SFFWRTCHT: Editor-Author Michael Knost on his Writer’s Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Michael Knost is an award-winning author, editor, and columnist in the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror genres, who has written several books and dozens of short stories. He’s edited a number of anthologies, including the Legends of the Mountain State series, and currently writes a column for Shroud Magazine. He also edited Writer’s Workshop of Horror, a nonfiction anthology, which like Writer’s Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy, features star writers and editors offering writing advice for the rest of us. In fact, He recently won the Bram Stoker Award in the United Kingdom for editing Writers Workshop of Horror. He is currently working on a Mothman novel due to hit bookshelves later this year. Knost lives in West Virginia with his wife and daughter who tame the monster in him or at least keep it chained. You can find @MichaelKnost online at Twitter, on Facebook or via his website at MichaelKnost.com.


SFFWRTCHT: To get started, you’re rather known as a horror author. Bram Stoker winner, etc. Why horror?

MK: I think horror delves into areas we aren’t comfortable with. I think it brings (good horror) a level of emotion that is close to home…connects a reader with superglue enthusiasm. But, I have to admit, Science Fiction is my first love.

SFFWRTCHT: So, what are the biggest differences between writing science fiction, writing fantasy, and writing horror?

MK: Good question. I think the speculative nature runs a common bond with all three, but they are different. I think horror deals with a more emotional level…or should. I’m not talking about gore for the sake of gore crap… Science fiction deals more on a scientific level…I like Analog‘s view…a story where if you remove the scientific element the story collapses. But all science fiction stories are not alike. Some have an element of science that is small, some great, but that element is the common denominator for nearly every sub-genre under the SF umbrella. I think Fantasy can be more relaxed overall. It’s something that goes between. Does not have to make scientific sense, just… has to bring us to a realization that dreams can make sense. Magic can make sense… But there are so many variables in all three…and mixing…and defining…and stretching…I just love all three.

SFFWRTCHT: Who are some of your favorite SF authors?

MK: My all-time favorite writer is Theodore Sturgeon. I love John Scalzi, Neil Gaiman, George (RailRoad) Martin, Harlan Ellison, Octavia Butler, Connie Willis, Paolo Bacigalupi…

SFFWRTCHT: tell us a bit about the Writer’s Workshop authors and how they came about?

Michael Knost: Writers Workshop of Horror came from a desire to produce a writing book I wish would have been available when I began writing…A book that would be filled with a common sense approach. I worked at searching corners and shadows for subjects that every writer working in dark genres could actually use. Woodland Press published the book and did a fantastic job and it took off immediately. It still sells very well. Not long after it came out, I had a number of people making comments that I should do a version for Science Fiction & Fantasy. After much consideration, I agreed. I had not touched quite a bit that I wanted to in the first, so this one allowed more.

SFFWRTCHT: So you figured, damn, that was easy, why not do it again, right?

MK: It wasn’t easy. I think I could have written two novels, maybe three in the time I worked on Writer’s Workshop Of Horror, and the same for Writer’s Workshop Of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I think Writer’s Workshop Of Science Fiction and Fantasy turned out better than I had hoped.

SFFWRTCHT: The table of contents includes Lou Anders, Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, James Gunn, Joe Haldeman, Nancy Kress, Alan Dean Foster, Harry Turtledove, and more. You’ve got a stellar line up and some great topics. How did you go about recruiting participants?

MK: Recruiting was simple. I asked those who excel in the craft topic they covered in the book to tell us how they did it. A lot of thought went into who covered what. No one (in either book) was given a choice of what to write. I asked for specifics from each of them.

SFFWRTCHT: Ah, so you suggested topics rather than ask them what they might want to offer? Did anyone say no?

MK: I had a few who were too busy. But, that’s something you have with any project. No one said no to my topic choices.  I had a few who were surprised by my choice for themm, stating they did not think they were strong in that area.

SFFWRTCHT: You kickstarted Writer’s Workshop Of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Did you also do that with Writer’s Workshop Of Horror and why?

MK: Writer’s Workshop Of Horror was not, but Writer’s Workshop Of Science Fiction and Fantasy was done through Kickstarter at the request of Seventh Star Press. I did not know anything about it at the time.

SFFWRTCHT: So perhaps I should ask how did Seventh Star Press become involved? Writer’s Workshop Of Horror was from another publisher.

MK: Woodland Press published Writer’s Workshop Of Horror and did a fantastic job. Great publishing house. Honest, quality driven, and they stretched pretty far in doing the book. They generally produce Appalachian based books, like my Legends of the Mountain State series. But I knew (and so did they) that Science Fiction & Fantasy was going to be too much of a stretch so I was looking for a small publisher, someone who would have the heart to make this the gem it could be. I talked with Jackie Gamber and she suggested Seventh Star Press, and they have been as good as gold with this project. Because as large as it was, a small press would have a hard time with financing such an endeavor, so they asked if I would mind trying out a Kickstarter. Again, I didn’t know anything about it, but it worked.

SFFWRTCHT: Tell us a bit about some of the topics included in Writer’s Workshop Of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

MK: Lou Anders does a great job with explaining sub genres. Harry Turtledove talks about alternate history. Alan Dean Foster wrote Reverse Engineering, which is a how-to piece on novelizations. Gaiman talks about where ideas come from. Nisi Shawl talks about gender bending in SF. Elizabeth Bear discusses world building. Tere are two roundtable discussions with editors on short and long fiction.

SFFWRTCHT: Writer’s Workshop Of Science Fiction and Fantasy has interviews with LeGuin, Tim Powers and Ann Vandermeer as well. After doing a Kickstarter, any advice or thoughts on crowdfunding and its value for these types of projects?

MK: What I loved about the Kickstarter was the grass roots feel. The backers were as excited to see the project come to fruition as I was. I think the backers take an ownership role that goes far beyond purchasing a book. It was an amazing experience to see.

SFFWRTCHT: Do any of your contributors discuss Pantsing vs. Outlining?

MK: No, that subject did not come about. However, if you want my opinion of the whole thing, everyone outlines. The finished first draft (which is a mess, right?) is the pantser’s outline.

SFFWRTCHT: So you’re saying some just outline with a buttload more words then?

MK: Exactly. You have no idea where the story is going while you outline. The pantser is the same way during the first draft. Now the first draft for a pantser is considerably different than that of an outliner. Don’t get me wrong, I am an outliner, but I understand pantser thinking. I deal with it in teaching.

SFFWRTCHT: What other projects are you working on that we can look forward to, besides my steampunk horror anthology, Gaslamp Terrors?

MK: I am writing a Mothman novel. And I have a flip book anthology coming out next month called Barbers & Beauties. One side is Barbershop Quartet with four horror stories set around barbershops; flip side is Beauty Shop Quartet with four horror stories around beauty shops, etc.

SFFWRTCHT: And where can we get a copy of Writer’s Workshop Of Horror and Writer’s Workshop Of Science Fiction and Fantasy and your other works?

MK: Anywhere books are sold. They may not be on shelves everywhere, but they can order them. Amazon, Barnes & Noble. You can order from me and I will personalize them if you want.