This Is Horror Interview Pt. 1

The first part of my interview with Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella of This Is Horror is now available for everyone, not just Patreon contributors, HERE.

The whole conversation was a lot of fun, and this represents just the first half, so there will be more in another week our so. In this part we talk about focusing on creative work, and sometimes taking a break from it, differences between music-making and writing, and the nuts and bolts of assembling a short story collection… among other things.

INTERVIEW LINK:
http://www.thisishorror.co.uk/tih-211-michael-griffin-on-compiling-short-story-collections-writing-and-music-and-writing-advice-ignored/

Two Years of The Lure of Devouring Light

My debut collection The Lure of Devouring Light came out April 30, 2016. Every publication is an accomplishment for a writer, but the first full-length book with your name alone on the cover, not a limited chapbook or an anthology shared with other writers but a full-length publication of one’s own, is a major landmark.

Now, two years on, I thought I might reflect on the steps and experiences involved in planning, creating and releasing that book into the world.

Preparation

I received a lot of early support from Joe Pulver, an amazing writer who may be better known as an editor of anthologies, including The Grimscribe’s Puppets, for which he won the Shirley Jackson Award. Joe was the first to tell me to start planning for my first collection at least two years before I had any hope of having the book come out, and preferably three years. He urged me to think about the ways my stories fit together, even stories written years apart, some of them for different themed anthologies. This helped me to think about the focus of my work, and the ways different stories often worked together. Another important consideration was to figure out which stories wouldn’t fit well in a book next to the others, and plan to exclude those.

From Query to Submission

Even before I had completed all the stories that would go in the book, Joe Pulver was suggesting a couple of possible publishers for my future collection, one of which reached out to me to discuss the possibility. By the time I actually had all the stories finished, a new publisher (other than those Pulver had told me I should consider) had started putting out interesting, great-looking books that were immediately well received. I made a mental note of this new press, Word Horde, and ended up getting to know Editor & Publisher Ross Lockhart as we attended some of the same conventions.

I submitted stories to Word Horde anthologies like Cthulhu Fhtagn! and The Children of Old Leech, and my stories made it into those books, by which time I decided Word Horde would be my first choice to publish the collection, if Ross could be persuaded to take on a first collection by a fairly new writer. By the time my complete manuscript was ready to submit, Ross agreed to take a look.

Manuscript Pending Consideration

Most writers entertain fantasies of their submitted work being accepted immediately, with promises to publish it as soon as possible. Real life doesn’t usually work like this.

Ross let me know he’d taken a look at the manuscript and he liked what he’d seen, but while he wasn’t rejecting it, he also wasn’t immediately prepared to accept it, either. I waited a length of time which, while objectively reasonable and understandable, also led to impatience or anxiety on my part. Others to whom I confided the situation, after months had passed, said I owed it to myself to submit the book elsewhere. I decided to let Ross reach a decision on his own time, believing the fit to be a good one, and feeling (as I still feel) that Ross was absolutely fair and honest, so if he were to determine he wasn’t interested in the book, he’d let me know.

Feedback from Others

While I waited, I continued writing, publishing new stories, attending conventions and doing all the other writer stuff. That’s an important point — while you’re waiting, don’t just stop! Keep working on other projects no matter what.

Writers, editors and publishers love to gossip at conventions. Everyone likes to hear the early news of which books are coming out when, and from which publishers, which writers and presses are on the rise, which press isn’t paying their royalties or sending statements, who’s making promises and not following through, and so on. One of the really fun things about convention-going is the chance to hear which book deals are in the works well in advance of the book being officially announced. I was asked many times about the status of my collection, and where I expected to see it published. People suggested other places that might be interested, while others said it made sense to be patient and hold out for my preferred publisher.

Some expressed surprise that I’d submitted to one of the better-regarded indie presses in the weird/horror corner, the implication being that I ought to have more realistic expectations. One writer at a ReaderCon dinner rolled his eyes and suggested a writer in my position needed to start out by aiming a bit lower.

Follow-up Query

While I hadn’t reached a point of losing interest in having my book come out from Word Horde, as another big convention approached, I queried Ross and said that if he was leaning toward a “no” on the book, I’d like to know so I could talk with other publishers at the con. This wasn’t meant to be an ultimatum, and didn’t seem to be taken as one, but did have the effect of eliciting the most solid response I’d received. Ross told me he was near to resolving another long-pending deal (which I now guess to have been for John Langan’s excellent novel The Fisherman), and promised a definite answer within two weeks.

Very soon my patience was rewarded, and Ross wrote to say he’d love to put the book out on Word Horde in 2016! My collection ended up in the best possible hands.

Incidentally, I don’t tell the story of my wait for a definite answer to suggest that Ross took too long. My point is that publishing often involves patience, and very often the best possible result is neither the easiest or quickest option. Writers who persevere are far more likely to end up reaching their goals, whatever those may be. It’s far better to be published well than to take the first, easiest path available, and hurry the work into print with sloppy or careless publishers, or those who say yes to projects they never manage to release. Too many publishers over-promise and under-deliver. You’re always much better off dealing with a partner who delays making any promises until they’re sure they can commit.

Introduction, cover art and blurbs

If you’re dealing with a big New York mega-publisher, it’s possible they make all the decisions and choices involved in turning your batch of stories into a book. They may purchase cover art, hand it off to their in-house cover designers, send out an advance manuscript hoping to get blurbs from a handful of famous writers, and so on.

One of the pleasures of dealing with a smaller press is the opportunity to have input on these important aspects of the book. I had already asked John Langan to write an introduction, and he’d agreed. Laird Barron had heard the book was coming, and offered to read it and give me a blurb before I could get around to asking him. I asked a few of my other favorite writers for blurbs, and all agreed. I’ve heard many writers say they hate asking for blurbs, but at least for my first book, the process was a breeze.

Ross asked me for suggestions for the cover, and I sent him a ranked list of three artists whose work I had seen around the internet. The second and third had done covers for many horror and fantasy books, but my first choice was Jarek Kubicki, a Polish artist and graphic designer whose images had a dark, almost Gothic elegance that I felt corresponded to the feel of the book. I didn’t know if he would be interested in making his work available for a book cover, but Ross made it happen.

The publication deadline ended up being moved up from late 2016 when another planned Word Horde book had to be delayed, opening up an April slot. John’s introduction came in just before the deadline, we got the proofreading and edits done, and Scott R. Jones did a great job on the cover layout using Kubicki’s art.

Stories Become a Book

It’s an incredible thing when a batch of my stories, along with the work and input of others, combine to become a finished book that people can buy and read.

The initial release was quite exciting. I received a very nice advance review from Publishers Weekly.

On the day of publication, when Ross and I were at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, California (in part to celebrate the release of the book), Laird Barron made a blog post mentioning the book and urging people to check it out.

As people who had pre-ordered the book began receiving it, many of them photographed their copies, often in interesting settings. It was wonderful to see instances of the book in the real world, often in the actual hands of people who would soon be reading it. Here’s one with Word Horde Assistant Editor, Elinor Phantom.

Two years on, I remain very proud of the book, and especially pleased to see people continuing to pick it up, read it and discuss it. Many books disappear without a trace, while others receive a lot of attention at first and quickly fade. My sense is that The Lure of Devouring Light has been very well received, has sold quite well, and continues to receive very positive attention even now.

I’d like to thank Joe Pulver for his advice and guidance, John Langan for his wonderful intro, Laird Barron, Jeffrey Thomas, S.P. Miskowski and Michael Cisco for their blurbs, Jarek Kubicki for the cover art and Scott R. Jones for the design. Of course, Ross E. Lockhart deserves special thanks for taking a chance on my book. Thanks also to everyone who has read, recommended and reviewed my book. It’s been a great first two years for The Lure of Devouring Light. I can only hope the second collection, coming soon, lives up to the fine example of the first.

The Human Alchemy is Coming From Word Horde

My first short fiction collection The Lure of Devouring Light was released just short of two years ago by Word Horde. I still vividly recall seeing for the first time the beautiful cover art Jarek Kubicki and layout by Scott R Jones, and feel the cover is a wonderful complement to what’s inside.

The book included a very nice introduction by one of my favorite writers, John Langan, and was overall quite well received. I obtained endorsements or “blurbs” from several more of my favorite writers, including Laird Barron, S.P. Miskowski, Michael Cisco and Jeffrey Thomas. I poured a lot of myself into that book, and I still feel it’s an expression I can be proud of.

Though the news of my forthcoming second collection The Human Alchemy has emerged in hints and whispers over the past six months or so, I think I ought to make a proper announcement. I’ll have more details to share between now and the release date, and of course I’ll likely be sticking the book in everyone’s face (virtually, that is), more than they might care to see it, once released. For now, I’ll give you this.

The Human Alchemy will be released in June, 2018 by Word Horde.

Editor and Publisher Ross E. Lockhart has been a never-ending pleasure to work with, both a solid and serious professional when there’s business to be done, and great fun when it’s time for chatting about books or getting beers at a convention. I couldn’t have been happier with the whole process of putting out my first collection, and always hoped it would do well enough that Word Horde would want to do another. I will now have the honor of being the first writer to have two books on Word Horde.

I’ll soon share the table of contents, information about the stories, the introduction, the blurbs, and eventually the cover art. Like the Beach Boys said in Surfin’ USA… Can’t wait for June!

Talking The Lure of Devouring Light with Gordon B. White on Hellnotes

Hellnotes just posted this in-depth interview I did with Gordon B. White about my story “The Lure of Devouring Light.” Note that the interview concerns only the title story from my collection, and not the entire collection.

The interview includes spoilers, so don’t read this until after you’ve read the story! The story is available to read for free online at Apex Magazine, where the story was first published. In fact, this story was my first professional publication.

https://www.apex-magazine.com/the-lure-of-devouring-light/

Last time I looked, the byline on the post says it’s by Jess Landry, but the interview is definitely with Gordon B. White. That will probably be corrected.

I enjoyed this interview not only for Gordon’s very insightful and interesting questions, but for the opportunity to discuss one particular story in depth, and to allow for discussion from from the point of view of assuming that anyone reading has already finished the story. It was fun to go into detail about where the story came from, and to discuss the characters and their interactions in depth.

Here’s the link to the “Deep Cuts” interview with Gordon B. White at Hellnotes.com:

https://hellnotes.com/deep-cuts-michael-griffin-talks-the-lure-of-devouring-light/

My thanks to Gordon White and Hellnotes!

Honorable Mentions 2016 – Best Horror of the Year

Writers strive in several directions… To be published in great places, to attract readers to our work, and to achieve the approval of editors we respect.

Ellen Datlow is the top editor in the fields of Horror and Weird Fiction, and her Best Horror of the Year is an essential summary of every year’s activities. I’m pleased and very flattered to see Ellen Datlow’s 2016 Honorable Mentions list for Best Horror of the Year includes four of my stories, incuding two from my first collection and two that will be in my second collection.

Griffin, Michael “Endure with a Dying Frame,” The Lovecraft ezine, #38.

Griffin, Michael “The Black Vein Runs Deep,” The Lure of Devouring Light.

Griffin, Michael “The Human Alchemy,” Eternal Frankenstein.

Griffin, Michael “The Jewel in the Eye,” The Lure of Devouring Light.

The full Honorable Mentions list for 2016 is spread across 3 pages, and all my entries are on page 1 because of the way the alphabet works.

http://ellendatlow.com/2017/10/12/honorable-mentions-2016-best-horror-of-the-year-volume-nine-1/

http://ellendatlow.com/2017/10/12/honorable-mentions-2016-best-horror-of-the-year-volume-nine-2/

http://ellendatlow.com/2017/10/12/honorable-mentions-2016-best-horror-of-the-year-volume-nine-3/

My thanks to Ellen for the endorsement, and to Ross E. Lockhart for publishing Lure of Devouring Light and Eternal Frankenstein, and to Lovecraft eZine for publishing “Endure Within a Dying Frame.” The above-mentioned second collection, called The Human Alchemy, will include that story as well as “Endure Within a Dying Frame” and several others, and should appear in 2018.

New Interview With John Linwood Grant

John Linwood Grant posted our interview on greydogtales.com yesterday. We went in some interesting directions with this set of questions and answers, discussing a number of angles I hadn’t previously addressed about my work.

Mystery and confusion are aspects I enjoy generally, and particularly in this story, I felt they were important, maybe even central.

I really enjoyed thinking about and responding the interview questions, and hope you’ll take a look. We spent a fair amount of time on both THE LURE OF DEVOURING LIGHT and HIEROGLYPHS OF BLOOD AND BONE.

LINK:

http://greydogtales.com/blog/devouring-hieroglyphs-michael-griffin

My thanks to John Linwood Grant for the interesting approach to interview questions, and the opportunity to spread the word about my work in general, and the new novel in particular.

Interviewed by Gwendolyn Kiste

I recently completed an interview with Gwendolyn Kiste, which has just been posted to Gwendolyn’s blog.

We talk a lot about the new novel Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone, about my collection The Lure of Devouring Light, and various other things past and present, such as the difference in my approach, writing short stories versus novels. Here’s the link:

http://www.gwendolynkiste.com/Blog/devoured-by-the-light-interview-with-michael-griffin/

I’d like to thank Gwendolyn for the opportunity, and the great questions!

Benoit Lelievre Review at Dead End Follies

It’s been quite a week for reviews of The Lure of Devouring Light. First S.T. Joshi, then John Claude Smith. This morning, Benoit Lelievre has posted a review on his blog, Dead End Follies.

http://www.deadendfollies.com/blog/book-review-michael-griffin-the-lure-of-devouring-light-2016

Griffin-Lure-Cover

Lelievre also references points brought up in previous reviews by Bob Pastorella at This Is Horror, and this week’s controversial Joshi review.

It’s always interesting to see the ways different reviewers see the same book — not just whether they like it or don’t, but which pieces they hold up as particular strengths, and what aspects they consider to be weaknesses. I believe the best way to get a sense of any given book is to read many reviews of the same work in different places, and I’m very pleased to see my book receiving such a variety of coverage. My thanks to Benoit Lelievre for this review.

John Claude Smith Reviews Lure and Others

John Claude Smith, himself one of the best and most interesting writers currently happening in weird/horror, blog reviews a number of this year’s books, including The Lure of Devouring Light. Among the other items covered are some of my own favorite reads of the year so far.

http://thewildernesswithinbyjohnclaudesmith.blogspot.com/2016/10/reviews-for-horror-fiction-weird.html

Items reviewed, in order:
Noctuidae—Scott Nicolay (King Shot Press)
Stag in Flight—S.P. Miskowski (Dim Shores)
Altar—Philip Fracassi (Dunhams Manor Press)
The Visible Filth—Nathan Ballingrud (This Is Horror)
The Operating Theater—Christopher Ropes (Dunhams Manor Press)
Greener Pastures—Michael Wehunt (Shock Totem Publications)
The Lure of Devouring Light—Michael Griffin (Word Horde)
Creeping Waves—Matthew M. Bartlett (Muzzleland Press)

This is well worth checking out in its entirety, apart from whether you’re interested in reading another appraisal of my book. Thanks to John Claude Smith.

The Lure of Devouring Light Reviewed by S.T. Joshi

Lovecraft historian and biographer S.T. Joshi has reviewed The Lure of Devouring Light on his blog, HERE.

I was actually pleasantly surprised to see the amount of praise contained in the review, because in the past Joshi has expressed what seemed to be undiluted disdain for my work. The strong negativity did not surprise me, and though I was too busy to say much about it — Lena and I are getting ready to put our house on the market — I did comment on Facebook as follows:

“I really don’t mind receiving a mixed review, especially from a reviewer I would have expected to find no merit in my work.”

I meant this, and was not trying to be snippy, or to score points. What I didn’t anticipate was that over the following 24 hours, an eruption would occur of anger at Joshi’s review, partly for the more harshly negative of his statements regarding my book, but mostly for a few nasty personal asides about Laird Barron and Scott Nicolay.

These reactions by others didn’t exactly surprise me, because I recall instances when S.T. Joshi’s reviews and comments have inflamed many in the Weird Fiction, Lovecraftian and Horror Fiction communities. Though I understand people taking issue with insults toward different writers sprinkled into a review of my book, I should make clear that as pertains to the portion of the review that was actually a review of my book, I have no problem with the negativity. Writers must accept with equanimity the harsher judgments that fall upon them if they wish at other times to bask in whatever praise they might receive. The two go together.

This whole matter led to a flood of people reaching out to me with comments, or tagging me on social media posts of their own. A wonderful side effect was that many people let me know how much they had enjoyed The Lure of Devouring Light, which they may not have bothered to tell me if this hadn’t happened. Best of all, many others stated that the discussion had inspired them to order the book for themselves. Maybe it will lead you to buy the book and read it, if you haven’t, or review it, if you have!