Interview with David Wilson, Editor-in-chief of DeadLights Magazine

March 2, 2017


DeadLights Magazine, for those that have not read Issue #1, is like a market smorgasbord of horror. There’s quiet, screaming, gory, painful…


“We have something for everyone. We are a magazine set to feature known authors, and will have major authors publishing with us. We also are proud to publish up-and-coming authors, as well as brand new talent. What is really cool, too, is that we have a ‘The Future of Fear’ section, which allows authors under the age of 18 to publish in our magazine. Getting them interested in writing, reading, and publishing fiction is important—even if they don’t end up in horror when they’re older, they’ll have the experience to rely on. So, not only will you enjoy work from writers you know or have heard of, but you’ll get to find new authors to enjoy and you’ll get to support an upcoming generation of authors.


“You’ll also get to enjoy top-notch art, drawn by new and experienced horror artists. This includes cover art, interior art, and one Horror-Comics Strip per issue! Included, as well, is Flash Fiction, Poetry, Creative Non-Fiction, and Reviews. There are articles written by James Newman (Odd Man Out, The Wicked) who covers horror on streaming platforms, and by Mark Sieber, who writes about older books that have gone off the radar. He’s not only a great guy, but he’s well read, and has had an article running in Cemetery Dance for a long time—he knows what’s up,” said David Wilson, editor-in-chief of DeadLights Magazine.


The second issue is out in April and will feature a short story by Jack Ketchum, as well as an interview with the master storyteller. Again, this will feature cover art by Shawn Langley, and a variety of fiction.


“We are a Horror Fiction Magazine, and so we plan to cover all aspects of horror as best we can. This is an ambitious goal, so there will be issues where we don’t receive, say, an experimental piece, and we won’t, then, have that variation. But, our goal is to give writers, especially new writers, the ability to submit stories of all variations to our magazine, which we hope motivates them to try out the various forms of Horror Fiction,” said Wilson.


Wilson also plans to put an anthology from the six issues of the E-Zine Shotgun Horror Clips. “Around June, I hope to start taking submissions for a special ‘Strange Stories’ anthology, and at the end of year one, I hope to start taking submissions for a special ‘DeadLights’ anthology.” This will be built from a submissions guestlist of those who’ve had stories published in DeadLights.


That’s all in the future, as far as the first issue goes, what really worked for me as a customer and consumer of fiction were two pieces of fiction in particular: American at Work by Mason Morgan, and, my personal favorite of the fairly lengthy and varied spread of fiction, The Blanket From the Sky by N.D. Coley.


Both stories came by way of general submissions, a process by Wilson’s own admission was surprising in breadth, “wasn’t initially prepared to receive what we did! We’ve smoothed these things out since.”


Of course, a magazine needs more than just fiction and the will to wade through submissions, more than the features, reviews, hell, more than the capital, it takes an idea and motivation. And sometimes, a side-door to opportunity.


“I didn’t have the dream, as young man, to be a publisher (although I did, at one time, want to be a writer—and I still write fiction for fun; for myself and for my wife), and I didn’t think I’d be involved in the Horror Genre, much less.


“Not even a few years ago, I was on-track to be a doctor, an Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist. I served in the Air Force in 2007—2011. I worked in a Military Optometry Clinic as a Technician on Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, Hawaii. Once I became a civilian, I wasn’t content with that position, so I began working my way up into different positions. I did everything. I worked as an Optometric Technician for a while, then as an Optician, selling glasses; I got a job, making glasses in a Lenscrafters Lab for a summer. I was given the chance to become an Ophthalmic Technician, assisting eye surgeons in clinic, and I took that on without a second thought. That was some crazy stuff, man. I did everything from finding glasses prescriptions to assisting in injections, injections straight into the globe, as well as small procedures (like lacing up lacerations). Good times.


“I was reading and writing this entire time. I was reading about writing, as well, and learning a lot about what it takes to put together a short story or a novel. I thought that maybe I’d write, too, in between my working hours. And, I was really enjoying the Horror Genre; that, besides literature, has always been my favorite sort of novel and short story.


“I eventually worked my way up to the point where I was assisting in eye surgeries, too; I once again worked for the Air Force. I was a part of a refractive surgery team, performing LASIK on Army and Air Force personnel. After a while, I got to the point where I felt as though I could go to Optometry School, maybe Medical School. It made sense. The trajectory was right, and I’m from a family that has worked in the medical field—Surgeons, Hospital Administrators, and Nurses.


“So why not? I moved back home and got serious about a college education. My English classes were some of my favorite classes, and I found that I was particularly good at editing, but I was focused on becoming a doctor, and so I was mostly loaded down with math and science based classes. This is about the time I started having problems with PTSD and anxiety. The problem started small, like having a hard time being in small spaces filled with a lot of people—let’s say, a restaurant. It then translated into the classroom.


“Then I started having panic attacks. Panic attacks aren’t like what you’d imagine, not like what the movies make them out to be; some stressed out college kid, worrying over a test, hyperventilating. They make you feel as though you’re having a heart attack and, if left untreated, you end up passing out as your system resets. Passing out can be dangerous. You pass out while standing up, you hit your head just the wrong way, and its game over.


“I started having doubts about becoming a doctor once the panic attacks started, but I continued to try to push through it. As a fall-back, I began studying English. I enrolled to study both Pre-Medicine and Literature. My panic attacks became worse. I gave up on becoming a doctor. I also quit my job as an Ophthalmic Assistant (something I was doing while seeking a degree). I no longer trusted myself as a medical professional—if I had a panic attack in the middle of a procedure and passed out, what would happen? Nothing good.


“In my junior year, my panic attacks became what they call ‘chronic’, which is to say that they started happening every day due to no psychological cause, with no sign of a quick fix. I was unable to continue my studies (although much of my education was taking place in the University Library—I found that I learned faster than the English Department could teach). It was a tough realization to come to: you aren’t even well enough to finish an English Degree on campus. I have enough credits for an A.A. in English, and I may go back (online) to finish the formal degree.


“For a while, there was empty space. I knew I couldn’t become a doctor. I knew that I couldn’t teach English. In fact, I was worried that I couldn’t hold a steady job, much less something that involving any education. To cope, I started reading again, really reading, like novels-upon-novels and short stories-upon-short stories reading. And, eventually, I came back to what I love: Pop-Punk Music and Horror Fiction. I started reading Cemetery Dance Magazine, and I joined a forum that was for horror fans, by horror fans. What I couldn’t study academically, I began to study at home, in between panic attacks.


“I started looking at the market. There wasn’t much there in magazine form. There are some great journals, though. I’ve ordered and read most everything from every magazine publication, print and kindle. They look more like books than magazines. I started to realize that there was a hole that I could fill. There are a lot of independent presses right now that focus on horror (although the genre breathes as though it is a live being, and we are on an exhale at the moment, with a few presses having to close their doors), and major publishers still put out books by Stephen King, etc., but what about magazines? A good, old-fashioned horror magazine?  


“I then decided that I was in the perfect position to start my own publication. Something old mixed with something new. I could do most of the work from home, and I knew that my editing skills were not at an amateurs’ level, so there was the raw ability available to me. With similar discipline, learned in the Air Force, in the medical field, as well as in College, I turned my dormant efforts toward producing a magazine. The learning curve was huge, and I’m still learning. Much of what you see in the first issue is work that I did, alone. I’ve since met people who are interested in editing, first reading, and marketing. They are/continue to be a huge help. Most volunteer their services, too. They’ve been extraordinarily kind to me and this project, without knowing about my condition. I can’t thank them enough for that.


“And, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the amount of people interested in a horror magazine, especially one geared for up-and-coming writers, new writers, and writers who are not yet ‘adults’ (our ‘The Future of Fear’ section caters especially to those authors). Artists, too, have been similarly excited to find work with a publication that pays, and that requires original works that are from skilled hands and not digitally manipulated. Major authors, too, have become interested in the work I have going on, too. There’s not much more you can ask for besides that!  


“I still get panic attacks. If not every day, then every other day, and due to the medication I take to counteract the condition, I feel like I’ve run a marathon after the damn thing subsides. The attacks themselves can last from ten minutes (a ‘good one’) to a few hours when they’re not so good. But, I work hard to ensure that I make the best out of the situation I’m in. I have a lot of hope for the future. And, that’s the story behind the start of DeadLights,” said Wilson.


David Wilson was reached by email and I’d like to thank him for his time.

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Powell River, British Columbia, Canada
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