Ben Long: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career as a writer?
Janine Pipe: Hey, Ben. Well, I live in Swindon in the UK with my husband and our 11 year old daughter. After Uni, I was a police officer but I left soon after I had Felicity. I worked in education for a while and had been dabbling in writing here and there, mainly within the travel sphere and specifically blogging about Florida and Walt Disney World. However I always wanted to try fiction and since the adage is write what you know/what you would read, the obvious genre of choice was horror. I have been an avid reader of dark fiction all my life and as many of us, was heavily influenced by the work of King. Short stories seemed to be the best way to test the water and I started writing and subbing like mad. The rest as they say, is history.
BL: What is your writing process generally like? How do you generate ideas for a new story and grow those into the finished tale?
JP: Chaotic and filled with panic. Lol. And I’m not even joking! So the best way for me to be productive is just write. Sit, focus and tap away until my fingers hurt. It’s like I need to pour it all out or I might forget something. Doesn’t matter if what I’m typing is utter shite as I’ll edit after, but it’ll be like a fever dream where the words must be written down. Sometimes I can write a decent length story in a day. Not often mind you.
As for ideas, when I worked in education, we had this great term – magpie-ing - for when the kids were sharing ideas and you borrowed those ideas but made them your own. I quite often do that. It isn’t copying, you take the genesis of a concept and develop it into your own. For example, I loved the novella The Special by James Newman and Mark Steensland which is about a dude with a certain sexual addiction – basically he finds a magical box. So I took that idea and made my story about a, ahem, magical hole in a tree …
I also quite like specific themes in open calls, I often have too many suggestions floating about but if a press wants something very narrow, that can be helpful. Although I do often try to do the exact opposite of what I think other people will submit to try and stand out. Doesn’t always work of course.
BL: Seems to be working okay, as you've already had short stories published in multiple places. Can you give a quick rundown of some of the stories and where they were published?
JP: Goodness, well there are a few!
- “The Invitation” (high school Halloween party where things are not as they first may seem) in Graveyard Smash from Kandisha
- “Should Have Gone to Vegas” (2 friends go camping and meet a new *friend*) in The One That Got Away from Kandisha
- “Hook, Line and Sinker” (retelling of the Hookman urban legend) in 25 Gates of Hell with Brian Keene
- “Footsteps” (my splatterpunk award nominated story - another pitfalls of camping tale with a feminine twist) in Diabolica Britannica
- “They” (coming of age creature feature) in Glenn's Alien Agenda Publishing Sampler
- “Halloween Night” (flash fiction homage to Halloween shenanigans) in Campfire Macabre from Cemetery Gates Media
- “Desperate Measures” (retelling of Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf's POV) in Villains and Best of 2020 from Iron Faerie
- “Silver Bells” (werewolf on a train at Christmas) in Deathlehem from Grinning Skull Press
There are a few more but those are the mains.
BL: To anyone who knows you, it's clear you have a great love for two things: Disney and extreme horror. How is it possible to love something so innocent and also something so disturbing at the same time?
JP: Haha it is so true!!! It’s like one minute I’m having tea with Ariel and next I’m writing about a porno snuff movie … and I have no answer for you. I just do. I guess Disney brings out my inner child and extreme horror brings out my – wait, this could go horribly wrong.
I don’t know if it is just a product of desensitization, but extreme horror doesn’t shock or offend me. If done well, and that’s the key, it can be highly entertaining and even funny. Of course it is gross and makes you go ew when you read it, it’s meant to, but much like I love a good kill in a movie, I enjoy the full gory description in a book. And the sexual stuff doesn’t bother me either. It’s just all about the narrative as always. I tend to make my more extreme stuff funny. It breaks the tension and stops you feeling sick if you’re laughing instead.
BL: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or what are some of your favorite stories in the extreme horror subgenre?
JP: Extreme-wise it has to be Ketchum. He is the master for a very good reason and he absolutely nails it. The Girl Next Door is perfection. There is a very famous scene where he alludes to a heinous atrocity and although it happens *off screen*, it still has a massive impact. That is the kind of shock that very few people can pull off where the worst act of the book isn't even shown yet is utterly horrendous.
Splatterpunk-wise as I believe there is a subtle difference, I would go with Kristopher Triana. Utterly brilliant and the kind of storytelling that is absolutely necessary in this subgenre - a bloody good plot with shocking elements rather than a load of gory OTT sexual nonsense that no one bats an eye at because the narrative sucks. Stories would be The 13th Koyote and Gone to see the River Man. Glenn Rolfe is also really good with the splattery stuff and I legitimately can not wait to see what his DHP western will be like.
I really like anthologies and extreme/splatterpunk ones are a good way to get a taste for some of these writers. I recently read DOA 2 and really enjoyed K Trap Jones' contribution and look forward to reading more of his work.
The thing I like most about splatterpunk is that it is often funny, Night Stockers again by Triana and Ryan Harding is an excellent example. I like being grossed out but I also like to laugh about it.
BL: What can you tell us about your debut collection, Tainted: Twisted Tales?
JP: Well where do I start? So, I like short stories. I like writing them, I like reading them. They fit well with my attention span. I realised I had quite a few anthology credits to my name but nothing specifically of my own. The novellas I was working on were both getting a bit a bit stale and I realised I had a plethora of short stories just waiting for a good home. Of course, I knew nothing about self-publishing and I had already decided that would be the best option as indie presses rarely take on solo collections. I have to give a huge shout-out to the people who helped me along the way with all my stupid questions – especially to Jason Brant and Lou Yardley.
The collection itself comprises 17 different tales. There is splatterpunk, supernatural, urban legends, creature features and even a gothic yarn which early readers seem to have enjoyed. It centres around a character acting as a narrator who has found these stories and an 80s mix-tape. Most of them are set in that decade and are named after song titles. It’s just riddled with nostalgia.
BL: Tell us about that awesome cover! Who did it and why that particular design?
JP: Isn’t it just? So I had this idea of the 80’s mixtape and I really wanted the cover to represent that. I had seen some of Neil Fraser’s work as he designed Lou Yardley’s covers and he is one of my Patrons. I knew he had done lots of movie posters and the DVD cover for Host which looked like an old VHS tape. That was the vibe I wanted. He had read some of my work and knew my style and I just gave him a couple of things I wanted it to pay homage to – Fright Night and American Werewolf in London. What you see is what he came up with and I was blown away. The wraparound design so that the back looks like the movie synopsis and credits etc. is just the absolute icing on the cake.
BL: Any advice for new authors also looking to go the self-published route?
JP: It isn't about saving money and cutting corners, it is just a quicker way of getting your work out to the world. You still pay people to do stuff for you unless you are not only a writer but an artist, editor and formatter. People will judge you on how the book looks, especially if the ebook is clunky. And woe betide if you have any typos. So don't go into it thinking self-publishing is the easy route.
That being said, it does give you control over your work. You are in charge of pricings and release dates and of course because there is no middle man, you reap the benefits of sales. On that note, make sure you have a strong network of supporters who can help you by sharing and promoting as the money you make back on sales is minimal.
That all sounds like I am dissing it though and I am not, I just think people should have realistic expectations. I am also a complete dunce when it comes to anything remotely technical so I could not have put this together without a lot of help. Other people who know their way around a laptop might find it a breeze.
But seeing MY book sitting on Amazon is just the best feelling. If I had chosen to sub it out, it could have taken months, years for a press to take it on and get it ready. I am pleased to have taken this route and super proud of how it has turned out.
BL: Who are some of your favorite writers, and why is it Glenn Rolfe and Hunter Shea?
JP: Wait, what? How do you know that? Well this is awkward …
Ha. So it all started with me discovering Flame Tree Press and reading ARCs of Until Summer Comes Around and Misfits. After years and years of only reading King, I had suddenly stumbled across something quite remarkable – indie horror and I bloody loved it. I connected with Glenn first and soon read as much of his as possible and just found myself thinking, this is the kind of voice I have albeit it nowhere near as good. Reading Hunter is just a bloody good time, his stories are usually bonkers and so much fun. Becoming friends with those guys just blew me away.
Then something to this day I still wonder about happened – Glenn asked me to contribute to his new Alien Agenda Publishing sampler which showcases indie authors, another one of whom was this dude called Tim Meyer. Now, I had seen the name and the hair, but I hadn’t read any of Tim’s work. Since we were going to be TOC buddies, I asked him, what should I start with? He recommended The Switch House and OMG that was it. A third voice to stock my shelves with.
All three of them have the power to fully immerse me into their narrative. Their books read like movies, you get fully sucked in and mad when you have to come out to like cook dinner or do something adulty. I have beta read for all three of them and let me tell you, even their drafts are magical. They trust me with their work. I believe there are a couple of Glenn’s projects that I am the only person to have seen so far. That is trust. And the thing I love the most about all three of them, is that they are wonderful people and I am honoured to call them friends.
BL: Are there any upcoming stories or projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?
JP: I will be starting work on my second collection as soon as the launch of TTT is over and have several projects on the go as an editor at Kandisha Press. I also have a few collabs on the table but am unable to talk about them right now. I can say one will be with Jill and the working title is Kamp Kandisha. The other two involve authors who are pretty busy so it depends on their schedules but we are already in the planning stages. I am so excited about them though.
BL: Where can people find you and links to your books
JP: Find me on Twitter @Janinepipe28 or YouTube – no doubt with you, Ben on my booktube channel – Janine Pipe Horror Writer.
You can also check out my Patreon page and support me over there - https://www.patreon.com/Janines_ghost_stories?fan_landing=true
Books check out my Amazon page - https://amzn.to/3vdCxOT
And the pre-order for TTT out May 1st - mybook.to/JaninePipe
Interview by Ben Long