An author interview with Mark Allen Gunnels and Janine Pipe
Mark: Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what can you tell us about it?
Janine: So back in secondary school, when I was around 14, I started writing what would be the equivalent of fan fiction for Point Horror. I also read a lot of crime books and wrote a long poem about being stalked that strangely my English teacher loved despite the content. That was my first foray into fiction. Those stories don’t exist though anymore unless they’re hidden somewhere within old GCSE revision papers.
The oldest story I have which will soon be in print, is “When Doves Cry” from my new collection. I wrote that back in 2000 on a holiday in Corfu. Back then I never ever thought I’d end up being a published author. That has a gothic theme which will likely surprise anyone who has read my stuff. It has actually ended up being a couple of my beta reader’s favourite. I’m not sure I could write anything other than horror or dark thrillers now. I have done a couple of very short stories for my daughter and she was disgruntled that I wrote stuff for other people and not her but that was a struggle. I have a macabre mindset.
Mark: Who were some of your literary influences? Not necessarily the people whose style resembles your own, but the storytellers that first made you fall in love with story?
Janine: My first and foremost literary influence will always be King and I don’t think there are many of us who didn’t begin our journey into horror with him. Others include Thomas Harris and Dennis Lehane, who whilst dark fiction thriller authors rather than horror, have an intense and engaging style that has always stuck with me.
These days the writer who inspires and influences me the most is 100% Glenn Rolfe. I love the way he uses pop culture references in his work and the splatterpunk side of his writing. It also set around Maine and Boston which is my favourite city – hence the Lehane vibe again. I also enjoy finding women writers who aren’t afraid to tackle the extreme such as Kenzie Jennings. Her work is awesome.
Mark: The cover for your collection, Twisted: Tainted Tales, is striking. Very reminiscent of an 80s horror VHS cover. Who is the artist and how much input did you have in the design?
Janine: Thank you – I absolutely love it. I’m going to have it made into a poster to hang in the office, not out of narcissistic tendencies but just because it’s so amazing.
The artist is Neil Fraser. Neil is actually one of my Patrons and we have mutual friends so he had read some of my work and I had seen some of his, including the book covers he made for Lou Yardley and the stuff he has done for Shudder. The HOST DVD in particular had a real VHS 80s vibe to it so I messaged him straight away to see if he was available. I told him I wanted a nostalgic feel and the influences would be Fright Night and American Werewolf in London and that awesome cover is what he came up with. Total genius. I can’t thank him enough and I wouldn’t hesitate to use him again.
Mark: Was it difficult picking which stories would go into the collection?
Janine: Um, no as this was basically all the stories I had! 14 of the 17 already existed when I decided to put out the collection, with 2 having been previously published – “Footsteps” (which is Splatterpunk Award nominated) and “They” which appears in the Alien Agenda Publishing sampler 2020 put out by Glenn Rolfe. They were all stories which I loved and needed a home. A couple in particular were very close to my heart. You find sometimes your work is like your children and you have a hard time letting go. That’s the beauty of self-publishing, I had total control over them. There were 3 that I just wrote off the cuff. The ideas came to me and I sat and created them whilst I was planning which stories to select. It happens that way sometimes.
Mark: Getting a Keene blurb is a huge deal. How did that come about?
Janine: So although I am a big believer in ‘reach for the stars’ and ‘they can only say no’ etc., I wouldn’t have dreamt of asking Brian if we hadn’t have had some previous interaction. I’m extremely lucky to share a TOC with him (25 Gates of Hell) and what with the Splatterpunk nom, we had chatted a few times back and forth and he’d given me some advice. I asked him if he would perhaps mind reading ONE story IF he had time and just giving me a few words for the Praise for the Author page. Never for one moment did I think he’d have time to read the entire collection. But he said he would try and lo and behold he not only read it but actually really liked it. I can tell you my mouth hung open and tears flowed for quite some time after I opened that email. It was like getting a pat on the back you’re your favourite teacher. There have been a lot of happy tears during this adventure. I’m sure there will be tears of woe to come when I get my first DNF or one star review but for now …
Mark: What are you working on now?
Janine: Right now I am in between many projects. I still have 2 novella WIPs on the go, and a huge secret project I’m working on as an editor for Kandisha Press. Once the launch of TTT is over, I’ll be starting work on the second collection of shorts. I also have a few collabs on the table for the next couple of years which will be super exciting and I will as usual be keeping my eye out for any awesome looking open calls for anthologies. I would love, love, LOVE to work with Ken at Silver Shamrock one day as I hugely admire the authors over there and Ken himself is such a supporter and cheerleader in the community. Flame Tree is another bucket list, they are an amazing press anyway but to work with the legend that is Don D’Auria would be mind-blowing. Whatever happens, I will keep writing and hustling and most of all, having fun with my creations.
Mark Allen Gunnells