Colin F Barnes edited the ecclectic Day of Demons anthology with amazing authors, so I decided to pick their brains out with a few questions…
I’m always curious as to how other writers find inspiration, especially when submitting to an anthology which connects its stories with one common subject, in this case demons. How do you approach such a task? Do you have stories stored-up? Do you write on demand?
GARY BONN: All of the above. I think most writer’s heads are like overstuffed attics. If you have a stimulus like a theme, you can dig around dusty old boxes in you head and find something shining. Often, a stimulus gives you the very thing you need to bring a story to life.
KT DAVIES: Hey Anne and everyone:) I’m used to working to a brief having done so writing for various live-roleplaying game systems. I also like having a prompt, (possibly because I’m lazy;p). I have got some short stories that I’ve written on a whim and that I’d like to find homes for, but it’s tricky finding the time to work on them whilst keeping up with more pressing projects.
SARAH ANNE LANGTON: Panicky words on demand! I actually think of a title first. Yup, possibly wierd. I know. Then chaotically wander the internet to start filling in the characters and hunting for demonic little ideas I might like use. DOD was wonderful to write as it was a great excuse to go poking about online into all sorts of dubious occulty places. Good call Mr Barnes : )
VICTORIA GRIESDOORN: That’s an interesting approach, Sarah! I would have never thought to go on the internet to come up with story ideas. I’m usually very thin on the ground with story ideas. So I usually only submit to anthologies if I already have a story idea that fits the theme. They’re few and far between for me. I am even worse at developing an idea past the premise-stage into full story-stage. With me it usually comes down to blank screens, frustration and deadlines.
KRISTA WALSH: I think my approach is closer to Victoria’s with the frustrating and looming deadlines…and I also tend to go for anthologies where I’ve had an idea sitting around for awhile but not known what to do with it. DoD was perfect because the premise had been simmering for months. I’m slowly developing the ability to write on a whim. I’ve participated in a number of flash fiction contests the last couple of months where it’s just a matter of closing your eyes and diving in. How successful I’ve been? Guess I’ll leave that up to the readers.
EDWARD DRAKE: I write quite a few short stories and have loads of unfinished ideas, some seeing the light of day on my website while others stay locked away until needed. It was just really lucky and really good timing that I spotted the request for Day of Demons submissions when I did. I had just started drafting Cost of Glory when I saw the shout out, so I already had the idea…kind of. It needed tweaking, mainly the demon aspect, but I was just lucky that I already write a lot of fantasy and I spotted the posting for submissions when I did. The ideas themselves come from anything, a daydream, a line of dialogue or even requests from family and friends that I have run with and expanded upon. Some lead to nothing but luckily others can lead to something more, like a part of the Day of Demons anthology.
LAURA DIAMOND: Hi all! I’m pretty new to the short story scene. I keep my ears open for anthology topics or genres that I enjoy, then I brainstorm a story for that anthology.
Great to see diverse approaches to writing for an antho:) Now, let’s get down and dirty. I’ve heard many times – and have been asked twice – about women and horror: some say the two don’t match, something to which I strongly disagree. What’s your take on it? Can women scare people shitless as much as men? Should women stick to ‘softer’ genres, such as romance and erotica? Yeah, I just vomited inside my mouth asking that last one.
KRISTA WALSH: I think Colin’s already proven that theory wrong with his City of Hell collection. That one kept me up for days! So resounding answer: no! Women may have a different spin on horror but it’s no less effective or skillful. I can’t take credit for itmyself, though. Not so much a one for the creepy.
GARY BONN: I just wish Ren Warom was here to answer you. Her debut novel is with an agent now and will scare people totally… er how do I say this? You know the way people talk about watching scary films whilst hiding behind the sofa? That’s how people will read it – and it’s not even intended to be horror. If she were to write in that genre… Excuse me, I’m off to hide behind a sofa.
EDWARD DRAKE: Trust me, women can scare just as well as men. There really is no gender divide when it comes to genre. Be it horror, war, sport, anything, women can write just as well as, if not better than men.
COLIN F. BARNES: I see no distinction in genders, personally. Women can write equally as horrific stories as men. (Women In Black, and Frankenstein immediately come to mind). I’m not sure why there aren’t more in the mainstream, but I blame traditional publishing for that. Them and their pre-conceived marketing ideas. If more women were given chance to show their horror work, I think the genre would be in much better shape than it is now. Probably less derivative zombie stuff.
VICTORIA GRIESDOORN: I agree with Edward. I think there’s no such thing as gender divide in genre. I think it’s much more determined by personality than gender. But I do think there might be a societal bias. Women in our society are commonly taught to think of themselves as the gentler sex and I think that sometimes shows in genre choices (as readers and writers), not capabilities.
SARAH ANNE LANGTON: Really? People still question this? Erm…. totally amazed folk would even think that chicks writing horror was an issue in genre fiction these days. I can tie my own shoelaces too.
What Mr Drake said 🙂
JAMES MAZZARO: I think different things scare women as opposed to men. Take for example Anne Rice. While her vampires are deadly, they use the art of seduction far more than what we saw from Stephen King’s Mr Barlow in Salem’s Lot. Men concentrate on blood and gore and delivering that shock scene in vivid detail. What I see from women is deeper levels of suspense and far more intricate motives for their heroes and villains.
Both methods are extremely effective. The goal is to keep the reader turning the pages far past their bedtime.
KAREN REAY-DAVIES: Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818, I count that as horror, indeed, it’s probably the first horror story. as Camilla didn’t come until, what? 1870 something. Interesting to note, the monster made of body parts that embarks on a terrible path of revenge was written by a woman and the two next nearest horror stories about sexeh vamps were written by men : le Fanu and Stoker respectively. Maybe it’s the men folk who lean to the softer types of horror, but are too shy to ‘come out’?;p But to answer the question. Yes, I think women are equally as capable of writing any genre as male writers.
SARAH ANNE LANGTON: Yes, Mary Shelley never dabbled in gore & Bram Stoker never touched on the sexual natures of vampires. Really don’t think an author’s approach is defined by virtue of their sex.
I never thought it was an issue until critics and interviewers asked me about it – and that was last year, not in 1954. Depressing. But speaking of writers block (literally), when writing, so you auto-censor yourselves? Have you ever changed entire scenes after realizing you couldn’t let it in? If so, what was the scene and what was the genre?
KRISTA WALSH: Can’t say I have. I’ve come close in the most recent project I’m working on. It’s just a short paragraph that’s sure to upset some people, but I’m standing by it.
JAMES MAZZARO: I have one of those fertile minds where stories are playing all the time in my head. The best way for the story to come out is to put myself in a locked room and write. I wrote a mothers love in the middle of the night in about an hour. The words flew onto the page faster than I could grasp what I was writing. I enjoyed writing it so much I couldn’t wait to see how it was going to turn out. When I sent it to Colin, he asked me to expand on the conflict between mrs Gray and the demon. It just clicked.
Since I signed on Twitter, I’ve noticed how many horror writers are out there, promoting or just trying to get published – if not already – and yet publishers and critiques always say the genre is in decline in popularity. I personally don’t believe it, but do you?
COLIN F BARNES: Yes, I do believe it is in decline. You can see it in bookshops; the shelf space is given over to Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. What little shelf space that there is for Horror, it’s mostly stalwarts like King, Lovecraft, Barker et al. Supermarkets, which are selling more books than bookshops these days, rarely have any horror on their shelves of thrillers, romance, and women’s fiction.
If you look at online marketplaces for horror, there’s really nothing of note, hardly any pro markets or zines, just a few smaller token or non-paying ones. Then when we look at Amazon, horror is mostly made up of badly produced derivative zombie, werewolf, vampire fiction and old classic collections. There’s very few top-end horror novels in the marketplace compared to other genres.
But, genres are cyclical. In 5 or 10 years we might see Scifi and Fantasy recede, and PR/UF go the way of the dodo, and Horror return to its former 80s/90s heyday.
This is one of the reasons why I didn’t focus on horror for Day of Demons, instead the focus was on fantasy and dark fantasy with a few horror stories mixed in to give it a wider appeal.
VICTORIA GRIESDOORN: Well, I think when publishers and critics talk about a genre being in decline, they mean that there are fewer books of that genre published through traditional houses, fewer bought by readers via traditional houses and it’s rare they’re on traditional bestseller’s lists. Publishers and critics still don’t pay much attention to how many indie authors there are writing in a genre and how much they’re selling, unless there’s an indie breakout bestselling success, in which case publishers will flock. But I can’t remember a case like that in the horror genre.
KRISTA WALSH: Since I’m not really a horror writer, I can only answer this question as a Twitter observer. Seems to me like it’s still one of the most popular genres among writers and readers. Sometimes hiding under different genre labels, perhaps, but still with a strong presence.
It’s a Day of Demons giveaway madness!!!
The generous editor will ship a softcover copy of the Days of Demon anthology to one lucky (and international) winner as well as choose three others to win ecopies – but you must leave a comment on here and tweet about it (as proof, the link, please) and sign up to Anachron Press to be eligible. Colin will whisper the winners on Friday the 14th of September at midnight.
September 5th, 2012 at 10:48 am
I too have written specifically for a themed anthology and enjoy the challenge of writing to spec. As for the woman and horror writing question, I am also surprised the topic comes up with Mary Shelley being the strongest argument.
September 5th, 2012 at 10:50 am
I know, a lot of guys ask that ‘women writing horror’ question. Threaten much? I think so.
September 5th, 2012 at 11:18 am
Great exchange! It’s so weird that people still look for a link between genre and gender. I suppose there might be a few points, but we’re writers, for god’s sake! If we can put our voices into characters of another gender, why can’t we write any and all genres? Answer: we can.
September 5th, 2012 at 11:46 am
Word, Adam. Word.
September 6th, 2012 at 10:11 am
For Anne, Krista, and Colin, and Day of Demons, of course, I have briefly left my hermitage.
I just wanted to say great interview everyone – having several different perspectives on each question worked very well.
Don’t include me in the draw though, I already have a copy and I heartily recommend it to anyone who is thinking of taking a look – it’s a good read.
September 6th, 2012 at 8:50 pm
Great interview…I have not written for an anthology…although I am currently putting one together of my own. It’s slow going though, I can see the benefit to inviting others to contribute.
September 12th, 2012 at 11:16 am
LOL, great multi interview, to be honest with you I’ve never understood about gender writing restrictions, there’s people that prove it wrong in any genre.
Look at Crime, I tell you, if you want good solid double dealing writing, that has tons of gore as well as well thought out plot lines, I tell you women are up there with the best of them. So why should horror be any different?
Anyone who restricted their reading due to gender is an idiot who will be missing a good number of gems out there.
September 12th, 2012 at 11:44 am
That’s how I feel, too. As if gender had anything to do with genre.