What is it like working with bestselling author Jim Butcher?
Kerrie L. Hughes knows better than most. Butcher and Hughes co-edited Shadowed Souls, the brand-new anthology featuring short stories by some of the best writers working today. It is dark. It is gritty. And it has a new Dresden Files story from the point of view of Molly Carpenter, Harry Dresden’s apprentice-turned-Winter-Lady.
I decided to ask Hughes several questions about Shadowed Souls, how the anthology came to be, and what it was like working with one of the best urban fantasy writers working today.
Lots of talk about anthologies.
Here we go!
Unbound Worlds: Shadowed Souls is in fine bookstores now! Tell us about the anthology and how it came to be.
Kerrie L. Hughes: I’ve been doing anthologies since 2004, when Martin H. Greenberg allowed me to pitch Maiden Matron Crone to DAW. They bought it and it was published in 2005. I loved the process, and have been hooked on doing them ever since. DAW bought eight more from me over the years, and I decided to try a larger one originally called Chicks Kick Ass, which TOR purchased. (That one had a title change to Chicks Kick Butt so they could sell it better in the Midwestern market.) I did four more for a small press called Fiction River. With Shadowed Souls, I was going for a collection similar to Chicks Kick Butt, and was pleased to find it became bigger and bigger as I got more names on board.
UW: Jim Butcher co-edited the book with you. What was it like working with him? And how did you divvy up the work load?
KLH: Jim has been one of my favorite paranormal authors since I first read Storm Front. I wanted to work with him, and arranged to meet with him at ComicCon in San Diego a few years ago. I was nervous but determined, and told him about a project I wanted to do. He wasn’t quite interested at the time. I tried again at DragonCon in 2013. This time he was interested in the project and said yes. I had a fan girl moment and moved forward. Then ROC asked if Jim would be a co-editor on the anthology. I talked to him about it, and he was receptive but only if he really got to co-edit. A not-so-secret secret in the industry is that a lot of big name co-editors don’t really do the edits, they generally just do the marketing. We met again at Gen Con and went over details of how the work would go. I pretty much do all the management, and then when a story comes in I give it a read and if I like it, it goes to Jim, and he gives it a read. Then it goes back to me, and we talk about edits, and I communicate with the authors. It worked out very well, and I really enjoyed the process.
UW: What do you think is the power of the anthology format? And how does Shadowed Souls succeed at that?
KLH: Anthologies are tricky. The general answer is that they give readers a wide variety of authors to sample so they can find new authors to read. But it goes deeper than that behind the scenes.
I personally feel that editors must be willing to allow the authors to tell their stories while being able to edit them to make the stories stronger. I’ve read some really bad anthologies that had no power behind them at all, and I suspect it was because the editor was unwilling to edit. I’ve also read some collections where I could tell the editor had rewritten all the stories to suit their own taste. This is not my way.
UW: What are some of your favorite anthologies?
KLH: It’s arrogant as heck, but I love my anthologies more than all the others I’ve read. And why wouldn’t I? I get to pick the authors and stories. Two I’m quite proud of are Hex In The City and Alchemy & Steam, I’m also quite fond of Maiden, Matron, Crone and Westward Weird. I also have a quirky one called Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies. The cover on that one was so hated by a lot of people that it got a lot of press before it hit the stores. Personally I like the cover. Chicks Kick Butt was pretty cool, but sometimes I wish I’d kept the original title.
UW: Do you think you will do a follow-up anthology with Jim? And what are your plans for future publications?
KLH: I’m hoping for a follow up. It all depends on sales numbers for ROC to do one. My plans are to refocus my time and efforts to getting my own novels published. (I have one finished, and two more in the second draft process.) I do, however, intend to keep working on anthologies, but I’m reducing my output to one a year. Mind you, I have lists upon lists of anthologies I’d love to put together, but a writer’s got to write sometime.
Shadowed Souls edited by Jim Butcher & Kerrie L. Hughes is in fine bookstores now! If you are looking for a new anthology to read—one that features a new Dresden Files short story—this is the one for you!
Hope you find some new authors to enjoy. After all, that’s the power of the anthology format.