Joe Mynhardt is a South African horror writer and teacher. He has dozens of short stories publications, and also tends to a tome of stories, comics, plays and movies scrapping for a chance to be written. Read more about Joe and his creations on the Joe Mynhardt website or like Joe Mynhardt on Facebook.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
JM: Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents who allowed me to watch horror movies and read whatever comics I wanted. So I basically grew up watching movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Poltergeist, Child’s Play and a bit of Alfred Hitchcock as well. What’s really strange is my own family now don’t understand why I want to write horror. Go figure. Anyway, since then I’ve been extremely interested in whatever classic horror movies or books I could get my claws on, including Twilight Zone, more Hitchcock, Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood, Lovecraft, Poe.
What made this experience so much more educational for me was the fact that I always looked at these highly intriguing characters and wondered where they came from. Who invented them? Who drew them and gave them names? Essentially, who gave birth to them?
My ever-growing imagination was also complemented by my need to create. Where that need originated I have no idea. Since age nine I always wanted to build or invent something. Why horror stories? Because anything can happen in horror. Horror gives the writer more room than any other genre.
What is your most notable work?
JM: My main concern since I started writing in November of 2008 was to learn the craft. Like Stephen King said, the first million words are just for practice. I only recently started aiming for bigger markets, but my most notable work to date has to be my story ‘Rise, Dead Man’ in the upcoming Darker Minds anthology, edited by Ross Warren. There’s also my story ‘The Dead Don’t Live Here Anymore’ in Undead Tales 2, edited by Armand Rosamilia.
But, considering how much time and passion I put into my upcoming short story collection, Lost in the Dark, I’m certain that it will soon be my most notable work.
JM: How much time do we have? This could take a while. Here are some of the things I plan on finishing before the end of the year. My short story collection, Lost in the Dark, is now available in Kindle format. The print version will follow in a month or two.
I’m also setting up a publishing company, Crystal Lake Publications. The first three books are already being set into motion. The first one being my own, the second a collection of Afrikaans short stories by writers here in South Africa. The third one is titled For the Night is Dark, and will include short stories by a couple of big name horror writers I’ve met over the last few years. Crystal Lake Publications will not accept submissions. We’ll work on invites only. Writers can send bio’s with links to [email protected] for consideration into future projects. This publishing company is just another way for me to satisfy my need to create, as well as promote reading and writing in South Africa.
One of the stories in my collection, a story named ‘Portico’, is currently being turned into a movie here in South Africa, and I sometimes go by to give a bit of artistic input. Luckily the director has the same vision as me. Once the movie is done, I need to get back to a few other SA filmmakers who contacted me.
I’m also in the process of discussing a horror stage production with the Portico director, but that’ll be for next year.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
JM: Every writer out there, especially the ones who face their own fears head-on. The ones who really tap into their emotions. It takes a lot of courage to work all day and then write horror. It’s almost like being a part-time superhero. Only difference is we writers have a lot more weaknesses. Luckily we grow stronger with every new skill we learn. That, however, does not mean it gets any easier.
If I had to name a couple of people, and forgive me for shouting out to a couple of friends as well, I’d go with Jasper Bark, John Connolly, Gary McMahon, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Armand Rosamilia, Robert Walker, J.A. Konrath, Stephen Bacon and Adam Nevill.
And I just have to add, I’m having the time of my life meeting new horror writers every day and being introduced to new stories. Horror writers are the coolest writers around. Can’t wait to meet the readers.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
JM: 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!”
I tend to put a lot of gore into a story where the bad guy finally gets what he deserves. In the title story to my upcoming Lost in the Dark collection, I have a bad guy who gets the tendons behind his knees, ankle, arms etc severed. Even his eyelids. Then he gets tied to a tree and torn apart by wild animals. The timing is perfect, because by then the reader despises him for all the horrible things he had done, things much worse than what happens to him, and it made me go, “Awesome!”
JM: Straight answer, because I enjoy reading my own work. 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 what I would like to read at all times. 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 (I’m a fast learner as well), the better I can bring the stories creeping around inside of my skull to life. I’m happy just to see people reading more.
Recommend a book.
JM: That’s a difficult one. But if I have to choose one book which really opened my mind to the possibilities of short stories and imagination, I’d have to go with John Connolly’s Nocturnes. I’m actually lucky enough to own a signed copy, but not lucky enough to have been there when he signed it. I read Nocturnes just as I started writing, and it was as if it let me out of my small box and into a world without boundaries. I was born with an amazing imagination, but I never knew know how to apply it, or even where, until then. There have been many other books and movies helping me along the way, but Nocturnes will always remain the first and best.
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