Know a Nominee Part Twenty-Six: Eric J. Guignard
Welcome back to “Know a Nominee,” the interview series that gets you uncomfortably close to this year’s Bram Stoker Award nominees. If you’ve been reading along from the beginning, thank you for sticking with us—we’re in the home stretch now. Today’s featured practitioner of the dark arts is Editor Eric J. Guignard, nominated for Superior Achievement in an Anthology for After Death (Dark Moon Books).
DM: Can you please describe the genesis for the idea that eventually became the work for which you’ve been nominated? In the case of a work wherein you’ve written multiple stories (like a collection) please choose your favorite part and discuss.
EG: At some time, every person wonders about death, not necessarily in a morbid sense, but at the fundamental question of “what comes next”? This is (arguably) our greatest unsolved mystery, and I wanted to explore it in more speculative terms, considering a composite of beliefs touching upon different ideas and points of view. I put together this anthology, After Death… and I feel I succeeded well in this goal, though I leave that decision to be reached by each reader! These fiction stories range from horror to science fiction to humor to inspirational. The book includes thirty-four tales, each illustrated, and explores perspectives from various cultures, philosophies, hopes, and fears. Within these pages, attend the ghost of an Australian cowboy, delve into the afterlife on a microcosmic scale, and discover what the “white light” really means to the recently departed. Consider the impact of modern, or future, technology on the dead. Follow the karmic path of reincarnation. Visit the realms of Greek Hades, Viking Valhalla, and Chinese Fengdu, and travel from the cruelest levels of Hell’s torments to the celestial realms of eternal paradise.
DM: What was the most challenging part of bringing your idea to fruition? The most rewarding aspect of the process?
EG: Putting together an anthology is like raising a child. You have certain hopes for it, but the project develops its own personality, and sometimes things you dreamt for it don’t pan out, and sometimes it overachieves in ways you didn’t’t previously consider. After Death…came on the heels on my first anthology, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and I expected the processes to be mostly identical. But my budget grew with this one, and I wanted it to be illustrated, so I ended up focusing on different aspects such as diversity and visual appeal. I sought a sense of consistency in tone within the book; the stories examine different ideas of the afterlife while remaining thoughtful and sincere. Some tales are funny, some are sad, some are just exploratory, but there’s no preaching or long-winded exposition, just writing that’s fast-paced and poignant.
DM: What do you think good horror/dark fiction should achieve? How do you feel the work for which you’ve been nominated fits into that ideal?
EG: Good horror/ dark fiction should be cerebral, in that its fears are relatable to people, not just a narrative relying upon tactics of violence or gore. Although even monsters and serial killers are successful if they have emotional depth or there’s some element about them we can empathize with. Nothing in life is clearly “black and white” and that should be reflected in writing. Bad guys have a little “good” in them, and vice versa. Dark fiction that is most successful relates to some conflict, whether internal or external, that causes the reader to intellectualize. Generally the end result of the story may be one of sorrow, violence, gloom, which is the nature of the genre, though dark fiction can also end on an upbeat or inspirational note; protagonists can overcome dismal scenarios to emerge victorious by closing; it is the conflict itself which is considered “dark.” I kept these thoughts in mind while selecting stories for my anthology, After Death… I wanted contributions that induced some sort of emotion while also inciting a sense of wonder. I created a rubric scale, rating submissions on creativity, thoughtfulness, and uniqueness, in addition to the regular literary considerations of composition and clarity.
DM: I’m curious about your writing and/or editing process. Is there a certain setting or set of circumstances that help to move things along? Where do you often find yourself getting stuck, and why?
EG: I try to write in the morning after I wake up, the earlier the better. I also, oddly, have a time of greatest focus/ productivity in late afternoon. People’s bodies cycle to rhythmic clocks and mine is set to pound out work at about 4:00 p.m. Of course all that also depends on other work, family, and life obligations. I write technical documentation for my day job, and teach as adjunct U.C. faculty, and have two small children, so it’s easy to let writing take a back seat to everything else, though I force myself to write something creative every day, even if it’s only fifty words or so. Regarding the second part of your question, I also get writer’s block like most people. Sometimes I have to step away from my desk and meditate or focus on one issue. If that doesn’t’t work, I sleep on it and try again the next day! Reading lots of different books, genres, and styles of writing also helps to keep my thoughts invigorated.
DM: As you probably know, many of our readers are writers themselves. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can share with someone who may be struggling to make their way in this life?
EG: I don’t have any advice that’s particularly luminous or outrageous. What I tell others who ask, and what I repeat to myself like a mantra, is simply: “Keep writing, and remember that every rejection is an opportunity for improvement.”
DM: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Bram Stoker Awards/WHC (if you are attending)? If not attending, what do you think is the significance of recognitions like the Bram Stoker Awards?
EG: I’m most looking forward to seeing old friends and making new acquaintances! Networking is very important and so is the sense of camaraderie one develops at conventions. Most writers work in a bubble of solitude, save for social media outreach, and I’m a strong believer in the importance of establishing in-person relationships with peers.
About Eric J. Guignard
Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. His stories and articles may be found in magazines, journals, anthologies, and any other media that will print him. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association and the International Thriller Writers and is also the Horror Genre Correspondent for Men’s Confidence Magazine. Recent magazine publications include Buzzy Magazine, Beware the Dark, and Stupefying Stories TM. He’s also an anthology editor, including Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death… which were each nominated for the Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night, and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2015). Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com or at his blog: www.ericjguignard.blogspot.com.