The Splatter Club: Interview with Necro Publications, Bedlam Press, & Weird West Books Owner and Author DAvid G. Barnett!
TRAP: Welcome and thank you for stopping by The Splatter Club! You’re a man of many traits and known throughout the industry. Not only are you the owner of Necro Publications, but you’re also an author, designer and DJ. We’re going to touch base on each one, but let’s dive right in and start with the publishing side. Necro Publications has been a leader in publishing modern horror for the past 25 years. That’s a remarkable achievement. What were some of the ups and downs?
DAVID: It’s been a long ride. Some bumps here and there, but smooth. I guess just still being relevant after almost 25 years is achievement enough. I’ve seen a hundred small presses come and go. I almost called it quits after my hip replacement. The hardcover market just wasn’t there anymore thanks to eBooks entering the game. Luckily, I jumped into eBooks early and aggressively and saved Necro. Of course, without Edward Lee’s books that wouldn’t have happened. We’ve done some classic books, some beautiful books and some controversial books.
TRAP: With Necro spanning all those years, you’ve had to have had some crazy moments?
DAVID: Trying to keep Edward Lee wrangled at conventions is always an undertaking. We set up times at the table for him to sit and sign. Problem is, he can’t sit still. He smokes like crazy so he has to get up every 10 minutes to go outside and smoke. Then you have to get him back.
One year, at World Horror Con in Denver, Colorado, the hotel returned all my books I sent out there to sell. So I had nothing for the whole weekend. I rented a car and drove into the mountains to scream. Conventions are always the most fun I’ve had in the business. From my first World Horror Con in Atlanta, Georgia, where I met R.L. Stine and his wife and later was called a coward by Harlan Ellison…to a crazed drive through Kansas City to get some fried pork sandwiches. Good times.
TRAP: What are some of Necro’s biggest selling books?
DAVID: The Edward Lee books have always been the best-selling. In the old days I could do a 400-copy hardcover run and sell out almost immediately. Now I’m hard-pressed to sell 26 lettered copies. INTO PAINFREAK has been our best-seller recently. Great line-up in that one, so it makes sense. Lee’s THE BIGHEAD, GOON and the Infernal books all sell well still. And THE PRESERVE by Patrick Lestewka and DREAD IN THE BEAST by Charlee Jacob still sell decently.
TRAP: What do you like best about publishing? Still like the cool limited edition hardcovers?
DAVID: Seeing a project from beginning to end. Holding that new book in my hands is still cool. I also like giving a new author a chance. Seeing them happy they got a book published. I just wish I could get lots of money to them.
I do the 26-copy lettered of every new title. I may do more depending on the author, but I don’t foresee ever doing more than 100 again. It’s just not there for me, which sucks, because Necro was there doing quality hardcovers for so long. But it got to the point where I was dumping so much money into hardcovers, ones I am still trying to sell a decade later.
TRAP: What are your thoughts on eBooks?
DAVID: I love eBooks. I completely understand why people don’t buy print books anymore. I want to get rid of all my books. I have way too much stuff. I read to read. I just want the words. Do I appreciate a nice book? Absolutely. Love them. I love designing them. Wish I had the money to spend on gorgeous editions of books that are important to me. But when it comes to reading, I love my Kindle. Big text, tons of books. I buy something, I can start reading it immediately. I send all my manuscripts to the Kindle to read. It’s awesome.
TRAP: Every publisher has to send out the dreaded rejection letters. With the high quality standard of Necro, how many stories on average don’t make the cut? What about for artwork and literature?
DAVID: I closed to submissions a long time ago, so I don’t really have that many rejections anymore. But I would read hundreds throughout the year and publish a dozen or so.
As for artwork, I only hire artists for cover art if it’s something I can’t do myself. I send them the story and let them work with the author on coming up with what the author would like to see.
As for literature, I don’t look for high art; I look for entertaining genre fiction. Some of it crosses into the literature side, as books by Charlee Jacob and Gerard Houarner do. But most of what I publish is just well-written, fun modern genre fiction for everyone.
TRAP: What kind of novels and stories are you looking for which meet the standards of Necro?
DAVID: I just want well-crafted dark fiction with gore pertinent to the story. So many people try to give me Edward Lee like work, but it all tends to miss what Lee has and that’s a sense of humor. I’m really into urban fantasy now, like the Nightside books by Green and Dresden books by Butcher. Lots of creatures and magic and murder. I still like it when I’m shown new worlds or new sides to this world. I like noir detective fiction. Stuff that make you want to keep reading. That is my main focus when reading a manuscript… I have to WANT to get back to it because it’s got me so involved.
TRAP: Who is the average buyer of Necro books?
DAVID: Someone who is just really into quality dark fiction. Of course, we want twisted people who like a good skull-fuckin’ story, but also someone who wants a Charlee Jacob book that takes them deep, deep, deep into a horrible dark place. The high-end book collector is awesome too. We still do beautiful lettered edition hardcovers, albeit in a very small print run. I guarantee we have something for everyone out there. We’re diverse… We’re perverse… And we publish damn good books.
TRAP: Besides publishing, you are an author yourself. Tell us about your style of writing.
DAVID: I try to write so the story I’m telling can easily be seen as a movie. Sharp dialogue, not overly complicated, well-developed characters. Even though reviews constantly refer to the gore in my work, I don’t really consider stuff to be that bad. But I guess it is splatterpunk to a certain degree. Definitely not Edward Lee graphic which a lot of reviews like to compare me to. I’m such a slow writer. I haven’t written since 2016. Not sure what my problem is. I have a ton of ideas and know what I want to do with them, I just don’t have the discipline to write every day. It pisses me off. I should probably see someone about my hang-ups and try to get on track. It’s just that the writing falls under the publishing in priority and the publishing takes up a lot of time. I have a killer idea for a young reader series that is Burton-esque based on me to an extent. Another creepy idea that harkens back to a ’80s monster novel. More Fallen stories. It’s all in my head, I just need to get it all out. I like coming up with ideas and developing it all in my head, I just hate the typing it out process. My books have done well critically, but the sales are shit. That may be another thing that keeps me from doing more. Why do it if no one cares? Again, something I need to get past.
TRAP: You also own a design company and design a lot of books for other horror publishers. How did that come about?
DAVID: Yeah, I own Fat Cat Graphic Design. I specialize in book design. When I started Necro, I put out a magazine called INTO THE DARKNESS. I was active in SPGA (The Small Press Genre Association) and I got the magazine to a lot of people in the business. Other publishers started asking me if I’d design their magazines. Then John Pelan asked me to design some of the Darkside Press books. People seemed to like my design and I ended up doing work for DNA Publications who bought out WEIRD TALES at the time. Obsidian, Sideshow, Bereshith, James Cahill Publishing, Dark Regions, Subterranean and a number of other small presses. I now design for Thunderstorm, Cemetery Dance, Skidrow Penthouse/Rain Mountain Press, Overlook Connection, Camelot Books and a bunch of other non-genre stuff. I even do college books: philosophy, history, lots of poetry books. I’m even designing a German/English edition of MEIN KAMPF for a professor up in Michigan. Thing is a beast and it’s only the first volume. I can basically handle someone’s entire production from manuscript file to final product. Book project specialist. I’m always looking for more work, so if anyone out these needs help with designing books, hit me up. Front cover to back, I take care of it all.
TRAP: You also were a DJ and currently produce a great podcast called Dance Machine 5000. Tell us about DM5K and is music another passion for you?
DAVID: I have a BA in radio/television and wanted to go into radio. I started DJing on air in 1989 at, WUCF. It was the college radio station at the University of Central Florida. I did a 5-hour industrial-Goth-electronic show every Monday morning from midnight-5 A.M. (That ended up being brutal when I started coaching rowing at 6 A.M. and then had an internship 40 miles away at COOL-105. Surprised I didn’t die. Ah, youth.) Anyway, it was a lot of fun even though the faculty who ran the station were a bunch of fucks who hated alternative music and made classical and jazz the main focus of the station. I could go off on quite a rant about that, but I’ll spare you. I got asked to DJ a night at this small bar/club near UCF called The Filling Station. Didn’t last long, but opened the doors to other offers. Eventually got fired from WUCF after three years. Again, I’ll spare you the rant and just say, fuck those assholes.
In 1991, I started the first long-running night called Six Feet Under. Did that with DJ Mot. Lasted 3 years, then I took a break for 6 years. In 2001, I went back out to a club in downtown Orlando called Barbarellas. I had previously DJ’d there a number of times in the early ’90s. A guy who I helped get a job there was still there and helped set me up to come back and spin again. Turned into a great gig. Night was called Necropolis. Lasted until 2012, when I decided my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. My main goal as a DJ is to expose people to new music and I just didn’t feel like I was doing that anymore. Playing old, tired stuff just bores me. So, I retired from the club scene. All along I had been doing these DJ mixes called LDMXs. My DJ name is DJ L.D., btw. The mixes were free and designed to get people used to new stuff. They were always a big hit, so I tried various other ways to get music heard. I dabbled in internet radio, but the account was expensive so I killed that. Then podcasts came along. I had been using GarageBand to make my mixes and it was easy to just convert them into a podcast, so I taught myself how to do it all and started Dance Machine 5000. Now I get music out to people all over the world. It’s cool.
Being a DJ is a lot like being a publisher. You’re constantly on the lookout for that gem in the pile of rocks that you can brush off and share with others. It’s all about “new” for me. I hate wallowing in the past. It’s nice to visit the past with an old song here and there, but I just don’t understand living in it, as if trying to recapture youth. Not happening, progress or die. I don’t reread books and I don’t rewatch movies unless they’re comedies. The only things I do rewatch are shows like FAMILY GUY, AMERICAN DAD and SOUTH PARK. Always funny. Always makes me smile. And smiling is good.
TRAP: Thank you very much for the interview and for stopping by The Splatter Club!
DAVID: Thanks for supporting horror!
Join the Splatter Club:
TRAP: You can find David at the following sites:
(podcast mix of all the best in new industrial/EBM/synthpop/electro/Goth and more)