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THE ROAD TO COMMISSION By Donna Condon (Senior Editor: Piatkus Fiction – Little, Brown Book Group)

After I contributed an article to the wonderful Horror Reanimated blog late last year I was asked by a few readers whether I could also contribute something with a focus on commissioning. Well, what better time than now: the beginning of a new year when we are all reassessing things and determining to make those dreams become realities. What I thought would be useful is an overview of how exactly fiction commissioning works. So here goes . . .

Editors work on lists (or imprints) which have their own personalities, subsequently meaning that editors will have a remit to look for something specific that fits comfortably on that particular list. Some editors acquire various types of fiction (like me, and in my case it’s commercial rather than literary), and some will specialise further and, for example, will publish crime fiction only. Even within a remit there is a remit: if publishing and looking for, say, urban fantasy, exactly what type of urban fantasy is missing from the list? Urban fantasy that is grittier, more series that are aimed primarily at women, more international settings to balance out the number of series with US settings? It’s the editor’s job to assess what is working for the list, what is missing, what opportunities exist within the remit they have, and also what opportunities exist that could stretch that remit a little – all the while making a profit, establishing new authors and publishing successful books. Balance is very important; very seldom is there space for a lot of the same types of fiction, as it makes it very difficult for the company’s sales team if they have the job of pitching books and authors to retailers that have an identical hook.

Most big houses very rarely assess unsolicited submissions so my first advice to aspiring authors out there is to secure an agent. As editors are so specific about what they are looking for (which isn’t necessarily concrete and is instead something that evolves as new trends emerge/people’s reading habits change etc) it’s really essential to have an industry insider championing your book who’s in a position to target exactly those people who are looking for the kind of book you’ve written. Also, if your book falls too much between two stools they are in a great position to advise you how to tweak so that its placement is not a problem that will result in your book being deemed not quite right for any list at all.

In terms of assessing a manuscript that has come to the editor from an agent who says, ‘this is exactly the book for you,’ there are also additional factors to consider along with the above. If it is indeed exactly what you have been looking for, and you’re really impressed by the content, you’ll look at sales of similar authors and novels. Experience allows an editor to assess sales data in such a way that you have a good idea whether there is room to publish more in this area or whether the trend is coming to an end. There has to be a market for each book published, else it disappears into the abyss. Also, increasingly, the author’s profile is important. If you have a debut crime author who is active on crime blogs (perhaps even has their own review site) and understands social networking, this knowledge/profile will definitely go more in their favour than that of an author who never goes online and doesn’t know the first thing about that realm.

Once the editor has decided there is a tangible reason to pursue a submission, the material is then assessed by the rest of their editorial colleagues and, if everyone believes in the content, it goes forward to be discussed finally with sales and marketing, the big question being: will we sell copies? If the editor gets everyone on board and gets the thumbs up to offer, the advance offered to the author essentially reflects the level of sales hoped for and, once the offer has been made via the agent, the author hopefully say yes!

I’m aware how far detached writers can feel from the realities of the commissioning process so I hope this overview today has been helpful. Best of luck with your writing!

About Donna Condon:

Donna Condon is a commissioning fiction editor on the Piatkus list at Little, Brown Book Group where she has worked for three years. Prior to that she worked at Piatkus Books (when it was still an independent) and Virgin Books. She commissions commercial fiction across a whole range of genres.

2 comments January 20th, 2011

Interview with Simon Marshall-Jones editor/owner of Spectral Press by JD’L

The rise of independent genre presses is meat and drink to Horror Reanimated and we’re keen to spread the word. Today we’re chatting with Simon Marshall-Jones who recently launched Spectral Press.

Because Simon enjoys a bit of body art, we’ve hired The Harrow from Franz Kafka’s ‘In the Penal Colony’ for the afternoon and set it up on Doom’s Hump, a windswept hill not far from HR HQ. The sentence we’ve programmed into it is:

‘I got a good old poking at Horror Reanimated’

Hope he likes it…

Joseph D’Lacey: Hi, Simon. Thanks for joining us on this rather foggy afternoon at the crest of Doom’s Hump. I’m sure you’re familiar with The Harrow. To the prisoners in Kafka’s Penal Colony, it was a machine of punishment but in your case it should bring only pleasure and an occasional tingle.

While we get you settled into the optimum position, why don’t you tell us about the moment the idea of running a small press first struck you?

Simon Marshall-Jones: I’ve been involved in publishing a few times before, first in 1983-84 when I self-published an underground comic called The Cosmic Bean, a mad drug-fuelled trip with a sentient, outer-space surfing bean. Then, at the beginning of the nineties, I ran a small music ‘zine called FRACtured (which incidentally, was where a certain Mathew F. Riley was first published), entirely devoted to the newly emerging industrial music scene. That was quite well-respected, despite it running to only three issues – I know of at least one person who still owns all three issues.

Spectral Press was one of those ideas that took time to germinate, and when it flowered into the full light of consciousness it took me by surprise. The direct inspiration came from getting copies of some Nightjar Press chapbooks at FantasyCon 2010, and it just hit me that it was an absolutely brilliant little format to present stories in. It never really occurred to me until about a month later that it was exactly the kind of thing that I could do, so, at the start of October I started mooting the idea that I was going to get into publishing again, after an absence of nearly two decades. Within weeks, it went from an abstraction to a reality – and now, here at the very start of 2011 it’s now moved on from there to the books actually being in my possession.

JD’L: You’ve had other incarnations, though, haven’t you? Involvement in the music industry and some experience with fine art – not to mention blogging, right? Is horror publishing the natural progression from all this?

SMJ: I originally had ambitions of becoming a full-time artist when I left school back in early 80s, and I managed to get into art college, which ended me getting into all that bohemian lifestyle malarkey, as well as drink and drugs. I was completely in love with HR Giger’s nightmarish, surreal and otherworldly work, and it was he who inspired me to take up the airbrush in the first place. The practicalities of studying in an art school environment never really suited my somewhat rebellious temperament, so I left before I could get thrown out. I still paint occasionally, and in fact I have been commissioned to do two book covers and a portrait this year.

Then, in 2008, after wandering aimlessly for a few years, then going back to university and having a stroke, I launched a record label called FracturedSpacesRecords, specialising in releasing avant-garde/industrial/noise type stuff. I ran that until the beginning of last year, after realising that I wasn’t really cut out for the music industry. I enjoyed it while I was involved with it, at least initially, but towards the end I have to admit it I started getting a bit tired of it all, and the spark had gone. And maybe, just maybe, there was also a feeling that I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew – it wasn’t all hopeless, though, as it taught me a few things that I can use in running Spectral Press.
 
And of course, the blogging has helped greatly in getting both my name and that of Spectral Press’ out there into people’s consciousnesses. Already there appears to be quite a buzz about the imprint, and I am very confident, not to say very excited, about its prospects.

JD’L: If the universe were to tip the scales of fortune entirely in your favour and nothing could stand in your way, what are the highest hopes you’d have for Spectral’s future?

SMJ: I have a lot of plans for the imprint, should it all turn my way. The most important hope, of course, is that Spectral becomes a highly respected imprint, by readers and writers alike, and that people will appreciate the chapbooks for both the quality of the stories published and the high-quality presentation and attention to detail.  In fact, I’d like it to become one of those imprints that authors would love to get published by and that readers are eager to get their hands on. In other words, it’s all or nothing for me.

Other future plans, more substantial ones, are that I will be looking to publish very limited edition hardback novellas, à la Chizine Publications, another imprint I have been mightily impressed by. Then, I would like to expand the lines available from Spectral – first, in line with my love of old ghost stories, there’ll be Spectral Old Masters, which will reprint out-of-print and out-of-copyright stories from the late Victorian/Edwardian/early 20th century eras. Following that will be another line which will be a homage to the Golden Age of pulp fiction, the 1950s and 60s, to go under the name of Spectral Pulp. That idea seems to be surprisingly popular when I’ve mentioned it to people – in all likelihood that’ll be the first of the expansion plans to be realised.

JD’L: Have you spent a lot of time working out how running a small publishing house works or did you dive in without worrying about it too much?

SMJ: Having been involved in publishing before, albeit the last time being before the computer revolution, I had a vague inkling of what I wanted and how to go about getting it, plus having run the record label as a proper business, I wasn’t too worried about setting it all up and getting it off the ground. I also knew what I didn’t want, which was something that looked as if it had been hurriedly put together in someone’s back room. FracturedSpaces had all been about a quality product and simultaneously being a beautiful object. I carried those ideas over into Spectral, wanting to create a complete and seamless package with every publication. I honestly think that all my ideas have been beautifully realised.

JD’L: How much work is involved? Does anyone help you?

SMJ: With Gary McMahon’s story, What They Hear in the Dark (the very first chapbook to be published), there was actually very little work involved, but I think that was entirely due to everyone’s extremely professional approach. It all flowed together so nicely, Gary’s a great guy to deal with as well as a great writer, so there were absolutely no issues there. We worked very closely together on getting his chapbook ready. Then, the man who designed the amazing logo, Neil Williams, also designed the wonderful cover and did the layout. It’d be true to say that Spectral Volume I is a true collaborative effort between writer, editor and designer.

JD’L: Spectral’s interest appears to lie with lovingly crafted ghost stories rather than balls-out horror. When it comes to choosing work for the imprint, what key elements will you always look for in a writer’s work?

SMJ: I am primarily looking for atmosphere and creepiness rather than gore and violence, and whether the imagery they paint projects real spine-chilling shivers. I prefer psychological chills, although all that in-your-face stuff also has its place in the horror spectrum, and I wouldn’t necessarily reject a story on the grounds that there were elements of them in there. I cut my teeth on ghost stories and a Pan Book of Horror Stories (#8) that I’d found on one of the bookshelves when I was about 10 or 11, I think. The big thing for me with those tales was the genuinely frightening and oppressive atmospheres evoked, and the implied horrific consequences. Imagination played a greater role in both horror stories and films then, I think – it was a two-way thing, a truly interactive experience, without the aid of expensive equipment.

JD’L: Is the line dividing editor from writer very fine in your opinion? How many editors are frustrated writers and how many cheesed-off editors go on to write?

SMJ: In my case, it most certainly is – I’m definitely a frustrated writer. I have the ideas, but my writing tends to lack focus and wanders around a lot. I know I’m doing it too; the number of times I’ve deleted whole sections of stories and started to rewrite them only to have to do the same thing again is legion. It takes me awhile to get to the heart of a story, by which time I’ve already written about 5000 words and nothing has happened. However, being an editor is something of an educational process – you can discern the mechanics of the whole process, how the writer has told his story with compactness and brevity, whilst still delineating atmosphere and delivering chills. I just wish I could apply it to my own writing.

JD’L: Is the horror genre just a bit of fun for thrill-seekers and those obsessed with the macabre or is there more to it than that?

SMJ: There are certainly elements of that in horror readership, as well as horror film-buffs, too, and there always will be – those people who want to push themselves to watch the most horrific movie or read the sickest story. It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. For my part I believe that horror/supernatural/ghost stories have a lot to teach us about ourselves. As a good example of this, you just need to read Gary’s story – people come to terms with grief in very different ways, and what we take from our experiences affects our view of events leading up to tragedy, for instance. Some people respond by looking inward for answers, other look to something Other and ask it the same questions. And those answers need not necessarily be mutually exclusive despite the difference of approach. Good horror writing takes the deepest puzzles of life and examines them through the lens of an emotional primacy that some other types of fiction lack. Again, it’s a difference of approach, just on another level. No one method is either right or wrong – it’s just what works for the individual.

JD’L: What’s the most disturbing piece of fiction you’ve ever read?

SMJ: That’s a difficult one, because the most disturbing piece of writing wasn’t marketed as fiction at all, but, by its very nature, could be construed as such. Someone lent me Whitley Streiber’s Communion many years ago, and there’s a scene in it where the purported aliens were outside his bedroom at night and speaking directly to him, and on the point of abducting him. I read this bit just before I went to bed, which wasn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep, as you can imagine. It wasn’t just that, however, that unnerved me; it was also the doubt engendered by the story itself – did this really happen, or was this fiction cynically marketed as ‘truth’? Both of those thoughts are disturbing in themselves, I think. (Editor’s note: this book scared the shit out of me, too.)

JD’L: Spectral Press is making high-quality supernatural fiction available outside the mainstream. Do you think this small-scale approach is the only way to bring the best writers in the genre to the reading public?

SMJ: One has only to witness the whole bowdlerising and dumbing-down of music through TV shows like X-Factor and American Idol to realise that the mainstream (in a cultural sense) aren’t that interested in quality and discernment – they just want what’s deemed to be popular and they want it fed to them and to be told what to like. On top of that you get the MTV-style horror-lite of Twilight and similar paranormal romance garbage. I’ve never been a big fan of the vampire, but even I recognise that the power invested in the creature in folklore and fiction has been sanitised and made acceptable to those who wouldn’t normally like horror – in other words, it’s horror for non-horror fans. The vampire as a monster of myth was amoral and a nasty piece of work, a being who had no qualms about killing anyone. To have emasculated him really in the way that Twilight appears to have done flies in the face of everything I love about the horror genre.

Spectral Press unashamedly aims for those people who love the written word and the ghostly/supernatural genres, as well as those who appreciate books as beautiful objects in themselves. I do think that the small, independent press approach is just one way of promoting good writing and possibly reaching out to the odd random soul who might otherwise be put off by the category ‘horror’. I can but hope, anyway.

JD’L: Being a Horror Reanimated interviewee – apart from earning you some free public torture – confers upon you a brief moment of extreme power. You may award The Sword of the Ultimate Darkness to the work of horror in any medium which you judge to be a timeless classic. By contrast, but with no less potency attached to the ability, you may banish to the Plague Pits the most…well…crap example of the genre ever created.

Please exercise your godlike gift now.

SMJ: Another difficult one, this, as it’s a tie between two films from the same creative mind, Clive Barker: Hellraiser vs Nightbreed. Both are unique visions, one of which has given us what is possibly the most instantly recognisable monster of the late 20th Century in the form of Pinhead, and the film also epitomises the darkness and filth that lies in hearts of humanity. However, I am going to plump for Nightbreed as the winner of The Sword of Ultimate Darkness, for several reasons. Superficially it shows enormous breadth of invention and imagination, but that’s mere surface gloss. Look deeper, and you’ll find that it’s a neat summation of mankind’s nasty habit of persecuting those who are different, in other words, the perpetual fear of the other. Having been a member of various musical subcultures over the years, I have witnessed the wilful ignorance displayed by those who refuse to understand that not everyone is the same, nor has the desire to be. The film ends on a note of hope, however: when the tribe disperses, you know that difference will always survive and thrive, no matter how much it’s persecuted or despised.

As for what I would choose to consign to the deepest Plague Pit, well, I will award the honour to Twilight – I have actually seen the first film and I hated what it’s done to the vampire in particular and horror in general.

JD’L: Simon, it’s been wonderful having you and I hope you like your new, soul-deep tattoo. I think The Harrow’s going to need a bit of a wash before we give it back to Franz – he’s such a stickler for hygiene!

Before you go, all of us at Horror Reanimated (that’s me, Mathew, Sgt Fetish the dungeon moggy and a few demons we never bothered to name) wish you every success with Spectral Press and, indeed, anything you turn your good hand to. I hope you’ll come back and visit again.

SMJ: Thanks very much for giving me the opportunity to talk and thanks for hosting me – I’ll be sure to drop by again very soon! (BTW, do you have the number of the landscape gardener who designed the grounds of this place? He has a great eye for capturing the essence of doom, I think…)…

Simon Marshall-Jones, writer, editor/publisher Spectral Press, artist, book reviewer and blogger,: born in Wales in the early sixties, to parents who absolutely loved and cherished books – needless to say, MY love of books was instilled by such a positive influence. I attended art college, where I nurtured dreams of being the next HR Giger. After a space of seven years, mostly spent travelling, I then went back to university in Plymouth, to study computer multimedia, the only reward for which was managing to have a stroke. Since then, I have had a much better time of it: I now have one wife, one stepson, seven cats, a dog, two rabbits and two guinea-pigs, live in the East Midlands and don’t have enough tattoos. I also ran a small independent record label for a couple of years, FracturedSpacesRecords.

Favourite authors include Clive Barker, China Mieville, Umberto Eco, Gene Wolfe, Robert Silverberg, Philip K. Dick. For non-fiction thrills, you’ll find me reading books on the cultural and social attitudes towards death and dying since the Middle Ages, or Medieval Religious History – one day I would like to study for a degree in either anthropology or medieval history at some point.

2 comments January 4th, 2011

Interview with Cliff McNish by Joseph D’Lacey

We don’t talk to many writers of young adult fiction here at Horror Reanimated. That’s because we prefer to eat them. I don’t know about you, but I find it off-putting when my food tries to speak to me. In general, therefore, we remove YA writers’ tongues and cauterise their vocal chords before chowing down.

Course, it’s no secret that quality control has always been an issue for us and every now and again something slips through.

Today, for example, I found my next meal out of his cage and sitting quite voluntarily in one of our body-modification suites, reading a copy of Garbage Man and gnawing on a discarded bone. Bloody cannibal.

Without even looking up from the reclining restrainer he said:
      “This book. It’s full of bloody typosrahpical errors.”
      “What? Like the one you’ve just done?”
      “Yes. Exactly like that. Ecxept worse. Muhc, muhc worse.”
      What could I do? I reached for a meat cleaver, raised it high.
      “But it’s not a bad story, though. All things considered.”
      I paused at the zenith of the strike.
      I said:
      “Eh?”
      “Not bad,” he said. “You know. Considering.”
      “Oh, yeah? And what would you know?”
      Finally he looked up at me. His eyes were quite intelligent.
      “I write horror,” he said.
      “Really?”
      “Yes. Really.”
      “Well, for fuck’s sake. Why didn’t you say so?”
      “Er, I was gagged.”
      “Fair enough. So, are you any good, then?”
      “Not bad. Considering.”
      “Hm. Not bad enough to survive a Horror Reanimated interview?”
      “I’d like to think so.”
      And so I gently strapped him down…

Joseph D’Lacey: Hi, Cliff. Welcome to Horror Reanimated where tentacled creatures roam without fear of prejudice. I hope you’ll enjoy your visit.

Cliff McNish: I’ll try. Thanks for removing the gag.

JD’L: You’re welcome. So, you write horror. How did that come about?

CM:  Basically because my daughter, aged nine, asked me for a story about a REALLY, REALLY, REALLY nasty witch, and who was I to deny her? I’d never written a thing before, but I’d always told her bed-time stories, mostly comedy, but this witch got my imagination cranking. My novel THE DOOMSPELL was the result. It’s a fantasy aimed at 9 -12 year olds, but at its heart is a bitch with four spider-filled jaws who likes torturing children.

JD’L: But your forte is writing for young adults. What are the differences, if any, in the nature of what your books explore? Are there rules about content and, if so, doesn’t this somehow negate the freedom that the horror genre has always given writers? Perhaps you feel those constraints are more like a framework in which it’s easier to work…

CM:  There are no absolute restrictions on levels of horror in YA. You only have to look at the brutal content of Melvin Burgess’s BLOODTIDE to realise what adventurous publishers like Anderson Press are willing to consider. BUT most YA publishers (and certainly all those focused on the 9-12 year old age group, where most children’s reading gets done) have pretty firm, unstated rules. Sexual content isn’t taboo, but has to be handled very delicately and in context. And any kind of human/monster sexuality is also sadly a no-no. Violence generally is also viewed with a very jaundiced eye by children’s publishers, and the idea of mothers/fathers/carers initiating physical or psychological violence towards children (which, let’s face it, is a mainstay of adult horror) would have to be justified very carefully even in a YA text. Many publishers would just say no outright unless it was a traditional kid-being-abused-by-vicious-parent story, and even in that case it would need to have a proper developed socio-economic context and a decidedly uplifting ending.

Actually, there’s another big difference. Enigmatic endings, while commonplace in adult horror, are much rarer in YA. Publishers hate them. Truly bleak endings (a mainstay of adult horror, especially in short story form) are almost unknown in childrens’ and even YA fiction. Again Melvin Burgess’s output is an exception, and there are individual examples (THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS comes to mind), but generally the ending has to be uplifting, the kids win, and the good guys don’t initiate violence unless they have to and when they do so they exercise it with such appropriate rules of restraint that you’d think they’d been reading police conduct procedurals. None of this is surprising really when you realise that most of the adults reading/choosing YA and younger fiction for kids are themselves female, often mothers and educationalists/librarians. These are genuinely wonderful people on the whole, the very people who are doing do much to keep our libraries open and kids reading through school, but they often possess a vocational focus that means they have strong views about not going OTT. The critical establishment consensus in children’s fiction is that visceral horror has no place in their domain. Actually, sometimes that need to limit what you show (as opposed to the horror you imply) often leads to spectacular results. In adult fiction it can be quite easy (even encouraged) to go that little bit further to up the grue. A children’s book like ONCE by Maurice Gleitzman does the opposite. A boy keeps seeing hideous Nazi horrors occur in front of him, and he’ll just say ‘Oh’ and move on, either not understanding or wilfully not comprehending. It’s devastatingly effective. The best children’s writers have developed a wonderful knack for harrowing understatement that adult horror writers could sometimes learn from.    

JD’L: I started reading adult horror when I was nine or ten. It was the doorway to a new world – you know what I’m saying, I’m sure. Do you try to keep that doorway open for younger readers? By the same token, how much appeal do your books hold for adult readers?

CM: I tend not to worry about opening doors for readers. I just write my fiction and hope people like it.  Quite a few of my fans are adults, actually. And a lot of anecdotal evidence suggests that as many adults (especially 19-25 year-old women) read YA as the teenagers themselves. So you have to write in a way that satisfies both camps to be commercially successful. I guess it works both ways, though. The whole supernatural romance sub-genre, with its emphasis on adolescence and seduction, is full of themes teen girls and young women love. It’s all romance really; the horror’s often incidental. And proof of that is that hardly anyone can name a single male writer of supernatural romance. Try it for yourself. Thought of one? I’m impressed if you did. It’s fundamentally women writing for each other and for teenage girls.

JD’L: Having corresponded with you recently, I can tell that the darker realms of the genre have been calling to you for some time. Why is that? What’s down there that you’re not already exploring?

CM: You’re right, my fiction is very dark compared to much else out there, and that has got me into trouble sales-wise in recent years. But why I go in that direction … well, I’m not sure. Who can honestly answer that? Because actually what you’re really asking is why, given a choice, do I tend to get to place my characters in ever-worsening darkness rather than angling them towards the light? My authorial answer to that question is to say that dramatically, in terms of plot, and depth of characterisation, it always makes sense to put characters firmly in deep fire before hauling them out again, but the true answer probably lies in a psychology I and I guess most horror-centred writers should best leave unexplored.  At heart, it just feels more exciting.

JD’L: How important do you think it is that someone delves into such themes and brings back what they’ve discovered for the wider world?

CM:  It’s only important if it matters to you. I don’t think there are any lessons the wider world is waiting for. Certainly teenagers moan to me constantly that adults write YA fiction that instructs them in moral values, and they hate that. As if they haven’t considered those moral values already for themselves! It’s in your teenage years, when you are struggling to discover your own identity, that people tend to explore their moral side most consciously. Of course we all have our themes as writers, which we inveigle into our stories, but the key is just writing a great story. There’s nothing fundamentally different about YA fiction from adult. Teenagers mentally lack not complex intellectual apparatus but only experience.

JD’L: Is the YA market going to allow you to perform that service or will you have to change your game plan?

CM:  It IS going to allow me to, but I think I probably have to get back more towards fantasy rather than outright horror, which sells poorly in the children’s book world. That said, my ghost novel BREATHE is about as dark as a children’s story can get, and it got a good critical reception and a decent commercial showing, so you never really know.    

JD’L: What effect do you think publishers’ expectations and desires have on the titles currently reaching bookshops – both in the adult and YA sections?

CM:  YA it is about 70% supernatural romance right now. Most sound like this (I’m changing a few words to hide origins of a recent bestseller here …):
He stood in the doorway with his hands on his pockets, the picture of nonchalance, and even as a human, he was too gorgeous for words. His dark hair had been combed back, falling softly around his face, and his mercury eyes, though they should’ve seemed pale against all the white, glimmered more brightly than anything.

And they were fixed solely on me.

I’m sorry, let me go outside to puke. The dispiriting thing is that most supernatural romance for YA, while better written than the above, is basically this one endlessly repeated love story. We can’t blame publishers for that. They need to make money. They’d happily publish that much needed story Harry Potter and the Gobbet of Incest but who’d read it (er, apart from us …) We shouldn’t be that surprised by recent trends, though. The romance genre has always been the most popular in fiction. Hardly surprising as most fiction readers are girls/women, and what most of them want from their fiction is a romance or at least the promise of a romance at the heart of the story. I’m not saying they don’t want other things as well, or that it absolutely has to have a romance to get their attention, but sales trends relentlessly show that teenage girls and women primarily pick love stories while for men/teenage boys it’s rarely a factor at all in their selection process. (Sex is another matter of course – plenty of men/adolescent boys are drawn to horror for its explicit pursuit of that in all its engorged traits). Anyway, what seems to have happened recently is that Romance as a genre has finally got its act together, reached out with its powerful, dainty hand and simply co-opted those parts of horror and dark fantasy that are useful to it.      

JD’L: If there were no restrictions, either in publishers’ desires or the realities of the marketplace, what book would Cliff McNish be destined to write?

CM: Probably a novel version of something I’ve written in short story form for adults. A reincarnation of Medusa. A girl, truly terrifying, who embraces her destiny as the cause of all misery in the world.  [NB I've just read this story and it's excellent - JD'L]

JD’L: As a ‘guest’ of Horror Reanimated – let me just tighten that strap – you have a certain power conferred upon you. You may award The Sword of the Ultimate Darkness to the work of horror in any medium which remains a timeless classic. You may also banish to The Plague Pits the opposing work of horror, the very worst in any medium, and the one that must, therefore, be forgotten for all time.

Please make your selections now.

CM: BEST and virtually unknown amongst adult horror readers is Melvin Burgess’s BLOODTIDE. It’s a retelling of the Norse Volsunga Saga, replete with men and half men and monsters, and utterly terrifying and brilliant. There’s nothing else quite like it in YA. I’d also like to put Steve Rasnic Tem’s Halloween stories in here. Proving if there was ever any doubt that the best highlighter of horror is humour.  

As for worst, do you mind if I put M. R. James in there? I’m sorry, but people are always telling me how scary they are and they are simply not. Endless dull preamble towards a deflated balloon. 

JD’L: Before you go, can you tell us what’s coming next from Cliff McNish?

CM: My horror novel SAVANNAH GREY (girl stalked by three monsters has a weapon growing in her throat) is out now, but my second ghost novel, THE HUNTING GROUND, is out in May 2011.   

JD’L: Oh yeah – and what does your mum think about what you do?

CM:  She thinks I work at the post office choosing decorative patterns for Xmas stamps. 

JD’L: Cliff, you’ve been a gentlemen and it’s been a pleasure to interrog- ahem, interview you for Horror Reanimated. I hope you won’t be offended if we decide to eat you anyway.

That said, if you do manage to escape, I hope you’ll consider returning to talk to us again. In the meantime, we all wish you very much success, no matter where the genre takes you next.

CM: Thanks, but know that if you are foolish enough to eat me I will only grow stronger.

Cliff McNish was born in Sunderland, but has spent most of his life in the southeast of England. His first book was THE DOOMSPELL, inspired by a story he told his young daughter. Since then he has published THE SILVER SEQUENCE and the highly-acclaimed stand-alone supernatural thrillers, BREATHE (winner of the Salford and Calderdale book awards) and ANGEL. His books have been translated into 17 languages, and are published to acclaim in the US.

Add comment December 3rd, 2010

The Pain Cages – by Paul Kane

Today, we’ve a special treat from Paul Kane – a sneak peek at the opening of his forthcoming novella The Pain Cages.

Hmm. Is that the sound of flesh being torn asunder?

Enjoy…

The Pain Cages

By

Paul Kane

 

Prologue

Ask someone to describe pain…

And they might say, the feeling they get when they stub their toe on a table, or accidentally hit their thumb with a hammer when they’re banging a nail into the wall. Pain can be more than merely physical, of course: it can hurt when a marriage breaks up or a loved one dies. That’s even harder to put into words.

But these are all just shadows, echoes of something much greater.

Pain, true pain is impossible to describe, no matter how hard anyone tries. It can rip apart a person’s soul, leaving them a shell of what they once were. And if it is hard to endure, it is certainly much harder to watch.

For some.

This story is about pain, in all its forms. We enter this world screaming and crying as we fight to take our first breath – being struck on the back to rouse us into consciousness. Most of us leave this world the same way: with a jolt. If we’re lucky it will be quick, if we’re not…

This story is about pain.

True pain.  

Chapter One

The piercing screams wake me.

Not straight away, but slowly. They sound as if they’re coming from a million miles away. The closer to consciousness I draw, though, the louder they are, like someone turned up the volume on a stereo: surround sound, sub woofers, the works. Then that I realise they’re not part of some strange dream, but coming from the real world.

From somewhere nearby.

I open my eyes, or at least I try to. I never would have thought it could be so difficult; the amount of times I’ve taken this simple action for granted. But now… Actually I can’t tell whether they’re open or shut because it’s still so dark and I can’t really feel my eyelids… My guts are doing somersaults; I feel like I need to be sick.

And all the time the screaming continues.

My face – my whole body – is pressed up against a hard, solid surface. I’m lying on a smooth but cold floor, curled up like a cat in front of a fireplace, though nowhere near as contented. I try to lift my head. I thought it was difficult to open my eyes, but this is something else entirely. Jesus, it hurts – a shockwave travelling right down the length of my neck and spine. Instinctively my hand goes out to clutch at my back, but I can’t move that either. Must have been one hell of a bender last night. And the screaming? Had to be a TV somewhere, someone watching a really loud horror film with no thought for anyone else. Wait, had I turned it on after managing to get back home in God alone knows what state?

This is the weirdest hangover ever. I have some of the symptoms – head feels like it’s caving in, aching all over, stomach churning… But my tongue doesn’t feel like someone’s been rubbing it with sandpaper; I’m not thirsty from dehydration. Maybe someone slipped something into my glass?

Maybe you took something voluntarily. Wouldn’t be the first time…

There’s movement to my left and my head whips sideways; I immediately regret it as stars dance across my field of vision. I still can’t see anything, even after the universe of stars fade. Now I realise some sick son of a bitch has put a blindfold over my eyes.

More movement, this time to the right. I try to lift my hands to pull down the material, but again they won’t budge. My fingertips brush against metal and now I know why I can’t move them. It’s not because of any fucking hangover: I’m handcuffed. My fingers explore further and find a chain attached to the cuffs…The manacles?

When I hear the screams again, the terror racked up a notch, it dawns on me that I’m in a whole world of trouble. Maybe my groggy condition made me slow on the uptake, I don’t know, or perhaps I just couldn’t acknowledge the shouts of agony as real. But they are; there’s no doubting that now. And I’m definitely suffering from the after-effects of drugs, just not in the way I thought. Drugs designed to knock me out rather than get me high.

More movement, this time a swishing sound in front and behind me at the same time. How is that possible? My heart’s pumping fast, breathing coming in heavy gasps. I try to say something but all that comes out are a series of odd grunts.

“Sshh,” whispers a voice; can’t tell whether it’s a man or a woman, but they’re close. “Keep quiet, and stay still!”

The advice seems sound, but I’ve never been one for taking any kind of orders. I pull at the chains holding my hands in front of me. Now I realise my feet are shackled too.

Do as he says,” comes another hushed voice, this one definitely a woman, “or you’re going to get yourself killed.”

“And us with him,” spits the first person.

Killed? What the fuck? So many questions: where am I, who are these people talking to me? Why can I feel heat on my face? Smell something burning? No…cooking. Like roasting meat on a barbeque.

Struggling again, I scrape my face against the floor, trying to pull down the blindfold. The screams reach a fever pitch, mixed with pleas for help. The cloying smell is in my nose, down my throat; I gag.

I nose at the ground like a horse eating hay…and the blindfold slips a fraction. I can see a little through my right eye; there isn’t a lot of light, but I see metal bars in front of me, all around me. A glimpse of the cages on either side: a man, no more than forty, cowering in the corner of his. A woman – the one who’d told me I’d get myself killed – is transfixed by something right in front of her, tears tracking down her cheeks.

I follow her gaze and wish I hadn’t.

I see the shape, the thing in yet another of these round cages. It’s smoking, charred almost black, but here and there are patches of pink. A tuft or two of singed hair at the top of what must have been its head. Its eyeballs have melted, the liquid running down its cheeks, viscous and thick; flesh pulled taut over teeth that gleam so brightly they could have been used in a toothpaste commercial. This hunk of burnt flesh I’m looking at is – was – a person. That makes the stench even more pungent; just that bit more sickening.

I notice the screaming has stopped. It must have been coming from inside that cage as the flames did their worst before petering out.

It feels like I’m watching the body for hours, but it can’t be more than a minute.

Then, without any warning, the burnt figure lurches forward. No screams this time – its vocal chords are jelly – but its body rattles against the bars of the cage, which swings, suspended above the ground (as we all are).

Flesh, and what’s left of the person’s clothes, have stuck to the bottom of the cage, coming away from its body like molten plastic and revealing more raw pinkness. It makes only one last-ditch attempt for freedom before collapsing, never to move again.

This time I really do throw up, seeing stars again as the blindfold slips back over my eye. Too late…I’ve seen it now…I can’t ever forget…

When I pass out I barely notice the transition – darkness replaced by darkness, black with black.

But I still see that body, hanging. A scorched mess that had once been human.

The ghosts of its screams following me back now into the void… 

 

Interlude: Twenty Years Ago

 

This happened to me when I was ten; still holding on to childhood for grim death, in no particular hurry to be an adult.

I grew up on a council estate away from the city; farms and fields within walking distance. The houses were all uniform grey, there was a small park that the older kids wrecked periodically, and the council failed to keep any of the streets tidy. Old women gossiped over fences while young girls left school and became baby-making machines so they could live off benefits for the next twenty or thirty years.

Mum and Dad were still together back then. She worked part-time in a bookies and he worked on the busses. At family gatherings I’d sometimes hear my Uncle Jim telling people Mum could have done so much better than Dad.

“With her looks, she could have had her pick.”

He was right about my Mum, though. She was beautiful in a kind of film star way, all blonde hair and curls like Marilyn Monroe or Jean Harlow, and even at that age she’d lost none of the glamour. Sure, Dad was boring, but I like to think she ended up with him because he was a kind man with a kind face. In the end she did ‘do better’ as my Uncle would have called it, running off with owner of the bookies. She ended up with money, but was as miserable as sin. And, we suspected, the guy beat her. While my Dad wallowed in a tiny flat, getting drunk until his liver just gave up the ghost…but that’s another story, and long after this one.

I first saw The Monster one Bank Holiday. Dad was working overtime, but Mum had the day off. I was an only child, so had to amuse myself a lot of the time. That day I was getting under my mother’s feet while she was trying to watch some musical on TV.

“Christopher Edward Warwick, do you have to make such a row!” she finally bawled.

I couldn’t really blame her: I’d turned the whole house into a spaceship and was busy piloting it into the deeper reaches of the Galaxy, battling one-eyed aliens with veiny skins.

She sent me out to play with the other kids, but that wasn’t really my thing. I ended up wandering off to explore what the locals called ‘The Cut’ – I never understood why, because it didn’t look like anyone had cut the grass down there in centuries. Maybe it was because a pitiful excuse for a canal ran the length of it like a wound… Here I could pretend that I was in the jungle where giant snakes and lions lived, and down by the water there were man-eating crocodiles (in actual fact you were more likely to find used condoms and fag ends).

I didn’t come down here very often, not many kids did, but on that day I wandered further than I meant to – up a winding path to a small iron bridge crossing the canal. There I played Pooh sticks, something I hadn’t done since I was six or seven – dropping twigs in the water on one side of the bridge to see which ones would come out first on the other side. Not much of a game, but the snakes and lions appeared to be hiding today.

There were only a handful twigs lying around, so when these were gone I went into the undergrowth to find more. I hadn’t gone that far in when I found the den. It was covered up with foliage; quite well hidden beneath the trees, a hollowed out bit of green with earth for the floor and the remains of a fire. It was empty. I figured it must have been the older kids that had made it, looking for a private place to hang out.

At that age caution always fell a close second to curiosity, so I dropped the twigs and went inside. There was a strange smell, a toilet smell. I was about to leave when I spotted something towards the back, pages scattered.

And a glimpse of something that, until today, had been forbidden.

I crept further in, certain that the older kids had been here because they’d left behind an Aladdin’s Cave of porn. The magazines were screwed up, the pages creased – yet the pictures of half naked women posing for the camera were a revelation. At that age girls in my class were just pests, there to torment, but this was different. These weren’t girls, they were women, and they were showing me parts of their bodies willingly, opening up as easily as I was opening the pages.

I began to feel stirrings, a pleasant sensation as I ogled the photos. Then something fell out of one of the magazines. A piece of paper with handwritten scribblings all over it. I bent and picked it up, but could barely make out the spider scrawl. All except one phrase, written time and time again: ‘They watch, and they wait.’

I frowned, then checked more of the magazines. I hadn’t gotten very far when I heard the snapping of twigs I’d left in the entranceway. I spun and saw my monster. It was big, hairy, and its skin was almost black. It wore an old trenchcoat that strained tight at the shoulders. When it opened its mouth to speak I saw rotting teeth inside. Drool spilled onto its beard as it gargled, “Did they send you?”

I shook with terror. My erection shrank away and I dropped the magazine, a couple more of the handwritten sheets slipping out onto the floor. His wide, staring eyes followed them down. He covered the distance between us easily, grabbing hold of my arm – so hard I thought it might break. He towered above me. “They did, didn’t they, boy.” It wasn’t a question. His fetid breath almost caused me to pass out.

I shook my head, unable to get any words out.

“Yes. They’ve sent a little spy…”

“P-P-Please don’t hurt me…” I spluttered.

He yanked my arm. “I’m not going back!” he shouted. “You hear me…Never.”

I nodded. He seemed pleased that he’d got through to me. Then he drew me in so close I could see the insects living in his beard.

“You go back, you tell them that, boy,” he growled.

He let me go. I gaped, but suddenly my natural survival instinct kicked in and I ran out of there. I plunged through the undergrowth, catching my head on the branch of a low-hanging tree. I fell; hard. Shaking my head, then casting a glance over my shoulder, I got up and began running again…

I felt the wetness at my temple, but didn’t stop. I ran up that path, never looking back in case the ‘monster’ had decided to give chase.

I’m never going back…

Never…

When I got home my mother said, “For God’s sake, Chris, whatever have you been doing?” She took me into the kitchen, washed the cut on my head, then put some antiseptic on it. When she asked me again what I’d done, whether it had happened playing, all I could do was stare, opening and closing my mouth.

“Christopher Edward Warwick,” she said a final time, “you tell me what happened, right now.”

“M…Monster…c…canal…” was all I could say.

“You and that blasted imagination of yours,” she said. “Go to your room!”

When the truth emerged a day or so later, she felt pretty bad. I heard that some of the older boys had stumbled upon my monster and gave him a good kicking before telling their parents…who called the police. He’d gone by the time they got there, but it was all around the estate about what had happened: that some pervo nutter had been living rough down by the bridge.

Mum hugged me when she when found out. She never said anything, but she knew. Knew the monster had been real.

I know better now – he wasn’t really a monster at all. Just someone who knew the truth, and it had sent him insane.

‘They watch and wait’ he had written.

They watch and wait.
        

 ©     P. Kane   2010.

Paul KaneAbout Paul Kane:

Paul Kane has been writing professionally for almost fourteen years. His genre journalism has appeared in such magazines as The Dark Side, Death Ray, Fangoria, SFX, Dreamwatch and Rue Morgue, and his first non-fiction book was the critically acclaimed The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, introduced by Doug ‘Pinhead’ Bradley. His award-winning short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic (as well as being broadcast on BBC Radio 2), and has been collected in Alone (In the Dark), Touching the Flame, FunnyBones and Peripheral Visions. His novella Signs of Life reached the shortlist of the British Fantasy Awards 2006, The Lazarus Condition was introduced by Mick Garris, creator of Masters of Horror, and RED featured artwork from Dave (The Graveyard Book) McKean.

As Special Publications Editor of the British Fantasy Society he worked with authors like Brian Aldiss, Ramsey Campbell, Muriel Gray, Robert Silverberg and many more, plus he is the co-editor of Hellbound Hearts for Pocket Books (Simon and Schuster), an anthology of original stories inspired by Clive Barker’s novella, featuring contributions from the likes of Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola, Kelley Armstrong, Tim Lebbon, Yvonne Navarro, Richard Christian Matheson, Chaz Brenchley and Nancy Holder.

In 2008 his zombie story ‘Dead Time’ was turned into an episode of the Lionsgate/NBC TV series Fear Itself, adapted by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (SAW II-IV). He also scripted the short film The Opportunity which premiered at Cannes in 2009. Paul’s mass market novels for Abaddon’s Afterblight Chronicles – Arrowhead and Broken Arrow – detail the adventures of a post apocalyptic version of Robin Hood. His latest novels include The Gemini Factor, from Screaming Dreams, and Of Darkness and Light, from Thunderstorm books. He currently lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife – the author Marie O’Regan – his family, and a black cat called Mina.

Add comment November 18th, 2010

Free JD’L fiction right now…

All this month you can read the opening two chapters of Fugue Hunter by Joseph D’Lacey, courtesy of the great Paul Kane:

And I’ll shortly be uploading the prologue and first chapter of Paul’s latest novella The Pain Cages right here on HR…

Add comment November 9th, 2010

Coming very soon to a dungeon near you…

In the next few days, we’ll have a cracking article on the future of genre publishing by Donna Condon, commissioning editor for Piatkus. Are we headed for a publishing apocalypse? Are horror writers damned? Get the inside curve right here.

Donna also provided us with some new Piatkus titles, so the following week we’ll run a competition, giving away copies of the following books:

Good luck to writers, publishers and competition entrants alike – the future isn’t what it used to be…

Add comment October 7th, 2010

Suzi Lorraine on WON TON BABY by Alan Kelly

24487_1341147482394_1042394044_31039383_3991089_nWon Ton Baby is nothing if not a pertinent reminder that we should never reproduce; that anyone under four feet should be shackled to a wall with a cast-iron chain and their putrescent little bodies wrapped in razor wire – The Bad Seed, carrion-eating brats, caged here in The 9th Circle of Horror Reanimated would pose less of a threat than Suzi Lorraine’s Baby Won Ton. But enough about my neighbourhood; Baby Won Ton makes the kids in my neighbourhood look like ponies! Warm milk will never pass Baby Won Ton’s lips; he is more interested in making couture out of your entrails, that is, after he has choked you with his umbilical cord.

 
Suzi Lorraine first came to my attention when I picked up a copy of the horror magazine Gorezone, which was, at that time only a demented little fledgling. Her column Diary of a Scream Queen was the reason I began picking it up and it has since grown in popularity with sales of up to 90,000 issues sold per month. I can’t help but feel Suzi had a large part to play in the success of this rag. With over 40 films under her belt, most of which are in the horror genre, her acting career has allowed her to travel all over the world, filming in Italy, Canada, London, Germany, Argentina, Amsterdam, and the British Virgin Islands. She also co-hosted The Gorezone Film Festival in London last October and was honoured by fans in Torino, Italy during ‘Suzi Lorraine Night’ at the Empire Theatre with several of her films being screened that night as part of a Suzi film retrospective. Some of the films Suzi appeared in are Claang: The Game, Sea of Dust and Bikini Girls on Ice. Won Ton… sees her working both in front and behind the camera.

 
Suzi created the story idea for (and co-produced) Won Ton Baby, collaborating with James Morgart to develop the script. Together they’ve created a fusion of comedy and horror; a riotous celebration of the perverse, the ghoulish and the zany all done in spectacular bad taste. Suzi was kind enough to brave an interview with me – she is, after all currently devising sadistic torture techniques for serial killers in Hell – and answers all my questions with great honesty. For those who want to know more, read on….

 
Alan Kelly: Hello Suzi, welcome to Horror Reanimated. Could you tell me a bit about what first inspired Won Ton Baby?

 
Suzi Lorraine: Thanks! I’m thrilled to be here at Horror Reanimated. Couldn’t think of a better place to dwell, for a spell….
 
The idea of “Won Ton Baby!” was conjured up by yours truly about 3 years ago, when I was working on a short horror film. I was playing a maid, and the director had decided on a whim that he wanted my character to speak with a “sexy accent”. So being a goofball, I decided to start speaking with a broken Chinese accent. It amused everyone on set, and I said to everyone, “one day I’m going to make a film where I keep a quirky Asian accent throughout the entire movie”. During the same film shoot, my stomach was rumbling during one of the takes, and we started joking around about me spawning a devil baby who is also Asian. One joke led to another, and the idea of “Won Ton Baby!” was “born”.
 
I further fleshed out the idea, and drew heavy inspiration from my love of 80s killer baby movies such as “It’s Alive”, “Basket Case”, and “Child’s Play”. I wanted “Won Ton Baby!” to have the same campy, tongue in cheek vibe as these movies I grew up with and loved so much.  I’m a huge fan of blending horror with black comedy.  I was also tired of the rampant CGI that is prevalent in so many films nowadays, and I wanted to go back to basics – rather than special effects, our sfx team created a devil baby made from silicone that could be puppeteered. We still have the handsome little devil, although he’s slightly the worse for wear after all of his adventures in the movie.24495_1188229040926_1684340610_372992_6530290_n

AK: I think humour in horror is absent nowadays. Earlier I read that Marilyn Manson is to star in a retro slasher flick called Splatter Sisters, which was described as “sexploitation-serial-killer-movie circa 1989″. Do you think horror has had its funny bone ripped out? I ask this because Won Ton Baby is hilariously OTT and you have a flair for comedy (ala Goldie Hawn, the dipsy, cute, sexy and smart character) – I watched The Human Centipede recently and it was so unrelentingly bleak, it actually left a nasty taste in my mouth (no pun intended) – do you believe horror needs to be less…nihilistic?
 
SL: I know what you mean! The vast majority of new horror movies today are straight up and serious as hell! Even more serious than Tiger Wood’s obsession with hookers. These kind of movies certainly have their place, and are the backbone of the horror industry. However, for my particular odd tastes and offbeat strangeness, there are just not enough horror films with levity. I’m so grateful to directors like Sam Raimi, who is keeping the horror/comedy torch well lit. I was quite taken by “Drag me To Hell”. I’ve always been a fan of Raimi’s, and any true horror fan knows the Evil Dead series are classics!
 
As an actor and as a writer, I have to say I’m most in my element when I’m writing something that is off colour and amusing. Plus, let me tell you, it’s much more fun to make a horror/comedy than to make a horror film. More jokes and humor, less blood and anguish. Thanks so much for the kind words about my character in “Won Ton Baby!”. Do you know, it took me over a week to kick that accent after filming? ;-)
 
You know, I can’t believe the buzz that “Human Centipede” is getting! I heard about it only a few weeks ago from a friend who was quite taken with the err…. unusual…. premise of the film. And just a couple weeks later, you must be the 6th or 7th person that’s mentioned it to me. I have got to watch this. It goes to show you how important word of mouth is, and how quickly buzz can spread, particularly in the viral video/internet obsessed society we live in.

AK: Did the Won Ton crew face many challenges to get the film completed, where you all working to meet a specific deadline – what problems did you find yourself up against, both in pre/post production?

SL: Our biggest challenge was that Baby Won Ton kept sneaking off to smoke weed and flirt with the extras. 
 
Besides that, the time constraints were the biggest issue.  For a few of the locations, mainly the restaurants, we had a very tight period of time in which we could film.  The restaurant was not available until closing each night, so we began setting up around 11pm.  Our production designer Jen Morgart worked tirelessly to convert the restaurant each night from Italian to full fledged Chinese!  We shot thru the night, and needed to be wrapped by mid-morning so that the restaurant could get ready to start serving lunch that day.
 
Once the film was completed, we were working with a firm deadline to get the film completed in time for the Gorezone International Film Festival.  The film festival committee had accepted a rough cut of the film, but we still had to work quickly to get the final cut finished in time.  We had an amazing team, including our editor Ken Yankee, compositor James Todd, and composer Mars who worked long hours to ensure we met the deadline. 

AK: That slimy, lusty little bugger. Special effects guru Ingrid Okola created Won Ton Baby and what a monstrous little fiend he turned out to be – really hope he was only flirting and not eviscerating those extras – did you have a clear idea of how you wanted Baby Won Ton to look?

SL: I really did.  I pictured baby Won Ton very vividly in my head, even before the script was complete.  I knew I wanted him to be very short and squat, almost Sumo wrestler like in appearance and girth.  I knew he would have wild and wooly black hair/fur, and that he should have a definitive Asian resemblance.  And of course speak with a gravelly Chinese accent.  I wanted his teeth and claws to be gnarly and nasty.   Ingrid Okola and Paul Mafuz of Wicked EFX did a phenomenal job creating the baby from silicone and literally bringing the li’l devil to life!

feed_ts1_05_x1_0002AK: Those teeth are pretty nasty! Like Emily Booth’s “Movie Massacre” you have your own sidebar w/ Gorezone magazine on serial killers. Can you tell us all a wee bit about this?

SL: I actually started the serial killer project on my own dark and twisted initiative, presented it to Gorezone, and they loved the idea! I’ve always been intrigued by serial killers – far from admiration – but simply amazed by the psychology behind what makes them do what they do. Every day people may have fantasies about killing someone, but the thought of getting caught usually stops them from following thru. But for these guys, the urge is so strong, that they readily off people with complete disregard of the personal consequences.

I decided to try something new with my Gorezone “Diary of a Scream Queen” column, and write short stories/editorials about particularly disturbed serial killers, focusing primarily on the less “famous”, less notorious whackos, such as Bob Berdella, Richard Chase, and Issei Sagawa. It’s opened up a whole new angle for me as a writer, and for the readers of Gorezone, and I think this content is entirely different than what you’d find in most horror magazines.

AK: When did the Divine Debbie Rochon come onboard?

SL: That’s an excellent question. We thought of Debbie even before the script was complete! James Morgart wrote the character of Madame Won Ton with Debbie in mind, and we hoped that she would dig the character and the script and would sign on. We got in touch with her, and were thrilled when she accepted the role. I’ve been a Debbie fan for ages, and it was a treat instead of a treatment to work with her! She’s so prepared, and she brought so much life, energy, emotion, and last but not least, comedy, to the character of Madame Won Ton. 5wonton071609

AK: You and James Morgart both worked together to put the flesh on the bones of Won Ton Baby and you’ve both collaborated before – have you any plans for a sequel?

SL: Indeed!  

Delightfully twisted visions of “Won Ton Baby! 2″ are already dancing in our heads.  Since Won Ton baby’s baby mama is part Cherokee Indian, we’re going to make baby Won Ton a Native American Indian in the sequel.  He will have a drinking problem, a wigwam, and will own a casino.  But as is customary with all things Won Ton, the white people will be the butt of the majority of jokes.  Hey, we aim for equal opportunity political incorrectness.  ;-)

AK: From the beginning I consider Gorezone to be one of the only horror magazines (I’m including genre magazines and excluding online magazines) to consistently champion underground and indie filmmakers/writers/artists. Would I be correct in saying that GZ waves -and will continue to do so – the flag for the underdog while simultaneously shining the torch on mainstream horror? What I mean is GZ puts cult/mainstream on an equal footing.
  
SL: That’s exactly it. The goal of the magazine is to help fans discover underground cult films, just as much as it is meant to help them discover and learn about mainstream Hollywood horror films. I think independent, lesser known horror films can be very exciting, in that they can really push the envelope and take risks that just wouldn’t be allowed in mainstream studio films. Often indie films are driven by passion, rather than the desire to make a buck. They’re grittier, often darker and more experimental. Indies can also step outside of the tried and true formula; you know the “paint by numbers” predictable formula that can be spotted in many mainstream films.
 
Gorezone is moving in a somewhat new direction, in that there is more of a focus now on substance, rather than just gore for the sake of gore. We don’t want to get pigeonholed into being a “blood and guts” only genre magazine. So we are definitely broadening our horizons, focusing on psychological thrillers just as much as slasher films. What’s interesting to me is that you can have a movie like “The Shining” or “Misery”, which in fact has very little onscreen gore, but your imagination runs wild. The things the viewer envisions are often even scarier than if the killings occur on camera.img_1210

AK: Won Ton Baby already seems to be generating quite a buzz — do you think horror filmmaking lacks a certain artistic or creative integrity. What I mean, there seems to be a lot of sameyness in commercial horror. Whereas Won Ton Baby, albeit very tongue in cheek – is a horror film where the viewer could see the love of the subject matter come through – it rivals and pretty much beats – or if Baby Won Ton had his way, chokes – all the other Bad Seed baby monsters that have come before (I am really hoping there isn’t a pun there, though I suspect there is — you’ve corrupted me Suzi) -

SL: I’ll grab your pun and run with it!  Won Ton’s Baby’s bad seed will be the impetus for “Won Ton Baby! 2″, as the poor drunk girl he impregnated gives birth to a whole new generation of baby won tons in the sequel….   ;-)
 
I agree – I see a trend of very similar themes in indie horror lately.   Some filmmakers like to “paint by numbers” – i.e. scantily clad girl/s get chased by madman wielding ax, knife, etc. and then offed one by one.   It’s a formula alright, but not terribly creative.    With “Won Ton Baby!”, we wanted to of course keep the elements of suspense and horror, but focus on the hilarity and insanity of the baby.   And the relationships between the Won Ton family members were paramount.  James Morgart did a phenomenal job fleshing out the characters in the screenplay.
 
The true test of a movie is whether you care about the characters.  If you’re half way thru, and you don’t give a “dalmation” whether the lead characters live or die, then the movie failed.  It was really important to us to make the characters very robust and even heartfelt, so that people would relate to them, and hopefully root for them.

AK: When did you first fall in love with the horror genre, was there ever a time that you can remember thinking: “this is the dark twisted avenue I’m gonna go down”?

SL: I think it all goes back to Alice Cooper. There was just something about that first time I heard “Steven” from the Welcome to My Nightmare album. My brother played it at full blast, and I remember it echoing and resonating thru the walls, particularly lines like “Steven, it’s time to come home!” and then the baritone “I’m a little boy”. “No, I’m a great big man”. It was just so creepy, and yet so enthralling at the same time. I think during that one month, I must have run back to my brother’s room 6 times asking him to play that album.
 
In terms of actual films, the imprinting (ahem… damage) had to have been done while watching “When a Stranger Calls”, or “Halloween”, or perhaps “Carrie” or “Psycho II”. It’s so hard to pinpoint the first horror film that I watched that really made a hard imprint. I can’t honestly remember, I just remember them always being a part of my family. ;-) My brother and father are horror fans, so I literally grew up around that stuff. I remember being about 9 years old, and being incredulous when my friends told me their parents said they can’t watch a movie. I was like “Whaatttt?? Why can’t you watch “Nightmare on Elm Street” with me? Or even worse, the friends that would say, ‘Suzi, I’m scared to watch those movies”! I honestly didn’t get it, and felt bad that they were missing out so dearly. And therefore, they had to pay!! Mwahhhh!!!!
lr1113 
My cousin (decidedly a non-horror fan) can tell you stories about how I terrorized her (lovingly, of course) by scaring the living hell out of her at sleepovers. I would trigger some kind of creepy horror soundtrack/song that I had recorded, and then magically it would start playing and freak her out. Or I would cut all the lights and toss stuff around, telling her it was the ghosts. Or even better, I would dress up as a ghost, and scare the living daylights out of her! (Editor’s note: HR staff found this very amusing…)

AK: Could you give me three titles from film, literature and television which you loved and why?

SL: TV: “Twilight Zone”. Brilliant sci fi/horror tales, with an impactful moral message at the end of every episode. I love the creativity and originality of the series. Riveting, and fascinating. And I love the fact that an episode could be completely creepy and/or terrifying without showing a drop of blood onscreen.

Film: “The Shining”. An example of an all around perfect horror film. You have a picturesque and oh so creepy old mansion, feelings of complete exclusion and isolation from society (and reality), and of course, the one and only Jack Nicholson, who was simply brilliant in the role, as he becomes slowly unwound and homicidal. Not to mention the ground breaking cinematography and art direction of the master Stanley Kubrick.

Literature: “Solitaire”, by Kelley Eskridge. It’s a sci-fi styled fictional account of a young woman in a post modern time who was convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, and was setenced to many decades of solitary confinement. However, in this futuristic world, the justice system has been using a technique in which prisoners are put into a catatonic style “sleep” in which hours seem like days, even years. So an 80 year sentence feels to the prisoner like 80 years, but can be completed in a year or 2. It was a really riveting account of this young girl’s struggles and the way she dealt with the insanity of being isolated for such a long period of time. The book also details her return to society, and how many demons she had to deal with as a result of her solitary imprisonment time.

AK: What are you thoughts on horror on the small-screen, you mentioned The Twilight Zone above – I’m excited about The Walking Dead and really like True Blood and Being Human.

SL: I think horror on the small screen can have tremendous potential, however there really haven’t been too many lasting series dedicated to it as of yet. Of course there are a million and one forensics/crime dramas out there like CSI and Criminal Minds, which are fantastic in their own right, however they are more psychological thriller/forensics based than actual horror.

I have also heard great things about the TV series “Dexter”, although I have yet to check it out. I recently discovered the “Chiller Channel” here in the US, and am loving the content! Speaking of good TV series, they recently played an “American Gothic” marathon on Chiller. What an intriguing show, with outstanding characters. I love that great comedic character actor, Gary Cole, and young Lucas Black (“Swingblade”) is also outstanding in the series.

AK: Thank you Suzi for taking the time to talk to me…

SL: Thanks so much for doing this interview with me Alan! It has been a lot of fun. I loved all your questions!

1 comment August 7th, 2010

Interview with Johnny Mains by JD’L

Many of you will be familiar with our guest today, Johnny Mains. His mission to resurrect The Pan Book of Horror Stories has made him an instant legend in the horror community. As I said to him in a recent Facebook exchange, he is at the forefront of Horror Reanimation.back-from-the-dead-siging

I invited Johnny to join us here in the Hell-realms of Horror Reanimated where we could interrogate him properly – a chat on Facebook never quite satisfies, does it? At least down here, where the walls drip pus-thick sulphur and our interrogation equipment never fails, we could get to know each other…more intimately. He could barely wait to get his genitals through our mini-guillotine!

Unfortunately, Johnny pressed the wrong button in the lift (B is for Blowtorch not Basement!) and got a bit of a roasting.

Joseph D’Lacey: Hi, Johnny. Thanks for riding the elevator down to Satan’s crypt – where the resident bloggers are enslaved for all eternity. You’re looking a little crispy but I’m sure we can soon excise the excess dermis. Anyway, we’re delighted to have you here – Mathew’s been blunting his razors in anticipation.

Johnny Mains: Afternoon Joseph, and in honour of my recent holiday to Portugal, I shall call you ‘Senhor Slicer Pênis Pequeno.’

And Mathew needs to use those razors on his beard, or he needs to grow it out a bit. It looks like a snail with a bad belly has been

Mathew's beard, eating his face and drinking his beer

Mathew's beard, eating his face and drinking his beer

running all over his manly jaw. But it’s good to be at HR and thanks for inviting me!
 
JD’L: You must have a soul-level connection with the genre to be involved with it so deeply. Were your first feelings of horror caused by something in real life or by something from the world of entertainment? What got you hooked?

JM :  When I was a child I lived not too far from an area where there used to be a Roman Fort called Trimontium. But even closer to me were the remains of a Roman Marching Camp – something I didn’t find out about until I was in my twenties. So, when I was around eight years old I was ill in bed, it was a Saturday afternoon and I heard what I believed to be the sounds of a deafening Roman Legion trample through my farmhouse bedroom. Scared the absolute shit out of me. The braying of hundreds of horses, clanking of light and heavy metals; (I hid under the covers as it was scaring me) people talking in a deep raucous foreign language.

For the obvious reasons I never told my parents, and as I grew up I truly believed that the ghosts of these Romans had walked through the house. Then one Christmas I was given an Armada Ghost Book and the connection with my experience and ghosts in these stories was made. I recieved many of these books and each story in their own way reminded me of my experience in which the terror I had felt duly morphed with time into a delicious thrill. I continued to be a fan of the ghostly tale until I discovered Stephen King (Carrie) at the age of twelve and the Pan Book of Horror Stories at the age of thirteen. Then that’s when my love of horror truly began.

JD’L: Horror is often described not as a genre but as a sensation or experience. This may make it harder to categorise but it strikes me as a useful distinction. As someone who’s involved so fundamentally, what are your thoughts on defining the genre?

JM: Something I might find frightening might be laughable to someone else, and this, while amusingly ironic, is the definition of the genre. Individual perceptions make it (horror) what it is.

JD’: Why do we have horror in the first place? Surely in a sane world, people wouldn’t want to be any more frightened than they already are. What’s the use of it, do you think, and why does it endure?

JM: As a collector of ghost/horror anthologies I am truly staggered at the books I come across that were published in the years immediately and following the First and Second World Wars. You would have thought that books of this kind would be almost impossible to track down – after the aftermath of millions of soldiers butchered on the battlefields, the traumas of the blitz, the understanding of what the Final Solution meant – would you want to read a horror story when there was this terrifying legacy to deal and to live with?

It goes to show that even though we may face real life horrors – sadly as relevant today as they were back then, we still like to be thrilled with the horror we can stop at will, the terrifying that we are in complete charge of. In this regard horror will always be with us, and that we can choose to be a part of it, or not.

JD’L: Has horror changed much or are we merely seeing the same old stories told in slightly different ways? I suppose what I’m wondering is, have the archetypes of horror developed or altered in response to changes in society?

JM:  There are bound to be homages, rip-offs, re-treads, call them what you will of the core ideas, myths, and legends of the genre that are out there – but on that flip side there are startling new voices and even people who are firmly established – like say for instance Nicholas Royle who is always there with his new exciting spins on the genre. Stories for instance like Unfollow (marvellous Twitter inspired short story), The Children (a very creepy take on the package holiday) and others continue to prove that he is on top of his game.

JD’L: Film, literature, art, music and video games are all viable media for presenting Horror. There are probably many others I haven’t thought of. Which do you think has the greatest potential to scare people?

JM: I think literature, for me is the one that is scariest. Sitting on your own, late at night, reading a suitably creepy short story or novel…and the house starts settling down, making it’s noises, creaks and groans… something outside makes a noise, a twig snaps…
Most of all I miss being a kid and telling the most goriest stories while being on overnight excursions or hearing stories from other countries while on exchange. Each storyteller would try to outballs the latter one.

So yeah, Literature first, spoken word second, music third.

JD’L: Can you tell us a little about what prompted you to bring back The Pan Books of Horror Stories?

JM: I’ve been a fan of it since I was 13 years old and a few years ago I was looking for information on one of the authors to my favourite short story from the Pans and couldn’t find anything on him at all! So I started a research kick, with the aims of bringing out a history book of the Pan Horrors. I got sidetracked by several of the authors I got in touch with saying they had nice new unpublished stories. The book is now an anthology with a bit of history in it – I’ve been the first person to seriously look into the world of Herbert van Thal, the series’ original editor. He didn’t disappoint!

JD’L: What kind of experience has that turned out to be?

JM: Tiring, exhilarating, mindblowing. I’ve been in touch with around 40 odd authors, can now call quite a few of them friends, as a fan it’s been great because I now have every book from 4 – 30 signed! But it all culminated at the World Horror Convention with the Pan Horror panel which I fronted, a moment I will treasure for the rest of my life. And it’s ongoing, still uncovering facts, secrets and new (old) authors!pan-book-of-horror-panel-whc

JD’L: Well, I and many others thank you for your perseverance and hard work, Johnny. I mean that very sincerely.

I recently read an article about Cory Doctorow’s approach to marketing his fiction. He’s big into making his work available for free on the internet as well as selling hardcopy. What are your thoughts about the future of publishing – particularly Horror publishing – with regard to the online/dead-tree split?

JM: Publishers are rightly shitting themselves, books can be produced cheaper now than they ever were. Of course, you have to wade through more crap to find the nuggets more than ever, but I think the small press (to a certain degree – see below) is in a healthy place. I think if you can afford to give out your stuff for free on the internet – then good for you, but why would I want to pay for something that you’ve already given me yesterday for nothing? You’re not a drug dealer, you’ve not got me hooked – I’ll just find someone else who is punting out free stuff and go and read them.

JD’L: In the UK, Horror literature appeared to go through a long slump between the 80’s and the turn of the millennium. Now, however, fans and authors alike are hopeful of a renaissance in the popularity and quality of horror fiction. Recent novels such as The Birthing House, Let the Right One in, Apartment 16 and The Leaping seem to point the way. Do you think such hopes are well-founded?

JM: Out there in mainstream land, I’m very happy with what’s happening – currently reading Tom Fletcher’s excellent THE LEAPING, love Lindqvist’s stuff and eagerly awaiting his third, I’m project editor on the Pan Horror 1959 re-issue which is going to be brilliant in terms of getting more anthologies out there, and I’ve also finished STORIES, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sorontonio – a knock out anthology which really took my breath away with how brilliant it is.

JD’L: What’s next for Johnny Mains? Will you always be a compiler and editor or do you have more personal creative projects lined up?

JM: I want to create books which will make people glad they put their hands in their pocket to buy them. Quality anthologies, quality collections with established authors, new discoveries and hopefully be able to be given the chance to write a few short stories myself.

JD’L: Visitors to Horror Reanimated are always encouraged to make two awards: The Sword of the Ultimate Darkness goes to the work of Horror in any medium which you consider to be a timeless classic. You may also banish to the Plague Pits the most astounding flop in Horror history. Go for it, sir!

JM:  Right, the Sword shall go to…Dawn of the Dead – THE greatest film I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. Now have it on bluray – and my god it’s like watching it for the first time. I think the messages and themes weaved into a ‘shoot ‘em in the head’ movie are still as valid and as urgent as they were back then.

The Plague Pits…any of the SAW films after the first instalment. Or Pet Sematary 2. That stank.

JD’L: Worthy choices!

Johnny, it’s been an enlightening experience to have you strapped to a rusty iron chair while we show you how all our instruments work. You’ve been a real gentlemen about it. While we’ve been talking, Mathew has had your manly bits encased in Perspex as a Horror Reanimated souvenir for you. I hope you’ll display them prominently on the mantelpiece of your living room.

In the meantime, we wish you the very best of good fortune with all your dark endeavours!

JM: Much obliged, it’s been a pleasure and I’ve really enjoyed my time with you. Now give me my bits back. I have a buyer for them!

2 comments July 6th, 2010

Interview with horror artist Nick Rose by JD’L

the-food-of-lovefini-webI first discovered today’s featured artist when I stumbled across his blog. I’d been Googling my short story ‘The Food of Love’ to see if its ghost remained online. Instead, I found Nick’s site and his detailed explanation of an illustration titled ‘Brainburgers’. Nick had been commissioned to provide art for my story in an anthology now titled Darc Karnivale. His image of zombies queuing for ‘Brainburgers’ in a fast food joint appears in the book, as do many other fine examples of Nick’s work.

As you’ll glean from his frank responses to our questions, Nick has survived a lot to get where he is today.

Joseph D’Lacey: Welcome to Horror Reanimated, Nick. I’m glad you could make it all the way out to our quaint little corner of Hell.

Nick Rose: Joseph, I am very honoured. You know you’re Madison’s and my favourite writer, and you’re a wonderful man on top of that. Illustrating “The Food of Love” was probably my favourite assignment to date. And guess what? – This time next month everyone will be able to have a print or T-shirt with “Brainburgers” on it. And don’t worry, brother, if we sell a good many of these, we’ll send some money your way! After all, you gave me the idea…

Actually, this will be the very first time that fans and friends can buy prints of Nick Rose art. I really hope that I get the chance to work on more of your stories in the future.

JD’L: Thanks, Nick! It doesn’t matter about the money – you can buy me a beer next time I come to the USA!

Now, I see a lot of news about you on Facebook these days but I’m very curious about your past. How long have you been a professional artist and what kind of journey has it been?

NR: Well, actually I have been around for a long time.darc-karnivale-cover-web

My first published piece was for a fanzine called “Stellar Gas” way back around 1980. It was a Star Trek fan magazine. The picture I did was of Mr. Spock. From there I was published regularly in a Magazine called “Lost World”. Around 1990 my pro career started with a piece published in Dragon Magazine #203. I also had landed a few commercial accounts as well.

Publishing is great as far as building a fan base, but it pays very little considering the time you spend on it. Commercial art on the other hand is boring most of the time, but the pay-checks are awesome.

Now through all of this, I also was a carpet installer. It was the only way I could make ends meet. This went on until 1995. At the time computers were coming in strong and you could do an assignment in a 10th of the time. But two things were going on with me at the time.

One: I was against using computers to produce art. Two: I was growing sick of doing commercial work. I wanted to paint Dragons and Monsters, so out of frustration, I quit drawing and painting again. From 1995 to 2000 I gave up art. I packed up the studio and put it in storage.

Those 5 years where hell. I started drinking and smoking very heavy and I just didn’t want to live to be honest. I was killing myself.

Then in 2000, I got a computer for my then step-son, and he started showing me all the cool things like publishers websites. (Before this, you either had to mail your work into the publisher and pray that you would get it back, or you had to have an agent knocking on doors for you.)  But now with the internet, all of that had changed. So I became inspired again, and unpacked my studio and got to work.

Everywhere I sent samples, I was getting work. This was mainly small press, but I was loving it. I was constantly getting magazines and books in the mail that either had a cover by me, or interiors. It was very exciting. I muddled along doing this until 2005 when a Master Artist offered to train me – Master Daniel Horne, and shortly after that fantasy legend Todd Lockwood decided to help me as well.

Sammy Unmasked - Based on the movie Trick 'r' Treat

Sammy Unmasked - Based on the movie Trick 'r' Treat

As a young man, I could not afford to pay my way through an art school.  After the Army, I went to a local community college where I took commercial art for a year. The sad thing is, everything I learned from the community college is totally useless these days. The computer has changed the world as we know it. So having Daniel and Todd train me was and is a dream come true. Daniel really opened my eyes to art and I started seeing it in a whole different light, and Todd really introduced me to contrast and perspective. He had me go down town twice a week and practice drawing buildings from all different points of views. I did that for about 5 months, and I remember mumbling every time I was sitting on a bench drawing and a wino would come up to me asking me for money. But after a while I started to get it and understood why he had me doing that. It really opened my eyes to how important it was to making a good picture. I haven’t used much of that knowledge yet but I will soon.

Through the years I installed carpet to get by, but there were some years I decided to try to go full time as an artist. Financially, those where tough times, but they were also a lot of fun. I don’t even remember how I got by, but I did. For some reason when I was young I thought I would get rich painting, but the truth is, you’re lucky just to get by. Being an artist is an act of love. Now don’t get me wrong, I know a few artists that are well off, mostly because they had a spouse with good business sense, like Elli Frazetta. She built the Frazetta empire by cutting out the middle man.

I know other artists who make $20,000 per painting, but those are few and far between. In my case, 2 of those a year and I would be living better that I ever have.

These days I paint because I love to, and last year people started noticing me on Facebook, and with in a year’s time I had 4600 friends, 2 fan clubs – one with 4800 fans, and the second one with 2000 fans, and my blog has 900 known followers. That’s about 12,000 fans in less than a year. It’s mind boggling if you think about it, me just being an artist. So I guess I’m doing pretty well these days.

JD’L: It seems that very few of those who set out to become authors are ever able to support themselves through their writing. How true is this of artists, do you think? I ask because I know several and only a couple of them make a living by their creativity.janefor-tim-spooky-finiweb1

NR: Good question Joseph, and you are right. A small percentage of artists like me can make a living doing this, but I have help. I have a health problem that I get money for, and Madison works a regular job, so all of that helps.

A couple of weeks from now we will start selling prints and other merchandise, and hopefully that will get Madison out of her job so she can write full time. But even the big names I know struggle. If their wives weren’t working, I don’t think they could make it either. Now there are a few that do, but they live modestly. For the first 50 years of my life, I installed carpet 37 of those years, and was able to retire from that at 50 years old. But the sad truth is that 80 percent of the artists you see in the field right now, will be memories in 3 years. Life pressures get to them, or raising a family, or they lack the 3 things it takes to be an artist which are Talent, Heart, and Soul, and/or they are in it for the wrong reason, like they want to be famous. If you want to be famous, you’d best learn how to play music or act.

JD’L: In your case has it always been the bizarre side of imagery that has drawn you or do you also enjoy what people might refer to as mainstream art?

suzi-dd1finiwebNR: Now that is the first time I have ever been asked that, and I will do my best to answer it.

I didn’t take art seriously until I was in the army, but in the 4th grade, around the time “One Million Years BC” came out, I started drawing dinosaurs. I had always loved dinosaurs and had a big box of the plastic ones like army men that I used to play with. You heard it here first folks, Nick Rose used to play with toy soldiers and dinosaurs! Anyway, after I saw that movie, I started drawing dinosaurs in school. If I’d gone to a Junior high school that had an art program, I would have pursued art at a much earlier age. But we lived in Bigfoot country, so the best I could get was creative writing.

In high school I became a huge comic book fan and I loved Spiderman. So in the army, when I started to draw again, I was really into comics.  After the Army, I went to a local community college to take some art classes, after that I found a book by Frank Frazetta and I knew then and there that I wanted to learn to paint like that man. So I moved into doing fantasy art.

But through the road of life, dark and evil things and people have been part of my existence. Not by choice, but imposed on me by certain step-family members. For instance my step father used to beat me and my mother senseless, and I don’t care how old you get, you never get over that. I had an asshole artist tell me the other day that he was friends with my ex Stepfather, and I remember thinking that this fool was proud to be friends with a man that would do that to a woman and a child.

He also allowed his younger bother to molest me. He was told about it but never did anything about it, except call me a “faggot”. This same artist told me that I was not allowed to come to my ex step fathers funeral when it happened. I would be physically removed if I did. I’ve got news for them: I am going to visit his grave often to pay my respects, if you know what I mean. So this artist is proud to be friends with him. I think that says volumes about his character.

But because I have had to live with these memories through the years, my work has become darker and darker, and I see them getting Darker as I go. There is no cure for what was done to me, talking about it just makes me angry, so in some way, painting these images has helped me slowly but surely.

In my early years I did try to do some mainstream art because family members would tell me “why don’t you paint something people will like, like barns or cowboys?” I did try, but it was like taking a pair of pliers and pulling the skin off of my face. So I went back to being the loser artist that everyone thought was weird.

JD’L: It’s very clear that you’re no kind of loser, Nick. Certainly not to survive such treatment and come out with so much positive spirit. What fascinating about what you’ve told me – apart from your honesty and candour – is that the darkness of your work has given you comfort. Horror has many functions!

Tell me, what is your preferred medium? Do you ever work outside of it?

NR: Joseph, I work in all mediums, including digital. I believe if you’re going to make a living doing this, you need to be able to do as much as possible. My favourites are pencil, oils, and Corel painter. I used to work in pen and inks a lot, but I don’t get much call spooky-1webfor it anymore.

JD’L: I’m fascinated by the working practices of other ‘creatives’ – How does a typical Nick Rose work day go?

NR: Normally, I get up at 7:15 am, make a pot of coffee and head to the dungeon (studio) to go through my mail and Facebook. That takes from 1 to 3 hours, drinking coffee throughout. After that, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I head to the gym for 90 minutes, come home, shower and get to work. The other 4 days of the week, I shower after checking e-mail and start work immediately. Somewhere along the way I grab a bowl of oatmeal. I work to at least 7pm, sometimes as late as 9pm. It depends on the day. Then I pick out a good movie and enjoy that, have a snack and hit the hay ready to start all over at 7:15 the next morning.

warden-webStarting this week I am going to be redesigning the studio, buying new equipment and supplies. I am really looking forward to that. Right now a good portion of the floor is taken up by my movie collection. I am going to buy book cases to put them in and that will clear a lot of the floor. Then I will have space for a table where I can put together packages ready to be mailed or to matte my prints. I am also buying another drawing table, a medium size easel for Madison’s daughter to work on, and a light box for her. The dungeon is large and wide open, so I can do what ever I want down here.

Another thing is that I listen to music all day long, so I have about 11,000 c.d.’s most of them are on my iMac. I listen to every kind of music you could think of.

JD’L: Do you feel there’s a gap between your ideas and your ability to bring them into being? Arthur Machen once wrote: ‘One dreams in fire and works in clay.’ He also talked about ‘the horrid gulf that yawns between the conception and the execution’. Admittedly he was an author, not an artist. Nonetheless, what’s your personal view?

NR: At one time I would say that would have been true, mostly because my skills were not strong enough to paint what my mind sees. Now, it is the other way around, my hands can surpass what my mind sees, and improve upon it. I get excited now every time I do a new piece because I know that it will be so much more than what my mind sees. I have to ask myself, what is next, and that is a big part of why I love to paint.

JD’L: Is it only art that gets you out of bed in the morning – or, indeed, at any other time – or do you have other passions?

NR: Oh my, to be honest, there was a time I didn’t want to get out of bed several years ago at all. As a matter of fact I overdosed on pain pills, and somehow lived through that. After the Dark Angels disbanded and I realised my best friend had betrayed and stabbed me in the back, and my Step Father said he never wanted to have anything to do with me ever again, I was going to commit suicide, but as a last resort I went to the VA hospital and told them what I was going to do. They locked me in the Mental Health ward for 3 weeks, during Christmas, and worked with me to help me cope with what happened. When I went home, the girl I had been dating took almost everything I owned and vanished off the face of the earth.klowny-finalsigweb

I just existed at that point. I didn’t care anymore. I just drank and smoked all I could smoke in a day. Then a friend offered to move me up here to Michigan, where my home is now, and my life changed 100%. The first thing was I met Madison. We fell in love, and all of a sudden I wanted to live again. It has been a rough year. I quit smoking, drinking and started working out again. I found out I have COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) because of the smoking, and this last year I’ve had pneumonia 5 times. But each day I get stronger, and my will to live is amazing. Nothing gets me down anymore. I work all the time and spend time with Madison and the kids.

My career has gone through the roof and keeps going up everyday. This is the 9th interview I have done since Christmas, Joseph. I was on a world wide radio show last week and am going to be a regular on there – talking live a couple times a year – and they will be giving away prints of my work and promoting my name almost every week. You can’t beat that.

JD’L: If you had the time, money and support to do only your own work, which deeply-held, as yet unrealised idea, would you bring into the world? I suppose I’m asking, what is the piece or series Nick Rose was born to create?

NR: Actually that is coming very soon now. I am at the point where I can do what I want and turn down what I don’t want to do. I have two projects I will be starting as soon as I finish remodelling the studio this coming week. One is a series of oil paintings of my dear friend and scream queen, Ms. Suzi Lorraine. We will be selling prints, calendars, t-shits, and whatever with her image. Another is a series of books called “The book of Rose” which I am already working on. I can’t say anything about that now, because of all the thieves out there, and this is a one of a kind thing. It will have a role playing game and video game based around it, all done through my company. And on top of that, I will be painting my paintings, writing how-to book, and a book about my life including all the zombiecatfiniwebcreeps and monsters I have met on my journey, names and all.

JD’L: Beyond that, what’s next for you, Nick? I have a sense there’s a lot of work in the pipeline. Is there anything you can tell us about without giving away too many secrets?

NR: Well, between now and January I have 20 covers to do, so that’s gonna keep me busy and it will get my work out there to a much larger audience. I hope by this time next year that the number will double and we will have our own market of buyers who are fans of my work.

JD’L: I hope so too, Nick. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you and share some of your artwork here at Horror Reanimated. Thanks for joining us and good luck for the future!

NR: Joseph, it has been my pleasure. You know Madison and I are two of your biggest fans, and it has been a thrill for me to do this interview with you. To my fans, “May the Darkness Comfort You.”

6 comments June 17th, 2010

Win a copy of Adam Nevill’s Apartment 16

apartment-16Thanks to Pan MacMillan we have five copies of one of the most important horror novels to be published in the UK in years, Apartment 16, by Adam Nevill.

(Read Mathew F. Riley’s review here).

Some doors are better left closed…

In Barrington House, an upmarket block in London, there is an empty apartment. No one goes in, no one comes out. And it’s been that way for fifty years. Until the night watchman hears a disturbance after midnight and investigates. What he experiences is enough to change his life forever.

A young American woman, Apryl, arrives at Barrington House. She’s been left an apartment by her mysterious Great Aunt Lillian who died in strange circumstances. Rumours claim Lillian was mad. But her diary suggests she was implicated in a horrific and inexplicable event decades ago.

Determined to learn something of this eccentric woman, Apryl begins to unravel the hidden story of Barrington House. She discovers that a transforming, evil force still inhabits the building. And the doorway to Apartment 16 is a gateway to something altogether more terrifying…

To win a copy, tell us the title of the book that Adam would like to be buried with and email us via the contact form with your answer!

Closing date 31 May 2010. Sorry – UK entrants only.

2 comments May 11th, 2010

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