Mary SanGiovanni stirs up a Tempest

Mary SanGiovanni is a prolific author and podcaster, and she’s getting ready to add another title to the list: editor. Recently, SanGiovanni announced that she is joining forces with respected publisher Thunderstorm Books to form a new, female-centric imprint. In the following interview, SanGiovanni discusses her approach to creating and curating this new line of horror fiction

(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)

CEMETERY DANCE: Congratulations on the imprint! What’s it called, and how did it come about?

MARY SANGIOVANNI: Thanks!  It’s called Tempest, and I’m excited to be editing for it. Paul Goblirsch (of Thunderstorm Books) approached me about it late last year, and we discussed a line that would showcase, and thus raise awareness of, the talented female writers producing horror, thrillers, and dark fantasy today. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that such lines are important. Women don’t need a special platform to compensate for a disparity in talent, but for the disparity in awareness of their talent. They need opportunities to bridge the gap that decades of dismissal have created. And they need a chance to change minds who might be inclined to believe that women can’t write horror. While their perspectives and approach to the genre and its inherent emotions may be different, women are particularly well-suited to producing scary fiction, and I’m hoping Tempest will be a vehicle through which we can demonstrate that.

What kind of material will you be looking to showcase through this imprint?

I’m definitely looking for dark fiction—supernatural horror, cosmic horror, non-supernatural horror, dark fantasy, horror-fantasy, even horror-sf.  Quiet horror, extreme horror, weird fiction, surreal fiction, and everywhere in between works for me. I have very few taboos; but I am looking for sensitive material to be handled with dignity, of course. The key element is that each writer brings me her forte, and that there is a pervasive element of terror, horror, or dread.

Are you looking for specific lengths—novel length, novella length, etc.? Or just whatever fits the story at hand?

I’m looking specifically for novella-length work, about 25k-30k, but will consider an over-under of 1-2k.

What’s the significance of the name you chose for the imprint?

There are a couple of reasons I chose TEMPEST. For one, there is an ancient magickal association between women and water and women and the sea, and tempests are sea storms. They are powerful and mercurial and beautiful and terrifying—all attributes I think women proudly possess. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, one of the driving forces for the creation of the storm is for magician Prospero to restore his daughter’s rightful place in Milan alongside her husband and heir to the throne. It seemed fitting that a new line might help restore women alongside men in their place in this genre’s history.

Also, Thunderstorm Books has a theme with its lines, all weather- and storm-related. When I did some research online, I found that the ancient Romans’ sky and weather goddess was Tempestas, a goddess of storms.

It’s my understanding that you’ll be working exclusively with female authors for this imprint. Why is now the right time for a female-driven horror imprint?

Yes, I’ll be working with writers who are/identify as female. I think our society is, more than ever before, aware of and sensitive to the experiences of women. There is a movement away from objectification, which allows women to assert new aspects of their being which may have heretofore been overlooked in favor of traditional feminine attributes. Women’s professional contributions to the field are being taken more seriously than in decades prior not only by colleagues but by readers and consumers, and women are being given an opportunity to fully explore the commercial viability of works created from a female point of view. With Tempest, I hope to show that women’s work has a lasting literary significance despite gender, sex, or orientation, and that it has commercial viability in the marketplace.

How is a woman’s perspective on horror different than a man’s, both as a creator and as a fan?

I think women are particularly in touch with their emotions, although whether this is something hard-wired into our DNA or something bred into us over thousands of years, I’m not sure. Nonetheless, I do think women value and respect the power of their emotions. They give as much weight to the emotional aspect and impact of a decision as the intellectual one. They perceive the world through many filters, and one of the strongest is that of emotion. Therefore, I think they are especially suited to write in a genre which is inherently one of emotion—and, as Lovecraft says, one of the oldest emotions of mankind.

In general, women are physically weaker than men, and so have been taught for generations to fear any number of dangers both physical and sexual. We are a sex/gender that has been fed fear all our lives, from fairy tales to urban legends, from news stories to whispers at parties. We are taught to fear predators, and our lives are built around certain fundamental survivalist modes of behavior. Horror tales, at their essence, are stories of those predators coming to take away the things we hold dear, both internally and externally. As both creators and fans, we process those fears through the media of the horror genre.

Horror from a man’s point of view is often the fear of being unable to protect, unable to save. It is the horror of losing those who depend on you. It’s the fear of failing in body, mind, or spirit. It’s the “what-if” of coming up against something that might prove bigger, stronger, or faster.  Horror for women has an element of that as well—we’re mothers, and fear being unable to protect children—but we also have a fear of coming up against something we know is bigger, stronger, and faster. Ours is not a horror of failing hand-to-hand combat, but of being unable to out-think or out-maneuver something we know could physically overpower us. And that’s really just the surface of the subject.

I’m assuming you have a wish list of authors you’d like to work with. Any names you can share at this time?

I do; I actually submitted a list to Paul (and the list keeps growing), and am waiting on a few particulars before I begin contacting writers. The line is limiting books to only a handful a year, and there are so many talented women writers out there that there’s no way we can publish them all in one or two or even five or six years, but that’s good; it means I can offer a diverse group of writers for years to come, producing some excellent novella-length fiction. I can’t share names yet, but I think readers will be pleased.

Is there a specific approach to horror that you’re envisioning for this imprint?

Not really; I suspect people will assume that because I write/enjoy supernatural/cosmic horror that my focus will be on that, but honestly, I’d rather each writer produce a story as she sees fit to tell it. That might be something in keeping with her brand or her unique skills. It might be an experiment in something that challenges her, something that breaks her out of her typecast mold. The only approach I’m looking for is something genuinely scary. I’d like to see the kind of book that leaves people a little freaked out, that makes them check behind them before going upstairs, that has them thinking about the book when they’re not reading.

Back to the nuts-and-bolts of the line: what kind of releases will we get? Limited editions, trade editions, ebooks, all of the above?

These will be special limited edition books; the writers will retain rights to paperback and ebooks. I suspect, from discussions with Paul, that these limited editions will be real collectors’ items.

How about artwork for the books in the imprint? Will you emphasize female artists for that aspect as well?

I would like to; I think it would be fitting to showcase the beautiful artwork of female artists as well as the work of female writers.

What’s the timeline for the imprint?

I’m still working the timeline out with Paul, but I believe the anticipated timeline is about 7 novellas a year. This will probably mean two novellas up front, and then one every other month.

Will you be publishing any of your own work through the imprint?

No, I have no plans at this time to publish my own work, although I’m always happy to work with Paul through his other imprints—which reminds me: It’s important to note that female writers submitting books to Thunderstorm are not limited to the Tempest imprint. This isn’t a means of shoehorning women into a smaller space, but rather, an attempt at broadening their options.

Speaking of your own work—what do you have coming up that we should be watching for?

Well, currently, my novel Savage Woods is available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle, etc., and recently, both the Italian and English audiobook versions of Chills were released. Also, my short story collection, Night Moves, is available on Amazon. Upcoming works include a novella soon to be announced and my novel Behind the Door, due out in August.  And I have recently started a podcast on cosmic horror called Cosmic Shenanigans, which is available on Project Entertainment Network, iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.

 Mary SanGiovanni is the author of the “The Hollower” trilogy (the first of which was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award), ThrallChaosChillsSavage Woods, and the upcoming Behind the Door; and the novellas For EmmyPossessing AmyThe Fading Place, and No Songs for the Stars and the forthcoming A Quiet Place at World’s End, as well as the collections Under Cover of NightA Darkling PlainNight Moves and A Weirdish Wild Space. Her fiction has appeared in periodicals and anthologies for the last decade. She has a Masters degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, Pittsburgh, where she studied under genre greats. She is currently a member of The Authors Guild, The International Thriller Writers, and Penn Writers, and was previously an Active member in the Horror Writers Association.

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