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Writer Vs. Writer: James G. Carlson

In this post I will be interviewing James G. Carlson. James is an award-winning author of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. He has also released two collections of dark fiction, Seven Exhumations and The Ever-Descending Staircase, as well as three novellas, The Legion Machine, Midnight in the City of the Carrion Kid, and Red Falls (included in Hacked in Two, with Daemon Manx). Most recently, James worked with Michael R. Collins on Miracles for Masochists, a book featuring one collaborative tale and three short stories from each author. His new horror noir and cosmic fantasy novel, The Eleventh Door, is scheduled for a late 2023 release from Gloom House Publishing. From the weird state of Pennsylvania, James drinks too much coffee and writes at a desk surrounded by animals and family in the mad zoo he calls home. Let get to know this fantastic inspiring author more.



Hi James. First thing first, congratulations on your award-winning career as an author of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy! What initially drew you to these genres, and how do you navigate the unique challenges and rewards of writing within them?

Thank you! My love for horror began at thirteen or fourteen when I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street at a friend’s house. The concept alone blew me away -- a dead murderer invading people’s dreams, where he could kill them in creative ways. After that, I often sneaked downstairs when everyone had gone to bed to watch horror movies on HBO, Cinemax, and USA’s Up All Night. I grew up during a great time in cinema, with gems like Goonies, Gremlins, Back to the Future, Alien, Robocop, Beetlejuice, etc. They gave me an enduring appreciation for storytelling. Trying to inspire me to read more, my mother bought me a book around that time, a horror anthology. I devoured every story and found myself hungry for more. That began a life-long love of reading, not just horror but several genres. I discovered authors like Salinger, Fitzgerald, Miller, Kerouac, Bukowski, and the like, becoming even more obsessed with literary fiction. I was ravenous for it. I even read the complete works of Shakespeare and The Bible. Then, during a strange period of travel and excessive substance use, I penned my first novel, The Book of February. A story of two down-and-out heroin addicts struggling on the streets of Philadelphia. I didn’t try my hand at horror until 2017. But a publisher soon took a chance on my work. Readers responded favorably. And I haven’t stopped since.


Though each story presents its own unique challenges, I love what I do and thoroughly give myself to the writing endeavor. None of my books are strictly horror; there are always noticeable crossover components. My main goals are simple: write well and offer entertaining content to readers. I think I’ve been mostly successful in meeting those goals. The main challenge, I’d say, is finding ways to get people’s eyes on my work. The book market is saturated, and content gets buried very quickly. So there’s a very narrow window to make a mark with a book.


A Nightmare on Elm Street was a life changing horror back then specially for our generation. Tell us about your upcoming novel, “The Eleventh Door,” combines horror noir and cosmic fantasy. Can you provide us with a glimpse into the world and themes of this highly anticipated release? What inspired you to merge these two genres together?


The Eleventh Door follows disgraced ex-detective Madeline Sharpe as she scrapes by as a private investigator in Spiral City. A former colleague asks her to consult on a perplexing homicide case, and she reluctantly takes the job. Little does she know, this will lead her down a strange path that extends far beyond the reality she thought she knew. After witnessing two brutal murders, she finds herself transported somewhere beyond our world – the Eleventh Realm – where she encounters savage gods, angels of the wood, and various unusual creatures. Can she make it back to Earth in time to save it, or will she be trapped while the fabric of the universe comes undone and plunges everything into oblivion?


I didn’t start this novel with the idea of merging these two subgenres. Initially, I wanted to write a horror noir. The cosmic fantasy came later. You see, I’m a total pantser. The story goes where it wants as my mind races and my fingers navigate the keys. So, it’s often surprising to me when my stories take a significant turn. And I just go with it. I find that sort of writing very satisfying. Of course, I have a vague idea of what I want each story to entail, and I get glimpses of its direction beforehand. But it’s mostly a spontaneous process.


You have released several collections of short stories and novellas, including “Seven Exhumations,” “The Ever-Descending Staircase,” and “Red Falls.” How do you approach crafting shorter works compared to longer narratives, and do you have a particular affinity for exploring the shorter form?


I adore short-form horror. The challenge of telling a captivating story with limited words is thrilling. In truth, I think I’m better at writing short stories than novels, though I expect that’s because I write more short fiction than long. The story “It’s Always Night Underground” from Seven Exhumations won an award two years ago. My novella Midnight in the City of the Carrion Kid was nominated for a Splatterpunk Award and won a 666 Award. Readers regularly say they wished that book was longer, though. The Ever-Descending Staircase is comprised of my earliest attempts at horror. All the stories in that book previously appeared in anthologies, and when the rights reverted to me, I released them in a collection.


I love writing short horror as well but they're challenging and it's hard write something publish worthy. But in “Miracles for Masochists” you worked on a collaborative project with Michael R. Collins. Can you tell us about the experience of co-authoring a book and the creative synergy that emerged between the two of you? How does collaborative writing differ from writing solo?


Michael and I met roughly four years ago. He and I wrote for the same publisher at the time, but that publisher wasn’t the most ethical, so we demanded our work back and went about trying to sell our work elsewhere. That’s when I got the idea to start Gloom House Publishing. And Michael’s novella Verum Malum became our first release. We discussed a collaborative release for some time, eventually making it happen. We wrote the opening story together, “The Sequined Specter.” It’s a paranormal horror comedy involving the ghost of Elvis Presley haunting a nice couple. They bring in a medium to sort out the problem but end up with a second entity in their home, a decidedly malevolent one. The couple and Elvis, joined by a paranormal investigator and a child medium, take steps to banish the evil from the house. Michael and I are similar in many ways, and our writing styles aren’t that dissimilar, so we ended up being remarkably compatible. I enjoy collaborating. It takes the story in a direction it wouldn’t have gone were it not for the other mind involved.


I also have a split release with Daemon Manx, Hacked in Two, for which we each wrote a dark novella. His story, a psychologically twisted tale of metafiction and apocalyptic carnage, is titled “Deacon.” And mine, “Red Falls,” combines folk horror, creature feature, and social and political satire. In 2024, I have planned collaborations involving Chase Will, Mark Zirbel, Mark Miller, R.J. Benetti, and a few others. I’m very excited about those.


I do work on collaborative projects, however I find them challenging if you're not living in the same time zone. In this regard I worked with international writers to create a poetry collection and a short story collection focusing on specific themes such as diversity, inclusion, gender issues. I see that as an editor for the anthology “We’re Here: An Anthology of LGBTQ+ Horror,” you also had the opportunity to work with talented authors such as Hailey Piper, Judith Sonnet, and Sumiko Saulson. How did you approach the editing process for this project, and what were some of the highlights or challenges you encountered?

I suppose I approach every editing job with an open mind. I know each story will need a different approach and level of attention from me. The first thing I do is differentiate style from perceived errors. Sometimes those things are deliberate, and I don’t want to interfere with a writer’s voice. Mainly, I focus on grammar, punctuation, tenses, telling vs. showing, passive voice, redundancy, continuity, structure, and flow. I love editing work by authors I haven’t read before. Not only does it expose me to new talents, but it also presents new challenges for my editing brain. In that way, editing can prove quite rewarding. Most recently, I edited work by Edward Lee, Brian Keene, M. Ennenbach, Christine Morgan, Kristopher Triana, Ruthann Jagge, Carver Pike, etc, for a different charity anthology. It was an honor to work with all of them.


Apart from writing, you’re managing Gloom House Publishing. I’ve learned that it is known for its commitment to integrity, compassion, and unity. How do these values translate into the types of books you publish and the authors you choose to work with? What sets Gloom House apart from other indie presses?


Gloom House has old-school punk values and liberal sensibilities, so it’s more of a collective than a business. We’re a team, and each member is concerned with the success of the other members. But, most of all, we share a passion for writing. That’s what unites us more than anything. We release a variety of content, from dark fiction and literary horror to extreme horror and transgressive fiction. In short, we just want to share quality content that entertains readers. And in that goal, I think we’ve done alright.


Could you let our readers know what the requirements for authors are to submit their work to your publishing house?


Because Gloom House is basically a two-person show these days, we don’t have any open calls planned. In fact, our current release calendar takes us out to early 2024. We take the occasional pitch through our website, however. I suspect that our 2024 calendar will be full very soon. As we expand, we hope to do more open calls.


Gloom House Publishing has been involved in charity projects, such as “Nursery Stories for Dumb Crotch Goblins: A Child’s Garden of Curses” and “We’re Here: An Anthology of LGBTQ+ Horror,” which donate proceeds to worthy causes. How important is it for you and Gloom House to give back to the community, and how do you select the charitable projects you support?


It’s very important to Gloom House to be involved in charity projects. I try to do charity work every year, whether contributing one of my short stories to a fundraising anthology or releasing a book for a cause. So, when Angelique Jordonna and Mick Collins approached me about the We’re Here anthology, I said yes immediately. I strongly believe in the Trevor Project’s work and loved that Angelique wanted the funds to go to them. Then, about a week or two later, I had the same reply when Marian Echevarria and Mick Collins approached me about the Crotch Goblins anthology. Mothers of Mayhem and Gloom House teamed up for the project, and we’re preparing for the August 29th release of the title. All proceeds from the anthology go to Donate Life America in honor of the late Jay Wilburn, who is greatly missed in the horror community.

You mentioned that Gloom House Publishing plans to release new titles by Aaron Lebold, Terry Miller, and Ruth Anna Evans. Could you provide any insights into these upcoming works and what readers can expect from these authors?


Aaron Lebold and Terry Miller have been with Gloom House since early 2022. We’ve released two of Lebold’s brutal novels, Genocide and The Sheriff of Salem. And we released Miller’s transgressive creature feature, Den of the Wererats, on our extreme imprint, Bastardized Books. In the coming months, we plan to release one of two planned Lebold offerings and Miller’s latest collection, We All Die Eventually. Ruth Anna Evans is the newest author signed to Gloom House, and we are excited to work on her dark and bloody novella, Do Not Go in That House.


Finally, do you find any particular inspiration in the quirks and idiosyncrasies of your surroundings?


Absolutely. My partner and I have a lot of animals. So it’s not surprising to look down and see our skunk, Cedric, nosing at my feet while I work. My cat Nugget often sits beside my computer, watching me write. The dogs—a basset hound, labradoodle, Great Dane, and English bulldog—nap around my office space throughout the day. And our two pigs, Snotz and Peanut, like to keep me on my toes. Another essential part of my writing and editing process is music. Usually, I play jazz or classical. But sometimes, the project demands a different genre, like electronic music, punk, indie rock, noise rock, ambient soundscapes, or death metal.


Well. Great chat. Thanks James for joining us and look forward for future collaborations.


If you're interested to know more about James, his work and his publishing house, you can check out the following links and if you have any questions for James, comment below:




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