Amanda Pillar is a writer the in-house editor for Morrigan Books. She has co-edited the fiction anthologies, ‘Voices’ (2008), ‘Grants Pass’ (2009), and ‘The Phantom Queen Awakes’ (2010). Amanda is currently working on ‘Scenes from the Second Storey’ with Pete Kempshall, an anthology due to be published September, 2010. Her website is: http://www.amandapillar.com and she blogs at: http://amandapillar.livejournal.com/
1. ‘Grants Pass’, the anthology you co-edited with Jennifer Brozek, and published through Morrigan Books, was recently shortlisted on the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award 2009 preliminary ballot. Congratulations! Can you tell us about the anthology? How did you end up working on a book with an American co-editor, and a publishing company based in Sweden?
Thank you! ‘Grants Pass’ is centred on the theme: What would you do if the end of the world came? In the book, a year before the world collapsed, Grants Pass, Oregon, USA, was publicly labelled as a place of sanctuary in a whimsical online, “what if” post. The stories within ‘Grants Pass’ are character-driven tales that depict the struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world.
Jennifer Brozek originally compiled the ‘Grants Pass’ anthology and sent it to various publishers, including Morrigan Books, trying to find a home for it. I was working with Mark S. Deniz, the owner of Morrigan Books (who I had met through being a contributor for his and Sharyn Lilley’s ‘In Bad Dreams’ anthology and then became a co-editor with him for the collection, ‘Voices’), who suggested I read over the anthology to determine if it was something Morrigan Books would like to publish.
I fell in love with the idea at once. Jennifer and I became and team and we made some tough choices about the anthology, before sending out a call for more submissions and shaping the book into what you see today.
2. You’re both a writer and an editor of speculative fiction. Which came first? Do you find it more interesting to contribute to an anthology as an author or as an editor?
I began writing when I was 13 years old and took the step to editing in my 20s. Thankfully, nothing from my early years survives – I don’t think the editor in me could handle having to re-read the rubbish I wrote back then.
Whether writing or editing anthology is more interesting depends on your mindset. I write because I have to write. I edit because I enjoy it.
When contributing to an anthology as an author, you provide your own interpretation on what you think the theme means. It’s fun and creative, but it’s only the small picture. Many times, that’s more than enough.
When you’re the editor, you create the theme and then search for stories that fit the ‘feel’ of the book. Sometimes, some tales come in that were exactly what you were looking for, but, when partnered with the other stories you have chosen, they no longer fit the mould you originally had and you have to let them go. Editing is about the larger picture, when it comes to collections.
3. You’re currently editing ‘Scenes from the Second Story’ with Pete Kempshall, for release at Aussiecon 4 later this year. The anthology pays homage to The God Machine’s album, ‘Scenes from the Second Storey’. How important was the album to you when you came to putting the final anthology together? In this case, the authors were all chosen before they had written their submissions. Did this lead to the anthology taking a different direction than you had originally expected?
‘Scenes from the Second Storey’ was actually the brain-child of Mark S. Deniz, who had planned to edit the anthology with Pete Kempshall. The God Machine was an extremely influential band in Mark’s life, and he could think of no better way to honour it than by showcasing some of his favourite Australian writers and their interpretations of the individual songs that contributed to ‘Scenes from the Second Storey’.
Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for me, he was unable to work on the project once the stories arrived, so he invited me to help Pete edit the project. I had no strong expectations when it came to the songs and their stories, unlike Pete or Mark. To be honest, I had only heard of the album because Mark had told me he had based an anthology on it (maybe that reflects my age…).
Now, when I hear the songs, I think of the stories that make up ‘Scenes from the Second Storey’, and find that they colour my personal experience of the album.
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?
Wow, this is a tough question. I’ve read so many stories in the past year; it’s hard to name names.
Short stories, I have to show my bias here and say I’d love to see Pete Kempshall’s, Martin Livings’ and Stephanie Gunn’s stories from ‘Grants Pass’ make the shortlist.
Angela Challis for Best Editor (Short Form) – she has done some amazing work!
Shane Jiraiya Cummings for Best Novella – ‘Phoenix and the Darkness of Wolves’.
As for novels – too hard!
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
I definitely will be there. I’m looking forward to quite a few things: Launching ‘Scenes from the Second Storey’; finally meeting Jennifer Brozek, my co-editor for ‘Grants Pass’; chatting to writers I haven’t seen since Conflux 2008; meeting new people and, of course, learning as much as I can about the industry.