Today, in celebration of the ebook release of Negative Space: An Anthology of Survival Horror (print coming on 6/23/20), I have an interview with editor-in-chief and publisher of Dark Peninsula Press, Aric Sundquist!
Q: You’re the editor and publisher of Negative Space: An Anthology of Survival Horror. What spawned your interest in putting this project together?
A: I’ve been a huge fan of survival horror since the late 90s. I fell in love with games like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and Parasite Eve, and I even started collecting them in the mid 2000s. This is about the time the genre was beginning to wane in popularity, and the titles were being sold for dirt cheap. I was working two jobs then—one as a part-time office assistant and another as a full-time projectionist—and I didn’t have much time to play video games anymore. So I boxed them all up and forgot about them.
Years later, I moved from my apartment into a three-bedroom house, and I came across all of my old games. To my surprise, I realized some of them were considered extremely rare! I started playing some of my favorites again, and that’s when I realized something strange—that my horror writing had taken certain characteristics from these old-school horror games! It never dawned on me that video games would inspire my writing. And since I was already toying with the notion of opening a small press, I decided to open my first submission call to see if anyone else was inspired by survival horror games.
Q: Negative Space is one of the first publications from Dark Peninsula Press, and likely the first of many excellent books! What motivated you to start your own press?
A: I really wanted to create a small press that goes out of its way to welcome newer writers. The way it works—after the initial submission period is over, and after I’ve accepted the chosen authors, I then fill the remaining slots with established writers. It’s kind of the opposite way of doing things, because most publishers like leveraging big names to draw interest (which makes perfect sense). I’ve chosen to do things a bit differently. We’ll see how it works.
Q: What advice do you have for authors who might be interested in submitting to Dark Peninsula Press? What are the qualities you look for in a work of fiction to publish?
A: As far as advice goes… read the submission guidelines. Actually, read them twice. Ignoring this is the quickest way to get rejected. And to be honest, nearly half of the submissions I receive don’t follow proper manuscript formatting. Some writers don’t even take the time to read the guidelines before submitting. For instance, with the current Violent Vixens anthology, there are three basic requirements for submitting a piece: the story needs to be a horror story in the tradition of Grindhouse cinema, the length needs to be between 2,000 and 8,000 words, and it needs to feature a strong female lead. Those are the three basic requirements. But I keep getting stories that don’t fit the word count, that are not horror stories, and some that don’t even have a female character! So pay attention to the guidelines; they’re there for a reason.
Second, submit a good cover letter along with a short bio. I can tell when someone spends time crafting a carefully worded cover letter, as opposed to someone who bangs out something quick and sends it without proofreading. The writer who takes the time to hone their work comes across as more professional, and those are the writers I want to work with. Every single author in Negative Space had a strong introductory email, and a short, concise bio. Take the time to do this right. It matters.
Third, there are a few problem areas that tend to pop up with newer writers. One of the biggest problems I see is “head hopping.” If you don’t know what this is, I recommend researching it. Head hopping is when a writer switches between multiple points of view within a single scene. Stories like this are very hard to read, and often take too much time to fix—so they’re rejected. Also, be wary of comma splices. Again, if you don’t know what a comma splice is, you have some research to do.
Story wise, start with something happening. This is often referred to as in medias res. Create a scene, drop us into the scene with events already in motion, and hook the reader with something interesting. I also like to refer to this as a vertical drop. Also, don’t stop the story dead in its tracks and tell us everything leading up to the current situation. Remember, this isn’t a novel—it’s a short story. Brevity is your friend. Drop us into an exciting part, create a hook, and then leave it to the reader to catch up on events. There are exceptions, of course—say, if you’re writing a gothic horror story that takes a more deliberate pace and uses setting to establish tone. But mostly with DPP’s anthologies… get to the meat of the story quicker.
One last thing: read short story collections to get a taste of what’s out there. There are many great independent horror publishers to choose from—places like Crystal Lake Publishing, Dark Moon Books, Perpetual Motion Machine, and Written Backwards. Also, I would highly recommend getting a subscription to Cemetery Dance Magazine.
Q: What projects do you have coming up on the 2020 horizon?
A: I am currently reading stories for DPP’s second anthology: Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror. If you’re interested in submitting, visit the website link below. My brother Joel and I are busy reading through the stories, and there are a lot! After that, I have plans to do a humorous horror anthology, similar in spirit to movies like Tremors and novels like John Dies at the End. I would also love to do a post-apocalyptic anthology sometime in the future.
You can visit Dark Peninsula Press at: https://www.darkpeninsulapress.com
You can visit Aric’s author site at: https://aricsundquist.weebly.com