JO: Partly the attraction is that 'ghost train' thrill you get from a good ghost story; the feeling of the 'other', the sense of the numinous and something just beyond our understanding. But I also think that ghost stories are essentially 'human' stories; they tell us a great deal about ourselves and the kinds of lives we want to live, and our fears of what will be left behind
DM: How do you differentiate between a ghost story and a haunted house tale? Do you think that there are key differences?
JO: The two really go hand-in-hand, don't they? Usually for a house to haunted, it needs a ghost (though in House of Fear you'll see that's not always the case). I think that haunted house stories are just as concerned with location as they are with the ghosts themselves. Think about that knock-out first paragraph of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House: the first thing you meet is not a ghost, but the house itself. Again, in King's The Shining, the Overlook is as much a character as the spirits that inhabit it. The ghost and the location of the haunting are inextricably linked.
DM: Then you have books like Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, in which the uncanny spaces in the house are the source of fear- the creature within never being encountered directly. What are your top five haunted house stories, in any medium, and why?
JO: Thing with Top Fives is that they always keep changing. But, in no particular order and pretty much off the top of my head:
- The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson – A true masterpiece. Beautifully written, terrifying and a character study like no other.
- The Shining – Stephen King – Probably one of King’s darkest novels. I’d seen the film first but that didn’t detract from this power-house of a horror novel. There are moments that literally froze me with fear.
- The House on Nazareth Hill – Ramsey Campbell is pretty much my favourite writer and he’s a master of supernatural fiction. A stunning novel.
- The Haunting – The film of Jackson’s book is one of my all time favourite movies. I never can tire of this movie and it’s always a delight to introduce it to those who haven’t seen it.
-The Innocents – This is perhaps the darkest and most powerful of all haunted house movies. The themes are deeply disturbing and the haunting utterly convincing.
DM: What do you think House of Fear will add to the horror literature already on the market?
JO: I think that it will show that the genre of supernatural fiction is as diverse and as important and as rich as it's ever been. The ghost and the haunted house aren't the preserves of quaint old stories by scholarly gents of the past or our Victorian forbears. They can be used in modern literature to great effect. I hope that House of Fear will introduce people to the great range and breadth of horror fiction that is being written today.
DM: Indeed, as with The End of the Line, you have secured a very strong lineup of authors to contribute to House of Fear. In the process of putting together the anthology, did you discover any great writers previously unknown to you?
JO: I hadn’t read Nina Allan until my account manager, Ben, mentioned her to me. When I looked into her writing it was clear that here was a kindred-spirit. Nina is a massive fan of Robert Aickman, whose work I greatly admire, and a brilliant writer to boot, so it was a thrill to be able to welcome her to the anthology. It was also great to finally get to work with Joe Lansdale, whose fiction I’ve been a huge fan of for years. But I’m genuinely proud of each of the stories in this anthology and it’s great to be able to gather together some of my favourite writers in a themed work.
DM: House of Fear is the second Solaris horror anthology for consecutive Halloweens. Is this going to become a tradition?
JO: That very much depends on how successful the books are. So far they’re doing nicely, so I do hope to be able to produce more anthologies yes. I like the idea of it becoming a tradition but we’ll have to convince the market of that.
DM: You seem to be building an impressive portfolio of horror authors at Solaris, with novels by Nicholas Royle and Conrad Williams this year and more planned for 2012. Do you see Solaris becoming one of the major publishers of horror in the UK?
JO: Well personally I love horror, so that would be fantastic. I do try to keep our list as diverse as possible, and yes there is some more dark stuff coming from us in 2012. In January we welcome the brilliant Chris Fowler to Solaris with the publication of Hell Train, a novel that reads like the film Hammer never made. In February we have a chilling novel from Simon Bestwick called The Faceless. Simon’s a very interesting writer and someone who it’s great to be giving a wider audience to. Then in April we have the second book in the Concrete Grove trilogy, Silent Voices, from Gary McMahon, who is very much pushing the boundaries of the genre. May sees the publication of Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem, which is genuinely one of the most beautiful and powerful novels I have read. A real work of art. In August we’re welcoming a debut author to the list with the publication of Blood and Feathers by Louise Morgan, a brilliant urban fantasy that involves a journey into Hell. September we have the last book in the Concrete Grove trilogy, Beyond Here Lies Nothing. And beyond that, well watch this space…