Interview – Dark Faith – Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon

We recently got a chance to sit down with Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, co-editors of the anthology Dark Faith, released on May 1, 2010.

HW: What was the genesis of this project?  Whose idea was it?  How did you decide on your theme?

MB&JG: The genesis is a little blurry because it involved a writer’s retreat, three a.m., and there may have been absinthe involved.  So, for our purposes today, we will blame it on Jerry.  He thought it would be a great idea, considering all of the great folks we’d had at Mo*Con over the years, to do an anthology revolving around them.  The idea sounded great, though this may have been the absinthe and late night talking.  We needed to sell the idea to a publisher.  To ensure an acceptance, we made sure to invite Jason Sizemore to our next absinthe gathering.

The theme was easy.  We were focused on the themes presented at Mo*Con:  spirituality, race, gender, love, art, and this year sex.  As the project grew, and we settled on a title, the theme focused more on the faith aspects of Mo*Con.  Though some of the other themes blend in with some of the stories, especially considering how we approached the idea of faith (faith in ourselves, faith in love, faith in magic, faith in relationships, etc.).

HW: What made you decide to actually make the book a reality?

MB: Did I mention the absinthe?

HW: Would you do it again?

MB&JG: Considering the pre-sales and the buzz, we’ve already been approached to start thinking of doing it again.

HW: What expectations did you have for the editing experience?  Which of those expectations were fulfilled?  Which weren’t?

MB: I had little to no expectations for the editing experience.  Frankly, I wanted to keep an open mind to see what the writing/publishing process was like from the other side of the coin.  Now I’m convinced that every writer should have to face a slush pile if only to stop doing some of the annoying things we’re prone to do in the submission process.

That said, we got more submissions than I intended, which was one reason I brought on Jerry Gordon as my co-editor.  And by brought in, I mean drugged and locked in a closet with a stack of slush submissions.

I can tell you another thing we learned pretty early on:  I have a weakness for (talking) animals.  After a while, Jerry had to take them away from me.

HW: How do you think the editing experience will impact your future writing?

MB: I can tell you this much, I won’t be scheduling an anthology due date the same time I have a novel due again.

HW: How was working with a co-editor?  Can you talk about the joys and sorrows of the co-editing experience?

MB: The key to working successfully with a co-editor is similar to any other kind of collaboration.  A similar sense of style is nice, but not a deal breaker.  Both of us understanding what we wanted in stories and what we wanted the anthology to look like was more important.  It’s always good to have a person(ality) you can work well with because you will be spending a lot of time together arguing the stories.  And by arguing, I mean downing bottles of Riesling and … hmm, I’m beginning to sense a theme in our editorial process.

HW: Tell me about the experience of dealing with unsolicited submissions.  How many subs did you receive?  Got any good “sub” stories you can share?

MB: First off, credit where credit is due:  I had NO idea how many unsolicited subs were going to come in.  I was busy enough dealing with the stories I had solicited (and, you know, writing the second book in my “Knights of Breton Court” series, King’s Justice).  Jerry came on board to relieve me of my slush stress.  I can’t see doing this project without him.

Now, that being said, oh, we have a bunch that are funny NOW as opposed to the screaming and pouring of additional Riesling that we did at the time.  There was our black super hero novel based on a failed movie script (which we’d like to thank the submitter for letting us know that); the comic book submission (you know, in case we forgot to include that in our guidelines); the author who sent us an entire collection and told us to pick the best one; our favorite serial subber (and by our I mean Jerry’s because I was long done with this person) who sent a total of 8 stories, each worse than the previous submission.  Comically worse.

I will say that it became obvious that folks who subbed earlier had better chances of being considered.  Stories sent in and bought sooner tended to set the tone for the rest of the anthology.  So a lot of folks who waited until the end, despite their stories being good/great, didn’t match the overall tone of the anthology.

HW: Do you feel any of the stories included in the anthology stretch the theme?

MB: I guess it depends on what you mean by stretch the theme.  We were pretty generous with our theme of faith.  Now there were plenty of stories that were stretching in other ways.

Jennifer Pelland’s “Ghosts of New York” and Brian Keene’s “I Sing a New Song” stretched what you can do with horror, in a positive way.  Nick Mamatas’ “The Last Words of Dutch Schultz Jesus Christ” bold and experimental style stretches what you can do with a story, period.  Lavie Tidhar turned in “To the Jerusalem Crater” which in many ways was more poem than story in terms of the sheer level of imagery.

HW: What are your favorites among the stories?

MB: I know I’d probably be better off framing my answer to this question by making the analogy that you’re asking me to pick my favorite child.  However, I can always tell you who my favorite child is at any given moment.  In this case, Kyle S. Johnson’s “Go and Tell it on the Mountain” was my personal favorite and Richard Dansky’s “The Mad Eyes of the Heron King” is a close second (because his ending made me want to high five Jerry on the spot AND IT FEATURES A TALKING ANIMAL!).  I know that Jerry’s favorites include John C. Hay’s “A Loss for Words” and Richard Wright’s “Sandboys.”

But that’s the thing about this anthology:  each story is going to hit people differently.  None of the early reviews have singled in on a single story which is just what we were aiming for.  There are so many different things for people to love in these stories, I can’t wait to be able to talk to people about them.

Maurice Broaddus’ dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, most recently including Dark Dreams II&III, Apex Magazine, Black Static, and Weird Tales Magazine. His novel series, The Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot/HarperCollins UK) debuts in 2010. Maurice Broaddus is a notorious egotist who, in anticipation of a successful writing career, is practicing speaking of himself in the third person. The “House of M” includes the lovely Sally Jo (”Mommy”) and two boys: Maurice Gerald Broaddus II (thus, he gets to retroactively declare himself “Maurice the Great”) and Malcolm Xavier Broaddus. Visit his site so he can bore you with details of all things him at www.MauriceBroaddus.com.   Most importantly, read his blog.  He loves that.  A lot.

Jerry Gordon couldn’t figure out a way to be an astronaut, film director and superhero in the same lifetime, so he settled on writing about them. His work has been published in InfoWorld, Indie Review, and the Midnight Diner. He recently completed his first novel, Severed Dreams, and can be found blurring genre lines at www.jerrygordon.net.

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