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Does the name Crystal Lake Publishing originate from the Friday the 13th movies? Your favourite movie, perhaps?
I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite (I won’t even be able to choose one), but it was one of the earliest horror movies I watched growing up. Fortunately my parents didn’t mind me watching scary movies with them. Little did they know I snuck out of bed certain nights to watch that same movie again, alone – just me and a pillow to hide behind.
I was actually looking for a company name that not only paid homage to horror, but something that sounded professional, and in the long run didn’t tie me to just the horror genre, since you never know what the future holds. I’m quite happy with Crystal Lake Publishing, since it immediately brought the company logo to mind, as well.
Why do you love the horror genre?
Since a young boy I’ve always been interested in the supernatural. I loved scary movies. I didn’t care if there weren’t really any monsters creeping around in the dark. It was the possibility that excited me. You put two kids in a dark room with an open closet and each one will imagine their own unique monster.
I’d say the biggest turning point was when I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Final Escape episode. The twist in the tale story has been my favourite ever since. And let’s not forget The Monkey’s Paw.
As writers we quickly learn what grabs the attention of readers. Things like drama, action, conflict, strong characters, dire situations and an antagonist that wants the exact opposite of your hero. And if you look carefully at these aspects, you’ll see they all play a big role in all stories. Horror is in every genre: losing a loved one is a horrible event; standing on a stage in front of people; being laughed at; losing a fight; being dumped, getting married (just kidding).
Plain and simple, horror stories are exciting. You never know what to expect.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
Definitely psychological chills. Without the psychological manipulation of a decent writer, the gore bits would mean absolutely nothing. No one would care about the character. With today’s special effects in movies, people have been a bit desensitised. That’s why some writers now feel they have to go overboard with gore scenes. Look back at the older movies, remember how they never actually showed the monster eat the victim. They just zoomed in on his approach and faded to black. Still scared the hell out of me and everyone who watched it. Why, because we cared about those people. The writer made us care. But, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing better than a perfectly timed bit of gore that makes you go, “Awesome!”
A great approach is to show the carnage the ‘monster’ or whoever has done, without actually showing him or it until the very end. That way you have the chills and the gore. There are great stories with only the psychological horror, but too many of them in a row tend to weaken a collection, in my opinion.
I tend to put a lot of gore into a story where the bad guy finally gets what he deserves. In the title story of my Lost in the Dark collection, I have a bad guy who gets the tendons behind his knees, ankles and arms severed (even his eyelids), then he gets tied to a tree and torn apart by wild animals. The timing was perfect, because by then the reader despises him for all the horrible things he had done, things much worse than what happened to him, and it made me go, “Awesome!”
Crystal Lake Publishing started in August 2012, and has gone on to launch quite a few books since then. Was the response to Crystal Lake just positive straight from the start?
Definitely. I think it was a combination of timing and knowing the right people. I published my own book (Lost in the Dark) first, just as a tester to sort out any kinks before taking on other authors. I’d rather screw up my own book, and then learn from my mistakes. It was quite the learning curve.
I chatted with Ben Baldwin about doing a cover, who I met through a project with my friends over at Dark Minds Press. I commissioned Ben to make the cover of my book and the next book, which would be an anthology.
I played it smart, and only started filling the TOC once I could show the authors the cover. Authors love nice covers. I then posted the cover on Facebook and continued to invite authors, adding them onto the ever-growing TOC, right there on Facebook where everyone could see it. I quickly received messages from authors I actually wanted to invite anyway, asking if I’d consider their work. I couldn’t stop smiling.
After For the Night is Dark, I contacted Daniel I. Russell about doing a collection of his own. And things just picked up from there. I knew that, although it came down to quality, I had to put in the hours and really push to get a few titles out within the first year or so. Nobody takes a publisher with only two titles very seriously.
So I spent a lot of time studying the market and learning more and more about publishing and marketing (still busy), but it’s a combination of a lot of strategies, contacts and effort that helped launch this company.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that an indie publisher faces, especially in South Africa?
My first challenge was to be taken seriously. Then to let everyone know I’m not just after their money, and that Crystal Lake Publishing is here to stay. It will not be one of those fly-by-night publishers that just come and go. I’m working towards building a brand name that’ll hopefully become a family business one day. I just hope my kids love books as much as I do. And no, I don’t have any kids yet, only dogs.
Right now my biggest challenge is still to get noticed in South Africa, and to get more people here to accept and start buying Kindle books. Since most English books (including Crystal Lake Publishing’s) books are printed abroad, paperbacks are quite expensive down here. Shipping and the exchange rate can be quite a nightmare.
Why should people read Crystal Lake’s work?
Straight answer, because I enjoy reading every story I’ve published. I’m a horror fan, but mostly a fan of stories. Whether the story comes in the form of a book, comic, movie, series, play or even a song doesn’t matter. So I write and therefor publish what I would like to read. I’m not naïve enough to believe there are no people out there like me. Lots of people enjoy the same stories I do, and the better I become at the craft of writing and editing, the better I can bring all these stories to life.
I’m actually just happy just to see people reading more. I don’t shy away from promoting other indie publishers or great authors, no matter where they’re published. A lot of my best friends are publishers.
Crystal Lake Publishing has also just published Gary McMahon’s short story collection, Where You Live. McMahon has built up a solid reputation as one of the hottest horror authors around at the moment – how did you secure this coveted collection?
I met Gary through a project we were both involved in at Dark Minds Press (Dark Minds anthology), and he was the first person I invited for Crystal Lake Publishing’s inaugural anthology, For the Night is Dark. He was also the first to accept. I’m a 100% certain that some of the other authors joined the project to share the TOC with him.
We stayed in contact after that, and I’m of course a big fan of his work. He’s already working on The Outsiders with a few other authors, including Simon Bestwick, which will be out in 2014. He also recently wrote an introduction to Fear the Reaper (the 2nd anthology) and I think he was quite impressed with the quality of the book. It was then that he contacted me about republishing a sold out, limited edition book he had published a few years back with Grey Friar Press, including a bunch of new stories, of course.
What we can expect from Crystal Lake Publishing in 2014?
Except for a surprise novella (which will then be combined into a collection later the year), there are quite a few books already lined up:
William Meikle’s Samurai and Other Stories.
The Outsiders (a Lovecraftian, shared-world anthology).
A yet to be named non-fiction eBook that’ll guide horror writers in the right direction, written by a host of horror authors.
Tales From the Lake Vol.1.
Children of the Grave (a zombie, shared-world, choose your own adventure collection, where each author writes a different direction).
And if everything goes well and things aren’t too hectic, I’ll be able to finish my second collection by the end of 2014, but it’ll probably only be out early 2015.
The second Tales From the Lake horror writing competition.
But you never know what opportunities will come along. I always leave a bit of room in case something big comes knocking. You see, always be ready when opportunity comes knocking.
Tell us more about the upcoming The Outsiders book.
The Outsiders is a book I’m very excited about. It’s a Lovecraftian, shared-world collection, where each of the authors will write about the same gated community and its people. They appear to be quite normal, of course, but they are actually a cult that worships one of the old gods. Whether the god truly exists or not is up to each author.
Each story will have the same main characters, but be written from the point of view of different members of the cult, or perhaps even a human sacrifice.
The authors involved are Simon Bestwick, Gary McMahon, V.H. Leslie, Ray Cluley and Stephen Bacon.
It’s scheduled for release around June 2014.
Where can we find Crystal Lake Publishing on the internet?
Check out our website: http://www.crystallakepub.com
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/crystallakepub
Chat with us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Crystallakepublishing
All our books can also be found on Goodreads.
And of course Amazon. But instead of barraging you with links, it might be better to just visit our books page. If you click on the book covers, you’ll find out more about each book, or you can just click on the Amazon buttons to follow the universal links straight to your country’s Amazon outlet.
I’m also very approachable, so don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com. I’ll add you to the mailing list (which goes out with every new release), and if you’re an author, be sure to send me a bio and links to (or examples of) your work. I might just contact you for a project in the future.