By Sue Simpson
Bio and publication history.
can you send me a sample of this? I've never made an
official publication history before. I can do the bio alone if that will do or
I can try to work out a publication history, since I really should, if you can
show me what the bloody hell one looks like. (Isn't it cute when us Yanks try
and talk like you?)
1) Tell us about your baby please? I mean Legends of
I've been doing Legends for about twelve
years now. It's over time moved from something that was embarrassing and grew
into something I'm proud of so referring to it as my "baby" is probably
somewhat accurate. Legends has two main themes - independent music and dark
fiction. The fiction we've run includes dark horror, sci-fi, fantasy and the
like while the music touches on punk, gothic, industrial, experimental and
everything in between.
Currently we're printing monthly, but options of that being
changed to every two months (6/year) are in discussion. I'm trying to keep it
on the schedule it's on if I can though.
2) What the hell drove you to create your own magazine?
Well, it actually started as kind of a joke, but ended up
becoming a vehicle. I did a lot of freelance fiction at the time and was trying
to break into the pulp/digest magazine market (at the time ISAF, Analog, etc.)
with a 0% success rate. Eventually I gave up on that.
Then while at a Ren. Faire in NY state one year, Legends was
born as a retaliatory joke directed at some pamphlets that had been thrown
around that year by a fundamental religious group. Being pretty drunk at the
time, it prompted me to write an article contradicting their points. I really
wanted to print this, but nobody would touch it. So I put it out myself and
wrapped some of those other things that nobody wanted from before around it and
called it a "magazine" and threw it out there in a pamphlet style just like
After what was to be the third and final issue of Legends, I
realized I was having fun. So I kept going. You can see all the original issues
in full at the website too - but they're really embarrassing so I'd rather you
3) What qualities do you look for in a Legends writer?
It really depends on the content. If I'm looking for a music
reviewer, I want someone who isn't afraid to state their opinion. And state it
strongly, succinctly and with backing data. At the same time I want them to
take many things into consideration and try to find some good in it somewhere.
For fiction writers, I look for unpredictability. A lot of
the best stories have already been told - but not in every possible way and
from every possible view. There's still some good, refreshing and new stories
coming out occasionally, but if you're going to touch upon an "old fashioned
ghost story" for example, try and find a different way of telling it. Your own
usage of different points of view in some of your stories that I've run are an
excellent example of this.
I'm also not afraid to print long stories, and am looking at
a few that will run over long stretches in next year's issues. But serials are
very difficult to remain strong reading as the months roll on. So if I'm
looking at a fiction serial that I'd expect needs to run over 3 months, I'm
looking for a writer's ability to balance long plots without relying too
heavily on previous chapters (for those readers who didn't get the previous
month's issue), while keeping the story's flow moving fluidly along.
Another issue over the years is exclusivity. While five
years ago I might have printed almost anything, as Legends gains in popularity
so do increase the submissions. Having to reject things from printing is a new
experience for me. I'm not sure I like that part of running Legends though, but
I guess I have to.
4) Legends is predominantly a music
magazine, what then prompted you to add fiction, now it's an integral part of
the mag, was that intentional or did it begin as just a page filler?
Legends was originally a fantasy fiction magazine. The music
started to become primary and was pretty heavily fastened on by issues numbered
in the 80s. While there were many that contained purely music related articles,
I do try to keep the fiction aspect of the magazine strong since Legends cut
its teeth on it.
I am working on getting new material from many authors right
now in addition to working on a compilation book project being tentatively
called Decade of Dark. This will be a best-of-fiction collection over Legends'
5) Some of the cover illustrations are fantastic how do
you suit a writer to an artist? Or is it just a case of flinging a story at an
artist randomly and seeing what they come up with?
I do have some kind of method to the madness. Most of the
artists I work with I do so very closely. In many cases I have other projects
with them that have already made me familiar with the type of work they do.
Zubrovka for example, has a gallery at Surreal RAYn and also works on some of
the Serpent's Inn site as well. I'm familiar with his work that way and know
that the type of work he does is modern and photographically based, so that
works great for modern horror, suspense and thrillers while it doesn't sit
right with medieval fantasy types of stories.
Meanwhile, I've worked with Lee Alverson for quite a while
now as he was the second illustrator of the Serpent's Inn series. He's also
handled some very large Legends projects with the Disoriented serial as one
example. Lee Alverson has a graphic artist approach to his work and uses
digital tools like Poser. That makes him good for action-adventure style work,
and he's especially good at dark sci-fi style pieces. Additionally he's never
afraid to push the bar on some of his more risqué work, which makes him
perfect for stories like this month's feature, Birthing.
When a new illustrator
approaches me - someone I've not worked with yet - then yes I throw something
at them randomly to see what happens. But usually by the second or third piece
from an artist I develop an idea of what type of stories I might ask them to do
in the future.
6) How has Legends developed over the years and where do
you see it going in the future?
Over the years it's simply grown in scope. The website built
up a huge following for Legends Magazine that numbers around 25,000 readers
each month and has really helped it spread. The increase in those that I found
willing to help with it is purely because of the ability to communicate via the
Internet and that in turn means I have a staff ready to handle the workload
that comes in whether it's new stories, CDs or books for review.
Viewing earlier issues and comparing them to recent issues
can truly be a humbling experience for me. I really fought with myself over
whether or not to put everything up from issue 1 onward to be read at the
website, since I find a lot of my past work to be simply bad. But I did,
because Legends is more fun to talk about as a whole rather than in pieces.
7) What makes a good horror writer?
For horror, I think that unpredictability is a good policy
to follow. When writing straight horror fiction, which really has been done to
death through the 80s, it's difficult to stay away from the clichés that
are rife throughout it. If there weren't so many bad horror clichés they
wouldn't have been able to make two Scary Movie spoofs that made millions each
here in the states.
8) We've all been driven from our beds in the early hours
with a feeling not to be confused with but very similar to the need to pee. It
is of course the urge to write that crazy idea that floated into your head
unbidden in the early hours. With you it must be intermingled with
ungodly-hour-ideas for the mag. When were you first hit with this
I have a problem sleeping at all, since I've always
considered it a waste of time. Getting bonked awake by an idea doesn't happen
very often to me since when I do sleep I tend to crash rather than rest. The
house can crumble down around me and I'll sleep on. When that sort of thing
does happen I don't write it down nearly as much as I should.
Most of the time I get urges to write while I'm in the car -
which is a very bad place to have that happen believe me. I've taken to
carrying a steno pad around with me just for my brainstorm bric-a-brac, but
again that's still not something you do in the car.
) When were you first aware of the need to write, and
what are your earliest memories of creative writing?) When were you first aware
of the need to write, and what are your earliest memories of creative
I've been writing since I was approximately 10 years old. My
earliest memory of writing was when I was in the 6th grade and I wrote a
dictionary of "bad words" that got me in some serious trouble with the
teachers. I still have that little book.
Then I went on to start creating a family newspaper, sealing
my fate as a geek from that day forward.
10) What was the first thing you ever wrote that you were
truly proud of? That defining piece that told you 'I'm going to be a
That's a tough one. I remember writing a drama once when I
was around 15. It's been lost to time since then, but it was a story about a
cave in within an underground bunker during a war and took a Lord of the Flies
type of take on the survivors while they were down there. I think that might
have been the only drama fiction I ever wrote, but I really liked it. I have no
idea where it ended up.
11) People have different ideas about horror. How would
you define the word 'horror' in relation to writing?
When you say "horror," most people think of straight macabre
fiction along the lines of King or Strauss. That's usually what I think of,
unless you also bring up other words like "suspense," "slasher" or "thriller."
I don't know if I'm qualified enough to decide what it should mean.
12) I know you are outspoken, opinionated and direct, all
admirable qualities in a bad-assed magazine editor but do you have any morals
when it comes to writing? Are there places you won't go?
None. There are limits on what I'd print,
yes, taking into account the audience that I have. But when I'm writing, no
there are no limits. Most of what I write will never be seen.
13) How did you first become published? And was it an
easy transition from writer to 'published writer' or was it the proverbial
I gave up the publishing route for some time when I started
Legends. I discovered that it's something I like to do, but probably not
something I can live off of. Suddenly I found myself writing technology
articles for non-fiction magazines as I built up my career in the IT market,
and most of my non-Legends published writing is from that. I've never gone
through the "nightmare" - I strategically pre-empted it by surprising them on
the non-fiction side of the fence.
14) Where do you find your inspiration? Characters?
Inside my head are tons of stories that I like to visit
fairly often. While sure I have seen a really nice full moon one night and went
on to write something like Piss On Your Grave which appears in the latest issue
of The City Morgue, usually what ends up written down pours right out of my
head. Like I said, most of that never gets published anywhere and that's
probably a good thing.
15) How do you structure your writing? I read somewhere
that James Herbert writes one page a day, every day. That no matter what he's
doing or where he is, he always writes that one page and no more. I suppose
being on a roll makes it hard to leave but easy to return to, and being at a
sticking point isn't a problem because you know that you only have one page to
get through. How do you manage your writing time?
It's been very hard to write lately and I've been pretty lax
what-with handling the editing/business side of Legends Magazine, but I do keep
a journal that I try to write in as often as I can. This journal is completely
freeform and has no set boundaries - it could be a journalistic account of what
I've been up to, or it could be a sudden turn into a new storyline that fell
out of my head. Most of what is being published by me now had its start
somewhere in the journal. It's my filter.
16) Sell Legends to us please. Why should we buy your
magazine? What is it that you personally like about it?
This is really the question I've never been good at. But I
think one of the strongest things about Legends is that while there are other
magazines in the indie market and, indeed, in my segment of music and fiction
(The City Morgue, Outburn, Starvox, et. al), I think there are some things we
offer differently or better.
On the music side of things, bands and labels can be assured
of a full length review. Legends doesn't write one paragraph blurb reviews and
treats every CD as a new article. We're not column-based, we're
On the fiction side of things, some of the writers that have
printed with Legends have gone on to book contracts and further publishing. I
feel that I have a nose for a good story, and think I've assembled a stable of
17) Do you use events, experiences, thoughts or beliefs
from your own life in your writing, or is your personal life kept well apart
from what you write?
My journal is rife with personal pieces, and while again
most of it remains locked up sometimes a personal piece of it will leak out to
the public occasionally. But I figure if I keep it mixed up enough nobody will
be able to tell the personal pieces from the others.
18) Many of us on UKAuthors keep (and God forbid) post
our journals. Do you, or have you ever, kept a diary or a journal?
Hah, see above. Yes. And no it's not something I can post
like you brave folks.
19) Do you have times when you don't want to write? How
do you overcome that? Do you ever suffer from writer's block? Or what I think
is far worse, writer's laziness?
Writer's block I get fairly often. But having a journal
where there's no set schedule helps with that. It's also unformatted, so I can
read it later and pick out pieces that might become a new story with the right
20) Have you ever been truly hurt by negative criticism,
or can you easily detach your writing from yourself?
I can detach my writing from me fairly well because I've
always been of the mind that mine is really the only opinion that I should care
about. I do chastise and berate myself more than I should though if that counts
for the above question.
21) What do you do with writing that you feel is
sub-standard? Both your own and other people's?
My own just stays in the journal never to see the light of
day. And there's whole loads of it, too.
Other people's I will either work with to better the
standard if I can or I have to turn it down if it's submitted.
22) Who do you admire as a writer?
I'm a fan of a lot of
writers, from Jules Verne to Shakespeare, Stephen King to Philip Dick. I read a
lot, and while I was working in Manhattan for a while read voraciously. I can't
say that any stand out per se, although Douglas Adams impresses the hell out of
23) If you could be one famous person alive or dead who
would it be?
I'll have to come back to this one. I might
not even come up with something for this one, but we'll see.
24) Most people are not lucky enough to own their own
magazine Have you done any other jobs before becoming an editor?
Oh, from one end of the spectrum to the other. Before,
during and probably after. Blue and white collar. I've done everything from
construction to contracting to IT/technical to retail. I'm currently
contracting in the medical sector as a software specialist. And at night I load
25) Can you tell us about some of your writing
triumphs...the highs and lows of your career?
Legends has been more like a slow build. But I guess one
would be when Legends hit the decade mark in 2000. Being at Convergence 8 with
the chance to be on a zine discussion panel was really cool also. I'll have
another when Decade of Dark gets completed, but other than those two it's been
more like small hurdles. When you think about it, twelve years now, I've sure
taken my damn time with all of this.
Lows tend to be more personal. Releasing Jaken Steele as
editor in formative years, or having to create the first few issues completely
on my own because most everyone who promised to help didn't. Another one that
comes to mind is my accidental use of an image copyrighted by UK artist Stephen
Stone. I was still in the habit of printing public domain images because I
didn't have any artists yet, but I trusted somebody else when they sent it to
me as such and got lax with researching its rights. I felt incredibly horrible
about that and I bought the one-time right to the piece so that the issue could
remain out there. I believe it still remains as the most expensive issue I ever
26) What did you spend your first
payment from writing on?
A pack of cigarettes. The best damn cigarettes I ever
27) Do you ever fear losing you creativity.
Not as of yet. I suppose that could be a future concern but
I don't feel I've tapped the well dry as of yet.
28) If you woke up tomorrow and found you could no longer
write, if the words were gone, how would you compensate?
I'm not so sure I could. I write worlds better than I talk.
There wouldn't be anything to compensate with.
29) What does being a writer mean to you?
Being read is one of the greatest joys I have. Knowing that
there really are people out there besides myself that are reading it. It means
I can have something to say and, unlike most people, possibly get other people
to listen. The pen is mightier than the sword, as the saying goes.
And maybe after I'm dead they will still read some of it and
that's the surest form of immortality that I think I have a chance of reaching.
Being a writer is my bid for immortality.