It’s been a busy couple months, what with the release of FANTASTICAL VISIONS IV and the upcoming releases of BLOOD & DEVOTION and VISIONS: SHORT FANTASY & SF from Fantasist Enterprises, but I finally caught up with editor-in-chief William H. Horner.
Me: When you began the Fantastical Visions series, what was the one thing you wanted to accomplish through it? What about now, four books in?
William Horner: I started the FV Short Story Contest in order to give beginning authors an opportunity to place a nice feather in their caps. I still see it as a market for young authors, even though several authors have gone on to exciting careers in writing and still come back and sell stories to me for the FV series. I also see Fantastical Visions as a market in which authors can place unusual fantasy stories that might not sell elsewhere.
In the dedication of Fantastical Visions IV, you dedicate the book to “The First Writes”. What are the First Writes?
The First Writes is a writing critique group that I started in the summer of 2008. We hover around 8-12 members who write in a variety of genres (though there’s a definite SpecFic lean). We meet at the Borders Books & Music in Wilmington. DE. The name comes from Delaware being the First State, and it’s a play on words, considering that authors usually sell 1st Rights. My fiancée, Michelle, actually came up with the name.
When you select stories for the Fantastical Visions series, what attributes in a story catch your attention and what attributes completely turn you away from reading?
It’s the same for any project I am acquiring for, from themed anthologies, to comic books and novels. The story and characters must be compelling, intriguing, and hold my interest. While polished prose and beautiful writing certainly help, I do feel that the “story” is the most important factor and the hardest thing to “correct” if there is a problem.
I have very little patience for info-dumps, especially at the beginning of a story. If something compelling isn’t happening on that first page, I’ll give you a few more paragraphs to grab me, but I’m not going to wade through boring accounts of some unknown character’s past. I think I’m still rather generous in that sense. I know a lot of editors who will drop a manuscript if the very first sentence is not compelling. I have a feeling that I’ll get tougher as I get older and start to feel that there’s less and less time for all of the projects I want complete.
What is the most challenging aspect of putting together an anthology with a wide range of authors?
There are many challenges that come up along the way. When selecting stories for an anthology, there is a particular art to finding stories that play nice together and create a cohesive mood and feel for the book. I think it’s easier with the themed anthologies. It’s also harder to sell the FV books for this reason. They are too hard to classify.
A related problem comes up when editing. Despite the desire to have a cohesive feel and identity for the book as a whole, one must be able to switch stylistic gears and treat each story as its own work of art.
Being an editor takes up a great deal of energy and time. How do you balance being the editor of FE and making time for your own writing projects?
To be honest, I don’t usually have time to work on my own writing. FE projects have a way of consuming most of my time and creative energy. I have not put much of either into my own writing for several years, and part of me does regret that. I’ve been toying with several ideas for novels and a handful of short stories over the past year or so, and I really want to force myself to make time for them. I love FE. I love editing and mentoring authors, but I don’t want to look back and regret having thrown away my own writing career.
Fantasist Enterprises has gone specifically along the book-route of small press, not diverging off into a magazine or ezine presence as many small press do. Have you found this a better/safer business approach for FE?
I’m not sure if it’s better or safer, but I wanted to focus on books because they tend to be more enduring. Don’t get me wrong, I keep every back issue of the various magazines that I read (storage is going to be an issue!), but magazines don’t lend themselves to sticking around.
There are pluses and minuses to both business models. With ’zines you can sell advertising space in order to offset your costs. I’ve certainly considered moving the Fantastical Visions series in that direction at some point, but I’m not sure we’re prepared to take on ’zine publishing since a regular schedule is imperative to successfully publishing them. At this point, we just don’t have the staff to take on something like that.
Fantasist Enterprises just passed its ten-year anniversary (congratulations!). Where do you see FE at its twentieth anniversary?
I certainly have a number of plans and hopes, but it’s hard to say with any certainty where we will be in another 10 years. I certainly hope that we’re putting out several more titles a year, and that we’ve continued to produce music releases. I’d like to get our comic book line off the ground and maybe start on motion picture and video game projects. I dream big.
And then there are all of these new media projects that I’ve been thinking about. Mobile applications and Web 2.0 games. Publishers and authors are going to have to embrace these new technologies in order to remain relevant and to continue earning paychecks.
What other projects should readers be on the look-out for from Fantasist Enterprises?
Blood and Devotion: Epic Tales of Fantasy should be coming out in a matter of weeks. Visions: Short Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lawrence C. Connolly’s first collection of short fiction will be releasing on September 29th and late this year we will be publishing an anthology entitled: The Stories in Between with Greg Schauer the owner of Between Books, an independent book store in Claymont, DE.
Next year’s anthologies include Fantastical Visions V, Paper Blossoms, Sharpened Steel, and Blood & Devotion II. 2010 will also see the release of Lawrence C. Connolly’s Vipers, his follow-up to 2008’s multi-award nominated novel, Veins.
What is the single most-important (an arbitrary question, indeed!) piece of advice you think every beginning writer needs to hear?
I’ve had the benefit of receiving a lot of good advice over the years, and I hope I’ve given a lot of it as well. I’d say if I had to distill that wisdom down to one tidbit, I’d say this: pay attention to those who have gone before you. Read a lot. Read with a critical mind. Pay attention to what works and what does not. Learn your genre from reading the masters.
When you are at conferences or reading a book on writing, listen to all of the advice. Process it. Understand it. Then apply what works for you. If something really does not work for your story, discard that particular wisdom for the moment. Just because a “rule” works in one case, doesn’t mean it will work in others.
Will you be making any public appearances over the next few months? If so, where?
We were just at Gen Con in Indianapolis, and next month I’ll be teaching a class on Creating Effective Dialogue at the NJ Writer’s Society Conference on September 12th in Atlantic City. We might have a presence at Philcon this year, but we haven’t confirmed.
I plan to be busier with conventions next year, especially with World Fantasy being relatively close to home.
Besides editing for FE, and writing, what else do you like to do when you get a moment’s free time?
Free time. . . . What’s that?
I have trained in Tai Chi and Haidong Gumdo, a Korean sword art, but I haven’t been able to attend classes in a few months, which pains me greatly. I also enjoy music and at one point, several years ago, worked on starting a band. I content myself with the all-too rare chance to sing karaoke.
I try to see the occasional movie with my fiancée, when we’re not making plans for our wedding, but we always seem to be working these days. Other than that, we planted a garden this summer, and I’m looking forward to learning more about growing our own food.