Brandon Applegate & Hungry Shadow Press

Brandon Applegate & Hungry Shadow Press

He wants your “Little Bastards”

By Angelique Fawns


Strange, dark stories swirl in the world of Brandon Applegate. This purveyor of horror lives in Texas, writes short fiction himself, and creates “weird, scary, sad anthologies full of great stories by cool people.”


Under the imprint of Hungry Shadow Press, Applegate has published two anthologies so far. It Was All A Dream: An Anthology of Bad Horror Tropes Done Right and The First Five Minutes of the Apocalypse.


He is currently looking for your Little Bastards: Too-Short Horror Stories Nobody Wants along with his co-editor Alexis DuBon. These are pieces that run between 1000-2000 words.  The call says, “They got sub callsfor flash and sub calls for 2000+, but what about those little bastards no one wants? What about those stories YOU wrote for no call at all, just because you wanted to? Those guys that never get picked for dodgeball. Let’s find them a home. Let’s find a place for those treasures, those stories that said all you had to say in 1600 words. Those outcasts, those weirdos, those stories that Goldilocks wouldn’t look at twice.” 

The sub-window opens September 15th and runs till September 30th.

AF: What was your inspiration for starting Hungry Shadow Press?

BA: The anthology came first, funny enough. I was goofing around with some friends in a Discord chat and we were trying to come up with the worst ideas possible for an anthology. Mine was “It Was All a Dream: An Anthology of Bad Horror Tropes,” but it wasn’t long before we discussed the idea as something viable. I didn’t want to self-publish an anthology, and I have friends that run small presses, so I just thought, “I’ll do that,” and sort of jumped in feet first. I have a background in graphic design, as well as web design and development, so I do all my interior formatting, some of the cover text designs, and most of my marketing imagery and web and social media work myself, which is a big help when you’re running something like this out of pocket.


AF: How has the reception been to your concept?

BA: I think the reception has been excellent. Better than I anticipated, certainly. The concept behind the press itself has grown over time, too. Originally, the idea was just to focus on short fiction, with no real aim other than publishing anthologies and working with authors and artists. Now, it’s definitely taken on a different aspect. It’s still short fiction, but I try to look at every book idea as though it is a new artwork comprised of other pieces. What kind of art makes sense to include? Can I find a cover artist whose work matches the book’s tone? What’s the order? Who do I invite? I also love featuring established authors alongside newcomers and even first-timers. It’s so much fun to bring those two groups together. And I’m just now starting to expand into co-editing partnerships and editors other than myself. Patrick Barb is currently working on an anthology that I will publish based on songs by the band Neutral Milk Hotel, and I’m working with co-editors Alexis DuBon and Gabino Iglesias on a couple of upcoming projects. The Gabino project is not widely announced yet, so you’re getting a scoop!


AF: What do you do as a day job and how do you find time for writing?

BA: I work at a software company as a sales engineer, which pretty much means I know how our software works and I use that to help our salespeople sell the right things. It’s a good job, but I’ve always needed to do creative things, and it’s not a terribly creative day job. So I do this on the side. I’m also married with two kids, eleven and five, so, as you probably imagine, I’m running HSP and writing my own work between 10 PM and 1 AM in the evenings when I’m not spending time with my wife. But I am very fortunate that my family is wildly supportive because they don’t have to be, and I’d give it up or reduce it if I needed to, but I don’t have to make that choice right now. It’d be cool if I could parlay this into a day job, but that’s pretty rare.


AF: Can you tell me more about your background and how you got interested in Speculative Fiction?

BA: Speculative fiction has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, which, my earliest memories are from when I was four or five years old. I was reading well at five, so I would get ghost story books, Goosebumps, etc. And then, a little later, I’d sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night and steal my mom’s Stephen King and Clive Barker books off the shelves. She’s a horror fan herself, always has been, and she’s never limited what I was allowed to read, so I owe a lot of this to her, but my dad is a closet sci-fi and fantasy nerd, too, so I didn’t stand a chance. I’ve never really been interested in fiction that doesn’t have a speculative element. I’ve gone through sci-fi, fantasy, and horror periods, sometimes all at once, but literary fiction without a speculative element just doesn’t hit me the same way. I guess the monsters and starships are the sugar that helps the medicine go down.


AF: What kind of writing do you do yourself and where have you been published?

BA: I tend to gravitate toward sad horror stories, usually dealing with dysfunctional family dynamics. Sometimes my stories are gross and brutal, and others can be vague or existential. I have a short story collection available called Those We Left Behind and Other Sacrifices, and I’m working on a second collection called Safe Places and Other Lies. I’ve also been published in Shredded: A Sports and Fitness Body Horror Anthology from Cursed Morsels Press, OOZE: Little Bursts of Body Horror edited by Ruth Anna Evans, and a few other publications.


AF: What is your take on the current AI controversy and future of the short story?

BA: Don’t hate me, but I think some of the possibilities inherent in the use of AI by artists are interesting. I like the idea of leveraging technology creatively to allow artists to express themselves in new and different ways. But I am not okay with the blatant exploitation of artists and creatives by taking what has become their livelihood (posting and advertising their work online) and leveraging it against them by feeding an AI their work without consent. Until that is solved, I don’t think AI has any place in creative communities, and it’s a shame. But short stories will survive. I don’t believe AI will kill the human-created short story any more than television did. But it’s incumbent upon publishers to be the gatekeepers, and our success or failure will decide whether this is a quick, decisive battle or a long, protracted, messy argument. Unfortunately, based on some of the decisions I’ve seen very big publishers make regarding the use of AI artwork, I fear we’re in for the latter.


AF: What hints can you give writers hoping to sell to you?

BA: Every single editor has different taste, so what works for one won’t necessarily work for the other. I tend to like stories that focus on emotion rather than plot-driven narratives, but you’ll find editors that are the opposite. In the end, writing something to please a specific editor is a little like trying to interview all your readers and make sure you’re producing stories they want to read. You will end up having no focus or direction of your own, and your stories will show it. If you don’t feel deeply about the subject matter you’re covering, your story will appear hollow, maybe even robotic. Embrace that you don’t know and can’t control what an editor will think of your work. Humans are chaotic creatures. Embrace the chaos of this entire process. And embrace the fact that there is no magic bullet to getting published. As a writer, your focus (and mine) should always be on skill-building. Expressing yourself through fiction in the purest, most honest, most self-aware way you can is a skill. But, if you spend the time and energy to build that skill—you’ll still get rejected. Often. It’s a reality that everyone who writes and publishes has to face. This is what I think: writing and publishing is inherently subjective. That’s part of the appeal. That’s part of why we don’t like AI! It takes taste and human discernment out of the equation. Focus on what you can control, and let go of everything else, including your emotional attachment to whether or not a certain editor or magazine wants to publish your work. Because there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” story. There are only opinions. I’ve rejected stories from friends. I’ve rejected stories I love because they didn’t fit the tone. I’ve got stories I love and believe in that I’ve submitted upward of twenty times. Write for yourself. Write what you love, and make that the goal. Because if that’s the goal, you win every time you finish. If that’s the goal, you’re free.


AF: In your opinion, what is the best way to find profit in our field?

BA: I’ll let you know when I find out, haha! But in all seriousness, writing and publishing are a creative endeavor, sure, but they’re also a business. And you have to be able to code-switch between thinking of it in those two very different ways. When you’re writing, you have to open yourself up, put absolutely everything on the table, show the wounds in your soul and all that. It’s the only way it sounds genuine. But when you submit your story, publish your book, and put your work out there for someone else to see, you must approach it with a professional detachment. Don’t be too focused on outcomes. And never be afraid to ask anyone for anything, so long as it’s fair. The people in this community love to love each other’s work and lift each other up. Don’t shy away from it. Nobody can do everything on their own. I think my path to success in this field starts with treating authors and artists with respect, collaborating with talented people, paying people fairly, and being transparent in how I run and market my business. It comes from featuring eye-catching artwork, emotionally resonant fiction, and beautiful books. And I’m hoping that, if I stick to my principles, profit will follow.

You may also like...