As Horror Editor I thought it might be time to give would-be submitters to the Horror category more of a low-down on what I'm looking for.
We're closing our doors to subs for June and July as we already have a schedule of tales to tantalise you over those months. I hope the following might give you the time to gather inspired words to chill the blood in our readers' veins.
I'll start in reverse and tell you what I don't want; no point in wasting anyone's time:
- Anything resembling Twilight. Too soft for us. An earthy True Blood or Blade-type vampire is more to my taste but if you must do vampires, make them unique. I don't want a rewrite.
- Twee. 'Nuf said.
- Humour has its place - but it's got to have a killer twist and punchline - and still be chilling.
- Anything involving child-abuse. I don't like it. I won't have it. If the story's got a kid in it; he'd better be a Damien or a Toshio, or have no sexual connections whatsoever. An adult behaving in a certain way because of something that happened to them as a child is acceptable as long as it is implied and not explicit.
- What I call 'grunt sex'. I get too many stories - some of which are very well-written which suddenly descend into private gratification and make me roll my eyes in boredom. If you use sex in your stories - use it cleverly. As Clive Barker's spitting, flailing, tattered Celestine calls out in his masterpiece Imajica - "You stink of coitus." This entire work is also darkly sensual and demonic - now that's clever.
- Slashfests with no story. It's immature. I like visceral rather than gore for its own sake.
- No self-harm, cruelty to minors or animals, teenage angst (been there, done that) or suicides.
What DO I want?
- I want you to scare the hell out of me. Shock me or seduce me subtly but frighten me senseless. If it works for me, it'll work for TK'n'C readers.
- Ghosts or stalkers, zombies or psychopaths - I don't mind a cross-genre or three. In fact I like that, so don't be afraid to twist and blend styles. Be yourself - your voice will shine through.
- I like bizarro; I like strange. I like altered observations. I don't like 'safe'.
- Blood and death, and the relationships that dance between them
- Serial killers. This could cross over with Crime. If anyone has read any of AJ Humpage's Hackett series on my blog in the weekly Prediction flash fiction challenge then you'll know what creeps us all out. If not - do take a look.
- If you don't know my own work (and this isn't a publicity stunt) I had several pieces published here on TK'n'C and in several print anthologies before becoming Horror Editor. My recent eBook Cabaret of Dread is a collection of 11 long and 32 shorter extreme horror stories. You can read my latest psychological horror story A Smile, Reflecting for free at Absolutely*Kate's At The Bijou, which includes a short interview.
I don't want you to write like me, I just want you to get a feel for what I do as it might give you a deeper insight into what inspires me.
So who'll write the next Peter Straub's Koko? Who'll fill a volume with characters and scenes such as those in Clive Barker's Books of Blood? Who's got Johnny knocking at the door with an axe? Come August when TK'n'C submissions reopen - I'd like to find out.
Looking forward to reading you...
Looking forward to reading you...
Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers Horror Editor