Writer and horror enthusiast Jeani Rector edits the online sensation The Horror Zine (www.thehorrorzine.com), which showcases a different selection of horror-themed stories, poetry and artwork every month. The content on her website is frightening, but in reality Rector is a very sweet lady who is committed to helping struggling writers and artists get exposure. There have been two Horror Zine books published, and a third is in the works.
Why do people have such a fascination with horror?
It’s the same thing with roller coasters. There’s something about the adrenaline rush, the feeling of being scared. It’s kind of like when you were a kid and somebody dared you to do something. You were scared to death, but you really loved to do it.
How do you distinguish between horror and, say, supernatural or fantasy?
The nice thing about horror is it has subgenres. One subgenre is slasher; I don’t want that. I don’t want gore for gore’s sake. No splatter punk. I want atmosphere. I want a nice buildup of tension, good pacing. Ghost stories, I like. Monster fiction, I like. Mysteries, I like.
What inspired you to start The Horror Zine?
I used to submit a lot of stories to magazines, and then the recession hit in 2008, and suddenly they were all closing. There was this one magazine called The Harrow, and I’d always wanted to get in that, and every time I submitted a story they would reject it. And then in 2008, even The Harrow went down, and that broke my heart because I’d never met my life dream. So I’m realizing there’s a lot of really talented people who are trying real hard to get attention and get noticed, and all these places they would normally get their start are going defunct because of the economy. So I said, well, maybe I should do something about it. So I started The Horror Zine in July of 2009.
Do you get a lot of monthly submissions?
When I started, I was scared to death that nobody would care and that I would be all by myself writing my own stories and putting fake names on them. The success is amazing. I am bombarded with submissions. I have to close submissions from time to time because it’s only me and one other person. I just feel really grateful.
Where do they come from?
It’s worldwide. I’m just flabbergasted. I get England a lot, because Ramsey Campbell is an English writer. So the biggest market, of course, is the United States, second is England, but I got Italy, France, a lot of Canada. The amazing thing is that I’ve been written up in magazines all over the world, but this is the first time Sacramento’s ever looked at me. I finally got a submission from Roseville, and I took it. I was thrilled because I wasn’t getting anything from my hometown.
Tell me about your writing.
You know, I hate to say I used to be [a writer]. I don’t have the time anymore, but that’s OK, because I’m doing something I love, and it’s my niche in life. I have a book out called We All Fall Down, which was published in 2001. It’s a first-person account of the bubonic plague in 1348 England. That was pretty well-received. And I write a lot of short stories.
What’s your day job?
I work for Caltrans as an analyst. I’m hoping to phase that out if this keeps going the way it’s going.
Have you always been interested in horror?
Look at this face! This is a sweet face. This does not look like someone who would write horror. I get a kick out of that. When I was 10, I would go over to [my friend] Patty’s house and we would fall asleep in front of the TV every Saturday night watching Bob Wilkins’ Creature Features. And then of course Stephen King came out, and I just grew up with it. I used to go to school across the street from this old cemetery in Rancho Cordova—[Matthew] Kilgore Cemetery, how’s that for a name? I’d play in there.
Who else is involved in running the zine?
My assistant editor’s name is Dean Wild, and he lives in Georgia. He submitted a story and then when we did this book, he volunteered to edit it word by word. Everybody’s working for free. I promoted him from a nonpaid contributor to a nonpaid editor. I involve everybody and they do it for free, because once you get caught up in The Horror Zine, you just fall in love with it. I work real hard and they pay me back with their enthusiasm.
What’s your favorite part of editing the zine?
The amazing people I meet. I’m different than a lot of editors. I take a lot more time because I’ve been there, I understand how it feels. Even in my rejections, I give them suggestions. I consider all my contributors to have a stake in The Horror Zine. People are real loyal to me and to the zine, and they’re just the most amazing people in the world. I’m really lucky.