Some time around 2005/2006, a good friend recommended Brian Keene's "The Rising." Which is, to date, my favourite zombie story in any medium; book, TV, or film. What's notable here, is that, as a member of the FUKU (Fans Uv Keene United) on Brian Keene's forum, this is where I first met Jim. It would be some time later when I first heard 'Ginger Nuts Of Horror' mentioned as an idea. Fast-forward some years, and I see the monolith it's become. No mean feat. That takes game.
1. For those who don't know, who are you?
Hey, folks, I'm Jim Mcleod, the owner, editor, I'd like to say brains, but that might be pushing a bit much behind The UK's largest independent horror review website.
Ginger Nuts of Horror is now entering its twelfth year of existence, which is something that I never dreamed off when I started doing it as something to pass the time away with while being off work for an extended period as I recovered from a series of bone grafts on the left side of my body. And it is certainly not the sort of thing that I thought that this severely dyslexic reader would be capable of doing.
But here we are 12 years on, with something like 12 or 14 BFS Nominations for best non-fiction and magazine, and a surprise nomination for a Stoker last year behind us, and I stress the "us", as we wouldn't have a millionth of the success without the contributions of the Ginger Nuts family, under the belt.
As for who am I, well that depends on who you ask, some call me The Gingefather, some call me The Don of horror, some call me a coffee cream loving imbecile, and others call me an opinionated buffoon.
In truth, I'm just a passionate horror fan, and I'll stop short at calling myself a guru or expert, as only an arrogant eejit would say that about themselves.
In real life, I have a masters degree in virology, but thanks to the messed up way the country pays people I gave up working in that field to work the night shift for a supermarket, where I earn just as much money, but have way more free time.
When I'm not doing all things horror, I love doing hillwalking with the family and our crazy working cocker Poppy, where I'm trying to rekindle my passion for photography.
2. Game talk – how do you organise and manage your game? How has it evolved?
Organisation is everything to me, and I hate chaos, one of the things in that I fall out with my partner the most is how, in my mind's eye, like beauty, it's all in the beholder which she seems so disorganised.
I use a combo, of electronic and physical methods, to keep things organised. Starting with my email, I have a dedicated email account, and I use an excellent email client called Spark. Spark is brilliant; it has a powerful folder facility, which allows for folder upon folder for emails. This allows me to filter at the touch of a button into, book reviews, interviews, film reviews, features, news requests etc. You can even schedule emails to go out, which is excellent when you email an author to say a review or interview is live on the site, you can load up a week's worth at once and sit back. But its best function is it's response templates; these are a lifesaver. You can create a load of standard replies, click the response button, and fill it all in. Yes, you can use a word doc and copy and paste, but when you answer the number of emails I do, every second counts. Plus it means I can reply to emails quickly on my phone.
However, for some weird reason I'm not too fond of online diaries, so I use an old fashioned pen and paper. Don't ask me why I prefer them, and it might have something to do with it being more comfortable to have an open diary while going through all of the scheduled posts on the site.
Finally my office desk, I say office, it's the space beside the dog's bed in the living room, and she is slowly but surely pushing me out into the hall, has a magnetic whiteboard built into it, which is handy for keeping an in your face record of the things I have to do that week.
As for managing my time, that's always been difficult. Working heavy going 12-hour night shifts is terrible enough, but if my shift pattern is not right, I can lose one or maybe two days to crashing out on the sofa. This week, for example, I am off Sunday Monday and Tuesday, and each week is basically the same. Come home from work on a Sunday, grab a coffee and breakfast, take the dog out for a three hour walk, shower then try and watch some TV but fall asleep on the sofa for the afternoon. Monday and Tuesday are basically without the falling asleep on the sofa.
However, at the moment, life is way more complicated, with my wife trying to teach online classes and my two kids trying to do online learning, so I'm continually being consigned to the bedroom, where the temptation to take 40 winks is too great.
I do most of my work on the site when I get up, or get home from work, and the two hour period between getting up for work and leaving for work. It seems to work, and it means that I can relax on my days off.
3. Talk us through one of your biggest achievements in your game – give us the story behind it. How did it play out?
Apart from going two rounds with Bill "Superfoot" Wallace?
I could say interviewing Joe Dante was daunting but a tremendous amount of fun, or the numerous award nominations we have received. Still, truthfully the most significant achievement has to be the positive impact on the horror genre. So many authors have contacted us to tell them how much a review from us means to them, and how they see a significant upturn in sales after we have reviewed their book.
That's what the site is all about; it's what it has always been about. As soon as you bring in ego, personality, or money into it, the vision blurs. There are loads of great sites out there, but there are also sites that seem to be more about the cult of personality behind the website, and when you end up talking more about yourself than the books you are supposed to be reviewing, or when you make it into a pissing contest about reach, followers, or even the number of books you read in a year, that's when you need to talk a long hard look at yourself, and ask are you doing this for the right reason?
A great side effect of doing this, especially in the UK where everyone in the genre knows everyone else, is the friendships. You've been to a fair few FantasyCons, CC. and you just know how heartwarming and uplifting it is going to them. Walking through the doors to be greeted by folks such as Mark West, Phil Sloman, Laura Mauro, Kit Power, Dave Watkins, Justin Park, Penny Jones, Tracy Fahey, Steve Shaw, Ramsey Campbell, Tim Lebbon, Dan Coxon, Lisa Childs, James Everington and hundreds more is a feeling that is beyond my capabilities to describe correctly.
4. You mention the Joe Dante interview, which I imagine would have been a lot of fun; no doubt that man had stories to tell. Given that I know you from FUKU days, back when you first had the GNOH vision, at what point did you think the GNOH vehicle would be such a mammoth and far-reaching venture?
The interview was amazing. I started like a startled bunny in the headlights, but within minutes he made me feel so relaxed. The interview was only supposed to be a quick 15-minute soundbite interview for Bury The Ex, the film he was promoting, but it turned into a mammoth 80-minute interview, which would have gone in longer if his PA hadn't pulled him away.
As for when did I the Ginger Nuts would turn into a mammoth and far-reaching venture, I still haven't got around to thinking that, it's weird, you spend all this time online as a reviewer and promoter of horror, but you spend so much time feeling as though you are in a bubble all by yourself. It's the nature of social media I guess, you see the posts being shared, but you rarely get direct interaction with those sharing the stuff. I used to be a compulsive stats watcher, but that quickly a massive time sink. I've found the best way to keep the site running is to do what I do, and not worry too much about things like stats etc. I have no clue about the stuff that makes a big difference on it, or at least the things I can control like SEO, that's just gobbledygook to me. I'll let you into a big secret; I wing it every day, there are days where I feel like the Del Boy of horror.
I suppose the one thing that has made me understand the importance of the site is the multiple award nominations. I wouldn't have them if people either didn't know about the site or thought that what we are doing is worthy of nomination. Although it would be nice to win one just once, not for myself, but for all of the hard work and dedication that the Ginger Nut family put in. I'm lucky and immensely honoured to have surrounded myself with a review team, that are far better at it than I am. Seriously I read some of the reviews and features they send in, and I feel like an imposter. They make me raise my game, and that is always a good thing.
5. It's great if things go according to plan. Tell us about when it didn't; how did you handle it? What were/are those challenges?
A couple of years back I went through what I call my three months of hell, a lot of personal issues, both health-related and mental health-related culminated in a ten day stay in hospital with a nasty dose of blood poisoning, and all the time, while I was lying there with an antibiotic drip in my arm all I could think of was I need to get the website published.
After a few days, I came to the conclusion that the root of all my problems was the website and the demands it made on me. I made a knee jerk reaction, closed the site down, made an announcement on social media, and went into hiding for a couple of weeks. It was only when I received an email from Phil Sloman, telling me I need to click onto Facebook for a quick look, that I saw that hundreds of people had changed their Facebook profile picture to the Ginger Nuts logo in a sign of solidarity, that I decided to come back. I swore at the time that I would cut back on everything, only do "office hours" etc., but that only lasted a few weeks.
The knee jerk reaction is my biggest failing. I'm too quick to react, a good example of that has been a few of the genre falling outs if only I took a step back and thought about was going on would I realise that in a lot of cases I had been played by interested parties, and used as their personal attack dog.
Thankfully this has been the year where many bridges have been fixed, once I realised that certain parties had been playing me like a cheap fiddle.
6. Give a pep-talk to someone on game in your field.
Never give up, never let anyone what you can and cannot do in your review space. Never let anyone tell you that your reviews have no value. You'd think this wouldn't need to be said, but the number of reviewers out there who seem to believe they are the gold standard of what reviewing is all about is worryingly commonplace.
Don't give up, while it might seem that you aren't getting much reach with your reviews, it will come, it just takes time, there is an audience out there for you, and every view on the site will bring you closer to that tipping point. Find your own voice, don't waste time trying to find a unique selling point, just find the voice of your reviews, keep them honest and respectful, and keep plugging away. Reviews are the lifeblood of the genre, and there is more than enough space for everyone.