Marty Young (www.martyyoung.com) is an Australian Shadows Award-winning and Bram Stoker-nominated writer and editor, and sometimes ghost hunter. His debut novel, 809 Jacob Street, was released by Black Beacon Books on October 31, 2013, and won the Australian Shadows Award for best horror novel. Marty was the founding president of the Australian Horror Writers Association from 2005 to 2010, and was also one of the creative minds behind Midnight Echo magazine.
1. At the time of the 2012 Snapshot, your novel ‘809 Jacob Street’ was in its fifth draft and under revision. Two years later and it has been published by Black Beacon Books, and was recently named Best Novel in the 2013 Australian Shadows Awards. Congratulations! Can you tell us about the novel and describe the journey to publication? How did you connect with Black Beacon Books?
Thank you, and yes, it’s been a long journey for that novel. 809 Jacob Street was the first novel I wrote, and I initially wrote it as a pantser – that is, by the seat of my pants. I had a rough idea of the story and just wrote, letting the characters dictate when we’d reach the conclusion. If I remember right, the initial draft was 300,000+ words. Subsequent drafts tore out huge chunks of that, and beta readers and mentors told me what else was redundant and needed to go. The final version (no idea what number version that was) came in at only around 45,000 words! It’s clear to me now that I am definitely a plotter, not a pantser.
I’ve always been a supporter of the Aussie scene, as my work with the AHWA shows, so I wanted to submit 809 Jacob Street to Australian markets as well as overseas ones. I saw that Cameron Trost had set up a new publishing house called Black Beacon Books, and I thought, why not? I’ve known Cam through the AHWA for several years and trusted he would do a good job. On the day I received an acceptance from him, I also received one from an overseas small-press publisher, too, but after some research and speaking to other authors, I chose to go with Black Beacon Books. Cam was brilliant, making it clear that as my book would be his first book as a publisher, I would need to do a lot of marketing myself etc, but he also gave me a lot of freedom with the designing of the cover, and the internal pictures and layout. I’m very happy with the final product, and think that it’s great that the first book he has published as a publisher has won an award.
2. You’ve designated 2014 as your year of ‘Righting the Imbalance’, and you plan to focus this year on reading novels by female horror writers. Halfway through the year, how is that going, and have you got any recommendations? Why was it important for you to pursue the project?
My year of ‘Righting the Imbalance’ is going really well. This idea came about after I had forgotten to send Gillian Polack a piece for her Women’s History Month in Australia earlier this year. We got to chatting, and after I explained to her that I would be spending this year only reading horror novels by female writers, she asked me to write an article covering the adventure. It’s been an eye-opening trip so far; I have discovered many brilliant female horror writers I had never read before – the likes of Sarah Pinborough, Mary Sangiovanni, Alexander Sokoloff… I certainly don’t consider myself sexist, but I was quite stunned at how dominant male writers were on my bookshelves when I stopped to consider it. I do admit to a certain naivety though; I thought Kim Newman was a female until last year! Keep an eye out for the article in early 2015.
3. It’s recently been announced that you will be editing a new anthology for Cohesion press, titled ‘Blurring the Lines’ and open for submissions between August and October this year. Do you see editing as an important facet of your writing career? How did the project come about?
Blurring the Line was an idea I brought to Cohesion Press a little while ago, and Geoff Brown liked it enough to discuss further. Fortunately, I was able to convince him to run with it, so now I open to subs on August the 1st (Editor’s note: that’s today!). I have a number of high profile authors lined up to provide stories, which I’m really excited about (I’ll release their names a bit later on – one of them is going to be twisting things quite a bit, too!), but I also wanted to have an equal number of slots open to everyone else, as that’s something that annoys me about some anthologies that come out, with one, maybe two slots open to general submissions and all other spots going to stable authors. It’s hard enough breaking into this industry without things like this. Anyway, there’s also going to be an art tale, plus a large component of non-fiction in Blurring the Line, although not what people will expect when I say that. I’ll release more info a little further down the line, but it is going to be great fun putting together.
I enjoy editing and definitely want to continue taking on editing gigs throughout my career. You learn a lot from this side of the desk, a lot of valuable lessons about writing. I have done two editing projects thus far (the award winning Macabre, and Midnight Echo Issue 8), and reading hundreds of subs gives you great insight into how much time you have to convince the editor your story is worth reading. But even putting aside the importance of good writing, a great story, believable characters, etc, you also see how tough it is, because it could be due to space or themes already covered that causes your story to be rejected, even if that story is wonderful. Perhaps editing toughens you up as a writer, while also showing you that rejections really aren’t personal.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Unfortunately, because I’m reading novels written by females only this year, I really haven’t read a lot of Aussie books of late. I do have a big pile to get through once this year is over, though (Rob Hood, Alan Baxter, Cat Sparks, Joanne Anderton, Andrew McKiernan…), and there are a number of Australian novels by female writers for me yet to read and include in the article I’m working on.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
Yes, most definitely. The publishing world is in utter chaos, and we’re in the middle of it all. It’s quite exciting, really. In five years from now, I have no idea what the publishing world will look like, and I doubt many people do; things are changing too quickly. However, it’s clear that self-publishing is here to stay and will become an even bigger aspect of the industry. And I’m all for that; in fact, I can see myself self-publishing in the very near future (although I suspect I will continue to take the hybrid path), probably putting out 2-3 titles a year, because that’s the other thing, isn’t it? Readers expect more books from you all of the time. Releasing one novel a year, or even two, isn’t sating their appetite anymore. All that does is loses you momentum.
Gone are the days of big marketing teams and budgets to bring your book to the world’s attention. A writer is expected to do the majority of marketing and promotions themselves now, and I suspect that aspect will only continue. I also think more and more mid-list writers will turn to self-publishing (or small-presses), as nurturing careers doesn’t seem like something the big publishers can do anymore. And I can see more new writers going that way too, after one book; the window they’re given to make a mark is growing smaller all of the time, and if they don’t do so, they’re quickly forgotten. In that situation, getting a second book out is going to be even more difficult through those channels, if not impossible.
The traditional model of publishing doesn’t appear sustainable; it’s outdated, archaic, and authors have other options now open to them, options that provide them with full control and greater returns. Writing is a business, so to me it just makes sense to control as much of it as possible yourself. Hire folks to design covers, do the layout, etc. All good, as far as I’m concerned. The (writing-centric) stigma that used to be attached to self-publishing is definitely eroding – and fast, if it hasn’t already gone completely. And actually, I remember asking a lot of friends who read but didn’t write what they thought about buying self-published books, and the majority of them said they didn’t often know what book was self-published and what wasn’t. A top quality self-published book is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. Distribution channels are also opening to self-published titles – yes, it is all more work, but I’m growing less convinced that’s enough to hold onto these days, after some of the experiences I’ve been hearing of from other traditionally published writers.
As much as I love paper books, I also travel to the jungles of PNG for 4 weeks at a time, so ebooks are just practical for me when I’m reading 6 or so novels a trip. Ebooks will continue to grow in dominance, too. How can they not? We are a digital society, and we will only become more entrenched in the digital. All you have to do is think about the film industry, or the music industry. Publishing is going through what they went through before. Bookshops will continue to struggle in the new world, unfortunately, much like music and DVD shops do today, and that is a real shame. I suspect I will be reading mostly ebooks in the future, but still buying signed printed editions of the books I love.
And Amazon isn’t going anywhere.