Friday, April 5, 2013

Interview With Zachary Bonelli on Community Days

I was privileged to host Zachary Bonelli's first Google Hangout interview!

Zack is the founder of Fuzzy Hedgehog Press, a group of speculative fiction writers who wanted to create a powerful collaboration to make it easier to spread the word about their work. You can find out more about him by checking out his website, or see what he's up to on Twitter.

In addition to spending time creating fantastic works of fiction, the authors at Fuzzy Hedgehog Press also take time to promote the work of others through their Indie Spec Fic Fund. They highlight cool-looking projects from Kickstarter and Indiegogo, helping innovative, new writers have their chance at the spotlight.

Here is a video of the interview, and below is a partial transcript. Hope you enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I've been writing for a very long time, I started when I was in high school. As I kept writing, a I latched onto a character and a world (well, actually, multiple worlds). That became a book, Voyage. I became embittered with the whole traditional publishing system, decided I couldn't get it ever published that way, and put that on the back burner. I wrote little stories over the last ten years, but basically it was stalled. And then recently, Hugh Howey and the big self-publishing thing happened. Not only did I decide now is the time for me to really write Voyage and get that out into the world, but I wanted to create a space for people like myself. My biggest worry with putting out Voyage, at least through the traditional publishing machine twelve years ago, was that my main character is gay. Someone along the way would tell me "oh, he has to be straight or it won't sell," of course that would be the end of my relationship with any publisher or editor. Even though, clearly, that's not the case today, the publishers would be more receptive to that, I wanted to create a community where anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation [would be supported].

What are the benefits of a writing collective for authors?

The different models of collectives are varying a lot. Part of the core values for me, at least, are 1.) authors owning the rights to their own work, and 2.) no one in the group will ever tell you that you can't publish "x." They may disagree with you strongly, but there's no such thing as "Oh, that's a topic that's not allowed in literature." The other major thing that separates us is, if you look at groups like the Science Fiction Writers of America, people are only allowed in if they have "acceptable publications" in "acceptable venues." We are not an exclusive group, in fact, exclusivity is totally contrary to the core values... If you have a piece of writing that you're working on, and that you intend to publish or self-publish, you're welcome.

How would you go about finding/forming a collective?

Full disclosure: I made it up as I went along! I set up a website, I wrote up rules, I started a Wordpress for it. I pulled my friends in. We're largely figuring it out as we go along.

Talk a bit about author collaboration vs. competition.

In the old system I was talking about, there's a level of exclusivity involved. I've talked to friends about this, we feel it goes back to the Medieval concept of the guilds, gathering similar skills together in order to create a kind of monopoly on that skill, and to secure status in the market. But with so much human experience out there, with so much desire for people to get more literature, more stories, more things that they connect with, I don't think that's the best model anymore. Competition is one model, and clearly the traditional publishing industry buys into it. But collaboration is superior, especially in the social context that we find ourselves. We gain a lot more from working together than from viewing each other as objects to smash up against or avoid.

What are you working on now?

I have a serial coming up called Insomnium. I'm going to attempt to crowdfund the cover artwork for that. I can get Voyage on my own, but I can't do Insomnium and Voyage. I was thinking the traditional side of things, the competitive, would say, "Oh, go and spread the word about Insomnium covers on all of your social networks." Fuzzy Hedgehog Press has different values. I knew what I needed to do - go find other people on Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and promote their stuff for free, because that's what I'd want other people to do for me.

If we go back to Greek, insomnia is the plural of the noun insomnium, which is a "waking vision." A dream you have while you're awake. There used to be this concept of this sleeping, dreamlike state you could achieve while you were awake. 

The concept of Insomnium is a character in 2089 Seattle who goes to sleep and wakes up in the "City of Nowhere." The City of Nowhere is a central market rotunda populated by very strange creatures, that links off to wards (districts of the city). Each ward has a governor, and the governors are absolutely insane. He meets people from other alternate Earths who have found their way into this strange city that all turns out to be one giant dream. The question is, "Who is the dreamer?"

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries, can you name one (or more!) author, editor, publisher, agent etc. who's doing great things right now, and why?

Everyone who I work with at Fuzzy Hedgehog Press - Wes Davies, Aubry Andersen, and Josh Cooper. They're all awesome, and they're great collaborators. If you're interested in getting some critiques, ebook formatting, and you're willing to give back, Fuzzy Hedgehog is happy to have you.

Thanks so much to Zack for participating! Don't forget to check out Fuzzy Hedgehog Press, Zack's website, and his Twitter feed.

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