July 23, 2008
Bitternest has been out awhile now. How are you feeling about it? Do you find it hard to promote this book while working on so many other projects?
Bitternest has done beyond my expectations in terms of reviews, and the acceptance from readers has been tremendous. I’ve developed a loyal fan base with this book and I am extremely thankful for it. It has been a long and hard journey. The first couple of months were brutal and I didn’t see many sales. Then as reviews kept appearing and the more I promoted the book, things started to pick up. The pricing of the book has always been an issue—at $19.95, it’s been a major hurdle in my promotional efforts. I’ve had countless readers tell me they can’t afford to pay that much for a book and I completely understand, especially when it’s a first time author you’ve never heard of. Unfortunately, I have no control over pricing and even fought to get my publisher to lower the retail price. This is why I wanted to make sure that Sinister Landscapes would be affordable for everyone. I think my future books will really help boost the sales of Bitternest as new readers will discover me and seek my first novel.
As far as ongoing promotion is concerned, I seldom promote Bitternest these days. It’s been out for a year and three months. After a year, I decided to move on and focus on my current writings and editing Sinister Landscapes. I still have some ads scheduled to appear in magazines before the end of the summer and word of mouth has been generating some good sales. I’ll also be bringing a bunch of copies of Bitternest with me to signings this fall while I promote Sinister Landscapes. This will be new for me; I’ve never done signings before. This will be my first time going out there with the book and shaking hands with readers. I’m excited and scared at the same time. I’m more of a recluse when it comes to my craft and getting myself out there on the Internet is no problem for me. But doing signings and readings in front of a crowd is another story. It took all this time for me to feel confident and comfortable enough to do this. Also, since I couldn’t give the proper discount to bookstores in order for them to carry Bitternest (another serious obstacle), it wasn’t easy to get in there. Sinister Landscapes will open new markets and will be much more accessible to both readers and retailers.
Tell us about Sinister Landscapes, your up and coming anthology. What inspired you to undertake such a big project?
I’ve wanted to put together an anthology for as long as I’ve been writing. I had to make sure I knew my craft well enough before I undertook the task of editing other writers’s stories. This spring I was in a good place. I had short stories appearing left and right online and in print, I’d developed good relationships with many writers with whom I wanted to work with, I was in command of my craft, and I had a great idea for a theme for an anthology. So I went ahead and came up with some guidelines and posted them for the world to see.
I chose a gothic theme because we rarely see gothic anthologies nowadays on the shelves in bookstores. I miss them dearly and my love of the horror genre comes directly from gothic horror. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde is one of my favorite books of all time and M.R. James’s ghost stories are still unmatched when it comes to a good ghost story, in my opinion. Movies also played a big part in this; I have many fond memories of watching the old Hammer horror films with Chris Lee and Peter Cushing and all those Poe adaptations that Roger Corman directed starring Vincent Price. I wanted to recapture some of that magic and these memories in this book and I think we’ve succeeded in creating a diverse anthology with echoes of the old gothic ghost stories and we’ve put a spin on them for the readers who like their horror to be more up-to-date.
After editing such a large body of work, do you find you have a taste for editing/publishing, or do you prefer the writing aspect of the craft?
I’ve really developed a taste for editing and I love the publishing process (even though the formatting part gave me many headaches). When you put a book together from A to Z, from cover to cover, when the end result exceeds your expectations (something that rarely happens in my case), you can’t help but be proud of what you’ve accomplished. I had a great time going through the submissions and commenting and doing revisions with the authors. Coming up with the cover was a challenge and I’m thrilled with the finished product; this is a book that I think we can all be proud of.
My writing has taken a backseat these past months and I will play catch up for the rest of the summer until the release of Sinister Landscapes. I wrote half a dozen short stories while I was editing and am now a little over halfway through my second novella. I’ll be starting my third novel (I’m currently seeking a publisher for my second novel) sometime in August, so I’m looking forward to that. I miss working on longer works which is where I feel more in my element. I’m a novelist first and foremost, but editing and publishing is a close second after this wonderful experience. I’ll have guidelines up again April 1st 2009 for next year’s anthology.
And speaking of publishing, tell us about your new publishing company. How did this come about and what are your plans with it?
I wanted Sinister Landscapes to have the widest distribution possible and thus was born Pixie Dust Press. Many anthologies are released these days through Lulu and most of the time, they’re only available through Lulu. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I wanted to be a bit more daring and put out a book that would be available everywhere online and try to get it in brick and mortar stores as well. I would do a small book tour with everything that it entails: signings, readings, interviews, and a massive viral campaign which is currently underway. One of the goals of my small press and these anthologies is to give us independent writers more exposure. A reader might buy the book for two or three writers and discover a handful of writers they’ll like in the process. They might wind up picking up a new author’s books and our collective fan base will expand considerably that way. This project is all about working together; egos should be checked at the door, because we’re all equal in this book. It isn’t my book, it’s our book. This is what Pixie Dust Press stands for—independent writers united. I just make sure that everyone comes together and that it all fits like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. There’s also the combined force of eighteen or so writers to promote the book which gives this project even more impact.
Themed short story anthologies will become a staple of Pixie Dust Press. For the first anthology, the contributors received a PDF of the book and a hefty discount if they wanted to purchase copies. Next year I will find a way to pay them a monetary compensation for their stories. I’m hoping to be able to increase the pay to a professional rate eventually. And starting in 2010, I want to release two books a year; the short story anthology in the fall and a novella collection in the spring. This would be an invitation-only collection where I would invite three writers to each write a novella following a theme. This would be a royalty-paying publication and an excellent opportunity for writers to showcase their storytelling talents. I want to make sure I have some strong foundations before attempting anything bigger such as venturing into publishing novels and releasing more than two books a year. I leave the door open to all kinds of possibilities, but it’s also a question of time. My writing will always come first and I will not publish a book if I don’t have the time to promote it properly. It’s also very time-consuming to read submissions, edit stories, and do the layout of a book. With a goal of writing two novels a year and releasing two books a year through Pixie Dust Press, I think I have my work cut out for me.
I’m curious about the short stories you’ve been writing. Give us the low down.
In January of this year, Amazon.com published my story The Bypassed Mind as part of their Amazon Shorts program. I often get asked if I only write horror; the answer is no and this is the proof. This is a time travel story and it is more of a romantic suspense. It’s the first story I wrote after I decided to take a shot at writing for a living. It has now since become a personal favorite. It can be purchased on Amazon.com as a PDF file for only $0.49: here.
In April, the popular anthology series Darkened Horizons published my story The Errand in their fourth volume It’s the story of a man goes through a forest to run an errand and on his way back he will find his life changed forever. The book can be purchased through Lulu: here.
In June, my story Breaking and Entering appeared in the excellent NexGen Pulp Magazine’s June/July issue. This is what I consider to be my finest short story yet and it’s about a man who enters people’s homes just for the thrill of it until one day he makes a shocking discovery. It can be purchased in hard copy or electronic form here: http://www.nexgenpulp.com/Back_Issues.html
In July, the free e-zine SNM Horror Magazine published my story Hershell’s Motel, about a couple who spends the night at a strange motel in Bitternest. It can be read here until the end of August after which it will disappear: http://www.freewebs.com/snmhorrormag/julysnmissue2.htm
Next, I have a story in the afore-mentioned Sinister Landscapes, titled Beyond the Doomed Cave. This is a coming of age tale set in a churchyard. The gothic anthology will be available wherever books are sold in September. For all the details, visit my publisher page: http://www.alandraven.com/pixiedust.htm
Are there any that are your favorites?
The Bypassed Mind, which features Aldous Finch, a character from my novel Bitternest, has a fond place in my heart. This is a story that I find has aged well over the last two years. It also pays homage to Richard Matheson’s Bid Time Return (filmed as “Somewhere in Time”). There’s also Breaking and Entering, which I consider my best short story. As a writer, I constantly evolve and I get better at my craft and oftentimes stories that I wrote early on in my career tend to show their flaws over time. I’m particularly proud of these two tales.
Are there any characters you’ve created that you love? hate? Wish you’d never made?
I don’t think I hate any of the characters I’ve created … yet! Timothy Crane who is hinted at in my first novel takes center stage in my second novel, Fractured Time, as a powerful antagonist and one of the most evil men that has ever walked the earth. I think he’s more the type of character you love to hate than one you would hate because of what he does. He hasn’t done anything morally disgusting for the time being. My next novel, Alicia’s Last Stand, a revenge thriller, will have many characters that both readers and I will hate. It is filled with some of the most repugnant human beings I’ve ever encountered.
As far as characters that I love go, Aldous Finch, an old eccentric Englishman well versed in all things supernatural is a personal favorite. And to this day is the character my readers seem to love the most. I have received many e-mails and messages from fans who requested more of him. Terry Graves, the protagonist of my first novel who has also made appearances in short stories, is another that I really like and identify with. Ritchie Campbell, one of the supporting characters from my second novel, is another one I dearly love.
Do you ever feel bad about killing your characters?
Oh yes; I killed plenty of them in Bitternest and I tortured one in Fractured Time and it was hard at times to write these scenes. Kind of like watching someone you know suffer or losing an old friend. I always try to keep the twists coming and I never want readers to think that just because a character is one of the main protagonists of the book, they are safe from death’s grip. In my stories and books, anyone can die in the blink of an eye.
What advice do you have for writers, both published and aspiring?
Read as much as you can. Know the genre you write in well. Also read outside your genre. Write as often as you can, even if it’s only 500 words every two days. The more you’ll do it, the better you’ll get at it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t make it as a writer. There is no surefire way to get published or to achieve success, but know that there are many ways to get there and in my opinion, none of them are wrong. Get your work out there any way you can; the important thing is to be read. Stay humble and always remember where you came from. Treat your readers with respect because they spend their hard-earned cash on your work. You owe it to them to write the best stories your mind can come up with. Always.
Any parting thoughts?
As an independent writer, I’d like to invite all book lovers and horror nuts to pick up a book from an independent author; it will be greatly appreciated. You’ll see that we write stories that come from the heart, and that we are passionate at what we do. A lot of the time, even more so than authors from the big NY houses. Visit me anytime at www.alandraven.com and if you have a MySpace page, send me an invite at http://www.myspace.com/alandraven