don’t like, though, are tired old clichés, or simplistic revenge stories, or stories whose endings you can see coming from the first page or two. So many of the submissions I received for New Fears were competently written, but showed no spark of creativity whatsoever. The vast majority of them were tainted by the curse of predictability, and therefore lay lifeless on the page.

You’ve said elsewhere that your first taste of horror fiction was through the short fiction found in such anthologies as the Armada, Pan, and Fontana horror and ghost story collections – who are your favourite short horror authors, and what short horror stories do you keep coming back to?

One early favourite – and to contradict what I just said, this is a simplistic revenge story, but beautifully told – was Nigel Kneale’s ‘The Pond’, the ending of which still gives me a delicious thrill whenever I read it, because it’s just so right. Another story I read as an adolescent that still resonates with me is ‘Green Fingers’ by R.C. Cook, which appeared in The 3rd Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories. ‘Which One?’ by R. Chetwynd-Hayes was another story I loved – that one appeared in The 17th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories. In terms of their entire output, however, my list of favourite genre short story writers would include M.R. James, Robert Aickman, Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison, Nicholas Royle, Stephen Volk, Steve Rasnic Tem, Alison Moore, Rob Shearman… oh, God, I wish I hadn’t started this now, because the more I think about it, the more names spring to mind. There have been some outstanding short story collections in recent years: All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma, Probably Monsters by Ray Cluley, North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud, Never Trust A Rabbit by Jeremy Dyson… I’m sure there are plenty of others I’ve forgotten – but suffice to say, we are blessed with great story writers in this genre. Absolutely blessed.

How did you get started with editing short fiction? When and how did you realise it was something you wanted to do, and who were/are your editor influences?

Editing anthologies and writing stories and novels have pretty much been my joint ambitions ever since I started out in the genre – in fact, ever since I started reading books as a child. The Pans, Fontanas and Armadas started me off, which I guess mean that my earliest editor influences were Herbert Van Thal, Robert Aickman, Ron Chetwynd-Hayes, Christine Barnard, Rosemary Timperley and especially Mary Danby. There have been other landmark anthologies along the way – New Terrors and Superhorror, both edited by Ramsey Campbell, Dark Forces edited by Kirby McCauley, Prime Evil edited by Douglas Winter and Cutting Edge edited by Dennis Etchison. Then, of course, there are the numerous anthologies edited by Charles L. Grant, Stephen Jones and Ellen Datlow, which I’ve devoured over the years.

spectral+horror+2_designAs for how I personally got started, it had always been my ambition – and still is – to edit an annual, long-running, non-themed anthology series in the tradition of the Pan and Fontana books, though I guess more in the style of Charlie Grant’s Shadows series, which featured all-new stories by contemporary writers rather than a combination of new stories and classic reprints. After pitching the idea to various publishers over the years, and getting nowhere, I finally persuaded Simon Marshall-Jones at Spectral Press, who was making great inroads in the genre at that time, to say yes. I edited two volumes of The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, but by volume two it was clear that the company was in serious financial trouble and probably wouldn’t last much longer. Realising I’d have to start again, I therefore approached Titan and made the same pitch to my excellent editor Cath Trechman, who loved the idea and has remained incredibly supportive of New Fears throughout. For a long time the book was going to be called The Titan Book of Horror Stories, but quite late on the sales team at Titan decided they wanted a less specific title, and so it was renamed New Fears – a title which was suggested, as I recall, by Alison Littlewood, and which I liked because it paid homage to Ramsey Campbell’s New Terrors, which, as I’ve already said, was a big influence on me.

Somewhat optimistically, I envisaged New Fears running for ten, twelve, fifteen years – certainly I had big plans for it, and I’d already drawn up a list of writers I’d planned to approach for volume three – but sadly, it seems, the market is no longer able to sustain a long-running anthology of this nature. Having said that, if there are any enterprising publishers out there who would like to take up the reins and keep New Fears alive, then I’m very much open to offers.

What would you say is the appeal of short fiction anthologies for the reader? What anthologies would you recommend new readers try?

Short stories are great for people who don’t get a lot of time to read, and don’t want to commit to a novel. They’re also an ideal way for readers to dip into a genre, and to discover new writers. They fire the imagination in a way that novels possibly don’t, in that a good short story has to have a strong, often startling, central idea at its core. Additionally writers can afford to be bolder and more experimental in their short fiction than they can in their novel-length work, which traditionally has to be more commercial and accessible in order to sell, as a result of which the real cutting edge of a genre can often be found in its short fiction.

As for anthologies, look at my list of titles and editors above, and you can’t go far wrong.

You have a reputation for being one of the most optimistic people working in the genre – what things are currently exciting you?  How do you see horror and short fiction venues developing in the future?

Well, that’s nice of you to say so. Certainly I think the horror genre is an exciting place to be right now. Well-established writers like Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Adam Nevill and Tim Lebbon are still doing great work, and there are so many excellent newer writers coming through that it’s hard to keep up with them all. One very encouraging trend is that there are far more women writing in the genre now than there were when I started out thirty years ago. Back then you’d only get maybe one or two stories by women in each anthology, and pretty much all the significant female horror writers could be gathered together in a single book – as they were by Lisa Tuttle in Skin of the Soul. Now, though, there are dozens and dozens of female writers doing excellent work – so many, in fact, that I could fill an entire page or more naming them all. In the UK alone we’ve got Sarah Pinborough, Alison Littlewood, Alison Moore, Aliya Whiteley, Laura Mauro, Thana Niveau, Catriona Ward, Priya Sharma, Victoria Leslie, Sarah Lotz, A.K. Benedict, Nina Allan, Lynda Rucker, Laura Purcell and many more. Even so-called ‘literary’ writers like Sarah Perry, Sarah Waters and Jessie Burton have one foot planted very firmly in the genre.

As for the future of short horror fiction, who knows? Yes, professional markets are limited, and anthologies don’t sell anywhere near as many copies as they used to, which means there are far fewer of them on the shelves of Waterstones, but what is encouraging is the continuing rise of the small presses, who thanks to cheaper and more efficient technology are able to produce books of a quality to rival or even surpass those produced by mass-market publishers. There isn’t much money about for short fiction admittedly – but then there never was. No writer is ever going to make a living by writing short stories. Despite these drawbacks, though, the discerning horror reader will always find an abundance of quality short fiction – either in anthology form or via single author collections – if they know the genre, and if they look hard enough. The magazine Black Static is still going strong in the UK, and the likes of PS Publishing, Chizine, Undertow, Tartarus and others continue to keep short genre fiction very much alive.

And finally… what are you up to next?

Predator_OfficialNovelization_MMPB_cvr_USLet’s see… As well as New Fears 2, I’ve also had another book out this week – on the same day, in fact, and from the same publisher – which is the novelisation of The Predator, the latest movie in the ongoing franchise, which I co-wrote with my very good buddy, Christopher Golden. And if that wasn’t enough for one week, a couple of days earlier saw the release of my latest full-cast Doctor Who audio drama The Dispossessed from Big Finish Productions, starring Sylvester McCoy as the seventh Doctor, and Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred as his companions Mel and Ace.

On the horizon is the release of my ‘trunk’ novel The Winter Tree, which I wrote when I was twenty-one – before Toady – and which, probably for very good reason, has never before seen the light of day. Admittedly the novel is very rough and ready, very uneven, embarrassingly naïve in parts – but Pete Kahle, who runs the US imprint Bloodshot Books, thought there was enough merit in it to bring it out as a kind of curiosity piece – as an example of the kind of thing a young and very immature writer might be expected to produce before moving on to bigger and better things.

Aside from that, I’ve just completed a new audio drama (which I’m not allowed to talk about yet), am about to start work on a new novella, which is part of a fun and exciting four-writer project for PS Publishing (but which I can’t say any more about at the moment, I’m afraid), and sticking with PS, I’ll have a big Best Of… collection out from them next year to celebrate my thirty years as a professional writer.

On top of that, I have a new novel proposal to thrash into shape, and am finally hoping 2019 will see the completion of a YA novel that Tim Lebbon and I have been working on together for about the past decade, and which we add bits to as and when we get time. If we finally finish it, and if we sell it, we’re hoping it will be the first book in an ongoing series – but I’ve a feeling we’ve some way to go yet before we get there.

Mark Morris, thank you for joining us!

New_Fears2

Mark Morris is a prolific author with over thirty books under his belt. His work ranges from horror fiction to movie & tv tie-ins and related non-fiction; it spans short fiction, novellas, novels, articles, reviews, audio fiction and editing.  He’s a winner of the British Fantasy Award and past nominee for the Shirley Jackson Award and has been called “one of the finest horror writers at work today” by Clive Barker.

You can visit Mark at his website: http://www.markmorrisfiction.com/

New Fears 2 is available in ebook and paperback format from all good retailers!

Winter Downs: Interview with Jan Edwards

Winter Downs Jan Edwards front coverAnnnnnd, welcome to the next stop in the Winter Downs Blog Tour, celebrating the launch of the ever excellent Jan Edwards’ new book – Winter Downs – a thrilling ride of 1940’s crime fic starring the kick ass Bunch Courtney.   I interrogated Jan to find out more…

Winter Downs is the first in your Bunch Courtney Investigates series – who is Bunch and what can we expect from future books in the series?

Bunch Courtney is a well connected young woman who is set adrift  by the changes that the coming of war has imposed on her, and knows that the life she was brought up to lead will never return. When she stumbles on a murder she discovers a talent and taste for sleuthing as she interacts with the local police force; and with Chief Inspector Wright in particular.

Bunch Courtney Investigates is an open ended series with the next two already mapped out in note form and ideas for at least two more. I am hoping people will love Bunch as much as I do so that I can see her through to D-Day at the very least. After that? It could be fun to take her into peacetime; maybe as a private investigator.

How difficult or easy did you find it to get the flavour of the era, were there any research holes you fell into, and did you find any elements of women’s life in the era that resonated with you?

I do like writing period pieces. I’ve written for a number of Sherlock Holmes anthologies and have a series of diesel punk/cosmic horror tales staged in the early 1930’s and starring Captain Georgianna Forsythe.

Immersing myself in the language and social mores can be a lot of fun, and the research required is jam on the top. I do get lost in seeking out small details. I can spend hours, even days, looking for one tiny fact. It is amazing what comes to light!

The lives of woman of the 20th century are so very different to the 21st.  Bunch, for example, finds herself controlling the farm as the men were gradually absorbed into the war machine, even as early in the war as January 1940, yet still treated as a ‘girl’ by many of the men in traditional positions of power; police, the military, farm manager, even her own family.

I worked for 20 years as a Master Locksmith – the first female ‘practising Master’ working in the UK. I know first hand the frustration of having men (and sometimes women)  peer around me as they ask to speak with the Locksmith, because they just ‘know’ it couldn’t possibly be me… I never whacked any of them with a spanner, though the temptation was there – everyday!

You and fellow writer Misha Herwin regularly appear on 6Towns radio – how did that start, what things do you talk about and where and when can listeners find you?

I think it began with a general call to local writers who may want to guest on the Curtain Call show on 6 Towns Radio  http://www.6townstv.com/   And because we had a series of events to push it somehow morphed into a semi-regular gig. We talk about writing events and our own fiction going into print as well as writing in general.

How has your radio experience impacted your public speaking ability?

I guess it has made me less self-conscious about public speaking, though talking in a studio with just the show hosts present is rather different to sitting in front of a live audience.

You and Misha also regularly organise the 6×6 Writers Café – could you tell us how you started, what it is, where, when, and how people can find out more and/or get involved.

6X6 came about because we were trying to get reading gigs for new local writers but because of library cut backs the slots available were getting very scarce. Poetry does okay for events  but prose not so much. We had heard of a regular event in Birmingham that gives writers a set time to strut their stuff and decided Stoke on Trent could use something similar – 6 writers – 6 minutes.

It’s a quarterly event at City Central Library, Hanley, Stoke on Trent. To take part people can go to the 6X6 blog at https://6x6writingcafe.wordpress.com/ and follow the guidelines!

Having been a long time organiser of, and attendee at, Fantasycon and other events, how important are festivals and conventions to the writer at the beginning of the career, and how does this change as their career progresses?

Conventions, conferences, lit, festivals  and events such as 6X6 or Fantasycon are all great opportunities for writers to both network with industry professionals and to find a readership. It’s essential for those starting out and remains true for writers at almost every stage of their career. Yes, when someone reaches the top echelons they will be the main attraction for readings and signings and guesting at conventions etc. but they will still be out there. Not that these things should be seen as purely business, though that is an essential part of the process. I’ve made lifelong friends from going to cons either as organiser, bookseller, author or reader. They are a fun as well as productive part of being a writer.

As a member of the Authors Electric site, how important is being a part of online writer communities and what ones do you recommend?

Blogs such as Authors Electric provide support and encouragement for writers and help to connect them with readers. Having an online presence is an essential part of being an author and popping up in regular slots helps in getting a wider reach  for your profile.

What would I recommend? Authors Electric of course 🙂

You’re in a crime story – are you the detective, the victim, the villain, the red herring or the plucky sidekick?

Detective naturally. Though being the villain could be fun, and the Watson personna has the advantage of being an observer of the action at close quarters.

What are you up to next?

I am on the scripting team for White Witch of Devil’s End, a Dr Who world DVD out this autumn – along with a book of the film. It concerns the life of Olive – the witch who appeared in the Dr Who story The Daemons from the Pertwee Who era.

I have a couple of other projects, but none I can talk about right now!

I should be at Fantasycon in the autumn, and had to make the Theakston Crime festival, but moving house and launching Winter Downs has been more than enough to deal with 🙂

But Winter Downs is the big one this year!  Of course there is Bunch Courtney Investigates: Book Two coming next spring (or sooner).

Thank you for talking to us Jan!

Jan ps 1Jan Edwards is a Sussex-born writer now living in the West Midlands with her husband and obligatory cats. She was a Master Locksmith for 20 years but also tried her hand at bookselling, microfiche photography, livery stable work, motorcycle sales and market gardening. She is a practising Reiki Master. She won a Winchester Slim Volume prize and her short fiction can be found in crime, horror and fantasy anthologies in UK, US and Europe; including The Mammoth Book of Dracula and The Mammoth Book of Moriarty. Jan edits anthologies for The Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit Books, and has written for Dr Who spinoffs with Reel Time Pictures.

Winter Downs is published by Penkhull Press and is available in paperback and kindle editions from Amazon.

Don’t forget to check out the next stops on the Winter Downs blog tour:

jan blog tour

Wicked Women Anniversary Interview: Adele Wearing

And today we welcome the genius mastermind behind Fox Spirit Books – Adele Wearing, take it away!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to read:

Adele picOk, about me, by day I’m a mild mannered (or slightly grumpy) local authority employee, by night Aunty Fox. Ok it’s not quite such a clear divide, but key things are I hate to be bored and I always feel I’m at my best in that sweet spot between waving and drowning.

My reading tastes go in phases, I used to read a lot of horror, these days I lean more to fantasy. I particularly devour urban fantasy, it brings together the sort of noir crime tropes I love in a fantasy setting. That said I’ve always just loved a good yarn, I want characters that engage me (even if I don’t like them) and storytelling. I engage less with the complex world building and politics of some of the big doorstop epic fantasy and sci fi series.

What’s the story behind Fox Spirit – how did you get started, what are you looking for and what are your hopes for the future?

I was conned! Ok not exactly, but it makes for a better story. I ran Alt.Fiction in 2012 and had a houseful of awesome creatives. By the end of the weekend, with a soundtrack of Buffy and the English countryside to inspire us, we had decided to do an anthology Tales of the Nun & Dragon. It was going to be a one off on profit share, just for fun. By the time it came out Fox Spirit was born. If any of us there that weekend had owned a pub it might never have happened.

What we look for is always the story first. It’s much easier to fix the writing (or so I assure my editor, the tireless Daz, who actually has to do it) with the author than it is to fix the idea or lack of. We like things that pull from whatever genre the story wants, ignoring traditional boundaries. We have a lot of fun and put out stories we think deserve a readership.

Hopes for the future are of course world domination. We have another Vulpes (HEMA) title coming up and this year we start our FoxGloves (martial arts) range. We have another announcement coming this summer and I’d love for us to grow our income enough to pursue all the different angles in our heads. There are some audio and film project ideas that are going to take time to develop and get out, but we are determined to do.

What’s the appeal of short fiction for you and do you have any short fiction recommendations?

I love quick reads. There is a sense of guilt for many of us in taking the time to read a book, which is ridiculous, but it’s still there. Stories you can fit into a coffee or lunch break are a wonderful guilt free treat. Also I think there is a freedom with short stories to play about, to not tell the whole story. A novel, even a novella, really needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. A short story can pick up at a peculiar point in the plot and exit without explanation. I don’t feel the same need for a satisfying conclusion. If a novel is a journey a short story is an interlude, it’s the motorway services, a look through a window without the benefit of the full view. I love that.

Both history and fiction are replete with women who aim to misbehave – do you have a favourite wicked woman and why?

KayleeIn fiction I have an enduring soft spot for Kaylee in Firefly, she is such a charming balance of girly ruffles and tough resilience. She’s more afraid and has fewer resources than the other women in the series, for physical conflict, but she still stands up for herself and her friends. To me she is the closest representative for most of us. I realise she doesn’t at first seem wicked, but she is the mechanic on a pirate ship, that’s pretty wicked really.

In real life I suppose I am a little charmed by Bonnie Parker (Bonnie and Clyde). She’s not exactly a great role model, but she’s fascinating. Also the women who lived secret lives to work at Bletchley or as spies, the real life Agent Carter’s of the UK, smart, capable and living outside of cultural expectation. It’s a reoccurring theme with me. I get a bit Moley (hang whitewash) about expectations. I think society puts so many behavioural and physical expectations on everyone and it’s hard to learn to block them out, but it’s the best way to be happy.

What kind of apocalypse will it be and what do you have in your Go Bag?

I actually have started putting together a go bag, it has windproof matches and water purifying tablets, a compass and a collapsible water bottle along with a few other bits and pieces. It’s useful during power cuts.

Obviously with the various martial arts we do and well me being me, the house is well equipped with bows, bladed weapons and axes.

Sadly I think the apocalypse will be the slow inevitable destruction of our world at our own hands. I still hold out hope for zombies, I live in the country and as long as we are all home I feel fairly well equipped to deal with zombies. Capitalism I can do less about.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

Oh, now that’s tricky. It’s easy to say ‘zombies have been done to death’ or something but in the right hands even the oldest clichés and tropes can be fresh and brilliant. So I would like to 101 the faux medievalism and laziness of women being raped/abused etc in fantasy as a standard motivation or plot device. I think we are ready for something a bit more subtle and intelligent and ‘it’s historical’ is neither accurate nor a good excuse in fantasy. You are building the world, you get to make the rules, make them better. Violence and abuse happens, but writers should ask themselves if it’s balanced, nuanced and necessary or whether rape is just a short cut.

What are you up to next?

Fox-Spirit-Book-6-Thing-In-The-DarkAfrican Monsters and Things in the Dark have just come out and this year we are having a bit of a launch do for African Monsters at Forbidden Planet London at the beginning of March. That will pretty much kick off the year in terms of appearances. We will be at Edge Lit this summer with a table, so you can find all manner of wicked women and other delights.

Thank you for joining us Adele!

Adele Wearing, know to the skulk as ‘Aunty Fox’ is a lifelong genre fan, was for some time a book blogger and then set up Fox Spirit in response to, well trickery and cunning on the part of her friends. Seriously, it was set up!

Aunty Fox takes care of a skulk of writers, artists, editors and other foxy folk, while trying to keep everything in place to get the books out. In addition she has a full time day job (which we do not discuss). Since she lacks the swiftness and cunning that typifies her species, Aunty Fox trains in mixed martial arts, in order to ensure her grinning muzzle and infamous brush tail don’t end up on a huntsman’s wall.

Wicked Women Anniversary Interview: Sarah Anne Langton

Today we welcome the fabulous cover artist of Wicked Women – Sarah Anne Langton, take it away!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write and draw:

Sarah-Anne-Langton-Ha, well I was the kid who desperately wanted to be an astronaut and firmly believed there was, indeed, ‘something nasty in the woodshed’. Finally realising that joining NASA probably wasn’t an option I ended up at art college, fed on a diet of William Gibson, Tim Powers, Fortean Times, 2000AD and Ray Harryhausen movies.

So any urban occult weirdness, preferably involving crazy-ass science and I’m up for that. Even better if there’s dinosaurs! I managed to do half an Open University Astronomy degree, so I’m pretty big on radio telescopes… which hasn’t, erm, exactly found many artistic openings yet… Somebody out there has a ‘Fourth Reich jacks the Arecibo radio telescope and uses the Spear Of Destiny to summon unspeakable space evil’ novel in them. I am just biding my time!

How long have you been an artist and how did you get started?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00024]After completing an art degree I went to work as an archaeologist for a few years, obviously, then was employed in a comic shop – all whilst dabbling in a little freelance illustration. So I have an ace Indiana Jones hat and know way too much about the X-Men, ideal for a career in illustration! I moved down to London Town about five years ago and the lovely Anne Perry and Jared Shurin at Jurassic London asked if I fancied doing a book cover… I think I said “yes, if you’ll buy me a vodka”. From there folk just kept asking me to draw stuff for them – which is awesome!

Which authors and artists have influenced you and why?

Ooooooooow tricky. I particularly like the work of Eduardo Paolozzi, one of the early British Pop Art guys. His artwork mixes pop culture references and technological imagery, man-machine stuff – I love the décollage mix! Swiss graphic design studio Büro Destruct are a favourite – super-clean, simple typography, something I always, well, try to do. And the work of artist Bill Sienkiewicz – as somebody who totally ignored how traditional comic book illustration ‘should’ look and brought in a healthy dose of fine art. Ignoring how something is traditionally supposed to look is always a plan. I’m basically a pop culture junkie – and probably shouldn’t ever have been given access to the Internet – so anything from 1950’s advertising to pulp comics!

And authors? Rudy Rucker’s crazy-ass science fiction and non-fiction, for challenging my understanding of science and visual representation. The Fourth Dimension & How To Get There made me learn how to question my perception of space, dimensions and, well, pretty much everything. Robertson Davies for a love of myth and magic – seeing the hidden archetypes in our dull little everyday lives – with a healthy dose of humour! Anything from Lovecraft to Robert Anton Wilson, I guess it all seeps into Mr Brain and influences how you visually represent the written word.

Both history and fiction are replete with women who aim to misbehave – do you have a favourite wicked woman and why?

Jeanne de Clisson, The Lioness of Brittany is a pretty damned interesting lady. Ms de Clisson mercilessly hunted down the ships of King Philip VI’s fleet, to avenge her husband’s death, during the Hundred Years War. de Clisson fought as a pirate for thirteen years, not just commanding a single ship, no she sold off her land and bought a fleet! She had her ships painted black and dyed their sails red to intimidate her enemy, earning them the title of “The Black Fleet”. Her merciless sailors, under her orders, would kill entire crews, leaving only one or two alive to carry news to the king that she had struck again. A woman with the courage of her convictions, who didn’t do things by half.

You’ve illustrated for a wide array of media ranging from comics and games to music events and publishing – are there differences in your approach to projects in different media and do you have a particular favourite venue your work has appeared in?

Hodderscape-Dodo-LogoThe design process for everything is usually something like… google images, tea, google images, tea… flap out for several hours, then make tea. Eventually I’ll find the killer image to actually use for the project but I do quite a lot of pottering about the internets for inspiration. Virtually all of my work is entirely digital, regardless of the medium, I design straight into photoshop. My main problem is people writing interesting books, hence fascinating imagery, so I then get distracted reading about Antarctic ice flows online or something.

Not a venue but it always amuses me to see Pickwick the dodo, the Hodderscape logo which I worked on, running around on Twitter and getting into stuff on the internet!

What can you tell us about the Fizzy Pop Vampire?

Ah, right… the little guy is the product of Mr Den Patrick’s peculiar brain. A fat little vampire… erm, thing, that sneaks into you kitchen at night to steal your lemonade! Basically a tiny book for kids about the terrible consequences of not cleaning your teeth. Lots and lots of fun to draw as Den’s quirky sense of humour is great to illustrate. The one and only thing I draw by hand so there’s lots of wobbly trees and giraffes! The Fizzy Pop Vampire’s best friend is a giraffe, named Keith. Obviously.

What’s the appeal of short fiction for you and do you have any short fiction recommendations?

Books oPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]f short fiction are like a lovely author selection pack – there might be the odd dodgy Orange Crème but there’s bound to be something tasty you really love. Always a great way to discover new writers and I’m fascinated how, given a single theme, how many wonderfully diverse tales come out of a single idea.

Apart from Fox Spirit’s Wicked Woman, because clearly everybody should have taken a look at that…. ahem, the Apex Publications Books Of World SF are a great introduction to some authors whose work I hadn’t read before. Oh, and Super Flat Times: Stories by Matthew Derby was one of my favourite short fiction reads this year – very Franz Kafka meets Phillip K. Dick – a fascinating set of genuinely weird tales set in a brutal future where technology has died. Well, if that’s your thing!

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

But there’s so many! Just the one? Okay…. ‘Evil Emperor’s beautiful daughter falls in love with the hero.’ ‘All it takes it the love of a good man’ syndrome. YAWN – this clearly intelligent woman has unlimited wealth, power, flying monkeys an’ probably a zombie army – she’s really not going to be impressed just because some dumb-ass bloke has a big sword!

(Also: Mysterious taverns, FOR NO REASON. They can go as well, as I’m here. Oh, and people inexplicably dressing in ancient costumes in the future. There is no reason anyone would wear a Roman togas in deep space. Really, there isn’t.)

What are you up to next?

Fox-Spirit-Book-6-Thing-In-The-DarkOoooow, I have a set of covers coming out for Angry Robot next year, just finished the design for Jurassic London’s Jews Vs Zombies & Jews Vs Aliens Omnibus, comic book illustrations for Lavie Tidhar’s New Swabia are out any time now-ish. There’s a tiny short story by me in Fox Spirit’s Fox Pockets Anthology Things In The Dark. Erm, and I appear to be drawing a suicide rollercoaster poster for Lavie’s new book Central Station. Yeah, I’m just going with that…

On the random front, I’m forcing myself to go to zazen more often, looking for stardust with http://stardustathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/ and watching Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, when I should be drawing 🙂

Thank you for joining us Sarah!

When not planning world domination Sarah Anne Langton draws things, writes and catalogues her ever-growing shoe collection. Qualified Astronaut. Part time archaeologist. Full time geek.

zombie-attack-barbieSarah has worked as an Illustrator for EA Games, Hodder & Stoughton, Forbidden Planet, The Cartoon Network, Sony, Apple, Marvel Comics and a wide variety of music events. Written and illustrated for Jurassic London, Fox Spirit, NewCon Press, Hachette and ‘The Fizzy Pop Vampire‘ series. Hodderscape dodo creator and Kitschies Inky Tentacle judge. Daylights as Web Mistress for the worlds largest sci-fi and fantasy website. Scribbles a lot about the X-Men, shouts at Photoshop and drinks an awful lot of tea. Responsible for ‘Zombie Attack Barbie‘ and ‘Joss Whedon Is Our Leader Now‘. Her work has featured on io9, Clutter Magazine, Forbidden Planet, Laughing Squid and Creative Review.
British Fantasy Award 2015: Best Artist Nominee.

Her website can be found at http://secretarcticbase.com

Wicked Women Anniversary Interview: Sam Stone

Today we welcome the author of Wicked Women story ‘The Book of the Gods’ – Sam Stone, take it away!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write:

Sam release.jpgI’m Sam Stone. I’m an award winning female writer. I enjoy writing Horror, Steampunk, Fantasy and Science Fiction. But I have also turned my hand to writing some official Sherlock Holmes stories too.

How long have you been writing and how did you get started?

I started writing at the age of 11 and it was basically terrible fan-fiction!!

As I grew older and gained more experience of life, married, had a child, the idea of becoming a writing professional seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream. I told myself that one day I would write a book and get it published.

The opportunity for this came when, still following my dream, I completed my Masters Degree in Creative Writing and, for my dissertation, wrote a novel. This was really the start of my career as that book went on to win the Silver Award for Best Horror Novel in ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards in the USA. This then led to me getting my first professional deal, when The House of Murky Depths picked up the novel, and published it as Killing Kiss.

Since around 2009 I have been writing full time and have completed about 14 novels, a few novellas, and many short stories as well as audios, and a couple of screenplays.

I see this as my job and work the hours accordingly!!

Which authors have influenced you and why?

I have always been massively influenced by Tanith Lee, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Bram Stoker and other 19th Century Gothic writers such as Sheridan Le Fanu and Mary Shelley. I’ve also been influenced by writers such as Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick. Ray Bradbury’s stories used to be read to us in science lessons when I was at high school. I loved them!

Both history and fiction are replete with women who aim to misbehave – do you have a favourite wicked woman and why?

Aphra Behn was awesome! She was a poet, playwright, translator and fiction writer born in 1640. She was one of the first women to earn a living from writing and she was also rumoured to have been a spy for Charles II. I think she was brave, unique, intelligent and a complete role model for future generations of women who have the power of words inside them.

Tell us about your radio show at SirenFM – how did that come about, what can listeners expect from a Stone Tapes show and where can we find it?

The Stone Tapes was conceived after I appeared as a guest on SirenFM’s Midweek Drive show a couple of times. We proposed the idea of a genre chat show to producer and founder of the radio station Alex Lewczuk and he really liked it. In February/March 2015 the show was given the green light and we launched our first episode in May 2015.

The Stone Tapes is dedicated to all things genre, and so we cover books, films, television, chat, music and have some great guests joining us for the show.

The team now consists of David J Howe (co-producer), Alex Lewczuk (Producer), Patricia H Ash-Vildosolo who is the editor of Gearhearts Steampunk Glamor Review Magazine,  our regular reviewer, Robin Pierce, who is a writer for Starburst Magazine and is our Wales correspondent, and finally assistant director, actor and barman to Hugh Hefner, Joshua Lou Friedman, who is our LA Correspondent. I’m the voice that brings them, and the show, all together.

The show is pre-recorded and then transmitted on SirenFM, and can be listened to on transmission from their website at http://www.sirenonline.co.uk/about/how-to-listen.

All the past episodes are also available to download and stream online … and they include a Zombie Special (Episode 7) where we get trapped in the studio, and all sorts of other mayhem. http://southsidebroadcasting.podbean.com/category/the-stone-tapes/

You currently have three series in print – The Jinx Chronicles, The Kat Lightfoot Mysteries and The Vampire Gene series covering a range of genres from horror to SF to portal fantasy – do you find yourself drawn to writing series rather than stand alones, and what’s the appeal of series fiction for you?

I have always loved writing series. When I devise characters and really like them, I always want to write more about them and to spend time with them in their universe. With the Vampire Gene series, I was halfway through writing the first book when I realised that it had to be at least a trilogy. But when I got to the end of the third book, I knew that there was still so much more to say. I’m currently working on the sixth book, Jaded Jewel, which should be out later this year.

Jinx Town Cover 2 F 100With the Jinx Chronicles, however, I always knew this was going to be a complete story in trilogy form. I have no intention of taking the characters anywhere else after that, and I know I’ll bring it all to a satisfactory conclusion on the third book. The first is called Jinx Town, Jinx Magic is the second book, and Jinx Bound will be the third. The second volume of that should be in print this year.

The Kat Lightfoot Mysteries started life as one book, as I’d had the idea for Zombies at Tiffany’s and knew that this would work well. But again, once I had written it, I knew there was so much more to tell and explore about Kat and her demon slaying companions. This series has such a wonderful following too and I’m sure that it will go on for very many years to come.

I have written a couple of standalone novels which are currently in the hands of my agent, and I have completed an outline for a mainstream thriller which is also with her. At the moment I’m seeing all of these very much as stand alone projects … but who knows what could happen in the future.

So … I do prefer series, but I also enjoy writing one offs as a change. There’s something very freeing in knowing that you have said all you need to about a character and their universe. It’s not always that easy to let go!

Given the range of genres you write in, do you have any particular genre preference?

I started my writing career very much as a horror writer and I would say that horror often spills over into the fantasy and sci-fi works when I’m writing, but I really love dabbling in all genre fiction. Crime has a particular appeal for me and the idea of unravelling a mystery is quite thrilling. I’ve written two Sherlock Holmes tales for anthologies now, and I love how you need to set the mystery without falling back onto horror or supernatural reasons. I think I’d like to write more crime and definitely some more thrillers. But even if I do, I think I will always come back to my roots and dabble in some horror.

You’re also the editor of the Telos Moonrise imprint – how are you finding life on the other side of the publishing desk and has this changed how you approach your own fiction?  

It is a real eye opener working as an editor and yes, I do believe my own writing is much tighter now because of it! This is because when I’m editing I wear a completely different hat to when I’m writing and that editorial mindset also comes on when I edit my own work too. Also, I find myself editing and questioning myself more as I go along. It’s slowed my writing process down a little, but I feel I’m producing a tighter first draft now as a result.

Are there any exciting new titles coming up from the imprint?

I have just bought an exciting new series but can’t say more as contracts haven’t been signed yet. We also still have a huge backlog of previously acquired titles. We have a super YA novel coming soon from Bryony Pearce, and a novel from Martin Owton which goes very much into fantasy territory. But there will be more on this closer to release via Telos’s newsfeed and on their website at http://www.telos.co.uk.

I am also hoping that by summer we will be looking to buy more new material, but we are also on the lookout for some classic fiction by well established writers.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

All of them if possible! I really hate clichés. Although I wonder sometimes if that’s to my own detriment because it does seem that some of the most boring clichéd stuff is that which enjoys overnight  success.

What are you up to next?

Well – I’m in some very exciting talks at moment but can’t say more on those even though I’m bursting to!!

Otherwise, later this year I’ll be doing some writing workshops at the Regis Centre in Bognor. I’m travelling to the USA in a couple of weeks to appear at Gallifrey Convention as a guest with my husband David J Howe – where I will also be hosting a writing workshop for anyone who’s keen to become a writer, improve their work, or sell it in the future. I have the third Jinx novel to write, Jinx Bound. Have to finish Jaded Jewel and I need to come up with a new Kat Lightfoot novella to launch at the Asylum Steampunk Weekend in Lincoln in August. As well as all that I’m discussing new ideas with my agent, and she is planning how to pitch these all over to new publishers.

I’ve also been asked to write a stage play – still working out the theme for this one – but if I do it’s fairly certain to be produced so I must find time for it!!

I’d like to do some more screenwriting. And I do have a few short stories commissioned too.

It’s lucky that I like being busy!

Thank you for joining us Sam!

Award winning author Sam Stone began writing aged 11 after reading her first adult fiction book, The Collector by John Fowles. Her love of horror fiction began soon afterwards when she stayed up late one night with her sister to watch Christopher Lee in the classic Hammer film, Dracula. Since then she’s been a huge fan of vampire movies and novels old and new.

Sam’s writing has appeared in many anthologies for poetry and prose. Her first novel was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. Like all good authors she drew on her own knowledge and passions to write it. The novel won the Silver Award for Best Horror Novel in ForeWord Magazine’s book of the year awards in 2007.

In September 2008 the novel was re-edited and republished by The House of Murky Depths as Killing Kiss. The sequels, Futile Flame and Demon Dance went on to become finalists in the same awards for 2009/2010. Both novels were later Shortlisted for The British Fantasy Society Awards for Best Novel and Demon Dance won the award for Best Novel in 2011. Sam also won Best Short Fiction for her story Fool’s Gold which first appeared in the NewCon Press Anthology The Bitten Word.

In 2011 Sam was commissioned by Reeltime Pictures to write a monologue for their talking heads style Doctor Who spin-off, White Witch of Devil’s End. She was also co-script editor with David J Howe. White Witch, starring Damaris Hayman, was released on DVD in October 2014.

Rights for Sam’s first novel Killing Kiss were bought by Verlag Bucheinband lnes Neumann in March 2013 for translation into German. The novel, Todeskuss, and was launched in December 2013. Since then Sam has sold an original novella, The Darkness Within to AudioGo for Audio and Ebook. She was also commissioned by Telos to write a sequel to her hugely successful Steampunk Novella Zombies at Tiffany’s and her much loved heroine, Kat Lightfoot, returned to the printed page in September 2013 in Kat on a Hot Tin Airship. The audio rights to Zombies at Tiffany’s were subsequently bought by Spokenworld Audio and was made available for download in Halloween 2013. Further sequels to this series are What’s Dead Pussykat (2014) and Kat of Green Tentacles (2015).

In 2011, Sam became the commissioning editor for Telos Publishing’s new digital imprint Telos Moonrise.

In May 2015, Sam launched her own monthly genre radio show, The Stone Tapes on Siren Fm in Lincolnshire.

An eclectic and skilled prose writer Sam also has a BA (Hons) in English and Writing for Performance and an MA in Creative Writing, which means that she is frequently invited to talk about writing in schools, colleges and universities in the UK. She is said to be an ‘inspirational’ speaker.