Katherine Tomlinson is the owner of Dark Valentine Press; here is a link the website:
Q: How did Dark Valentine press come about?
A: Dark Valentine Press is an off-shoot of Dark Valentine Magazine, a quarterly magazine of “dark fiction” that I published in conjunction with editor/design director Joy Sillesen and art director Joanne Renaud. Joy and I are partners in the imprint and we share the chores. Joy’s a triple-threat. She is not only a terrific writer, she is also the world’s greatest copy-editor and she creates fabulous covers. (Check out her Indie Author Services site (http://indieauthorservices.com/) for details on her covers and editorial services.) I also edit but handle a lot of the social media and marketing as well.
Q: What makes a work of fiction worth publishing?
A: I think that’s the question at the heart of book publishing today. There are still many people who believe that unless a book is published by a traditional publisher, it isn’t really “worth publishing.” By that logic, every book published traditionally is a great book and any book published by other means cannot be great.
For me the answer is that any book that tells a good story is worth publishing.
Q: How do you go about selecting authors for publication?
A: At Dark Valentine Press, we mostly publish our own works. We did publish a charity anthology called Nightfalls, and we re-published Paul Brazill’s Drunk on the Moon collection when his publisher flaked on him but we’re not really set up to sift through a slush pile. At the moment, we’re invitation-only.
As an editor, though, what I’ve always looked for is writing that has a unique “voice.” I appreciate writers whose language is precise. (One of the things I love about Shakespeare is that he always used the exact word he needed and if he didn’t have an exact word…he made one up.) I admire writers who can elicit emotion—make me laugh, make me cry, make me gasp. There’s a short story called “Plastic Soldiers” written by W.D. County (find it in Speedloader, published by Snubnose Press http://www.amazon.com/Speedloader-Jonathan-Woods-ebook/dp/B0056UBJ22/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394311094&sr=8-1&keywords=speedloader+snubnose+press ) that is the most devastating thing I’ve ever read. Ever. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime story like “The Monkey’s Paw” or “The Most Dangerous Game.” As an editor and as a reader, I look for writing that will affect me.
Q: What is your professional background?
A: I am a former print reporter for both magazines and newspapers. I transitioned to digital content creation and have run an editorial consulting company for the last 15 years, doing everything from editing and proofing to ghost-writing and social media marketing. My bread and butter job is providing “coverage” of books and scripts for Hollywood production companies. (Yes, I do book reports for a living.)
I began writing fiction seriously in 2007 when I was hired to edit a quarterly ezine of pulp fiction called Astonishing Adventures Magazine. I did that for two years, then created Dark Valentine Magazine.
Q:. what is the biggest mistake you see writers make? Writing as if they were being paid by the word. I love world-building and appreciate it when I read fantasies, but sometimes those thousand-page door-stoppers would be better books at 600 pages.
A: I also think that some writers get lost in their own cleverness. It’s why I always suggest writers have beta readers. It’s way too easy to convince yourself that you are a genius and that your latest book is the best thing ever written. You may actually be a genius, but you should get a second opinion on that.
Q:. why do you think horror is so popular?
A: I think horror novels offer a kind of “safety valve” for people. Real life can be pretty horrific these days so reading about monsters can be comforting. I don’t think it was a coincidence that we saw so many “demon” stories around the turn of the millennium.
Q: What makes for a marketable heroine?
A: For me, a marketable heroine has to be sympathetic (if not likable). There’s a reason why Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is so beloved 201 years after it was first published and the reason is Elizabeth Bennet, one of the most likable heroines in English literature. There’s a reason why Janet Evanovich’s “by the numbers” mysteries are such huge best-sellers—her series character Stephanie Plum is delightful and relatable.
I often think of cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s “Bechdel test” for fiction—does it have two women in it who talk to each other about something other than a man? I like smart women in my fiction.
Q: You worked for a while as a screenwriter; what is your oddest Hollywood story?
A: I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you.
Hollywood is filled with hard-working, tremendously creative people who don’t always get what they deserve while others who aren’t necessarily as creative or as smart or as nice are rewarded out of all proportion. I was lucky enough to start my career in show business working for the Donners’ Company (Richard Donner/Lauren Shuler Donner) and that tremendous experience set a high bar for every other job that followed.
Q: Who are some of your favorite writers?
A: I read both fiction and nonfiction and I read a lot of it. I could give you dozens of names, but here are four:
Stephen King—because he is just a master at creating characters. I believe he’s the Charles Dickens of our time—hugely popular, issues-oriented, and versatile.
John McPhee—I love his graceful writing and the way he can zero in on a topic that you might not think would be interesting and making it riveting. Reading his nonfiction narratives is like taking a master class in the art.
Sophie Littlefield—I was a big fan of her debut crime novel A Bad Day for Sorry, and have read everything she’s written since then.
Barbara Ehrenreich—Her Nickel and Dimed—On (Not) Getting By in America was an eye-opening book first published in 2002, long before the term “one percent” had been invented.
Q: If you could change one thing about the publishing industry what would it be?
A: Publishing is changing so fast I’m not sure I’d know where to start. I love that it’s now possible for writers to find their own readers that the marketplace is opening up to new voices. I love that genre fiction is becoming more respectable. I have always loved mystery and fantasy, and sci fi, and horror and now I have thousands of new books available for a fraction of their print price (and can carry them all around with me on my Kindle).
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)