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SFFWRTCHT: A Chat With Author-Editor Jennifer Brozek

Jennifer Brozek is an award winning editor/author. Winner of the 2009 Australian Shadows Award, she’s edited seven anthologies, starting with Grant’s Pass in 2009, with more on the way. Author of In a Gilded Light and The Little Finance Book That Could, she has more than 35 published short stories in venues like Crossed Genres and MBraneSF, and is an assistant editor for the Apex Book Company and a writer for several RPG companies.  You can find her on Twitter as @jenniferbrozek, on her website and on Facebook.

SFFWRTCHT: Let’s start with the basics: where did your interest in science fiction and fantasy come from?

Jennifer Brozek: I grew up in a house full of readers. My mom introduced me to science fiction and fantasy.  You might say I was bred for a life of SFF. I started with some of the greats – Asimov, Heinlein, Le Guin, Russ. And I grew up in a 300 year old mansion in Belgium.  My mother and I would share books and talk about them. Going to the library was a treat.

SFFWRTCHT: Awesome! I wish my parents had shared my genre interests.  Who were some of the authors whose work most thrilled and inspired you?

JB: As a young reader, Susan Cooper was my favorite author. She was the one who opened the door to the magic of reading and writing. In particular, her “Dark is Rising” series. I still reread it upon occasion. I have a number of “old friends” books.

SFFWRTCHT: I love books like that. Lifelong literary loves, so to speak. When did you start writing and how long until your first sale?

JB: I started writing about 1990 but my first sale did not come until about 2002. Partly because I had been afraid to submit my work.

SFFWRTCHT: Did you study creative writing at all in school? How’d you learn your craft?

JB: I moved around a lot as a military brat. I learned the craft of writing by reading a whole lot. I’ve never had a grammar course in my life. I still have to look stuff up while editing.

SFFWRTCHT: What was your first sale called and to what venue? Fantasy or Science Fiction or something else?

JB: My first fiction sale was to Campaign Magazine. I pitched them series of humorous D&D like stories. They accepted it. The first story was called: “Tales of the Hucked Tankard: The First Huck.” Those stories got me my first gig as an RPG author.

SFFWRTCHT: What made you decide to take the leap of becoming an editor?

JB: Believe it or not, I was trying to help an LJ community of authors learn how to submit stories. My task was to submit to me. Not one did. But my idea, Grants Pass, was too good to give up. So, I decided to do it on my own.

SFFWRTCHT: Did you seek any special training or qualifications as far as editing goes? Or just a love of the genre and great stories?

JB: No special training, unless you count reading slush or having Amanda Pillar of Morrigan Books beat some sense into me. Amanda was a great mentor.

SFFWRTCHT: How do you keep track of what’s been done/overdone to make sure you give them a unique concept  when pitching ideas?

JB: I don’t worry about that. I look at what is coming out in the next couple of years and what interests me.  Trust me, it’s not another cat anthology–unless they are all dead or undead.

SFFWRTCHT: So in a sense you let the stories themselves create the uniqueness?

JB: Yes. I do. Also, the random things that catch my brain.

SFFWRTCHT: How log is the lag between selling the concept and opening for subs and then publication?

JB: It averages a year from start to finish.

SFFWRTCHT: So pretty much the same as a novel.

JB: A lot of times it is. Stories to be submitted, accepted, edited and then published.

SFFWRTCHT: How often are pitches rejected? Do you pitch more than one idea at a time?

JB: For some, I pitch one at a time. For others, I will pitch as many as ten. And pitches are rejected all the time. Just like stories.

SFFWRTCHT: What’s the typical turn around time on submissions for your anthologies?

JB: All acceptances for anthologies come within 1-2 weeks after the close of the anthology. I need all stories to make my choice. I send all the acceptance and rejections on the same day.

SFFWRTCHT: The latest project is Beast Within 2. Tell us a little about that series please.

JB: Beast Within 2 is from Graveside Tales. It is the second in the series of different or unusual shapeshifter stories. Because it is me, 90% of the stories have a very dark bent to them. That’s just what I like. Beast Within 2 is really one of my favorite anthologies. I’m looking forward to working with Graveside Tales again.

SFFWRTCHT: How do you decide the order of stories in an anthology?

JB: I read stories as they come in and rate them. Order of stories in an anthology is so important. You want to lead with the most iconic story. But you have to be aware of things. Like, I couldn’t put the were-spider story first because of all of the people who are afraid of spiders. But you also want very strong stories at the end, to anchor the anthology. Sometimes, the stories can be chronological. Sometimes, in sets by theme. I tend towards what I like and what I remember. That story that made me say “Yes!” That becomes an anchor story.

SFFWRTCHT: So does your idea of the anthology change as you go through the stories then?

JB: Sometimes, depending on the stories I get. There were several werewolf stories that I wanted to include but too many werewolves.

SFFWRTCHT: With Beast Within you have a very wide variety of stories everything from romance to horror. “The Adventure of the Missing Trophy” is definitely great. How surprised were you that someone brought in Holmes?

JB: The Holmes story was fabulous and written in the vein of Holmes.

SFFWRTCHT: So tell us what made those lead stories by Wendy Wagner and Lydia Ondrusek iconic for you?

JB: Well, Wendy’s story was very unusual but used the classic element of needing a skin to shift. I liked that a lot. And Lydia’s story used a pelican-were and I’d never seen that before. But really, I think my favorite story is Mark Hoover’s story about a were-buffalo and brings in the weird west which is my current shiny.

SFFWRTCHT: What’s your favorite project  you’ve done or can you even choose?

JB: Oh geez. As an editor? I don’t know. They each keep getting better. I really enjoyed doing the DAW anthology Human For A Day. It comes out in December and is a corker. I put all of me in to each project. It’s like fostering kittens. You love them all, then let them go.

SFFWRTCHT: How much editing are you willing to do & still accept a story? Acceptances are usually based on editorial agreement?

JB: The story needs to have minimal edits for me to accept it. I don’t want to have to do a lot of edits for the anthology.

SFFWRTCHT: How often do you reject a story because the author disagrees with desired edits?

JB: I have never rejected a story because of the author. But twice, I have had authors withdraw their stories. One did it the right way. One did it the wrong way. I talk about that on my “Making of an Anthology” series up on the Apex blog.

SFFWRTCHT: Are most of your anthologies strictly invite only or are some open call?

JB: 90% are invite only. 10% I put calls up on Twitter and in my Live Journal.

SFFWRTCHT: Are you working on any anthology projects now or have any planned for the future?

JB: I’d like to do an anthology about Two Fisted Authors a la Jules Verne.

SFFWRTCHT: An anthology in which the authors are the lead characters?

JB: Yep. But running around in a fictional world. I have about four anthology projects in the works right now

SFFWRTCHT: Tell us a little about Space Tramps: Full Throttle Space Tales 5 too please.

JB: Space Tramps is about the forgotten people in a space faring society. The jilly, tramp, orphan, refugee, stowaway—each is forgotten by not necessarily lost.

SFFWRTCHT: And that’s out this fall from Flying Pen Press?

JB: I believe that one is out in September. Beast Within 2 in July/August. Space Tramps in September. And Human For A Day in December.

SFFWRTCHT: Are you still writing for RPGs, if so, which ones?

JB: I am writing for Battletech, Colonial Gothic and Shadeside right now.

SFFWRTCHT: Can you tell us a little bit about Edge of Propinquity?

JB: TEoP is my own imprint. In its 6th year. It started off as a ‘what if’ and has grown as a zine.

SFFWRTCHT: How weird is it to accept not-yet-written stories for TEoP? Have you had bad back-and-forths?

JB: I have never accepted a not written story for anything.

SFFWRTCHT: How much do you learn from editing to improve your writing?

JB: Editing teaches you what to look for in your writing before you send it out in the world.

SFFWRTCHT: Have you ever had your way with ultra-short fiction? (twitfic, micros, 6-word-stories, the like)?

JB: I have. I used to do “6 of 6″ or 6 short stories of 6 words each. “Dropping the ring, she walked away.”

SFFWRTCHT: How much time do you devote to editing for anthologies and writing, must you separate them with harsh discipline?

JB: I do separate the writing and editing. I schedule my day in blocks for both.

SFFWRTCHT: How often do RP games affect your writing?

JB: I write first. Always. Then I play.

SFFWRTCHT: What about writer’s block? Do you believe in it or just work on something else for a bit?

JB: I don’t get writer’s block. Motivation block or the “don’t wanna’s” but I can always write. Usually I shift to something else. Or I go exercise because then I realize how much I’d rather be writing.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the forthcoming space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.