Interview by Stephanie Gunn.
Liz Grzyb is the award-winning editor of six short story anthologies in various subgenres of speculative fiction, and co-editor of The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror series from Ticonderoga Publications. She is a teacher and bellydancer, who enjoys sipping champagne while debating the finer points of possessive apostrophes.
You’ve edited multiple anthologies published by Ticonderoga Press, including themed anthologies such as Scary Kisses and Hear Me Roar. How does the process of creating and editing a themed anthology work for you? Are there any tips you can give to people who are contemplating stepping into an editorial role themselves?
First of all is coming up with the idea. You have to have a look around to see what else is being done in the same sort of vein and work out whether your idea will fit in a new niche or cover the same ground, hopefully in a different way. Then once I’ve received a few stories for consideration, I start to see how the stories will work around the theme — often in totally different ways to how I’d expected!
Towards the end of the reading period, once I’ve got a shortlist of stories together, comes the tricky part. The anthology is like a jigsaw, and the stories need to fit together in a way that makes a cohesive whole, rather than being a bunch of awesome but disconnected pieces. This part is tricky because it’s when I have to make decisions about stories which I love, but don’t quite fit the rest of the pattern.
The story-editing process is wonderful, and I really enjoy the time of working with an author to sand back the story to help it shine. Some stories need more or less than others, but no matter what, it’s the conversation with the author which is the best part of this.
To edit an anthology you really need to love the topic, and it feels like I’m preaching to the choir here, but you also have to love words and working with language. You’re going to go over those stories many, many times, so you have to enjoy it!
You’re also the co-editor of Ticonderoga’s Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror series. How does the process of collating a best-of collection work for you? What have you learned over the many years of collections that you’ve edited?
The Year’s Best has a different process from the themed anthology, as Talie and I read what is submitted as well as trying to catch as many stories in our genre that we can. Our particular strategy is to read separately for our sections and come up with a shortlist of stories which we compare (there’s a surprising amount of crossover!) Then, similar to the way I work for a themed anthology, we look at the scope of the stories we have on the shortlist when finalising the line-up, to build a well-rounded anthology.
I’ve learned that no matter how many times you proofread, there will always be something that slips through.
Things are moving slowly on all my projects at the moment because of my cancer treatment, but Talie Helene and I are hoping to have the next Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror volume out soon. I’m also currently working with the amazing Cat Sparks editing an anthology called Ecopunk which is looking at optimistic ecological futures, and with my husband Russell B. Farr on Welcome, a refugee-themed anthology, both slated for next year.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
There’s so much! I think if I had to narrow it down, two Australian authors who I could read all day are Angela Slatter and Juliet Marillier.
Angela’s dark fantasy is amazing and so varied — I’ve never read anything of hers I didn’t adore. Juliet’s work appeals to such a broad audience, and I really don’t know whether my favourite novel is Cybele’s Secret, Heart’s Blood or Dreamer’s Pool, because I love them all!
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Robin McKinley, because she’s one of the reasons I first loved to read. Plus, she loves dogs and it would be fabulous to share stories about our fur-babies.