A Brief Chat with Dan Coxon
Dan Coxon is an award-winning editor and writer based in London. His non-fiction anthology Writing The Uncanny (co-edited with Richard V. Hirst) won the British Fantasy Award for Best Non-Fiction 2022, while his short story collection Only The Broken Remain, published by Black Shuck Books, was shortlisted for two British Fantasy Awards in 2021 (Best Collection, Best Newcomer). In 2018 his anthology of British folk-horror, This Dreaming Isle from Unsung Stories, was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award.
His short stories have appeared in various anthologies, including Nox Pareidolia, Beyond the Veil, Mother: Tales of Love and Terror and Flame Tree's Terrifying Ghosts. His latest anthology, Isolation, was published by Titan Books in September 2022. He runs a proofreading and editing service, working with both publishers and private clients.
Hello, Dan. Let’s jump straight in. Who is your favourite author?
I'm terrible at questions like this. Social media seems to be full of them at the moment, challenging people to list their favourite movies, worst albums, most cherished books... and every time, my mind goes blank. I used to be a huge fan of Iain Banks and wrote my university dissertation on him (including the Iain M. Banks SF books), but since his death, I’ve found it emotionally difficult to revisit any of them. He was the first author who spoke openly and encouragingly to me when I was starting out. One day, hopefully, I’ll be ready to read them all again.
What is your favourite book?
I guess this should be an Iain Banks book, but I've just finished rereading Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood (for a forthcoming project - watch this space!), and it’s wonderful. That said, I think I like the sequel, Lavondyss, even more. That’s up next...
What was your inspiration for putting together Isolation?
I’d been thinking of editing another anthology for a while, but nothing was inspiring me. As part of my working process, I tend to come up with multiple ideas and reject those that aren’t working, or don’t stick in my head... and nothing was sticking. It was during the pandemic, and at some point - I suspect early one morning when I should have been asleep - since that’s when all my deep thinking seems to happen - I latched on to isolation as a theme. The more I thought about it, the more I realised it wasn’t just something that was relevant to the pandemic – it’s intrinsic to most horror, at least at some point. It touches upon mental health issues too, which I keep coming back to in my work, and the concept just refused to leave my head. Eventually, I just had to do something about it.
What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to publishers and magazines?
Don’t give up, and don’t take the rejections to heart. Yes, they can be a sign that your story isn’t polished enough yet - and if an editor gives you any specific feedback, seriously consider acting on it. But rejections are just a part of this business. There’s no getting away from them. The way I like to see it is that if you aren’t getting rejected, then you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough. Rejections are a sign that you’re pushing the margins and trying to improve - which is always a good thing.
Thank you, Dan, for answering those questions.
I attended a workshop of Dan’s at the Leeds Lit Festival 2023 after becoming aware of his work via the wonderful Writing The Uncanny, and I found his advice very insightful and interesting. I’ve since read Isolation, which is excellent, and I’d recommend it to lovers of horror. Visit his website for more information.
Thank you for reading this month’s Brief Chat.