Interview with UK Publisher Johnny Mains

By Joseph J. O’Donnell

ED: We are talking today to UK Publisher Johnny Mains who heads one publishing house and two websites.

ED: Tell our readers Johnny about your company and how you started.

JM: Hello Eerie! My company is called Noose and Gibbet Publishing and it is the result of a hard look at the small press industry and seeing an opening which I felt hadn’t been exploited to its full potential.

Around three years ago I started a website called All Things Horror and I would go off and find authors, actors/actresses, artists and other luminaries in the horror genre to interview. Shortly after its launch, I began another a website dedicated to the infamous Pan Book of Horror Stories which saw thirty books published in thirty years and still stands as the world’s longest running horror anthology series. Over the course of two and a half years I’ve interviewed over 40 authors involved in writing the original series and cheekily asked some of them if they would like to contribute a short story for a brand new anthology. Sixteen of the authors graciously provided me with a specially written story, and five of the authors (in one case the author’s estate) have given permission to reprint a classic story from the series.

I’m in contact with the original publishers of the series, Pan Macmillan, and they were interested in the idea but couldn’t commit to anything until the end of 2010. So after looking around at small presses I noticed that there simply wasn’t anybody who was publishing authors whose stars burned brightest during the seventies and eighties. They deserve another bite at the cherry. They are still amazing writers. Sadly the whole horror landscape in the early nineties changed and overlong and overblown novels dominated the market, pushing out most of the anthologies. I drew a deep breath and started Noose and Gibbet. There seems to be a great deal of interest in what I’m doing. My first book as editor is BACK FROM THE DEAD: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories (containing the Pan authors and stories I spoke of earlier) which will be released during the World Horror Convention in Brighton, England in March 2010.

ED: We understand that you deal in the genres of horror, and like us, tales of things that ‘go bump in the night’. Who are some of the writers that you represent?

JM: I have been blown away by the kindness of all of the authors that I work with; from Basil Copper who had two collections published by Arkham House and who also writes books about August Derleth’s imfamous Solar Pons, to Christopher Fowler who could arguably be one of the greatest horror and urban unease writers that the UK has ever seen. I’ve also had the privilege of receiving two short stories by John Burke, an editor of the excellent Tales of Unease trilogy for Pan Books and a noted author in his own right, as well as superb original stories from Conrad Hill, Harry E Turner, Nicholas Royle and Tony Richards.

ED: What form(s) do you publish your writer’s work in?

JM: The book will predominantly be coming out as a paperback but there will also be a limited edition hardback. The search is still on for the best, most affordable method of printing independently!

ED: Eerie Digest has just created a program targeting a number of Universities and High Schools here in the States, to see their work in print in our magazine. What encouragement can you offer today’s young writing talent?

JM: I’ve been lucky enough to have a few short stories of my own published and I continue to submit my work to magazines, anthologies and online e-zines. I get rejections, but that is par for the course! You have to constantly send them out. Your talent will get you noticed eventually!

My main advice in regards to writing is to look at your first draft and read it aloud to yourself. When you say something that doesn’t sound right – amend it till it does. After I finish a first draft I’ll totally deconstruct it; take a nice fat marker, ring and tick the bits I like and put a cross next to the bits that need tidying up or even discarding. I do this on the first and second draft. If it still needs major re-working after the third draft then it’s obviously not working as a whole and I let the story structure go into whatever bin is nearest, keeping the sections that work to incorporate ideas and themes into other short stories.

ED: With paranormal and supernatural tales in the upswing, in both books and the cinema, what do you see of their future?

JM: I hate the current trend for vampire books such as Twilight, and have particular loathing for Jane Austen/Zombies and other assorted mash-ups. I’m currently wading through an advanced copy of a title called Queen Victoria – Demon Hunter and another knife gets plunged into my heart with every page I turn. If this is the upswing, I truly feel sad. But saying that, there are people and publishers who still bring out books here and there that give you hope. Even if that’s only until the next romantic vampire saga comes out…As to the cinema, I’ve given up as far as horror is concerned. Saw Part 60? No thanks! I think what we should be looking at more is the small screen; series such as Lost, Carnivale and the ground breaking The Wire have pushed the boundaries of how we watch television and the horror genre could learn greatly from these and produce items of great beauty that is as far removed from Buffy as possible!

ED: Are you actively looking for new writers and is there anything new on the horizon for you?

JM: I hope that in the future I’ll be able to open up submissions for new authors, but at the moment I’m going with writers who I know will shift books! I would like this first anthology to do well. It’ll pay for the next book – Mary Danby’s complete collected works of both children’s and adult’s short horror fiction (she was the editor of the Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories and, interestingly, is Charles Dickens’ great-great granddaughter). After this, I have a few ideas, but we’ll have to wait and see.

ED: How can people see your sites, and how can they contact you?

JM: The publishing site is at www.nooseandgibbetpublishing.com, the tribute site to the Pan Horrors is www.panbookofhorrorstories.co.uk and the horror interview site is www.allthingshorror.co.uk I am contactable at johnny@allthingshorror.co.uk.

ED: Johnny, you run some fabulous organizations and you have your hand on the pulse of a very exciting market. Eerie Digest hopes to hear more from you, and wishes you much success on all your endeavors. Thank you for sharing work and success with all our readers!

JM: Thank you for interviewing me and here’s to the great and fruitful future of Eerie Digest!