Jim and I met on several Facebook groups before working a little on various projects within JEA. However, Jim earned his reputation among his peers because of his books – large in volume and full of great content that leaves readers wanting more.
One thing I respect about Jim is his honesty when talking to newbies and veterans in the industry. Unlike others when there’s a bad review, this man markets with them and makes more because people are curious about why they didn’t like his story. He is the only man I’ve heard of accomplishing this feat with books through small presses.
Hi Jim, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m an Australian horror author and extreme metal aficionado, happily married with two little children-one daughter, one son. I was born in the city, raised in the country, spent most of my adult life living in the city and now I’m back in the country, currently residing on a secluded farm (perfect location for writing).
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To write and write and then write some more. I want to get as many stories out there as I can, because I have an abundance of them needing to be written. Having a wide readership and a large body of work is a goal, but the ultimate bottom line for me is that I write because I love to write. I write the types of stories that I personally love to read and if other people dig them too, then that is a distinct bonus.
Which writers inspire you?
There are a vast assortment of writers who inspire me and have done ever since I was quite young, but my chief influence and inspiration is Richard Laymon.
So, what have you written? What genre do you typically write? What genres are your books?
In terms of published material I have written Plebs, Undead Fleshcrave: The Zombie Trigger, With Tooth and Claw (collection), co-written Feral Hearts (with Catt Dahman, Ed Cardillo, Michael Fisher, Amanda Lyons, Mark Woods) and have a host of short stories in a variety of anthologies including Rejected For Content: Splattergore, Rejected For Content 2: Aberrant Menagerie, Terror Train, Axes of Evil, Teeming Terrors, MvF: Death Personified, Ghosts: An Anthology of Horror From the Beyond, Autumn Burning: Dreadtime Stories For the Wicked Soul, Suburban Secrets: A Neighborhood of Nightmares, Tales From the Lake Vol 2, Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers, Doorway to Death: An Anthology From the Other Side, and Floppy Shoes Apocalypse (now out of print).
I’ve also written a sequel to Plebs which just released. This one is so big that it will be released as two books.
I have several other novels and projects in the works or written, though any of those will be sometime down the track after the release of Riders (Plebs 2).
I’m also the editor of Rejected For Content 2: Aberrant Menagerie, Rejected For Content 3: Vicious Vengeance and Rejected For Content 4: Highway to Hell, taking over the reins of the series after Volume 1: Splattergore.
I write horror, primarily of the extreme variety (though not exclusively). Some have termed my work grindhouse and splatterpunk type horror, so I’ve appropriated that and usually refer to what I write as grindhouse splatterpunk driven by heavy metal.
My books are also available at all other Amazon sites worldwide. Most titles are in both paperback and ebook formats, aside from one or two which are unfortunately only ebook at this stage.
However, my books are also available in paperback from the likes of Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and similar sellers.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Since Riders is my next release and will be what I’ll be mainly promoting I’ll focus on that. In Riders there are several main characters, some who anybody familiar with Plebs will already know. So having said that, I probably can’t give too much away for those who haven’t yet read Plebs! In any case, it’s probably safe to say that these characters are resilient, adaptable, and relentless and definitely not to be messed with.
Give us a summary of what your book is about.
Riders is a sequel to Plebs, picking up six months after the bloody culmination of that book. Again, I don’t want to reveal too much without posting some sort of spoilers for folks who haven’t yet delved into the original book, but I will say that any of those who were fortunate to escape the brutal chaos that unfolded in the latter stages of Plebs are about to find themselves up to their neck in a whole pile of new trouble. Various life decisions made by some of those characters mean they open up a Pandora’s Box where bloodshed, brutality and death are inevitable. It is ultra-violent, explicit, bloody and so enormous it had to be split into two books. Many readers or fans of Plebs who have been waiting for this know that, so I’d imagine they’d be anticipating that the first book will be more of a cliffhanger ending as opposed to a definitive one. For those that aren’t too clued up yet, be warned: the whole Riders saga spans over the two books which will be released simultaneously.
If you had to choose a favorite character that you’ve written, who would it be and why?
I love the main trio of women from the Plebs series (Desiree, Melissa and Blaise). All three of them are very different personalities, but they are all strong female characters who have overcome plenty of obstacles, adversities and unpleasant life events which have helped shaped who they are. They take charge of situations, they’re always thinking on their feet and more often than not they take control in any given scenario where the men might happen to flounder and blunder around a fraction clueless. They all have the capacity for often shocking violence, which is a product of their various backgrounds and the life paths they’ve elected to follow, but they still manage to maintain their femininity, humour and the strong bonds of friendship they’ve cultivated.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on three separate novels, each of them very different. One revolves around a troubled man returning to the city where some terrible things happened to his friends and caused him to run away and hide from it all. Now a combination of guilt and the resolve to discover what fate befell those he left behind, has him going back. Another follows the tribulations of a teenager in an extremely irregular learning institution and the other is about several different groups of people ending up randomly on an island where all kinds of horrendous things are liable to happen.
In addition to that I have a bunch of short stories for myriad anthologies I need to get written as well as compiling another collection of my own short stories/novellas to send to the publishers at some stage in the near future.
As always, I work on multiple projects, usually jumping back and forth between them unless I really get on a roll with one particular work. Once I clear the plate of some of these things then I’ll begin work on more installments in the Plebs and Zombie Trigger sagas.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I always wanted to be a writer, more specifically a horror writer, from a young age. In one way or another throughout the years, I’ve always been a writer; whether it be poetry, song lyrics, reviews, articles, novels or stories, I have always written. So essentially I decided to become a writer many, many moons ago. It just took a handful of detours and turns into other avenues before I actually made it to the point I’m at now.
Why do you write?
Because I simply love to write. I’m a storyteller.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
The desire to tell stories. I’ve been writing stories almost as long as I’ve been able to read and I started to read when I was a little kid. There’s never been any shortage of ideas roaming around in my head, and starting and finishing them isn’t ever an issue, it’s more a case of never having enough time to get everything I want written out. I wrote many stories as a child, even wrote a couple of full length novels in my teenage years.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I write full-time. Do I make the type of money that comfortably allows me to do that? Nope, not quite.
How do you structure your day, by word count, hours or by pages?
I loosely aim for approximately 2000 words a day, which is generally an achievable goal, but that all depends on how things pan out. Most times I’ll hit that, and others I’ll manage to get a whole lot more down, but occasionally there will be the days where I seem to get very little done. During the day is when I do things like editing (whether it be going through edits my editors have done on my books or editing other people’s books), promo or social media related things, or chasing contracts, organizing tables of contents and so forth if I’m in the process of putting anthologies together, liaising and conversing with others, talking projects and bouncing ideas around. Night is when I get all my own writing done.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
I write on a computer now, but once upon a time I used to write everything longhand and then type it all up.
Where do your ideas come from?
A twisted, restless imagination. There is never any shortage of ideas, nor any lack for inspiration. I find inspiration in just about anything; from music, to something on the news, a single image, it can be anything at all. A whole story can be built around something as simple as a picture of an old house.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I almost always just take the seeds of an idea and let it run, usually handing it over to the characters to see what sort of trouble they can get themselves into and what mayhem can be created. I don’t outline or meticulously plot things out for novels; that’s never been the way I work.
For a short story however, I may have a clearer idea of the start, middle and finish of the piece or the whole thing basically written in my head before I start, but even then sometimes things take a turn and I end up with something completely different to what I envisioned.
What are your greatest challenges in writing and how have you adapted to them?
My greatest challenge is never having enough hours in the day to get everything I want written.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
All editing is done in-house with my publisher. After I’ve finished writing a book, I’ll go through it myself several times to look at things like grammar, spelling, cutting out superfluous words, trying to break up overly long sentences and so forth, to have as clean a copy of the manuscript as possible for the editor.
Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
Each book usually has two editors as a general rule. For the most part editors and authors are matched up so each author’s book has editors that complement their style, genre and so forth.
Did anyone line proof your book separately?
Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
They’ve all come about in collaboration with the cover artists, working together with them so they have a pretty clear picture of just is wanted on the cover. With Plebs, which was done by Catt Dahman, we spent plenty of time discussing it and what sort of feel the cover should have. As the church is an integral location for the story, where important scenes occur, it had to form part of the cover and I love the way it turned out.
With Tooth and Claw being a collection, there were a few stories from which to select something, so we (cover artist David McGlumphy and I) went with a snapshot from the first story Dead Tree Creepers where woods were prominent in the tale. Again, that turned out great.
Undead Fleshcrave: The Zombie was a different scenario because it is a custom painted cover by master artist Stephen Cooney. Here I outlined what sort of thing I was after (a metal band onstage, while below, the crowd morph into a teeming pit of zombies) and he created something that was absolutely perfect, capturing a snapshot of a pivotal moment in the book.
All of the covers for the Rejected For Content series are done by Michael Fish Fisher and he pretty much has free reign on what he does with them in the way of images, even to the point where he actually coined the subtitle for the most recent installment Highway to Hell. Usually I will make up something as a subtitle after I’m well into the process of creating the anthology, but this time he conjured up an awesome cover with the name to match so we went with that.
Riders (Plebs 2 Books One and Two) was again done by David McGlumphy and rank up there with some of my favourite covers. These were pretty straightforward to do because I had the images I wanted already picked out for both books. Those images, along with the same style of font used on Plebs were all that was required to bring the vision to life. Both mesh brilliantly with locations and events in each book, and I can’t wait to have them out there.
Who designed your book cover/s?
Various cover artists have designed the covers for my books including Catt Dahman, David McGlumphy, Stephen Cooney and Michael Fisher.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
I do think covers are an integral part in making a reader decide whether they will buy a book or not, though not essentially for each and every reader.
A good cover will create a visual impact, pique a potential readers interest and hopefully make them want to pick up the book and see what it’s all about. In conjunction with a strong synopsis with the ability to hook a reader, an eye-catching cover is a handy device. There are of course always those readers who aren’t overly concerned with the outward appearance of a book, so covers don’t really factor into their buying decision, particularly if they are fans of a certain author and elect to buy everything they release regardless, but then there’s the other end of the spectrum where readers will pick up a book to check out based solely on its visual aesthetics. A great cover (and by the same token, a bad cover) can be the difference between a possible reader selecting that book or completely passing it up. Making the whole package an attractive one for folks is always the best bet. Not putting any thought into a cover that either relates to the story inside or helps convey applicable themes or suits the tone of the story, is shooting yourself in the foot from the word go.
How are you publishing this book and why?
Traditional. Bar various stories in an assortment of anthologies, all of my books have been published with the same company. They’ve been excellent to me and for me, so I’m definitely sticking with them. Besides, my newest book(s) form part of a series with the first of that series published with the same press.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Since I have no experience with self-publishing I can’t really comment to any great extent. Everything I’ve had published so far is traditionally published with an assortment of different presses, so any comparisons I’d make would be little more than assumptions. I haven’t ever ruled out the possibility of self-publishing something in the future, so maybe if I do happen to do that I’ll be better equipped to weigh up the pros and cons of each publishing method.
How do you market your books?
By any means possible under the sun. It’s a matter of trial and error, and experimentation. Some methods work, others not so much, but there are all kinds of different avenues I’ve explored. At the end of the day though, the best way to sell books is still by word of mouth. That might be a little difficult for a newcomer or aspiring writer putting out their first book, especially trying to gain a foothold in an industry that is packed with folks attempting to do likewise, but it’s not impossible.
Reviews, interviews, promo, remaining visible, building up and maintaining a profile, building a brand for yourself, even getting a few stories in various anthologies to develop a resume of published work are all aspects that come into play. Writing the book is always the fun part and the marketing part more of a chore, but unfortunately that latter part is a required element. Merely writing the book isn’t enough to generate sales these days unless you’re a household name.
Do you have any advice for those who want to do Indie publishing, such as social media, marketing, giveaways and promoting sales?
I think I covered some of this in the above question, so I’ll just expand on that a little. Different things seem to work for different people, so what reaps rewards for one might not exactly do likewise for another. Giveaways I suppose are pretty straightforward since sites like Goodreads and Amazon have options for authors to do such things, though I haven’t gone down that road yet. Maybe at some stage down the track I’ll consider it.
Social media is one of the best ways to get the word out about books, though there are definitely right ways and wrong ways to do it. Relying on just something like Facebook and blanket posting in a thousand groups every day is something I see all the time and while that might generate a sale or two here and there, ultimately it is just likely to be considered spam and largely ignored, particularly if the person is a serial poster or uses an autopost function.
I myself post in groups, but I do it strategically with different groups, different times of day, different wording on adverts. Create pictures to accompany your ad, use snippets of reviews, find something else that helps to catch attention rather than just dumping a book link and running. All the same, this can still be pretty hit and miss, so never simply rely on that and assume that is going to be enough.
Interaction in discussion based groups, different social media sites, promotion sites, there’s a whole world of things out there one can use to experiment with. That can all be achieved with or without a budget. Naturally if you have money to sink into promotion and want to do so, by all means, go for it.
How do you relax?
Well writing actually is relaxing to me, but other than that I like to listen to music (the type of music a lot of people probably wouldn’t consider relaxing), movies, reading, spending time with my wife, playing and having fun with my kids, the list goes on.
What is your favorite book and why?
I don’t exactly have any single favourite book; I have a favourite author and that is Richard Laymon. I love everything he’s ever written and I’ve reread the vast majority of them many times. I love far too many books to try and pinpoint one specific one, but there are a handful of books I read back when I was much younger which have always stayed with me and in their own ways helped shaped my desire to write horror, and provided very influential on me.
In no particular order they are Walkers by Graham Masterton, Cabal by Clive Barker, Watchers by Dean R. Koontz and The Spirit by Thomas Page. Along with Darkness, Tell Us by Laymon (being the very first book of his I ever read) these books were important in driving me to become a horror writer.
How do you get inspired to write?
Anything at all can inspire me to write. It could be music, something I’ve caught on the news that day, a snippet of conversation that lodges in my head, lyrics, pictures, anything. Often I will be able to conjure up an entire story based on one single image. Photos of old houses or a deep, dark pocket of woods are particularly inspirational. When I see these, I see the stories that I could set there and create around that location.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep up the determination to get your books out there. Back in the day when I first wrote a couple of books I tried to get them published, but that was way before the advent of things like Facebook and other social media sites made connecting with publishers and so forth that much easier. It was a case of actually sending physical manuscripts around and not having too much of a clue as to which publishers I was sending to, just hitting a whole bunch of them. Self-publishing wasn’t a big thing back then either, certainly a costly process.
In hindsight, I’d have done a lot more research into who was publishing what and who was liable to accept unsolicited manuscripts. As it was, I ended up drifting into other pursuits, occupations and hobbies and for years writing stories and books was something in limbo.
So if I could go back and redo some things as a younger self it would most definitely be to remain persistent in getting my books out there much sooner. Given the amount of years existing in that gap between writing horror fiction, I imagine I might have a much larger bibliography. Then again, maybe not. In any event, I’d have advised myself to stick with it.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
This answer is pretty much going to be identical or at least in very similar words to what I’ve stated before when asked this question in interviews, but that’s because the advice hasn’t changed, nor has anything new supplanted it.
If you love to write, just write. If you want to write, then write. Don’t give up and don’t become disillusioned or discouraged by rejection because we’ve all been there. Be prepared to accept critiques and suggestions, be open to these and if you haven’t got a thick skin, you may want to try and cultivate one.
Finally, if you ever reach the stage where you have been offered a contract, always read it. Make sure you understand everything about it. By all means have someone else read it with you and assist in your comprehension of terms and clauses, but never sign unless you’ve done so. It might seem illogical that folks wouldn’t be reading their contracts, but it happens with alarming regularity and an aspiring writer too keen to get their book or whatnot in print, can create problems for themselves if they don’t adhere to that fundamental rule. Read every contract you get.
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
I imagine it will pretty much continue on as it has been for the last decade or so, with major publishing houses carrying on doing what they are doing. Small and indie presses may become medium presses and aim to get bigger and push the bigger names for numbers, while some will inevitably fall by the wayside or decline. We’re already seeing that now and I don’t think that’s a trend that will die out given the amount of small presses that are cropping up more prolifically these days. Some of these seem like ill-advised or ill-prepared ventures, but time will tell if there’s any longevity there.
Self-publishing will continue to be a massive thing, since it is so much easier now to take that route rather than go with traditional publishing, albeit having to contend with all the associated costs. All the tools for self-publishing are right at the fingertips of those who do want to go that route and we’re seeing it happen far more prevalently, which is both a good and a bad thing. Naturally it’s great that those wanting to be published and getting their work out there are able to do so, but by the same token, that’s opened the floodgates for just about anybody to have something published, devoid of editing, proofreading, or storytelling.
Where to find Jim Goforth
Readers can discover more about Jim at the following places:
J Ellington Ashton Press’ website
Crystal Lake Publishing