Horror Tales And Much More – A Ramingo Interview with Jeani Rector, The Creative Mind Behind “The Horror Zine”

Jeani Rector booth

Interview by Mendes Biondo

While most people go to Disneyland while in Southern California, Jeani Rector went to the Fangoria Weekend of Horror there instead. She grew up watching the Bob Wilkins Creature Feature on television and lived in a house that had the walls covered with framed Universal Monsters posters. It is all in good fun and actually, most people who know Jeani personally are of the opinion that she is a very normal person. She just writes abnormal stories. Doesn’t everybody?

Let’s talk about your e-zine, “The Horror Zine”. When all started and what were your first goals when you decided to open it?

Hi Mendes, thanks for having me. Back “in the day,” I used to write fiction and submit it to various magazines and e-zines. My work was accepted by most, with the exception of a wonderful zine called The Harrow, who rejected my work on a consistent basis. At the time, my biggest goal was to get published by The Harrow.

Then the economy crashed at the end of 2008. A few months into 2009, almost all of the magazines and zines were going defunct. When even The Harrow closed its doors, I said to myself, where does that leave writers? Someone had to take up the slack and open a new magazine to help make up for all those that closed. I thought, why not have that someone be me?

So in early 2009, I learned how to create a website using Adobe Dreamweaver (there are much better options for websites nowadays, but I still use Adobe simply because that is what I know), and in July of 2009, I launched The Horror Zine.

I wanted the name to be something like Blue Rose, but I figured that I would pick key words for the title that some people would be randomly googling, like horror and zine, and they would stumble across what at the time was my little unknown zine. I had no idea that I could have named The Horror Zine anything I wanted because it would become a behemoth of a magazine that receives over 100,000 hits a month world-wide. People would actively seek me out, not just “happen” across the zine by accident.

The Horror Zine.JPG

As an editor of a horror zine, how this lit world changed since you started your adventure with The Horror Zine?

I love how you put it, my adventures! Certainly the literary world has changed indeed since July of 2009. First of all, the internet has opened up huge opportunities for emerging writers. The internet has leveled the playing field somewhat between professional writers and emerging writers.

That doesn’t mean that all the emerging writers are good writers. Many have great ideas but the execution needs a lot of work to create a polished, finished product. That is where editors like I come in. I never just send an email that states, “Your story is not a good fit.” Instead, I take the time to explain why I rejected, and offer tips for improvement.

I go further by accepting a lot of stories that, in its current form, has problems (and most editors would reject), but I accept the story and work with the writer on edits. The end result is always a final story that the writer could be proud of. This is a valuable learning tool for beginning writers.

What is your favorite horror movie? Your favorite novel?

I have many favorite films, including Phantasm I, The Changeling (1980 with George C. Scott), In the Mouth of Madness, The Others (Nicole Kidman), Get Out, Scream, The Grudge, The Ring, 28 Days Later, Train to Busan, Halloween I (the one that started it all!), The Lady in White, Pumpkinhead I, and Ginger Snaps.

As for novels, interestingly enough, Son of the Endless Night by John Farris is one of the scariest I have ever read, but I also enjoyed The Elementals by Michael McDowell (who was also the screenwriter behind Beetlejuice), Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker, The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale, Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Hungry Moon by Ramsey Campbell, The Tribe by Bari Wood (about a golem, wonderful!), Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (some say it borders on sci-fi, but it seems horrific to me) which is not to be confused with Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (a fabulous ghost story), The Dwelling by Susie Moloney (another fabulous ghost story), Saint Peter’s Wolf by Michael Cadnum (yes, a werewolf book), The Girl with All The Gifts by MR Carey, The Fisherman by John Langan, and believe it or not, I will add a non-fiction documentary to the list, The Radium Girls by Kate Moore which is pretty horrific but unfortunately true.

But my most favorite novel of all time will always be The Stand by Stephen King.

Jeani Rector book.JPG

Talk us more about your writing style. Do you prefer to write series or self-concluding novels? Which of the novels/stories you wrote are you most fond of?

I prefer stand-alone novels and have never written a series. One of the first novels I have ever written is titled Pestilence: A Medieval Tale of Plague which is a romantic black plague story of historical fiction, if you can believe that. That one is probably my most popular novel.

As for my short stories, my favorite is “The Janitor” because it has exactly the same history as the work of most emerging writers. I wrote it and thought it was pretty good, so I submitted it to Aphelion, who accepted it.

For those not familiar with Aphelion, that zine posts your story with space underneath for readers to comment or criticize. And criticize they did! But I did not take it personally and instead, I listened to the critics and took their suggestions to rewrite “The Janitor.” The end result is a story I can be proud of.

There is your proof, folks: Don’t take criticism personally. Listen to it and you will be glad you did. I am including “The Janitor” along with this interview. You be the judge.

You wrote a lot of novels, do you prefer to publish printed editions or digital ones?

I was slow to jump on the kindle bandwagon. I preferred to feel paper in my hand. Now I embrace both. Some benefits to kindle are: receiving the book immediately, not worrying about limited space in my bookcase, and light in your hands (as opposed to lifting the huge brick of King’s The Stand).

All The Horror Zine publications are both in paperback and kindle.

What makes you jump on the chair while reading a horror novel?

First, I have to relate to the protagonist. If I am involved with him/her, I care what happens to him/her. That means the problems of the character become my problems.

I prefer atmosphere, the feeling of dread, over “in your face.” Which is why I do not like anything slasher. I want plot, not gore.

While many people consider horror as a “male” genre, a lot of women enjoy reading, watching and writing it. In your opinion, who are the best female writers of this genre? What do you like most of their works?

Of course there are Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley, but other important women writers include Susie Moloney, Tannarive Due, Susan Hill, Cherie Priest, Yvonne Navaro, Nancy Kilpatrick, Lisa Morton, Gemma Files, Kristen Houghton, Asa Nonami…way too many for me to continue.

Is there a (or more) serial killer/monster that fascinated you more than others?

Like I said, I cannot stand slasher or serial killers. The original movie Halloween is probably my only exeption.

As for monsters, I love original ones. I wrote a book about writing titled How to Get Published by Magazine Editors, and in that, I devoted an entire chapter to finding original monsters. A golem is an unusual monsters…but consider this: how about insects? Who doesn’t feel creeped out by cockroaches? Or bedbugs? I am enclosing a story I wrote about cockroaches to give you an idea as to what can be done with insects.

Talk us more about The Horror Zine. What are you looking for from a submission and what are your next projects?

I am also looking for Hitchcock-type endings, Twilight Zone-type weirdness, and/or something deliciously twisted. A surprising ending is a plus. I am also looking for good ghost stories, monster stories, vampires, but something exciting and new is even better.

And! Remember the legends….vampires are killed by stakes, werewolves by silver bullets, and zombies by a shot to the head. If you are going outside the box on any of these, make it believable for readers who are used to the status quo of legends.

The best story you can submit has a buildup of suspense, and then contains an unexpected and surprising ending, no matter what the subject.

Here are some general guidelines to writing short stories:

1) start with action
2) familiarize the reader with your protagonist; make him/her likeable
3) provide an obstacle for your protagonist
4) describe how your protagonist overcomes, or at least deals with, the obstacle
5) give the reader hints as to the ending
6) provide a completely different ending than your hints

It is also important to balance the amount of dialogue to the amount of action. Too much dialogue and you are “telling” the story instead of “showing” the story.

Jeani Rector face5Jeani Rector is the founder and editor of The Horror Zine and has had her stories featured in magazines such as Aphelion, Midnight Street, Strange Weird and Wonderful, Dark River Press, Macabre Cadaver, Blood Moon Rising, Hellfire Crossroads, Ax Wound, Horrormasters, Morbid Outlook, Horror in Words, Black Petals, 63Channels, Death Head Grin, Hackwriters, Bewildering Stories, Ultraverse, and others.


You can read The Janitor and Apartment 17 here:

The Janitor by Jeani Rector

Apartment 17 by Jeani Rector

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.