Jan Kozlowski is one of the submission editors behind BLIGHT Digest, our new quarterly dark fiction and horror magazine. We’ve asked her five questions for you to get to know her a bit more. If your interested in passing the gauntlet to publication in BLIGHT Digest, you might find the keys to passage within her answers.
What was your first introduction to Dark Fiction and Horror?
My childhood sucked in most ways, but the one positive thing I can say for my parents is they really didn’t care what I read, as long as I was reading. Being a smart kid, I figured out pretty early on that disappearing into books was the closest I could get to physical escape, so I read omnivorously. I haunted the tall, squeaky, metal bookracks at the local grocery & department stores and since paperbacks were usually under a buck I could talk my mother into slipping one or two into the cart. One day in 1975 one of those books featured an etched black cover with a single drop of red blood on it. It had a weird title, ‘Salem’s Lot with the extra apostrophe and was by some guy from Maine named King. That was it, I was hooked.
What is the scariest real life moment you experienced?
Hmmm…tough to pick just one. Dad was an abusive SOB who liked to play with guns, so the 17 years I spent at home were pretty much one long fright fest. Then there was my urban EMS career, which consisted of 12-hour over night shifts that often went from grinding tedium to sheer terror in 3 seconds flat. I’ve been shot at, had too many knives pulled on me to remember and could count on being assaulted on a regular monthly basis by a 300lb drug addict who liked to direct traffic naked. And then there are those normal white knuckle life moments like getting married, buying a home, losing loved ones and, most recently, becoming a post menopausal woman in a pubescent obsessed world.
To paraphrase The Princess Bride’s Man in Black- Life IS fear Highness, anyone who says differently is selling something.
Stephen King or Robert McCammon?
As far as novels go, I will not choose and you can’t make me. For short stories Night Shift by King, hands down. I will ALWAYS love Grey Matter and count it as one of the creepiest stories I’ve ever read.
What are five books that have most influenced you as a writer, any genre?
The books that have made me say, “Damn, I want to be able to write like that one day” are, in no particular order:
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Holes by Louis Sachar
- Chinese Handcuffs by Chris Crutcher
- The Pine Deep Trilogy by Jonathan Maberry
- ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
- Whispers by Dean Koontz
My top 5 books about writing, also in no particular order:
- Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury
- Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual by Rita Mae Brown
- Telling Lies for Fun and Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block
What are you looking for in a good horror story?
Like every fiction editor, I’m looking for a compelling plot, memorable characters and a satisfying ending, but beyond those things, I want to be transported. I want to be sucked into your story so completely that when I finally close your story file and look at the readout on my treadmill desk I am shocked to find out that minutes and miles have passed while I was immersed in your world.