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Archive for October 18th, 2008

Horror Factor is an online source for horror authors who want to hone their craft. The site offers not only monthly tips, a writer's forum, and articles on the horror writing craft, but also on publishing, promotion and marketing horror fiction. Here to talk about the site is co-founder Lee Masterson. Read on to find out all the goodies this site offers and how to subscribe to their monthly, highly informative newsletter.  

Thanks for this interview, Lee. Tell us a bit about Horror Factor. When and how did it get started?

Horror Factor was created in 2002 – about 3 years after we first launched the original Fiction Factor (http://www.fictionfactor.com). The original site contains hundreds of articles on general fiction writing advice. It occurred to us that the information a horror writer might need would be more specific that just learning grammar or sentence structure or finding a publisher. Horror writing tips are also going to be vastly different to writing tips for a children's writer or a fantasy writer. So we sat down and had a huge brainstorming session and came up with the various sub-sites that are aimed specifically at writers in each of the individual genres we chose.

As I'm a huge horror fan, I decided to build Horror Factor before the other sub-sites. It's remained my favorite to this day!

What does your site offer authors?

The websites as a whole were specifically created to help all writers to improve, hone and strengthen writing skills. There are entire sections in the Fiction Factor article archives on getting published, finding editors or agents, submitting or formatting work and much more.

Horror Factor specifically caters to horror or dark fiction writers. We try hard to find quality horror-specific tips and advice that could potentially help a writer to improve his or her craft or to find publication. It's surprisingly difficult to find enough quality work in this genre designed to assist newer writers to hone their craft. We're always on the look out for more ways we can help out horror writers.

What about promotional opportunities?

We would sincerely love to promote all authors on our site somewhere – but our web host wouldn't be happy! We already blow out their hosting and bandwidth capacities quite often with the heavy traffic such an enormous site produces.

What we can offer is a bit of promotion in the "Writer Announcements" section in the newsletter. If any writer at all has some writing news they'd like to shout out or perhaps get some free promotion for a book/story publication, then feel free to hop onto our forum. Post your 'woo hoo' into the Announcements section. Remember to leave a link where everyone can find you. I'll get that announcement into the email newsletter and we'll let the world know about it for you!

How may authors interested in a review by Horror Factor submit their books?

We receive hundreds of submissions for reviews and even more queries every year. We're currently so overstocked with reviews that we won't be opening for further submissions until mid-2009. We do post an announcement in the newsletter when we do open for submissions, but we've learned that we only need to open for one week a year to create a backlog that keeps us busy all year round.

Do you consider freelance articles and reviews? What about short stories?

Yes absolutely! We're always happy to receive freelance non-fiction articles that might help writers in some way. If you'd like to submit any writing-related article at all to Fiction Factor, Horror Factor or any of our other genre sites simply visit this page. Don't let the scary warning that says "we're closed to submissions" deter you – I'll always happily read a well-written query from any writer willing to email me.

We do prefer that articles are written and formatted in a similar style to the existing articles on the site. Feel free to take a look around some of our article archives to get a feel for what kind of things we like! If you see a gap in the information there, chances are we'd love to see an article covering that topic.

We don't accept fiction short stories but we do have plenty of short story market listings available. If you're looking for a published home for your short horror fiction, check out our market listings here. You're sure to find a publication suitable for your work.

Tell us about your newsletter, Fiction Factor, and how we can subscribe to it.

Fiction Factor was created in 1999 to cater for a complete lack of information for fiction writers (at that time). Our Managing Editor, Tina Morgan, and I noticed a growing need for information directed at helping writers to establish successful writing careers so we created the site. The first email newsletter was released in January 2000 and has just grown enormously to become the award-winning site we have now in the years since.

You can subscribe to our newsletter by visiting our group on Yahoo or you can send a blank email to fictionfactor-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Our newsletter is free and each month we try to include at least three great articles pertinent to writers or writing. We also include market listings and occasionally book reviews and author interviews. All our content is dictated by what our subscribers want to read about or learn more about so we take particular notice of any email queries we receive and then take steps to source articles that cover this information.

Tina and I are both also very active on the forum (which has a dedicated Horror Writing section, by the way). Any questions that seem very popular or anything we feel could be great information for other writers immediately goes into the newsletter from here as well. You can find the forum here.

Do you think the horror fiction market has declined, reached a plateau, or is still climbing?

I think the horror market has gone a little stale in recent times but it doesn't seem to be declining in popularity. There seems to be an abundance of regurgitated vampire tales around right now, along with a gore-fest of slasher type stories.

It's a shame the supernatural thriller style of horror seems to be on the decline though. You know – the ones that make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up and make you check whether you locked the doors at night. These are my personal favorites.

Having said all that, it is heartening to see so many diverse short horror markets still running strongly and actively seeking submissions. This would indicate that the genre as a whole is still very strong with a lot of readers out there.

Within the horror genre there are several subgenres. Which one do you think is more popular at the moment? What about in the past? What are your predictions for the future?

Horror seems to run in cycles. No matter what's popular now or what was popular yesterday, the themes will eventually make a resurgence somewhere in the future cycles. They might be updated, modernized or given a fresh face but they're still similar underlying themes.

We seem to be in a part of the cycle where there's a glut of slasher/gore-fest and vampire horror around right now. When there's a glut, readers tend to wander off in search of something different. Sales slump and publishers start sniffing around for something else to sell. This makes the market appear flat or stale.

Sooner or later a fresh new style or something completely different to the usual stuff we see will appear and spark reader's interests again. Sales will spike and publishers will rush to grab hold of any copycat styles they can find, which then causes a glut and the market goes stale again until another new writer emerges with something fresh and original to begin it all again.

The great thing about cycles is that you can often sense when the wheel has turned full circle and it's about to launch into a new phase. I think this is what's about to happen to the genre in the near future.

When you look at the history of horror fiction, which type of supernatural "creatures" have had the most success and notoriety under the public eye – witches, ghosts, zombies, monsters, or vampires?

Unfortunately I think vampires have received the most success and notoriety lately. Vampires have been romanticized in recent times almost to the point of being nauseating. That's a shame because there's massive scope within these supernatural beings to create really cool, scary scenarios. Let's hope someone creates some really scary vampires soon and bring them back to their former horror-glory.

What is the scariest book you've ever read?

The books that get the little hairs on the back of my neck tingling most are the ones that affect me in ways I least expect. A good example of what I mean is Stephen King's Pet Sematary. It's not really a scary book, but my black cat, Scruffy had me creeped out for a few days after reading it (actually, he still creeps me out when he stalks my hair in the middle of the night).

Another one that unexpectedly affected me was Richard Laymon's All Hallow's Eve. Again, it wasn't a scary book, per se, but when the creepy guy dressed in his last victim's clothes turned up on the old lady's doorstep to make her his next victim…. Let's just say I'd recently divorced from my husband when I read that book and was living alone at the time in a little cottage on a secluded road. I slept with the lights on that night (and a German Shepherd beside the bed for reassurance!)

Oh – and anything with spiders. I have a bit of a phobia-thing about spiders 😉

Which authors, in your opinion, will be remembered as the best horror writers of the 20th Century?

There are so many good horror writers around right now – Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Richard Laymon – like I said, there's so many. I should add such favorites as Dean Koontz, John Saul, Peter Straub and Graham Masterton as well.

Being an Aussie, I also make an effort to follow some of our great Australian Horror Writers. I think some of these will make a huge splash in the international horror arena in the not-too-distant future. If you get a chance, I can recommend you look up Stephen Dedman and Jack Davis. Stephanie Gunn's short fiction is worth watching for too.

Thanks again for this interview!

It was my pleasure, Mayra. Thanks once again for inviting me! :)<

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Ethereal Tales is a fantasy print publication based in the UK showcasing the fiction and art of talented writers and artists. Though not exclusively focusing on horror, the magazine does consider dark, scary stories. In this interview, founder and editor Teresa Ford talks about the creation of Ethereal Tales, what makes a good story, the state of the horror market, and some of her favorite horror books.

Tell us a bit about Ethereal Tales, Teresa. How did it get started?

It was one of those things where you just start chatting about something and nine times out of ten nothing will come of it, I mentioned to my other half that it might be cool to start a zine. I write and confess that one of the reasons to start it was so that I could put one of my stories in, as well those of like minded writers. The next day I bought a domain name and created the website, striking whilst the ideal iron was hot as it were, and I also told my family and friends what I was going to do…so that I couldn't back out of it.

My idea was to create something for anyone interested in fantasy fiction, a place were mythical creatures roam and magic still exists. I also want the website to become a community for writers, artists and readers to be able to contact each other…be it to give feedback on the work of others, or collaborate on future projects. Whether my vision will be realised or not I don't know…but I will do my best to make it work.

What type of horror fiction do you consider? Are you open to submissions?

Submissions of all type of fantasy tales are welcome, not just horror. But horror is welcome, as long as it is not horror for horror's sake, by that I mean give me a story about strange beasties and magical goings on which just happens to have horrific elements and I will be happy.

If you could narrow down to three the elements that make a great horror story, what would those be?

Make me like or have sympathy for the main character…if a reader doesn't care about them the horror will be so much less.

Make the character believable, if a reader can find something in your character to relate to then when horrific things happen to that character the reader will feel the shock more.

Give us a twist in the tale, and not just the way horror films do these days (why does the bad guy always get up again no matter how many times you hit/stab/shoot him??). If you can make the reader unsettled by an ending they weren't expecting you have done well in my opinion.

What are the most common flaws you encounter when reading submissions?

I haven't had that masses of submissions so far, but based on those I have received I would say that one problem I have is that stories are sometimes aren't what I would call a short story, they seem as though they are actually parts of a longer story and leave one looking for the next page. Even if a story is short it needs a beginning, middle and end.

Do you think the horror fiction market has declined, reached a plateau, or is still climbing?

I don't feel qualified to answer this question as to whereabouts the market for horror is, all I will say is that I think there will always be a market for horror no matter which type is in vogue at the time. We as humans are fascinated with being scared, and as long as we live in our safe comfortable lives I feel we will always search out books in which to immerse ourselves and experience the thrill of fear.

How hard is it to market and promote a small horror publication like yours when faced with the competition?

I don't consider Ethereal Tales to be a horror zine, it is more of a fantasy fiction publication, but I imagine the situation is the same. As I am still new to all this I can't give you a complete answer to this, but I know it won't be easy to get the zine known to the wider public, but hopefully through my contacts on various forums, MySpace and word of mouth I will gather enough readers to make it worth continuing to print Ethereal Tales for many, many issues to come. I am not looking to make a fortune from this, it is more about meeting people, making contacts and having fun…I hope that will come across in the contents and feel of the zine and the community I hope will grow around it.

Could you tell us about the advertising and promotional opportunities Ethereal Tales offers authors?

Those who submit stories and artwork to the zine and get their work accepted for publication will be given the chance to have their details and website links added to the contacts page of the website. Through this (and the site forum) I hope that writers, artists and those interested in their work will be able to network. Getting the word out about yourself and your work is always a battle, and I hope that links to Ethereal Tales will help all concerned to do this.

Which authors, in your opinion, will be remembered as the best horror writers of the 20th Century?

Well, as this is purely my opinion I would have to say that I think Stephen King is the best and widest known horror author. Not only has he a vast sum of work to his name, but so many of them have been made into films. Whether you think film adaptations are good or bad, it must be said that film helps to get these stories out to wider population…those who might not read the book would watch the film. To me he is a master of horror and has given me many a scary moment in both book and film versions.

I would also like to add that both James Herbert and Poppy Z Brite are also authors I will remember for different reasons.

James Herbert's The Rats was the first horror book I ever read…a grubby copy passed around the playground, with both its sex scenes and horrific descriptions being a focus of our interest, left a lasting impression on me.

Poppy Z Brite was so different to me when I read her books, for its visceral horror and gothic elements I would say she is one to be remembered.

Thank you, Teresa, and good luck with Ethereal Tales!

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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