Friday Feature: Interview with Barry Skelhorn

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Barry Skelhorn, editor of Sanitarium Magazine — a monthly horror magazine based in the United Kingdom.

What style of work do you prefer, if any?

I have to say my preference has changed since releasing the first issue of Sanitarium back in 2012. Before, I would gravitate towards such works as M.R. James, James Herbert, King and Barker — a bit of a mix, but apart from that I wouldn’t venture off that path.

Recently, however, I have started to deviate from said path, picking up the odd new work here and there. One such niche is the Bizarro; “Motherfucking Sharks” is one that I am currently reading and for the short sharp shocks it gives you — the payoff is great. I am looking forward to reading more off the beaten track. 

What other literary magazines do you admire?

Straight off the bat I have to say the work that Nightmare Magazine, Apex and Black Static are doing for the horror fiction world is great. One that I have picked up all back issues of was the Fog Horn which has just closed its doors due to the nature of the (Apple) Newsstand.

Their model was sound, pay above the rates to get the best in the business, sell to those who love the stories — rinse and repeat. However with the app store being what it is — well I won’t bore you with the details. The guys have a great blog post which covers why they have closed and it is well worth a read.

What can a writer do to increase chances of being accepted?

Keep writing and submitting — it is that simple. We have had many submissions from writers who when they get the dreaded rejection notice, they keep on ploughing through. One such writer sent in several stories and they were nearly there. After the third rejection, we get this story that came through and here’s a point to note — we never read the cover note or who the story is by first time round.

This story hit us and it was an instant yes. So the email flew out the door and we were lucky enough to pick it up before anyone else (we are happy for our submitters to submit elsewhere if they want).

What do you feel makes your journal distinctive?

Sanitarium Magazine set out to be a place for the stories that didn’t feel at home elsewhere. Like an Aunt or Uncle that just seemed a little off when they came to stay. We are the home from the broken, the tired and the horrific — you never know what is going to be behind that case file.

What types of submissions are on your wish list?

A great setting, character, pacing and darkness.

But to be honest, there are many stories that I love and I still go back and read them from back issues. I don’t think there is the “perfect story” and I don’t really want there to be one, otherwise you are always comparing it to the others that come along.

What made you want to be an editor?

Okay, here is my little dirty secret — I’m not an editor (in the true sense of the word). Yes I go through and proofread the stories and tinker a little, but all in all the stories are near as dammit to the story that the writer wanted to tell.

I created Sanitarium Magazine because back in 2012 there wasn’t a great deal to read that was accessible on Kindle / iPad / iPhone whilst commuting to work. I found short stories were great for short stops on the train, during the journey I had enough time for a beginning, middle and an end to the tale unfolding before me. So I sat down, wrote a wish list and went for it.

What kind of things do you write?

I have written a couple of collections which were okay, but as I said before “Keep on writing.” That is one piece of advice that I haven’t followed due to the amount of time Sanitarium takes up (in a good way). But I have a fondness for ghost stories — that is one thing that I always seem to go back to. I have an idea for volume III of “Tales from the Horsham Ghost Society” and I may revisit it soon.

Where did you get the name of your magazine?

The name just popped in one day and it wouldn’t go away. As soon as I started with the name the whole concept of the magazine unfolded and we were off to the races.

What inspired your aesthetic?

Once I had the name, the wish list the rest quickly followed. I love the idea of having an ever expanding building that behind each door is a person with a case number and a story to tell. We are working on artwork and non-fiction work which will tell the story of the Sanitarium and its history.

With regards to the execution, I have a background in IT with some graphic design so playing around with a few options until it started to feel right.

We have had a slight change in the cover art from issue 20. Moving away from the models with scratched out eyes to the artwork of Kevin Spencer with his striking works. We are also working on a new “enhanced magazine” version for the iPad which will be out on the 31st of October.

What do you hope to accomplish with your magazine?

Showcasing more and more up-and-coming writers, moving into a paying market and generally getting people into a brand of horror fiction that they never even knew existed let alone like.

You can find Sanitarium Magazine on Twitter and Facebook.

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