Richard Chizmar is the founder and publisher/editor of Cemetery Dance magazine and the Cemetery Dance Publications book imprint. He has edited more than a dozen anthologies, including The Best of Cemetery Dance, Night Visions 10, October Dreams, and the Shivers series. His fiction has appeared in many publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. He has won two World Fantasy Awards, four International Horror Guild Awards, and the HWA’s Board of Trustees Award.
Thanks to author, editor, and publisher, Richard Chizmar, for stopping by and answering a few questions.
VWC: When did you decide you wanted to be an author? What are some of the things you did to reach that goal?
RC: I started writing stories when I was a little kid. Usually war stories or tales of monsters lurking in the shadows. I still have my first “published” book from when I was 10 or 11 – about a lonely snowman who couldn’t melt. It even features my own artwork, which clearly predicted a career that had nothing to do with drawing pictures. But it wasn’t until college that I started writing seriously and submitting for publication. I started selling my stories my senior year at the University of Maryland.
As for things I did to reach that goal…I read everything I could get my hands on and I wrote a lot. That’s the key. Plop your butt down in a chair and do the work. I sent out a lot of stories and received a lot of rejections. But they didn’t discourage me. I looked at them as a sort of badge of honor. Eventually, I started selling stories to small magazines and anthologies. Then, larger, more professional markets. I was twenty-two years old at the time and doing exactly what I felt I was born to do…
VWC: How has your background as a publisher helped you with your career as an author?
RC: Well, it has certainly helped by allowing me to work with many of the genre’s top editors and publishers and agents and authors. I have access to a lot of cool projects that a beginning writer would never be exposed to. But, to be perfectly honest, my job as publisher/editor is probably more responsible than any other factor for me not writing that much for a period of 10-15 years. I was simply too busy building a business and working with other authors on their own books. Something had to take a back seat and unfortunately, it was my own writing time. This is something that I have finally been able to change. I have written more in the past 6-7 months than I have in the past decade, and 2015 should be a banner year for me.
VWC: How did you find a publisher for your first book?
RC: My first book, a short story collection called Midnight Promises, was published way back in 1996 by Gauntlet Press. I knew the publisher, Barry Hoffman, from other projects and he was kind enough to ask me to publish my first collection. Of course, I was thrilled.
VWC: How do you find a publisher for a book now?
RC: Pretty much just like you always have. Usually an author will send a query letter with a short bio and a very short synopsis of the book, asking if the publisher would like to see a complete outline and sample chapters, or if they are very lucky, the full manuscript. If the publisher agrees to read either the samples or full manuscript – and the odds are as tough as ever on this happening – then the waiting game begins. Usually anywhere from a couple months to a couple years before you hear back from them. It’s NOT an easy business, and you better LOVE it if you are going to do it!
VWC: Have you ever self-published a book? If yes, what are the greatest challenges for a self-published author?
RC: I haven’t. I have been very fortunate in that I have sold everything I have written to other publishers. But self publishing – if done correctly and professionally – is a viable way to reach a wide audience and earn good money, so it’s certainly something I would consider in the future. There are a decent number of self-published authors making a good living at it these days, so it’s definitely something more and more writers are trying…with widely varying degrees of success.
VWC: Four books written by you are to be published in 2015. Do you work on more than one book at a time?
RC: I do, usually by necessity. Sometimes, I’ll set aside one manuscript to work on another if I feel stuck or uninspired. Or if a deadline is looming!
VWC: Do you have any time-management secrets for writers?
RC: I wish! If anyone out there knows the secret, please ask them to drop me an email and share! I write when I can. At home. At my office. In the car waiting for one of my boys to finish practice. Anywhere I can squeeze in a few paragraphs…
VWC: What book that you’ve written is your favorite, and why?
VWC: What projects are you working on now?
RC: I’m juggling a bunch of things right now. I’m finishing up a novella for my next collection, A Long December, due this Summer from Subterranean Press. Another novella for a British publisher, SST Publications, as well as a number of short stories for various editors and a movie script.
VWC: What advice do you have for writers trying to get a book published?
RC: Be dedicated, be stubborn, believe in yourself and your story, and do the work. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s the opposite of easy. But it’s all part of the process and worth it in the end.
VWC: Who was your favorite author as a child?
RC: Dr. Seuss and Stephen King. King’s stories are what made me want to become a writer.
VWC: Who is your favorite author now?
RC: Still Stephen King. I also really enjoy John Sanford, Ed Gorman, Robert McCammon, and dozens of other writers. My “To Read” pile isn’t a pile; it’s a tower.
VWC: When is your favorite time of day to write?
RC: If you had asked me this question 20 years ago, my answer would have been late at night, after most other people are asleep. I loved the hush and stillness of those hours, and they really worked for me as far as productivity and inspiration. I would write until 2 or 3am and sleep in. These days, I tend to write whenever I can find the time. Mornings seem to be working best as of late.
VWC: What was the most valuable piece of writing advice given to you?
RC: Do the work. Read. Write. Expect the rejections. Embrace the process. Don’t give up.
VWC: And now, the final and most important question: What’s your favorite kind of cookie?
RC: Chocolate Chip!
To learn more about Richard Chizmar visit the Cemetery Dance website. You can also find him on Twitter @RichardChizmar
To purchase Richard’s books, you can visit Amazon.
Thanks, Richard, for stopping by. Watch Whimsical Words for more Guests, Quotable Wednesdays, Writing Tips, Recipes, and lots of other interesting posts. Have a Cemetery Dance kind of Monday – Vonnie
PS. If you want to show some love, visit my Amazon page and buy one of my books. :-)