Interview #102 – Editor Anne Regan

This week we are talking with Anne Regan, editor of the steampunk anthology, Steamed Up.

 

Airship Ambassador: Hi Anne, thanks for joining us.

Anne Regan: Thanks for inviting me to talk with your readers.

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AA: Readers may know you from your previous editing work, including Harmonious Hearts 2015, Myths and Magic: Legends of Love, and A Brush of Wings. I came across this anthology after reading a post by Gail Carriger. What is Steamed Up about?

AR: Steamed Up is an anthology of steampunk-themed short stories featuring m/m characters.

 

AA: There have been just a handful of LGBT-focused steampunk anthologies over the years. What got this one started?

AR: The idea of doing a steampunk anthology was on our radar, but when we saw the art by Nathie that became the cover image, we knew we had to use it. It’s one of my favorite covers ever.

 

AA: It is a pretty eye catching cover! Aside from sharing stories by authors, what is the goal for Steamed Up?

AR: Since Dreamspinner is a romance press, the stories had to include a relationship (new, developing, or existing) as well as a strong steampunk storyline. And since we’re a gay romance press, the relationship needed to be between two men.

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AA: Why specifically choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel for these stories?

AR: Part of the appeal of steampunk is how it twists the expected technology and conventions of the time period the stories are set in. Being able to subvert the way gay characters would have been perceived during those time periods gave authors a freedom they might not have in a “straight” historical story.

 

AA: That is one thing I definitely appreciate about steampunk and the stories, flipping, changing, and turning assumed and historical roles and expectations into something different and more motivational for today’s readers. There are eleven authors contributing to this anthology, what can you share with us about them?

AR: Quite a few of the authors have published stories with us outside the anthology, both in and outside the steampunk genre. Readers can search the Dreamspinner Press website by author name or also to view some of our forty-plus other steampunk releases.

 

AA: How did you round up the group? Was there an open call and selection process?

AR: Dreamspinner posted an open call for submission. We received fifty-five stories totaling almost 500,000 words, which had to be culled down to a maximum of 120,000 words. In the end I selected eleven stories with a variety of settings and emotional “feels”. We also suggested to several of the authors that they expand their submissions so they could be published as standalone stories.

 

AA: How long did it take to pull it all together? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?

AR:  We generally post our open calls for anthologies at the beginning of the year. For Steamed Up, authors had about seven months to submit stories. It took about a week after the submission deadline to make the selection decisions, and about three months in all for editing, proofreading, and galleying. To be honest, that’s a pretty aggressive timeline for an anthology of this length. The authors were all great to work with, which helped a lot.

 

AA: Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling a story?

AR: Beside the “typical” steampunk devices like airships and roadsters, several stories deal with enhancing humans through prosthetic elements and, in one case, a wholly mechanical being. The most unique story element is a fully mechanized pleasure garden.

 

AA: Ahhh, yes, the garden! Any key historical figures or events?

AR: My favorite historical setting in the anthology is Prohibition – not a period you’d typically find in a steampunk story.

 

AA: I found the stories rather engaging – any plans for a second volume?

AR: While not a direct sequel, in December Dreamspinner released Once Upon a Time in the Weird West, which I think will appeal to many of the same readers who enjoyed Steamed Up.

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AA: OK, readers, go check it out! When people read Steamed Up, what would you like for them to take away from the stories?

AR: That anything is possible, not only in terms of technology but in terms of being open about who they are and finding someone who will appreciate them for that.

 

AA: For the aspiring writer, what suggestions do you have as an editor, regarding their submissions, your feedback, and general collaboration?

AR: When I make anthology selections, I’m always looking for a unique take or twist on the theme. I mentioned the story set during Prohibition – it’s a great story on its own, but the fact it’s not the typical Victorian steampunk setting was an added bonus. It’s always a good idea to be sure your story meets the submission criteria in terms of length, formatting, and any other guidelines.

 

AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and editors to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

AR: As an editor outside anthologies, I have a core group of authors I work with regularly. It’s always helpful to chat with them about their upcoming writing plans and goals. One of the things I enjoy most about Dreamspinner is the annual author workshop, which is a chance for authors and staff to meet for a long weekend and share information, ideas, and just get to know each other better.

 

AA: That kind of networking and effort to make connections with other people can only be a good thing. How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

AR: I’ve definitely gotten more diplomatic over time!

 

AA: LOL, maybe some of us need to learn that, too! In your experience as an editor, what have been the hardest and most useful skills to learn?

AR: Punctuation! I joke that using commas is actually an art rather than a science, since you can find so many different opinions on the “correct” way they should be used. Oxford comma, anyone? Having a defined “house style” helps keep things consistent. The other thing that never gets easier is having to decline a really good story because of the limitations of length or mix of story elements.

 

AA: That has to be frustrating, to see a story which is so enjoyable and worthwhile, but having to let it go for other reasons. As a reader, what has made you stop reading something before finishing it?

AR: When a character who has been established to have a certain personality and beliefs does or says something that’s completely out of character, usually because the author needs the plot to move in a certain direction. I try to show why the action or dialogue is out of character, understand what the author is trying to accomplish, and brainstorm other ways to get there without sacrificing the character’s integrity.

 

AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite holiday, historical “thing” to read about, and song you never get tired of hearing?

AR: Favorite holiday – New Year’s Day. A chance to start fresh where needed.

Favorite historical “thing” – I’ve always had a soft spot for regencies (blame Georgette Heyer!)

Song: Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day.” It reminds me of being able to leave my evil day job to work full-time for Dreamspinner.

 

Oh, the dream path to happiness and contentment!

Thanks, Anne, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts.

 

Keep up to date with Anne’s latest news at the Dreamspinner Press website.

You can support Anne and our community by getting your copy of Steamed Up here.

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Published in: on January 25, 2017 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview #101 – Author, Editor, Academic, Jaymee Goh, Part 6

Welcome back for the conclusion in our talk with Jaymee Goh , co-editor of The Sea Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk SEAsia.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Three here.

Read Part Four here.

Read Part Five here.

 

Airship Ambassador: If you weren’t an editor and author, what else would you be doing now?

Jaymee Goh: Ugh, I don’t know. I mean, I would hope that I’d be doing something just as creative. If I had let my family bully me out of my dreams, I’d probably be an accountant or something equally terribly unsuitable for my temperament, and miserable.

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And, I mean, I am doing something else besides editing and authoring. I’m a PhD candidate; I’ve been a teaching assistant and researcher alongside the writing and editing. Hopefully I will continue to teach and research alongside my writing in the future. I love teaching—writing has its rules, and grammar is a pleasure to teach. Introducing students to new ideas is wonderful; watching them grow is priceless. Researching—finding out things I didn’t know—is just joyous. And it all feeds into why I write. All that love has got to go somewhere.

 

AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?

JG: Goodness, jobs have been terrible for me! When I graduated with my BA, I was in a region where jobs were hard to get unless it was customer service. I also was terrible at applying. Somehow I landed a full-time job as a marketing intern. I’ve also temped as a receptionist here and there. Part of why I went to grad school was because of the job market.

And actually, temping and other kinds of busywork that keeps my hands occupied by my mind otherwise free is quite good for my creative brain. I’m an introvert who likes people, so receptionisting at a relatively quiet place was really fun.

As an academic, the creative work comes out less easily, and I have to save it for weekends or summer, because the rest of the time I’m working at another kind of writing. There are of course stories that won’t be ignored so I bang out a draft quickly for them and edit when I can (or when a deadline for submission looms).

But I do have to say, having a job where I don’t have to fear poverty or the hard emotional labour dealing with unreasonable bosses has been a very good thing indeed. I’m a bit nervous about being on the job market, but hope springs eternal that I’ll find something where I won’t kill my brain working.

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AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?

JG: The usual? Social media, music, eating food, taking long walks, and reading. I also like baking, and a friend I met through steampunk taught me how to sew, so I do that too. If I have time, I garden. I am teaching myself embroidery. I sleep a lot, too; I really like sleeping. I don’t know… normal human things, I guess. Pokemon Go.

 

AA: How do those interests influence your work?

JG: When on social media, one learns all sorts of stuff! Like, comedic timing and delivery, through memes. Important lessons! Food and sleeping and long walks are very important embodied experiences—I think good fiction comes from being able to express what is in the body.

Baking and sewing, as I mentioned before, use a different part of the brain. Also when you learn what’s in your food, or how fabric falls—those are also important embodied experiences! The taste of things and knowing what causes those tastes are simply metaphors for understanding how the world I build works. And making clothing is basically figuring out how to put things together and the visual effects afterwards. (Broadcloth is not good for foofy skirts.) Same thing with gardening—different plants have different needs, will thrive in different climates, based on their physical structure.

I don’t know about Pokemon Go, though. I really only got that because my dad got it. But it gets me out on walks and it’s something to do while I walk to and from school.

 

AA: There’s only so much time in a day – what interests don’t you have time for?

JG: TV. I let everybody else tell me what’s good on TV and show me the relevant GIF sets. Games, especially the big narrative ones which require several hours of playing to finish. And boys. Who has time to waste on romance, really, when there are romance novels?

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AA: Ha, yeah, boys. Talk about a major time investment! What other fandoms are you part of (as a fan or participant)?

JG: Ooof. I’m actually not a very good fan? Steampunk isn’t really a fandom to me; it’s an aesthetic that one can deploy. And being a fan feels like work, in following what the other fans are doing and consuming their work in some way, and I don’t tend to have time for that. But when I do, I’m usually a fanfic writer—I’ve written fanfic for Final Fantasy VII, and Girl Genius. There was a time when I wasn’t a fanfic writer, but a curator of a fan Tumblr, which has by and large fallen to the wayside because The Discourse has thinned out—this was when Jupiter Ascending had just come out, and its fandom was a baby that needed encouragement because the movie got so much shit. I’m not hardcore about The Discourse, but I do like media analysis, it’s why I’m in grad school, and I did some of that for Pacific Rim as well.

 

AA: Ahh, Jupiter Ascending. It does have great design aesthetics. What is on your to-be read or watched pile right now?

JG: …… wince groan To be watched? I can’t even.

 

AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

JG: Very many! I think I’ve already mentioned a few people. To add, Nisi Shawl is just—an amazing human being: compassionate and generous and giving and so very kind! And an amazing writer and teacher! I’ve never taken a class with her but just spending time with her is so edifying.

[NOTE: We interviewed Nisi here.]

Rose Lemberg is another incredible human being… they put up with so much of my angst! And another amazing writer; Rose kindly agreed to Skype in to speak to my Clarion classmates, and they said, when world-building, one must be willing to “destroy one’s canon” which was frankly mindblowing. A wonderful poet, I think Rose has been very important in demonstrating good editorial practices towards diversifying the field. Since they also write while in academia, they have been such great support in my own journey in balancing academy with creativity.

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I would like to grow up to be like K. Tempest Bradford, who has a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners kind of attitude in how she deals with bigots.

My sewing teacher, Wilma Montgomery, has also been a wonderful role model, as a grown adult who has seen many shifts in her own life and met them all with a fortitude I don’t know I would have had myself, but I hope I do should the occasion arise! I didn’t understand the sentiment of “my mother is my best friend” until I met Wilma.

This isn’t really a full list but if I did a full list and missed out one person I would feel guilty, so I shan’t even try. Suffice to say, I’ve got some wondrous folk as part of my life.

 

AA: What is the best advice you’ve been given?

JG: I waver between two! “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars” and “learn from other people’s mistakes because you won’t have time to make them all yourself.” The former is very romantic, of course, but the latter strikes me as very practical. I read them in some spammy email when I was a teenager, so I’ve kind of stuck with them all this while.

 

AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite chocolate covered food, actor to have lunch with, and outfit that you don’t have in your closet yet?

JG: Truffles; Michelle Yeoh; three-piece suit.

 

AA: When you do interviews, what is something that you wish you were asked about but haven’t been?

JG: Mostly I wish interviewers would follow up with other questions to unpack stuff I say. Or my opinion on Foucault or Derrida or Sara Ahmed. Ask me about Hannah Arendt sometime.

 

AA: Now I have questions for next time LOL Any final thoughts to share with our readers

JG: The revolution shall be agricultural, squirrels are socialist, earthworms are the true proletariat of the earth, and rah rah universal basic income.

 

Thanks, Jaymee, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts.  Hopefully it won’t be another 100 interviews before we welcome you back!

 

Keep up to date with Jaymee’s latest news on her website, blog, and on Twitter.

You can support Jaymee and our community by getting your copy of The Sea Is Ours here.

Also, check out her exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.

Published in: on January 6, 2017 at 7:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview #101 – Author, Editor, Academic, Jaymee Goh, Part 5

Welcome back for part five in our talk with Jaymee Goh , co-editor of The Sea Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk SEAsia.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Three here.

Read Part Four here.

 

Airship Ambassador: As a reader, what has made you stop reading something before finishing it? How do you try to avoid that issue in your own writing, and help authors avoid it, too?

Jaymee Goh: Generally I tend to be careful about what I start so I don’t have to put it down until I’m done. I figure that even if it’s not my thing, it might be someone else’s. But things that will keep me away from a book? Bad writing—clunky sentences, poor editing, uncompelling descriptions.

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Bad writing also—unexamined racism, hipster racism, casual sexism and homophobia, undercurrents of transphobia and hatred of disability. Gross divisions of classes with bad justifications for them. A narrow-minded perspective. But these are things that I could keep reading through because I like a good train wreck. In fact, I did read through a couple of novels recently, for my dissertation, that were train wrecks. And again, just because I hate racist novels, doesn’t mean someone else won’t love ‘em.

Most often, though, the thing that will make me stop reading before finishing is simply… a lack of attention. This could be mental, like, I’m too tired and the story is too heavy for me to tolerate (a symptom of grad school). It could be physical, like, I’m just physically too tired to keep my eyes open, or too uncomfortable to keep my mind on the book (another symptom of grad school).

 

AA: What do you consider your first real writing or editing experience?

JG: Hrm. What does “real” writing mean, though? The first time I committed to a long narrative or the first time I committed an act of poetry? All my life. I wrote little stories when I was a little child. When I was 9, I began buying exercise books specifically to write long narratives, complete with chapters and all. I typed up my first novel of sorts when I was 11, and even (gasp!) finished it. I drew my own comics. When I hit secondary school, I designated one exercise book to be “The Book of Crap” and filled it with scribbles, excerpts of stories, or doodles of characters (at the back I did math equations). When that book was full, I simply started a new one. I had schoolmates who would read these snippets—they were characters in my stories, so I had a ready audience—and we would exchange our writings. I published a couple of stories in the yearbooks as I neared graduation.

In school for English exams, we usually had a section at the end, which was usually an essay of some sort, with a choice of an argumentative essay, a formal letter, an informal letter, or what we called “continuous writing,” usually a creative prompt. I almost always picked that option. When I got to university, I had a poem published in the English Society’s poetry chapbook. I also moderated a writing forum, at which I posted a lot of poetry and critiqued everyone (and won Writer of the Year maybe twice in a row).

But “real” writing? Maybe we can use the standard of, “got paid for it”—that would be “Between Islands” in 2010. My first experience editing—reading submissions, rejecting them, giving feedback and putting together the table of contents, and final copy-editing—would have been Doctor Bill Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetrameter: A Steampunk’s Shakespeare Anthology.

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AA: I think I’ll go with your answer of ‘9’ 🙂  How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

JG: Hopefully it is less puerile now than it was back then. I was very fond of the exceptional child narrative, abandoned children who survived through their special abilities and readiness to fight and kill. Part of it was just my natural arrogance, which is not a good look to have at any age, but probably even more insufferable when one is a child.

When I finally began publishing, I moved away from the exceptional, self-contained person (who is, ultimately, not realistic) into casts of characters that interact with each other, creating tensions through their own individual characteristics. Not necessarily out of malice, not out of refusal to cooperate, but simply difference. I am more interested in ideas and I pay more attention to the world inside the story. The plots are a little thin these days, which I lament, but the voice is stronger, and the concepts are less derivative. I hope.

 

AA: In your experience as an editor, what have been the hardest and most useful skills to learn?

JG: How to arrange a story’s plot into something more compelling! I really had to approach these stories as a reader, rather than a writer—it’s something on the other side of the screen. I’ve brought that into my own writing.

But as an editor, turning back to my writerly side, learning how to use feedback to improve the text has also been an important lesson. My writers were so, so, so good at it—even after I basically had them move whole chunks of text here and there, and re-arranged the structure of the story (without changing the story), they were so game to do the changes I requested, had so much grace about it. At times I felt like a complete asshole about the whole editing process, even though I knew it would make the story stronger! So that was valuable to learn, too.

AA: What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

JG: Writing shouldn’t be a struggle, although too often it is. That’s why I have several projects on the go—if one becomes horrific and demoralizing to work on, I just shift to another. I do other things—I take walks, I hang with friends, I do something pleasurable. There’s no point staring at an empty screen feeling guilty that it’s blank for two hours when I could go walk for an hour and come back feeling refreshed. I would have wasted that time staring at the screen anyway!

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My attitude towards writing changes as my needs do. Sometimes, if it comes, it comes, and when it doesn’t, it just doesn’t, and I won’t feel guilty about it. That said, other times, it very much is a matter of discipline. Octavia Butler pointed out that no one starts writing the good stuff immediately. It just comes out later, and persistence is the key. And persistence requires a certain discipline and dedication. When inspiration fails me, discipline carries me.

There will be times when even discipline will fail me. I can’t be disciplined through a bad brain patch. I can’t use dedication to get depressive, intrusive thoughts out of my head. And those are my worst times, my least creative times. Some people say they write their depression out, it’s a source of creativity for them, and I just can’t do that. For me, creativity comes when I am interacting with the world, experiencing it, and learning new things about it. So to keep creative, I open myself to experiences, to new knowledge.

 

We’ll pause here in our chat with Jaymee. Join us for the conclusion when she talks about interests and influences.

Keep up to date with Jaymee’s latest news on her website, blog, and on Twitter.

You can support Jaymee and our community by getting your copy of The Sea Is Ours here.

Also, check out her exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.

Published in: on January 5, 2017 at 7:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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