Lydian Faust (LF): How did Burdizzo Books get started?
Em Dehaney (ED): Back in early 2016 I saw an open call for a Christmas themed anthology from a writer called Matthew Cash. I had come across his work and subbed to an anthology of his before (with no success!), but we didn’t know each other. I was working on my first novel and was in that mega-productive stage that all writers go through in their early careers, where I was churning out and subbing loads of short stories, but I was still unpublished. But Matthew (or Matty-Bob as he is more commonly known) decided to take a punt on my folk-horror poem Here We Come A Wassailing. He broke my publishing cherry, if you will. During the back and forth that comes between editor and writer, we just clicked, and by the time the first 12Days anthology was released, we were not only firm friends, but Matty had asked me to come on board as editor for his fledgling publisher, Burdizzo Books. I agreed, and was introduced to the horror community as The Black Nun, to Matty-Bob’s Reverend Burdizzo. Our next release was The Hymn Book, and since then I feel our books have gone from strength to strength. We have learned a lot along the way, and are still learning, but we have both made a friend for life in each other.
LF: As an indie publishing company, what do you hope to achieve?
ED: We pride ourselves on being inclusive, diverse and open to the voices of new writers. We love to nurture and develop talent, and we see all our writers and readers as our Burdizzo Family. We are a little group of underdogs within the wider horror community. Burdizzo goes beyond just horror, with our sister imprints Burdizzo Bards for poetry and Brave Boy Books for fantasy. We are always looking to create exciting and unique concepts for our anthologies, rather than just the standard, run-of-the-mill themes you see everywhere.
We also raise money for different charities through the sale of our books, because despite writing some horrific, dark and sometimes down-right sick shit, Matty and I are big softies at heart. Some of our featured charities include Resources For Autism, NAPAC (supporting adult victims of child abuse) and more recently the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
LF: Any advice for other women wanting to pursue a career in indie publishing?
ED: To be honest, I feel indie publishing offers greater opportunities for diverse voices, much more so than traditional publishing. If you are woman and you don’t write crime or romantic fiction, you are going to struggle getting representation in the trad pub world. They are always looking to compartmentalize and make you fit into a revenue stream, rather than taking risks. In contrast, indie publishing is one great big risk taking exercise. But it is bloody hard work, with little reward (other than the ability to get our stories out there). Our only methods of promotion are social media, which can take over your life if you’re not careful, and conventions, which are great fun but are not practical when you have a family (as both Matty and myself do).
LF: As a woman working in the horror industry, have you faced any gender-specific challenges? Support from the horror community?
ED: I don’t feel I have experienced any specific challenges myself, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues with regards to diverse representation within horror, and the media in general. There is always some controversy raging within the horror community about positive discrimination, and how “talent will always rise to the top”. The recent comments by Stephen King with regards to the Oscars are a case in point. As with much of the social media world, views are always divided, with talk of “snowflakes” and being “woke” and the like. And yet, why is popular culture still dominated by the output and the tastes of white men? And why do some people take such offence when this is pointed out? If you are a fan of horror, if you really want to read the best horror out there, if you want to read or watch new stories rather than the same-old same-old, then surely the promotion of diverse voices benefits everyone? The only people it doesn’t benefit are mediocre writers who have been getting a pass for too long because of who they are, or who they know.
In terms of support, I have made some great friends through our Burdizzo Family, and I know we all try and be there for each other when someone is going through tough times. I think it is great that talking about mental health issues is no longer a taboo subject and that people are more comfortable sharing what they are going through.
LF: What really, really scares you?
ED: The older I get, the more existentially petrified I am. Every flight I take, the higher the odds this is the one that crashes. The evidence of climate change is all around us. We are living in a technological, 1984 dystopian nightmare. I also think having children made me instantly scared of everything. Scared of anything bad happening to them, scared of the world they have to grow up in, scared of being a bad parent, scared of being a good parent, scared of losing who I am. I am scared of a lot, I guess that makes me a better horror writer!
LF: I know you love music and made a playlist for the Burdizzo Mix Tape, Vol. 1 anthology, so if you could make another mixtape for one of your stories or poems, what story/poem and five tracks would you pick?
ED: The Burdizzo Mix-Tape Vol. 1 is my favorite of all our anthologies so far, as music is so vital to my existence. The songs I chose for my side of the mix-tape are all dear to my heart, and I loved to see how the writers interpreted them in such unique ways.
Music inspires my writing a lot, and if I had to create a mix-tape for one of my own stories it would be my New Orleans zombie-apocalypse novella After Us, The Flood. The song that first inspired this story was “Apres Moi” by Regina Spektor. It has such a grand, cinematic soundscape, and the lyrics were full of the imagery of the undead.
“Be afraid of the lame, they’ll inherit your legs
Be afraid of the old, they’ll inherit your souls
Be afraid of the cold, they’ll inherit your blood
Apres moi le deluge, after me comes the flood”
The next song would be “This Is The End” by The Doors. While I was researching for this story, I watched a montage of photographs of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina set to this song, and it was deeply, deeply affecting. True horror, true apocalypse. Nothing in fiction can come close.
Papa Mali is a New Orleans artist that I got introduced to through the soundtrack to American Horror Story: Coven. His version of “Walk On Gilded Splinters” fits with the oppressive atmosphere of After Us, The Flood. And any playlist for a story about New Orleans must have some Dixieland jazz, something like Tin Roof Blues would suit this one perfectly.
As I wrote this story, I saw it very much in cinematic terms (I studied film at University), and for the closing credits I would choose either “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong or “I Think Its Gonna Rain Today” by Nina Simone.
LF: If you could rewrite a classic male horror monster/villain as a female character, who would you choose, and how would you tweak the tale?
ED: This is a tough one, as my favorite of the classic 80s horror movie monsters was Jason Vorhees, who in the original Friday 13th wasn’t actually Jason at all, but his mother, Mrs. Vorhees. In fact, many of my most beloved horror “baddies” are women: Annie Wilkes, Carrie White (the whole of Carrie is packed with female monsters; her mother, the other school girls) and Kezia Mason in Graham Masterton’s Prey. This is one of my top five horror novels of all time, and I come back to it again and again.
I do love Candyman, so maybe Candywoman, where the ghost of a slave takes revenge on the descendants of the masters who raped and murdered her?
LF: What inspired your latest book? What’s on the agenda for the future?
ED: My newest release is my first full-length novel, The Searcher Of The Thames. It is an urban-fantasy inspired by the true history of my hometown, Gravesend, with plenty of magic and murder thrown in for good measure. It stars a rogue bunch of riverside town characters including an all-girl death-punk band, a skinhead gang and a 400 year-old prostitute.
I am currently working on the sequel, called The Lady Of The Dead, which features among other things demon possession, alchemy, a Mexican hairless dog and the murder of a Transylvanian prince.
LF: Thank you very much for chatting with me, Em!
Social media links:
Burdizzo Facebook: /BurdizzoBooks
Em Dehaney Facebook: /emdehaney
Em Dehaney is a mother of two, a writer of fantasy and a drinker of tea. By night she is The Black Nun, editor and whip-cracker at Burdizzo Books. By day you can always find her at emdehaney.com or lurking about on Facebook posting pictures of witches.
Her debut short fiction collection Food Of The Gods is available now on Amazon:
A perfect corpse floats forever in a watery grave. A gang member takes a terrifying trip to the seaside. A deserted cross-channel ferry that serves only the finest Slovakian wines. Nothing is quite what it seems, but everything is delicious. This is Food Of The Gods.