Editor Interview: The Horror Zine
Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.
A: Dark fiction, poetry, art
Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?
A: Aphelion because Robert Moriyama cares about his authors as much as I care about mine; Midnight Street because Trevor Denyer is able to consistently produce a very fine product every time; Macabre Cadaver because they still acknowledge and publish the lesser known writers; and of course the big boys: Cemetery Dance and Fangoria.
Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?
A: My very favorite fiction writers are the lesser knowns, the amazingly talented struggling writers and poets (and artists) that I publish in The Horror Zine. The creations of these lesser-knowns often amazes and astounds me, which is why I want the world to take notice of them. Of the more famous writers that The Horror Zine publishes, Joe R. Lansdale has written my most favorite books of all time, THE BOTTOMS. I also love Ramsey Campbell for always thrusting ordinary people into extraordinary situations; Graham Masterton for being so versatile; Bentley Little for how far "out of the ordinary" he can go; Cheryl Kaye Tardif for humor mixed with terror; Simon Clark for the jolt of surprise his work gives me; Ed Gorman for being deliciously subtle yet effective; Melenie Tem for pulling at my emotions; Deborah LeBlanc for her authentic Southern Style; Christopher Fowler and Conrad Williams for their exotic locations; Ronald Malfi for original monsters never done before; Elizabeth Massie for turning the guilt feelings of her characters into bang-up suspense; Scott Nicholson for the eerie feel of his work; Piers Anthony for his amazing character development and awesome protagonists; Mark LaFlamme for just plain scary, and Trevor Denyer for possibly the best ghost story I have ever read.
Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?
A: The mission of The Horror Zine is to support and promote struggling writers, poets, and artists. The Horror Zine gives the lesser-known writers, poets, and artists an opportunity to be displayed side-by-side with the more famous of the genre, such as Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton, Joe R. Lansdale, Deborah LeBlanc, Piers Anthony, Melanie Tem, Cheryl Kaye Tardiff, Ronald Malfi, and many other well-knowns. Furthermore, The Horror Zine displays a bio and a photograph of each contributor, and a contact address. We want to get these talented lesser-knowns noticed!
Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?
A: For fiction, start with action. Make the first three paragraphs to be grabbers. Have a nice balance of action and dialogue. Too much dialogue and you are "telling" the story instead of "showing" the story, and never start out with explanations; instead, weave your explanations gradually. Have a nice twist at the end. If you are being too conservative with your ideas, try reading Bentley Little's THE SECURITY SYSTEM, Graham Masterton's UNDERBED or Ramsey Campbell's story THE HANDS to show you how far outside of the box one can go.
For poetry, I am fine with rhyming, but if you rhyme, don't do it rigidly or else it sounds too much like a nursery rhyme. In other words, don't force it. Don't come up with weird words just because they rhyme. I am seeking descriptive poetry that makes me feel, that makes me say, "Yes, I have felt that way too."
For art, I am seeking all types of work: dark and mysterious yes, but also things of beauty. I look for art that makes me want to stop and study it.
Q: Describe the ideal submission.
A: For all:
One that is formatted correctly to my standards on the Submissions Guidelines page.
Has an action start; nice balance of action and dialogue; good character development so I care about what happens to the protagonist; and it surprises me at the end. I love a nice Hitchcock-type twist at the end.
Emotions; a good flow; beautifully descriptive prose; and sometimes even humor.
Detail is always nice, but sometimes I am attracted to bold and colorful art; I do not want paintings of movie or rock stars unless they are Universal Monsters, and even then, VERY RARELY. Don't copy, be original.
Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?
A: Formatting. If I really really LIKE what is submitted, I will re-format it myself although it irritates me to do so. Also, I constantly receive stories that are almost 100% dialogue and I will reject EVERY single one of those. Plus, I reject stories that have massive amounts of paragraphs in italics.
Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?
A: I want to know lots about who is submitting to me, but only if I like their submission first. Remember, The Horror Zine publishes photos and bios of every single contributor. Our mission is to get our lesser-knowns into well-knowns.
About the cover letter: remember to whom you are submitting. I am more forgiving than most editors, but it still causes me concern when I get an email that addresses a different magazine than The Horror Zine. That tells me the sender is sending to many editors of many magazines in a "scatter-gun" approach: which means, they are sending a mass mailiing and hoping one of them will stick, and they simply lost track of which email goes to where. My advice is to try to personalize your emails, i.e. Dear Ms. Rector. (P.S. never call me Miss or Mrs., it is more professional to call me Ms.)
Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?
A: That is a very interesting question, and a very good one. This is, after all, what the writers really want to know, isn't it? What makes editors tick?
First and formost, I check the word count. If a story is over 5,000 words, I don't read it at all.
For fiction, I cannot stress enough how important those first three paragaphs are. Start with action. If it is dialogue and dialogue and dialogue, I don't look past ten paragraphs before I stop.
Initially I skim a story. I read the first two sentences in each paragraph, then keep skimming to the end. If the end is weak or predictable, I reject. If the ending is good, I go back to the begining and more thoroughly read the story.
And! If you just happen to live in a desirable part of the USA like the South or Seattle or New York or San Francisco, write what you see outside your window. Include the authenticity of your location. The same goes for Canada and England, and other countries as well; if you live in a desirable locale, or visit an exotic one, weave it into your story. Christopher Fowler did a masterful job of giving us the feel of North Africa in his story THE THREADS; and Conrad Williams did the same with Australia in his story UBIRR.
Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?
A: I am different from a lot of editors because I am willing to work with a writer. I will offer suggestions and work with that writer until the piece is polished enough for publication into The Horror Zine. No edits are ever done without an author's permission and I get their approval first. But sometimes there is a gem of an idea in the story; it is just that the delivery needs to be improved. When that happens, I will work with the writer.
Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?
A: When I am not sure....when the story or poetry is a "maybe," I will send it to my Assistant Editor Dean Wild for a second opinion. Dean is very sharp and I value his opinions. Plus, having a second editor is added insurance against plagiarism. It is a very sad thing that some people feel a necessity to copy other people's ideas. Fortunately this is a rare occurrence, but once Dean spotted a story that was submitted to me that was an idea-for-idea copy from an episode of Showtime's MASTERS OF HORROR. I was grateful to Dean for catching that.
But you want to know what a day in my life is like. I am the webmaster of The Horror Zine as well as the editor and founder. I spend lots of my time on the ezine, so you know it is a passion. I also produce Horror Zine anthology books. So I spend a lot of time on all things Horror Zine, mostly in the early mornings because I am a morning person.
But I have met the most wonderful people in the world; The Horror Zine contributors are such creative and awesome people, the lesser-knowns and the famous alike: all nice, inventive, energetic and kind people. I wouldn't trade this for anything in the world. I would like to publically thank all of these writers, poets, and artists for giving me the opportunity to know and love them. And I want to thank them all for making The Horror Zine what it is because it is all about THEM.
Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?
A: I embrace technology. Send me your fiction and poetry as RTF attachments, and your artwork as jpeg attachments.
Efficiency and technology is how I am able to produce The Horror Zine on a monthly basis.