My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars – A Hell of a Ride
In John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Pandemonium is the Capital of Hell, and that image perfectly captures the story that unfolds in J. C. Michael’s novel Pandemonium. Chaos and confusion reign supreme on New Year’s Eve in Warren Charlton’s new rave club Discoredia, after a new drug is distributed to the patrons.
The first third of the book gives us a glimpse into the lives of ravers, drug lords, and businessmen, before the cataclysmic events unfold. Each character is complex and flawed, adding to the sense of realism within the book. By the time the story reaches New Year’s Eve the pace becomes blistering and it’s almost impossible to put the novel down. Mr. Michael puts the reader inside the minds of drug-fuelled paranoid characters, as well as sober individuals, providing a perfect balance to view the mayhem as it unfurls.
On the cover is a snippet from a review by Andrew Lennon (author of A Life to Waste), referring to the novel as “Trainspotting meets 28 Days Later” and I couldn’t agree more. Rave clubs were never my scene, but the details provided by the author in Pandemonium are so clear that after reading it I felt like I was right along side the characters dancing and sweating at a fever pitch.
While trying to rate this novel, I was very close to giving it a 5 Star rating, but there was a secondary plot, involving the club owner’s family, which although it was well written, seemed disconnected to the main storyline. Also, without being a spoiler, there is a supernatural element to the book, which I wasn’t prepared for, and when I came across it I was taken out of the story as I thought I had missed something. The twist made sense, but I wish the author had introduced a few more images of otherworldly elements earlier, so the conclusion wasn’t as jarring. All that being said, this was a very enjoyable read with great characters and pacing, and all the blood and gore that I could ask for.
AND, at the end of the book is a bonus short story called “Reasons to Kill” which is fantastic.
Disclaimer: I received an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
Pandemonium will be unleashed on August 4, 2018, and is available on Amazon for pre-order (www.amazon.ca/Pandemonium)
I’ve read several releases by KJK Publishing and have been thoroughly impressed by the level of talent and the variety of writing styles and subjects. Besides Pandemonium, I would also recommend checking out 100 Word Horrors: An Anthology of Horror Drabbles, and You Only Get One Shot written by Kevin J. Kennedy and J.C. Michael.
In 100 Word Horrors: An Anthology of Horror Drabbles there is terror on every page. Killers, ghosts, demons, and all the other things from your nightmares, plus a few new ones to haunt your dreams, fill the pages of this fantastic collection. You can read my 5 of 5 Stars rating on Goodreads (100 Word Horrors Review)
Settle in for a fun and twisted read in You Only Get One Shot, which follows four authors as they attempt to write a short story that will save their lives. If they don’t submit a story, they die. If the story isn’t good enough, they die. And to top it off, they only get one shot to get it right. You can read my 4 of 5 Stars rating on Goodreads (You Only Get One Shot Review)
Luckily, the man behind KJK Publishing, Kevin J. Kennedy, had some time for an interview with me to talk about past and future releases.
WS: You co-wrote You Only Get One Shot with J.C. Michael, and he has appeared in some of KJK Publishing’s anthologies. How did you two first meet?
KJK: I think the first time I spoke to J.C. was soon after I had my first short story published in the Fifty Shades of Slay anthology which he appears in also. I had been a horror reader for years but was new to the industry and ended up talking to some of the other indie authors that I met in various horror groups. While he lives in England and I live in Scotland I felt we have had very similar lives and as time went on we spoke more and more, and our friendship grew.
WS: What did you enjoy most about working with a co-author?
KJK: I find when I work on longer projects on my own I tend to lose interest in them. That’s why I mainly stick to the short stories, because I finish them. When working on a longer piece with someone else you end up talking about it quite a bit and bouncing ideas back and forth and it keeps it fresh. I’d also never want to let anyone down so once you agree to co-write something you know it will get finished, no matter how long you need to work on it.
WS: J. C. Michael’s novel Pandemonium was originally released as Discoredia by Books of the Dead Press. Why did KJK Publishing decide to re-release under a new title?
KJK: I had read the book 2 or 3 years ago and really loved it but when I was reading it I kept thinking that I didn’t think any of the two previous covers fitted the book. The nineties rave scene was overloaded with great imagery, especially posters. I kept thinking of Irvine Welsh’s old cover for Ecstasy and how you knew exactly what you were getting yourself into when you picked the book up, even before you read the synopsis. The name was never my favourite either. I kept thinking it should be called ‘Pandemonium’, the name of the pill, rather than ‘Discoredia’, the name of the club. When J.C. told me he needed a new home for the book I was a bit reluctant, simply because I’m so busy at the moment and didn’t feel I could give it the time and love it deserved. But, as I thought about it more I decided that I’d really like to see it available the way I seen the book and hopefully give it a bit of a boost to get it into some new readers hands. J.C. also added a short story that I really like as a little bonus.
WS: Most of your releases are short story anthologies. What drew you to add Pandemonium to KJK Publishing’s titles? Are you planning to release more novel length works?
KJK: As I said, I loved the book myself when I read it and I work closely with J.C., so I was able to get it back out for him relatively quickly. I enjoy doing the anthologies as it allows me to work with a lot of authors I love. I don’t have the capacity to do novels or novellas. I’m being asked more and more about publishing novels and novellas, but I don’t have the time currently.
WS: You spend a lot of time writing, reading and compiling short stories. What makes a short stand out for you?
KJK: I’ve been asked this a few times and it’s a difficult one. Overall, it’s the story telling I’d have to say. I like so many authors with different styles who write in different subgenres it allows me to have a great mix through the collections. It’s really about how much the story sucks me in. Some stories come in and they are written perfectly, absolutely error free, but the actual story is tedious or just a rehash of another story. Others come in and they need quite a bit of work, but the story is great. It’s a mixed bag but I generally do the anthologies on an invite only basis, so I have a good idea of the quality I’ll get having read the authors longer works. It saves a lot of time and there are less rejections to send out. I’ve done a few open calls and got some great stories but overall for the time it takes to read all the extra subs it’s not something I’ll do often. I’d like to do a second 100 Word Horrors and that’ll probably be an open call as the subs are quick to read, and I got some great subs from writers I didn’t know when I did the last one.
WS: Since you’ve used both by invitation only and open calls for submissions for your collections, what do you see as the pros and cons to each approach?
KJK: LOL, kind of answered this already. Pros to invite only are there are fewer stories to read which saves a massive amount of time and you already know you like the author’s work. Downside is if too many invited authors don’t submit for one reason or other, you may end up with a pretty short book. With an open call, you get a few great stories from authors that you don’t know. Downside is it can be like finding a needle in a haystack. I think it was Lisa Morton that commented recently on an HWA anthology she was reading submissions for saying that over 50% didn’t even meet the guidelines. It can be a lot of work for something that can be done much easier. I try to just make sure I have some newer authors that I like in each book.
WS: I know you have been working on a carnival themed anthology. Will that be your next release?
KJK: The Carnival one will be the next release. It’s currently being edited. Collected Christmas Horror Shorts 2 is ready as well and will probably go up for pre-order before the carnival one, but the carnival one will arrive on your Kindle first as it will have a shorter pre order, if any. I’m also putting together an anthology called Made in Britain as a guest editor for Hellbound books which will be available before the end of the year, and lastly, I have a secret anthology I’m putting together that’s a bit different from anything else I’ve done or that I’ve seen on the market so far.
WS: Who are some of your favourite short stories writers?
KJK: There are so many. Some of my favourite shorts over the last year or so have come from Christina Bergling, Mark Lukens, Peter Oliver Wonder and Amy Cross. Being honest if I receive a story and I like it but don’t love it, it doesn’t go in the books, so I love all of the shorts I’ve published but a few do stick with you. My favourite solo short story collection is The Book of a Thousand Sins by Wrath James White. There isn’t a bad story in the book. Don’t know why it isn’t mentioned more. If I’m completely honest, these days I don’t really read short stories outside of the submissions I receive. My reading time is more limited than it’s ever been, so I tend to read novels and novellas when I can as I read a few thousand shorts a year anyway, lol.
WS: What are you most afraid of? Have you tackled this subject in your own writing?
KJK: My fears are mainly things like not being able to provide for my family or one of them getting really sick. It doesn’t really feed into my horror as I prefer to stay clear of subjects that could be pretty depressing. I like pulp horror and tend to stay clear of the deeper feeling stories as I find them tedious. I do tend to have people as the horror elements in my books rather than monsters or ghosts or anything as it’s the way I see the world. The current state of our planet is terrifying and mankind is to blame. We don’t need monsters. There is plenty of evil in our own species to go around.
WS: What subgenres of horror do you enjoy most? Which do you think have been done to death?
KJK: Although I love most, apart from slow burn stuff, Post Apocalyptic and Bizarro are probably my two favourite subgenres. Who doesn’t love an end of the world story? I love Bizarro because the stories are fantastical and it’s a little like a kids’ story for adults. Carlton Mellick III is a favourite author of mine and I highly recommend that anyone who hasn’t read him give him a go. Start with his stuff from the last ten years. I wasn’t a massive fan of Satan Burger which everyone seems to go on about and I feel his story telling has improved as he has grown.
WS: What advice do you have for new authors?
KJK: Get off of Facebook. Do some writing rather than talking about it. Learn to deal with rejection. Facebook is good for sharing about what you have going on or for release and chatting with others you work with, but it’s a little soul destroying to listen every day to all the authors who are quitting constantly but never do. Half of them have nothing in print. Here is the thing. You will get rejections. Everyone does. It’s not personal. It either means your story didn’t suit the particular publication you sent it to or it’s just not good enough. If it’s not good enough try and get some feedback on why. It may be you need to write more. Your writing will improve with each story. I think people forget that all the big name authors had to start at the beginning and get noticed. Everyone wants to write a few short stories these days and think they should be Stephen King. If you want to get your name out there market it. Share all your published works and get them to reviewers and bloggers. No one will do it for you. If you get feedback from an editor, use it. Don’t get all precious about your story and say you don’t change your work. That’s mental. The big guys take feedback and often compliment editors on their help, but a lot of newbies tell you they don’t change anything, that it’s their story and it’s the way they want it. If that’s the case, self-publish because most editors will read thousands of stories a year and have a good understanding of what the reader wants and where the market is going. The more time you invest, the quicker things move too. Don’t keep subbing a story that’s had loads of rejections. Eventually someone will publish it, but chances are its not very good if it’s had several rejections. Seeing it in print doesn’t mean it’s a good story. It will only hinder you later as you start to improve. I could go on all day with this question, lol. I see a lot of people who don’t write much but complain about the industry almost daily. I’m not one of these people that believe everyone on the planet should be a writer. It’s not as hard an industry to get into as people make out. I had never written a story in my life three and a half years ago, didn’t know how to put a book together or publish and I’ve managed it all with relative ease and had great feedback. If you wake up every day and hate the writing life, it’s not for you. If you have given it your best shot and still hate it all, it’s not for you. Write as often as you can and success will come if you put in the effort. The doors aren’t locked. It just takes a lot of hard work and the guys like Brian Keene, Edward Lee, Ray Garton, Jack Ketchum and the other favourite authors in the genre are where they are because they put that work in. Not because spent all day on Facebook talking about writing.
I’d sincerely like to thank Kevin J. Kennedy for taking the time to speak with me. I hope you enjoyed this interview, and if you would like to know more about KJK Publishing, the author, and his works, feel free to connect with him on the following social medial platforms:
You can also connect with J. C. Michael, author of Pandemonium and more, on the following social media platforms: