Friday, October 23, 2009

Jennifer Brozek, dark speculative fiction writer /editor

I met Jennifer at BayCon. We were instant friends when we shared a panel. Cons are like that. And Jennifer has so many interesting, helpful things to say, I asked her for an interview.

She also has a book, Grants Pass, a post-apocalyptic anthology that came out this year. I read it and reviewed it over on SFReader. I gave it the glowing review it fully deserved. The wide range of foible-ridden characters represented in the stories made it very compelling. Those characters could have made a trip to the grocery store (pre-apocalypse) riveting.

AW: What attracted you to editing anthologies?

JB: It wasn't something I decided on specifically. I never thought, "I want to edit an anthology now." My first anthology, Grants Pass, was simply a project I wanted to do that happened to be an anthology and I needed to be the editor of it. I went into the project blind and learned a lot along the way. After doing the first one, I got bit by the bug of what an anthology is and could be. I got hooked. I enjoy creating something that is more than the sum of its parts—which is what an anthology is.

AW: Do you consider yourself foremost an editor or a writer?

JB: Definitely a writer first (at least at this point in my career) and an editor second. Most of my projects are writing based. Actually, now that I think about it, about 60% of my projects are writing based with the other 40% in the editing, proofing and publishing category. I still have stories I want to tell. I still enjoy writing fiction and RPG worlds.

AW: How has editing helped your writing and vise verse?

JB: Editing out the same mistakes over and over again has taught me to not make the same mistakes in my own writing. Reading stories I know I will have to edit later has taught me to use "active voice" much more often than "passive voice." At the same time, writing has helped my editing by allowing me to recognize my past mistakes that much quicker in someone else's work.

I really believe that doing more than one job in the writing industry improves all of a professional's skills. Writing improves editing and slush reading. Editing improves writing and slush reading and slush reading does amazing things for writing and will give an editor an idea of how much work is involved in editing/copy editing a story.

AW: How much work goes into shaping a cohesive anthology after the stories are chosen?

JB: It is a huge amount of work. After the stories are chosen, there is a series of back and forth that goes on between the editor and author for edits (rewrite requests) and copy editing (technical corrections). For my anthologies, I like to have an afterward from each of the authors about the story itself and, of course, a biography. Getting a single story in shape for an anthology takes hours of work and coordination between the editor and the author.

After that is a series of processes – story order, book layout, getting ARCs out to reviewers in order to get the needed book blurbs for the cover of the book, getting the cover to approve, proofing the ARCs for any stupid spelling error and the list goes on. You must be very detailed oriented: who owes you what, who do you owe something to, when is your deadline and a thousand other details. Finally, you need to give your publisher a completed product for production and hope you didn't forget something silly like your own bio or the introduction.

AW: I know you write role-playing games by day. Most recently you had a writing contract with NC Soft for Aion. What did you like most about writing for it?

JB: It is an amazing experience to be in a room with a dozen highly creative writers all working on the same product. You have some area experts and some jacks-of-all-trades that you can talk with. I spent about half of my time just editing another author's work and the other half writing original content. Everyone writes. Everyone edits. Everyone needs the edits. It is this fabulous gestalt of creative writing. If you have a question about something, you can easily call it out and someone will answer you. The best part about it was being able to really dive in and create something new for a game that millions of people will eventually play.

AW: Are you an avid gamer yourself?

JB: I am a gamer. I don't know if I can say "avid" because I tend to stick to a single video game for a long time until I'm done playing with it and then I'm done-done. No more. I do spend my Saturday nights pretending to be a bloodsucking creature of the night at a local LARP. When I'm not running that LARP, I tend to have one tabletop game a week as well. I guess I'm a well rounded gamer – tabletop, video games and LARPing. My newest video game addiction is Aion. But I need to be careful because if I'm playing the game, I'm not writing.

AW: What's the story you've written that you are most fond of? Why?

JB: That is an evil question. It's almost like asking "Which one is your favorite child?" I'll break it out. Grants Pass is my favorite anthology because it was my first and I would not let it die. Five years from conception to publication—it was the little anthology that could. Regresser's Evolution is my favorite novel because it is the first novel I completed that I was willing to show anyone else. It is about to be completely rewritten as a serial for a possible upcoming project. It really does need to be rewritten. So, whether or not the project pans out, it will still be for the best. Finally, my current favorite short story is "Eulogy for Muffin" because it's about kids running a Wild Hunt with their family pets and what's not to love about that? It also had the best reaction from all of my 1st Round Readers.

AW: Can you tell us about the new anthology you're working on?

JB: The newest anthology I'm working on is called Close Encounters of the Urban Kind. It has already been sold to the Apex Book Company and is due out in the Spring or Summer of 2010. It is a mash up of urban legends and alien encounters. Some urban legends caused by alien encounters. Some urban legends used by aliens in an encounter and some alien encounters based around urban legends retold. I'm very excited about this anthology. I have a fabulous set of authors for it. The author list will be posted in October on the Apex Book Company website. I am in the final stages of story selection and I can see just how good this anthology is going to be. Scary, too, as I have a preference for the darker side of life.

AW: What are you writing now?

JB: Right now, I am working on a new PDF setting for Colonial Gothic – a horror RPG based in 1776 – called Colonial Gothic: Plymouth Rock. This should be out in time for Thanksgiving. I have a new website fiction project for Colonial Gothic that should go live at the beginning of 2010.

AW: What do you mean when you say PDF setting?

JB: It is a PDF only release of a product that describes a location setting in the RPG world. It describes the location layout, major features, canon people/places/events/mysteries. Then in a Gamemaster section, all of the location's secrets are discussed for use in an RPG campaign.

I have also just agreed to a monthly project involving the Pathfinder RPG as well as agreed to be the lead writer on a new Talisman Studios product set in the Suzerain universe. In my spare time (hah!) I intend to start the rewrite of Regresser's Evolution. My writing cup is full and this makes me very happy.

Read more about Jennifer on her website.

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