If you recall, dear readers, I did a review of Wicked Witches back in December. Shortly after posting the review, I was lucky enough to get a chance to talk with anthology editors Scott Goudsward and Daniel Keohane about the challenges of putting together a book with so many moving parts.
- What initially inspired the creation of the NEHWP (New England Horror Writers Press) and the original writers’ group?
Scott Goudsward: The NEHW was originally a regional chapter of the HWA (Horror Writers Association). We formed up in 2001 and when the HWA decided they didn’t want regional chapters, we struck out and didn’t dissolve like some of the other chapters.
Daniel Keohane: Necon (the Northeast Writers Conference (www.campnecon.com) ), a very laid back conference geared towards horror writers, artists, and editors. In its 37th year this summer, it’s been a great place for meeting other writers, forming friendships, and networking. One year, in the early 2000s, after one particular Necon, Michael Arruda and I wanted to do something to keep the connections going throughout the year, so we formed a local New England branch of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). We sent the word out, got together for social events, etc. We had a website and newsletters and promoted each others’ work. Over the years, leadership in the org has changed hands quite a few times, to where Scott, Dave, and I are currently at the helm. One desire for the organization (which is no longer formerly affiliated with the HWA) was to someday have an anthology of our own. After a couple of years of fundraising, it was finally possible. Now, the proceeds from each successive anthology pays for the next. One thing we made sure to do was pay contributors for the stories.
- What was the original inspiration for this anthology?
Scott Goudsward: The original inspiration was because we (the NEHW) were at the Salem, MA, open-air Outdoor market on Halloween weekend. It was suggested that a witches anthology would be amazing to release that weekend, so we started off and put the whole thing together in seven months.
Daniel Keohane: The NEHW has been a major presence at many, many horror and book conventions these past years, thanks solely to Scott G’s dedication, and last year was to be the first we’d be present at Salem, MA, the weekend before Halloween. Scott’s had the idea to push for a witch-themed anthology to have for the event, which made perfect sense. We’d just released Wicked Tales the year before and our usual MO was to do a new one every other year, but we latched onto the idea. We had to condense the usual timeline for such a thing pretty dramatically, though, to have the book ready for October. But it was done, and it’s an incredible collection of all-original work.
- What do you think is so compelling about witches in fiction?
Scott: Personally, I think the appeal of witches is (aside from the wrongful persecution in the Colonies) is the history. They go back in history as far as ghost stories.
Daniel Keohane: It’s such a part of folklore, largely fictionalized over the years though there is a basis in fact, even today. I think the thought of someone—your neighbor, the young or old woman or man living alone across town—able to control events around you can be frightening to people. It’s the same reason thriller novels are so popular as well, a threat from outside. Historically, people needed scapegoats, someone to blame for life’s ills, and at distinct moments (such as in Salem’s history), people blamed witchcraft. Fear of the unknown, a homemade monster under the bed.
- What went into the organization aspect of this anthology? (How did you decide what stories went where?)
Scott Goudsward: The hardest part of getting this together was deciding on the when and where. When was the reading period? When would we do the release? Where would we do the releases? In the end, we did a soft release in Haverhill at a Halloween book festival, the hard release in Salem, MA, and the secondary release at Pandemonium Bookstore in Cambridge. Then it came to where do we send review copies, etc. The placement of stories in the book really has no rhyme or reason. People don’t read anthologies in order; they’re going to skip ahead to their friend’s story, or flip around to the people they’ve heard of. When I first started doing anthologies, the three strongest stories went first, and the middle and the last stories are reserved for the anchor story, or the strongest.
Daniel Keohane: Because of time constraints on my part when the call was made for stories, Scott and Dave did the bulk of the work reading through all stories and making decisions, including initial edits, so I’ll let them speak to that aspect. My role was focused on the latter end of things this time around—final read throughs and edits of every accepted story, and working out what the order should be in the final manuscript. That was fun, I have to admit, trying to find themes, keeping things varied in tone, location, and time. I also worked with Mikio for the cover art (though all three of us huddled a few times to review his designs). Finally, the final book format both for the print and ebook edition.
- As editors, what were some of the challenges in putting this anthology together? What were some of the rewards?
Scott Goudsward: Some of the challenges I’d say were choosing who got in and who didn’t. In the NEHW most of us know each other, so when you reject a story, you’re rejecting a friend’s story. When I’ve done anthologies outside of the NEHW, I have to make contingencies on if my brother or a close friend sends a story. And after you’ve made the selections, having to go through their stories and editing them. The reward was the finished product. We have a really strong book with an amazing cover. The biggest rewards are being able to accept your friends’ stories.
- Do you have any advice for those who want to get into creating their own anthologies?
Scott Goudsward: Have a good idea about how you want the book to look. Decide on a strong theme and try not to deviate too much from it. Know what you want going in, numbers of stories, word count, etc., and don’t self-pub it. Get together a list of publishers to approach.
Daniel Keohane: First off, do your best to pay contributors, even if it’s a token payment. It adds credibility and gives incentive to you, or the publisher, to do the best you can (since you want a return) and shows you’re invested in the work, literally. Expect to spend hours reading stories, sending out replies, and editing. Don’t expect every (or any) story to arrive perfect. There’s always something that can be tweaked. There are exceptions, but you need to allocate your time carefully. On that note, if you have a specific publication date, start there and work backwards, so you know when the cut-off has to be for submissions to finish the final work. You also need to be ready to say “no” to stories from friends, or at least peers in the genre. People don’t spazz out. They get it (if not, then they need to work up some more calluses). Writers should never take a no personally (being on both sides of this fence, I know it’s easier said than done, but is a must). Lastly, be professional. Respect the product, but more than that, respect your writers. The anthology wouldn’t be worth anything without their amazing stories to begin with.