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Interview: Jo-Anne Russell (Lycan Valley Press)

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I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce my very special guest at this time the incomparable Jo-Anne Russell. Jo-Anne you’ve been feverishly immersed in launching the premier in publishing companies, Lycan Valley Press. Describe the brainchild behind this movement and what demographic to you aspire to cater to?

JO-ANNE RUSSELL: Well basically I’ve run my own press before. It was my first attempt at a press. It was never an intended press it just kind of evolved into that. I was just trying to put together a charity anthology. After that some of the authors came to me and asked when are you going to put out another call for submissions? I kind of thought, alright I’ll go with that and see what happens. It actually went quite well. I had a series of deaths in the family and life just kind of got in the way and I didn’t handle it very well. I went on a hiatus. I ended up handing over the work to another press to carry over the work.

I was out of the game for a bit. I’ve really missed it. I’ve missed working with writers. I’ve met so many great people. I’ve read so many wonderful, wonderful stories. I just decided one day I really need to get back into the business. I wanted to develop those connections again and get those stories out there.

Lycan Valley will be mostly for adult readers. I would say late teens and right on through for anyone that really loves horror. We’re pushing the boundaries as our motto says. There’s going to be some stuff in there that isn’t what average horror publishers are putting out. Maybe some things people can consider taboo or pushing the envelope. There will be some stuff that traditional publishers may not have been so comfortable with putting out there. I’m hoping it will be a little more interesting for the readers. The audience will get a little more of what they’ve been craving secretly even though they may not admit it out loud.

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DG: How have you found the transition between author to editor to publisher and how do you balance the components in each?

JR: I would say it’s been a great opportunity to be on all sides of the fence. Being a writer first and learning the ropes and what not, there’s that and learning to edit my own work to begin with and then moving forward to editing other people’s work and then moving everything into publishing it’s been really given me a lot of insight in the business where everyone comes from. I have a good idea what my writers are expecting and what they’re hoping for. I know the complications what my editors are going to go through, questions they may have and concerns. Everything in the publishing business from marketing to formatting, cover art, dealing with a large number of people working on the same project I think everything kind of just goes hand in hand and it’s given me an advantage going from each one of them.

DG: The countdown is rapidly moving to the official Morbid Metamorphosis: Terrifying Tales of Transformation. This anthology was conceived with a specific theme and initially by invitation only. How was the initial theme comprised and how was the decision to invite the authors to submit their contributions come about?

JR: The initial theme came about because I was reopening a press. I wanted to take everything good from the last press and bring it to Lycan Valley. Everything that wasn’t so great or didn’t work out so well I put that up on a shelf so to speak as a reminder to no, don’t do that again. It was kind of a metamorphosis in itself. Going from the mindset that I’d had from the first press to the second one I’d attained a higher level of confidence since then. The theme just kind of had arisen from a transformation from one press to another.

DG: I find it kind of metaphorical in a sense. It can be really be perceived in a number of different ways. The whole concept of metamorphosis.

JR: My decision to invite the author’s I had, come about after realizing it’s important to go big or go home. I really wanted to get some well-known writers in the industry. It will definitely provide quality to the final product. It’s exciting to get these people all under the same cover. A lot of these writers I’ve read their work. I’ve admired their work. I feel their contributions will be invaluable.

DG: The release of Morbid Metamorphosis has proven to have some most innovative elements surrounding its induction in the horror genre. Describe how the art work and trailer came into conception. What are some of the plans in the works upon its release?

JR: The artwork came about because what I was wanting is something different from anything else that you’ve seen out there. Typical horror art work is either very plain or extremely busy. With covers I’ve always felt they should reflect the contents within without giving away too much. I figured with that particular cover with the face coming out of the wall with all the hands it’s really showing one thing becoming something else. It basically covers the theme of the book but it doesn’t give away a whole lot.

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I’ve always been really big on book trailers personally. I feel they make a difference in sales. I feel they make a difference in getting the book out there. I’ve found people don’t really just read about book releases only. That would take forever. The trailer is a really convenient way to get all the information presented in a byte sized aesthetically pleasing kind of media. That kind of stuff is easy to share. It’s great to help with marketing. That was always in the works from the beginning. As far as going with Kevin Hopson, I’ve seen a lot of his work. It’s amazing. He’s always striving to do better. He really understands concepts. When you give him all the components of what you’d like to see he’s been really good at putting it all together and telling a story in its own right. It reaches out and grabs people. I’ve watched it over and over and over again. I’ve shared it with so many people. I’m just captivated by it. I know a lot of people have been doing the same. It’s somewhat different from other trailers. It’s not really a slide show. It’s more comparable to movie footage type trailers. Its gets you really involved with what’s happening right before your eyes.

DG: Among Morbid Metamorphosis plans are in the works for additional anthologies titled Simple Things, Final Masquerade and I know firsthand a project we’re very excited and passionate about Takers of Souls. Briefly outline the central theme around each and what can horror fans expect?

JR: Final Masquerade has to deal with the monsters within. It’s not their ordinary face. That’s the face they wear to work or in public. It’s the bonding period where you start to see the little quirks and what not. This is taken to the next extreme. Real life monsters are in our life and in society, our nightmares even. Unmasking them and showing them to the world. If this person was a real monster this is what they’d look like.

Simple Things. I’ve always loved Bradbury. I’m looking at pictures of his office. He has all these little oddities. That’s what he said would always inspire him to write stories. I thought there are so many everyday little things people don’t even think of could be turned into something so horrific. Some things we’d never think about. The idea of that is to take the most simplistic object possible and make it the most terrifying thing you can think of. Make it the next time you look at a spoon in your drawer or the couch in your living room or what not you’re going to think twice before you sit on it or put that spoon in your mouth. There might be repercussions from this.

DG: I think it’s an ingenious concept too. Its things we can all relate to. In terms of fear it’s something I’m sure will resonate among readers long after the fact too.

JR: Grey Matter Monsters Takers of Souls. It’s very close to my heart that one. That anthology is actually for a charity that we’re doing for Kids Help Phone. The idea for that one is to take invisible illness or mental illness or any type of physical illness and turn it into the monster that the person afflicted with it is. Make it visual for people. For many people if they don’t see it they don’t believe it. A lot of people that have mental illness or invisible illnesses it’s very difficult and a struggle for them. When you can’t see what the obvious problem is a lot of people don’t believe it. They get put down for it. Take grief for it or just feel all around bad in general over it. If you see someone walking with a cane, you know they’re blind. If you see someone in a wheelchair you know they’re inhibited from walking. With an invisible illness it’s not so black and white. Putting it into something physical that you can see and experience and understand that that is how this person suffers.

DG: I find it sad that in a society of even 2016 there’s still there’s a stigma that lies behind it. A certain sense of alienation and isolation. I’m hoping through this collection people may become a little more enlightened as to how people deal with mental illnesses.

JR: That’s what I’m hoping to bring it to light. Make people think twice before they look down at people or don’t want to work with that person, whatever the case may be. Just because they can’t see what is wrong with that person it makes them understand this person is struggling and suffering from something just because you can’t see it. That doesn’t mean it’s not there. It doesn’t mean they’re a dysfunctional person. It doesn’t mean they can’t do things to enjoy life or be a productive member of society or a productive member of an association or any of that kind of stuff.

The proceeds of this anthology will be going to Kids Help Phone. They’re dealing with monsters of their own. Whether its homelessness or issues with parents, addiction or alcoholism or peer pressure it doesn’t really matter at a very vulnerable age. Kids Help Phone gives them that life line. It’s the one thing that really makes a difference. So this is a fantastic charity to help fund. They don’t have any government funding so anything that anyone can do to help is a real blessing to them and the kids that call of course.

DG: Are there any plans to diversify in media for each release such as eBooks and/or audio books? Where can fans place their orders for each collection?

JR: What I’m doing right now is the website has been under construction for an extensive period of time. The person that has been doing my IT has been on the road and tied up with their day job. It’s a little bit of a slow go in that aspect. I hope to have it up and running by the time Morbid Metamorphosis comes out. We’ll have links to that. We’ll have it all over social media. We’ll have it on the website.

We’re also looking into some diverse marketing. Different places where we can get the word out about these anthologies that isn’t exactly conventional. That’ll be interesting as well.

Print and eBooks for sure. We may be looking down the road at including audio for all of our titles. But that isn’t quite at the forefront at the moment. That’s definitely something we want to look at as a benefit. You know readers want to listen to something while in the car or travelling or what not.

DG: What’s on the horizon for the balance of 2016? What can avid readers expect forthcoming from Lycan Valley Press?

JR: Besides the anthologies there are going to be a couple of novel releases. One in particular is a novella from Greg Chapman titled Torment. It’s a re-release for him but a new release for us. There’s been additional artwork added to it. There will be some graphic artwork in the print copy. The eBook won’t have the graphic art but will so definitely worth getting. It will also be available in hardcover.

We’re also currently looking at a most wonderful story House of Anguish by Dave Gammon. I’m actually quite excited about. I hope that we may acquire that story. There is a couple of people that aren’t under contract as of yet so I don’t want to say a whole lot about that. They’re definitely exciting and rising stars in horror.

DG: I wish to thank you once again for joining me Jo-Anne with horrornews.net. We’re all looking forward to some most exciting and prosperous times with Lycan Valley Press.

JR: Thank you for having us and we look forward to making you happy with us.

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