Jenny Ashford is a horror writer, graphic designer, and barfly. Her books include three novels, Bellwether, The Five Poisons, and the upcoming Red Menace; two short story collections, Hopeful Monsters and The Associated Villainies; and a graphic novel, The Tenebrist. Her short stories have also appeared in several anthologies, including History Is Dead, 2012AD, ChimeraWorld #3, and ChimeraWorld #4.
Jenny's graphic design work can be seen in marketing materials for Van Gogh Vodka, promo materials for bands including Astari Nite, Sons of Ragnar, and Ending the Vicious Cycle, poster designs for Thee Grotto and Vengeance at the Haven in Orlando, and on the cover of The Young Atheist's Survival Guide by Hemant Mehta (aka The Friendly Atheist), among many other places. She runs several online stores selling products with her designs, as well as other products including board games, playing cards, and various other horror-themed tchotchkes.
She lives in Orlando with her sexy-ass boyfriend and the world's most beautiful kitty.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Sure. I’m Jenny Ashford, and I’m a horror writer and graphic designer from Orlando, Florida. I write spooky shit, I design spooky shit, I sing loudly in my car, I flaunt my boobs about the place. Also, I’m a wide-awake nightmare.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I read, listen to music, smoke a lot, watch MST3K obsessively, haunt goth clubs and drink far more than is appropriate for my advanced age. I’ve also been known to dance spasmodically on occasion, usually to terrible 80s one-hit wonders. Sometimes I model, sometimes I DJ. Sometimes when we touch, the honesty’s too much. And so forth.
What’s your favourite food?
A tie between Indian butter chicken and Hungarian paprikash, but only if my personal chef (read: boyfriend/Gordon Ramsay simulacrum) makes it.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in their earlier, Old-Testament phase would comprise the bulk. There should be some Birthday Party tunes thrown in there for good measure. I’m also thinking there should be space for some Death In June and some Joy Division, and maybe The Smiths. It’s a long-ass life story; don’t even get me started.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I don’t have a problem with the term “horror,” other than seemingly everyone thinking I said “whore” when I tell them what genre I write in. Dark Fiction is good too…more inclusive, which is always good, unless you’re talking about a disease epidemic of some kind.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Poe, Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Jack Ketchum, Caitlin Kiernan, Ira Levin, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson. I love Stephen King, too. Fight me.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
Favorite novel is Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House. It’s the perfect haunted house story, and it will never be topped; if you disagree, again, fight me. Favorite film is probably Suspiria. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but those murder tableaus are fantastic, every frame of the film looks like a nightmarish RGB light painting, and Helena Marcos is scary as shit. I even named a witch character in my upcoming novel after her.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
I have to say I’m kind of over the whole monster-mashup thing, e.g. vampires vs. werewolves, sexy witches vs. sea monsters, zombies vs. ninja dinosaurs, and the like.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
I would be stoked to live next door to Lurch from The Addams Family, especially if I could pull on a rope in my house and he would promptly arrive on my doorstep wearing a tutu and bearing espressos and red velvet cupcakes. Nightmare neighbor…I was going to say Rush Limbaugh, but he isn’t fictional, sadly. So I’m going to go with Frank Booth from Blue Velvet.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
I’m almost ashamed to admit this (oh, who am I kidding, I have no shame), but I haven’t been keeping up with the genre very much over the past few years. I’ve been sort of overwhelmed by doing my own work, and then when I do find time to read someone else’s books, I generally turn to non-fiction, usually science or history. And I don’t think I’ve seen a newer horror movie in a while, other than that tragically vile (and yet somehow still strangely awesome) Dario Argento Dracula film. I don’t even know what year that came out; that’s how out of touch I am. One of these days I’ll crawl out of my own ass and see what’s up with you kids, I promise.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Wilkie Collins’s The Woman In White consumed me utterly for the four or five days it took me to read it. It was so splendid that I was actually really angry at myself for not having read it earlier. On a somewhat related note, I also loved Dan Simmons’s Drood. As far as disappointing goes, that’s an easy one: Ira Levin’s Son of Rosemary. I love Levin, but THAT ENDING. I wanted to chuck that book against the wall, or perhaps against Levin’s head, with apocalyptic force.
How would you describe your writing style?
Probably too heavy on the adjectives and adverbs, but fuck it. I think it’s dreamlike, flows nicely and is effective at evoking a mood. Some may find my writing…overripe? Baroque? I wouldn’t call it purple prose, exactly. Maybe just a pale violet. But hey, I never claimed to be Hemingway.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
There was a lovely review of my short story collection Hopeful Monsters in Gothic Beauty magazine a while back that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. They said my stories were “unique,” which seemed to be a good thing in context.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Probably just sitting down and doing it, since I am notoriously lazy. Barring that, there’s that feeling of trying to think of that ONE WORD that you know exists, dammit, but you just can’t think of it. This happens to me much more as I get older, I find.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Well, I’m not averse to writing anything offensive or explicit, if that’s what you mean. Subjects I would never tackle would be more like things I find intensely boring, like sports or high finance or something.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you choose and how would they die?
Nils Bjurman from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Although Lisbeth took care of him quite handily in the book, I think I would have gone quite a bit farther, perhaps allowing rabid weasels to feast on his genitalia before slowly feeding him feet-first into a wood chipper.
What do you think makes a good story?
Firstly, I think it’s very important to care about the characters, because if you don’t care what happens to them, why should the reader? I also like stories that take unexpected turns, though not ones that are so unbelievable as to be jarring. There’s something very satisfying about a story that so subtly telegraphs what’s going to happen that it’s simultaneously a surprise and a pleasing fulfillment of expectations. Filthy sex scenes always help as well.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Both, really. I always look up the meanings of the names I’m giving my characters, though, just to see if there’s some tweak I can make to fit in with the theme of the story better. As far as story titles go (which is what I thought you meant at first when I read this question, so I’m gonna answer it too): Funnily enough, sometimes a whole story idea will come from a nifty title I thought up or came across in my reading. I genuinely like the sounds of certain words and phrases, and when I think of one that is really enchanting I’ll build a whole story (or even a novel) around it.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
My writing has definitely gotten more terse and less bullshitty over the years. Plus at this point I think I’ve developed a healthy, liberating feeling of “whatever, it's good enough.” For me this is huge, because when I was first starting out I overthought everything and I feel like my writing was really labored. I work much better now that I write without worrying if it’s coming out perfectly.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
You must be an avid reader and something of a grammar nazi. You also have to have intense perseverance, because 99 people out of a hundred aren’t going to give a fuck about your stories, so you have to love them enough to want to keep going.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Stephen King’s advice to NOT OUTLINE. This was a revelation for me, relating back to what I said a couple questions ago. I had gotten into the stifling habit of obsessively outlining my stories before I even started writing them, and I would get so wrapped up in the inconsequential details of the outline that I would never get to the actual story. So now I just do as King does: He thinks of a couple characters, sticks them in a situation, and starts to write about them to see what happens.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Generally online marketing so far…Facebook, Twitter, a writing blog, all the usual avenues. I have a friend who does band and club promotion, and she plasters flyers of me all over the various industrial and death metal events she promotes. I’d like to eventually get into doing conventions, but so far the logistics of that have been too overwhelming for me to handle.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
My current favorite character is Mal Esme, the elder witch from my upcoming novel, Red Menace. She was something of a firebrand in her youth, but in her old age she has become a wise, mother-goddess figure who is also something of a magic badass.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
My least favorite characters to write were the Five Wisdoms from my novel The Five Poisons. They were all male cult members, and I found their rigid, self-righteous mindset offensive and difficult to write because they were the polar opposite of my own personality.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
I’m going to cop out and call it a tie between fortune and respect. I don’t particularly care about fame, as I enjoy being able to go to the 7-11 for tampons without being swarmed by paparazzi.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I think I’m most proud of my short story, “The Bluebells and the Bower Cage.” I love it because I just took a couple disparate elements and ran with them, and I ended up with this bizarre fairy-tale type thing that went into all these directions that I didn’t expect. Even now, when I read it, I’m sort of amazed that it came out of my brain somehow.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
I wrote a terrible partial novel in the late eighties. I can’t remember the title of it, but it was a total Anne Rice wankfest about a vampire falling in love with a human. It made me cringe so much that I threw it away before I ever finished it. If I would have published it, I might be as rich as that Twilight chick by now. But hey, at least I still have my self-respect, right? *cries into my ramen noodles*
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
If I wasn’t me and wanted a sampling, a horror fiction tapas if you will, I would get my short story collection The Associated Villainies, which came out in 2011. It has some of my best stories in it, and there’s truly something for everyone, whether you’re into highbrow historical horror, modern takes on mythology, hilarious exorcisms, penis-removing machines, or shit-eating circus freaks.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
I have a novel coming out in October 2014 from Damnation Books. It’s called Red Menace, and it’s a fun-stuffed cornucopia of old-school witchcraft, Edgar Allan Poe tropes, and serial child murder. As for the project I’m currently working on, that would be a paranormal nonfiction book called The Mammoth Mountain Poltergeist. I’m collaborating on it with my boyfriend/partner in crime Tom Ross. It’s the true story of some freaky shit that happened to him and his family when he was a kid.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
Oddly enough, it would be this very question. And the answer would be, I have no goddamn idea.
Find out more about Jenny by following the links below
“From the moment I first looked upon his striking and clouded features, his dark eyes brimming with passion, intensity, and hellish fire, I knew he was destined to come to ruin. I want to commemorate him as a man, as an artist; yes, even as a criminal. I set down the story for myself, for the world, so that all of us may come to some late understanding of the man they call Caravaggio." Lauded genius, tortured madman, fugitive murderer…the painter Caravaggio lived a tragically short life treading the line between heaven and hell. This fictionalized account, told by his beloved acolyte Mario Minniti, is a sordid tale of art and adoration, of power and passion, of fame and infamy, of lunacy and violence, illustrated by the stunning beauty of the painter's legendary works.
PURCHASE A COPY HERE