L.A. Jacob (00:00:08): Welcome to Small Publishing in a Big Universe. I am your host, L.A. Jacob. Today’s interview will be with Steven D. Brewer and author Francesca Forrest.
Coming from our sponsors this month: from Water Dragon Publishing, our Angels Adrift book five in the ZTech Chronicles by Ryan Southwick, A Wreck of Dragons by Elaine Isaak, and Snail’s Pace by Susan McDonough-Wachtman. In the Dragon Gem Series: Choose Your Truth by Jo Miles, and A Classic Beginner’s Mistake by Philip Brewer.
Coming from Water Dragon Publishing: Snail’s Pace by Susan McDonough-Wachtman. A young woman in 1884 doesn’t have many options, but Susanna did not expect to be tutoring an alien snail child while aboard a ship sailing in space. Who will get the real education?
Orphaned and penniless in Hong Kong in 1884, What’s a young, gentle woman to do? Impulsive, adventurous, and self-confident, Susanna accepts an offer to become the governess to a young foreigner on a ship. She doesn’t expect the ship to be in space or the foreign child to be an alien who looks like a giant snail. Nevertheless, she throws herself into the job of bringing Victorian decorum to the natives. But when she is accused of spying and put on trial in an alien court, Susanna has to challenge the law of the aliens to save herself and her young and slimy student.
Snail’s Pace is available this month from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and other online booksellers. Or support your local independent bookstores by ordering it through bookshop.org or indiebound.org. For more information, visit their website at WaterDragonPublishing.com.
Coming up next, Steven D. Brewer talks with Francesca Forrest.
Steven D. Brewer (00:02:59): Welcome to Small Publishing in a Big Universe. I’m your host, Steven D. Brewer, and my guest is Francesca Forest. Welcome.
Francesca Forrest (00:03:07): Thank you. Hello.
Steven D. Brewer (00:03:08): Do you want to tell me about your most recent story in 30 seconds or less?
Francesca Forrest (00:03:13): My most recent story. Now, do you mean my most recent published story or my most recent written story?
Steven D. Brewer (00:03:19): You can choose either one.
Francesca Forrest (00:03:21): I suppose I ought to talk about a published story because that’s one that people can actually find. So, I have two I could mention. The most recent published thing was something called New Day Dawning, which is a short story, and it was published by The Future Fire, which is a zine out of England, and they do sort of politically oriented stories, but science fictional or fantasy. So, I wanted to do a story where there was something like the Borg, but where the readers and the people in the story felt ambivalent about it and just leave it open to peoples’ own interpretation, what they were going to make of that. So that’s the story, New Day Dawning. And then before that, I’ve been with this small press, Annorlunda Books, and I have a little set of stories that I’m working on. They involve bureaucracy and gods and goddesses. And so, I had one of those come out called Lagoon Fire, which was the second in a series.
Steven D. Brewer (00:04:20): So The Inconvenient God and Lagoon Fire are part of the same series. It’s the same universe.
Francesca Forrest (00:04:25): Yeah.
Steven D. Brewer (00:04:26): Was there a particular inspiration that you had for those books?
Francesca Forrest (00:04:29): Yeah, the first one, The Inconvenient God, was inspired by something that Sonya Tafe said about exercising gods in ancient Rome. There were ceremonies for driving out gods, and I thought to myself, wow, I’d really like to write a story about driving out a god and what would be the occasion? Why would you wanna do that, and how would the god react and so on. And we must have had that conversation in 2010. And then it took me until 2018, I think, was when The Inconvenient God came out. That was the little, uh, sort of kernel that that story grew around.
Steven D. Brewer (00:05:08): So when you’re writing, do you have a particular work schedule that you use, something to keep you kind of on track or engaged?
Francesca Forrest (00:05:16): Not really. I have one friend who I— Sometimes we try to write once a week together. She lives in California, so we try to get together just by text, and we’ll chat with each other by text and then we’ll say, let’s write for half an hour. And so, then we’ll write for half an hour and, and then we report on how much we’ve written. And that, for me, guarantees me that at least I have that period of time where I know that I’m going get some writing done.
And then other than that, if I can build up ahead of steam, I’ll try to write at odd moments during the day. But part of why I’m not a more prolific writer is that I don’t turn over time for doing it. And also, I spend a lot, a lot, a lot of time wool gathering. My writing process involves sitting there and thinking and doing a lot of thinking and writing a sentence and then thinking about the implications of the sentence and taking it out and then trying it again. I think this is probably a digression thing or a time sink thing, but almost anything I start to write, I’m like, well, wait a minute. Let me research that and see if that’s really the way it would be, you know? And then the next thing I know, I’m researching how to mend the net or something like that, and then, then it goes on and on like that.
Steven D. Brewer (00:06:27): One of the questions that I had is, how did you choose your publisher?
Francesca Forrest (00:06:31): Opportunistically. What happened was a writer named Vanessa Fog reached out to me and asked me if I would copyedit a story that she was having published by the publisher that eventually published me. And I loved the story of hers that I copyedited. It was very, very beautiful and just somewhat unusual and, I thought, wow, this small publisher published this story. And I thought, well, gosh, maybe they would publish something of mine then. So, I had The Inconvenient God, and it had been, it was an inconvenient length, was not quite novella length, it was novelette length, but that’s not a length that’s easy to find a publisher for in the science fiction magazines. There are a few that will publish things that length, but I hadn’t gotten it published at one of those places. So, I thought, well, I’ll ask, I’ll, I’ll query it there, and they took it, so.
Steven D. Brewer (00:07:22): So how long have you been a published author?
Francesca Forrest (00:07:25): Let’s see. I’ve written all my life sort of, just the way kids like to write, but I didn’t try to submit anything anywhere until I came online, which was in 2006. I joined LiveJournal and got to know writers that way. I had a little piece published in an anthology, it was called A Guidebook to Surreal Plants, I think was what it was called. And I had something published in that maybe in 2006 or 2007, I guess. So, I guess that was the first thing that I had officially published. And it was just a tiny thing and not a big sale. And I think the first pro sale I had, although I’m, I don’t think it was a pro magazine at the time, it was in Strange Horizons, and that would’ve been in 2009. And that was a story called Corey’s Mother, which involved fairies and crows and things like that.
Steven D. Brewer (00:08:17): What does the small press offer as somebody who’s chosen to go that way?
Francesca Forrest (00:08:22): I had experience with self-publishing. I knew what you had to do to self-publish, and I enjoyed doing it, but it’s not a small amount of work. It’s considerable work. I happened to be a copy editor by profession, so I could copyedit my own work, although that’s not recommended. You should really have another person do it because it’s fresh eyes. But there’s all kinds of things that are harder to do. I couldn’t do my own book covers, so I had to arrange for that, just to name one thing. And so, if you go with a small press, you get help with that stuff, they’ll help you do that. And my publisher, I’m sure the same is true for your publisher. They will design a cover for you with your input, which is not something that’s true for bigger publishers. Bigger publishers will just do it without your input necessarily.
Francesca Forrest (00:09:08): So that’s something that you get if you’re doing it with a small press. And like with self-publishing, a small press can keep your book in print indefinitely, because a small press, like as if you were a self-publisher, will make money gradually over the course of pretty much forever. And so, I like that. I like the idea of my books being available whenever someone should happen to want to have a copy, as opposed to with one of the bigger publishers where they’ll be a print run. And when that’s done, that’s it. Probably you’re not going get a second run. So, I like that a small publisher will keep the book in print. And then I also think it, uh, the relationship that you can have with the publisher, my small press Annorlunda Books at the publisher, she’s one woman and we interact with each other.
Francesca Forrest (00:09:54): Personally, I’ve worked a lot with Mike Allen who does, uh, Mythic Delirium and when he was running the Mythic Delirium magazine, he just works with all these people directly when he publishes peoples’ books. He helps arrange publicity; he does all that stuff. And so, they get this very personal experience and I think that’s really nice. So, I like that. I really like the human connection that you get if you’re working with a small press. So, I think the combination of taking some of the onerous burdens off your back, keeping a book in print a long time, and the personal relationship are why I really value going with a small press.
Steven D. Brewer (00:10:35): One thing I think that’s important to talk about is certainly when I was reading Writer Beware early on as I was getting involved in this, there were a lot of warnings about small presses. And in fact, if you go and read Writer Beware, there are still many almost red flags that are raised about small presses. So, one of the things that was important to me when I first decided to go with the small press was doing my due diligence. Do you have any thoughts about, you know, what kind of due diligence you need to perform when evaluating a small press?
Francesca Forrest (00:11:06): Yes, I do. And I think that’s why this is sort of a word-of-mouth style, but that’s why paying attention to what your acquaintances or friends, what their experiences with a press are, seems to me to be enlightening. Because if you watch someone being published somewhere and you see what issues come up, does a thing fall behind schedule? Is there poor communication or is there good communication? And what promises are made and what promises are fulfilled as far as you can tell, as far as you can know. That’s something you can do if you have friends or acquaintances who will talk about the experiences that they’ve had. And I mean, I’ve certainly relied on that.
Steven D. Brewer (00:11:40): These things tend to show up on Twitter.
Francesca Forrest (00:11:42): Yeah. They’ll show up on Twitter and two, I’ll go and I’ll see where is something published. When you got published with Water Dragon, I’m like, okay, let’s go look at the website. Let’s see what else they have and how they’re representing themselves. And do all the links on this website work? Oh yes, you know, they do and that kind of thing. And then what does their Twitter feed look like and what are they saying? And are these books available in places? Yes, they are. That kind of thing. And then how do they look? Do I like the way they look? I do. And then there used to be… see, everything changes so fast. And when I started being online in the first decade of the 2000’s, if you look at places like Submission Grindr or Duotrope, you can look at those and you can see what their turnaround times are.
Francesca Forrest (00:12:27): Do they get back to people or are people left hanging? Do they have a lot of people submitting to them or not many? Do they have a history of regular publication or not? I think those things help. And then just looking for warning signs. When you’re dealing with people. If you, I want people to behave professionally, so if you write and they answer and then you write and then they don’t answer for two months, I pay attention to that. I mean, there’s reasons why people can be delayed, but it doesn’t take much of anything to say, “I’m not going be able to answer for a while, so I’ll get back to you later.” So, I pay attention to how professionally I feel like people are behaving to.
Steven D. Brewer (00:13:07): I think you’ve nailed it on the head.
Francesca Forrest (00:13:09): I think something that’s very interesting to me, and maybe it’s interesting to people who listen to the podcast, is remembering that your audience… There was a cute tweet on Twitter as someone who self-published, and she said, who’s my ideal audience? And she made up characters who might read her book. Basically, what she was saying was, anybody who wants to read this book is my ideal reader. I think that it’s important for writers to realize that your audience can be anybody. If you’re writing My Little Pony Fanfic, you’ve got an audience and that’s great there. That’s a great audience. We don’t all have to be aiming to capture a stadium’s worth of readers and also at the same time. So that’s one side of it. But the other side of it is you might find readers who you’re not expecting, and that’s a wonderful thing, and you can be happy for that. And I think that’s something that also independent publishing and small presses reminds us, and what you did with the chat books, you make a thing and then you put it out there, it finds a home. I think that’s just great, and I really like that and, and I think it just having that biodiversity, just having your odd quirky plants that are out there finding a niche.
Steven D. Brewer (00:14:19): Do you have any final thoughts or any other things that we should touch base on before we go?
Francesca Forrest (00:14:23): I, yes. I’m just so honored and delighted that you asked me to do this. It’s a lot of fun.
Steven D. Brewer (00:14:29): Oh yeah. Thank you very much for being on the podcast. So, it’s been kind of an adventure for me and to be involved with it.
L.A. Jacob (00:14:45): From Water Dragon Publishing this month by Elaine Isaak, A Wreck of Dragons, teens, and their giant robots search for a new home for mankind, but the planet they discover belongs to the Dragons.
200 years after the climate wars left Earth uninhabitable, Jahari and his giant robot companion lead a squad of scouts on a quest for a new Goldilocks planet to settle the remains of the human race. When one of his scouts and his bot go down in a hostile wilderness, Jahari’s fights who save them reveals complex behavior in the dragon like dominant species. The scout team fragments as Jahari strives to rescue his friends and discover the truth about the aliens. If he’s right, mankind will lose its best hope for a home, or sacrifice its own humanity. A Wreck of Dragons is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and other online book sellers. Or support your local independent bookstores by ordering it through bookshop.org or indiebound.org. For more information, visit their website at WaterDragonPublishing.com.
L.A. Jacob (00:16:19): Thanks again to our guest, Steven D. Brewer, and author Francesca Forest. We plan on publishing new episodes every second Wednesday of the month. Watch for new episodes around that time.
Theme music is provided by Melody Loops. Other music is from assorted free music websites found on the internet. If you want to know more about Small Publishing in a Big Universe, visit our website at SPBU-Podcast.com. Tweet us at SPBU-podcast and like us on Facebook at SPBU-podcast.
This podcast was recorded and edited by L.A. Jacob. Executive producer is Steven Radecki. This month’s episode was sponsored by Paper Angel Press and its imprints, Water Dragon Publishing and Unruly Voices. You can hear our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, and most of your favorite podcast services. Visit our marketplace for more information about books that are mentioned on this podcast. Thanks very much for listening and talk to you soon.
I would like to let everyone know that one of our interviewers passed away recently. Tom, who interviewed me on our anniversary podcast, died peacefully in December. He was a constant companion of 25 years. Yes, 25 years. He loved Fancy Feast, Gravy Lovers, beef flavor waffles, tuna water from the can, and playing with laser lights and mouse pointers. He will be missed.