Because we got drunk one night in a pub in Bath
and thought it would be a good idea
In this latest feature I travelled back to the United Kingdom where I sought out the three-headed monster that is the Sinister Horror Company! Duncan P. Bradshaw (DPB) , Daniel Marc Chant (DMC) and Justin Park (JRP) have brought their own brand of horror to the masses through a string of quality releases over the past couple of years. If books filled with Lovecraftian menace, zombies or seaside slaughter are your cup of tea, then the Sinister Horror Company have got more than enough to keep you reading way past your bedtime!
I sat down and had a chat with the guys to find out a little bit more about their publishing adventures…..
GNoH: First of all, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. To start with - some folks out there might not be familiar with the press. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? What are some of the titles that are currently available and what is/are your most recent release/s?
DMC - Thanks for your time too – it’s always awesome to talk. As for us, The Sinister Horror Company is a small indie publisher of genre fiction and we’ve been around for a year now. We’ve got eleven titles available, most recent being Upon Waking, Class Four: Those Who Survive, GodBomb! and Mr Robespierre.
DPB - I think one of the things that helps, is that each release is very different from anything else we’ve done. That works well in our favour when we go to conventions, as people have a wide array to choose from. There is pretty much something for everyone, and as we grow, that list will only become richer and more diverse. I think that’s what sums up the Sinister Horror Company. In 2016, we’re pushing out into even wider seas.
JRP – We have a simple mission; to put out quality genre fiction from ourselves and others. We pride ourselves on making our products look good, as well as containing great stories and prose. As Dunk mentions, we deal in sub-genre’s across the spectrum from existential dread (Kit Power’s GodBomb!) to the gore-filled and black comic (Duncan P. Bradshaw’s Class Four: Those Who Survive). 80’s style ghost stories even get a look in with the well praised Mr Robespierre by Daniel Marc Chant.
DPB and DMC - *coughs loudly*
JRP – What?
DPB – Justin is modest enough to exclude the grindhouse fiction that he churns out, some of the reviews for Upon Waking have been amongst our favourite quotes on any of our books.
GNoH: Why did you decide to become involved in publishing?
DMC - Because we got drunk one night in a pub in Bath and thought it would be a good idea. And while I’d love to describe a wonderful anecdote, that was genuinely the truth.
JRP – Yep, you’ll notice a running theme through the course of this interview, I’m sure. Most of our ideas were birthed in the pub.
DMC - Our first books, Burning House, Terror Byte and Class Three respectively, all came out within a similar timeframe and none were labelled with a publisher as such, it was just each of us doing our own thing. While we supped pint after pint the realisation came that we could probably do more together than we can apart in terms of promotion, networking and conventions etc. So SHC was born, although it didn’t stand for Sinister Horror Company back then.
DPB – Fun little factoid, when we toyed with the idea, we were originally called the ‘Somerset Horror Cabal’. Though when we were making ourselves ‘legit’, we knew that we had to come up with a different name. Seemed a no-brainer, that if pooled our knowledge and resources together, we could help each other out.
JRP – Yeah, The Sinister Horror Company was started as a way for saving money and helping to promote our work. Going to conventions under one guise meant we could share the cost, and with the three of us releasing products it would help make us look busier than we individually were. Plus, ‘branding’ also meant we could piggy back each other’s successes. One person gets a good review, that’s a feather in the cap for the SHC.
GNoH: What have been the highlights of your publishing career thus far?
DMC - There’s two for me, which, yes, is a cheating answer. Firstly is The Black Room Manuscripts, the charity anthology we released last year. It was a brilliant show of solidarity within the horror community to help a charity and also was a huge learning curve for us in terms of compiling and producing such a project.
JRP - I think The Black Room Manuscripts was an absolute blast. We got to meet so many writers, and although it was a lot of work to put the whole thing together, it came out way better than any of us had actually imagined it might. Not only that, but we got to do something good for charity too.
DMC - Second is GodBomb! by Kit Power. For this one I got to sit on the sidelines as Duncan did the heavy lifting putting it together, but it was the first title that wasn’t by any of us three, so to see it be completed to such a polished product, and a rapturous reception, was immensely gratifying.
DPB -GodBomb! was pretty cool, mainly as it was the first release from an author who isn’t one of us. I remember reading the synopsis in an interview Kit did with DLS Reviews. Weirdly, the next day, the three of us were having a meet up, and I sent them the link. I told the guys that I’d love us to put the book out, but thought it would be a no-go. After a few more weeks of procrastination, I thought sod it, and messaged Kit. Was all sorted pretty quickly. Seeing that book on our table for sale at conventions was the first real indicator to me that we had spread, grown, it’s given us the confidence to release more books by other people.
JRP - Aside from those, another major highlight for me, is the fact that we’ve reached an audience wider than I thought possible. I can still remember the first time someone I’d never met came to our table at a convention and said they’d read our books. It blew my mind, and still does. I don’t think that will ever get old.
GNoH: What goals do you have with each of your releases? How do you measure whether or not the book has been a success?
DPB - We each do our utmost to make the most professional product, from the cover, through to the formatting, editing, proofreading. We want people to know that when they get one of our books, regardless of who put it together, that it will be presented in a first class way. Then it’s the feedback we get from readers and reviewers. Ultimately though, I think it’s down to each person. Personally? I’m happy every time I get the first proof through, seeing the physical product in reality. The notion that even one person forks out their hard earned cash to buy it, is a success for me.
JRP - Presentation is key to us. I love horror film posters, and it’s with those standards in our minds when we look at the cover. But it’s not just the outside. The inside of the book is important. The formatting needs to look good and help with the flow of the book. A good looking book should demonstrate the love and attention we put in to every title.
DMC - For me the real measure of success is whether the author, whoever that may be, is happy with the final product. I’m a firm believer that if the product is the best it can be then it will find its audience in time.
GNoH: Is this a full-time job? If not-how many hours per week do you spend working on the press?
DPB - No, but it can feel like it at times. I, like the others, have a day job to go to, which I muster as much good grace as I can find. I finish there for the day, go home, get dinner sorted out for the wife and I, then get cracking. In the main, it’s writing, but amongst that are things like this interview, contacting people about conventions or chatting with the others about their plans. Pretty much most of my free time these days is taken up with some aspect of writing or dealing with Sinister Horror Company business. It can be pretty full-on at times, but I can’t grumble too much.
JRP – Same, I have a full time job to work to fit in between my book work, however that job is very much considered the ‘back up career’ should we not be lucky enough to make a living from this. And if that were the case we wouldn’t stop releasing books. I’m very proud of our current catalogue and want to see the output continue. Large parts of my weekends are spent working on Sinister Horror Company stuff. Whether that’s my own writing, promotion, organising books, cover arrangement, conventions… the list goes on. So it eclipses most other things I do with my life. But it’s a passion and although it can be hard work at times, I love doing it.
DMC - It’s not a full-time job yet I’m afraid but it is the ‘job’ I get the most satisfaction from. For instance the lion’s share of our time is spent writing our own fiction during ‘normal’ periods but when we’re releasing another author’s title or attending a convention and so on, the time required increases.
GNoH: Horror or dark fiction is still frowned upon by many. From a fiction perspective; what do you think of its current state?
DMC - I think it’s in a fantastic state. While the big publishers have largely shunned horror unless you’re one of the established ‘names’ it’s meant that authors have had to look to other means to get their work out. Sometimes it’s self-published or through a small press, and this increased freedom has allowed their voices to be more raw and I’d dare say more creative as a result. I think we’re on the cusp of a renaissance where horror isn’t just viewed as blood and gore alone, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
JRP - It’s at an interesting time at the moment. The bottom fell out of the market in the book shops years ago, so now when you visit a Waterstones, the horror section is very small with only titles from the standards: King, Barker, Lovecraft. A few zombie titles have popped over recent times (such as Max Brooks), but even the likes of Dean Koontz, Shaun Hutson & Graham Masterton are rarely represented.
So the horror scene has gone ‘underground’. It’s like the punk scene of the seventies or eighties, there’s so much creative talent and largely it’s being left alone by the mainstream world at large. I believe at some point it will reach a critical mass and the pendulum of popularity will swing in its favour. Once these two align one or two titles will break into the mainstream, possibly from a successful movie adaptation, possibly from the book itself. But when that happens there will be a whole world of fantastic horror fiction that will get a spotlight shone on it.
DPB - I agree with Justin’s analogy, and I quite like it.
JRP – Aww, thanks mate.
DPB – If you speak to most people, it’s a good bet that they’ve read at least one Stephen King book, and probably enjoyed it. Though if you ask the same person whether they’ve read anything from an indie horror author, they pull a bit of a blank. Thing is, and I’m probably biased, I think that the best and most innovative stories are from this underground. Since we’ve been doing this, I have read so many excellent stories from so many brilliant authors, it is a shame that more people aren’t aware of them.
But…and here comes my point, I do have one.
DMC – Wow, we should make a note of this day.
DPB - Look at the Pixies, or Nirvana, they started off playing in people’s houses, or shitty little dives, look where they ended up. Quality always wins, and whether it takes one year or ten, horror fiction will be taking over real estate in bookshops again. It is primal, everyone has their own fears, we just write about them and hold the mirror up.
JRP – The simple fact is this; there are some obscenely great authors and books out there.
GNoH: The Black Room Manuscripts anthology, released last year, was a collection of short stories that showcased some fine talent. All proceeds raised going to The Blue Cross, which is a charity for injured, sick or unwanted animals. Can you tell us how this idea came about and are there any plans for future anthologies?
DPB - Another drunken conversation between the three of us.
DMC - I have to take the blame for this one. After I’d released my first book I came up with a concept to make a horror anthology that was full of unpublished authors, essentially I wanted to help provide a platform to some exciting new talent. For various reasons this didn’t happen but the desire to do an anthology still burned bright and considering I love animals my mind got spinning. After a little pep talk at a horror convention with Adam Millard and A. S. Chambers, I embarked on a new direction for it and haven’t looked back.
DPB - I think it’s cool, and we are very keen to have a mix of established and brand new writers in each volume. There is nothing quite like someone giving us their first story, and seeing it rub shoulders with some illustrious company. As it is an annual thing, each of us will take a turn to curate it, which helps share the burden, as it is a lot to manage.
DMC – I can testify to that, luckily I am a mere contributor this year, the baton firmly passed onto Justin.
JRP – I’m currently beavering away on getting the stories together, chasing people up and other pre-production elements. We’re aiming for another summer release, and hope to be able to share some information on who is in it in the not too distant future.
GNoH: Late last year saw the release of Kit Power’s debut novel ‘GodBomb’. The book seemed very well received and has since been given the audiobook treatment-narrated by the excellentChris Barnes!Audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular amongst readers. Do you see any more Sinister Horror Company releases appearing in audiobook form in the future?
DPB - I hope so, the GodBomb! audiobook was pretty much done between Kit and Chris Barnes, no real interaction with the three of us, except a courtesy call over using the cover. It’s a format that has potential, for sure, and I envisage some of our future releases being available in that medium.
JRP - A friend of mine will only listen to books, not read them. And I bet there’s a lot more like him. I think it is a popular and growing market. MP3 players made that possible, and since then people have started listening to them in the gym or on their daily commute. I can definitely seeing us doing more of this in the future.
DMC - It’s one thing we’ve talked about internally, and have had discussions with others about. One being none other than Chris Barnes himself, but we don’t have anything planned in the immediate future. Of course, as all things, that’s subject to change!
GNoH: One thing I have really enjoyed about your releases is the variety of fiction being produced. Can you tell us what the Sinister Horror Company has planned for 2016?
DPB – Cheers dude, think that sums up our aim when we set up The Sinister Horror Company. Safe to say that 2016 is shaping up to be a busy one, with yet more variety being published. Aside from the next Black Room Manuscripts, which is a logistical leviathan, each of us has our own plans. We’re releasing our first Bizarro book, Celebrity Culture, in a few weeks, for example.
JRP - Variety is very important to us and our catalogue. After all we don’t just like one type of horror book or film ourselves. We have a number of our own titles coming out, including Dunk releasing a book or two without a zombie in sight! I know, right? I think even Dunk got a bit itchy about it when he first started.
DPB – Ain’t that the truth. The main thing for me is to break out from being ‘zombie guy’, and the next three or four books I have planned, don’t have a single member of the undead in.
JRP - We’ve got stuff from other people coming out too. Kayleigh Marie Edwards is first up with her short Bitey Bachman. I loved her story Skin from The Black Room Manuscripts, so I’m pleased we’re able to release another title from her.
DMC - One of the things I like to think SHC really brings to the table is the diversity of voices so it’s wonderful to hear you confirm that. In terms of 2016 there’s a lot, the other guys have already mentioned some. For my part, I have Devil Kickers, an exorcism action horror ala Dusk Til Dawn that I’m co-writing with Vincent Hunt, comic creator of The Red Mask from Mars. I also have a couple of other titles almost finished, one being a psychological horror drama called One Girl Army and the other a collection of short stories called Into Fear!
Most exciting is the fact that we’re working with a number of great authors, who, like Voldemort cannot be named - at least not yet. I’m super excited about these in particular and had receipt of one of them in late December that’s really, really good. Vague I know. I’m sorry.
DPB - We’re also working out when to do a joint story again, like our Halloween release, Horroroboros, which was ridiculously good fun to do.
DMC – You actually have to do some work on it this time Dunk huh?
DPB – Shhhhh.
JRP – Yeah, think it’s Dan’s turn to add in the knob jokes.
GNoH: Are the Sinister Horror Company open to submissions? If so, what is it you look for in a manuscript?
DMC - Right now we are currently closed for submissions, but we are currently reviewing a number of manuscripts for potential publication. Essentially what I look for is a story that I’d want to pick up as a reader - whether it’s a gory vampire story or a slow burn ghost drama, provided it’s told with style and a captivating voice we’re open to suggestion.
JRP - We don’t have a particular style in mind, but the concept has to be a good one. If that gets us excited and talking to each other about it, then we know you’re on to something. The quality of the writing has to be good too. There isn’t a specific style that is better than another, it just has to be good at what it’s trying to achieve. That sounds lame, but it’s a hard thing to quantify. Ultimately it needs to be written with heart.
DPB - For me, I need a cool story, something which stands out. So whether it’s a different spin on an existing trope, or a concept which just makes the synopsis jump off the screen and punch me in the face, it has to get my attention. I approach possible books as a reader, I want to be entertained, I want something a little different. I have a low boredom threshold, so if it falls to grab me, then it’ll be a no.
JRP – Just want to add that a big no-no isn’t so much in the manuscript, but in the interaction. I can’t abide big egos and people who think they have a right to be successful. In this business you are going to have work hard and there’s no room for spoilt brats. Like all of us, you are owed nothing and you have to earn everything.
The life of a publisher is a busy one and I’m incredibly grateful for you answering these questions. We wish you all the best for 2016 and beyond…
SHC – No bother at all Adrian, we really appreciate the offer to have a chinwag about what The Sinister Horror Company does, and our plans. The Ginger Nuts of Horror site is having an absolute storming start to 2016, it’s humbling to be a part of that. Thank you.
You can find out more at sinisterhorrorcompany.com or on Facebook and Twitter. If you sign up for their newsletter you will be issued with a FREE EBook, containing an exclusive story from Duncan Bradshaw, Justin Park and Daniel Marc Chant!