Thursday, 19 September 2019
Interview with Kevin J. Kennedy by David Kempf
When did you first become interested in writing?
Roughly, 5 years ago. Outside of English class in high school, I’d never written anything. One day I was on Facebook and seen an advert for a horror anthology that was looking for stories. It mentioned you didn’t have to be previously published. I had never really wanted to be a writer but I had always been an avid reader of horror and had made the comment on a few occasions that it would be cool to have a story in a horror book. I never planned to write one. It was just one of those general ‘it would be cool if’ comments but I had a little time, I wrote a story, sent it in and they accepted it. I’ve just never stopped from that moment forward.
How did you get involved in horror?
When I was a young lad, my uncle used to have a little corner store. It was back in the 80s and he used to have a few shelfs of VHS tapes that he would rent out. Every Sunday when we visited my gran, we would stop into his shop and I’d always borrow a horror movie. There were certain ones I wasn’t allowed but overall my parents were pretty cool and let me take my pick. Nightmare on Elm street movies were a no no but I don’t remember them telling me no to many others I picked. If we go back further, I suppose I started where a lot of people did with Scooby Doo. Loved the monsters, even though they always turned out to be people. I collected Monsters in my Pocket as a young boy too. I’ve just always been drawn to monsters and horror. I’m not sure why. It just appealed to me.
Tell us about your first publisher.
The first publisher to accept a story by me was Alucard Press, run by C.S. Anderson, who I am still friends with and we often send each other stories for anthologies that we are running. The first publisher to put some of my work out there as it was published before the Alucard Press book, was Indie Authors Press in a title called Spooky Halloween Drabbles. I had never heard of a drabble before but fell in love with them as soon as I discovered them. I’ve now published 3 of my own drabble books called 100 Word Horrors and they have been pretty popular.
How would you classify the genre you write?
Definitely horror but within that, I cover most sub genres. I am a big reader as I said, and I love everything from post-apoc to bizarro to coming of age to comedy horror to extreme. The only horror sub-genre I’m not a fan of is the slow burn stuff. Just not to my taste. I have enjoyed a few slow burn stories but overall I’d prefer to read something with a faster pace.
Why do you think horror books remain so popular?
I wouldn’t say the horror genre is overly popular when you compare it to other genres, but I would say it has a strong following. I think it allows people a release from everyday life to focus on something that isn’t quite as scary as the things that are actually going on in the world. A lot of horror fans read gruesome stuff but on the other hand are some of the most empathetic people you could ever meet. Movie wise, I think the genre is going strong. Chart wise for novels, novellas and Anthos, I don’t feel that horror ranks as strongly as other types of books. It’s my main genre for reading, so probably the only genre I will ever work in, but I hope that it increases in popularity for readers, the way that horror movies have become more mainstream. When you look at horror authors who have been about for a while, that have good sales, their books are often released as thrillers.
What inspires your stories?
Everything. I find the world we live in to be a scary place. The fact that we have psychos in charge of countries, all over the world doesn’t fill me with hope. A lot of my stories are centered around people who are evil, but I do love monster stories and more farfetched stuff but sometimes I will be reading a kids book or watching a comedy movie and an idea springs to mind for a horror story too.
A while back I was re-watching loads of Tarantino movies and then I was looking through my books and the Wizard of Oz came on the TV. I thought to myself ‘what if Tarantino had done the Wizrd of Oz,’ and from that, I came up with an idea for a story that you will find in my solo collection, ‘Dark Thoughts.’ It borders on the extreme but that’s how Tarantino rolls so it had to. Some people love it and it’s one of their fave stories and others hate it because they don’t like the spin on the characters. I knew that would be how it would go before I put it in the book, but I love it. Every book I put out is really for me. That way, if I get a bad review, I can generally assume that the reader and I have wildly different taste.
Goodreads is a godsend. You can compare books with people who review you and I find that any negative reviews I get are from readers who have wildly different tastes from me. It’s all down to the readers personal taste so you can never expect to please everyone.
What do you think the difference between American horror and British horror is?
Not much to me. I was in a British VS American horror antho, and from memory, there was no real difference. I believe that the opinion is that British horror isn’t as extreme. I’m not sure if that is true anymore. What I would say is that America has more conventions, celebrates horror more, has more authors, and overall more readers. I think there is more opportunity in the US and I do a lot better sales wise there. I think the UK is also still stuck in a mainly reading mass market stuff and doesn’t go online as much to take advantage of a wider selection, but, to be fair, when I bought a lot of physical books from small presses in the US, the delivery charges are a killer if you are getting them delivered to the UK so that could play into it to. Amazon is the best bet for getting books from all over these days, especially if you have Prime and get free delivery.
What are your favorite horror books?
There are far too many to mention but here is a list of some that have stuck with me, off the top of my head:
Blood Crazy by Simon Clark
The Beast House, Island, Savage, Funland, Dark Mountain, The Traveling Vampire Show and Midnight’s Lair by Richard Laymon.
City Infernal, The House, The Pig & Header by Edward Lee
The Folks 1 & 2, Serpent Girl & Lot Lizards by Ray Garton
Hero by J.F. Gonzalez and Wrath James White
Yaccub’s Curse by Wrath James White
The Clicker series by J.F. Gonzalez and Brian Keene from book 2 onwards
Swan Song by Robert McCammon
Clusterfuck, Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland, Clownfellas & Cannibals of Candyland by Carlton Mellick
ASBO, Housemates & Sea Sick by Iain Rob Wright
Dead Sea, Terminal, Urban Gothic & An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley by Bryan Keene
The Killing Kind & Depraved by Bryan Smith
These are just a few of my favourite books that I love by authors that I have read almost their entire catalogue, but as I said, there are too many too mention.
There are very few books in here that I have read in the last few years as I feel that it should have stuck with me for quite some time to call it a favourite.
What are some of your favorite horror movies?
Growing up I loved the Friday the 13th movies, Demons 1 & 2, The Hills Have Eyes 1 & 2 and the Nightmare on Elm Street movies (Once I was able to get my hands on them, without my parents knowing). In more recent times, I loved the reimagining’s of the Hills Have Eyes movies, I like the Annabelle movies, Dog Soldiers was brilliant & I loved Train to Busan. I’ve always liked zombie movies too. I liked the 90s Night of the Living Dead and the remake of Dawn of the Dead too. The Return of the Living Dead movies were a lot of fun as well.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as an author?
Just being out there and having people read my work. It still seems weird. A few years ago, I had never written a story. Now I appear in books with a lot of guys that I have been reading for 20 years and my solo collection is doing really well.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Get stuck in and write as much as you can. Sub your story somewhere then start something else. You will get rejections. Everyone does. Don’t take it personally. One publisher might not like it and another may accept it. Maybe the story needs some work. Try and get a few people to read it that will be honest with you rather than just telling you everything you write is brilliant. Keep writing and you will see your writing get better with each story as long as you take feedback. Oh, and read lots. I’ve seen a few authors say they don’t read. I don’t get that. If I wasn’t a reader, I wouldn’t write. I only do it because I love books.
What is your opinion of the new self-publishing trend?
Probably over 50% of the books I read are self-published. The big 4 lost touch a long time ago. Even going back 20 or 30 years, most decent authors complained about how their books were changed by them and now you see books being released as the author intended. Having an editor is one thing. Being told to rewrite large chunks of your book based on a publisher’s idea of what their market wants would never be something I could do. I don’t think mass market publishers really like horror anyway. It’s always thriller. I could never see one of the mass market guys releasing one of Edward Lee’s hardcore books for example. Some of the small press that are around are great but I’m impatient and I don’t want to wait for a year or more on my book being published. With self-pub, you write it, re-write it, get it edited, get some people to read over it to catch any errors that were missed then get it published. It suits me a lot more than the other options that are available, and you keep a larger cut of the profits.
What are your current projects?
I’m just finishing up the 4th Horror Collection book. This will be the White Edition which is Christmas themed. I’m waiting on the proof copy of 100 Word Horrors book 3 arriving but the Kindle version is already online. My second solo collection is in edits and the cover is being designed so that should be available in coming months. I then need to finish up Halloween Land which is a novella that was originally an 8K short that was really popular, and I got a lot of people contacting me and saying they wished it was longer. I’m also working on book 2 of Screechers with Christina Bergling. We are about 6K into it. After that I’m not sure. I plan to spend more time writing and less on Anthos for a while, but we will see what happens.
Please in your own words, write a paragraph about yourself & your work.
Kevin J Kennedy is a horror author & editor from Scotland. He is the co-author of You Only Get One Shot, Screechers and has a solo collection available called Dark Thoughts. He is also the publisher of several bestselling anthology series; Collected Horror Shorts, 100 Word Horrors & The Horror Collection, as well as the stand-alone anthology Carnival of Horror. His stories have been featured in many other notable books in the horror genre.
He lives in a small town in Scotland, with his wife and his two little cats, Carlito and Ariel.
Keep up to date with new releases or contact Kevin through his website: www.kevinjkennedy.co.uk