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An Interview with Simon Gosden, Owner of Fantastic Literature Limited

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Fantastic Literature is UK's largest online supplier of out of print, rare and used books in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, thrillers, ghost stories, weird tales and the macabre. Currently, their store has over 19,000 titles for sale in paperback, hardcover, and magazine formats. Through their Ebay shop, signed limited editions of hard-to-find books are available, perfect for gifts or the collector. The bookstore is run by the husband-wife team Simon & Laraine Gosden. Visit their website for the latest news on the horror literature scene and consider signing up for their newsletter. In this interview, Simon talks about their store, the horror market, and some of his favorite books and authors.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Simon. Tell us a bit about your online bookstore, Fantastic Literature. How did it get started?

We started when I began reading horror, SF and fantasy as a schoolboy, used to go the library and pick out the latest yellow jacketed Gollancz titles and devoured them, as well as mythological books and adventure stories. I was one of those kids who took a book and a torch to bed to read through the night when I could. When I graduated and started work I began to see that there were some titles that you couldn't get hold of and put an advert in Exchange and Mart, a weekly paper, and started printing booklists. Eventually we were sending booklists out five or six times a year to 700-800 clients, very expensive! Then along came the internet and we had a boom but now things have levelled off. We produce lists every month but the numbers who receive them by mail has dropped to less than 100, and the others can see them posted at our website. It's different but still great fun.

Do you think the horror book market is declining, thriving, or at a plateau?

There is always a market for quality horror, at the moment we seem to be going through a lull, if you simply look at our sales on e-bay for example then Fantasy and SF come above Horror. I have to say though I am looking forward to the Harry Potter generation discovering adult fantasy and horror – I think the market will pick up again

What type of horror seems to be most popular with your customers?

Vampire horror is always good, and there are some strong writers around, the classic authors like King never lose their appeal. New horror writes like Simon Clark and Joe Donnely impacted on the scene strongly and have now faded a tad.

What genre sells better at your store – Fantasy, Science Fiction, or Horror?

Put simply it's Fantasy, SF and then Horror but there's an awful lot of crime fiction which is really horror and sells extremely well.

You also sell rare and out of print books. What does your site offer the book collector?

We offer the book collector real choice, we will scan any title that isn't imaged and of course we have our 100% customer satisfaction guarantee, if the customer isn't happy we refund.

When it comes to rare horror books, what titles are your customers often after?

It's the classics really, Stephen King is always in demand, but also the rarer early editions are often asked for like Dracula, etc.

Do you stock books published by small presses, or mostly by the large publishing houses?

We like to stock a selection of titles from across the board, we like small press stuff and will stock it if we can. At the moment we have books from PS publishing, tartarus Press, GreyFriar Press, TTA Press, Humdrumming books, Necessary Evil Press, Elastic Press and of course Whiskey Creek Press in the very near future.

How would you compare horror books produced by the large publishers as opposed to those by the small presses?

Some of them are exceptional in quality, the care in production is of major import. The quality of the binding is superb and the selection of authors is excellent.

What would you say is the most important element of a great horror novel?

Atmosphere and characterisation I think are crucial, forget the blood and gore descriptions – it's getting under the skin of the character that counts. A great story is always useful as well.

Any tips for authors who are signing their horror books this Halloween?

Don't sign them in blood – well, at least not your own.

You probably have read a ton of horror books… what is the scariest book you've ever read?

Scariest, mmm that's tricky. Firestarter was an emotional read for me, as I had a young child at the time, I've always enjoyed Dracula,The House on the Borderland, The Sheep Look Up (which I think transcends genres) The Wolfen, The Keep, The Wasp Factory, Song of Kali, Swan Song, The Shining, The Stand, Valley of Angels, Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs - recently read Let the Right One In by Lundquist which I thought was really good. Joe Donnelly's books are good.

Who, in your opinion, are the horror fiction masters of the 20th century?

King, Straub, McCammon, Simmons, Campbell, Masterton, Simon Clark, Thomas Harris, Joe Donnelly, Basil Copper, Richard Lymon, Christopher Fowler, and the dark fantasy and horror of George R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie. Also Dennis Wheatley, The Pan Books of Horror Stories, Roald Dahl and Lucius Shepard.

Thank you again for this interview, Simon!

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.