Carole’s first published story appeared in Black Static #3 in early 2008. She has since contributed stories to PS Publishing, Night Shade Books, Gray Friar Press, TTA Press, Morrigan Books, Apex Book Company and many more. She is presently at work on her second novel while seeking fame and fortune with the first. More information is available at Carole Johnstone’s website.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
No idea; I assume that I was just born this way. Or it might have been my dad’s fault: his bed time stories were old Scottish poems about ghosts and witches. When I was twelve, I asked for and got the collected short stories of Edgar Allan Poe. The next year it was Ray Bradbury. I liked to wander alone around the graveyard next to our street (once at night – with a torch). I was always the one who turned up to video nights with a Friday the 13th or two under my arm. I religiously watched and rewatched far better films like The Thing and Aliens before committing rampant plagiarism on my dad’s Macintosh Classic. On the other hand, Stephen King might have been the real culprit (I doubt for the first time). From the moment that I discovered him in my teens, I read anything and everything I could get my hands on.
I guess up until now, my novella, Frenzy, published by Damnation Books. But I’ve interpreted notable as long. Grown up. Novel-like. If I’m being really honest, it’s my short fiction that has provided the most significant moments for me: my first pro-sale (a hundred and fifty quid for a short story, cripes!); ‘Dead Loss’, which was reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year; ‘God of the Gaps’, which will be reprinted in Best British Fantasy 2013. I love short stories, even though writing them often consumes more calories than it provides; even though pretty much every publisher or agent wrinkles their nose at the mere mention.
What are you working on now?
In direct contradiction to my last sentence, my first short story collection was recently picked up by a publisher and should be out in the next few months, which I’m hugely excited about, although I don’t know if I can say much more just yet. And TTA Press, the publisher of the wonderful Black Static and Interzone magazines, is to publish my stand alone novella, Cold Turkey, in the next few months too.
I also have my first novel under full manuscript consideration with an actual real-life literary agency, so fingers crossed!
Who do you admire in the horror world?
Anyone. Everyone! Oh, that’s a very hard question. I admire writers like Stephen King, Richard Matheson and Clive Barker because I grew up reading them and because they’ve been remarkably successful at what they do.
I read anything and everything regardless of genre; consequently I’m probably not as well read in horror as other folk are. I often feel very ignorant at cons, for example. I admire any writer who can make me not want to finish a book because I’m enjoying the read so much (or put it down for the very same reason); any writer who makes me immediately want to buy everything he/she has written; any writer who can experiment, change and still maintain their own momentum without having to sacrifice quality or imagination. I know how hard even just one of those things is to achieve, but writers like Graham Joyce, Michael Marshall Smith, Joe Hill, Sarah Langan, Gillian Flynn, Alexandra Sokoloff and Tom Piccirilli are near perfect examples.
Contemporaries whom I’ve met and whose success I hope to emulate? Nina Allan, Joseph D’Lacey, Gary Fry, Gary McMahon, Adam Nevill, Paul Meloy, Simon Bestwick. Too many to mention. So I’m going to stop doing it.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
The latter, like most people, I’m guessing. Gore on its own gets pretty dull pretty quickly. Like watching porn. I want to be invested in both plot and characters, and while I’m not suggesting that you can’t be just because the story’s gory so to speak, in practice it’s usually less likely. I want the foreplay that psychological horror offers, the suspense, the uncertainty. I’m not averse to a bit of blood spatter, but only if it adds something – not if it is the something.
Why should people read your work?
I can’t answer that! Except to say that if they don’t I’m not going to get very far with the whole world domination thing. Oh, I don’t know. I love writing; I’ve always done it and I’m always, always trying to improve. If you enjoy the work of any of the writers I’ve mentioned then maybe you’ll enjoy mine too. I hope so. There, look, I answered it despite myself.
I can never recommend just one. Least I can do is three: I read The Lighthouse by Alison Moore a few months ago and just loved it. A quicker but just as memorable read is How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman, which I read in a day and night because I couldn’t sleep without knowing the horrible end. And last but not least, I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of Joseph D’Lacey’s Black Feathers recently, and it’s a corker!
I’m not sure how ‘horror’ other folk might consider any of those choices, but I guess the distinction is only ever in the eye and mind of the reader anyway. One man’s Wine-Dark Sea is another man’s Hellbound Heart. Or something.(Incidentally: two more recommendations.)
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