Today’s victim in this series of interviews is Carole Johnstone. Carole's first published story appeared in Black Static #3 in early 2008. Since then she has sold numerous short stories to magazines and anthologies in both the US and the UK, including PS Publishing, Black Static, Apex and Morrigan Books. She is to be published in Ellen Datlow's forthcoming Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 2.
Her first novella, Frenzy, was published by Eternal Press/ Damnation Books in August 2009.
Originally from Lanarkshire, Scotland, Carole now lives in north Essex
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Well, I'm a Scot who has lived in Essex for the last fifteen years and still can't get used to the heat or the monstrous beasties. I'm a medical dosimetrist by day (don't ask) and a writer by night, weekend, holiday etc.
My first published story was for the brilliant Black Static in 2008, and Andy has published a fair few of my stories since. Apart from a couple of novellas, most of my published work has been short fiction appearing in various magazines and anthologies, and I have a short story collection coming out from Gray Friar Press in the next few months.
I'm currently trying to wean myself off them in favour of novel writing (I hear that's where the fame and fortune is at), but given what I'm doing right now, it's obviously a very hard habit to break.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Horror. I used to be a bit defensive about the word, and for many years used Dark Fiction instead until I realised I was being a prat. Horror is Horror is Horror. If it's good enough for the likes of Ramsey Campbell, it's good enough for me.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Too many to count. I grew up reading Stephen King, and he along with Ray Bradbury, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson and James Herbert definitely influenced how and what I write. I also love all the old Scottish ghost story writers, especially John Buchan.
More recent favourites would be Graham Joyce, Michael Marshall Smith, David Crace, Gillian Flynn, Sarah Langan, Kaaron Warren and Paul Meloy. I've also got a bit of a soft spot for war memoirs. I've just finished reading Robert Leckie's Helmet for my Pillow, and it was just brilliant.
Can you tell us anything about your story in the anthology?
It doesn't have dark in the title, but it's definitely about the dark! It's loosely based around an extremely bizarre village just up the road from me, called Jaywick Sands. It's effectively a coastal collection of holiday chalets and prefab housing built in the thirties for holidaying Londoners, which has now become - through council neglect and public apathy - the most deprived area in the UK. It has little street-lighting, few maintained roads and something of the Wild West in the way local justice is meted out. It's just about the spookiest place I've ever been, and I'm allowed to leave.
What is the first thing that pops into your mind when someone says South African horror?
That I don't know a lot about it. I've read and enjoyed Joan De La Haye's fiction and am a big fan of Lauren Beukes (sci-fi, I know, but I'm reaching). I also loved the movie District 9, and I guess I'd assume that a lot of SA fiction would draw from the country's turbulent history and often violent present. If that's not too sweeping a generalisation (it probably is).
Why did you decide to submit a story to this anthology?
I 'met' Joe in a now defunct horror writers' forum. And I liked him. We've already appeared together in one anthology, and I really admire both his writing and what he's doing with Crystal Lake Publishing. That's pretty much it. Oh, and there were a lot of fantastic writers already signed up to the project when he asked me!
And other than yourself who would you like to see open and close the anthology?
Gary McMahon is always a good, melancholy opener to an anthology and I really enjoy his short stories. Ditto Stephen Bacon, and I can remember reading all of William Meikle's The Watchers trilogy in one lost weekend! That said, it's a brilliant line up and I'm certainly no editor.
Could you recommend one of your own stories to the readers?
Well, I've got my debut short story collection, The Bright Day is Done, coming out very soon from Gray Friar Press (did I mention that already?) and a novella, Cold Turkey, from TTA Press.
In terms of individual shorts, Dead Loss (Black Static #13) was reprinted in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror, Vol.2 and God of the Gaps (Interzone #238) will appear in Proxima Books' Best British Fantasy 2013.
And yes, I realise that's quite a few more than one. I'll pretend it was because I couldn't choose.