Last month the Horror Writers Association newsletter published my interview with Emma Audsley as part of the Fresh Blood interview series, which spotlights new members. Emma Audsley is editor of The Horrifically Horrifying Blog and founder of Screaming Spires Publishing. I interviewed Emma via e-mail about her work as an author, editor, and joining the HWA for the following article, originally published in the HWA Newsletter, October 2013, Volume 23, Issue 159.
Emma Audsley traces her love of horror back to her childhood years, growing up in a Royal Air Force (RAF) camp until age six when she moved to Manchester. One constant in her life was her love of reading and especially of the horror genre. “Bram Stoker had lead onto Stephen King and just swept me away after that! I’d grown up writing little stories.”
The horror genre is the only genre that has kept her interest throughout her life. The genre attracts Emma because it allows her to “explore all of the central and essential aspects of life safely. This can offer you a deeper perspective upon those aspects that are usually a little tricky to explore head on; death, loss, threats to survival, insanity. You can oversee a character’s plight through the most terrible things that could ever possibly imagine and allow your brain to formulate ideas upon which they could fight back, or perish depending on how you want the ending to be!”
Her love of books and stories led her to study literature and psychology in college. Then, about seven years ago, she returned to the pursuit of writing and editing, reading the work of some of her author friends. After offering advice on their works in progress, she moved on to beta reading and critiquing their work. A course on editing and copy writing followed, and she continued reading for friends, or as Emma put it, “using them as guinea pigs…willing guinea pigs, don’t worry!”
Her first paid edit work came after she completed her course when she connected with David Youngvist of Dark Continents Press. Emma worked on Southern Fried Ghosts, David’s non-fiction collection of accounts of supposed actual hauntings in the American South, a region with a rich tradition of supernatural and ghostly folklore. In addition to editing, Emma contributed some research to the project.
“I love to help,” Emma says about editing. “I’m happy to go above and beyond my call to assist a writer when they’re doing it for the right reasons. It’s a scary thing, releasing your own work, especially if the writer is new to the field. When creativity is to flourish it needs all the essentials to grow, I just help with the watering and pruning… I try to close the gap between editors, agents, and mentors to offer all the support I can.”
After settling into freelance editing novels for a while, Emma decided to challenge herself yet again.
“I started The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog in October 2011, on Halloween just to be as corny as I could get!” Online at http://thehorrificallyhorrifyinghorrorblog.com/, The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog boasts the goal of “Inspiring Ghouls of the Fictional World of Horror Everywhere.” The blog features reviews of books and movies, author interviews, writing resources, articles on writing, picture prompts for writers, and several other features.
With the blog up and running, Emma took another big step, making the leap from editor to publisher when she founded Screaming Spires Publishing in the summer of 2012. “I’m currently editing our first anthology When Darkness Calls, a charity publication. It’s to benefit children with autism, something very close to my heart as my own two children are autistic.” Calling on the many friends she’d made through her editing work and The Horrifically Horrifying Blog, Emma found it easy to assemble her first anthology. “I had many friends who wanted to contribute. I’d asked some friends, such as Gary McMahon, Graham Masterton, Allison Littlewood, and Ramsey Campbell if they would consider contributing a short story of good old-fashioned horror…they all came through for me.”
Co-editor of the anthology, Mark Waddington, “started out the same way I did; editing for fun! Donnie Light offered his services as the formatter. As for the cover art and press logo Daniele Serra has been a lifesaver. I’ve always admired his work and when I’d asked for his help he had the initial cover ideas ready in an hour. Ellen Datlow has been a wealth of knowledge too. She’s a great friend and advisor.” With work moving ahead steadily, When Darkness Calls is scheduled for publication this December as Screaming Spire’s inaugural release.
Emma’s work on the anthology has coincided with a difficult time in her life, and she credits the friendship and support of those involved with the project as helping her through it. “I had to have an operation in a cancer unit in late October . I’d been told it was secondary skin cancer, a melanoma. Thankfully it wasn’t secondary. The surgeons got all of it. But there was a problem with the surgery and some nerves in my leg were severed accidentally. The anthology, my family, and my friends all came through for me, supporting me all the way through being in a wheelchair permanently.” Now starting physical therapy, Emma hopes to regain at least partial use of her leg. There are no guarantees of success, but so far she’s attended a couple of book launches walking with a knee brace and a walking stick.
Another personal challenge for her as an editor and publisher stems from a head injury she received during a physical attack back in 2000. “I developed epilepsy. It’s uncontrollable. My only hope of a more “normal” life will be CAN surgery. Obviously seizures take your consciousness away, and this does get in the way of my working life. But I work around it, over the years I’ve developed little tips and tricks in maintaining my health and well-being to the best of my abilities. That’s what you just have to do; adapt, adopt, and change anything you can. But it is possible to still do what you yearn to do, there’s nothing like a strong will to get you to where you need to be.”
Most recently, Emma has endorsed a book by Craig Saunders, The Walls of Madness, published by Crowded Quarantine.
Although Emma admits, “I never seem to finish my own fiction!” she has accomplished much in only a few years, overcoming major health issues to launch two publishing ventures and earn a reputation as an excellent editor. Her next big project on the horizon is a collaborative novel with some of her anthology contributors to be written in 2014.
Emma joined the HWA to become more active in the horror community. The HWA is “such a fantastic source of information and support for writers and professionals with everything to offer. From support and advice on every aspect of writing, to the overseeing of projects, and the awards ceremony is, of course, the highlight… I think it’s great to have such a strong association with so many other professionals involved making sure the pulse of the genre stays strong and steady.”
“I want to become more involved practically within the HWA, it’s vital to keep writers doing what they do best. What would we do without these fantastical worlds they create? Obviously I’d like to…further my skills and capabilities whilst being fully supported within the structure of the association, offer help to writers in need, and help the HWA go from strength to strength, become a part of the various programs on offer in support of professionals and those seeking to develop their own voice within the genre. Maybe join the board one day? <smiles cheekily>.”