Friday, June 6, 2014

Author Spotlight - Aaron J. French

Posted by LD Keach on Friday, June 6, 2014

Aaron J. French is not only the Editor-in-Chief of Dark Discoveries magazine; he's also a writer and editor for JournalStone Publishing. His stories have appeared in markets like Black Ink Horror, Something Wicked, Chiral Mad, The Lovecraft eZine, and many more. He's also been published under the banners of Uncanny Books, Crowded Quarantine Productions, Hazardous Press and Angelic Knight Press while mulling away at the grindstone of academia. We caught up with Aaron to chat with him a bit about his most recent projects.

DM: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! You’ve recently come out with a novella in The Chapman Books, published by Uncanny Books, and you’ve edited an anthology called Songs of the Satyrs through Angelic Knight Press. Tell us about these projects.

AJF: Both of these projects have been in the works for a while. For whatever reason, these two books took the most time and energy out of me to pull together. A couple of years. But I think they’re certainly worth the wait, and it’s great to see them come to fruition around the same time.

The Chapman Books project was brought to my attention by Adam P. Lewis. Adam found some bizarre documents regarding several families bearing the surname Chapman in the attic of his deceased aunt. He knew nothing about them; no one in his family did. Adam wrote a novella based on his interpretation of the documents’ events, and invited me to do the same. He had a third author lined up, but they dropped out of the game, so we brought Erik T. Johnson on board. I’ve always been a fan of Erik’s original work. I published him in The Shadow of the Unknown and his fiction has appeared in both Chiral Mads, Qualia Nous, and Dead but Dreaming 2. His novella in the collection “The Delirium” is no less unique, and while perhaps a challenging read, you won’t find anything like it anywhere else. Adam chose a revenant female zombie to infect his version of the Chapman family, with a cool classic horror story feel. My own novella, “The Stain,” features a demonic pigman wearing a boiler hat and carrying a butterfly-knives umbrella over his shoulder, and who is possessing the little Chapman girl. ’Nuff said?

Songs of the Satyrs is something wholly in its own category. An anthology containing 20 short stories from distinctive new voices in horror as well as such notable authors as David Farland (a.k.a. David Wolverton; New York Times best-selling author), Rhys Hughes, Mark Valentine, W. H. Pugmire, and John Langan, with an introduction by Gene O’Neill. I originally hatched the idea with some friends, and it took a while to get this project off the ground, but the finished book looks great, and the stories are some of the best I’ve ever published. What’s great about this anthology is that, rather than stick to one specific genre, I decided to stay true to the characteristics of the satyr instead. Satyrs, after all, are Pan-like mythological creatures, close companions and worshipers of Dionysus, who lead bacchanalian lifestyles, drinking wine and cavorting with nymph-like creatures deep in the woods. Thus, among the stories you’ll find ritualistic horror, fantasy, science fiction, erotica, and plenty of Lovecraftian weirdness (black she-goats of the wood, and all). Both titles can be purchased on Amazon or from Uncanny Books and Angelic Knight Press, respectively.

DM: Along with Uncanny Press and Angelic Knight Press, you’ve worked with Hazardous Press and Crowded Quarantine Publications, among others. How was it working with all these publishers? Is every indie press a different experience?

AJF: Well, of course I would’ve loved to have written a novel, pitched to an agent, and sold to a New York publishing house, but that just isn’t me. Working in the small press there’s a kind of kicking and screaming that goes on, a vast battlefield of mayhem above which one can soberly, and yet steadily, rise, and end up in perhaps a better position experience-wise and longevity-wise than if the first scenario had occurred. There are some literary jokers who sell their first novel to New York and then it just sits and sits on the selves and on Amazon, and then when their contract’s shredded, they go back to teaching and being gardeners. I think that happens because they haven’t learned how to be a literary figure, how to be an artist. Struggling through life to find your place and then owning it makes you an artist, and you’ll probably be around a lot longer for having done so. Working your way up through the small press can supply that.

Hazardous Press is great, I love them. They put out great books, with very interesting themes, and they’re very easy to work with. I placed a few stories in some of their anthologies and then published my all-zombies collection Up From Soil Fresh with them, which turned out great. A big secret which I haven’t actually revealed yet (well, I have now) is that Hazardous is going to be re-releasing Monk Punk and The Shadow of the Unknown, both now out of print, together in a giant omnibus edition complete with 11 brand new stories based on the two themes, new cover art, and a new intro by me. The new stories are amazing, too. Look for it in the next couple months.

As for Crowded Quarantine Publications, they are simply an amazing press out of the UK that hits high marks on the quality meter. Their books are gorgeous, and they just keep on getting better, both hardcovers and trades. CQP published my story “The Devil: A Love Story” this year in Of Devils & Deviants: An Anthology of Erotic Horror. This is a beautiful book. I highly recommend it. Well anyway—and I actually haven’t officially announced this either—I was lucky enough to place my first official single author collection with them, Aberrations of Reality, which is due out later this year. Its theme will be on the magical, mystical, weird, and horrific. I’m very excited about working with Adam Millard and his staff.

DM: You also work with JournalStone Publishing as a book editor and you are the Editor-in-Chief for Dark Discoveries Magazine. How do you juggle so many hats?

AJF: I might also mention that I recently went back to school to get my BA in Religious Studies and I’m preparing a graduate thesis on esoteric currents in religion, particularly Christianity, and moving into graduate work. So yeah—it’s a lot. But the writing and the editing and the academic stuff is basically all I do, which means combined it’s like a full-time job. I’ve been editing some of the books for JournalStone Publishing and we’ve got some great titles coming out (or already out) from Weston Ochse, Jonathan Maberry, Joe Kinney, Patrick Freivald, Dr. Michael Collings, and Brett J. Talley, which I’ve worked on. Great books, all of them.

But the Editor-in-Chief role at Dark Discoveries takes up most of my time. The recent issues are getting some great critical and fan acclaim, and now that we’re getting only all original fiction (no reprints) and some of the biggest names in the genre, they just keep on getting better and better. We have some cool and unique themes coming up as well, an iPad app for the magazine, and a bunch of other cool surprises. Really excited about it. So sure, it’s a lot of irons in the fire, but it’s essentially just different sectors of my brain. I tell my brain-computer, “Computer, time now to switch from this project to that…” and then we just go for it. I will say I drink a lot of coffee, though.

DM: As a writer, what advice can you offer new writers just starting out? And any advice for those looking to publish with Dark Discoveries?

AJF: In terms of advice, the only thing I can offer is that same old write a lot and read a lot, but I’d add that persistence is necessary, as well as meeting the colleagues who work in the same field as you. If you can’t stick to it through thick and thin, and if you can’t overcome your own fears to go out and fraternize (and sisternize) then this probably isn’t the thing you’d want to be doing. But if all that sounds doable, then just keep at it, and eventually it will start happening. But if you’re looking to get published in DD, you’ll have to wait because we’re backlogged and currently going through everything and will re-open in the future. In the meantime, friend me on Facebook, get to know me and my work, etc., so that way I’ll recognize your name when I see it. That can only help. :)