Writer, Editor, Publisher
I am pleased to present this interview with my friend and publisher, (and editor and format specialist) Josh Brown. I met him on Myspace, then at FallCon, and I can't say I immediately got to know him, it was a slow process, but I immediately liked him, respected him, and appreciated working with him. And then he brought his son to the shows, and he is adorable. So, I thought, since I do lots of writing, and Josh has helped bring much of that to you all, maybe you should get to know him. Here is my interview then, with Josh.
For the record please state your name, job, and reason for writing...
Fast forward about 15 years and I was a college grad with an English degree and a dream. I somehow stumbled into the publishing industry, first working in magazines, then with a non-fiction book publisher, then an audiobook publisher, and now I work for a book sales and distribution company. In my "spare time" I write comics, short stories, and poetry, and have also dabbled in publishing (not just talking about self-publishing either, mind you) under an imprint I call Uffda Press.
What was your first published work, did you get paid, what would you do differently on it today looking back?
In college I wrote articles for the Arts & Entertainment section of the school newspaper, the UMD Statesman. It did pay, but not much. It got me into a lot of free concerts and museums and arts shows and such, though. That led to some more creative writing and I had a couple short stories published in UMD's literary journal, The Roaring Muse. One of the stories was pretty well-received; it was about a troubled college professor who basically threw his entire life away trying to prove the existence of Loch Ness monster-type of creature living in Lake Superior. Looking back I sometimes think I should have tried to do more with the creative writing at the time, but hey, like they say, hindsight is 20/20.
Did you get educated for a career as a writer? If so, would you recommend the same sort of path for others? Why or why not?
Sort of. I have a BA in English Literature and worked at the college newspaper. I loved working at the Statesman, and saw myself as going into journalism, but UMD did not offer journalism as a major or minor at that time. I think they added it was a minor the year after I graduated. So I would say I was educated for a career in publishing, but the writing sort of happened on its own.
After I graduated college I started doing more creative writing on my own. I hooked up with a couple artist friends and wrote some short comic stories that got picked up here and there, including one that was published in Negative Burn, a fairly prestigious and well-known anthology at the time. I had a poem published in Abandoned Towers Magazine, a genre zine that is now defunct. I began to experiment a little with self-publishing. I just starting writing more – comics, poems, short stories – and submitted. And got rejected. A lot. Heck, I still get a lot of rejections. It's part of the game.
In the end, I guess the best advice I can give is to not only put your work out there, but to also put yourself out there – network, make friends, be part of the community.
What dead authors are your favorites? Do they inspire you, or do they just entertain you?
I would say there are two authors that are no longer with us that stand out for me: J.R.R. Tolkien and the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings changed my life; it's what made me a fan of fantasy fiction. And Howard, man, I have always loved Conan the Barbarian and fantasy pulp and Howard's hardboiled take on the fantasy genre. The inspiring part I think is that both Tolkien and Howard were also amazing poets as well. Tolkien is pretty well known for his poems and translations of poems, but Howard doesn't seem to get as much recognition for his. Which is a shame, because it is fantastic stuff. Robert E. Howard's fantasy poems are just incredible.
Describe your office or I should say, your work station when you are working, is there music, pets, kids, wife, do you deal well with distractions?
I definitely wait until the kids are in bed. I usually just sit on the couch with my computer on my lap and my feet up on the ottoman. I occasionally have something playing on Netflix, or some melodic movie score playing on my iPod, but a lot of time I write with no tv or music at all. Just me and the words. I'm a morning person, so I also sometimes get up early to write. And sometimes writing just happens spontaneously – I get a couple ideas and I have to write them down in a notepad, or type them out on my phone or tablet. Writing can happen anywhere.
What kind of books haven't been successful in the market of books, that really have great potential, and what books reap enormous sales and you see them as being blech, unoriginal and booooring?
I really wish we could see speculative poetry books sell a lot more in the mainstream marketplace. Poetry books in general can be a hard sell, but I am a huge fan of fantastic poetry that draws from elements of science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror.
Also, maybe because I am both a father to young children and a lover of great art and illustration/comics, I would love to see more in the way of children's picture books. It seems like the children's book market is completely dominated by most of the "big" publishers, but if you look hard enough, there are some great kids books out there from other, smaller publishers. I think we're primed to see an uptick in more quality children's picture books from a wide range of different publishers.
I really hate to call any book unoriginal and boring. It's all a matter of personal tastes, and no matter how boring I may think a book is, there is sure to be a group of superfans rallying behind it.
What impact has social media played in the creative world, how has it directly influenced your writing and being published, and how could it be better?
If you're an author and you're not promoting your work though social media, you might as well be a ghost. In this day and age, even the large publishers such as Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster expect their authors to be "pounding the pavement" via social media. It's as important as book tours, if not more so, these days.
I'm not certain there's any direct influence on how or what I write, but for example, whenever I tweet about the latest installment of Shamrock in Fantasy Scroll Magazine, there's a noticeable upswing in activity, from page views to retweets to favorites. So there's no denying it helps get you out there.
How could social media be better? I dunno, seems like it's working fine so far, but the great thing about technology is that it is always evolving; someone is always out there working to improve upon what we already have.
If you had a money is no object situation, what would you do in publishing, assuming of course, that you would, and, why would you go in that direction?
Speaking as a publisher, I would love to publish more speculative poetry because, as I mentioned previously, I love it and think there should be more of it out there on bookstore shelves. If money were no object I would put the bulk of it towards marketing and advertising, because in my experience and from what I have learned about publishing, that's a big part of how books become successful. Aside from the fact that they have to be good, of course!
What is the point of it all? Doesn't digital wipe out the joy of reading, of buying books, of reading books?
Hell no! Books are books and a good story is a good story, no matter the format. I love hardcovers, paperbacks, digital, audio – heck, if books could be injected intravenously I probably would do that too! I will buy a book at the store, order a book online, download a book on my e-reader, buy an audiobook CD, download an mp3, or read some short stories and poetry online from webzines such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Fantasy Scroll, Lightspeed, you name it. To me, having all these options adds to the joy of reading!
Where do you want to take your career?
As far as publishing, I really feel like there are voices out there that need to be heard, and I'll continue to look for quality speculative fiction and poetry to publish under my Uffda Press imprint. At the moment I'm more focused in seeking out and publishing speculative poetry, but I would love to put another anthology together sometime soon as well.
What does it mean to write? Are you different than an artist?
Writing is definitely an art. It means everything to write. You are putting a piece of yourself out there – your mind, your body, your soul. But it's also kind of a science, and a craft, and you have to be careful to hone your craft, practice, continually strive to get better. And, for better or for worse, there's also a business side to it, that is, if you are attempting to make a living at it.
Tell us about what you have coming up.
Well, most recently I had a short horror story titled “The View From the Attic” included in a horror anthology called Toys in the Attic from JWK Fiction, I had a story in The Martian Wave 2015 from Nomadic Delirium Press, I had a flash fiction piece published on SpeckLit, and of course there was King of Ages: A King Arthur Anthology with a story from myself and 12 other absolutely amazing writers. I feel like we really took the Arthurian legend to the next level with that one.
Coming up, I have a poem titled “Flame of Cthulhu” set to appear in an erotic horror anthology called Lovecraft After Dark from JWK Fiction, I have a poem titled “The Tragedy of Dracula’s Daughter” set to appear in Popcorn Press's 2015 Halloween anthology Zen of the Dead, I have another poems to run in Beechwood Review, I have another piece of flash fiction set to appear on SpeckLit, a short story in a dystopian-themed anthology coming from Hydra Publications, and my comic "Shamrock" with art by Alberto Hernandez continues to be serialized in Fantasy Scroll Magazine.
2015 has been a heck of a year, and I'm hopeful I can keep the momentum going into 2016!
Josh's Amazon page
Fantasy Scroll Magazine
King of Ages: A King Arthur Anthology
Toys in the Attic
The Martian Wave 2015