Guest post by Mark Allan Gunnells, author of Asylum

Asylum was the second book I ever had published, but it was the book in which I felt I really came into my own. This work featured all gay characters and explored LGBT themes in a very direct and bold way. As a writer with a love of horror and suspense fiction, but also an openly gay man, I always wanted to mix these two aspects of myself together in my fiction. When I wrote this novella, before things like The Walking Dead, I had noted that there was a lack of gay characters in this type of fiction. In fact, the original kernel that became Asylum came with the idea of making a sort of Night of the Living Dead set in a gay club instead of a farmhouse.

But once I finished the novella, I wasn’t sure I’d ever find a home for it. Early on, I encountered a few publishers who didn’t seem to know what to do with a work that did not shy away from LGBT material. This piece in particular was one of which I was exceptionally proud, but it seemed destined to go unpublished. Some of the publishers were very direct in letting me know that they didn’t think this work would appeal to their readership which was primarily made up of heterosexual males.

I had gotten to a point where I was considering self-publishing Asylum … and then came Apex, my salvation and my refuge. My asylum.

I happened to spot on a message board somewhere that Jason Sizemore was looking for zombie novellas. I knew of Apex Publishing, but had never had any direct contact with Jason at the time, but I figured, what the hell? Couldn’t hurt to try.

Much to my delight, Jason accepted it really quickly and put it on the fast track to publication. He didn’t even blink an eye when it came to the LGBT content. He treated it like no big deal, and that included in the promotion of the work. He didn’t treat it like a “gay” story, but just as a story that happened to feature gay characters and concerns. That may seem like a small thing, but for me it was monumental. It showed me that there was a place for me at the table.

Even to this day, going on ten years later, Asylum is the work I’m mostly closely associated with, almost my signature piece. It perfectly encapsulates what I’m most interested in as a writer, taking familiar horror themes and filtering them through an LGBT lens. And heterosexual male readers don’t seem put off by it, as that one publisher feared, but seem to appreciate a fresh perspective on a classic trope.

I will always be grateful to Apex for believing in me and for really pushing this book hard. A couple of years ago they even rereleased the title with a new gorgeous cover and an original short story set in the world of Asylum. Apex gave me confidence at a time when I really needed it, confidence that my vision for the kinds of stories I wanted to write was viable.

I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if not for my association with Apex.

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