CLARISSA: Please describe a brief background of what you do related to the horror industry.
MATT: I write novels and short stories. THE ORGAN DONOR, based on Chinese mythology, came out as a trade paperback a couple years ago, and my collection DEATH SENTENCES comes out as a limited edition paperback this August. I also write a monthly column about writing for horrorworld.org, and my short stories appear in magazines such as Cemetery Dance. I've been submitting fiction for publication ever since I graduated from high school 14 years ago. My website is matthewwarner.com.
DEENA: I am, first and foremost, a fan of the horror genre. I have read scary stories as long as I can remember. As a hobby, I used to draw scenes from my favorite books and some of my nightmares. Before I knew it, I was asked to illustrate covers for upcoming novels by authors I love. Now, my time is split between creating images for book covers and designing websites for authors, publishers and organizations.
CLARISSA: Do you attend conventions often?
MATT: I think I do--although people in other industries might have a different definition of what "often" means. I've been attending two or three conventions per year for the past five years.
DEENA: I'm more of a newbie to conventions than Matt is, but we mostly go to the same ones now. Two or three a year is a good number for us; that's enough that we stay connected to our friends and the industry, and since we only go to a few, they stay fresh and exciting.
CLARISSA: What are some of your favorite? and why? Any certain one that stands out the most, or meant the most to you?
MATT: The cons I have attended are annual ones for horror industry professionals and horror fans, such as the World Horror Convention, Horrorfind Weekend, ChillerCon, Necon, and Bram Stoker Awards. I've also been to the World Fantasy Convention and to some informal "cons" that were really just keggers at friends' houses (such as NewmanCon and KeeneCon). The ones I find the most valuable are the World Horror Convention and Horrorfind Weekend. The World Horror Convention is mainly a professional conference, held in a different city each year, which is attended by authors, editors, and publishers. It's a great opportunity to network, renew friendships, and learn from others. The Horrorfind Weekend, held every summer in Baltimore, has the professional crowd, but it also has tons of fans, giving me a great opportunity to promote my work.
DEENA: If I had to choose just one to go to each year, I'd choose the World Horror Convention. I like that this one focuses solely on publishing rather than movies or television. The convention that meant the most to me was one of the informal ones already mentioned, NewmanCon. This was a weekend-long Halloween gathering at author James Newman's house. This one will always stay dear to me because it's where Matt and I first met.
CLARISSA: Do you think other people would enjoy attending?
MATT: I'll answer this as if you were a horror writer who'd asked me this question. The short answer is yes--but it depends on what you want to accomplish. If you're a no-nonsense writer who doesn't like crowds, then you'll be miserable among the screaming hordes of ChillerCon. If you want to relax, play frisbee, and generally not be under a lot of pressure, then you'll like the summer-camp atmosphere of Necon.
DEENA: I think conventions are a great thing to attend no matter what industry you're interested in. If you really like classic cars, it's a thrill to go to auto expos. If you want to become a better child care provider, there are conferences devoted to that. Since I love to read and participate in horror publishing, these conventions are a priceless way to connect with like-minded people.
CLARISSA: What would come out of these people attending?
MATT: I attend conventions for professional reasons, so I'm conscious of the old saying that goes, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Likewise, for any writer and publisher, conventions are opportunities to advance your career. There's no substitute for meeting someone face to face.
DEENA: Well, you might just meet your future spouse! lol. The best part for me is being surrounded by people who share my specific interests. I never found anyone who had read anything by my favorite author, Robert Bloch, until I got involved with the horror community. It was amazing to network with people who had read more of him than I had! I have made many dear friends and professional connections at conventions over the years.
CLARISSA: [lol i have to ask] Are conventions geeky?
MATT: I think that fan conventions such as Chiller and Horrorfind are geekier than the professional cons--not that there's anything wrong with that. The general public comes to conventions to have fun: to participate in costume contests, to watch movies, to party, to meet their favorite TV and movie stars. Sure, there's always an element of folks without the full complement of social skills, but that's true anywhere you go.
DEENA: Conventions seem geekier on the outside than they do on the inside. Once you get in and start mingling with people, you realize that everyone is there to support a genre that they are passionate about. The attendees are regular people who are share a love for entertainment, literature and a good scare. It's a nice change from conversations about taxes and politics.
CLARISSA: Ever get star-struck at one?
MATT: Years before I started attending horror conventions, I went to a couple Star Trek conventions. (And no, I didn't wear Mr. Spock ears. For one thing, they never fit right.) Terry Farrell, who played Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine, was a guest of honor, and I think I might've blushed a little when I made it to the front of the line to have her sign her picture for me.
DEENA: The first horror con I went to was Horrorfind in Baltimore. Talk about diving right in! Everywhere I went I was star-struck. I couldn't believe there were so many authors, actors and publishers all in the same place. Even though I've grown a little more used to it, I still got starry-eyed when I met Joe Lansdale last year. He's a legend in my mind and an author I really admire.