Interview With an Author: Eric J. Guignard

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Eric J. Guignard and his latest book. Photo credit: Jeannette Guignard
Eric J. Guignard and his latest book, Horror Library: Volume 7. Photo credit: Jeannette Guignard

Eric J. Guignard is a writer and editor of dark and speculative fiction, operating from the shadowy outskirts of Los Angeles, where he also runs the small press Dark Moon Books. He’s twice won the Bram Stoker Award (the highest literary award of horror fiction), been a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award, and is a multi-nominee of the Pushcart Prize.

He has over 100 stories and non-fiction author credits appearing in publications around the world; has edited multiple anthologies (including the current series, The Horror Writers Association’s Haunted Library of Horror Classics with co-editor Leslie S. Klinger; and has created an ongoing series of author primers championing modern masters of the dark and macabre, Exploring Dark Short Fiction through his press.

Outside the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, dogs, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. His latest book is the Horror Library: Volume 7 and he recently talked about it, and the series, with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for Horror Library series?

I actually took over the Horror Library series from previous editors and publishers! This series of unthemed horror anthologies was begun in 2006 by a group of authors who’d been collaborating in an online forum called Zoetrope Virtual Studio (AKA: Zoetrope All-Story Workshop), that had been launched in 1997 by none other than the Godfather of films, Francis Ford Coppola. The H.L. series editor at that time rounded up their stories and published Horror Library: Volume 1. Thereafter, the series moved to an “open call” model, of selecting exemplary stories from general submissions, of which such process continues today (last antho, the submissions I received numbered over 1,200!).

I published one of my own earliest stories in Volume 5 (also reprinted in the Best Of Volumes 1–5), when I was just starting fiction writing, so the series has held a dear place in my heart ever since. The series editor at that time then retired, and because I’d started editing other anthologies, I was asked to take over editing for Volume 6. The series rights were sold to a different publisher, Patrick Beltran with Cutting Block Books (under Cutting Block Press). Unfortunately, he passed away from cancer in 2020. Before his passing, he sold the series and rights to me, under Dark Moon Books, in order to continue the Horror Library volumes. I published Volume 7 last year (2021), and look forward to continuing with new volumes every 2–3 years.

What was your process for putting together this collection? Did you ask writers for stories, open up a submission process, or did you approach it in a different way?

I always invite several “core” authors to an anthology project, and then build the rest of the book around them, through open call submissions.

Years ago I developed criteria to assist me in evaluating submissions, of which a selected story would fall into at least one category. In no order herein are “Eric J. Guignard’s Six Rationales for Possible Acceptance”:

  • A story that I “like” (quality, creativity, impact, etc.)
  • A story I think other readers will “like” (quality, creativity, impact, etc.), even though I personally may not
  • A story I think will lead to increased sales
  • A story that is experimental, innovative, or progressive
  • A story that provides an opportunity for an unpublished (or underpublished) writer
  • A story that promotes demographics generally disparate in English-language publishing

Is there a theme/idea for an anthology that you haven’t yet been able to work on that you would like to pursue or wish you had pursued in the past (and can talk about)?

I LOVE short story anthologies! I have a thousand ideas for themed anthos, but unfortunately, each one I publish is more expensive than the last, so I have to push out project plans into the future, for when the budget allows. But for example, some ideas I’ve been most interested in doing are a YA-themed horror/ adventure anthology series, and also a series exploring global mythology and ghost tales.

Do you have a favorite horror story in another medium (novel, television, motion picture, or some other media)?

Some of my favorite novels include: Boys Life by Robert McCammon; Big Fish by Daniel Wallace; The Divine Comedy by Dante; Burmese Days by George Orwell; Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale; The Stand by Stephen King; Terror by Dan Simmons; Geek Love by Katherine Dunn; Papillon by Henri Charrière; A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren; Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy; Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl; …and every volume of The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror. Besides books, The Twilight Zone television show has always been a big influence from my childhood. Part of the series is horror, but much of it is just speculative and imaginative. I was a comic reader too, which also influenced much of my formative years. I wasn’t really into the superhero comics, but I could never read enough of the “Anti-Hero,” the flawed protagonists like Swamp Thing, Jonah Hex, Punisher, Rom, etc. (all loners, too, now that I think about it!).

You’ve been working as a Writer and Editor for about a decade now. Is there a common misperception about what you do as an Editor that you would like to explain/correct?

Editors are just as emotional and sensitive to “bad news” as writers! As an editor, I hate having to send rejections to hopeful submitters, because—as a writer—I know what it’s like to have work rejected. But unfortunately, I have to pass on a high percentage of work, sometimes 98% of what’s been sent in. That’s an immense amount of reading, tracking, and communication, and quite literally the equivalent of working another full-time job for a month. I try to personalize story rejections with feedback when I can, but it’s simply not possible for most. I also have to work career employment day jobs (as a Technical Writer), and I have young children…so getting angry replies from rejected authors is tough.

As an Editor, what do you wish writers, especially newer ones, knew or understood about the process of submitting a story for possible inclusion in an anthology on which you are working?

Just follow posted writers’ guidelines to the best of your ability. No one will be rejected strictly for not adhering to a rule, but neither will that ingratiate them with the editor.

Also know that sometimes (often!) stories are wonderfully written but passed over for reasons the author has no control over, such as a theme or plot device that is already being included in the book and would lead to a sense of repetition.

What are your plans for the Horror Library series? How far out is the series planned? Can you tell us about upcoming volumes?

I’m hoping to continue publishing new volumes every 2–3 years, but as it’s a self-financed enterprise, a lot of it depends on budget.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

I read multiple books at the same time (although I’m a rather slow reader), so currently stacked on my nightstand are Black Hills by Dan Simmons; The Case of the Vanishing Blonde by Mark Bowden; The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock by Edward White; Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley; The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories by Caitlin R. Kiernan, and a half-dozen others!

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

I think over the past decade I’ve been most “excited” about A Song of Ice and Fire (George R.R. Martin) books and the adapted Game of Thrones TV series. The world-building was amazing, and plot twists and spin-offs could go to insane places… plus I found it fun watching the paths diverge between the books and the TV shows. I feel like it was a part of my life for a long time, and have warm memories of watching the first several seasons with my brother, and also talking about the (then) latest developments with friends. I started watching the show first, and then went and read the books back-to-back during the 2nd and 3rd seasons. So visually, I had ideas of what the characters looked like, and expectations of how they should act, which were not necessarily accurate for the books.

What are you working on now?

Through my press, Dark Moon Books, I’m publishing a series of author primers created to champion modern masters of the dark and macabre, titled: Exploring Dark Short Fiction, Vol. 1: Steve Rasnic Tem; Vol. II: Kaaron Warren; Vol. III: Nisi Shawl; Vol. IV: Jeffrey Ford; Vol. V: Han Song; Vol. VI: Ramsey Campbell, etc. And through SourceBooks I’m curating a new series of books with co-editor Leslie S. Klinger titled, The Horror Writers Association Presents: Haunted Library of Horror Classics, reissuing classic novels with new introductions and other ancillary material. And I’m continuing editing and publishing the afore-mentioned series, Horror Library, which promotes unthemed horror short stories. I also enjoy writing short stories, and I’m hoping to have my second collection in publication next year. I’m in process of writing three novels, of which I’m jumping back and forth between! One is a paranormal detective series, one a literary-historical horror, and one a cosmic slipstream time-travel.

Book cover for Horror Library: Volume 7
Horror Library: Volume 7