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Editor Interview: Bards and Sages Quarterly

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: speculative fiction

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: I love Realms of Fantasy. It's just a gorgeous publication from cover to cover. I'm also a big fan of Cemetary Dance.

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: I'm a big fan of Stephen King's earlier works, but haven't read much of his stuff since Insomnia. I really enjoyed the first six books in Laurell Hamilton's Anita Blake series, but then they degererated into horror porn and I stopped reading. I have to say most of my recreational reading has been from indie authors as of late. I doubt the average reader would recognize the names, but I would say that they should make the effort to go find the authors. I've just loved everything I've read by Gregory Bernard Banks. I'm currently reading Proxies of Fate by Matthew Moses.

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: I think it is the wide range of material. We publish modern horror, hard science fiction, traditional fantasy, and just about everything in between. One story will be a serious and brooding tale, and the next will be a quirky, tongue-in-cheek story that will make you laugh out loud. We really try to cover the entire range of what speculative fiction represents. The one unifying factor is that we tend to focus on very character-driven stories. I think it is important that the reader care one way or the other in regards to what happens to the characters. I either need to love the character enough that I fear for his safety, or hate the character enough that I can't wait to see him get what is coming to him. If the characters can't make me feel anything, chances are we are not going to publish it.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: Read our guidelines. I am a rather blunt person, and I think our guidelines are crystal clear. Don't assume that your story is so great that I will make an exception for you. I have a low tolerance for people who ignore th guidelines. Be careful with first person narratives. We reject about 70% of them. First person is incredibly difficult to do well. Often these are less stories than they are monologues. We're seeing a lot of stories written in the present tense, and again we reject most of them. Unless you have a compelling reason to do so, the present tense can be a distraction. In terms of horror stories, violence for the sake of violence is boring. We aren't interested in your serial killer story if all the killer does is, well, kill. This isn't an audition to write the script for the next Saw movie. I'm not really interested in how many new ways you can dismember a character. I want a story.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission is one that follows the guidelines and demonstrates a familiarity with who we are. It should bring something new to the table in terms of looking at its subject matter in an interesting way.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: Just sending stuff that has no chance of being published. When we say we don't publish supernatural erotica, we don't publish supernatural erotica. Don't send me your story about a vampire orgy. When I say we don't need another first person serial killer narrative, I don't say that because I like to listen to the sound of my own voice.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: Honestly, I have no interest in cover letters or previous publications. All I care about is the story that you are submitting to me. If we decide to publish the story, we may ask for a bio later, but we really don't need one when the author submits and it has no impact on how we read the story.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: I try to read every story to the end, unless it is so dreadful that it is beyond help. We don't send form rejections. I offer detailed critiques of why we rejected a story. We often offer suggestions for a rewrite, and many stories that we eventually publish were in fact rejected the first time around. I feel that if you did everything on your end to follow our guidelines and submit your best work, I owe it to you to read the entire story and give you my full opinion.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: If I'm up in the air on a particular story, I pass it off to one of my assistants to get a second (or third) opinion. Sometimes I'm reading so many stories in a short period of time that I feel I need to get someone else's imput to give the story a fair evaluation.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: There is no "day in the life" because Bards and Sages IS my life! I invest a great deal of time in not just the journal, but a host of projects. I'm reading submissions throughout the day. I'll read a couple in the morning, then work on editing an upcoming project, then read a few more, then touch base with my assistants to get status reports, then read a few more, and on and on. Sometimes I'm up until one in the morning reading submissions and responding to authors.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: I don't think a publisher will survive without understanding the available technologies. POD has revolutionized the industry by making it possible to take more risks. In the past, many publishers may have been wary about experimental works because of the huge up front investment required. But POD removes a lot of the up front costs, making it easier to take chances on projects. We're big fans of a lot of the technology, particularly the growing ereader market. We wouldn't be able to produce the Quarterly at the level we do without the use of modern technologies. The Kindle, Nook, and now the iPad are making reading cool again in a lot of ways. We're very supportive of the new technologies, to the point that we are including a Kindle as part of the prize package for our annual writing contest.