Today’s interview is with the multi-talented P.J. Blakey-Novis. I have just finished reading his limited edition book of drabbles and double drabbles, 13. You can find my review here. It’s well-worth ordering. On with the interview!
Hi P.J! Tell me a little about yourself and how you got into writing. How did you hit upon the idea of your debut novel, ‘The Broken Doll’?
The Broken Doll was only really written as a hobby; I’d never even thought about how to go about publishing it. It was something I was working on for my own pleasure, slowly, until it was suddenly finished. It was only then that I started looking into how to publish it, but I never thought anyone would actually read it! I was fortunate enough to receive some wonderful reviews for it within days of its release and this gave me the push to write the sequel, Shattered Pieces. As for the idea behind it, that’s hard to say. The story is set in my local area (they say to write what you know) and I didn’t plan the plot in advance. The story is a femme fatale thriller with plenty of twists and some pretty graphic sex scenes (as I said, I didn’t think anyone would read it so I didn’t hold back!).
You’re not only a writer, you’re the co-Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Red Cape Publishing. Tell me about your company and why was it always a dream of yours to run your own publishing house?
Red Cape Publishing came about in 2018 as an umbrella for the various projects my wife and I were putting together. At that time, we had my own books, Leanne’s Graphic Design business, a digital magazine for short stories, interviews, reviews, etc, and had started a horror book subscription service called Boxes of Blood. It made sense to have everything under one recognisable brand name. This has now grown to us publishing work from two other authors (Madman Across the Water by Caroline Angel and Dirges in the Dark by Antoinette Corvo), compiling a series of four multi-author horror anthologies in 2019 (The Elements of Horror), and beginning work on a new series, The A-Z of Horror.
Red Cape has just started an ambitious series; 26 volumes in the A-Z of Horror, with ‘A is for Aliens’ having just been released. What are your plans for the rest of the series?
We’ve been genuinely surprised by the amount of interest shown in this series, and by the volume and quality of the submissions. As you said, A is for Aliens released on March 13th and has received great reviews already. We are currently at the formatting stage for B is for Beasts and this will be released on May 13th. Books C – E are open for submissions (Cannibals, Demons, & Exorcisms) and they will be release in July, September, and November respectively. The rest of the themes, and more details, can be found on our website.
You’ve featured in many anthologies that cover drabbles and short stories. Do you feel it’s important for new writers to submit as much as they can to get their name out there, and as a writer and editor, how should they handle the inevitable rejection letters they’ll receive?
I’ve had work in quite a few anthologies now, all horror. When I was starting out I was just happy for the exposure, and the validation that comes with the story being accepted. I submit to other anthologies less often now, largely due to time constraints. Drabbles and flash fiction are fun, so I still send those off (most recently I was published in Dark X-Mas and Dark Valentine’s from Eleanor Merry). I also had a story accepted into the charity anthology Black Dogs, Black Tales which is coming in April (something I’m very proud of as they received over 170 submissions). Aside from charity anthologies and flash fiction, I don’t submit to non-paying anthologies. I feel strongly that the writer should be paid for the work, regardless of how unknown they are. Rejection letters are a part of being a writer and, as much as we would rather not get them, they can also be useful. I’ve been fortunate enough to have only had one rejection, which was actually for Black Dogs, so I sent in another story, but we have to send out quite a few rejections for our own anthologies. I try to keep them positive and offer advice where needed.
Do you consider yourself a horror writer? What draws you to it and what other genres do you enjoy?
I would say that I am a horror writer, despite my two novels not being horror (I also have a children’s book available). I think the genre of horror is huge, so there is so much room for variety. Most of my work is short story collections and these vary a lot in theme; ghost stories, serial killers, sirens, possession, medical, and just plain weird tales. Writing horror is less limiting than other genres. While it needs to be believable to a point, you can carry the story along with as much imagination as you like. When it comes to reading I do tend to stick to horror mostly, but some of my favourite books on my bookshelf are by Christopher Brookmyre, Donna Tartt, Stephen Fry, and Stieg Larsson so I do read a variety.
Red Cape has recently relaunched ‘Madman Across The Water’, what other launches do you have planned for the year outside of the anthologies and, similar to the last question, is horror the focus or do you plan on looking at other genres?
Madman Across the Water is a superb book which we were lucky enough to take on after the previous publisher ceased trading. Outside of the anthologies, I have a number of unfinished books to complete of my own. I would like to have the sequel to my novella, Four, out fairly soon, as well as my fifth collection of short stories, and the final part in The Broken Doll trilogy, ideally this year. We have a few manuscripts from other authors to go over with a view to publishing them, but nothing is confirmed on that front yet.
Is listening to music a big no-no for you when writing? If not, what would you usually put on while working?
I prefer to write in silence, certainly when I get started. Once the story has begun to flow I can deal with background noise more easily but it’s rarely music – usually the sound of the children running around the house!
After you’ve finished your writing for the day do you feel exhausted or energised? Does it depend on what kind of thing you’ve been working on? Do you ever go back after signing off for the night for ‘one more paragraph’?
I usually set a target as to where I want to be in that day, whether that is to complete a chapter, or reach a certain word count in a short story. Once I reach that point I will start doing something different, unless there is nothing else that needs to be done but this is a rare thing indeed.
Finally, what are your goals for 2020 as a writer and publisher?
As I mentioned before, aside from the releases of Madman Across the Water, Dirges in the Dark, and A is for Aliens over the last few months, we will be bringing out the next four anthologies in the series, as well as at least three more of my own books. Depending on how the manuscripts we have been sent look, there could be announcements of new authors over the coming months too. Overall, we expect to be very busy and just hope that the readers continue to enjoy what we are putting out there.
Amazon Author Page: https://author.to/pjbnauthor
Red Cape Publishing