Russell B Farr is the editor and publisher at Ticonderoga Publications. Winning multiple awards, Farr has published anthologies including Fantastic Wonder Stories and The Workers’ Paradise and collections by some of Australia’s leading writers including Terry Dowling, Sean Williams, Stephen Dedman and Simon Brown. Farr also edits the online magazine Ticonderogaonline.
1. You’ve recently announced two single author short story collections will appear in your 2010 publishing schedule. What do you look for in single authors to collect? What makes a good single author collection? And why have you chosen these authors? What can we look forward to from each book?
The two collections are by Kaaron Warren and Angela Slatter. Angela’s collection is her first, and we’re putting together a package of some of her most powerful and original work. The present working title is The Girl With No Hands, and I think fans of her work know what they’ll be getting. Those yet to become fans, well they’re in for a seriously emotive, original and evocative read, 14 or so stories that will have them stepping off the bus wondering where the hell they are. It may only be 30–40,000 words, but I doubt many readers will get through them all without a break.
Kaaron’s collection, most probably called Dead Sea Fruit, is probably a bit more eclectic, equally evocative, and maybe a notch less emotive. It’s about 70,000 words, 17 stories. It pulls together a bunch of her recent fiction, as well as a couple of stories from her first collection, as that’s really hard to find. What you can look forward to are two very different writers, each producing high calibre work at the top of their game.
Right now, I’m looking for writers who are good to deal with, producing excellent work, and who can promote themselves assertively and successfully. I think all these are important. There has to be a level of respect between me and the writer. I encourage writers to be forward, but not pushy, in promoting their work. Collections aren’t the easiest sell, and any connection a writer can make with their audience helps. The excellent work part is fairly self-explanatory.
I don’t think there’s a formula for a good collection. Some work because they are capture a writer comfortable writing in many styles, others show a writer more focussed in exploring a narrow group of themes. There has to be some sort of balance, I’ve read collections full of strong stories, yet each story loses some of the impact it would have had if read in isolation. I have some vague notions in my head of what balance is, but it includes varying things like story length, not having two stories together that have similar-named characters, similar settings. I guess it’s about giving each story the opportunity to stand on its own.
I wanted to work with Kaaron and Angela because I really like what they’re doing, and I’m confident that a lot of other people do too. For me, it’s important that I be passionate about the books I do—if I’m going to be printing 1,000 or more copies and pushing these books into the world, I have to believe in it.
2. Ticonderoga Publications also has some anthologies coming out this year. What are the premises behind Belong and Scary Kisses? What can we expect from these two books?
Belong will be a bit of a monster — it’s been a troubled child from the start and I’m glad to be almost there with it. It’s the first anthology I’ve done that has been open to the world, and it’s about half overseas writers in the mix. The overall theme is migration, what it takes to leave the town/country/planet of your birth to seek a new life elsewhere. As the child of migrants I’m fascinated by what this takes to do. I’ve got a couple of dozen excellent stories, about 110,000 words. There are writers I’d never heard of before I read their amazing stories, as well as some mightily talented aussies including Carol Ryles, Kylie Seluka, Penelope Love, Patty Jansen, George Ivanoff and many others. I’m not sure exactly what I’ve done in unleashing this book, but really hope that a lot of people get as excited by this as I am.
Scary Kisses is an anthology of paranormal romance, edited by my partner Liz Grzyb. It started as a joint venture, but Liz knows more about that genre than me and has great passion and vision, and really doesn’t need any help. I just float around the edges offering the occasional technical advice. I’ve only read a couple of the stories so far, and they seem like a bunch of fun. Liz assures me that Scary Kisses is hot, scary and romantic by turns. There’s everything from zombies, ghosts, vampires, monsters, dragons…
If all goes to plan, both books will be available at SwanCon in April.
3. Ticonderoga Publications has been in the local press landscape for over a decade now. How has the local scene changed in that time? What have you learned from your own publishing adventures? What can we expect to see in the near future from TP?
I almost freaked out the other week when I realised this is my 15th year doing this stuff. There were maybe 3 years in this time where I wasn’t actively publishing something, but it still feels like a long time.
The local scene has certainly got bigger in that time, there’s a lot more folks making good money, and a lot more locally produced books. There was a time, up to around 1999, where I could count and name every anthology of Australian SF that had been published. That time has long gone.
There are a lot more indie presses now, I remember when there used to be about 5 of us. I don’t have any hard facts, but I think that while indie presses are publishing more, each title is selling less. It used to be possible to sell 100–200 books at a regional con, but I haven’t had that level of success for a while.
I’m not sure what I’ve learned, certainly the line by Operation Ivy, that “all I know is that I don’t know nothing” comes to mind. I guess I’ve learned that there are no hard and fast rules: what works for one publisher doesn’t work for another. I’ve learned to take nothing for granted. I hope I’ve learned how to make each successive title better in some way. I’ve probably learned that I’m not as good at this stuff that I thought I was, but that I’ve got to keep trying to improve.
In the very near future I’ll be reprinting Kim Wilkins’ debut, multiple award-winning novel The Infernal. It’s a great book, a stunning debut, and has been unavailable for some time. It’ll be a beautiful, if a little pricey, limited hardcover, only 100 copies.
I’m also looking to put in some time developing the shop, http://www.indiebooksonline.com. I think there’s a lot of potential there, for having the work of a number of indie presses available in one place, where customers can browse and buy. We’ve really improved our turnaround time, most books go out the same day. The next step is ramping up the marketing and building up stock, putting the word out. I think that the industry needs better sales avenues, and hope to be able to contribute to this.
On the book front, I’ve got a few non-genre projects bubbling away, including publishing the complete lyrics by the 1980s-90s indie band Clouds, and also David McComb. The Clouds book should be ready mid-year, and it’s been a real pleasure working with Jodi Phyllis and Trish Young. The David McComb collection, I’m aiming for December at this stage.
Next year is a fairly blank slate at this point, but I’d expect to have another few projects announced by mid-year.
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?
I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest. I guess I’d like to see some new faces make the shortlist. There are a lot of folks doing good stuff right now, and I think that’s great to see. I think it’d be a better achievement to get on the list when the WorldCon is somewhere else. Jonathan Strahan has done this, he works far too hard and he cares, so I think he deserves to be up there. I think there are a bunch of strong contenders, Margo Lanagan, Marianne de Pierres, and Trudi Canavan come to mind, but there are a bunch of others. I think Garth Nix would be cool if he won, he exudes suave and would just be so graceful – and he can afford to throw a big party with the good stuff to celebrate.
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
I certainly hope to be there. Launching books at WorldCon is fun, I had a ball last time I did this and am looking forward to it again.
WorldCon is really just a big party, a great time to catch up with folks. While I’ll be hanging in the dealers room most of the time, these places tend to provide a whole bunch of entertainment at the larger cons. I’m really looking forward to selling lots of books, okay world?