Please welcome author and editor Nancy Kilpatrick to The Qwillery.
TQ: Would you walk us through the process of putting together an anthology?
Nancy: Every anthology I've edited has been different but there are some overall steps in the process. If I'm co-editing an anthology, the work load is not really less because both editors need to do everything. The big advantage of co-editing is that there's a shared belief in the individual stories selected and also in the anthology as a whole, the concept. Doing it alone, the burden of that falls on one person. I suppose it's a little like being married or living alone--you still have a lot of work to do!
The first step is to come up with a viable idea and then sell the idea to a publisher. Publishing is a terrible business and whether you're a writer or an editor, much of the work of selling, marketing and promotion falls on your shoulders--even when you have an agent. It's important to know what types of books a particular publisher produces so you can pitch your idea to the right house and within that publishing house, to the right editor, who likes this sort of thing. Publishing houses always say: anthologies don't sell. And yet, readers love anthologies. I suspect some of it is marketing issues. But ultimately, to sell the idea, you need to more or less promise some top-name writers to the publisher. And this can be tricky. The editor needs to secure a 'promise' from said top-gun writers in advance. But just because someone promises a story, that doesn't mean they will deliver. This is the bane of every anthology editor. Most of the time the in-house editor knows and understands this and will take substitutes. Once, a co-editor and I had an actual clause in our contract with a major publisher: 1 writer from list A; 2 writers from list B; 6 writers from list C. It was horrifying. We managed to get 3 writers from list B and list C wasn't a problem, but that list A! OMG! We had secured one writer who then told us at the last minute the story he'd been finishing up to send to us had to go to a different antho with a similar theme that he had committed to first (and more or less forgotten about). My co-editor was having a nervous breakdown over this (first-time anthologist), but I'd edited many anthologies and had weathered such crises before. In the end, we got something from that same writer, which was good, but a poem, not a story. It was enough to satisfy the terms of our contract.
Most of the 12 anthologies I've edited have been invitational, meaning, I or my co-editor and I invite specific writers whose work we know is great and who will deliver and do a good job of it. That's the easier anthology.
I've also edited 4 anthologies that were open, meaning anyone can submit material. To save myself and the writers time, energy and grief, for 3 of them I asked for a synopsis of the story idea first. I have guidelines I write up for the writers and they send the idea based on their understanding of the GLs. Sometimes the story idea is way off the mark, in which case I say thanks but it won't work for this antho. But if the idea is a good one, I'll give the go-ahead to write it, with the proviso that if the actual story doesn't work for any reason, I can't buy it. Most writers understand that.
There is, of course, a strong onus on the editor to take a story for which the go-ahead has been given. But it doesn't always happen. And in truth, editors ask for more stories than they can take because there is no way to know whether or not a story will actually arrive in your email box until it's there. All sorts of things happen that keep writers from writing a story they've said they'll write. And if you are short, it's not easy to get a story that fits the antho at the last minute and that's a good way to create a weak spot in the book as a whole.
Once stories come in, I generally read them and put them into 3 categories in my computer:
Yes, I want this; Maybe, but I'm not sure about it or it needs work; No, this story doesn't work or it doesn't work for this antho.
As stories are accepted, the anthology starts to take a shape and most of the time it's a surprise to me that the idea I began with ends up blossoming in a certain way. The shape forming is what determines which of the good stories end up in. Sometimes there are perfectly fine and wonderful stories that just won't fit, even though they fit the GLs, because the anthology has shifted slightly, like ground settling the more stories are accepted.
Perfect stories are accepted right away. Stories that are from recognized writers that might need some work are accepted with the understanding that if something isn't working in the story, the writer needs to fix it, and the pros are very good about this. They recognize that a second pair of eyes, especially eyes of someone who knows what they are talking about, is invaluable for a writer. (As a writer myself, I always appreciate editors' comments, even when I don't agree with some of the comments, but most of the time I do.)
Maybe stories I get back to the writer and say why I'm iffy about the story to give them a chance to reform it, if they want to, and resubmit. The No stories I have to tell the writers the fiction isn't working for this anthology.
There is a deadline for completed stories and some writers I have to nag to get the story in, but most, that's not a problem. Once all the stories are in I read them again, so this might be the 3rd or 4th reading of each story. I need to make sure that there are no major problems, nothing that can't be fixed simply.
Somewhere along the way I start to count words because I've promised a certain number of them to the publisher. That determines, too, which stories get in and which don't towards the end. There's some leeway, of course, so if I've promised 90,000 words, I could send 95,000 or 87,000. I also do an introduction which counts in the wordage, and the writers' bios.
Now comes a very difficult part of the process: Ordering the stories. Most of the time this is a highly intuitive process for me, one that I get nervous about, but which always works out in the end. I fret for a long time. There are stories that are natural lead-ins, and stories to end with--in Evolve Two, for example, Sandra Kasturi's "The Slowing of the World" is a natural conclusion. But it's everything between the beginning and the end that's the problem! Yet all my thinking and shifting the stories around always leads to An Idea, that strikes like lightening one day after weeks of this rearranging. Often I have section headings which I find works well towards organization, but that generally comes later in this process. Even with a co-editor, it's agonizing to order stories.
Finally, I have the stories ordered and then read the entire manuscript from start to finish at least twice, once being a 'final' copyedit. And this might lead to some minor re-arrangement of the order. I also need bios from the writers and my introduction and must proof all that.
Eventually I meet the DL I've established with the publisher and send in the anthology in electronic form.
At that point, it's out of my hands and I wait for the publisher's in-house editor to read it and declare it brilliant. It's then passed to a copyeditor who goes over the MS and sends it back with questions or minor changes and every story goes back to its writer to consider changes and for one final proof. Then the final version of the story is returned to the publisher within a very short time period.
After this, it's the publishing process and we wait for the book to actually appear. There will be some promotion closer to the release and perhaps a book launch. Reviews and interviews happen. Contributors receive a copy of the book and their check for the contract they have signed with either me or the publisher directly, depending on the situation.
And then, if I want to edit another anthology, I seem to have memory loss about all the work and this 1-1/2 to 2 year process starts all over again!
TQ: You are both an author and an editor. Is it hard to switch hats? Which skills do you need for both?
Nancy: For me it's never been hard to switch hats. Writing is a right-brained activity and editing a left-brained one, although, of course, ultimately one uses both the creative and the analytical skills for both jobs. Generally, I think both a writer and an editor need to be able to recognize what constitutes a good story and to be honest enough with yourself as a writer and editor to acknowledge when a story works and meets expectations and when it doesn't. I have high standards for both. I'm known as a tough editor because I don't just take a story because it's from a major writer if it has a flaw. Too many editors are not editors but acquirers--they take anything submitted and just do a light copyedit. I think short fiction readers deserve more. They deserve a story that works and is satisfying and not one a writer has just knocked off for the bucks. As a writer, I want that for my work (which is why I value the editorial eye coming at me). I want readers to feel something when they read a story or novel by me, and to come out of it thinking that it all hangs together, that this is a fulfilling and entertaining read and may even have something deeper to offer in the end. All this is a tall order but what is life if we don't have personal standards for excellence?
TQ: Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead was published in 2010. Evolve 2: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead is out this month. While both anthologies are about vampires, how do the themes differ between the 2 anthologies? How are they the same?
Nancy: Both are about vampires. Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead came from me wanting to show what the vampire has evolved into since Dracula, which is the primary book everyone associates with the first vampires in fiction. These stories reflect the evolution of a sub-species, one that's been with us prior to print and goes way back in mythology. The stories in this anthology take us to about 2025 time-wise and are now, meaning, they are not old-fashioned. I also wanted to show the scope of the vampire because these days Twilight is popular and this young adult fare has defined the modern vampire. I'm not opposed to Twilight at all. It serves a purpose and especially if you can see the books and films fit into the larger picture of the undead. But I wanted to say, there's more! The vampire is much greater than Twilight.
Once I'd edited that book, I realized that the vampire could go further into the future, hence son-of, or, Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead. In this book I've divided the stories into three sections, which are pretty much are self-explanatory: Pre-apocalypse; Post-apocalypse; New World Order.
One other difference is that the first Evolve has all Canadian writers, both English and French (translated) which includes Kelley Armstrong and Tanya Huff, two who are internationally known. Tanya is of course well known for her vampire books and the spin-off TV series. Kelly had a vampire character she was working into one of her very popular urban fantasy novels, Zoe (who appears in both Evolve and also Evolve Two).
For Evolve Two, the scope of writers is international, with Tanith Lee, John Shirley, Thomas Roche, William Meikle, Anne Mok, and Kelley Armstrong again, etc.
TQ: Why do you think vampires have remained popular in literature for so long?
Nancy: The vampire is an archetypal energy, meaning, it is a universal energy that lives in the collective psyche. The fact that the vampire has been around since the earliest recorded records--The Epic of Gilgamesh, 2500 BC--and has appeared in the mythology of just about every culture on the planet, that tells us this is a big energy, one that touches all of us. Archetypes have durability because they are important in some way to everyone.
Aside from that, I believe there are times when the vampire surfaces in some form or another in a way that is relevant to that time frame. The revolution that allowed vampires to have sex started decades ago, and without tooting my own horn too loudly, I was one of the writers who initiated this idea. We now see it played out in True Blood, Twilight, Being Human, The Vampire Diaries and in many many erotic-horror novels and supernatural romance novels. Prior to the 1970s, that was mostly only alluded to. This sexuality fits with the times. We are in a mash-up era where it's okay to have sex, but sex is fraught with disease, and it's also much harder to meet people for romance than it has ever been, and western cultures still prefer romantic connections as opposed to arranged ones. Cyber relationships seem to be as important as face to face contact and are generally safer. The world has changed and people are more isolated and that breeds fantasy. (Of course, if you are young and reading this, you're likely in high school or university or college and there are plenty of people around you now, most single, many hot--that will change!)
The vampire we have today is generally sexy, not the resuscitated corpse of the past, but that old one is still around! Today's vampire is a creature you want to date. Also, in our politically-correct world where everyone has to be careful what they say and do for fear of being misinterpreted, the vampire is the one who is both dangerous and also not likely to respect mortal boundaries and rules and regulations, so it puts the onus back on the mortal to be conscious of what he/she is doing. Society would do well to heed this message.
TQ: Which 10 books should be in the essential vampire literature library?
Nancy: You mean besides my Power of the Blood vampire novels? LOL!
Actually, I tried to make a list and found there were way too many titles and even series. I guess if I work with the word 'essential', I'd say, read the classics. Dracula, of course, and the short story "The Vampyre". The first novel in English Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood (if you can get through it!). And Carmilla. Here are most of the titles of early vampire short fiction in various languages and you can find translations of the non-English originals: "Wake Not the Dead" by the German writer Ludwig Tieck; "The Vampire Mistress" by Elizabeth Gray; "The Dead Woman in Love" by Gaultier; "Liegia" by Poe; Tolstoy's "The Vourdalak"; "The Horla" by de Maupassant; “The Mystery of the Campagna” by Crawford; "The Good Lady Ducayne" by Mary E Braddon. Plus, there is early poetry.
I've listed more works in Evolve and Evolve Two so readers can scout out titles there.
TQ: In the introduction to Evolve Two, you mention that you are a collector of vampireobilia. What is your favorite item in your collection?
Nancy: I have so much junk, oh, I mean invaluable vampire items! It's hard to choose. There's the Dracula punching bag; the Dracula in a coffin ice bucket; the vampire pot holder and oven mitts; the old bust of Bela from Disney world; a fragment of the Lyceum Theatre where Dracula was first staged; the Count Dracula's Wallpaper Warehouse key chain... You can see my problem!
TQ: What's next?
Nancy: I have quite a few projects underway right now.
A new vampire collection will be out in 2013 called Vampyre Variations, with a few obscure reprints and original vampire stories.
I am currently editing another (non-vampire) anthology, Danse Macabre: Close Encounters With the Reaper, out in 2012.
I have a graphic novel out later this year from Brainstorm Comics in eformat and then print format, called Nancy Kilpatrick's Vampyre Theater.
I'm also working on three novels, including another in the Power of the Blood vampire world.
And, as always, a number of short stories, since I write about 6 to 8 a year when people ask me. Here's a list:
Nancy's stories published in these recent anthologies:
Blood Lite; Blood Lite 2–Overbite (both Pocket Books); Hellbound Hearts (Pocket Books); The Bleeding Edge (Dark Discoveries); The Living Dead and By Blood We Live (both Nightshade Books); Don Juan and Men (MLR Press); Ecstasy (Necro Files); Vampires: Dracula and the Undead Legions (Moonstone Books); The Bitten Word (Newcon Press); Campus Chills (Stark Publishing); DarknessBooks); Hellbound Hearts (Pocket Books); The Bleeding Edge (Dark Discoveries); The Living Dead and By Blood We Live (both Nightshade Books); Don Juan and Men (MLR Press); Ecstasy (Necro Files); Vampires: Dracula and the Undead Legions (Moonstone Books); The Bitten Word (Newcon Press); Campus Chills (Stark Publishing); Darkness on the Edge (PS Publishing); Vampires: the Recent Undead (Prime Books); Best New Vampire Tales #1 and Best New Zombie Tales #3 (both from Books of the Dead Press).
Nancy's stories to appear in these upcoming anthologies:
The Moonstone Book of Zombies; The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women; The Devil's Coattails: More Dispatches from the Dark Frontier; Halloween; It Never Sleeps: Tales from the Darker History of New York City.
About Evolve Two
Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead
(EDGE, August 15, 2011)
EVOLVE TWO: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead
Vampires: friend or foe? Either way, time is on their side, and they are more powerful than ever before!
Meet the eternal predator that humanity never ceases to find both fascinating and terrifying. Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead moves this creature beyond 2012, through this century and into the next. We humans will evolve, but so will they! Whatever apocalyptic events that lie ahead for our species, for the planet, Vampires will be there too, helping or hindering, effecting or infecting us. Time is on their side, but it may not be on ours. They are vampires, and more powerful than ever before!
Hot on the heels of the best seller, EVOLVE: Vampire Stories of the New Undead, Nancy Kilpatrick does it again with twenty-two original stories that explore the evolution of vampires.
EVOLVE TWO includes works by:
Tanith Lee, Kelley Armstrong, John Shirley, Thomas Roche, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Heather Clitheroe, Erika Holt, Ivan Dorin, Michael Lorenson, Jason Ridler, David Beynon, Eileen Bell, Peter Sellers, Sandra Wickham, William Meikle, David Tocher, Leanne Trembley, Ryan McFadden, Steve Vernon, Bev Vincent, Anne Mok, and Sandra Kasturi.
About the Editor:
Award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published eighteen novels, over one hundred and ninety short stories, five collections of stories, and has edited nine other anthologies. Much of her body of work involves vampires. Nancy writes dark fantasy, horror, mysteries and erotic horror, under her own name, her nom de plume Amarantha Knight, and her newest pen name Desirée Knight (Amarantha’s younger sister!) Besides writing novels and short stories, and editing anthologies, she has scripted four issues of VampErotic comics. As well, she’s penned radio scripts, a stage-play, and the non-fiction book The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined (St. Martin’s Press — October 2004).
Nancy won the Arthur Ellis Award for best mystery story, is a three times Bram Stoker finalist and a five times finalist for the Aurora Award.
About the Cover Artist:
Ex-gravedigger John Kaiine, self trained professional artist/photographer, is also the author of the critically acclaimed metaphysical thriller Fossil Circus and various short stories, including the short film feature Dolly Sodom. He lives in a house by the sea with his wife, Tanith Lee, and two black and white cats.
About the Website: www.vampires-evolve.com is a website dedicated to the Evolve anthologies. Find out information about Evolve authors, and forthcoming event information.
What: One commenter will win a copy of Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead from The Qwillery.
How: Leave a comment answering the following question:
What is your favorite vampire story or series?
Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.
You may receive additional entries by:
1) Being a Follower of The Qwillery.
2) Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.
3) Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.
There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.
Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.
Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Friday, August 26, 2011. Void where prohibited by law.
*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*