My Interview for "Darker" Magazine

"Darker" is a leading horror magazine in Russia. The "Horror Without Borders" anthology that I've been working on with Oleg is out. In English it's available as an ebook. Since the anthology is out "Darker" asked for an interview.

It's an odd interview that works well. Since I don't know Russian it makes sense to do it this way. They sent Oleg a series of questions that he passed on to me. I read them, let them percolate in the back of my mind for a few weeks, and then wrote these answers and sent the document back to Oleg. He might even be the one translating it.

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Interview for DARKER Magazine – with Jeffrey Alexander Martin of

1 - During the work on stories from around the globe, have you had a chance to push the borders of horror, for yourself? Have you come across such exotic views on the genre that struck you? If so, could you give an example?

Stories are how we make sense of the world. Horror stories deal with a specific piece of the world, the dark side.

When I was doing paramedic training in college I remember the professor talking about how every medic has something that they don't handle well. Some people don't like eye injuries, some people don't like burn victims, and some people don't like injuries, mutilations, and the deaths of children. It depends on the person what affects you most.

I, personally, am more sensitive to the suffering of children, as many people are. In “Horror Without Borders” there is an essay I wrote in the bonus section called “The Value of Horror Stories”. In it I go over how horror stories work psychologically and why they are important. They are psychological and behavioral patterns, and one of the reasons that the loss of children affects people like me is because we see them as innocent, and thus not deserving of tragedy or malevolence. They also have more possibilities in their futures than adults, possibilities that can be destroyed.

I try to confront these problems, that's why in my story I have one child who is a victim, perpetrating horrors on another child, all from the perspective of their mother. There are a few stories in this anthology that deal with children, but one that disturbed me was the story “Stopover”. It plays on a similar theme as mine, even though most people wouldn't associate the two, they really use the same psychological patterns, and are both quite horrific.

Also, I just want to mention, if someone is dealing with grief I do have some articles on my website that may be useful. A good starting point is my article called “Understanding Grief”.

2 - Have you noticed any unexpected similarities between authors from different countries? Have you managed to draw any international tie-lines?

There are definitely cultural differences around the world, and I have talked in person with people from all over the world. But, I think the personal differences of individuals overshadow the cultural differences most of the time.

3 - The release of Horror without Borders already proves that horror authors, wherever they live and no matter how different they are, truly can unite and do something together. How do you see the development of this idea? Intensification of contacts, establishment of the international horror community or else?

I have no clear ambitions in that direction. But I believe Oleg Hasanov does, and I think he will do big things. He was the driving force behind “Horror Without Borders”, and has launched Horroscope Press, and is launching a horror magazine next year. You can look for big things from him.

4 - Flash fiction is not the most common form in horror literature. Moreover, you’ve  had a special task here: having only 1,500 words, you needed not only to scare a reader, but also represent your nation in this anthology. Have you had an experience of writing flash fiction before or the pressure of limits pushed on you with all its force?

I have two series of articles on my website where I do short writing exercises. One is an adult writing group that I participate in, I call those articles “I Went to a Writing Group Today”. The other series is called “Leading a Writing Group”, and that is a class that I teach for homeschool students. I find it freeing to try to create a scene that you like, but to have the freedom to mess up in such a short space, and then just try again. I also really enjoy reading pieces to people and hearing when they gasp, or when they laugh, or when they're silent. Short pieces work great for that. So, I enjoy them.

5 - As we know horror is a very wide genre, limited only by its connection to emotion of fear. But do you know any its features manifested on a geographical basis? What so special scares horror fans in those regions where you write?

I think horror is universal, just as stories are universal. And the ideas in their basic forms are the same patterns, archetypal patterns that are built into us as human beings, no matter who you are or where you are.

The context of the individual's life will determine what they connect with at that point in their life. Explaining this idea is exactly why I included the essay “The Value of Horror Stories” in the anthology.

Let me give a quick example. There are two common reasons to get PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), either you encounter true malevolence in someone else, or you encounter it in yourself. Well, horror stories often deal with evil and malevolence in other people or in ourselves.

This evil is often made into a monster. The monster could be a serial killer that is hunting you, or a zombie that is trying to eat you. Or, we could be horrified at the monster we are becoming, such as having to become a cannibal to survive, or turning into a vampire or a werewolf, or being forced to kill someone to save ourselves. Different monsters without and within have been created in history. Different people in different places have different monsters, but we have created those monsters for the same reasons, to confront the horrors that life throws at us. To show people what to do and what not to do when they encounter similar circumstances in their lives. Stories are a universal human thing, and so is horror.

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And that's how you nail an interview, I think.

Here is the link to Amazon if you would like to check out the book for yourself:

I'm teaching a public speaking class for a group of homeschool students soon. It's interesting to see how structures in writing and speaking relate. In that class I'm working with the kids towards the skill of being able to open with a powerful question or thesis, using a story to demonstrate, and then making your point to finish strong. You can see me using these same skills in this interview, even though I don't usually have to think about it anymore. It's a useful skill.


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