Interview by David McDonald.
Cohesion Press seems to be going from strength to strength, with some awesome titles featuring some of Australia’s best (as well as plenty of international talent). How did Cohesion Press begin, and can you tell us a bit about the journey to this point—as well as what might lie ahead?
Cohesion began with my wife being fed up with me saying “I wish someone would publish some awesome military horror anthologies and novels,” to which she replied “Well, do it yourself!” I thought it would be fun. Fun! Lot’s of hard work and sacrifice of time is more like it.
Initially, I wanted to publish the inaugural SNAFU anthology, but that took some time to negotiate and get the main solicited writers together, so I contacted Kaaron Warren and asked if she had some things we could put into a collection. And that’s how our first release (The Gate Theory) was born. After a crash course in marketing and promotion, we moved on to some other releases (including Deborah Sheldon’s awesome crime-noir novella) and then finally to SNAFU featuring some of the best writers of military horror in the business. Jonathan Maberry, Greig Beck, Weston Ochse, and James A. Moore were all people I knew in the industry (years of networking combined with being president of a national writer’s association helped somewhat with that) so it was just a matter of convincing them to sell me some stories. With some large investment of my own money to get things up and running, we managed to offer terms they were all happy with (including a share in royalties from all sales of SNAFU) and the first anthology was born.
We used a crowdfunding system to get pre-orders, even though the book itself was ready and already costed and paid for.
Then, with a few more SNAFUs under our belt, we started to attract some attention amongst readers of that narrow subgenre.
Over the three years we’ve been publishing, we’ve put some very big names in the seven SNAFUs we’ve released so far; Jonathan Maberry, Weston Ochse, Jeremy Robinson, Richard Lee Byers, Greig Beck, Tim Lebbon, Christopher Golden, S.D. Perry to name a few.
We’ve used a quality cover artist, because I have always believed that great covers show that care has been taken with the entire book, and have spent time and effort myself on editing and layout. Recently, I’ve taken on some more staff, including my wonderful SNAFU co-editor, Amanda J Spedding. More quality Cohesion people means more care can be taken with the books.
So far, with sales reflecting that, I’m happy with the direction Cohesion has taken.
You’ve talked quite openly about your own life, and the way you’ve dealt with addiction and other issues. How do you think this has influenced your writing and editing?
I think the directions my life took in the past has given me the drive to succeed that is necessary for a successful career in this, or any, industry. If I can survive 23 years of drug abuse and still come out with a few brain cells to rub together, I can do anything. So I am doing what I need to. I believe we make our own luck, and after seeing how so many people I knew didn’t make it out the other side of addiction, and knowing I survived where so many didn’t, I know I can do anything I set my mind to.
I did notice you said ‘writing’. With the press and with the new business running a haunted lunatic asylum I barely have time to write much these days. I do get some requests from publishers, and I manage to fulfill those, but some time to write for my own sake? Not often recently. I work around twelve hours a day, seven days a week. I am writing this answer at quarter to six on a Sunday morning, having worked all night with a group of paranormal investigators over visiting the asylum all the way from South Australia.
I still manage a few words here and there, and hope to find more time in the future. The words are set to explode if I’m not careful and don’t get anything written in the next few months. I feel like Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Soon, we’ll ALL be covered in text.
You’re also the Director of Asylum Ghost Tours, where you host people at the Beechworth Asylum. It sounds fascinating—can you tell us some more about this? How does this filter into your wiring and editing?
Beechworth Asylum is the perfect place to write, whether horror or historic or anything at all, really. This is why we also run Asylum Creative Retreats.
The place is amazing, one of the three largest asylums in the state set in eleven hectares of heritage gardens.
We took over the asylum in December 2015 after we managed to buy a large portion of the facility.
We run tours, both history and ghost, as well as paranormal investigations (think Ghost Adventures on pay TV) seven days and nights a week.
We work hard, but really, it’s more of a lifestyle than a business. Who else gets paid to cavort around a massive 1800s lunatic asylum day and night?
As far as filtering into the literary endeavours, it actually sucks most of my time away into a vortex of haunted work. I have no time for anything but ensuring the business gets to a point where, in a year or so, the business is self-sustaining. At that point, I’ll have more time. For now, sleep is for the weak!
What Australian work have you loved recently?
I have to say that two Antipodean books I have read recently really stand out for me.
Into the Mist by Lee Murray (released a few months ago by Cohesion) is an amazing work, weaving action, suspense, military, adventure, myth and magic, and giant lizards into one enthralling tapestry of awesome.
Fathomless by best-selling author Greig Beck (release at the end of September by Cohesion Press) is his best yet, and scared the bejeesus out of me when I first read the submission. Giant shark? Hell yeah. You got me.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why
I have to cheat here and list three.
Definitely Jonathan Maberry, to ask what cloning process he used that allows him to write so damn much and so damn well in so short a time.
Nicholas Sansbury Smith, a hybrid author of amazing talent, to ask how he managed to get his self-published Extinction series to go totally viral so I could replicate his amazing sales volume.
And finally William S. Burroughs, because the man has always fascinated me. I think we’d end up getting thrown off the plane in some obscure Central American country for uncontrollable behaviour on the plane, but damn, would it be a fun trip.