Britty Scary: Interview with March Shemmans of the UK’s Horror Express Magazine

Marc ShemmansThe Horror Express Magazine is one of the UK’s top horror fiction magazines. It has gone through several iterations since it first began publishing, from an A4 print magazine,  to a new print and electronic version. HE also publishes standalone works, such as novellas.  So I thought it was past time to grab editor, March Shemmans, for an interview on Amazing Stories.

John Dodds for Amazing Stories Magazine: First, Marc, tell us a bit about yourself.

MS: I am an editor and writer from Birmingham, England. I started out primarily as a writer, but my interest in publishing came from trying to get my own fiction published. I submitted to several magazines and anthologies but despite having some success I did notice that many seemed to be publishing the same names over and over again, thus not really giving new writers a chance. This motivated me to start my own fiction magazine – The Horror Express – in 2003. I still write, although not nearly as much as I would like to, and mainly stick to writing screenplays, and the odd short story now and then. Editing The Horror Express anthologies and my day job take up the majority of my time, but when I do have a few spare moments, I enjoy relaxing with family and listening to music, mostly progressive rock.

ASM:  Let’s start with the basics, Marc. Where does your love of the horror genre stem from? And what impelled you to produce your own magazine?

MS: I grew up watching the old Lon Chaney Jr and Boris Karloff movies, along withHE5 Hammer Horror, which inspired me to start reading horror fiction.  The first writers I became interested in were Graham Masterton and Stephen King, and my love of the genre progressed from there on. I started The Horror Express to provide a vehicle for up and coming writers to showcase their work.

ASM: Marc, I’ve been proud to have several of my stories in The Horror Express, three of which went on to receive Honourable Mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. But you’ve had some big name writers in your pages, too, including people like Shaun Hutson and Dean R. Koontz.  Your balance of unknowns and big names is admirable. How do you achieve that?

MS: I think I’m just bold enough to approach the big name writers, where I feel other editors may just expect not to get a response. I’ve been lucky enough so far to have involvement of some legendary writers, as well as big names within the horror movie industry such as Bruce Campbell and John Carpenter.

ASM: As far as I know only Black Static and The Horror Express have print versions (excluding the small presses, I mean). How hard is it to keep a print presence in these times of bookshops closing and electronic publications – though, of course you have excellent electronic versions of HE also?

MS: It can be difficult, which is one of the reasons why I have moved on to working on the HE anthologies as opposed to magazines, which can involve very expensive printing costs.  These are lessons I learned quite early on in my experience with HE, and I’m now more shrewd in keeping an eye on the overheads!

HE anthoASM: You have excellent illustrators in for the magazine, both for the terrific cover artists and internal black and white artwork. How do you choose which artists to work for, and would you say you consciously seek work that reflects the core values and style of HE?

Marc: I am quite choosy in relation to the artists I work with and prefer to use those whose work is in keeping with the overall style. When I am choosing illustrations I tend to choose pieces which are more atmospheric than depict graphic violence, which reflects my own views about what constitutes successful horror.

ASM:  The work in the magazine has some gore, of course, but that’s not the main thrust, is it? The work you choose tends to be out of the mainstream, sometimes even unconventional at times, while still being hugely entertaining – and scary! What are your view on the current state of the horror genre (in any medium – literature, film, etc)

MS: I am certainly not a fan of excessive gore, and find the trend for torture porn quite disturbing. Atmosphere is far more successful in achieving scares than blood and guts. I am a particular fan of Japanese horror such as The Grudge, The Ring etc, which illustrate this point very nicely- Koji Suzuki’s fiction is excellent for building suspense.

John: What are your proudest moments in respect of the magazine? And what are your aspirations for its future?

MS: Praise from the likes of Dean Koontz and Graham Masterton is of course an honour. As was my original intention, if featuring in HE enables an up and coming writer to build a successful career then this has realised my main ambition. In terms of aspirations, just continuing the same level and quality of output whilst widening my readership is my goal for the foreseeable future.

The Horror Express Magazine also has a Facebook Page, so do consider hooking up with them there.

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