Wednesday 4 November 2015

Don D'Auria - The Editor Who Changed My Life

“Welcome to the Samhain family…”

I stared long and hard at those words. They danced around the ipad screen as I turned it one way, then another. But, whether vertical or horizontal – or on their way in between – those magical words flashed across my stunned and disbelieving brain.

“Welcome to the Samhain family...”

The first sound I managed was a sort of squawky yelp that sent my cat diving for cover under the nearest chair and my husband dashing into the room to find out what on earth I’d done to myself.

Incoherent, I jabbed my finger at the screen and thrust the ipad at him. He read the email that had just changed my life.

“Oh, well done,” he said, giving me a big hug and kiss. “I knew you could do it.”

So, what had I done to create all this excitement?

Well, “Samhain” referred to Samhain Publishing – who are celebrating their 10 anniversary this very week. Happy Birthday Samhain! The person who had written the lifechanging email was in sole charge of their entire horror line, Don D’Auria. Don’s editorial pedigree would rival any in the business and outclasses most – certainly in horror - if truth be told. He has worked with many of the greats – including one of my heroes, multi-award winning master British horror author, Ramsey Campbell.

 And Don D’Auria, of all people, had picked a story I had written to be one of four winners of the Samhain Gothic Anthology Competition.

I had to remind myself how to breathe. In…out…in…out… I swear it was a real effort in those first few heady minutes.

My winning novella – Linden Manor – was specially written for the competition. When I saw the details, I knew I had to enter. Gothic, ghostly, creepy houses, with dark corners and mysterious, sinister histories have always been the stuff of my favourite reading and writing. The anthology was called, What Waits in the Shadows, and within a day or two I had the germ of a storyline. It grew organically and virtually wrote itself, the way some stories do. 

 I was further stunned when I read the other winning entries – Blood Red Roses by Russell James, Castle by the Sea by JG Faherty and Bootleg Cove by Devin Govaere. Fabulous, creepy. Scary and Gothic. Each one original and individual. I was in esteemed company.

Coincidentally, a day or so before I received the stunning email from Don, I had submitted a full length novel manuscript – Saving Grace Devine – a ghostly horror tale with a timeslip. I mentioned this in my ecstatic reply and within 24 hours, Don had come back to me. He loved it. He was offering me a contract!
 All my Christmasses and birthdays had arrived at once.

Working with Don is such a pleasure. He never tries to imprint your work with his stamp. As a result, Samhain has benefited from having some for the most original, daring, entertaining and diverse modern horror writing around. Over the past four years, he has built up an amazing body of work from a hugely talented bunch of authors, including some of today’s hot new names.

I have had the privilege of working with him on a further novel – The Pendle Curse – and a novella – Dark Avenging Angel. In both cases, his suggestions were always spot on and he never once tried to alter, amend or in any way change my ‘voice’.

 Sadly, joy turned to shock yesterday with the news that this will be Don’s last week with Samhain but, wherever he moves onto, his knack for finding talent, nurturing it and letting it grow and bloom will, I am sure, continue - I hope for many more years to come. I certainly trust that I will again have the pleasure and the privilege of working with him. Indeed, I look forward to it.

Whatever happens in the future, I shall always be able to point to four works of mine and turn to the page that reads, ‘Edited by Don D’Auria’.

As a horror writer, I can’t say better than that.

Thank you, Don. I know it sounds over-dramatic, but to have someone with your reputation believe in me has been, for me, truly life-changing.