Saturday, August 15, 2009

[Interview] Jeani Rector

Jeani Rector's stories have been featured in magazines that include, Horrormasters; Hackwriters; Bewildering Stories; Aphelion and All Destiny.

Her work also appears in the anthologies, The Ethereal Gazette: Issue Three (Lake Fossil Press, 2006) and Fiction Prodigies And Legends Volume 1: Interviews with the New Voices In Horror (New Voices In Fiction Magazine, Edition 1, 2008).

Her books include We All Fall Down (AmErica House, 2001); After Dark: A Collection of Horror (PublishAmerica, 2006); Open Grave: The Book of Horror (PublishAmerica, 2008) and Around a Dark Corner (Graveyard Press, 2009).

In this interview, Jeani Rector talks about her writing:

When did you start writing?

In fifth grade, I wanted to be an artist. My teacher told my mother: "Encourage her writing, not her art, because she is better at writing than art." How is that for a twisted endorsement?

I started by submitting short stories to magazines. I highly recommend that route for new writers, because no one takes you seriously unless you have a resume of where you are published. It is difficult to be published without being published; that old Catch 22. But magazines and online zines are the answer to that problem.

How would you describe your writing?

Most people do outlines first. I never do that. I just start typing and let the stories tell themselves. Of course, by using that free-form method, not all of my stories are winners. No indeed! I have a junk file of completed stories that would be an embarrassment to me if they were ever read by anyone! But once you write a good one, you know it in your gut. Those go into my "Good Stories" file.

Who is your target audience?

My audience is anyone who is interested, but my genre is horror. The most true thing I have ever heard is this: "Write what you love." So in essence, you should be your own audience.

The second most true thing is: "Write what you know." I always thoroughly research my subjects. Today's readers are highly sophisticated and if you don't get your facts right, they know it.

Which authors would you say influenced you most?

Absolutely Stephen King. King is versatile. He explores human nature as well as the scary stuff. And sometime that scary stuff is in human nature.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concerns are clichés. I feel I have grown a lot. I don't make cliché mistakes too often any more. But I have learned that by putting my work out to critics. That is how come I have grown. I listen to the critics. They don't hurt my feelings; they help me. Thank god for magazine and zine reviewers (and those on Amazon). If any of you reviewers are reading this right now, thank you.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

Oh I just love this question! The answer is an absolute yes. For example, the story "A Teenage Ghost Story" out of my latest book Around a Dark Corner, I sat inside Kilgore Graveyard in Rancho Cordova and wrote the cemetery scenes. Kilgore is a haunted pioneer cemetery, all run-down and deliciously spooky.

But mostly, the characters are out of my life. People I know or have known. Sometimes they are myself. I won't reveal which stories are which, but some are autobiographies.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

The biggest challenge is that most magazines and zines want first rights to stories and do not accept simultaneous submissions or previously published stories. There are so many magazines that I would love to see my work in. However, I would have to spread myself pretty thin to have brand new material for every single magazine that I would love to be published in.

How many books have you written so far?

We All Fall Down (AmErica House, 2001). This is an old book, but a good book that people are taking a renewed interest in. This is the complete novel from which I took the Around a Dark Corner story, "A Medieval Tale of Plague." If any one wants to read Elissa's entire story about how she survived the 1348 black plague in medieval England, We All Fall Down is for you.

Open Grave: The Book of Horror (PublishAmerica, 2008). This is a good book with a bad publisher. I want every new writer to know: Never use Publish America no matter what. First, that publisher gets no respect with reviewers because I think PublishAmerica takes on just about anybody as a client, and second, they are a huge rip off. Third, Publish America puts such a hefty price tag on your book that no one in his or her right mind would pay such an exorbitant amount for a paperback book. However, you can pick up used copies of Open Grave: The Book of Horror on Amazon for reasonable prices.

Around a Dark Corner (Turner-Maxwell Books, 2009). This is my best work yet. So far, all the magazine reviewers who have checked in so far have liked it. And magazine reviewers are unbiased. I personally believe this is indeed my best work. Try it, you’ll like it. You can find this book at www.aroundadarkcorner.com.

Currently this book is published in England but it should be Coming to America (minus Eddie Murphy) in April 2009 through New Voices In Horror Press.

Do you write everyday?

Yes. Writers write. No excuses. I have heard too many people say "Some day I want to write a book." Some day is today. Good writers are obsessed with writing. They simply have to write. It is in their blood.

What is your latest book about?

Let me describe Around a Dark Corner as thus:

Imagine a world where there is only the daylight to banish the darkness. And when the sun goes down, what lurks in the shadows around a dark corner? This book of nine scary tales and one novella is storytelling at its finest, with the dark magic of Cabala and Palo Mayombe, haunted cemeteries, bubonic plague, maggots, madness, and the mysteries of what happens to bodies after death. Timeless in their style, these stories are relentless in their approach to basic fears. From dark fantasy and pure suspense to classic horror tales, this collection of nine short stories and one novella surprises its readers with Hitchcock-style, twisted endings. So let’s go around a dark corner to discover tales of terror.

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?

Honestly? In Around a Dark Corner, I branched out. I took risks. I became a bit more, well, free with descriptions of gore. I usually just stick the atmospheric fears, but in Around a Dark Corner, I went further. In this book, I went everywhere.

What did you enjoy most?

I just love plague. Bacterium and viruses are fascinating. I know that sounds strange, but think about it: wasn't Stephen King's The Stand his most amazing work? Now picture it as not a story, but as a real life event. That's "A Medieval Tale of Plague."

I also love true stories. Imagine a plane crash. What would people be thinking, feeling, experiencing, before the plane hits the ground? And what if these people live to tell about it? "Flight 529" from Around a Dark Corner is such a story, based upon a real event out of Atlanta, Georgia.

I have a good friend who is a retired County Sheriff. Now, wouldn't his be a great brain to pick? What happens when real cops find dead bodies? Not the movie cops, but real cops? That is where the idea for "Lady Cop" came about, again in Around a Dark Corner.

So, you see where I get my ideas? Ideas can be found everywhere. All’s you have to do is to play with those ideas.

What sets the book apart from other things you've written?

Around a Dark Corner is my best work. It is the scariest; the most visceral.

What will your next book be about?

Ha. Here is the thing. I have an idea about the 1918 flu pandemic. Again, bacterium and viruses are fascinating. I have already done Ebola in Open Grave: The Book of Horror.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

That's easy. Being read. I am grateful to my readers, who frequently email me. I freely offer my email address to anyone interested in talking to me.

Related books:

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Related resources:

Author's Open Grave website
Author's Around A Dark Corner website

Get your copy of Around A Dark Corner from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

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