Eric J. Guignard is a master of dark fiction, and that is not a matter of pure speculation.
Sometimes a writer (okay, speaking for myself) can feel so lost inside his or her own head that they feel completely isolated from society at large and even their own community.
But then you realize you’re not really alone or all that unique. There are plenty of other authors struggling with similar issues, both personal and professional in nature, and a mutual bond forms virtually before even meeting in person, if in fact that ever happens.
I’ve not yet had the pleasure of hanging out with Eric J. Guignard in the flesh, but his Facebook presence and posts are so effortlessly engaging that I feel like I have. Our email exchanges are likewise very casual and comfortable, even though we’re talking shop most of the time.
This easy-going veneer belies a seductively sinister imagination, which is a good thing, because the rest of us get to visit it without feeling we’re in any actual danger. We’re in good hands, even if they’re typing out tantalizing tales of terror…
You identify as a writer of “dark and speculative fiction,” as opposed to simply “horror,” a more marketable niche. Is there is distinction between what you do and conventional tropes of the genre, and as a followup, do you see a future for more personalized, hybrid genres?
I find it harder and harder to call myself a “horror” writer, although I adore the genre. Everything I write has “elements” of horror in it, but so too does every other literary work, albeit personal or psychological fears or troubling events which are natural life horrors that propel a character forward; everybody “fears” something. Generally, I think that if a reader goes into a bookstore with the purpose to purchase a Horror book, they’re expecting monsters and violence and scary things to occur… I enjoy writing stories that touch upon those things, but my tastes have always leaned more toward “quieter” introspective works, stories that I think would belong more in The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror. And yes, there are tons of hybrid, cross-genres, but it muddies the water for most people, unless they’re deeply involved in the literary world. Also, in something as basic as marketing for publishers and libraries, works tend to have a better chance of success if they can clearly be defined in one standard genre, and advertised as such, rather than getting miscategorized due to too much cross-over (although personally, I’m completely and always guilty of that!).
Besides being an acclaimed, award-winning (including the prestigious Stoker) author, you are also a highly respected editor. Do you find equal creative satisfaction on both sides of the submissions line?
I’m gonna take the middle road on that answer, as both editing and writing provide me great satisfaction, just in different ways. I really look at them both as completely different processes, like asking if I prefer baseball over the color green. I find editing is easier for me than writing. Writing is emotionally exhausting, whereas editing I can do all day long. And I’m always thrilled with the chance to connect and work with other writers while editing. But I love so much to type “The End” at the end of a writing piece—it’s a wonderful, fulfilling sense. Both are different journeys to a creative destination.
What is the inspiration and agenda for your own imprint, Dark Moon Books?
I actually bought out Dark Moon Books from its original founder last year, and completely rebranded it. I dropped all of its previous titles and started it over from the ground up. DMB was founded by Stan Swanson in 2011, and he was a mentor and friend who was one of the first people to buy my work, so Dark Moon Books since has just held a sweet, soft spot in my heart. I started off in the indie horror world knowing no one, and I blindly wrote to publisher after publisher asking them to work with me to publish my first anthology, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, and he was the only one willing.
Anyway, as of a couple years ago, he’d stopped doing anything with the press, as he had some other life issues, and hackers had taken over the site. I didn’t want to see the name die, so I bought it out, built out a new secure site and image, and set a goal for it to be a short story venue, primarily for anthologies and my own oddball projects which can’t get signed elsewhere. My mission statement is for “Dark Moon Books to publish unusual and invigorating dark fiction for readers around the world.” I run my anthologies and Primers through there now, and hope to do more, but finances dictate most of those decisions.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
The Twilight Zone television show has always been a big influencer from my childhood. Part of the series is horror, but much of it is just speculative and imaginative. I was a comic reader, which also influenced much of my formulative years. I wasn’t really into the Super Hero comics, but I could never read enough of the “Anti-Hero,” the truly flawed protagonists like Swamp Thing, Jonah Hex, Punisher, Rom, etc. (all loners, too, now that I think about it!)
And, additionally, authors are naturally the largest influence! Those I currently adore and consider inspirations include Cormac McCarthy, George Orwell, Stephen Graham Jones, John Steinbeck, Bentley Little, Lisa Morton, Poppy Z. Brite, Seanan McGuire, Joe R. Lansdale, Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, Neil Gaiman, Robert McCammon, Mark Bowden, O. Henry, James Ellroy, Steve Rasnic Tem, Helen Marshall, Weston Ochse, John Langan, and many others...
Eric J. Guignard is a writer and editor of dark and speculative fiction, operating from the shadowy outskirts of Los Angeles, where he also owns and runs the small press, Dark Moon Books. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award, been a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award, and a multi-nominee of the Pushcart Prize. Outside the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, he’s a technical writer and college professor. Check out his latest work, a debut collection, THAT WHICH GROWS WILD (Cemetery Dance, 2018). For more, visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.
What’s next for you?
My most recent writing work is my debut collection, That Which Grows Wild: 16 Tales of Dark Fiction (Cemetery Dance Publications; July, 2018). Quick synopsis: Equal parts of whimsy and weird, horror and heartbreak, That Which Grows Wild, by award-winning author Eric J. Guignard, collects sixteen short stories that traverses the darker side of the fantastic.
My latest published editing work is my anthology,A World of Horror, which is a showcase of international short fiction authors. (Dark Moon Books; September, 2018). Quick synopsis: A World of Horror is an anthology of all new dark and speculative fiction stories written by authors from around the globe.
What’s being shopped around right is my debut novel (agents and publishers, take note!), Crossbuck ’Bo. Quick synopsis: A Depression-era hobo rides the rails and learns the underlying Hobo Code is a secret language that leads into the world of shared memories, where whoever is remembered strongest can change history and alter the lives of the living.
What’s to be published next is my newest anthology, to be published in early November, Pop the Clutch: Thrilling Tales of Rockabilly, Monsters, and Hot Rod Horror. (Dark Moon Books; November, 2018). Quick synopsis: A 1950s-themed anthology of 18 all-new rockabilly, pulp, and horror tales, with fast cars, rowdy characters, and revved-up classic movie monsters (and including an amazing new Will Viharo tale!).
Additionally I’ve created an ongoing series of primers exploring modern masters of literary dark short fiction, titled: EXPLORING DARK SHORT FICTION, of which I’m estimating to release an average of 2—3 volumes per year (Vol. 1: Steve Rasnic Tem; Vol. II: Kaaron Warren; Vol. III: Nisi Shawl; Vol. IV: Jeffrey Ford; Vol. V: Han Song; Vol. VI: Ramsey Campbell).
Looking forward to all of that, Eric — especially that last one…cheers!