HORROR 101: The Way forward (Paperback edition) Ed. Joe Mynhardt. Book review

HORROR 101: The Way forward, edited by Joe Mynhardt, Crystal Lake, p/b £9.84, ebook, £0.77. www.crystallakepub.com.

Reviewed by Stewart Horn

This book is a collection of essays on assorted aspects of the writing business, with contributors including some of the horror genre’s top exponents.  If you read horror at all you’ll know some of these names: Jack Ketchum, Graham Masterton, Edward Lee, Chet Williamson, Lawrence Santoro, Ellen Datlow, Jasper Bark, Ramsey Campbell, Tim Waggoner, William Miekle, Emma Audsley, Scott Nicholson, Gary Fry, Steven Saville, Adam Nevill and more.

They’re in this book, along with people you may not have heard of, but who represent publishers, editors, reviewers, slush readers, webmasters, agents, graphic artists – each adding a little to your understanding of how the process works.

So there is writing advice, career advice, information about what people in the industry do and about other media besides written fiction – generally lots of great and useful stuff.

I have a much better idea now of what some jobs are, and a good deal more respect for the publishers, editors and assorted other people who put authors’ work out there for the world.  And when I meet them I’ll know better how not to annoy them.

Essay titles include : What is Horror?, Balancing art and Commerce, Weighing up Traditional Publishing &Ebook Publishing, Writing aloud, What a Short Story Editor Does, Writing Short Fiction, A Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up and Running a Website, Avoiding What’s been done to Death, The 7 Signs that Make Editors and agents say “Yes!”, Do You Need an Agent?, Editing and Proofreading, On Formatting, Writing Horror: 12 Tips on Making a Career if it, Networking at Conventions.

The actual information and advice in the book could probably be contained in a single 4,000 word essay.  It boils down to: write as well as you can, be professional, be considerate, and don’t be a dick.  But Horror 101 is not just about information.  The individual essays are so varied and entertaining that you’ll read this for fun as well as for personal advancement.  I will probably contact one or two of the contributors, just because they seem like nice people with interesting opinions.

Some of the essays are fairly dry chunks of useful advice, gems of wisdom for any budding author.  But it’s more enjoyable when contributors make their point in a metaphorical or tangential way.  Paul Kane tells us how his brass neck opened doors for him; Dean Drinkel gives an entertaining account of alcohol-fuelled film-making adventures; Lawrence Santoro tells a story from his childhood; Blaze McRob gives us a heart-wrenching autobiography; Theresa Derwin writes about sexism in the genre.

There are many books of this type already available: writing manuals or author biographies with tips along the way.  But this is the most useful and the most entertaining I’ve read. It should be required reading for all of us.

The paperback edition has three essays not in the ebook: Going Underground by Adam Nevill, What Are You Reading? by Kevin Lucia and I Want to be a Small Press Publisher Too by Charles Day.

It makes room by cutting three essays that are in the ebook, but because the Crystal Lake guys are so nice they’ll give you the kindle version free if you buy the paper copy.