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Interview with Lee Masterson, Co-Founder of Horror Factor

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Horror Factor is an online source for horror authors who want to hone their craft. The site offers not only monthly tips, a writer's forum, and articles on the horror writing craft, but also on publishing, promotion and marketing horror fiction. Here to talk about the site is co-founder Lee Masterson. Read on to find out all the goodies this site offers and how to subscribe to their monthly, highly informative newsletter.  

Thanks for this interview, Lee. Tell us a bit about Horror Factor. When and how did it get started?

Horror Factor was created in 2002 – about three years after we first launched the original Fiction Factor. The original site contains hundreds of articles on general fiction writing advice. It occurred to us that the information a horror writer might need would be more specific than just learning grammar or sentence structure or finding a publisher. Horror writing tips are also going to be vastly different for a children's writer or a fantasy writer. So we sat down and had a huge brainstorming session and came up with the various sub-sites that are aimed specifically at writers in each of the individual genres we chose.

As I'm a huge horror fan, I decided to build Horror Factor before the other sub-sites. It's remained my favorite to this day!

What does your site offer authors?

The websites as a whole were specifically created to help all writers to improve, hone and strengthen writing skills. There are entire sections in the Fiction Factor article archives on getting published, finding editors or agents, submitting or formatting work, and much more.

Horror Factor specifically caters to horror or dark fiction writers. We try hard to find quality horror-specific tips and advice that could potentially help a writer to improve his or her craft or to find publication. It's surprisingly difficult to find enough quality work in this genre designed to assist newer writers to hone their craft. We're always on the look out for more ways we can help out horror writers.

What about promotional opportunities?

We would sincerely love to promote all authors on our site somewhere – but our web host wouldn't be happy! We already blow out their hosting and bandwidth capacities quite often with the heavy traffic such an enormous site produces.

What we can offer is a bit of promotion in the "Writer Announcements" section in the newsletter. If any writer at all has some writing news they'd like to shout out or perhaps get some free promotion for a book/story publication, then feel free to hop onto our forum. Post your 'woo hoo' into the Announcements section. Remember to leave a link where everyone can find you. I'll get that announcement into the email newsletter and we'll let the world know about it for you!

How may authors interested in a review by Horror Factor submit their books?

We receive hundreds of submissions for reviews and even more queries every year. We're currently so overstocked with reviews that we won't be opening for further submissions until mid-2009. We do post an announcement in the newsletter when we do open for submissions, but we've learned that we only need to open for one week a year to create a backlog that keeps us busy all year round.

Do you consider freelance articles and reviews? What about short stories?

Yes absolutely! We're always happy to receive freelance non-fiction articles that might help writers in some way. If you'd like to submit any writing-related article at all to Fiction Factor, Horror Factor or any of our other genre sites simply visit this page. Don't let the scary warning that says "we're closed to submissions" deter you – I'll always happily read a well-written query from any writer willing to email me.

We do prefer that articles are written and formatted in a similar style to the existing articles on the site. Feel free to take a look around some of our article archives to get a feel for what kind of things we like! If you see a gap in the information there, chances are we'd love to see an article covering that topic.

We don't accept fiction short stories but we do have plenty of short story market listings available. If you're looking for a published home for your short horror fiction, check out our market listings here. You're sure to find a publication suitable for your work.

Tell us about your newsletter, Fiction Factor, and how we can subscribe to it.

Fiction Factor was created in 1999 to cater for a complete lack of information for fiction writers (at that time). Our Managing Editor, Tina Morgan, and I noticed a growing need for information directed at helping writers to establish successful writing careers so we created the site. The first email newsletter was released in January 2000 and has just grown enormously to become the award-winning site we have now in the years since.

You can subscribe to our newsletter by visiting our group on Yahoo or you can send a blank email to fictionfactor-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Our newsletter is free and each month we try to include at least three great articles pertinent to writers or writing. We also include market listings and occasionally book reviews and author interviews. All our content is dictated by what our subscribers want to read about or learn more about so we take particular notice of any email queries we receive and then take steps to source articles that cover this information.

Tina and I are both also very active on the forum (which has a dedicated Horror Writing section, by the way). Any questions that seem very popular or anything we feel could be great information for other writers immediately goes into the newsletter from here as well. You can find the forum here.

Do you think the horror fiction market has declined, reached a plateau, or is still climbing?

I think the horror market has gone a little stale in recent times but it doesn't seem to be declining in popularity. There seems to be an abundance of regurgitated vampire tales around right now, along with a gore-fest of slasher type stories.

It's a shame the supernatural thriller style of horror seems to be on the decline though. You know – the ones that make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up and make you check whether you locked the doors at night. These are my personal favorites.

Having said all that, it is heartening to see so many diverse short horror markets still running strongly and actively seeking submissions. This would indicate that the genre as a whole is still very strong with a lot of readers out there.

Within the horror genre there are several subgenres. Which one do you think is more popular at the moment? What about in the past? What are your predictions for the future?

Horror seems to run in cycles. No matter what's popular now or what was popular yesterday, the themes will eventually make a resurgence somewhere in the future cycles. They might be updated, modernized or given a fresh face but they're still similar underlying themes.

We seem to be in a part of the cycle where there's a glut of slasher/gore-fest and vampire horror around right now. When there's a glut, readers tend to wander off in search of something different. Sales slump and publishers start sniffing around for something else to sell. This makes the market appear flat or stale.

Sooner or later a fresh new style or something completely different to the usual stuff we see will appear and spark reader's interests again. Sales will spike and publishers will rush to grab hold of any copycat styles they can find, which then causes a glut and the market goes stale again until another new writer emerges with something fresh and original to begin it all again.

The great thing about cycles is that you can often sense when the wheel has turned full circle and it's about to launch into a new phase. I think this is what's about to happen to the genre in the near future.

When you look at the history of horror fiction, which type of supernatural "creatures" have had the most success and notoriety under the public eye – witches, ghosts, zombies, monsters, or vampires?

Unfortunately I think vampires have received the most success and notoriety lately. Vampires have been romanticized in recent times almost to the point of being nauseating. That's a shame because there's massive scope within these supernatural beings to create really cool, scary scenarios. Let's hope someone creates some really scary vampires soon and bring them back to their former horror-glory.

What is the scariest book you've ever read?

The books that get the little hairs on the back of my neck tingling most are the ones that affect me in ways I least expect. A good example of what I mean is Stephen King's Pet Sematary. It's not really a scary book, but my black cat, Scruffy had me creeped out for a few days after reading it (actually, he still creeps me out when he stalks my hair in the middle of the night).

Another one that unexpectedly affected me was Richard Laymon's All Hallow's Eve. Again, it wasn't a scary book, per se, but when the creepy guy dressed in his last victim's clothes turned up on the old lady's doorstep to make her his next victim…. Let's just say I'd recently divorced from my husband when I read that book and was living alone at the time in a little cottage on a secluded road. I slept with the lights on that night (and a German Shepherd beside the bed for reassurance!)

Oh – and anything with spiders. I have a bit of a phobia-thing about spiders ;)

Which authors, in your opinion, will be remembered as the best horror writers of the 20th Century?

There are so many good horror writers around right now — Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Richard Laymon — like I said, there's so many. I should add such favorites as Dean Koontz, John Saul, Peter Straub and Graham Masterton as well.

Being an Aussie, I also make an effort to follow some of our great Australian Horror Writers. I think some of these will make a huge splash in the international horror arena in the not-too-distant future. If you get a chance, I can recommend you look up Stephen Dedman and Jack Davis. Stephanie Gunn's short fiction is worth watching for too.

Thanks again for this interview!

It was my pleasure, Mayra. Thanks once again for inviting me! :)

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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.