Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Charles Tan Interviews Barbara and Christopher Roden

What in your opinion sets At Ease with the Dead apart from other horror anthologies?

One thing that sets it apart is the fact that since Ash-Tree is a small press doing limited editions, we have the freedom to include any authors we please, without the constraint of a marketing department telling us that we need to include certain 'big names' in order to ensure sales. This means that we're free to choose the best of the stories submitted to us, whether they're by established authors or new writers. We also choose not to 'theme' our anthologies, which gives writers the freedom to write what they choose, in a variety of styles. And since we are not necessarily looking for 'horror', we're able to include a wider variety of supernatural/macabre/weird fiction.

What was the editing process like? How did both of you decide which stories made it to the anthology and which didn't?

The editing process was time-consuming, because we both read every story submitted and jot down our thoughts on whether or not we think it should be on a final list for consideration. At Ease With the Dead is our fourth anthology, and the previous two received award nominations, while its immediate predecessor, Acquainted With the Night, won IHG and World Fantasy awards. Given that precedent, we knew that the stories we chose for At Ease With the Dead had to live up to those in the previous books, which meant that we already had a certain benchmark in place. While the process of submitting for our anthologies is somewhat open, in that word of mouth gets round, the majority of the stories were submitted by writers whom we'd invited to take part.

As far as deciding which stories were included goes, we have both read enough work in the genre over the years that we know what we like, and which stories are sufficiently original or thought-provoking that we want to include them. On the rare occasions when one of us particularly likes a story and the other doesn't, we talk the matter over, but the fact that one of us sufficiently likes the story enough to want to include it usually wins out.

What were your criteria for what constitutes a good horror story?

Basically, if the story is well written, and incorporates the supernatural enough that it moves us in some way - either because it is frightening, or because it illuminates something about human nature - then we're happy to put it on our final list. If a story stays in the mind after the last page has been read, then we feel it warrants serious consideration. Above all, however, it has to be well written and well considered, with an indication that the 'horror' genre means more to the writer than just a chance to go for the gross-out.

Our fundraising anthology, Jack Haringa Must Die! is now available. Price: $10.

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