1. What was the impetus behind starting Burning Willow Press?
By impetus do you mean Motivation or Energy? Both were completely Kindras, my wife and partner, idea. I as you know am an amputee and lost my leg in 2014, after a long fought battle with surgery after surgery to keep it after a bad accident. Different story for a different time. The motivation was I needed something to do after losing my leg. I was to recover in three months and return to work but for the time being; I was in a wheel chair, on a walker and crutches and rehabbing myself to learn how to walk on a prosthetic. While in the hospital, my lovely wife comes to me and asks me if I think she should just open her own publishing house. Now, my being the kind of guy I am, I tell her sure thing. I am thinking that after I go back to work, I will bankroll it for you. No she meant right now! So I became a publisher. The energy comes from our authors. I want only what is best for them without sacrificing too much of ourselves if we can help it. Some of our authors have so much energy it is enigmatic! I cannot tell you how much of a thrill I get when I see that one of them is on the phone and asking me to help them…Yeah right! You guys don’t need my help, I need yours! All of you rock!
2. Who is your favorite writer?
Would I win brownie points for saying Kindra Sowder? What about Carl Alves? No, damn it worth a try. Obviously I am a huge horror fan myself and there is nobody finer at that or a better selling author at it than the great Stephen King. I have all of his books, movies, TV shows and even have the X-Files episode he wrote called “Chinga.” Now upcoming authors I really like are all of ours of course; Mark Reefe, James Crawford, Ellie Piersol, Mike Gardner, Sarah Dale, Dave Hughes, Lisa Vasquez, WJR Parks. Watch out for those ones. They are great! And yes at one time or another most were BWP authors too. I love what Armand and Tufo are up to with their Arm and Toof stuff. And then again, DM Slate, Alice J. Black, Stephanie Reisner and Donna Marie West. My God there are too many I could go on and on with this! I need to stop.
3. What is more fulfilling to you, writing your own fiction or editing an anthology?
Writing and editing have both become a part of my life. They are equally challenging and therein lay the rewards. I love to edit. I really love to twist a thorn into a side of an author and watch them suffer in agony as they read over my edits and go NO!!!! I can’t believe they want me to change it! Wait…that is part of a story idea I have. Sorry. Seriously, Editing has come naturally for me. I was always pretty good with literature and have a unique knack for pointing out plot holes, flow and storyline fall downs. So it makes sense that I do some editing along the way. Writing my own fiction is torturous. I can never seem to get enough written on the pages before my duties at BWP start to call or the phone rings or a text goes off or hell I have to piss or get coffee or food. I don’t know. I get distracted and have to come back to it. I was a better writer concerning distraction when I was younger and had no care for distractions then I grew up, got responsible, sort of, and now it tends to get the best of me but I will get my current novel done and out there at some point because I do not know how to give up on something. Just ask my wife.
4. What advice do you have for beginning writers?
Loaded question Carl. I can go in a few directions here. I can quote better writers than I and state the obvious and tell them to read others in the genre and see what is selling…too obvious. I can tell them to not read anyone else…that is just too arrogant. So I will tell them what I overheard when I asked that same question on a panel I was a part of for Monstercon with Kindra and the venerable John Hartness. “I Drink. A lot.” Then edit and re-edit and revise and revise again. If you do not know the right word then it was the wrong sentence.-Stephen King. What I tell a young and upcoming author is that you need to take a break or you will get burned out. Fresh air, turn off the phone, music is okay if it fits the genre…don’t listen to country music if you are writing a romance. Unless you are listening to it backwards, so she comes back to you and you are no longer an alcoholic and hell your truck runs right again and that deer didn’t get away, oh and your dog isn’t dead now. If you mean to write a thousand words try to do that and more. To start writing you must first start with the first word. What I do when I am writing is I see a window in the page and type what I see. You’d be surprised what comes out of what you see in descriptions. And do not give up…you will regret it. Remember that even Stephen King got rejections from publishers who kicked themselves ten years later. Of course, he probably bought them and burned them to the ground though in the 90’s. Ha ha.
5. If you had a wish list of three authors you could work with on an anthology, who would they be?
Just three….c’mon, Carl! Okay let me think…Hmm…Carl Alves, Peter Oliver Wonder and Audrey Brice. Three very talented authors. Wait…no…Kevin Bannigan Jr., Lisa Lepovetsky and Ellen Denton. Three more. I know shameless plugs for the Anthology I just helped finish up. Let us be serious here. If I could work with three authors on a new anthology, I know that I would love to work with Mark Tufo, Armand, Evans and Giacomi with a taste of Kopas in there for the zombie hit list. But that is not three. I guess there is only three that I would love to work with. King, Rice and Koontz. The big three. But I think that is everyone’s wish list.
6. What made you start writing?
Drugs. It was all the 4 way windowpane man. Not that it did not help when I was much younger. Hmm…..maybe I need to get back to that. Seriously, I started writing at age 14. I started with writing poetry. I found that I was a pretty good romance poet and it was a great way to get girls. Write a sonnet at age 16 for a girl you are attracted to that is nearly 20 pages long and guess what, you are getting somewhere fast. Did I say that? Is my wife reading this? What about teens? Oh shit. Never mind that kiddoes… I started writing because I had a story I wanted to tell. It would not get out of my head until I started writing it down. At first it was nearly consuming my every thought but eventually its muse quieted down as I got nearer the end of it. And off and on I have been writing since then.
7. Is there an overall theme to Crossroads in the Dark or was there an overall vibe in the stories you were selecting?
Theme, yes….definitely! Vibe, hmm…let me think on that one. Each story had to deal with a moral decision, there’s the theme. One in particular made me wait until the very end before I saw it and I then said, “Shit, pretty damned good!” That was Shaun Phelps with “OCD” which was a very thought provoking story. All of the stories that were selected were great stories that had a moral decision to be made and it was a tough choice to let some go back in the not selected folder. Honestly I wanted to pick most of them but had to settle on a number so I did. Kindra allowed me to take over the anthology series of books we put out so I have complete creative control over them. Next years will be bigger and better. I guess I answered the Vibe as well.
8. Is there any subject that is off limits for you as a writer or editor?
Nope. I can read anything and edit it. As a writer, I try to stay away from writing textbooks. I can write most anything if I put my mind to it and not get distracted by my other duties in life. I would love to be able to just edit or write all day long some days but I do what I do for Burning Willow Press out of a labor of love. I love that I am needed to do it. Yes, it gets harder sometimes but it is all worth every headache and Excedrin I take.
9. What is it like working with your wife Kindra in Burning Willow Press?
Wait…can I say I am actually sleeping with the boss? It is actually a bunch of fun to work with her. I cannot ask for a better person to be in business with. She created this. I am along for the ride, rise or fall. I am here to help her face whatever challenges we have and figure out a way to get through them. Her passion for this is where I draw my strength to keep it going. Honestly, though, some days I ask her if she has any idea how much I do behind the scenes for her and she says, “No and as long as I do it…I am worth the money I do not make for it.” We have ups and downs like any growing business but hopefully, we will be able to do more in the next year than we did in our freshman year.
10. If you could invite five people to a dinner party (alive or dead, real or fictional) who would you invite?
I think if we were to go with two separate dinners here we may get a better answer. For my scientific mind I would ask Albert Einstein, Nathan Rosen, Erwin Schrödinger, my college Physics IV professor, Dr. Bill Yarborough and Boris Podolsky to dinner just to see how that went. My guess is a new and renewed version of the EPR Copenhagen paradox that was set forth in the early pioneering days of physics. I think that would be fun to get involved in with all I know today about sciences and what they had not discovered yet. Then the other dinner party starts on day two, or better yet, night two. I would ask Stephen King, H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and my wife, Kindra because if asked anyone else to join me for that dinner she would file for divorce the next day. But if she did not want to attend, I would ask Edward Kenyon or AJ Brown to join me just to watch one of them sweat as these guys stared back at the sweating guy who does not know what to say other than, “Hello, I am a huge fan of all of you.” –Edd Sowder, Co-founder of Burning Willow Press, LLC