Tuesday, March 22, 2011

PSB: Interview & Giveaway with Ellen Datlow


Alright guys! Today’s post will not only be fun (and it really is, make sure you watch the video!) and will also be educational! You don’t believe me? Ever dreamt of knowing what anthologies are all about? How they were put together? Well I’ve always wanted to know! So when Ellen Datlow, editor of Teeth and Naked City, accepted to join us for the Paranormal Spring Break I jumped on the occasion to ask her all of my questions! Also, stick around until the end for a giveaway!

We are seeing many "Edited by Ellen Datlow" anthologies and I’ve always wondered what exactly does it mean? What’s your role exactly?

Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror–The most basic thing it means is that I choose the stories and buy the rights to them for the anthology from the writers. But the process of editing an anthology is much more than that.
First of all, there are several different kinds of anthologies that I edit. I recently edited two reprint anthologies, one of which was non-theme, covering an historical period of time –Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror– and one themed –Tails of Wonder and Imagination –with cat stories originally published between 1977 and 2009).

For Darkness, I started with a list of writers whose work I wanted to be in the book.  There were almost eighty writers on that list. I added the titles of my favorite stories by those writers. I was allowed about 150,000 words so I started eliminating stories and writers until I ended up with 153,000 by twenty-five writers.

Tails of Wonder and ImaginationFor Tails of Wonder I wrote a list of cat stories that I’ve loved, written in the past 25 or so years. In addition, I put out a call all over the web for suggestions. When I wasn’t getting all the stories I needed, I contacted writers whose work I enjoy and asked if they happened to have published any stories about cats: domestic, wild, small, large, or mythical. At least one writer insisted he hadn’t written a cat story until I reminded him that I had taken one for The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror several years previously. (it was about jaguar men in Africa).

I also edit the Best Horror of the Year—a reprint anthology covering one year at a time.  This is closer to Darkness in my approach to the project. For The Best Horror of the Year I read short stories throughout the year in sf/f/h/mystery, and some mainstream/literary magazines, anthologies, and collections. From those I pick 140,000 words worth of stories –during the year, as I read a story I really like, I asterisk it during the year as one of my favorites. Toward the end of the year I reread and reread those favorite stories over and over again until I eliminate everything but those that will be in the anthology.

Finally there are original anthologies, the ones like Teeth (which Terri Windling and I co-edited) and Naked City. I’ll explain what I do for that kind of anthology when I respond to question 3.

Anthologies are amazing because it gives us the opportunity to read material from many great authors all in one book, but how do you choose which authors to include in it?

—No matter what kind of anthology I’m editing I will acquire stories by writers whose work I admire and love. I edited the fiction at OMNI Magazine for seventeen years and at SCIFI.COM for almost six years. Plus I’ve been editing horror “best of the years” for 25+ years. During that time I’ve come across stories by hundreds of writers in science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and mainstream.
Unlike when I worked for magazines/webzines and had slush readers, I don’t have the time to read unsolicited manuscripts, but my experience has given me a very wide net to draw from for my anthologies. And I do try to keep up with the promising writers I hear about who are outside my range of current (horror) reading.

What’s the whole process like? Pick a subject, then authors, etc.? Can you enlighten us, mere mortals? *winks*

cover–Picking a fertile theme for an anthology I’m pitching is very important. It’s crucial that it be broad enough to encompass a variety of stories within that theme. In order for my finished anthologies to be satisfying to me and my readers, the theme must be something that interests me.

In order to sell an anthology, the editor usually needs a few big names attached to any project. I try to contact writers whose work I love and who I believe can write a really interesting take on the theme.  If the anthology is sold I’ll go back to the writers whose names I used in the proposal and send them guidelines: when the book is due, the pay rate  (which is entirely dependent on the advance I get for the anthology), what word length I’m looking for, and more details about the kinds of stories I’m looking for. I’ll also approach more writers—about one third more than I actually need for any given anthology, because invariably some of the hoped for contributors drop out because they don’t have time or don’t have a good idea, or started writing a story that wasn’t coming out right. Also, a few of the stories might be rejected by me because they don’t work as stories or don’t work for the book.
During the approximately nine months that I’m awaiting submissions, I will occasionally contact everyone to remind them that they’ve promised me a story, ask them how it’s is coming along, and remind them of the due date.

coverIf I discover that I’m receiving too many of a particular type of story I’ll urge those who haven’t yet started their story to take a different tack. It’s my job as editor to be proactive and ensure that the final table of contents is varied in voice, tone, subject matter, and other elements of good storytelling. 

As stories come in I make decisions about each one: Will I accept or reject it outright or will I work with the author on major revisions? Some stories have terrific potential but need work. I point out any problems I see with the story, make suggestions, and ask questions. The writer and I may go back and forth several times (through complete revisions) about what needs fixing until we’re both happy with the final result

Finally, before I submit the entire manuscript to my in-house editor, I’ll give each story a careful line edit to make sure I didn’t miss anything like overuse of words and phrases and other textual issues. This is very different from the copy edit and proofreading that a finished ms gets once it’s in production.

There are the mechanical things an editor does: sending out contracts and paying the contributors, rounding up bios that need to be as up to date as possible for when the book comes out (about a year after handing the book in to my in-house editor). Creating the copyright page. This last is done after I’ve bought all the stories (usually between 100,000-150,000 words) and decide on the table of contents.

coverThe Table of Contents provides a guide to how an anthology should be read. Although I realize that some readers just look for their favorite authors to read first or might dip into an anthology haphazardly, the editor needs to assume that most readers read the stories in the order in which they appear. 

So for the first story I might take something that I feel defines the theme or maybe just something intriguing enough (and not too dense or complex or experimental) to bring the reader into the anthology. I might put the story or stories that I think have a good punch at or near the end. Or use a particular last story as a grace note. I try to vary length and tone and complexity. Maybe put a long one or an experimental one in the middle (when you hope the reader is already hooked and so ready to deal with oddities).

How do you choose the final title? Do editors have a say? Are you the hand of god, or does the publisher hold the strings?

Usually the title is as important to selling the book as the proposal and who will be in the book. I believe both Teeth and Naked City were at least partly sold because the publishers thought the titles were catchy.  Terri Windling, my co-editor for Teeth came up with the idea. I came up with the title. With regard to Naked City—I came up with the title after brainstorming at a dinner party with non-publishing friends. The genesis of other titles has sometimes been agonizing.  A Whisper of Blood, the title of my sequel to Blood is Not Enough, (adult vampirism) was the result of a five hour drive from Boston to NY with my editor.  The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy was agreed upon by me and my publisher while I was almost finished with the anthology and none of was happy with any other titles suggested.

The only really terrible experience I’ve had with the publisher over a title was when the title of my UK anthology of revenge and vengeance was changed from Wild Justice to Lethal Kisses by the publisher, because he thought the implication of erotic horror (which the anthology was not) would sell more books. The anthology tanked and was never sold in the US.

I guess you could say that because the publisher holds the purse, he holds the strings, but once an anthology is sold with a specific title, it’s rare that the publisher will change it.

Teeth will be releasing in April, and I’m really excited about it! Can you tell us a bit more?

Teeth: Vampire TalesTerri and I are both very excited about the book too. We deliberately wanted to edit a “non-sparkly” vampire anthology, one that would put some of the menace back into the creatures of the night. That’s not to say there’s no romance—there is –for example, in Tanith Lee’s gorgeous story “Why Light?” Several of the stories are bittersweet, concerned with loss and with friendship and what both can mean for mortals and vampires.

The contributors hail from all over the fantasy and dark fantasy field.  Suzy McKee Charnas, author of the brilliant novel Vampire Tapestry writes about the tradeoff made by becoming a vampire, Australian star Garth Nix writes about a time when vampires have been domesticated –to a point. Jeffrey Ford writes about a strange ritual brought to the United States from a foreign land. Neil Gaiman writes of the loneliness of being a vampire. And there are plenty of other great stories by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, Cecil Castellucci, Melissa Marr, Kathe Koja, Catherine M. Valente, Christopher Barzak, Ellen Kushner, and others.

By the way, if you haven’t yet seen it, I hope you’ll check out the videos made of me and Terri and most the contributors responding to two crucial questions:
Would you like to be a vampire for a month?
What attribute of a vampire would you like to possess?

Naked City is also right around the corner (and I have to mention what a gorgeous cover it has!), what’s to expect with this anthology?

Naked City: Tales of Urban FantasyNaked City is a big (almost 150,000 words) anthology of all new urban fantasy stories.
To provide some background, “urban fantasy” originally referred to fantasy written in reaction to the works most popular up to the early 1980s– high fantasy imaginary worlds with medieval trappings. Instead, some writers began to inject magic into contemporary times and into urban settings– both real and invented. Examples are Mark Helprin’s A Winter’s Tale, John Crowley’s Little, Big, Charles de Lint’s Newford stories, and Emma Bull’s War for the Oak. Terri Windling was influential in the sub-genre’s “founding” by creating Borderlands, a shared universe original anthology series set in an imaginary city in which humans and magical creatures could meet and interact.

Urban fantasy as we have come to know it today combines the often dark edge of city living with enticing worlds of magic.

The stories in Naked City are by traditional urban fantasists such as John Crowley, Delia Sherman, and Ellen Kushner and by newer writers who have made their chops in the current urban fantasy craze –Melissa Marr, Holly Black, Jim Butcher, and Patricia Briggs. Plus writers such as Elizabeth Bear, Pat Cadigan, Lucius Shepard, Richard Bowes, and Caítlin R. Kiernan, who all have their hands in many genre pies.

The stories take place in cities ranging from New York, London, Berlin, and Las Vegas to brilliantly imagined fantasy cities.

I’d like to think I’ve put together a mix that will appeal to avid readers of both kinds of urban fantasy

What project are you currently working on?

–Terri Windling and I are working on a young adult dystopian anthology called After. The book will be handed in this summer and should be out some time in 2012.
I’m also working on The Best Horror of the Year Volume Four.
Terri and I have a couple of proposals being considered by publishers. One adult and one young adult.

And I have a few ideas that I hope to sell on my own.

You’ve been in the industry for a while now, if you had to give the ultimate tip to a debut author, what would it be?

Don’t rest on your laurels. Start writing your next story, your next novel. Consider writing a few shorts stories to keep your name out there while you’re working on your next novel.
Thank you very much for your time! I’m really looking forward to your answers, I’ve always wanted to know more about anthologies =D


Thank you so much Ellen for taking the time to answer my questions enlightening me! Also loved the video, Neil Gaiman rally cracked me up lol


I have one ARC of Teeth to giveaway!

Teeth: Vampire Tales

    Please take note: If you live outside of Canada, you might have to pay shipping for that prize, if I don’t get enough donations to cover the shipping cost


  • To enter, just leave a comment letting me know if you’d like to be a vampire for a month and why ^^

  • Don’t forget to include a way to contact you!

If you want to earn an extra entry, spread the word and provide a link in a different comment =)

Tweet: WIN! ARC Teeth – Vampire Tales #paranormalspringbreak hosted by @tynga & @parajunkee #giveaway http://bit.ly/g43Gt3 PLZ RT

Ends April 6th, 2011.

To anxious? You can purchase Teeth books here:

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Tynga is a 30 years old mom from Montreal, working as a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading all things Paranormal and blogging about them. Make sure to say hi on twitter!
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87 People left their mark on “PSB: Interview & Giveaway with Ellen Datlow”

  1. Zoë

    I love anthologies, such a good way to get a taste for new authors.

    I wouldn’t want to be a vampire for a month… none of it really appeals to me! I’d much rather read about one than become one myself.


  2. Maidenveil

    sure, it would be nice to be a vampire for a month. 😀 i want to experience what it’s like to be one – not having to sleep, w/ super senses, strength, and idk…glow? haha!


  3. Vivien

    I would love to be a vampire for a month. I’ve always wanted to have super strength and speed. It would be amazing to test these things out. Naturally at night. But who couldn’t give up the sun for a month!

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  4. Ricki

    Last night while watching Being Human, I came to the conclusion that vampires must be very productive since they don’t have to sleep, so yeah, I think I might like to be one for a month so I can catch up on my reading.

  5. dani_nguyen

    Of course I’d like to be a vampire for a month! It would be so much fun to experience the super strength/super speed/super powers.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. Julie S

    I think it would be interesting to be a vampire for a month, just to see what it’s like, except for the whole dying thing.


  7. Moonlight Gleam

    Great interview! I really enjoyed reading about the whole process Ellen described in one of the questions. I am really looking forward to reading Teeth! Thank you for this opportunity and for this amazing PSB!!!


  8. Jasmyn

    For a month I think it would be interesting to be a vampire. It would be interesting to see what it was like, but I don’t think I would want to be one for any longer.


  9. Robin K

    For just a month, I think I would pass. Just when I got use to it I would be back to boring human.

    robin [at] intensewhisper [dot] com

  10. urbanreading

    I think for a month, yes. Although it depends on what a vampire is like there. If it’s awesome, if you don’t sparkle in the sun, if you have some cool abilities, well, don’t really know.. my life afterwards might get too boring :’D But then, why not? I need some awesome experiences, even if I’m bored afterwards. Too curious x)

    urbanreading [at] hotmail [dot] de

  11. Sara M

    It would depend on the kind of vampire I would be. I wouldn’t want to be completely evil. Or sparkly.

    Sara M
    sara_UFblog [at] yahoo [dot] com

  12. elaing8

    I wouldn’t want to be one for just a month.I’d always want to be one.To have all the powers just for a month then to have them taken away.If I couldn’t have them all the time then I’d rather not at all.

  13. Rhianna

    I would certainly find ways to enjoy being a vamp for a month. I can certainly think of some perks including no more stretchmarks, increased libido and saving money on the ol’ food budget. teehee! ;D

    always.and.never AT gmail DOT com

  14. Rosie

    It would be something new and exciting to live by night and sleep by day. Of course, if I could have a Spike with me for the month, I may never want to go back to being normal. 🙂

    rosie0512 @ hotmail . com

  15. Capucine

    I guess it depends on whether or not I would choose what kind of vampire i would want to be. Since I’ve read so many different stories with different vampires, I guess I would want to be a…actually I don’t know what kind of vampire I would be. maybe not one who drinks blood, but maybe emotions…yeah a vampire that drinks emotions 😀

  16. Amy C

    I think I’d rather stay human for a month. I prefer chocolate over temporary immortality. 🙂


  17. Judy

    I would like to try it for a month, just to see if it as glamorous as the books protray the vampires:)

    I also love anthologies.


  18. Barbara E.

    Sure, I’d love to be a vampire for a month. I’d get to try it out and see if I wanted to make it permanent.
    Teeth looks like an awesome anthology, I’d love to win a copy.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

  19. Erika

    I would love to be a vampire for a month because I might be aenemic so blood thirst might help cure me! (oh…that’s disturbing).

    Thanks for the giveaway. This one looks really good.

    erikadlugoAT yahoo(DOT)com

  20. .Ambur.

    I’ve definitely been wanting to sink my ‘teeth’ into this anthology…yup I went with the overly cheesy pun 😉

    I wouldn’t want to be a vampire for a month, I’d struggle to get used to drinking blood, and then once I got used to it I wouldn’t be a vampire anymore. I also would miss the sun, I’m going with more tradition vampire stories on that one. 🙂

    I also tweeted: http://twitter.com/#!/AmburHostyn/status/50426841974050816

    Thanks for the chance to win Tynga 🙂

  21. Jessy

    I wouldn’t want to be a vampire for a month. I wouldn’t want to deal with all of the bloodlust. Maybe I would if I could be a good sparkly vampire!

    findjessyhere at gmail dot com

  22. Katy

    I totally love anthologies 😀 it’s the best way to find new authors to read 😀 I found my favorite author that way!

    hense1kk AT cmich DOT edu

  23. Enamored Soul

    I would love to be a vampire for a month – I mean, moral and ethical issues aside, have you guys realized the qualities with which Vampires are bestowed?

    1) They’re always good lovers, with a crazy libido!
    2) They always tend to wield power – since their kind don’t seem to “expire” and thus secrets are passed down from ages ago.
    3) They’re almost always incredibly wealthy, since they’ve been around for ages, and know how to make their wealth.
    4) They’re always SUPER beautiful – and I mean, who doesn’t want that?
    5) And, ummm, the ability to “charm” people into doing whatever they want/reading other people’s minds/looking into the future/sending emotions <– I mean, come on guys, ethical or not, no one can tell me they don’t want to experience that at least ONCE!

    So yeah, I’d love to be a vampire for a month, although I’m sure a month would be enough for it to get addictive, and for me to be in trouble! lol 😛 But then again, my mother says I’m an “animal”, so maybe I could try being a HUMAN after that one month! BWAHAHAHAHA 😛

    Thanks for the opportunity, and this amazing giveaway! 🙂

    Email: Enamoredsoul@gmail.com or Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
    Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

  24. Tiffany Drew

    I would definitely be a vampire for a month. I think that would be just long enough to learn all I wanted to know before it got old 🙂 Unless, or course, I happened to meet some sexy vampire boy, I might have to make it longer lol.


  25. a_hoffman79

    Being a vegetarian pacifist in my human life, the whole vampire thing for a month probably wouldn’t sit well with me, so I think I’ll pass.

    Great contest btw!


    ahoffman1979 at gmail dot com

  26. Amber Stults

    No, I wouldn’t want to be a vampire for a month. There’s the whole body temperature thing to think about. I dislike the cold and can’t imagine all the other abilities making up for that discomfort.

    amber at amberstults dot com

  27. pointy star

    I don’t think that I could handle secretly drinking blood for a whole month and endure the never-ending questions on my health (for how else could I explain becoming so pale all of a sudden) and if I was going on a starving myself since I wouldn’t be able to stomach normal food. 😛

    Having powers would be pretty awesome, but instead of super strength/speed, I’d rather have the power to stop time so I could finish this stupid research paper in time…

    But I digress.

    Teeth sounds amazing, especially with all of the authors taking part in it.

    I’d love to win, and thanks for having such an awesome giveaway month!


  28. Alice

    i would love to be a vampire for a month because i want to know how it feel to be beautiful and strong


  29. Riv Re

    This book looks very cool.
    I would LAV to be a vampire for a month. It’s just overall awesome, and it’s a great story to tell to your grandkids 🙂
    It would also mean that vampires really do exist.
    Of course, werewolves>vampires, no matter what.

  30. heatwave16

    I would definitely be curious to see what it would be like to be a vampire for a month. See if it worth all the hype…enjoy the super strength, and with being sick with the flu for about a week…not being sick would be a plus too. 🙂


  31. Wendy V

    If i were a vampire i’d be pent on getting world domination and turning EVERYONE into my little vampire minions. Just for kicks i’d probably dress them up in pink, sparkly tutus.

    venturinhawendy at gmail dot com

  32. Misty

    My answer to most things in life is “Why the hell not?” I mean, if it’s not going to hurt me (well, depending. I guess there are lots of things that could hurt you (like, oh, jumping out of a plane or swimming with sharks), but I’d still like to try some of them) — why not find out what all the fuss is about. And it’d make a great story to tell people.
    And who knows, might pick up some…interesting skills…

    mbradenwf AT gmail.com

  33. cris_mv

    I wouldn’t mind being a vamp for a month if I could “suck” on a good looking male vampire… or the other way around.. LOL!

  34. jessygt

    I actually don’t think I’d like being a vampire. I’d rather read about them, as long as it’s a good book.

  35. Pam S

    This sounds like a great collection! I don’t think I’d like to be a vampire. I wouldn’t mine meeting one though if they were like some of the ones in the novels :).

    pams00 @ aol.com

  36. FidFid

    Would I want to be a vampire for a month ? Definitely . I think the idea of being a vampire is different and kind of cool . I’ve always read about vampires on books . I definitely would like to try to be one . Well , about sucking blood ? Im not sure . Maybe yes if he was my mate or something ? And definitely , no killing!

  37. Cindy

    Not sure I could handle being a vampire for a month since the sight of blood makes me woozy. Although it would be cool to be able to travel so quickly.


  38. Jolene Allcock and Family

    Of course I’d like to be a vamp. for a month. Sort of like try it before you buy it 🙂 Perfect excuse to go a little crazy, let your hair down and at the end of the month return to my mommyhood 🙂


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