When and how did Angry Robot form?
Angry Robot published its first books just two years ago, in July 2009. Prior to that was close on a year of frantic scurrying, first in detailing our publishing strategies and then in tracking down authors we wanted to publish. Prior to that, I had been Publisher at Games Workshop’s Black Library and Solaris imprints.
What attracted you to the horror genre?
Horror and the supernatural are a key foundation of genre writing. At the moment, we’re at a major crossroads, I feel, in the development of the genre in the book trade. Supernatural has superseded horror in terms of reader appeal, while crime has co-opted a lot of horror’s tropes, leaving the latter starting to feel like a backwater. But regardless of the label book chains that insist to go on the books that make the most sales, there will always be a place for the uncanny, the inexplicable, and the chills those creations engender.
Talk us through some of the key authors at Angry Robot.
I’m a great fan of Gary McMahon’s subtly understated but darkly grim Thomas Usher books. Somewhere between Val McDermid crime shocker and despair-filled existential horror, they show a world tinged by personal grief in which all colour seems to have turned to different shades of dark grey. The second Usher novel, Dead Bad Things, is out in September.
At the other end of the spectrum, Peter Crowther’s Darkness Falling has Hollywood blockbuster or Stephen King-esque bestseller plastered all over it. The whole world is hit with an uncanny bright light that turns rapidly into unending darkness. In the dark, many people disappear; just a few are returned, subtly different. The first of a trilogy, it’s a massive book about ordinary people staring at the face of total disaster – and it’s a riot, a total hoot.
What Angry Robot releases are you most proud of and why?
It has to be Slights by Kaaron Warren. What a book! I have never read anything like it, before or since – like an episode of Neighbours scripted by Thomas Ligotti. We were so damn proud of Kaaron when she won a bunch of local awards in Australia, not just genre but literary awards too. The key thing is that she captured the voice of her central character Stevie perfectly, a young woman caught between the whiteout of grief and teenage nihilism, tempted into recreating the near-death experience that shaped her life. To have that as one of our first four releases – a woman, and not from the UK too – wasn’t a deliberate statement of intent, but it was a damn good one.
Do e-books threaten or complement the print industry?
It depends whether one is the manuscript illuminator terrified of these new Gutenberg press things, or just an expert in finding the very best storytellers and getting their words heard amongst all the less talented chancers. There’s no putting these Furies back inside the box, that’s for sure. If the print industry dies, it’ll be because no one wanted its products any more. More likely, we’ll have a fairly lengthy period of book nostalgia, maybe even hipness (cf vinyl albums for purists), because people will realise that while e-books are great for some reading situations, when you have a comfy armchair and a glass of wine, nothing beats a physical book.
Are you currently open for submission?
Only from agented writers, or those who are recommended to us by authors we already publish. We are not open for unsolicited submissions.
I don’t think like that. No point dreaming about poaching writers if it’s not going to occur. And as it happens, my very favourite author in the whole world has offered us certain rights on his last book if we want to pick them up, but I don’t think we can sell enough to make it worth our while. I’m more interested in publishing a brilliant new writer.
Who is the most influential horror writer of all time and why?
I don’t know. But I know who I wish it was – but despite being highly respected and widely read really is not – HP Lovecraft. Few writers ever reach the heights of brain-frying insanity of his best work, and that’s a damn shame. More writers – maybe more in the fantasy genre than horror but still… – need to put away the tired old fantasy tropes, and start staring at the sun for long periods. It takes us to a place we’ve genuinely never been, not yet another cod-medieval theme park of dullness and predictability.
What does the future hold for Angry Robot?
Two new imprints will spin off from us soon, I can’t tell you more on those, though. Loads more great authors – we debut a new series or an author as one of our two books every month. World Builder, our interactive website that allows fans of certain AR books a venue to post ‘official’ fan fiction, background explorations and artwork. And hopefully another Open Door Month, when we will once again fling open our submissions pile to prospective novelists who wouldn’t normally be considered.