Friday, 1 January 2010
Interview with Daniel I Russell (Associate Editor of Necrotic Tissue Magazine)
Daniel I. Russell was born near Wigan in 1980. He has been featured in various horror anthologies, magazines and ezines. His novel Samhane is due for release in paperback by Stygian Publications in 2010 as well as Come Into Darkness with Skullvines Press. He is a member of the Australian Horror Writers' Association and the associate editor of Necrotic Tissue magazine. Daniel lives in Western Australia with his horror-poet partner Sherie and three children Mason, Amity and Tobin. He had a budgie, but it died. (From Dan’s blog, which you can read here: http://daniel-i-russell.blogspot.com/)
Hi Dan, welcome to the blog. Let’s start with the fun stuff. You’re a horror writer – what scares you the most? Have you ever had any terrifying experiences that have inspired your fiction? And have you ever scared yourself with your own writing?
Two scariest things for me: sharks (after a bad experience watching JAWS at 4) and injections (tried to punch out a dentist at 7), strangely two subjects I haven't approached in my writing! Maybe I could scare myself if I did. Who knows?
There was once a weird event in my early childhood involving a human-shaped silhouette and some weird, hunched thing that followed it around. I might have been dreaming, but the image stuck with me. Only after I wrote a novel called The Collector and looked at the characters a bit more critically, I did notice that the titular baddie and his pet might be offshoots from this strange visitation.
Do you think the modern experience of horror is more extreme than it has ever been? Do you believe that people can become desensitised to horror? How do you think this has an impact on horror fiction?
I think the consensus is that horror is getting more extreme, especially in the movies, with the likes of SAW and HOSTEL and Twilight. I disagree. I believe that extreme, gory horror (or 'gore-no' as some people call it) has emerged from the shadows in the last decade and has touched on being, dare I say it, fashionable! Looking back to stuff in the 70s that was banned, it's just as extreme. Nowadays, the effects are a bit more realistic and the movies are marketed, even pushed, on these gory scenes. In the SAW movies, I've been in many arguments with people about them. Other writers and myself enjoy the twists and intervening character story lines, yet other people can't see past the blood.
I get a lot of: "You like the SAW movies? They're so shallow and just gore. You must be fucked up." My response: "You haven't read any of my books, have you?"
Unfortunately, with the production companies pumping out movies like this on a bloody production line and trying to out-extreme each other, the viewing public are getting a little bored now. Even SAW has been pushing it the last few years. This does lead to desensitised audiences, which is a shame. Still, I'd rather a long run of uninspired extreme horror flicks over a chain of remakes (go to hell, Michael Bay!).
In horror fiction, things have been constant for the last thirty or so years on the extreme front. Those that write splatter still write splatter, and well too. Check out Richard Laymon, Bentley Little, Ed Lee, Jack Ketchum, Graham Masterton and many more if you search the small presses. These guys have been writing stuff that would make Jigsaw cringe!
You have recently moved to Australia. Has this had much of an impact on your writing? What’s the horror scene like down under?
I've always agreed with the sayings 'write what you know' and 'travel broadens the mind'. So this has been a combination of the two.
I've written a few short stories based in Australia, mainly By the Banks of the Nabarra, a 14,000 story about a bunyip, which is due to appear in the Australian publication Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and The Taken, which is currently shortlisted for an Australian anthology. I also have a story short listed for the Tasmanian anthology Festive Fear 2, and after the success of the first volume, really have my fingers crossed for that one. I'm a member of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, which led to a story published in Midnight Echo #3 and even a private online chat between members and Clive Barker on Halloween! To chat with a lifelong idol was an amazing experience. The AHWA is a great organisation and has been one of the best things about moving to Australia...writing wise.
As for the general horror scene in Australia? It must be underground somewhere. ALL of the agents I queried over here all turned down anything horror/supernatural related. There's very few small press horror novels in the shops, and a minuscule number of markets to submit to (my partner talked to a writer who compiles information on Australian markets. When she told him where I'd been published with over here, he said that was pretty much all there is!).
There are some very talented and passionate horror writers over here...but I guess we just have to pitch our work to the States, like most people.
You have been published by Wild Child Publishing. Care to share your experience with them?
I entered into a relationship with WCP early in my career in the knowledge that the editing was top-notch. Writing is forever a learning process, and I craved technical experience (nothing more embarrassing then being caught with your modifier dangling for all to see, is there?). This done, I knew I would have a couple of ebooks out to whore to all and sundry and start building a fan base.
This, unfortunately, didn't occur.
The publisher did little to advertise the books, nor had any interest in getting the word of their authors out there. As some of the other writers have complained, what was I giving them 60% of the take for? My excerpt was wrong and formatted without paragraph breaks. My reviews weren't posted or sent out. I would have had more success financially self-publishing, but as I'm a firm disbeliever in this path, I persevered and hopefully, the future's looking brighter, particularly for Samhane, which is due for a paperback release next year with Stygian Publications.
Maybe some authors had a better time with WCP. I can only go from my own experience. But like I said just above, writing is always a learning process. That doesn't just cover the verbs and syntax, but also the industry.
Your novel, Samhane, is coming out in paperback with Stygian Publications and you’re also being published with Skullvines Press – congratulations! What has your experience been like with these publishers?
Amazing! I'd worked with R. Scott McCoy a few times in the past, being a featured writer in the debut Necrotic Tissue and Malpractice: Anthology of Bedside Terror. We grew to become good friends, which later led to more work with Necrotic Tissue. Stygian Publications, after the critical success of Malpractice and the stuff Shroud is releasing, decided to branch out. 2010 sees the release of their first graphic novel Bad Billy written by John P Wilson (quite a guy) and their first full novel, my very own Samhane. Those that read the ebook enjoyed it, so it will be nice to reach new readers. Scott has edited a novel for me before, so I trust his opinions. They simply make a book better.
I worked with SD Hintz and Jerrod Balzer over at Skullvines Press during a guest writing appearance in Tabloid Terrors #3, which is due out in January. We had such fun with that filthy little book! Come Into Darkness just felt right to be with them. It's a sexy, violent, disturbing book, and I know that the Skullvines boys will do it justice. They also work so damn hard to get books in readers hands. As a writer, you have to appreciate that and want to work with them.
How did you become Associate Editor for Necrotic Tissue? What’s it like being on the other side of the submissions process?
After appearing in the debut issue and Malpractice, Scott and myself became friends. Originally, Scott had someone else help him reading submissions, but that fell through and left him in the lurch, buried under a mountainous slush pile! He asked if I'd help him out by reading a few. I did, and it kind of became a long term thing. Now, as associate editor, I'm more an integral part of the magazine, especially now we're in print. It all feels a bit professional when I'm sat in the meetings, but when I hold the proof of the latest issue in my hands, it's all worth it. One of the best jobs I've ever had! (Do I get that raise now?)
Being on the other side doesn't change me as a writer really, but being a writer, I know how disappointing a form rejection can be after waiting six months for a response. We bust a gut to give writers a timely reply (usually within 1-2 weeks) with personal feedback if we aren't accepting the story. We get about 500 submission per monthly reading period, and it's a lot of work, but we owe that bit of respect to writers. They took the time to write the story and send it to us, so we have the time to give you feedback. (Holds up issue and grins)
What are the perks and challenges of your role with Necrotic Tissue?
It's always great when the issue arrives and you have your name in the staff page! I'm also being elevated (some may suggest foolishly) to the post of head editor for the October issue. The pressure will be on, but what a great way to learn more about the business and feel proud for putting a quality magazine out. I can't wait.
A challenge is the constant reading during the submission windows to keep on top of things. This obviously cuts into my own writing time, and when you have deadlines to meet, things can get hectic. I also have a newborn baby to add to the mix this time. Bring it on! (Holds up issue)
When reading submissions to the magazine, do you have any pet peeves, or anything that results in an instant rejection?
You can tell normally in the first few lines if a story is a contender or not. As a writer, I think you know when a story has been scrutinised and edited enough to be worthy of submitting to a magazine. We get some that look fresh off first draft, where the writer has sent it in because a) it's free and they have nothing to lose or b) they're impatient. It's a given that badly written stories will get rejected. Thankfully, most we receive are at a high standard, but that doesn't make life any easier. There are a lot of standard stories. We might get five or six stories that basically exactly the same, just with different characters or setting. This happens a lot with zombie stories or Lovecraftian pieces. We want fresh ideas please, or takes on these traditional subgenres to blow us away.
And jokes. We love horror-humour, but don't think you can get away with sticking in a joke from last night's Family Guy and we won't notice. I love Family Guy, but it's the bane of humour for me and NT submissions!
Certainly none of these things crops up in the current issue! (Holds it up)
What is your ultimate ambition as a writer?
I have varying ambitions as a writer, some realistic...some not. I'm happy to get my acceptances and have readers see my work, especially with the novels. I'd love to be published with Dorchester to rub shoulders with some of my idols and obviously make a little bit more money. It's not all about the money; I wouldn't sell out and write something more generally acceptable to generate more sales. To make a living doing what I love is the ultimate ambition. And a movie deal...just so I can visit the set of a horror film! lol
A pleasure, Sophie. Anyone fancy a pint?
Posted by Sophie Playle at 07:24