Nancy Kilpatrick is a writer and editor with 18 novels and over 225 short stories in print. In her editorial capacity, nEvermore! is her 15th anthology. She enjoys wearing two hats and exploring both hemispheres of her brain. She won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Mystery Story, and several awards for her dark fantasy writing and editing, including the Paris Book Festival’s Best Anthology of the Year for Danse Macabre.
Caro Soles is the founder of Bloody Words, Canada’s biggest annual mystery convention. Her work includes mysteries, erotica, gay lit and science fiction. She received the Derrick Murdoch Award from the Crime Writers of Canada for her work in the mystery field and was short listed for the Lambda Literary Award.
Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles answered a few questions about their new anthology nEvermore:Tales of Murder, Mystery, & the Macabre.
John DeNardo: Tell us what your new anthology, nEvermore! is about.
Nancy Kilpatrick: nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery & the Macabre is, as the subtitle suggests, stories inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s imagination through his work. It’s an homage by the authors and by us, the editors, to one of if not the most important writer in American literature.
JD: How did the idea for nEvermore! originate?
NK: Caro and I have been friends for decades but we’d never worked together on a book project. Two years ago, we were swimming in a pool talking about this, trying to think what type of project we could do that would cover both of our writing/editing interests: me–dark fantasy/horror; Caro–mystery. I think I made a joke of some sort and then Caro blurted out: “Nevermore!” We stared at each other. We both love Poe (who doesn’t?). That’s how nEvermore! was born.
CS: The genesis of the idea came from our desire to do a project together, something we had never attempted before. Since we each write primarily in quite different genres, Poe was a natural choice. His writing knows no borders and disdains labels!
JD: What were some of the challenges in putting together the anthology and how did you overcome them?
NK: We ran a crowdfunding campaign to pay the writers a very good rate for their work. We’re both writers and understand the need to be valued. This was for both of us our first–and likely our last, together and individually– crowdfunding. Every step was a learning experience. Just for the record, it takes more than 2 people to run a crowdfunding, and it was just the two of us, plus one person we hired part-time to tweet–I wasn’t on Twitter then and Caro wasn’t sure how to use it effectively. We met our goal but boy, it was an 80 hr. a week job for 3 weeks!
There were many challenges in this project for a variety of reasons, but one is that I discovered Amazon had done a Look Inside of my previous anthology, Expiration Date, which gave away the introduction and 3 and a half short stories! I think this Look Inside works wonderfully for novels but not for anthologies. In any event, we have a story from Margaret Atwood in nEvermore! that we had intended for the lead but, of course, the new awareness of Look Inside would have meant her story would be read by everyone for free and that would have considerably diminished book sales. Consequently, we put that story elsewhere in the book. Caro and I were not paid from the crowdfunding, nor the publisher. Our deal is that we split net sales with the publisher, so we get paid at the back end, and consequently, sales are more important to us than is usual for anthologists, who normally receive an advance or a flat fee.
CS: Each project has its own challenges and this one had quite a few. Because this is a Big Book, bridging many genres, we needed big money to pay the well-known authors what their work is worth. Like all small presses, our well-established but moderately-sized publisher does not have this kind of bank roll, so we did crowdfunding on Indiegogo. A big challenge, since we had not done this before. Luckily every author we contacted was enthused about the project, although all were not able to contribute, due to other commitments, a problem one has more often when dealing with big names. Of course if they could all contribute, the book would have been mammoth!
JD: What is it about dark horror fiction that draws you towards it?
NK: I read and write and edit both dark fantasy/horror and mysteries. I lean far more heavily towards the former genres but find I tend to have mystery plots in many novels and short stories. I think these genres are on the same side of the literary fence, the former a more overt expression of darkness in the human soul, the latter a more genteel presentation, if you will, of that darkness. Consequently, horror/dark fantasy is less acceptable to the general public than mystery fiction, which has a larger share of the market. What draws me to both is the psychology, really: why are human beings like this? Even in the supernatural realm, where a monster is a metaphor, it’s that question of the monstrous elements in humanity that are inexplicable and yet we all keep trying to understand “Why?” with the hope there’s an answer and possible change. For an example, just read the news, local to international. That’s not all there is to life, of course–if that was it, our earliest ancestors with consciousness would have suicided en masse and there would be no humans left to destroy the planet and each other. But it’s the dark side that needs a light shone on it to try to penetrate with understanding what makes us tick in these troubling ways, and, as the old fairytales advised, how to possibly deal with that darkness. Fiction does that. All the arts do.
CS: The dark side has many manifestations in fiction, not only horror, and that is what I find attractive. Crime stories, suspense, the paranormal, all have this aspect to them. We are afraid of the dark, yet attracted to it. Danger gets the blood flowing, sharpens the senses. Makes us feel alive.
JD: What do you think gives Edgar Allan Poe’s stories staying power?
NK: Poe evoked emotions that run deep in humanity by his poetic expression of our darkness. Not many writers can do this, dig down into the collective psyche and mine nuggets of grief, despair, sadness, hopelessness but also fury, revenge, bitterness. This is archetypal energy; the deeper you dig–and Poe dug deeply–the more universal the appeal. And through it all a desire, a need to understand what life is about through the tragedies and horrors that befall us.
CS: Because he writes from the inside out, makes us feel what he feels, fear what he fears, he connects directly to our core, and this moves us. He will always be read.
JD: For readers who wish to read further, what Poe stories would you recommend?
NK: I have many favorite Poe stories but I’ll just mention three: “The Cask of Amontillado”; “The Black Cat”; “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. There are smart, modern and creative retellings of these three stories in nEvermore! that are so clever! As to poetry, I imagine everyone has read “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”, both of which I adore. But there’s also “Eldorado”, a lovely, lonely poem about our longing and the existential quest.
CS: Each story or poem is memorable in different ways. Of course I love “The Raven”. Who does not? “The Tell Tale Heart”, “The Black Cat”… I could go on. Just dive in anywhere!
JD: What can readers expect from the stories in nEvermore!?
NK: Readers can expect a good read. Many of the contributors are New York Times bestselling authors who have a healthy track record writing astonishing fiction. Some did riffs on Poe stories, others created a Poe-like tale. All of the 22 stories are original, never before seen in print (the print edition has a bonus story by David Morrell). Readers can also expect several genres in nEvermore! because Edgar Allan Poe was the original genre crosser–there’s a terrific non-fiction essay at the start of the book that gives a clear idea of the many famous authors influenced by and who have praised Poe’s work. The essay also looks at work that moves outside what we normally think of as Poe’s oeuvre, which is dark fantasy/horror and mystery. Any reader who loves Poe or has never read Poe will find this a ground-breaking anthology, mixing genres as Poe did in his writing.
CS: Readers who love Poe will find lots to love in nEvermore! But even if you are not that familiar with his works, there is plenty here to enthrall! Atmosphere, suspense, longing, regret, revenge, lost love, all the themes close to Poe’s heart are here. Some very modern. Some echoing the Poe style (though not many.) There are stories here for anyone! And everyone!