Today for the Novella Project we're speaking to dave ring:
|Photo by Farrah Skeiky
dave ring is a queer editor and writer of speculative fiction living in Washington, DC. His short fiction has been featured in numerous publications including Lackington’s, Podcastle, and Cossmass Infinities. His novella The Hidden Ones was published in fall 2021 by Rebel Satori Press.
He is the publisher and managing editor of Neon Hemlock Press, and the co-editor of Baffling Magazine. A frequent anthologist, dave edited the Shirley Jackson Award-winning Unfettered Hexes (2021) and the Lambda, Locus, and Ignyte Award-nominated Glitter + Ashes (2020).
Roseanna speaks to him about his experience publishing novellas with a small press:
How long have you been involved with Neon Hemlock at this point? And what was your starting point with them?
I started Neon Hemlock in the fall of 2019 in order to publish the winning titles of the inaugural OutWrite Chapbook Competition. Shortly after navigating the logistics around printing those chapbooks, I conceived of an anthology idea that would eventually become Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World That Wouldn’t Die, and things escalated from there.
What are the particular challenges of running a small press? Especially compared to some of the bigger publishers.
Both reader expectations and industry standards are based on the the bigger publishers. While there are those who enjoy when you defy expectations, there are many hard lines that are challenging to cross as a small press, and often those lines are invisible to the untrained eye. This manifests most prominently in marketing, sales, and distribution.
What is your favourite thing about running a small press?
It’s a great honor to be able to share great writing—electric, important writing—with an engaged audience of readers. There’s also a big endorphin rush whenever I ghetto commission original art.
Every small press seems to have its particular unique flavour that goes into the works they publish and how they present to the world – what would you say is Neon Hemlock’s?
I expect that the answer to this question is much more interesting when answered by someone besides myself—I’m just one person who has the gall to think that other people might share my personal taste. But the works I think I tend to be drawn to are those written for “in-group” readers, rather than sanitized or clarified for “out-group” readers. I love feeling like I’ve been given a window into something real, rather than a theme park reproduction, and I seek out that feeling with potential submissions.
Neon Hemlock also does an interesting selection of sundry merchandise – I’m sad I can’t currently order all your candles (though it’s probably better for my bank balance this way). How does this fit into your conception of Neon Hemlock’s vibe?
I have the good fortune to be married to a chandler who will tolerate all sorts of foolish ideas when I propose them, which is how we’ve ended up putting out candles called things like “Haunted Cabin” and “Neon Coven.” I find literary accoutrement to be really compelling, so it takes very little encouragement for me to make them for my own titles, regardless of cost or feasibility.
Does your experience as an author and editor feed into your work running Neon Hemlock? If so, how?
Becoming an editor has certainly improved my own craft, even if by extension I have less time for my own writing. I think the main way being a writer has informed the press is that I try to handle all aspects of the submission process thoughtfully and kindly. I’ve been on the receiving end of some dreadful rejections and I don’t want to create that experience for anyone else.
What goes into your process for finding new works? Do you think there’s a difference compared to the larger publishers?
Most of the work I put out is drawn from open submissions, aside from the occasional solicited novella or the authors I solicit for an anthology. So the delight of discovery is part of the process. I think my process is driven less by the market than larger publishers, so I might be more willing to try a theme or structure that is less proven or more avant-garde.
So many of Neon Hemlock’s works have fantastic cover art – how do you go about finding the artists for that, and is there much author involvement in the cover art process? How does that work?
I find most illustrators through Twitter or Instagram, often via posts about opening for commissions or the ones that illustrators make for #PortfolioDay. I tend to involve authors in the cover process as much as possible, or as much as they want to be involved. I ask them for examples of covers they like within their genre, and share them when giving initial descriptions to the artist. And then I have them involved again at the thumbnail stage, when we are considering what direction the artist might go in.
You have a particularly interesting and well curated selection of novellas – why is this something you’ve chosen to highlight? Is there something about the novella form that appeals particularly?
Novellas are a really compelling length, and part of what got me reading again during the plague. There’s something very satisfying about a book that you can sink into and finish in a single afternoon, or maybe two if you savor it.
What do you think makes a good novella more broadly?
Generally, I tend to think that there are two types of novellas: a streamlined novel or an expanded short story. And good novellas of both types have a keen sense of scope, knowing when to linger and when to elide.
Are there any misconceptions you think people have about novellas? Or about the ones published by small presses? And if so, what would you say in response to them?
This is somewhat of an extension from my previous answer—some people find novellas dissatisfying because of the length, rather than their handling of scope, and critique them based on that dissatisfaction, which feels hardly fair. Readers and editors may disagree regarding the particulars of whether a particular novel succeeds in this area of course, but I think I would encourage such readers to try and enjoy them for what they are instead of wishing they were novels.
Is there anything you’d like to see change in novellas in the near future, or something you think will change?
In terms of publishing, I’d love to see more experimental novellas, and more hybrid forms. In terms of the larger landscape, I’d love to see readers, reviewers and award committees reading more broadly when considering novellas. There are a lot of great presses who are pushing the form right now, and it’d be great to see more names listed beside the books on year-end wrap ups and award ballots.
Can you tell us about any upcoming novellas you’re excited to be publishing? Or a few works you’ve published in 2023 that you’re particularly proud of?A.Z. Louise’s Off-Time Jive, an alternative history set in a Harlem Renaissance that plays off many of the tropes in both noir and urban fantasy. It has a great voice and beautiful character work too.
Thank you dave!
POSTED BY: Roseanna Pendlebury, the humble servant of a very loud cat. @chloroform_tea