March Madness presents: DON D’AURIA, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, Samhain Horror
Bio: Don D’Auria has worked in publishing for twenty-five years, most recently as executive editor at Leisure Books, where for fifteen years he directed their horror line. Born and raised in suburban New Jersey, he was the quintessential horror kid, growing up on a steady diet of TV’s Chiller Theater on Friday nights, Creature Features on Saturday nights, and horror novels and Famous Monsters magazine the rest of the time. After earning a master’s degree in English from Columbia University, he dove into publishing, where he’s been lucky enough to work in the genre he’s always loved. He is the recipient of an International Horror Guild Award for his contributions to the genre.
Don joined Samhain Publishing in January of 2011 and is very excited to be working for such an innovative company. He looks forward to bringing the best in horror fiction to his fellow fans.
Links to lines you acquire for:
Thank you so much for participating in the madness. Pull up a chair courtside and let’s chat.
Q: Word on the street is that you’re the new kid on the court but you have a lot of street credit and a lot of professional experience behind you. Can you tell us more about yourself and how you came to be Grand Master of the Horror genre?
A: Well, I don’t know that I’d call myself a Grand Master of anything, but I certainly do love the horror genre. I think if I’ve been successful, that’s a large part of it. Basically, I love my job. I’ve been a horror fan for literally as long as I can remember. I grew up on Famous Monsters and monster movies on TV, I built all the Aurora monster models, and when I started reading “grown-up” books, horror was my first love. I read Frankenstein, Dracula and Poe when I was in grammar school. I never thought I’d have a chance to earn a living in horror, but when I got the chance to launch Leisure Books’ horror line, I jumped at the chance. Working with those authors, on those books, was a dream come true for me. Sort of like a schoolyard basketball player having the chance to turn pro. For fifteen years I was able to work with authors whose work I’d known and admired, and also to find some great new writers as well. When things ended at Leisure almost two years ago, I never thought I’d have that chance again. But now, at Samhain, things are even better in many ways. Like before, I’m working on a dedicated horror line of two books per month, and I have the same autonomy to find and acquire authors, but I think Samhain is a more author-friendly environment, more forward-thinking about changes in the industry, and much more committed when it comes to advertising and promotion. For example, in addition to tons of magazine and website advertising, Samhain currently has an ad running on the CBS Jumbotron in Times Square in New York. I’m also able to publish novellas now, in addition to the novels, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to expand in the coming months and go up to three novels each month, plus the novellas.
Q: Is there anything in particular that you are looking for right now that would score in the last remaining seconds and bring home a trophy? Anything you consider a rookie mistake that would send them back to the benches?
A: Good writing and a good story will always win out. From the beginning, Samhain’s motto has been “It’s all about the story,” and that’s true. No matter who the author is, it all comes down to how good the story is, how exciting the writing is. So if I read a manuscript that just grabs me and won’t let go, that’s the three-point shot at the buzzer that’s going to win the game. As for rookie mistakes, too many writers don’t bother with the fundamentals. They don’t know grammar or punctuation, which is like hitting the court without learning how to dribble. Polish up your manuscript, show your writing in its best light, and don’t hide your talents behind sloppy presentation.
Q: Are there certain types of stories that you aren’t seeing that you would like to see?
A: Actually, I was thinking recently that I haven’t seen a historical gothic horror novel in a long time. For years it seemed nearly all horror was set in a spooky castle or old candle-lit mansion, but nowadays it’s pretty rare. Maybe it’s time to try that again. At least I’d be curious to see it.
Q: Is horror making a comeback and if so, why? Or, has it always been the underdog, who is finally achieving success and gaining the limelight as it deserved? And where do you see horror being five years from now?
A: The supernatural and horror characters are more of a part of mainstream popular culture than they’ve been for many years. We’re surrounded by vampires, werewolves and zombies on TV, in movies, and bestseller books. People are realizing they liked to be scared again. They’re watching Walking Dead and American Horror Story on TV. They made The Woman in Black and Paranormal Activity successes in the theater. Vampires and werewolves are main characters in hugely popular romance and YA books and movies. The tricky thing there is that the fans don’t necessarily consider Twilight, for example, to be horror, so they’re less inclined to read “real” horror. We need to get these fans to cross over and read darker stories about werewolves, vampires, ghosts and zombies. But in general, you can’t go anywhere these days without running into the living dead in one form or another in books, TV or movies. We need to make sure these figures aren’t robbed of their ability to frighten in the horror genre. As long as we can do that, in five years I think we’ll see more and more general awareness of horror than we’ve seen since the 1960s.
Q: The Horror line is a new team and still building its awesome list of authors. But if you could put together a dream team, who would they be? Can you give us an example of today’s writers whose works you think would best fit Samhain Horror’s image?
A: Oh, there are so many. One of the great things about the state of horror these days is that there so many talented writers producing amazing work. If I could put together a Dream Team of the best of the best, in addition to the wonderful writers already on Samhain’s list of course, I’d love to publish Peter Straub, Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Dan Simmons, James Herbert, Joe Hill, Bentley Little… There’s no shortage of all-stars out there. That alone tells you how healthy the state of the genre is.
Q: Samhain has both print and e-books. How do you like to read your books, paper or plastic e-reader? Are there any books in queue right now on your TBR pile?
A. I admit it, these days I do almost all of my fiction reading on an e-reader. No one loves print books more than I do, and I resisted the urge the switch over to e-books, but once I tried it I got hooked. I still read most non-fiction and illustrated books in paper, but for fiction e-books are just so much easier and more convenient. I read all my submissions on a reader too. I have more books in my TBR pile than I care to admit, and I can’t stop adding to it. I guess a lot of folks out there can relate to that. My latest addition is a non-fiction book about a Jack the Ripper suspect. And of course some excellent submissions. That’s something that keeps my job exciting, finding terrific stuff in the submissions stack. I love it.
Thank you, Don, for spending time with us today. We look forward to watching you lead Samhain Horror to even greater publishing heights!
Gabriella Note: One of Don’s Samhain Horror debut authors, Frazer Lee, is up for a Bram Stoker Award for his novel, The Lamplighters. I’ve heard from a trusty source that Don will be at the Awards on March 31st, representing Samhain Horror and Frazer. I’d like to say for all of us that we wish them success and hope they walk home with the prize. Best of luck!
For those of you wanting to know more about Frazer Lee, stop by tomorrow. He’s our guest!