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UDH Presents Icons & Legends 
2022 Summer Series

Join us as we meet some incredible authors that have become icons & legends in their field.

By definition, a legend is an “extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field”. An icon is defined as “a person worthy of veneration, reverence or great respect”. For this series of interviews, I am deeply honored to present more than a dozen incredible authors who fit one or both terms, for myself and for many others, in the world of horror and dark fiction.


Many of these authors have been around the industry for a few years, some have decades of experience, all are widely known, have multiples books published, and have or have had their hands in multiple aspects of the industry. Whether they branched out into different genres, got into editing, publishing, film or television, they all have stories to tell and wisdom to share. Join us as these worthy individuals share their interviews, their stories, and their experiences.

2022 Icons & Legends Series: Text
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09/03/2022
Lee Mountford

Modern Icon

To close out our summer series, modern horror icon Lee Mountford of the UK joins Uncomfortably Dark to discuss all things horror and writing. Lee has been a favorite author of mine for many years, so when I began creating this list for the interview series, I knew he had to be on it. Lee was gracious enough to accept and has been a delight to correspond with during the process. I happily present him to you today and hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did.

Did you always want to be an author?  
Yes! Even at a young age, I always loved to write stories—horror stories in particular—and it’s something I kept up throughout the years. I always hoped I would be able to actually get some books out into the world, but in truth, never thought it would happen.

Have you always been a horror fan? 
Oh yes. The first book I remember reading was a Ladybird children’s version of Dracula (Ladybird being a publisher who specialised in books for young children). I also recall a book on ghosts in the library of my primary school (our version of an elementary school here in the UK) that I used to read all the time. From there, I graduated to Point Horror, then Stephen King (bit of a leap) and never looked back. Same for TV and film – when I was old enough, horror became my go-to genre, and that hasn’t changed.

What defines “horror” for you?  As compared to suspense, thriller, or action? 
Great question. I know everyone will have different answers for this question, and in fairness I don’t think there is one definitive way to resolve it. For me, though, I think it all comes from the author’s intent when writing the book. Are they looking to thrill, or are they looking to actually get under the skin of the reader and creep them out or scare them? I think other genres can certainly have elements of horror in them, which is great, but to be classed as pure horror, I think the main aim should be to scare, unsettle, or disturb the reader.

From the early 80’s & 90’s standard of sending submissions via snail mail to the current trends of self-publishing, digital, ebooks, audible, Vella, and godless, how have you had to adjust your writing style and/or knowledge to keep up with trends in the publishing & social media crazy world? 
To be honest, I’ve never tried going down the ‘traditional’ route of submitting to a publisher, outside of some short stories. When I first learned about self-publishing, I researched it heavily and found a way to publish exactly the kind of stories I wanted to tell without having to abide by any set criteria from a publishing house. It seemed like a great way of getting my work out there and I have always found the independent scene is the most fertile for horror in all forms of media (film, video games, music, artwork, and comics). Self-publishing, to me, seemed to be the literary equivalent, and something I wanted to be a part of. Since putting out my first few novels, I’ve never looked back. I’m not saying I would never try the traditional route—I’ve actually sold the Czech Republic rights to Haunted: Perron Manor and Devil’s Door which will be through a trad publisher over there—but the offer would have to be something that appeals to me. Not just financially, but how well the book would be supported on and after release.

You have had an extensive writing career, including short stories, novels, novellas, and collections, all with various publications and publishers. Of all of those, can you pick one that was the most impactful for your career and what was the impact? 
Hmmm, that’s tricky one. I think, if I had to pick one, I would say The Demonic, as it hit the market really well and, more than any other book, helped build my readership. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite in terms of story, but for what it has done for my career, I can’t really look past it. Plus, I incorporated a ghost story and some real life events from my home town of Ferryhill, so it was quite personal for me.

Tell us a bit about your new latest book or WIP.  Where did the idea come from and did your process for this story differ from any other? 
I’m actually writing three books together that will all be released at roughly the same time. They are the first three books in a new series, which will be called the Darkfall series. It is set in the 1880’s, in the UK, it is a kind of Lovecraftian tale of horror mixed with some dark fantasy. I’m hoping to capture the mystery and eldritch horror Lovecraft is known for and infuse it with some brutal, gritty, and unflinching scares. I’ve had the idea for this series for a while but was holding off writing it for a little while until I felt the time was right… which is now. 
The process is pretty similar to my other series, Haunted, in that I wanted to get three books out together to give readers plenty of material to dive into right out of the gate. However, the world building here has been much more extensive, and that has been quite an enjoyable process.

What has been your favorite character or favorite novel to write and why? 
Outside of my WIP, I think the three main characters in my Haunted series—Sarah, David, and Father Janosch—have been my favourites, as I feel I have gotten to know them really well over time. That didn’t stop me from putting them through hell, though, and I don’t like my characters to be safe in my stories, so even my favourites can be killed off. In fact, that is often what happens, as I think the emotional gut punch will be just as strong for the readers if I’m feeling it as well.

What has been your proudest moment thus far in your career and why?   
This one is easy, and it’s the interaction with my readers and the amazing feedback I get. It’s such a humbling thing to get nice messages, pretty much daily, from people who enjoy your work and reach out to tell you. When I put my first book out into the world, I honestly didn’t expect anyone to read it, so it’s still sometimes difficult to believe there are people out there who willingly buy and enjoy my books. But knowing that is true now… yeah, that makes me feel pretty damn proud.

What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
Horror people are my tribe. Interacting with other horror authors is always awesome (everyone I’ve spoken to has always been kind and genuine), and horror readers are the best people in the world. So, to be able to speak and interact with them constantly just makes being a horror author even more incredible. It’s something I’m very grateful for.

Can you tell us one of your favorite experiences from your career and why did that experience stand out so much for you?
I mentioned above the best thing for me is the interaction with readers, so because I don’t want to repeat an answer, I will give a different one here. I have to say it was really cool when my novel, The Demonic, broke into the top 135 books on the whole of the Amazon store. There are literally millions of books for sale on there, so to be in the top 135 of all of them was just mind boggling to me.

With such a long career behind you, can you tell us a bit about what being an icon in this industry means to you? 
I can honestly say I’ve never considered myself an icon in the industry. My first book came out 5 years ago and, while I’m eternally grateful for the success I’ve had and readership I’ve built, it still feels like I’m just getting started. However, if I can ever help other authors who are just getting started, I’m always willing to do so. There are plenty of readers out there for everyone. 

What legacy would you like to leave behind, or rather, what is it that you want to be known for? Simply as a great author, a leader in the field or something more defined? 
I’ve hard to think really hard on this answer. Of course, I would love if my work was remembered fondly by the horror community, and if it outlives me and is still being read after I’m dead and gone, that would be phenomenal. But also, I want to be remembered for being a good person, which is really important to me. So, if my headstone were to read: ‘here lies Lee Mountford, not a bad author, and definitely not a dick,’ I’d be happy with that.

Which authors or horror creatives (male or female) have most inspired you, living or dead, and what was it that inspired you? 
I know Stephen King seems like an easy answer, but he always stands out, because I remember reading his work and thinking, ‘I wish I could do this.’ And so, I tried. So far, it’s worked pretty well. On top of that, I really love the horror Lovecraft pioneered, and that really resonated with me. His writing can be overly verbose for me taste, and some of his views were obviously horrible, but the ideas he came up with about the cosmic horror, and vast, unknowable, and uncaring entities existing above us, really fired my imagination. There are loads of living horror authors that continue to inspire and amaze me today, but those two are probably my main sources of inspiration.

What one piece of advice would you give to new and emerging authors in the industry?
Finish what you start. That was a big thing for me. Before 2017, my hard drives were like digital graveyards for half-finished works. In 2017 (well, late 2016) something clicked, and I decided I wasn’t going to be distracted by new and shiny ideas anymore, at least not until the current WIP was finished. That was the biggest ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. I think a lot of people will struggle with the same issue I did, where they start off full of enthusiasm on a project, but when it dies out, the work starts to meander, and the story eventually dies. I’ve realised the work of a writer is to push through during those times when you aren’t crackling with enthusiasm. You have to put in the time to break a story. It takes discipline, but that is something that can be curated, provided you are committed enough to make writing one of your priorities in life. If you find you struggle to make time to write, cut something else out of your life. Do you spend a few hours on an evening watching TV? Stop it and fire up your word processor. Stuck in an endless loop of scrolling social media on your phone? Put it down and start writing. 
Once you have your first book done, decide what route you want to go down (traditional or self-published) and attack it with everything you have, all the while continuing the work on your next book.
Rest when you’re dead.   


Lee's Bio:
Lee Mountford is a horror author from the North-East of England. His first book, Horror in the Woods, was published in May 2017 to fantastic reviews, and his follow-up book, The Demonic, achieved Best Seller status in both Occult Horror and British Horror categories on Amazon.
He is a lifelong horror fan, much to the dismay of his amazing wife, Michelle, and his work is available in ebook, print and audiobook formats.
In August 2017 he and his wife welcomed their first daughter, Ella, into the world. In May 2019, their second daughter, Sophie, came along. Michelle is hoping the girls don’t inherit their father’s love of horror, but Lee has other ideas…

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08/27/2022
Jonathan Janz

Modern Horror Icon

Did you always want to be an author?  
When I was super little, I wanted to make movies, so the desire to tell stories was present in me for as long as I can remember. I didn’t get the urge to write novels until I was maybe eighteen, but then it hit me hard. I didn’t have the time or the discipline to make a serious go of it until later on, but the fire was there even then. 

Have you always been a horror fan? 
Yes. I grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and I always celebrated my birthday (October 27th) at the same time I celebrated Halloween. My mom and I watched THE TWILIGHT ZONE and IN SEARCH OF…, and she also used to bring home albums of Edgar Allan Poe stories from the library. I was destined to love horror. I really don’t think I had a choice. 

What defines “horror” for you?  As compared to suspense, thriller, or action? 
I’m weird about this, but I find horror in all sorts of places that others don’t. Since horror is an emotion, I believe it exists in historical stories, in romances, in westerns, in theatre, everywhere. But more to your point, I’d say horror occurs in suspense/thriller/action movies when the anticipation is commingled with dread. It’s that feeling that we’ve come untethered, that the safety net is gone, that pushes a story into horror territory. 

From the early 90’s publishing submissions via snail mail to the current trends of self-publishing, digital, ebooks, audible, Vella, and godless, how have you had to adjust your writing style and/or knowledge to keep up with trends in the publishing & social media crazy world? 
I’ve made a conscious choice to not follow trends but to be as knowledgeable as I can about the business. I never write something because it’s hot or I think it will sell, but I do look to see what’s driving sales in the industry so I can perhaps utilize it from a marketing perspective. Really, this part of the business is another business, so people like me with full-time jobs are at a disadvantage. I’ve got a family to spend time with and to support, and they come first. So basically, I do my best at all this, which is often woefully less than I’d like to do.  


Tell us a bit about your new latest book or WIP.  Where did the idea come from and did your process for this story differ from any other?
That’s a fun one! My current WIP is VEIL, a sci-fi horror novel. Like so many of my stories, the seeds of this one came from many places. I’ve loved the sci-fi horror combination since ALIENS, and that film continues to influence me. Josh Malerman’s BIRD BOX clearly impacted this book too. But aside from its influences, I think VEIL really stemmed from a single image. I imagined what would happen if someone were simply yanked into the sky, and everything grew from there. 

What has been your favorite character or favorite novel to write and why? 
Wow. Great question but a tough one. Probably the closest characters to myself are the hardest but most rewarding to create. They’re hard because they require so much vulnerability. They’re rewarding because they tend to ring true. So, a few would be Will Burgess from CHILDREN OF THE DARK, David Caine from THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER, and the protagonist I’m writing now for VEIL, John Calhoun. 

What has been your proudest moment thus far in your career and why?   
I can tell you an early one that meant the world to me. Brian Keene chose THE SORROWS as his best horror novel of 2012, and that lifted me up more than I can explain. 

What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
The people. I love my readers, and I love my fellow writers. Really everything about it is extraordinary. There’s so much love. Conventions are a blast, as is interacting with readers online. Talking on the phone with my pals is always enlivening and seeing my books on shelves never gets old. So really, all of it is amazing. 

Can you tell us one of your favorite experiences from your career and why did that experience stand out so much for you?
Meeting heroes like Jack Ketchum and Joe R. Lansdale. Those were surreal, unforgettable experiences. I was too nervous to approach Joe, so Brian tricked me into it. But when I talked to Joe, I realized he was as warm and kind as he was online. 

What legacy would you like to leave behind, or rather, what is it that you want to be known for? Simply as a great author, a leader in the field or something more defined? 
I think I’d like to be remembered for the following three things: perseverance, a constant dedication to improving and honing my craft, and kindness. There’s so much you can’t control in life and in this business, but the aforementioned things? I can control those. People might be born with more talent than you, but you can still outwork them. You can either assume you know everything, or you can remain humble and continue to grow. And lastly, there’s never an excuse for intentionally mistreating someone. Kindness always matters, and I do my best to make others feel loved and accepted rather than excluded. 

Which authors or horror creatives (male or female) have most inspired you, living or dead, and what was it that inspired you? 
There are many people out there who inspire me, people like Josh Malerman and Caroline Kepnes, for example. But the one who got me started, has always (metaphorically) been with me, and will continue to help me through his writing is Stephen King. King made me a reader when I was fourteen, inspired me to write when I was eighteen, and still inspires me today. I would love to meet him and tell him how much he has meant to me. So much about him has inspired me, but probably what resonates the most is how he came back from that terrible accident. There’s a chapter about it in ON WRITING, and every semester I begin my Advanced Creative Writing class by reading the chapter with my students. It really demonstrates the power of writing and what a gift it is. 

What one piece of advice would you give to new and emerging authors in the industry?
I think what I said earlier suffices: don’t quit, keep learning, and be kind. You do those three things and no matter what disappointments you endure; you can sleep at night knowing you’ve done your best. 

Jonathan's Bio:

Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels. He is represented for Film & TV by Ryan Lewis (executive producer of Bird Box). His work has been championed by authors like Josh Malerman, Caroline Kepnes, Stephen Graham Jones, Joe R. Lansdale, and Brian Keene. His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice nominee for Best Horror. Additionally, his novels Children of the Dark and The Dark Game were chosen by Booklist and Library Journal as Top Ten Horror Books of the Year. He also teaches high school Film Literature, Creative Writing, and English. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children. You can sign up for his newsletter at the below link. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads. 

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08/20/2022
Staci Layne Wilson

Industry Icon

Staci Layne Wilson has been an industry constant for most of her life, having grown up in both the music and publishing world. She is a large supporter of the horror world, especially its authors, and can be seen promoting many others even as she continues to drop amazing releases in record time. I am honored to know her and to introduce her today.

Did you always want to be an author? 

Yes—my mom was a book author and magazine writer, and I remember growing up with her talking about ideas, research, deadlines, royalty checks, etc.! Even when I was really small, like 4 or 5 years old, I was writing and illustrating my own stories, and stapling them together like chapbooks. I got my first job as a professional writer, a columnist in a national print horse magazine, at the age of 12.


Have you always been a horror fan?

Absolutely—kudos again to my parents. My mom for letting me read her Stephen King novels when I was way too young, and to Dad for showing me Vincent Price in The Pit and the Pendulum one night way past my bedtime.


What defines “horror” for you?  As compared to suspense, thriller, or action?

Horror has so many possible facets, that it’s hard to define. But what would separate it from its adjacent genres would be a supernatural aspect.


From the early 90’s paperbacks to the current trends of eBooks, audible, Vella, and godless, how have you had to adjust your writing style and/or knowledge to keep up with trends in the publishing world?

The method of conveyance may be different, but I can’t say I’ve adjusted my “style” – writing to market usually doesn’t work for me. I just have to be myself, write stories and books that I myself would read, and then connect with like-minded readers.


You have had an extensive writing career, including short stories, novels, novellas, and collections, all with various publications and publishers. Of all of those, can you pick one that was the most impactful for your career, and what was the impact?

I’ve found that while I love writing fiction, especially short stories, my nonfiction has done better in the marketplace. Fortunately, I *love* nonfiction (both to read and write), particularly true crime and darker subjects. That’s why I’m so thrilled that people are responding to my new book, “Rock & Roll Nightmares: True Stories, Volume One,” which debuted at #1 on Amazon’s Bestseller List for books about rock music.


Tell us a bit about your new latest book or WIP.  Where did the idea come from and did your process for this story differ from any other?

“Rock & Roll Nightmares: True Stories, Volume One,” is an offshoot of the first three books in the series, which are fiction and horror. They are scary stories set in the world of rock music in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. So, for the nonfiction edition, it’s still nightmares but in this case, they are true. I write about the 27 Club, Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicides, Plane Crashes, Strange Phenomena (December 8, and the Buddy Holly curse). I like to think of the book as Hollywood Babylon, but for rock music instead of movies. I had so much ground to cover, I had to break it up into two volumes.


What has been your favorite character or favorite novel to write and why?

I have a series called Immortal Confessions, and it’s about a couple of rock ‘n’ roll vampires, Ashara and Liam. Technically they’re paranormal romance, but I’m not a fan of the genre so I’ve made my books somewhat unique. Believe it or not, some of the biggest fans of the series are straight CIS males. Though I wouldn’t say they’re “guy” books at all; it just seems that all kinds of people can connect with the characters and are enjoying their adventures throughout history. It’s fun!


What has been your proudest moment thus far in your career and why?   

Well, I’ve been at this for decades so it’s hard to pick just one. I like having #1 sellers and getting awards as much as the next person, but to be honest, I’ve heard from a few readers who’ve told me that my books have gotten them through difficult times or made them look at situations differently and that is what really sticks with me.


What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?

How authors are also readers, and we all help each other out by recommending books we’ve read and loved.  


With such a long career behind you, can you tell us a bit about what being an icon in this industry means to you?

Well, I don’t feel like an icon, but I guess never giving up counts for a lot! I just can’t imagine not being an author; it’s in my bones.


What legacy would you like to leave behind, or rather, what is it that you want to be known for? Simply as a great author, a leader in the field or something more defined?

I’m really just here to entertain, and to a degree, inspire. If my books can inspire readers to seek out music they haven’t heard before or to learn about a place or moment in history that I’ve written about, then that is enough for me.


Which authors or horror creatives (male or female) have most inspired you, living or dead, and what was it that inspired you?

Anne Rice, of course. I can’t say I loved every one of her books, but they are so layered with history, religion, and travel, that (especially as a younger reader) I learned a lot. It’s like what I mentioned above—inspiration for the reader to seek even more beyond the book. I’m also a fan of film directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Dario Argento, and Mary Harron.


What one piece of advice would you give to new and emerging authors in the industry?

Don’t give up. And don’t read the one-star reviews!


Staci's Bio: 

Staci Layne Wilson is an L.A. native who enjoys traffic, wildfires, and earthquakes—but since her move to Las Vegas, she’s learned to love 110-degree summers, drive-thru wedding chapels, and casinos that still reek of the Rat Pack’s cigars. She has been a professional writer since the age of 12 when she was hired as a columnist for a national magazine. When she's not writing books, she is making movies (Cabaret of the Dead, The Ventures: Stars on Guitars, and The Second Age of Aquarius). Catch up with Staci at: www.stacilaynewilson.com

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