Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing David Thomas Moore, the commissioning editor for Abaddon Books.
Born in Australia, David Thomas Moore has lived and worked in the UK for the past twenty years, and has been writing for roleplaying magazines, fiction websites and short story anthologies for eight years. The Ultimate Secret is his first long work. He lives in Reading with his wife Tamsin and daughter Beatrix. You're glad you met him.
Click here to visit the Abaddon Books website.
AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID THOMAS MOORE (THE COMMISSIONING EDITOR FOR ABADDON BOOKS)
- Could you tell us a bit about yourself in your own words?
My own words? Like, words I made up? Right: Fazhrup bo caland, sotarpy ac restettlen. Ea! Meplet restettlen. Gena co caland, dodo hezarep.
Oh, wait, I think I know what you were after.
So I’m the commissioning editor for Abaddon Books. That means that, aside from actual grindwork editing manuscripts, I get to make the bulk of the decisions about what stories Abaddon publishes. It’s wonderful work, really; aside from open months like this one, I find authors at conventions, through networking – even on Twitter – and match them up with projects. Our model is “shared worlds” – imagine tie-in franchise fic of the likes of the Star Wars or Warhammer 40K novels, except it’s not based on a franchise; we create the worlds ourselves. As such, I’m also the curators of those worlds, deciding what gets added to them as time goes on.
And since I’m a human being and more than my job, I am also (in no particular order) a writer, a roleplayer and LRPer, a husband, a kick-ass karaoke singer, a half-decent chilli cook, and Coco-Pops-dispenser-and-shoe-selector to a two-and-a-half-year-old girl called Beatrix, who gives me a kiss and a nose bump every morning when I drop her off at nursery.
- What inspired Abaddon Books to organise an Open Submissions month?
Partly a celebration of the tenth anniversary of our existence as an imprint (our first books came out in summer 2006, but we started planning and commissioning in 2005), but it’s part of our remit, really. We opened with an open submissions window, back in 2006, and when I took over the imprint in 2012 one of the first things I did was hold another one. It’s a great way to find new and rising talent, and that’s what Abaddon’s all about.
- What kind of stories were you looking for? Did you have any guidelines for authors?
I always want more stories for my existing worlds, and that’s always part of the guidelines. This year, to mark the anniversary, I also asked for a new world; something definitely distinct from any of the worlds we’ve published before. Pitches had to feel right for the imprint – our stories are fast, fun, action-oriented, but also smart and subversive – and of course they had to be genre (sf, fantasy, horror, or whatever). Other than that, the guidelines were the mechanics: I wanted a 150-word “elevator pitch,” a 2000-word chapter breakdown and a 2000-word sample, if I recall correctly, for a 30,000-word novella.
- How many submissions did you get? Were you surprised by the amount of submissions?
70, which yes, was a bit of a surprise. My open subs months are always for novellas, which tends to limit interest (most new writers are dreaming of that 2000-page epic fantasy trilogy!), and the work-for-hire model’s not to everyone’s taste (and we’re always completely up front about what that entails), but even so it was lower than last time in spite of getting a lot more attention. That said, the standard of quality was a lot higher! I have a feeling I may have scared off a lot of chancers last time.
- Was it difficult to sort through all of the submissions?
It’s always difficult. People put so much effort in, and you always have to remember that – these are people’s hopes – which means you kind of want to give every one of the writers a chance, or at least a bit of a cuddle. My first pass, to weed out the obvious no-hopers (people who still have a long way to go practising their craft, people who ignored the brief, people whose ideas, frankly, were boring or just incomprehensible), only knocked out about a third of pitches, which is tiny!
- How did you choose the winners?
I read and read and read again. The first pass was a light skim – you can usually tell in a few paragraphs if a pitch has no chance whatsoever. The second pass was reading all the outlines and a fair amount of the sample, with a view to eliminating very similar proposals (good as the both may be, I’m definitely not publishing two mummy-bounty-hunter stories, so I’ll keep the better of the two and drop the other) and sorting the “I wanted to give this a second chance, but on further consideration, no” pile from the “okay, this is definitely worth considering” pile. That knocked about another third on the head.
The third pass was a closer reading again, asking myself, with brutal honesty, if I could see us publishing this. I had to factor in commercial decisions, I asked myself whether the stories (especially the new worlds) stood out enough from what we already had, I even kept an eye out for diversity (I don’t exactly want to publish to “quotas,” but I also keep checking myself to make sure I was giving minority writers a genuinely fair chance, and not just staying in my comfort zone). I also, obviously, ask myself which ones I love – really love.
In the end, I took four original world subs and four existing world subs into a meeting room with three of my co-workers and “sold” the books to them. They could be brutal in a way I couldn’t, having spent so much time with the list, and we found our final list of three.
- Could you tell us a bit about the winners and their stories?
Gladly! Tomes of the Dead is always a tricky one – zombies are perennially popular, but they’ve been done (if you’ll excuse me) to death, so the goal of the series is always to surprise, to turn the concept on its head in some way. Paul Starkey’s idea – a world in which the dead routinely rise, where the paramedics turn up with weapons to kill you again and everyone wears heartrate monitors strapped to their ankles, and now someone’s died without returning – was a beaut. The Lazarus Conundrum’s a slick police procedural in a weird world of horror, and a smart commentary on government and control.
Cassandra Khaw’s Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef was one I knew I wanted to publish from the very first pass. Gods and Monsters, a world where the gods walk the Earth and are frankly a**holes, has a very distinct voice – far more than any of our other worlds – and Cass nailed it. Rupert, a former triad and black magician turned chef to ghouls and city administrator for the Lord of the Ten Hells, is an amazing hero, a sort of Malaysian John Constantine without the moral fibre who knows just enough magic at any given time to get himself into more trouble and will be very lucky to get out of his latest mess alive.
Our new series surprised me. I was expecting to choose something terribly subversive and new, maybe cowboy superheroes or something; but Colin Sinclair’s proposal – Invaders From Beyond!, a series of stand-alone alien-invasion parodies to serve as a sort of sister-series to Tomes of the Dead – grabbed me, and his pitch, Midnight in the Garden Centre of Good and Evil, in which a hapless trust-funder who’s messed up his life and ended up working in a shabby garden store at the end of town right in time for an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style alien attack, is endless fun, and endlessly funny.
- Will you organise another Open Submissions month in the near future?
You’re darn tooting! I don’t want to commit myself to a timeline – it’s all down to when I have space in my workload, and in my publishing schedule – but I would imagine about a year from now.
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
Er, don’t do drugs? No, I can’t say that with a straight face.
I love my job – I love that, after I get through the horror of having to find a new way to say “no” dozens of times, and to find some sort of constructive feedback to give wherever I can, I got to take three of these guys and say “yes” to them – and I’m going to keep doing that as long as they keep giving me money to do it with. Your readers should keep an eye out on our twitter, facebook and blog for the next one, because I want their stories...