Q: How long has Necro Publications been in business and how did you get it all started?
I started Necro in October 1993. Started with the help of a student loan that I'm probably still paying off.
Q: How did you get into publishing to start with? Why?
I was buying a lot of small press horror magazines and was disappointed in the fiction, artwork and design. So I thought I could do better. I wanted to do a mag that had harder fiction because most of the stuff I was reading was weak and too tame. Plus most of the artwork was really bad. That's the problem when there are a bunch of people who think they're artists and they send packages of free crap to publishers. It gets used. It always amazes me how someone in the artist's life never told them they suck and that they should stop. Then there are those people who think that because they have a computer they are suddenly designers. You look at some of these mags and wonder what the hell they were thinking.
The ironic thing with all this is that I am guilty of all the stuff I just bitched about. I didn't know design. I used crappy art and the first issue of INTO THE DARKNESS looked like a huge sack of shit. The only good point about the magazine was the fiction. There were some amazing pieces in the first issue including "Painfreak" by Gerard Houarner, which became the basis for his first short story collection, PAINFREAK, Necro's second book. Which is where the Max the Assassin stories began. Charlee Jacob was also in the first issue of ITD. I like to think that the look of the magazine got better over the following 4 issues, but it still wasn't as good as I would have liked. I was lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) to be part of MIDNIGHT HOUR magazine a couple of years ago where I was in charge of design and I think I achieved with that magazine what I had always would have liked to do with ITD. If the second issue of MH had come out... well... man, that was going to be a nice issue.
So after the first couple of issues of ITD, I met Ed Lee and he said he had a novella that no one would publish so I did. Thus began a beautiful relationship. HEADER was Necro's first book and pretty much established the focus of the Necro book line.
Q: How does Necro's philosophy differ from other small press publishers out there in terms of product, image, and attitude?
Well, I don't know what the other small press' philosophies are, so I can't say for sure. What I try to do is produce quality books that push the limits of traditional horror and that I like and think people should experience. I try very hard to make Necro books not look like small press. I like photo art covers that look like typical trade paperbacks you might see in a bookstore. I'm not a fan of illustrated covers. This does not mean I don't think there are some amazing artists out there doing phenomenal illustration. I love the work by artists such as Caniglia, Erik Wilson, Alan Clark and more. It's just that is not the look I've established for Necro. Now with Bedlam Press, I'm all over the fucking place with the cover art depending on the project.
And although I don't do it as much as I would like, I do like to help expose new talented writers to the world. I think I helped do this with Charlee Jacob and Gerard Houarner and some new people I'm pushing now are Mehitobel Wilson, Patrick Lestewka and Doc Solammen. Helping new writers is very important to me, but I'm also very picky. When I was doing the magazine it was easier to publish a bunch of stories by new writers, but doing a whole book of work by a new writer is something entirely different. I personally don't see how these new presses that pop up every year survive by only publishing writers with no track record. And actually, they usually don't survive. Sad really, because I admire their intent, but this is a business and you have to balance projects so one makes money once in a while.
Q: What project are you the most proud of thus far? The least?
I'm proud of all the work I've published. I think it's all been important and helped gain exposure for some extremely talented writers. I suppose the most difficult project was DUET FOR THE DEVIL, mostly because it was a really long manuscript that had to be scanned in. The faded, dot matrix printout was a nightmare and the whacked out formatting of the narrative made the editing process long and tedious. But I think it's a brilliant book. It's brutal. I read the book a long time ago and passed on it because I didn't want to deal with the production, but after 2 years the story was still in my head and I knew I should publish it. It hasn't been one of my more successful books, but I still think it's one of my best. People seem to either love it or violently despise it. I like that reaction as do the authors.
Q: What exactly is a chapbook for those of us that have led a sheltered life? Is it kinda like a jerk book or perhaps Chapstick?
I'm not really sure what the definition is, but I'll make something up. It's a short book, I suppose the length of a chapter, chap, chapter, ah, there we go. Usually a story or two, or a single novella. Something short. Typically it's saddle-stapled although I did SKINS OF YOUTH as a perfect bound chap and it turned out sweet.
Q: What are your feelings on the current state of horror fiction and publishing?
I have to say there is a lot of crap being put out. It's incredibly easy to start a publishing company and produce books nowadays. This then makes people think they can actually edit and pick quality fiction. When I initially received this questionnaire I was going to go off on small press horror. But then I got tied up and in that time Paula Guran came out with her Locus article, which caused a huge uproar. I read it, or most of it as I have a short attention span and the article was too damn long. But I basically agreed with her about a number of things. The small press field does seem to be a huge self-congratulatory circle jerk. There is a lot of mediocre writing being pumped out by dozens of presses and all the authors pat each other on the back and say how great each other's work is, but most of it really isn't. I don't want to cite examples of give names as that is mean. It may seem cowardly as well, but anyone who knows me knows I'm not a coward and am not afraid to speak my mind. Anyone who has seen me on a panel at a con should know that. But at the same time there are people I know and like who put out crappy books. I just want these new publishers out there to take their time and learn about what they are doing. There are plenty of good writers out there. You don't have to publish something just because you hung out with a guy at a con and they sold themselves to you because they are better at pimping themselves then they are at actually writing.
My other major beef is with the design of books. Just because you have a computer and Pagemaker doesn't mean you can design a book. I've seen so much poor design lately, it just kills me. You don't design a book of fiction in a san serif font. You don't leave widows. For fuck sake. A single word at the top of a page which is the last word of a sentence is fucking lazy. TWEAK YOUR DAMN LAYOUT. Double-spaced paragraphs are bullshit. No justification of the text is bullshit. Overly indented or not indented paragraphs is pure crap. Buy a freaking book and look at it closely. See what you're supposed to do. No excuse for sloppy, retarded layout. Period!
Q: How come Necro books are so hard to get? The big chains don't seem to carry them? (hehehehehe!)
You can order Necro books from major chains, but due to the limited print runs, it's not really a great idea to ship all the books to distributors. They end up sitting in a warehouse for years and no one gets to read them. And it's more important to me that people read my books.
Q: How important is the Internet, mail order, and plain old word of mouth to selling your books?
Very. Necro has been built on people liking the books and spreading the word. The web sales have been very good over the years. And the Internet is a priceless tool for the small press publisher. In this day and age, if you do not have a web presence, then you're just a dumbass.
Q: Do you do the convention thing often? Which do you enjoy, hate?
Once or twice a year. I try to go to WHC and now I will be going to Horrorfind every year. I really liked that con. I used to go to DragonCon in the early to mid-'90s, but it just got too big and I couldn't handle the walking anymore. Cons exhaust me as a rule and I usually come back from them with walking pneumonia. So I try to limit my attendance.
Q: What else do you publish along with Necro?
I started Bedlam Press a little over a year ago. More of a literary line focusing on more bizarre, funny fiction. But LETTER FROM HADES by Jeffrey Thomas which I am publishing this year is a horror novel. It's not hardcore though and I couldn't do it through Necro. I think this book will shoot Bedlam into the minds of everyone. This is one of the best books to come out in years. It's quality, literary horror.
Q: What are you looking for when it's time to put out a book? Explain how the process of putting a book out works?
Basically I am looking for a book I like. I tend to approach authors I like and do a project with them.
Q: Necro pushes the limits in terms of hardcore horror, anything you wouldn't publish?
That's hard to say. There are taboo things that you have to be careful how you approach them. But I don't think there are too many things that haven't been covered in most of the stuff I've published. One thing I hate is when dogs get killed. I can deal with people getting killed in the worst ways, but kill a dog and I get really upset.
Q: Have you or your company been criticized for its products? How did you feel about this if so?
Yes we have, and fuck all the critics. The fact of the matter is Necro is successful and I put out quality fiction in a quality book, so anyone who has a problem with me or my products can suck me hard.
Q: What's Florida good for besides retiring to a life of Depends, oranges, and chicks flashing tits on spring break?
I always thought I would leave Florida at some point, but now that I'm older and I've lived in Orlando for so long I'm very comfortable here. I'm big on comfort. I like Orlando, all my friends are here. I know where everything is. The weather right now in the winter rules. And as long as there is air conditioning, the summer isn't bad. Orlando is a very conservative town which can be frustrating, but it has gotten better over the years. For fun I DJ and industrial/Goth night at a downtown club 3 nights a week. I used to do it in the early-mid '90s after my radio show stopped. I went into self-imposed retirement for 6 years because the music was sucking and I hated club owners. But I have a better outlook on it now and I do it for fun instead of money so it's been great this past year or so building up my following again. I don't think I would have been able to do that in a bigger city. Check out www.clubnecropolis.com
Q: Aren't all publishers and booksellers extremely wealthy, with huge breasted women at beck and call day and night?
No, that's why I pimp.
Q: Did you enjoy the recent Horrorfind weekend and the panel you spoke on? Anything you'd like to touch on now that you didn't get a chance to then?
I loved the con, hated the panel. I generally don't like panels even though I'm told I'm very good on them. I tend to go into immediate asshole mode and just make smartass comments. There is always some blowhard on the panel who thinks he's more interesting than everyone else and doesn't shut the fuck up. Which was the case on the panel in question here. I just shoved myself into the corner. I was actually going to pretend that I had a phone call and pulled my cell out and everything just so I could get out. The only person on that panel with real credibility and should have been talking was Don D'Auria. But he's a pretty quiet guy. I got really pissed off while on that panel. But later, I was told by Doug Clegg and a number of other, that I was the best part of it and I was funny and I was right in regards to what I was saying. So that made me feel better. I hate it when people use those things as a fucking marketing tool for their own company instead of trying to help people who want to learn.
Q: Who are some of your favorite writers to work with? Any you hate to deal with?
All the writers I work with are great. Easy going, nice people who I like to hang out with. They're people I can talk with and have a relationship with. The only author I didn't get this with was Lansdale. It was a dream come true to work with him since his work was very influential in my getting into horror. And when he called me one day and offered me a project I almost shit myself. I got off the phone, looked at my girlfriend and said, "Joe Lansdale just fucking called me to do a project!" Joe is a nice guy, but he was all business. There was no real sense of him caring about me doing his book. More like here is your story, where's my money. I understand this as he's a busy guy. When I sent him the deluxe of THE LONG ONES he didn't even call me to say anything about them. I waited for weeks and finally called him. I guess there is a certain jadedness that develops when you reach a big level in writing where you've seen everything before and probably done better. But a thank you is always nice. But no one I've dealt with I hate. I hate some people in this business. People I refuse to talk to and will walk away from if I see them coming. I can tend to take things very personally. And if you get in my face or piss me off, it's over. I can be kind of a dick.
Q: What are some of the books, movies, and people that have influenced you? Are you a big horror film fan?
I loved the early Barker work. It's actually what got me into horror. I wish he would do something along these lines again. He lost me a long time ago. McCammon, Straub (up until KOKO), Lansdale, BOOKS OF THE DEAD. Oddly enough I've never read a King horror novel. I hate old school horror like Lovecraft, Poe, etc. I respect what they created, but I just can't read it. I like my stuff new and modern. I have a hard time reading old work by someone. I like to live in the present. As for movies, I'm much more of a comedy fan than a horror film fan. Again, I like modern movies. I don't like old horror movies. I don't like foreign classic gore movies. I actually like production value. Although the EVIL DEAD series is pretty low budget and I love those. They're funny. I will sit down and watch a stupid-ass comedy I've seen a dozen times, before I will watch a horror movie I've seen already. It's like with a horror movie, you already know what is going to happen and you're not going to be scared or freaked. But with a comedy, it'll always be funny. I'm one of those, "Okay... Next" kind of guys. I like progress.
Q: Have you read a book that really scared or disturbed you?
The only book I've read that actually gave me the creeps was THEY THIRST by Robert McCammon. There was something about the vampires just doubling in numbers every day and coming over the hill to devour everything. I read lots of things that disturb me. Most of Charlee Jacob's work disturbs me. When I was reading for DREAD IN THE BEAST I had to stop reading the material for weeks at a time because it was so damn dark and just dragged me into an abyss. DUET FOR THE DEVIL was the same way. Of course, this is why I published them.
Q: What's the future look like for Necro? Anything big coming out in the near future? Any author you really want to do a book with?
Our first comic. Mehitobel Wilson's first collection which is brilliant. COVEN hardcover by Edward Lee. LETTERS FROM HADES by Jeffrey Thomas which is a Bedlams title. A three way collection along the lines of INSIDE THE WORKS with Edward Lee, and amazing new writer Patrick Lestewka and Doc Solammen. This is some brutal, brutal fiction. Maybe some more chapbooks, but we'll see. Some other surprises.
Q: Last chance, anything else you'd care to touch on, complain, bitch, or moan about? Anything you wanna hype or some words of wisdom you can share? Any words for Necro fans and groupies?
It's fucking pouring outside. My dogs are never gonna take a dump. DAMNIT!!!
Thanks for taking the time to do this!!!!
Make the check payable to David G. Barnett and don't forget the fruit basket and the whores.