Michael Kelly has been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the British Fantasy Society Award. His fiction has appeared (or soon will) in a number of journals and anthologies, including Black Static, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Supernatural Tales, and Postscripts, and has been collected in Scratching the Surface, and Undertow & Other Laments. He also publishes and edits the acclaimed literary journal Shadows & Tall Trees.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
Charles Beaumont! I spotted a book called The Howling Man in a bookshop while browsing. I picked it up and read Beaumont’s bio. He’d scripted a number of episodes of The Twilight Zone, which I loved, of course. Until then, I’d never heard of Beaumont. He was a protégé of Ray Bradbury. I revered Bradbury, truly. Then I read Beaumont’s The Howling Man, and I was floored, stunned, dazed. Something inside me changed. Suddenly I began to write. Oh, they were poor pastiches of Beaumont’s and Bradbury’s work (and some would say I’m still mining that territory), but that was the beginning.
What is your most notable work?
I guess it would be two short stories – ‘The Woods,’ and ‘Princess of the Night’ – which opened and closed Best New Horror #21. Having just come back from the World Fantasy Convention, though, it appears I’m now more known as an editor.
What are you working on now?
Well, I edit the acclaimed lit/horror journal Shadows & Tall Trees. I’m slowly putting together issue #5, which should be out in June 2013. As well, I just started a crowd-funding campaign for an anthology, Apparitions 2, which has a number of great writers attached to it already. If funding comes through, that will keep me busy for a while.
Other than that, I’m picking away slowly at a couple of short stories, one in collaboration with a terrific writer.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
Nicholas Royle. Nicholas is an enthusiastic proponent of short fiction, as am I. It’s an aesthetic and cause we share. Short fiction is a vital and relevant form, and should be celebrated. Nicholas is also one of my favourite writers. He’s terrific. And his editing skills are as impressive as his writing skills. He’s doing great work at Nightjar Press, and should be supported in all his endeavours.
Do you prefer all-out gore or psychological chills?
Psychological chills, for sure. Gore and violence has its place, for some, but I’ve mostly eschewed that vein for the psychological side, for subtly and characterisation. My writing and editing skews that way. I’ve always preferred suggestion, atmosphere, and ambiguity to blood and viscera.
Why should people read your work?
Well, unless they like bleak, melancholic, depressive character studies, they probably shouldn’t. It really is hard for me to recommend my own work. It isn’t just modesty. I’m never sure if it’s good. I’ve been fortunate, though, to appear in some fine journals and anthologies.
Recommend a book.
As above, I’ll have to say Charles Beaumont’s The Howling Man. If you haven’t read it, I urge you to.