Today, I’m delighted to have award-winning authors and editors Caro Soles and Nancy Kilpatrick with me on Moving Target. They’ll be talking about nEvermore!, Tales of Murder, Mystery & the Macabre, a homage to Edgar Allan Poe. The collection of 21 short stories blends supernatural and mystery elements in unique reimaginings of Poe’s stories.
What was the inspiration for nEvermore!?
Caro: Basically we wanted to do a project together. I’ll let Nancy tell you the whole story.
Nancy: Edgar Allan Poe. We both love his work. Poe is the underpinning of both the dark fantasy and the mystery genres, which happened to be our respective specialities. It was a natural when we searched for a project that fit our individual and joint interests.
How did you put the collection together?
Caro: We wanted big names for a big book, so we invited best-selling authors to submit stories influenced by Poe. Everyone we approached was enthused about the idea! We invited authors known in the mystery field, dark fantasy, horror and even the literary genre, since Poe himself refused to be labeled.
Nancy: There are many NYTimes bestselling authors in this book and we know many of these people from being in the business for years. We asked people we thought would be able to contribute something that fit our theme, Poe as a genre-crosser, a writer who refused to be categorized in his lifetime and who wrote in many arenas. Beyond that, we offered a perk in the crowdfunding we ran on Indigogo which gave donors a crack at writing a story for the antho. We’d planned on taking three stories but ended up taking four from that group. One other thing we did: In order to get as many writers into the antho as possible, we asked some people who had worked together before to collaborate on a story. A couple of those worked out. Another couple fell apart and one author pulled out so that left a single author as contributor. Caro and I read all stories and we had to agree on which we would buy. We both worked on the editing and story order.
How important was crowdfunding—financing a project by raising contributions from a large number of people—in getting nEvermore! up and running?
Caro: Because we wanted best-selling authors, we wanted the pay-scale to be on the high side of the professional scale and Edge, like most small to medium sized publishers, does not have the budget for this. nEvermore! demands to be read by the many readers who love Poe and we needed money to get the word out there. The only way was crowdfunding.
Nancy: It was crucial. We are with a small/mid-size Canadian publisher who, like all publishers these days, can’t pay the kind of rates we wanted and needed to pay in order to attract the major names included in this book. Most of the crowdfunding money went to the writers. Some paid for the perks we bought—anything fun and serious and quirky and Poe—and the shipping to us of those perks, then the shipping to the donor. We’ve bought ads all over the place and a banner and made bookmarks in addition to the ones the publisher made, and many other items necessary for marketing, and we also had to pay the crowdfunding fee which is considerable and also the PayPal fee for any money donated. If we hadn’t done this crowdfunding, we wouldn’t have this incredible slate of writers and their amazing stories.
Why do the works of Edgar Allan Poe continue to fascinate readers?
Caro: Poe is part of growing up. We read his dark stories and haunting poetry when we are young, and keep coming back for more, gleaning more and more out of each one as we matured. His themes of lost love, remorse and revenge are universal. A kind of darkness that is part of who we are.
Nancy: Poe wrote from his gut and the emotions he tapped were deep and dark, from grief and loss to longing to fury, bitterness and revenge. Most writers are not so open with their wounds as Poe was, and his honesty speaks to many, many readers. He is far more popular today than when he lived and published his amazing stories, poems, essays and literary criticism.
Poe is considered a pioneer in writing tales of mystery and the macabre. What can writers today learn from reading his stories and poems?
Caro: I always use samples of Poe’s prose as illustrations of how to use language and rhythm and sentence structure for my students of writing. A lot of writing today is so pallid and bereft of feeling. Of course, we no longer can ramble on in long, complex sentences, but there is still much to learn from the masters of colour and emotion. And, of course, he tells great stories as well!
Nancy: They can learn how to build tension, to not give away everything at the get-go of a story, to seduce the reader with atmosphere and fine writing. They can also learn to write a story and not a snippet of a story, which is very common. People still want story, a beginning, middle, end. They want what they read to move along and go somewhere and they want to engage with at least one of the characters. This will sound obvious to many writers but, trust me, this is the 15th anthology I’ve edited, and I’ve taught writing at a college for decades, in the classroom and online, and you would be amazed at the number of stories I’’ve read that literally go nowhere and are about nothing. A story is, first and foremost, entertainment. If a reader can get more from it, so much the better.
Among the authors contributing to nEvermore! is literary star Margaret Atwood. How did you attract her to the project?
Caro: Like all the writers we approached, once she listened to the explanation of what we wanted to do with the project, she wanted to be a part of it. She is a writer who is endlessly fascinated by the unusual.
Nancy: I asked her. I told her of the project and she said it was possible she could contribute. She sent us a Poe story she’d written when she was 16 years old, her earliest completed story, and it is good. It not only expresses her fascination with Poe but also shows the seeds of the writer she became. We are certainly honoured to have been able to include her in this anthology.
What is your personal favourite Poe story or poem?
Caro: It is hard to pick just one, but like most people, the first title that springs to my mind is “The Raven.”
Nancy: I really have no favourites because I haven’t read anything I’ve disliked. I, of course, like everyone else, love the poems “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee.” I adore “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Black Cat,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Pit and the Pendulum”…well, there you go. I can name them all, so there’s no ‘favourite’ They all fit that category!
Poe’s works were popularized in the 1960s with a series of films starring Vincent Price. What do you think of them?
Caro: I am not a fan of this type of movie but Nancy will have some interesting things to say, I am sure!
Nancy: Some are quite good and some turkeys. Price was an educated man, cultured, and he himself said that not all of the films aligned correctly with Poe’s work. But film is like that. I suppose one I really liked was “The Masque of the Red Death.” It held together well. As did “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
What is your favourite movie based on a Poe story or poem?
Caro: As I said, I never really watched these movies.
Nancy: I’ve mentioned a couple of Price films. But there are other performances besides films and these can be seen in full or in part on YouTube. I adored Jeffrey Combs in his one-man play “Nevermore: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe” in which he portrayed Poe brilliantly—I laughed, I cried, I was touched. There are some wonderful actors reciting “The Raven” on YouTube, greats such as Vincent Price; Christopher Lee; Christopher Walken; James Earl Jones. I love Tim Burton’s Vincent, narrated by Vincent Price, which features a number of Poe stories and poem. And, of course, that Halloween special on The Simpsons, “The Raven”—that had me LOL!
Do you plan to pay homage to other favourite genre authors or characters in future anthologies?
Caro: At the moment, all my energies are focused on this one. In the future, who knows?
Nancy: For me, no. This was a one-shot project. The only other large writer in the dark fantasy field is H.P. Lovecraft, who is enjoying a revival these days with a plethora of Lovecraftian anthologies.
Thank you, Caro and Nancy!
You can purchase nEvermore! online at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Kobo/Indigo and Nook. In bookstores, it is sold at Chapters/Indigo in Canada and Barnes & Noble in the U.S., as well as specialty stores such as Sleuth of Baker Street and Sellers & Newel in Toronto, and at Borderlands in San Francisco and Dark Delicacies in Los Angeles.
Montreal-based award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published 18 novels, more than 200 short stories. She has edited 15 anthologies, including the 2015 works Expiration Date, and nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery & the Macabre. Her most recent short fiction can be found in the anthologies Searchers After Horror; The Darke Phantastique; Zombie Apoclaypse: Endgame!; Blood Sisters: Vampire Stories by Women; The Madness of Cthulhu 2; Innsmouth Nightmares; Dreams From the Witch House; Gothic Lovecraft; Stone Skin Bestiary. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.
Caro Soles is the founder of Bloody Words, Canada’s annual mystery conference, which closed in 2014. Her books include mysteries, erotica, gay lit and science fiction. She received the Derrick Murdoch Award from the Crime Writers of Canada for her work in the mystery field, and she was short listed for the Lambda Literary Award. nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery & the Macabre, co-edited with Nancy Kilpatrick, showcases stories influenced by Poe. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.