Today I am joined by Mark Nixon the man behind Shadows at the Door, the internet’s one stop, ghost story shop. Mark has taken time out from the busy bustle of preparation going on ahead of the site’s first published anthology to answer a few questions.
Tell us a bit about Shadows at the door. What was the thinking behind it?
Shadows at the Door began as a simple blog, a means to share a story I’d written. I didn’t consider submitting it for publication; I just wanted to share it with my friends. The blog proved more popular than I expected and so very quickly I created a new website as an online library, and other writers began to submit. Now, SATD is an online publisher, and I’m really proud of it.
What is your favourite part of running Shadows at the Door?
Discovering and promoting talented writers. I’ve met some amazing people whose work I may never have read were it not for the site. A lot of them are destined for amazing careers and I love doing my part to help build their brand.
When did your first fall in love with the horror genre?
I think I was about ten, and it was in the village library. I used to go there quite a lot, and I started picking up these paranormal books. They would feature things like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, the Bermuda Triangle and plenty of ghosts! I kept going back and borrowing more and more until I stopped going home and just sat in there most of the day reading them. Over time, I moved purely onto ghost stories and then I started venturing into horror novels.
The horror genre has undergone a change in direction over the years, moving away from the traditional ghost story and supernatural tale, and into the realms of more human, physical horror. What’s your take on the change and which do you prefer?
I actually have a love/hate relationship with horror. I adore traditional ghost stories and the supernatural, but I don’t have a taste for the more modern horror trends. Freddy, Jason, The Saw franchise, none of that kind of stuff interests me. I enjoy subtle, atmospheric horror and there’s not a great deal of that in the mainstream market. This is something I try to remedy with Shadows at the Door, and there is an audience out there looking for it.
I know you are a fan of M. R. James; would you say he’s influenced your own writing?
He certainly influences my writing. The man was preeminent, and his stories continue to have a huge impact on me.
What’s your favourite M. R. James story?
‘Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You, My Lad’, is just perfect. It’s the quintessential ghost story and I adore it.
Are there any other writers that have influenced you?
Some of my other strongest influences include Stephen King, Susan Hill, Neil Gaiman and Washington Irving.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I had fairly serious ambitions when I was in school, but my parents often told me to focus on a more reliable career so it fell by the wayside. It was actually only a few years ago, that the desire really reignited. I had some trepidation starting in my mid-twenties, but I soon came to realise that you can start at any point in your life!
Out of the stories you’ve written so far, which is your personal favourite?
Probably ‘Silent Warnings’, it features a protagonist I enjoy writing and I really like how the threat is introduced. It’s rare a character can acknowledge that a ghost is actually a ghost, so it was refreshing to have another character who had already been haunted before the protagonist encountered it. I also slipped in a little sexual frustration between the two leads, and that was fun.
Shadows at the door also sponsors The Wicked Library podcast; tell us a little about that.
I’d already worked with the host, Dan Foytik, and so when he announced his tenure as the new host of The Wicked Library, I was really excited about it. The Wicked Library is very well produced dramatic readings of horror stories and has very similar goals to SATD. Dan of course can have slightly different taste to me, so I can be introduced to genres I otherwise may not have looked into. I’m always happy to sponsor such an enterprising podcast.
How did it feel the first time you heard one of your stories performed as a podcast?
Dan Foytik first recorded a dramatic reading of my story ‘Leave a Light On For Me’ for SATD, and I was blown away. It’s fascinating to hear someone else read your work, where they find tension and apply with skilled voice work. You know he’s doing a good job when you get scared by your own story! That’s why I’m always happy to write for his podcasts The Lift and The Wicked Library.
Shadows at the Door is preparing to launch its first anthology. What made you decided to branch out into book publication, and why now?
Quite simply? Demand. The fans have been asking for one for some time now but there have been a few other reasons. The site is less than two year old and in that time I’ve seen it grow exponentially, the talent of the writers has been fantastic and these writers deserve to be in a book produced with love and care. And I’m a book lover! There are some beautiful books out there, and I feel like we can contribute to the market, especially with new artwork by Barney Bodoano.
For those who haven’t heard about the project before, who is involved with the anthology?
For people familiar with the site, they’ll see some familiar names such as Kris Holt, Pete Alex Harris, Caitlin Marceau, Christopher Long, K.G. Goddard — all writers I’m very excited about. There are also some new names such as Helen Grant, who I’ve been wanting to work with for some time now and her story exceeded my already high expectations. Mark Cassell has built a fascinating world of horror in his own right, and I really wanted to have his talent on board too, because the stuff he’s producing is just fantastic. I’ve also written a story myself that I’m really proud of and I think people will enjoy it. And not only will Dan Foytik be recording a full audio book of the anthology, but he’s also written one of the stories. Dan is so busy making great podcasts that we need to show the world what a fantastic writer he is. Cathedral Sounds are producing music for the audiobook, and what they’ve proceeded so far has sent a delightful chill up my spine. As mentioned, Barney Bodoano, who already has been providing art work for the site, will be providing beautiful yet sinister artwork for the book — it just didn’t feel right to ask anyone but Barney! As I’m sure you can tell, I’m incredibly excited about this anthology and I can’t wait for everyone to read it.
What else can you tell us about the anthology?
The writers come from all over the world, and this created an excellent opportunity to share these parts of the world with the readers. As such, each story is set either locally to each writer, or in a place they have lived or is important to them. In my own story, for example, Durham Cathedral is practically a character, and its presence is felt in all parts of the story. Caitlin Marceau explores a local mystery in Montreal, Quebec and Kris Holt delves into the legend of Black Shuck in his home of Norfolk. It’s been fascinating to discuss the ideas and see them evolve with the writers and it’s going to deliver a unique read.
What is your long term goal for Shadows at the Door?
I’m hopeful that the anthology will help Shadows at the Door become an independent publisher. I have great respect for the Folio Society, that’s the goal!
Follow Shadows at the Door
Check back soon for interviews with some of the writers involved in the Shadows at the Door anthology.