Today on the blog I am delighted to present a Q & A with author and creator/ editor of Unnerving Magazine, Eddie Generous. We’re talking submissions, selections, and Unnerving’s latest anthology Hardened Hearts. Lit lovers, I strongly recommend that you give this little Canadian mag a chance because it has put out some truly top notch productions!
17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row, and many more.
Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.
- FOREWORD – James Newman
- IT BREAKS MY HEART TO WATCH YOU ROT – Somer Canon
- WHAT IS LOVE? – Calvin Demmer
- HEIRLOOM – Theresa Braun
- THE RECLUSE – John Boden 40
- WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR MONSTER LOVER – Gwendolyn Kiste
- DOG TIRED – Eddie Generous
- THE PINK BALLOON – Tom Deady
- IT’S MY PARTY AND I’LL CRY IF I WANT TO – J.L. Knight
- BURNING SAMANTHA – Scott Hallam
- CONSUMED – Madhvi Ramani
- CLASS OF 2000 – Robert Dean
- LEARNING TO LOVE – Jennifer Williams
- BROTHERS – Leo X. Robertson
- PORCELAIN SKIN – Laura Blackwell
- THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD – Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
- MEETING THE PARENTS – Sarah L. Johnson
- MATCHMAKER – Meg Elison
Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine is an indie publisher of horror, dark fantasy and science fiction, crime, thrillers, suspense, and everything in between. Open to subs for the magazine often, but closed for the year for standalone titles.
Eddie is the editor, the slush reader, the artist, the public relations honcho, the layout and design section, and cat wrangler of the whole shebang. He runs Unnerving from a computer on a desk in the town of Powell River.
Q & A
What drives Unnerving Magazine? And what are your plans for its future?
I mostly want an excuse to talk to cool people and put out books and the magazine. I also like that people butter me up so much in cover letters, particularly in my story choices. For the magazine, I’ll keep on pushing for cool Q&As (last issue had Owen King and Christina Henry), there’s always going to be one or two features, but for Issue #8 I’m going to do an extended inspired by Stephen King edition.
As for the publishing side, I’ll have something like ten to twelve (dependant on contract agreements and final decisions in my slush pile) books coming out this year. The first limited hardcovers offered by Unnerving, and also an anthology (submissions open Feb. 28th) of Gothic fiction and poetry.
Tell us a little about Unnerving came to publish full length print publications.
Mostly I looked at the free time and the empty feeling the week after a magazine came out and decided to fill it. I’d done layout for years before ever thinking of having a magazine. I have long hours into editing (news and fiction) and even longer hours into appreciating fiction. Since I can make adequate-to-great covers and interior art, it meant publishing books only ate time (a little money up front, but not much).
It makes me sad about the state of things when some publishers will pay artists so they can have a good-looking magazine, but not pay the authors involved (paying is the only way to have consistent content… You get what you pay for most times with unpaid labor).
You publish a wide range of prose from flash fiction through to novels between Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine, how do you balance these competing demands?
That stuff isn’t competing with each other, nor with my casual day-to-day life. Casual life has lost the battle to Unnerving. I only watch TV/movies while exercising (Friday nights I watch a movie and eat popcorn, but don’t tell my to-do list), so that frees an absurd amount of time. I have zero social life. Last year I took five days off and I’ve come to understand something about myself since keeping track of hours spent on Unnerving; I’m addicted to work.
Work is good, work demands I consistently challenge myself, which helps bury the constantly impending sense of inadequacy. I have an imaginary enemy and he will always outpace me and grow into the person I want to be before I can get there, all I can do is work to not fall too far behind.
Which is weird in the scheme of my existence, I was a half-asser right up to my late-twenties (I’m thirty-three now).
What do you look for when selecting submissions for publication? What do you think makes a good submission?
I answer this different every time, some stuff is always similar: good grasp of writing, there’s a strong voice, a story with a beginning, middle, and ending, and that the writer HAS FOLLOWED THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.
What would you like to see more of in the submissions to Unnerving, and what would you like to see less of?
I would like to see an even split of men and women submitting. I’ve been getting more women with every submission window, but it’s still not even. Also, authentic country stories would be nice.
Less… People rehash TV shows and popular books/stories often, I wish they’d make it less obvious. Also, drugs are booooooooooooooooooring nine times out of ten, send that stuff elsewhere unless it paints a reality of scabs and loss and living on disability.
Is your thought process for choosing a book length manuscript different than choosing short stories and novellas?
Novellas and novels fall into the same category, rather than novellas and shorts. And yes, I give standalone stuff a wider berth. Maybe I read five pages I don’t like, just in case someone was feeling out a story and hasn’t mastered chopping the fat from a story. If I make it all the way through a standalone, it’s almost certainly that I’ll shoot over a contract. If there’s something wrong or hinky, that’s why an editor exists.
With short stories, if I make it all the way to the end of a short story it’s about fifty-fifty. Most stories lose me in two paragraphs, but that’s clunky writing (everybody’s been there at some point, so it’s not a bash or a complaint, it’s just how it works).
Do you have any advice for to writers who are just starting to send out submissions to literary magazines?
READ THE MAGAZINE YOU’RE SENDING STUFF TO. For real. Unnerving is listed on the usual sites, stating sci-fi and fantasy are accepted, but I’ve blogged and ranted that I’m wicked selective about sci-fi and fantasy. And still, here come the dragons and the space opera.
Being located in Powell River, British Columbia, do you have any advice for Canadian writers in particular?
Base your stories in Canada. Canada is interesting. Only New Yorkers and wide-eyed teenagers think New York City is an exciting place for your ANY CITY story.
Are you working on any other anthologies or major projects right now?
As mentioned above, yep. I have a ton of stuff. I’m wrapping up the last of the standalone submission acceptances/rejections. Should all contracts work out, 2018 will include:
- At least one limited chapbook (two pretty fancy pantsy folks have agreed to send me stuff for this, eBooks for this as well)
- Two limited edition hardcover novelettes (eBooks for these as well, but no paperbacks)
- Four novellas
- Two (possibly three) novels
- Five collections
- One anthology (possibly a second)
I’m about two-thirds done the first round of edits for most of these.
I know that this question may have been covered in earlier interviews, but just for a bit of background, what was the inspiration behind putting Hardened Hearts together?
Actually, no it hasn’t. Originally it was going to be five novelettes, but that fell apart. People have novelettes they can’t place, but it ain’t easy whipping one up for a particular call. The heart part came in a backward sense (same way Splish, Slash, Takin’ a Bloodbath came along). I was working on something unrelated and I had an image of a stone heart pop into my head. Then I was playing around on Photoshop, just making stuff (it’s like being lazy and doing work at the same time), and I painted the heart. I thought my slapdash faux-brush looked pretty cool, then I got to the novelettes idea before eventually opening to any old thing that fit my mostly wishy-washy idea of the kinds of stories I wanted.
Setting a theme for a collection can be a complex process, how did you navigate this challenge for Hardened Hearts.
I set out to make a four-star collection. I figured everyone would like at least some of the huge array of story types included. They’re all good, but it’s hard dwelling in Tom Hanks water (everybody loves Tom Hanks), so I figured to some the collection might be Hanks and to others it might be Carrot Top. It’s been a real surprise so many like so many of the stories.
With Hardened Hearts you are both the editor, and a contributor, can you tell us how you came to include your own short story in the anthology?
Ugh, this was a real moral dilemma for me. I’ve had plenty of things published before, but putting my own story in felt icky as hell. But then I flipped between people like Ed McBain putting themselves in anthologies and the opposite, disgusting editors who plaster their name in huge letters on a cover of the anthology, as it’s just a ruse to having a credit to their name when they slam a novella in with a hundred bucks worth of short stories in with it. In the end, it came down to an early reader telling me they loved the story.
Even if Dog Tired is the Carrot Top of the collection, I lucked out with enough Tom Hanks level story submissions. Plus, adding my own story includes zero financial overhead.
What was the last book/ short story you read that stuck with you for days?
I recently reread The Shinning. It’s the ultimate peanut butter on the brain for me. It comes with so many huge emotions, but I’ve gone over all this on another blog (scifiandscary.com). The last recently released book to do this was probably Bone White by Ronald Malfi, it’s intense, set in a barren Alaska, best book on my top shelf list for 2017.
And finally, do you have any must-read or favourite books that you would like to recommend?
- The Shining by Stephen King (obviously)
- Bone White by Ronald Malfi (obviously)
- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
- The Corn Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates
- Bad Dirt by Annie Proulx
- Odd Man Out by James Newman
- The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones
- Imajica by Clive Barker
- The MaddAddam series by Margaret Atwood
- 11/22/63 by Stephen King
- Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist
- Room by Emma Donoghue
- Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
- Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon
- Red by Jack Ketchum
- The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
- Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
- And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste
- Shadowland by Peter Straub
- The Long Walk by Stephen King
- Red Harvest Dashiell Hammett
- Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
- Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
- Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
There’s more, but this is already out of hand.
Many thanks to Eddie Generous at Unnerving Magazine for answering my questions so last minute. And, to Theresa Braun for reaching out, making this possible, and for being unfailingly patient while I ran so very, very behind.