BOOK & BLOG
September 30, 2008
Books of the Week:
If the novel DRACULA had a huge effect on you, you really need THE NEW ANNOTATED DRACULA. This massive book has more facts than you ever imagined, from the derivation of descriptive passages about Transylvania (Stoker never went there) to speculation about the origins of the character of the count (some people think Dracula was modeled on the actor Stoker worked for). Klinger has done exhaustive research about the timelines in the book, discusses the motivations of the count in coming to England, and in general leaves no sentence unanalyzed. The thoroughness of TNAD is simply stunning.
I’m not the kind of reader who tries to solve inconsistencies in a good book’s narrative, but there had been several glitches in DRACULA that I’d never been able to resolve when I read the book. Thanks to Klinger, I know I’m not the only one who’s gone “Huh?” at some of the passages. For the Dracula enthusiast, this is a must-buy.
I’ve never ‘reviewed’ one of my own books before, but I am so pleased with the new anthology WOLFSBANE AND MISTLETOE. I just have to gush a little. The title may seem a little chick-lit, but the stories are anything but. Toni Kelner is my long-time friend, and she and I had the most wonderful time assembling the list of writers who have contributed to the book. This list is a mixture of mystery, urban fantasy, and romance writers: Donna Andrews, Keri Arthur, Patricia Briggs, Dana Cameron, Karen Chance, Alan Gordon, Simon R. Green, myself, Toni, J.A. Konrath, Nancy Pickard, Kat Richardson, Dana Stabenow, Rob Thurman, and Carrie Vaughn. Quite a group, huh?
With outstanding contributors and a gorgeous cover, we are hoping this book will do as well as or better than our previous collaboration. Some of our contributors have considered writing whole new series after their imaginations took them to new places for their entries in our two books. That’s a very exciting idea, and considerable stimulus to Toni and me.
I got a lot of questions about the anthology at this past weekend’s Southeastern Booksellers’ Association meeting in Mobile, Alabama. The booksellers were interested in the process of our collaboration in creating the book. At risk of making this whole column one long self-serving ad for WAM, I though some of you might be interested, too.
First of all, we accept stories by request only. I’m sure we miss many good entries that way. If we had open submissions, we’d surely get scores of submissions for the slots (13-15) available. But that’s the problem. Toni and I both have our own deadlines to meet and families to take care of, and we simply don’t have the time to read a hundred stories to find the one we want. We’ve found that half the fun of the project is drawing up our wish list. Some of the writers on this final list are not friends; in fact, some of them we’ve never met. Our list consists of a mix of personal friends and acquaintances, writers we don’t know but revere, popular favorites, and up-and-coming writers who’ve been recommended by our publisher. The only common factor is our conviction that the writer can contribute something original and wonderful to our book. Some people on the wish list have never made the New York Times bestseller list, and some may make it further along in their careers, and some may never make it; but we admire all of them.
Then we send out the emails of invitation and wait to receive responses. There’s always a percentage of writers who aren’t interested, or perhaps aren’t stimulated by the concept of the anthology, and there are always those who simply don’t have the time. That’s okay, we’re prepared. We’ve turned down some requests, ourselves, and we don’t take it personally. Besides, we have a backup list.
After the contributors have gotten their contracts and returned them, we wait for the stories to start rolling in. I’m sure Toni would agree that this is the most fun. Toni does the primary edit on one story and then forwards it to me, and I make my own comments. When the next story comes in, I’m up to do the primary edit. This way, we’re more likely to catch problem areas in the material and suggest a way to fix this perceived problem. Sometimes the writer agrees with us, sometimes not; but so far we’ve been able to have amicable discussions about this touchy area.
When Toni and I have finished editing the stories and have written our own, we send them in to be edited again. John Helfers at Tekno Books does a great edit job, and then our editor at Ace, Ginjer Buchanan, also reads the stories. Then the book is typeset, and the proofs are sent out to the individual contributors and to Toni and me. Once all those corrections are in place, the book is printed. At some point during this procedure, we’ve seen the cover and done a happy dance.
I’ve run into people who assume we’re figureheads, that John and Ginjer are doing the heavy lifting. Far from it. If my name is going on the cover, I want to be sure that what’s inside is as good as it can get, and Toni feels the same way.
And how do we get along, now that we’ve worked together? Though Toni may be sharpening a big knife even as I type this, I think we’re closer friends than we’ve ever been. Before we began working on our first anthology, I’m sure we both worried about whether we’d disagree very sharply, or argue. On the contrary. My opinion of Toni’s intelligence and good judgment has gone up and up. (That’s one reason we don’t quarrel: if we’re not in agreement, I assume Toni’s right!)
I hope all of you who like stories about werewolves and about Christmas will enjoy this anthology, and maybe now that you know how we put it together, you’ll relish it just a bit more.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris