An Interview with the Makers of 'Suspended in Dusk II'
Suspended in Dusk II is out now! (Fair disclaimer: my story “Dealing in Shadows” appears in the book, along with work by Stephen Graham Jones, Damien Angelica Walters, Alan Baxter, Sarah Read, Nerine Dorman, JC Michael, Benjamin Knox, Paul Tremblay, Ramsey Campbell, Letitia Trent, Paul Michael Anderson, Gwendoyln Kiste, Bracken Macleod, Christopher Golden, Dan Rabarts, and Karen Runge.) This anthology has had an interesting journey, so I wanted to talk with editor Simon Dewar and publisher Anthony Rivera about some of the behind the scenes. For those not in the know, here’s an introduction to the gentlemen behind the book:
Editor Simon Dewar lives in Canberra, Australia. By day he is an Infrastructure Systems Engineer, specializing in building complex environments, application deployments and implementation of virtualization technologies. By night he writes terrifying and gruesome tales.
Dewar’s short stories can be found in a variety of anthologies, including: Death’s Realm (Grey Matter Press), Bloody Parchment: The Root Cellar and Other Stories, Midnight Echo Magazine, and Double Barrel Horror Vol. 2 (Pint Bottle Press). He previously curated and edited Suspended in Dusk I, which is now out of print.
Publisher Anthony Rivera is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor committed to finding, developing and nurturing only the best talent writing in horror, SciFi, speculative and other dark fiction genres. He leads the editorial team at Grey Matter Press where it is his hope that authors and readers alike will come to realize the company’s products are exceptional examples of the best work being published in the world of genre fiction.
In 2012, he realized his long-time dream when he opened the doors of Chicago-based independent publisher Grey Matter Press (GMP). The company now produces a catalog of award-nominated and critically acclaimed works of dark fiction. In 2013, Grey Matter Press released its first volume to be nominated for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award. In 2014, a second GMP title was also nominated for the Stoker Award. In the years since the company released its first book, its titles have been praised by horror and entertainment media and have been recognized by international awards organizations. FANGORIA Magazine has said: “Grey Matter Press has managed to establish itself as one of the premiere purveyors of horror fiction currently in existence.”
Hi, guys. Let’s get familiar with Suspended in Dusk II. Aside from the back cover copy, how would you describe it to potential readers?
Simon: This is a collection of stories about change. Stories about characters who are undergoing change, or trapped and unable to change, or who are in a period—just as a day turns to night—where change is imminent. It has stories from men and women, people of different backgrounds and different persuasions. It’s predominantly new fiction, but includes 4 reprints. It has everything from literary horror to supernatural, to stuff that edges into the bloodier end of the spectrum. There’s something for everyone in this book.
Tony: I look at this anthology as an effective exploration of the human condition. Simon’s idea of dusk being a time of change and using that metamorphosis to take a deep dive into some troubling topics is a brilliant concept for a dark fiction anthology. The work by the diverse contributors featured in Suspended in Dusk II is certain to appeal to a wider and even more diverse audience. As Simon mentions, there really is something for everyone in this volume.
Now that we know what the book is, let’s get some background. Simon, how did the first Suspended in Dusk come to be?
Simon: I was kicking around the idea of co-editing an anthology with Nerine Dorman and we couldn’t think of a name so she lifted the title from this Type-O Negative song she likes. Things fell through with Dark Continents Publishing, who closed shop, and I wanted to continue with the project. Nerine was busy so I took it on alone and started looking for a new publisher. It eventually found a home at Books of the Dead Press. I was incredibly lucky to have some veteran authors such as Angela Slatter and Ramsey Campbell contribute stories to the book and I had taken a Litreactor course with Jack Ketchum and enquired via LitReactor management whether he’d consider doing the introduction and he readily agreed. I still get giddy every time I think about that!
What made you want to create a follow-up volume? How did you balance maintaining cohesion with the vibe of the first while still brining something new to the table?
Simon: Change is always happening, right? It’s probably the one constant we have. And it’s something that we can all relate to. For that reason, it seems to me, the theme of change is a ready playing field for creatives. Dusk is a visually obvious time of change and is the obvious go-to for dark fiction as it’s when the light becomes dark (cue eerie ghost noise!). After the success of the first anthology I felt there was scope for a second book, and I was keen as an editor to improve my skills and improve on what I had managed to achieve. I’m also bipolar and have fits of mania, which leads to some pretty grand project ideas, so that’s not to be discounted as a motivator.
As far as maintaining cohesion goes, I went about this a few ways. One was to invite stories from some authors who contributed to the first volume, whose work I enjoyed and who I knew understood the theme. The second was by utilising reprints. By including reprints, I was able to select some great stories that fit with my idea of the anthology theme. Lastly, three quarters of the book is original fiction by many current greats of horror with whom I’d never worked with previously, so there is plenty of new energy in this book.
Although I’m sure it wasn’t fun to live as it was happening, one of the most interesting things about the project (to me) is how it almost didn’t come to be. Simon, what can you share with us as far as the near-miss and the process of finding a new home?
Simon: I had signed Suspended in Dusk II with Books of the Dead Press, on the understanding that it’d be published a year later. I worked on the stories with authors and delivered the manuscript to the publisher and then, well, nothing. Months went by without communication from the publisher and the author’s contracts started to expire. The publisher’s website disappeared and royalty payments became late for Suspended in Dusk. Various BOTD authors got talking with one another and started trying to get their rights back and get their works taken down from Amazon, etc. When I finally got in contact with the publisher they released rights for Suspended in Dusk II to me, but deigned to keep the rights to the original anthology. I’ve since had the rights revert to me and hope to re-release the anthology again one day.
Now that I had rights to SiD II back, I didn’t want to give up on it. I had previous experience at re-homing and anthology, so I put my pitching pants on and went for it. I’d previously worked with Grey Matter Press, having had a story published with them in Death’s Realm, and I love the quality of their books and was very impressed by the professionalism of their team, so they were a natural first choice. I was extremely thrilled when they decided to take on the book.
And Tony, what can you tell us about being the one to welcome SiDII home at Grey Matter Press?
Tony: I was honored that Simon approached me with the book. Beyond the fact that each of the stories are strong on their own, the volume as a whole effectively represents what GMP looks for in its titles. I was also aware of the struggles that Simon and the contributors had gone through with the book when the previous publisher unfortunately closed its doors. The team that Simon put together had been through so many ups and downs, I was happy to do what I could to give it a home in our catalog. When we did, we were fortunate enough to be able to add additional authors to the Table of Contents, further enhancing the volume overall.
Did it give you hesitation to pick up the second volume of a series where you weren’t the publisher of the first? Have there been any unusual hurdles in this process?
Tony: This is always somewhat of a concern. I’m well aware of the success of the first volume. I even think I once mentioned to Simon that it was one that I let get away from me. But when I read the complete manuscript of Suspended in Dusk II, I considered it so strong that I was certain not to let this one out of my grasp. And, who knows, maybe we’ll be able to resurrect the first volume and the two volumes can be reunited. But that’s probably a discussion not appropriate for the pages of LitReactor.
For both of you, let’s have some brag time. :) What about this project makes you the most proud to be a part of it?
Simon: Two things. First, completing the damn thing and knowing it has seen the light of day. For me, this was a significant dedication of blood, sweat and tears and I’m proud I saw it through. Second, working with Tony and Grey Matter Press. The process took my editorial skills to a higher level and I feel we worked really well as a team to make a fantastic book.
Tony: I’m a big supporter of Simon’s editorial vision. And considering what he and the contributors have gone through in the last two years, I’m most proud of the fact that Grey Matter Press could make the situation right for them. While it’s almost the nature of the business where independent presses might overextend themselves or otherwise find themselves in a situation requiring the closure of their doors, it’s really most unfortunate for the authors to have their hard work—their art—disappear. This book has found a good home, and I’m immensely proud to have helped these artists find that home.
Anything else you think potential readers should know?
Simon: If you enjoyed Suspended in Dusk, you’ll love Suspended in Dusk II. If you haven’t read Suspended in Dusk… you’re in for a treat. Suspended in Dusk II has something of everything: killers, zombies, ghosts, spirits and demons of Moari and American mythology. It’s got denizens of the Dark Web and the 9th Circle of Hell. It’s got disturbing stories about sympathetic but fundamentally broken people. The anthology includes tales from an array of male and female writers hailing from four different continents, and people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Tony: Suspended in Dusk II is a powerful volume of exceptional fiction from an incredibly diverse selection of authors from around the world. There’s been a lot of press lately—pro and con—about the lack of diversity in the industry, and the role of editors and/or publishers to ensure diversity. It was crucial to Simon to create a volume of dark fiction that’s representative in this manner. His passion to make that a reality is going to be evident when any reader picks up this book.
With Suspended in Dusk II officially out in the world today, what’s next for each of you?
Simon: I’m trying to sell a few of my own stories and have almost completed my first collection, which I’ll pitch sometime in the future. I’m pretty up and down at the moment and am taking a well needed break from social media. Karen Runge and I have commenced developing a TOP SEKRIT anthology project which we hope to pitch in coming months.
Tony: Grey Matter Press has a lot going on over the next six months. Almost so much that I’m unsure I’ll maintain my sanity. Still this year we have the next collection from Bram Stoker Award-nominated author John F.D. Taff coming out. It’s titled Little Black Spots. And if readers enjoyed John’s The End in All Beginnings and Little Deaths, they’re going to love this third volume. Then we have John Foster’s novel The Isle, which will be our second novel from Foster, following his very cool supernatural thriller Mister White. Three weeks ago we released Alan Baxter’s Manifest Recall, a southern gothic horror/noir novella that’s getting rave reviews. In November we’re publishing his Devouring Dark, a supernatural dark fantasy novel that’s pure, adrenaline-fueled Baxter. And, first announced here, we’ll soon be opening up a submission window and will be looking for novellas. Watch our social media for updates on all those things.
Finally, my must-ask question for LitReactor readers: what’s your best, strangest, or most unique advice for writers?
Simon: Most of what comes out when you initially write often isn’t great, and most of the real magic comes in editing and re-writing. So, be fearless and daring when you write, because you will only fix and further improve what you wrote later as you go through the editing process. Anyone interested in some editing tips can check out my blog.
Tony: Listen to and appreciate your editor. AND your publisher! I realize that last one can be difficult at times. :)
Thanks very much for talking with me today! Happy book release!
Thanks for having us :)
To leave a comment