My first interview is with a fellow UK horror author. He’s also an editor and publisher. It’s, Nathan J.D.L Rowark.
When did you realise you wanted to be a horror writer?
I wrote my first horror novel when I was Twelve years old (unpublished – still have it), and continued to work on it until I was thirteen. I was influenced by emerging authors of the time (Clive Barker), and became a big fan of the work Stephen King produced when he was around 18. In those days we had no internet, no mobile phones, so I found it difficult when approaching publishers by snail mail. Once they found out how old I was, most wouldn’t entertain I was writing those works (Deckerland, A view of Heaven), so I found responses were laced with cynicism and suspicion. Coming from a working class background, my family were unable to support me in my chosen profession, and with little help available to me, I stopped writing around my fourteenth birthday. I knew from early on that I wanted to be a writer, had my own table in the corner for poetry classes, so that I would remain undistributed, and was the only eight year old in my class whom was allowed to write his own work rather than read someone else’s. The teachers did their best for me, but the system required that everyone achieved to the same level so I found I was held back. It was almost twenty years before I started writing regularly again.
My love of horror originally stems from my mother’s love of horror. She would record for me the Frankenstein movies of Universal and the Dracula tales from Hammer; for me to watch before I went to school in the morning. Now that’s what you call a superior education :-) The first books I remember getting in to were King’s ‘Skeleton Crew’ and the works of Alan Garner.
What was the first story you got published? Is there anything you’d change about it now?
The first poems I wrote which were published came to me just after I decided to give my writing career another shot. I didn’t know if they were any good but submitted them to an online webzine anyway (in the hopes they could give me some feedback, more than anything). That webzine turned out to be highly prestigious, ‘The Horror Zine’, edited by Jeanie Rector. She read through them and decided to publish them on the webzine and in one of her anthologies (Sanctimonious Saint at the Sinners Ball, Cross but Shan’t, Unending Battle of Self). Later, I found out that I was extremely lucky to be included, and it gave me the push I needed to continue writing. My first short story was published by Static Movement Press, a little tale I like to call ‘Word of the Warlock’. It was a short story based on the misinterpretations associated with the name ‘Warlock’, and told the story of a man gifted, yet cursed by his heritage at the same time. I think it’s about to get a third outing in Static Movement’s ‘Gifted’ anthology soon.
Would I change anything about these pieces now? I don’t think I would. After spending so long away from the writing scene, I had to relearn a few skills; to then improve upon them, but no. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for ‘Word of the Warlock’. Maybe I’ll expand upon it, one day. In the story, I mention that the author character has his own book out called ‘Tribal Death’. Six months later I had another story accepted for an SM antho. It was for their ‘Western Ghost Stories: volume II’ collection. Guess what? ‘Tribal Death’ exists now :-)
What’s your thoughts on authors and social media? What sites do you prefer?
I’ve found that Facebook and Twitter are great mediums to gather fans. Blogs are good too. It can be hard sometimes, to grab people’s attention (there are so many people on the internet now), but if your work is good, chances are people will gather to find out more. Boy has the world changed.
As well as being an author, you are also a publisher. Tell us a bit about Horrified Press.
Well, I started Horrified Press in September of last year after months of planning and preparation. Using my experiences working for companies that had me dealing with book distributors on a daily basis, and taking on-board my own experiences as a writer (over fifty works published), I decided I could help other authors get their works noticed too. It’s been going really well, so far. It’s a lot of work, hours and hours of it, but very rewarding when you see what comes from it all. Some authors, like yourself, are very succinct when telling a story. Others have the ideas and the creative vision but need help to refine them; so that the reader will see the sights the author wishes to convey. In both cases, I enjoy the process, helping other authors develop and showcasing already developed talents. It’s what I love the most about our horror anthologies, the way you can have a first published author side by side an established name. Aside from reading the authors bios after their stories, in some cases you’d never know which author was established and which one was new.
In the end, working together, I firmly believe we give our readership a truly frightening and original reading experience. The future of ‘Horrified Press’ is very exciting :-) Oh, and I’ll give you an exclusive, right here, right now. Check out our website (horrifiedpress.wordpress.com) and our facebook page for the announcement of major new developments from Friday (31st May).
As an editor, what do you look for in submissions? Which stories tend to make the cut?
That’s a good question, Nicky. I try not to be judgemental. I read a submission as it’s laid out and then sit back and mull it over for a few hours. Did I enjoy it? More importantly, will other people enjoy it? Did it meet the submission criteria? What was particularly special about it? I look for emerging talent. Will I have the time in my schedule to give the author additional support, to work with them on their piece (if needed – it’s an extra consideration)? I needed tutelage when I first started back and there’s not enough of that literary support available. Finally, I’ll ask the most important question of all… Will our readers enjoy it? Many authors will probably disagree with me on this, but what we do has to be for our audience; not ourselves. We’re like creative public servants, in a way. Another aspect of our anthology collections I feel is unique, we have many writers contributing that normally wouldn’t write horror. It gives those tales a unique perspective, and some of those have been my personal highlights.
What’s your favourite horror monster and why?
I have many favourites, from the obscure to the obvious…
I loved the rabbit (Frank) in Donnie Darko, but he’s probably more of a victim than a monster. Freddy Kruger was a particularly clever creation (thank you, Wes Craven). I liked the old depiction of him, not the new one. It focused too heavily on the child molestation aspect which didn’t frighten me; more repulsed me. Remakes… hmm. In literature, Dracula – of course. Pinhead was a fascinating creation; so multi-layered.
What is the worst mistake a new writer can make? And what advice would you give them?
Creative writing is just that. There are no right and wrong answers. I would say that grammar is very important, firstly. If you can’t say what you want to in a way people can understand, you have a major brick wall to surmount, in terms of making it your career. I would also say (one of my great problems as a writer when I first started out) don’t over-complicate things. That’s not style. You need to replace those lines with hard substance. Another thing I come across often (and was guilty of myself, back in the day) would be the use of ‘she said’ – ‘he said’.
“I’m going to the shops,” said Tom – not – “I’m going to the shops,” the excited, scruffy young man with blonde highlights and ripped jeans gushed to his displeased friend.
These things are time things, they disappear when you write regularly, read regularly and take stock of your own work. We’ve all been there.
Oh, last but not least, check out the latest horror anthologies from ‘Horrified Press’. Our writers work for royalties, so we need horror fans to support their awesome work and enjoy their amazing stories. Our e-books are $3, that’s the price of a small bottle of fizzy drink from a bad vending machine on the good side of town. Not to much to ask for over twenty gripping stories per pop, eh?
To buy the anthologies, click on the images below to be taken through to Lulu – for US and ROW please see www.amazon.com and search for the title.
Tales of the Undead – Suffer Eternal
Tales of the Undead – Hell Whore
Tales of the Undead – Suffer Eternal: volume II