Interview with HelloHorror Editor Brent Armour

in Interviews

On Halloween night I was able to sit down for an online chat and a movie with Brent Armour, the editor and creator of HelloHorror.


EWR:
Here we are on Halloween night with Hello Horror editor Brent Armour. Brent and I will be talking about the state of Horror lit. Brent I was wondering if you might want to talk a little about Hello Horror (http://hellohorror.com/) an outstanding example of a horror lit magazine. What made you decide to start the publication?

Brent Armour: To be honest, the idea came completely by accident. I’ve always loved horror and I’ve always wanted to start my own publication. My best friend is a huge fan of the show “Dead Like Me” and there’s a company in the show called “HelloHappyTime”. My friend named his YouTube channel after that and I decided to get the URL for him. I couldn’t believe it was available. So I checked out other “Hello__” URLs, and HelloHorror was available. I bought it and let it sit for a bit before I come up with concept for our literary journal.

EWR:
The magazine you are running is pretty unique in that it doesn’t have any movie related horror. It’s all horror lit. Do you find that the web is a robust place for horror these days, and horror fiction? Are you getting a lot of good horror fiction submissions?

Brent Armour:
Well, really, the web seems to be a robust place for everything, if you know where to look. The submissions we receive are awesome. We can’t accept all of them, obviously, but we get a lot of “I’ve been looking for a site like yours”. People really gravitate to the fact that we mete out gore in small doses and focus on the psychological. That’s the number one reason we turn down submissions actually. The horror is too focused on gore.

EWR:
It does seem like some horror sites are over the top gore. That’s one reason that I liked your site so much. Do you find that you are getting more than one submission from each person? I mean, are you getting a following of certain writers?

Brent Armour:
We actively encourage “repeat offenders”.

EWR:
What type of horror submission do you really love, are there a few on your site you would point out?
Feel free to share the links, if you can.

Brent Armour:
I really love serialized work. My first real novel was “Great Expectations” and I think it’s such a good book because it was written as serialized fiction. I’m hoping for more serialized works in the coming issues. Right now we have a wonderful author named Gary Clifton who I’m working with regularly on his “Margot” character. You can find his latest story with us here: http://hellohorror.com/GaryClifton_MindsEye.htm

EWR:
Have you developed a relationship with some writers?

Brent Armour:
Oh sure. Chris Castle, Gary Clifton, Rob Boffard, Derek Plymesser, Jessica Bower. Just to name a few. Chris and Gary have been with us from the start.

EWR:
Are there any works that you really dislike? Submissions I mean. Things you just won’t publish…

Brent Armour:
Well I don’t want to be too specific lest someone know I’m referring to their work, but extreme gore is an immediate no. I can enjoy it on my own, but when I see it in the submission queue I feel it just evidences the fact that this person did not read the submission guidelines and that really miffs me. I also won’t publish something about suicide unless it actually has a horror element. Suicide itself is not scary. It’s heartbreaking. Insert Debbie Downer noise here _____.

EWR:
Do you find that over the top gore is different on the page or in writing than in movies? I’m looking for the reason you turn away gore, is it just too real in writing?

Brent Armour:
I personally think reading is immensely more immersive than movies, but that’s not my reasoning. I just think we have enough gore, and that it’s a cheap and easy scare tactic that’s, pardon the pun, saturated the horror culture.

EWR:
Do you feel like online horror publications are too gory? I’m not asking you to name names…

Brent Armour:
Well, it is what readers tend to want, so they can’t be faulted for it. I’m sure our site would have taken off much faster if we weren’t very selective when it comes to gore. But yes, I think gratuitous gore robs the reader of a real horror experience, which is also why our site has garnered some interest. Although, we do have some gore. I say, use it as a means to an end or an end to a means. But when it’s the means AND the end, that’s too much.

EWR:
How are the submissions you get relating to the state of horror fiction? Do you feel like horror novels are going along with what you are seeing or do you feel like short horror fiction is taking a different direction?

Brent Armour:
I think short fiction is the wind that moves the sails of the novel ship, really. And if the caliber of authors that we see is any indication, the state of fiction is very good.

EWR:
Do you see any trends that you think will be coming to novels?

Brent Armour:
When we first started, we were bombarded with zombies and vampires. I would read submissions, turn on the television, and feel as if I were still reading! But as time went on, authors started to break from these topical frenzies and I think the rest of the horror world will be following suite soon enough.
We do have one author, Chris Castle, who does zombies very well, though. I count his story, “Zombie Cake”, among my favorite zombie pieces.

Here’s a link: http://hellohorror.com/ChrisCastle_ZombieCake.htm

EWR:
I’ve noticed that you have a lot of well published writers. You said before that people say they have been looking a site like HelloHorror, how do you feel you are different, other than what you’ve said already?

Brent Armour:
Well, apart from our philosophy, we have a very specific vision when it comes to everything else as well. We hired Ignacio Carrion from CircaNext.com as our Visual Editor and I think he’s brilliant and keeps the site’s visual integrity up to the highest of standards. Then there’s the time we take with our submissions and authors. If I really believe in a piece, I will work hand in hand with the author to get it up to snuff.

We have four editors and we all read every submission and vote on its inclusion. I get the extra tiebreaker vote. We publish every other month. One day, we’ll be monthly, but I’ve got to quit my day job first.

EWR:
Do you want to name your editors for use, to give them credit?

Brent Armour:
Oh certainly. Louise Preston and Isabella Caromel are both content editors and Ignacio Carrion is our visual editor. In addition to their editorial duties, Ignacio also handles to programming or coding of the site, Isabella frames the issues, picks each story for which issue, while Louise focuses on our relationships with the authors. Isabella is kind of mean, it’s what we love about her, but we don’t let her write rejection letters.

EWR:
That’s funny.

Brent Armour:
By the way: Tip for authors, NEVER respond angrily to a rejection letter.

EWR:
Do you get that often?

Brent Armour:
We won’t read anything you submit at that point. Oh sure. Louise misspelled some guy’s name and he called our journal a dirty rag or some such. Otherwise it was the kindest letter she’s ever written. He was still furious at being rejected and took it out on her under the guise of a typo. People sometimes forget that this is a profession, and to act professionally.

EWR:
We get that here too, sometimes. I could have started with this, but tell us about yourself.

Brent Armour:
Sure thing. I’m a native of Memphis Tennessee, which is more haunted than New Orleans, if you know where to look. I moved to Houston a few years ago, well, actually, Austin, but then Houston. I’m a writer myself, under a pen name, which I don’t share (sorry), and I freelance edit. Full time, I work for the local paper. Sadly, it’s in advertising. Right now, most of my free time outside of work is dedicated to HelloHorror. I read about 7-10 submissions a day.

EWR:
That’s the next question I want to ask you. How much time do you spend working on Hello Horror?

Brent Armour:
All of it. Haha. If we were a monthly publication, I’d probably be locked away in an asylum right now.

EWR:
Haha, it is amazing to me how much time you can spend on a site. Here I do about 5 hours a night sometimes more, it’s amazing really. Why do you do it?

Brent Armour:
Yup, it’s life gobbling, but I do love it. And that’s why I do it. I love to read. I love to edit. I love horror. I’m surprised I didn’t start something like this sooner in my life.

EWR:
Brent when did you start loving horror so much?

Brent Armour:
My dad told me that when I was a child, nothing would scare me. They were taking me to haunted houses at age 6. I apparently would criticize the lack of realism and try to start conversations with the “boogymen”.

EWR:
Haha. As a young child do you remember anything that did scare you?

Brent Armour:
I think I was searching for something that really scared me even back then. The first thing that really did, and I remember this vividly, was my grandmother’s Ouija board. She was already a scary character herself. She showed me the thing and told me something extremely creepy. “Ghosts don’t have a problem with time like we do. You can speak to your dead self with this, if you want, and find out how you’ll die”.

EWR:
Wow, yeah that’s pretty creepy! How old were you?

Brent Armour:
Young. I have no idea how young, 8? 10? Somewhere in there. I think the secret in horror lies in why my grandmother’s ideas about her Ouija board scared me so much. To give you something comfortable, yet unfathomable. Seeing that thing you’re so at ease with placed out there in an unimaginable void. Like a grandmother speaking to her dead self…

EWR:
Seems like it stuck with you. Do you look for that sort of creepy in the submissions you get?

Brent Armour:
Oh yeah. One of the first catchphrases in our request for submissions was that we were looking for works that cause “goosebumps and raised hairs”. It’s that sort of reaction that I hope the pieces we select will inspire in our readers.

EWR:
What’s next for Hello Horror?

Brent Armour:
Our next issue is themed, but I couldn’t bear the thought of a Christmas theme, so I went with religion instead. We don’t have cover art yet, by the way, so anyone reading this who’s interested, please submit!
We’re hoping for more serialization, some nonfiction, but that all depends on our submissions.

EWR:
Do you like new horror or old horror better? I know in older horror fiction they were not so in your face with what was happening…

Brent Armour:
I prefer new horror but that doesn’t mean I don’t love the classics. “The Turn of the Screw” is one of my favorites. But I’ll always love new takes and fresh perspectives. Anne Rice really turned me on to a craving for seeing how the old horror can become the new horror. Any fan of horror who hasn’t read “Ramses the Damned” should get on that, right away.

EWR:
Were you a fan of “The Vampire Chronicles”?

Brent Armour:
I was. I feel they petered into soap opera territory towards the end, but the first 3 or 4 were phenomenal. No one has, or I think can, top her take on the origins of vampires. I think that’s one of the reasons why some of the more modern series, like the True Blood books don’t try to touch it.

EWR:
I agree. I was a big fan too. I also enjoyed Clive Barkers work. Have you ever read The Great and Secret Show?

Brent Armour:
I have not. I read a collection of his shorts. The Books of Blood. He wrote that, right? There’s a story in that collection about a prostitute. She’s going down on a guy and he realizes that the reason she’s giving the best blowjob of his life is because she’s not breathing. That was incredibly creepy to me.
And there’s an example of what I talked about before. Sex is comfortable. Everyone loves it. Barker took that and threw it into the void. Suddenly, this isn’t sex, it’s necrophilia, and the guy doesn’t even realize it until it’s over.

EWR:
We are nearing the end of our movie, and I believe it is just about time to call it a night. I wanted to talk you for speaking with me on this Halloween. I have really enjoyed this interview. Was there anything you wanted to add that I did not ask?

Brent Armour:
You covered everything. Great interview. Also my first, but who’s counting? (Me. Thank you!)

EWR:
Ok, great, Happy Halloween and have great night.
Brent Armour is Creator and Editor in Chief of HelloHorror, and a freelance editor of horror, science fiction and just about anything else. Born and raised in Memphis, TN, he lives with his loving husband and far too many dogs in Houston, TX.

Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal...check our About Us page for more. Also here is info on our On Classic Articles

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