I like Fox Spirit. I think they have some great people producing some really interesting stuff. It seems that about half my Twitter feed have some involvement with Fox Spirit. They are one of several small publishers that produce high quality fiction from a different perspective. I enjoy their work and think they are well worth checking out. I have managed to convince Adele Wearing the owner and editor to answer a few questions for me. I for one am itching to see how she answers my questions.
I should have known better. Like most publishers Adele is very passionate about her business. I told her that the questions were open so that she could answer them however she wanted. Yeah. I know. Eight questions, that was all. In response I got two thousand words of honest, funny and insightful words about Fox Spirit. I’ve split the interview in half so that I don’t have to leave out any of Adele’s words. The second part will follow a few days later.
I created Fox Spirit because the ‘voices’ thought it would be a good idea. In this the voices were provided by a number of people. I agreed to do Nun & Dragon with K.A Laity, Mhairi Simpson, Alasdair Stuart and Vincent Holland-Keen on the grounds that none of us own a pub and it was a ‘really great pub name so we can’t possibly waste it’. They were all staying at my house for Alt.Fiction 2012, I was practically a hostage! We also had ‘Once more with feeling’ on constant loop in the car and we are fairly convinced that if you took off all the layers of music and singing you’d hear Sweet muttering messages of megalomania to the subconscious. Then Steve Savile started telling me how easy publishing Nun & Dragon myself would be (he lies just so you know) and that Joan was looking for a new home for Shadows. It wasn’t long before I had a logo a website, an anthology, Joan and the rest followed quickly. There may have been some mad cackling and world domination type utterances. I have since revised the plan to ‘selling the books and feeding the writers.’
When I started I talked about what I wanted to do with some of the instigators. Honestly I wasn’t sure. I was and still am just looking for stories that I love and think other people will love but that are maybe a little off the beaten track and likely to confuse marketing departments. Since our marketing department is me and I am always confused I never saw that as a disadvantage. That said there is a definite thread coming through in FS of strong female characters. Both the real life women I deal with (you will find women well represented as authors in the list of novels and novellas and also in the anthologies and as editors), but also in the characters across the board of writers. With ‘Tales of Eve’ we expressly set out to take a look at the female in fiction, but otherwise it’s just been a happy side effect of the kind of projects that interest me and the writers who are responding to them. While Fox Spirit may not have set out with the express intention of pushing women to the fore of genre fiction, it’s none the less something I am extremely pleased to see happening in our Den.
Q. The Fox Pockets fascinate me. They look to be accessible and easy to carry short fiction. Can you tell me how they came about and what market you are aiming them at?
Fox Pockets came about for two reasons. I was looking for an alternative way of letting people sample our fiction tastes and writers, and I also believe that the appetite for short fiction is increasing again. If you have 20 minutes for a lunch break (by the time you have bought your coffee) you want something you can read in 20 minutes and I personally hate having to break off mid chapter to go back to work. I thought it would be fun to have a series of books, on very loose themes open to a myriad of interpretations, that let the writers play a bit. They can go outside their usual genre or subjects and gave the reader the chance to enjoy a complete story or two in the time it takes to drink a coffee. The books are pocket books with around 12 – 16 stories each to fit into jackets and handbags and cost less than a coffee and a muffin. Fox Pockets are the ultimate coffee break books.
I am particularly pleased with the cover art. I approached Sarah Anne Langton with the brief and the challenge that I wanted a sleek modern look, they were to look like a set, but they also needed to stand out as single books. Not only has she delivered all of that but she’s hinted at design elements from the 70’s that seem to be hitting some serious nostalgia buttons for fellow bibliophiles.
It’s been lovely how the writers have responded to the idea too, I’m getting submissions from people I had no previous contact with and everyone seems to really take them to their hearts. There will be several recurring characters in the books as some authors enjoyed their creations so much they want to revisit and as they are to be around 500 – 4000 words people are slipping them in between more substantial writing commitments, which has given me a broad breadth of writers to work with. Most of all I think that the fact we are all having so much fun with the pockets will come through to the readers.
Q. You obviously care a great deal about the cover art and the look and feel of your books. I adore the Nun & Dragon cover and the way it carries through the spine and the stunning simplicity of the Pockets series. Can you tell me about your artists and what you look for in an artist?
Ah my artists. I love my artists. I look for people whose work stands out to me and who are excited by the projects, people who are likely to do something a little different. I take recommendations, approach artists I know of and we take it from there. If I am working with a single author or a guest editor they get a say both in who the artist is and what they want. On the anthologies I look for someone I think will capture the tone I want for the collection. Like everything with Fox Spirit it’s a collaboration, the brief tends to be open because I trust the artists to know more about art than I do, there is no point bringing in an expert after all if I’m not going to use their expertise. They’ve all been extremely easy to work with, taking the books and the very open briefs and coming up with something wonderful.
I’ve been very lucky to work with some amazing people and I try to keep the cover gallery up to date so other people can find them. The Bushy Tales books, of which Nun & Dragon is the first are done by Vincent Holland-Keen and he’s done a gorgeous job of the wraparounds making them one larger image. Tales of Eve was by BFS award winner Daniele Serra and is deeply evocative, hinting at the darker more sinister elements of the book, S.L.Johnson who is doing the Noir covers and also did the non fiction essay collection ‘The Pseudopod Tapes’ has a remarkable talent for capturing the spirit of a book in clean minimalist imagery. We’ve already talked about Sarah who also did the darkly entertaining novella Spares. There are obviously others and they have all done an amazing job.
I generally get the artist to do the layout and fonts as well to get a really clean finished look.
Q. I know that you are interested in the zombie apocalypse. The Zombie horde is coming for you. Which five of your authors/artists/staff would be in your crew and the reasons for choosing them, also what weaponry would be used?
Ah the zompoc. Ok I love everyone in the skulk, all my writers, artists, the editorial loons, but when push comes to the walking dead.. Sorry boys, I am making up my team of warrior women I know have mad skills. Fran Terminiello who is a historical swordfighter and usefully knows lots more people who are armed and dangerous, Karen Davies, even if she didn’t know how to wield a weapon (which she does) have you read her Anachron Press novel The Red Knight? Do, and you will want her on your team too. The Prof, Kate Laity because I reckon she would scythe her way through a hundred zombies if a decent cup of tea was on the other side, The Rev Chloe Yates to take care of our immortal souls (or possibly gamble them away) and Sarah Langton who is not only an expert in zompoc footwear and practical survival skills but I suspect would keep a cool head and set fire to stuff in a crisis.
Weapons, for those that know how to wield them bladed weapons, for me a spade always, for Sarah I’m thinking an interesting collection of things that go boom and make fire, for Kate and Chloe anything they can swing with a bit of aggression, perhaps axes.