6 Questions with Deena Fisher

Deena Fisher is the Founder and Publisher of Drollerie Press.

Drollerie Press opens today!

Today’s Releases:

Joely Sue Burkhart‘s Survive My Fire (Woohoo Joely! The horrifying Sister of the Severed Hand passes through tomorrow!)

Imogen Howson‘s Falling (she was here yesterday peeps, and her contest is still ongoing!)

Ed Morris’s Atlantis 1999

Tala Bar’s Ja’el

Cindy Lynn Speer‘s Every Word I Speak and Necklace of Rubies

G. L. Simmons‘s Orb of Enori

Tim Mulcahy’s Monday Night at the Vampire Lounge

Connie Neil’s Shepher to the Wolves

Elena Murphy’s Provenance

1. On a scale of one to ten, rank your current level of insanity–where ten is belongs-in-lunatic-asylum insane–and tell us why.

Ten, without doubt, but it’s a fun ten. My kids are amazing people. I have three children that keep things lively, the best husband in the entire world, one cat (and my husband has one cat. They don’t hang out with one another), one dog and a gerbil. Okay, I’m lying about the gerbil, but our oldest son brought his cat over for long-term babysitting, so the numbers are even. Our five year old daughter, Kara, wants a rabbit. We’re thinking about it. Thankfully she only asks once a day now that she’s been given a stuffed one. The insanity… well, I’ve always been a little odd to most people. I like books too much, not just reading them, but holding them, the smell of ink and paper, admiring the cover art. I get a very satisfying aesthetic from a good cover. I’ve bought books just because of the cover art, some of which I slightly regret, but if the art is good they’re still on the keeper shelf. But I’m digressing.

Right now I’m juggling a lot. I have a small business that pays (some of) the bills and has just started to grow beyond where I thought it would be, and now I’ve added Drollerie Press to the mix. Then, recently a gallery owner saw some of my digital art and asked me to do a show, so I’m trying to get enough pieces done that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to display to the public. This is the first time my art will be seen in a non-commercial setting so I’m a bit nervous about it. On top of that I have fibromyalgia and arthritis, and our youngest child is both albino and autistic of as yet unknown degree. (Our middle child is a precocious five year old artiste and our eldest is a rock star) I believe the challenges our youngest faces have made my husband and me better parents and more aware of the difficulties that differently-abled children have to face, and he’s an absolute joy but he’s also a lot of work.

I digress (again) for a PSA: There are two kinds of albinism. Oculocutaneous (the kind we think of when someone says albino or albinism) and ocular albinism. People with ocular albinism may have poor eyesight without knowing why. People with either kind of albinism don’t usually have red eyes. Our son’s eyes are rare in that they’re a sort of soft peachy-red color but most people with albinism have pale blue, green, or hazel eyes. Albinism is not a disability of mental faculty. People with oculocutaneous albinism have white hair, pale skin and poor eyesight–a condition called “low vision” that means that they’re neither far-sighted nor near-sighted but the effect is probably similar to both at once. Aidan, our son, can see poorly to about a 6 foot radius. To top it off, he inherited his parents’ near-sightedness and astigmatism and wears glasses to correct those problems. Since he’s both four and autistic, he only wears the glasses sometimes. Other times they’re “in the shop”–recovering from one of his fits of temper. Aidan also has nystagmus, a condition that is part of oculocutaneous albinism. Nystagmus is a condition that makes a persons eyes “jitter.” Sometimes they tilt their heads a particular direction to lessen the effect. Aidan often looks like a little bird with his head cocked when he’s trying to figure something out. If any of your readers would like to know more, they can e-mail me or visit http://www.albinism.org/.

The rest of the interview is behind the cut.

2. Tell us what Drollerie Press is all about.

Honestly, I’m figuring that out myself. I started with the idea of doing something that excited me. I’m a good editor. I love stories, and I love learning. I have friends who are published authors who have expressed frustration with the traditional model of publishing, and I’m a fan of Terri Windling‘s. She’s a brilliant author and editor who has really brought attention to the mythic arts. It was a revelation to me to discover her work. I’ve been a lover of fairy tales my whole life. My mother kept waiting for me to outgrow it, but I was still checking them out of the library at 15 and 16 (and then I learned to hide them from her), and then in college I discovered more fairy tales from new places and I was in heaven. I’m not sure when it clicked that if I love them so much, probably a lot of other people do too. I also have very strong opinions about how I want things done. Despite all that, I probably wouldn’t have started without Amy Garvey, who is an author in her own right as well as being an experienced fiction editor. She’s helped me focus my ideas and provided a lot of expertise to make it all happen.

So, first we’re about Story. There are story elements that never die: the quest, the coming of age tale, the epiphany. There are elements that will always fascinate us: myths of who we are and where we come from; stories about magic, love, mystery, life. Those are the ones we want to share. What we love best is poetic, dense writing that makes the reader connect with the main character; with stories that happen in a lot of different times and places, but that include explorations of character, emotional or spiritual growth, strength of will and overcoming, and that ends with an emotionally satisfying ending, even if it’s not happily ever after. Really, we’re looking for authors who still love fairy tales.

Second, we’re about community. I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories: authors who don’t get paid, confusing royalty statements, slow or no response to submissions. I have a great deal of respect for authors. They create something beautiful from words alone and then they send it out and cross their fingers that the acquiring editor will like it, that the public will like it, and that it will hit the mark, whatever that mark is that lets them do it all over again, and they work hard to make sure that the public sees it, that they’ve done everything in their power to let people know that they’ve created something magical. That’s pretty courageous.

I also have a great deal of respect for readers. They want books that stick with them, that draw them back, that they won’t be embarrassed to carry on their commute, that give them Story, and they’re generous when they find an author who will give them those things. Beyond that, there are readers like me who want good stories about things everyone else thinks we should have outgrown a long time ago or shouldn’t be interested in at all–fairytales, myths, erotica and stuff that doesn’t quite fit the mainstream.

Finally, I have a great deal of respect for small presses. If a writer submits something that doesn’t work for us but I think would be perfect for someone else, I want to be able to direct the author to Mundania, or Subterranean Press, or somewhere else where their work would fit right in. We want to make the process more pleasant, more rewarding, for everyone–for the readers we hope will learn to recognize that purchasing a book with our imprint means they’ll be happy no matter what it is; for the authors who will always receive an acknowledgement of receipt within 24 hours of submission and a personal acceptance or rejection as quickly as we can process the work and respond; and then for us and other small presses, the link between the two.

3. Are there any specific kinds of submissions Drollerie Press is looking for?

Always. We need more novels with solid women protagonists in any genre and we’re not nearly diverse enough yet. We’ve acquired a great historical novella set in Israel, and two present day supernatural mystery novels. We’ve also accepted a novella and a novel from Joely Sue Burkhart that are really exciting fantasies–she has a very interesting way with dragons, which is all I’m going to say about that–but we want more–countries, cultures, richness and complexity. We would like more sophisticated YA stories that focus on the 14 to 19 year old market but would appeal to adults as well. We recently acquired a YA novella by Imogen Howson that just sings, an original tale from G.L. Simmons in a similar vein, and two beautiful fairytales from Cindy Lynn Speer. I’m greedy. I want more of those. I’m exceptionally greedy for retellings of fairytales for adults–and by that I mean erotica, sure, but not necessarily. Mostly I mean stories for readers with sophisticated tastes who don’t have to have the story turned into a Disney movie to love it. We need more urban fantasy. We would like more erotic romance, but it has to have a real hook. We want it to be about people who happen to have an amazing sex life along with the rest of the amazing they have going on–but not perfect. Mary Sue need not apply. On top of all of that, I especially want a novel that features Coyote or Raven. I have a soft spot for the tricksters. Oh, and one other. Steam punk. I’d love to publish a good steam punk novel with a strong female protagonist.

I’d like to add, too, that what we’re not looking for might be easier to describe. We don’t want moralistic tales that teach a lesson or stories that are written to serve a theme. We don’t want any perfect but misunderstood, wealthy but humble, violet-eyed vixen sorceresses beloved by all the neighborhood animals. We don’t want animal protagonists. We don’t want stories with pretensions to literary fiction without the chutzpah to back that up–big words do not a literary novel make. Understandably, we’re also a little sensitive about novels that feature characters with disabilities, especially characters with albinism, which are quite popular right now. That isn’t to say we won’t take them, but they’ll need to be well-researched and accurately portrayed.

4. It’s rather interesting that Drollerie Press does not want Poser-type cover submissions, since a majority of e-press releases have Poser-type covers. Why is that?

First, I’d like to say that I have seen some poser-type covers that work. They’re artistic; they illustrate the theme and genre of the story; they give some idea of what the characters are like and where the story is set. They give the artist the opportunity to more easily range outside of the norm and I think they’re improving. Small presses rarely have enough money to do everything they’d like to do, and they have to prioritize, so for some publishers it’s a good solution.

For Drollerie Press, it all goes back to my love of books. It’s pretty well known that good covers sell more stories and I’m a very visual person. There’s a particular type of cover that combines amazing art–something that both expresses the interior and has a life of its own–coupled with a tactile quality that mesmerizes me. When I find a book that combines that kind of cover with a really great story that’s well-edited and well laid out, I want to own it forever. I want all of our covers to make potential readers want to pick the book up in the bookstore or reach through their monitor and stroke it. When we first started, I didn’t even think of hiring another artist–mostly because I wasn’t sure where to get one–and I started making our covers myself. Then we started getting submissions from artists with some really great art, so now we keep a list of approved artists with links to their work and our authors can request one of them if they’d like, which is really the best of both worlds, great writing and great art, two things that make me very happy.

All of our short e-publications get an original cover and are collected under an original cover when they go to print. All of our novels get an original cover. Our authors are asked for input and may refuse a cover, request tweaking, request a particular artist, or if we can’t afford the artist of their choice, hire the artist themselves to represent their vision. Supporting talent is important to us, but it’s also kind of expensive. We’re hoping to make it work by utilizing some broader solutions, such as, eventually, posters of the original art our artists create along with some other art-related goodies.

5. Drollerie Press intends to publish both print books and ebooks. But are you intending a simultaneous release for all titles? And is Drollerie Press built more along the lines of a traditional small press or an e-publisher?

I think we combine the best of both worlds. I used to not understand the attraction of e-books even though friends of mine enjoyed them. After all, it’s part of the magic, for me as it is for many others, to hold the book in my hands. In the course of the last couple of years or so, however, I discovered that my reading had slipped. I’d gone from upwards of 50 books a year to 20 and then fewer. Then our public library began to offer e-books we could download onto our own computers and I found that I could read an e-book without pain. I have a form of arthritis that attacks the spine, hands and feet and it makes some things I’d like to do difficult, but it took me a while to realize that it was impacting my enjoyment of reading. Until I started reading e-books I couldn’t hold a book for long and some days I couldn’t hold one at all. Now I don’t have to hold it, I can read it on my monitor and I’ve started looking at e-readers because I’d like to be able to carry it with me.

We have big plans. Right now we plan to publish all of our titles electronically first and in print later, but eventually we want all the novel length works we publish in electronic format to come out simultaneously in print. We also want to offer print collections by a single author, themed anthologies, and a print anthology that collect the best of our electronic shorts through the course of a year. For our themed anthologies, we’d like to widen the net and include poetry and visual representations as well.

On the other hand, we also want to do the things that small press does so well; in particular, limited edition signed copies and boxed art copies. I have plans for a pillow book and some illustrated books for adults, but wandering back into e-territory, we’d also, eventually, like to expand into Flash and print picture books, audio books, and we want to expand into print in other countries and languages.

6. Do you think that the advent of the internet has made it too easy for people to start up as publishers?

No, though that took me a while to decide. If it weren’t for the Internet, Drollerie Press wouldn’t be here, nor would the pioneers of this model of publishing. There are problems, of course. E-publishers appear and disappear overnight, sometimes taking their authors’ royalties with them. And of course there are the ones who masquerade as reputable publishers that are really vanity presses, and either charge the authors to print the book or charge outrageous prices for the book, or both. Those kinds of issues have been around a long time, but they’re more prevalent with the widespread use of the Internet. Authors have to be careful, but the ones I’ve received submissions from seem to be aware of those issues and are not afraid to ask questions, which is a good thing.

Taking all of that into account, more authors have more opportunity to see their stories in some form of print. More readers have more opportunity to find the stories they want to read. I read a statistic I can’t currently find the provenance for that said that traditional publishing is losing a pretty large percentage of sales to e-publishers and small press–I’m not going to try to quote a number because I can’t find the exact quote. Still, it’s telling. I believe it’s because we’re closer to the pulse of what some people want and we provide it–we’re not too big to focus on a niche market and fill it well.

Bottom line, I think the rush of e- and small presses that appear and disappear in a blink will slow to a trickle and the ones who use good business sense and serve their customers–authors and readers–will still be standing. We’re planning to be one of them.

Head on over to Drollerie Press to get your copies now! 50% off till Sunday! Speaking of Sunday, there’s going to a big party in their new chatroom. Head over to their site to find out more.

Drollerie Press also has a MySpace page.

If you’d like to see some of Deena’s art, please visit her gallery.

To enter today’s drawing for a free Drollerie download from the above listed releases, tell us, which one do you want to read? 

11 Responses to “6 Questions with Deena Fisher”

  1. 1 Becky
    July 20, 2007 at 3:56 am

    Well I already won Necklace of Rubies from Drollerie Press’ Scavenger Hunt, which is the one I really wanted to read. Other than that Shepher to the Wolves and Falling intrigued me the most, but I wouldn’t mind reading ya’el or Orb of Enori either.

  2. July 20, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Don’t enter me cos I’m a Drollerie author. But I really want to read Survive my Fire. Also A Necklace of Rubies, which I read a snippet from and thought sounded brilliant.
    I’m buying them later when the shop goes live. 🙂

  3. July 20, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Since “all of them” doesn’t count, I’d want to read Joely’s most.

    And best of luck to Deena and everyone at Drollerie! 😀

  4. July 20, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    Just looking at the covers, I want to read every single one. Bless you, Immi and Jess, I hope you enjoy it! (Don’t enter me)

  5. July 20, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Oh Necklace of Rubies is the other one I want, together with Falling!

    The covers could persuade me though.

  6. 6 celeber
    July 20, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    I trolled the site for about forty minutes and still can not choose.
    Any one will do!

  7. 7 Cherie J
    July 21, 2007 at 3:44 am

    Survive my Fire would be my choice. I am into dragon stories.

  8. July 21, 2007 at 9:42 am

    My maternal grandfather had, what must be, oculocutaneous albinism. He certainly would have stood out in brown-skinned Malaysia, that’s for sure. He also used to diss the Japanese during the War, from what I hear, but died decades before I was born. Patchiness of skin colour runs through the family (I’m finding it on our daughter), but whether because of him or because we’re basically mongrels, I’m not sure.

    Best of luck with Drollerie. It takes guts to put yourself on the line and I wish you all the best.

  9. July 21, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    KS, thank you. I’ve been up all night making the store work, and this is the first thing I saw as I was getting ready to go to sleep. It was encouraging.

    Jess, thank you. I am so pleased at what wonderful authors we have. They’re not just immensely talented, they’re also warm-hearted, giving and professional, all at once. I’m really blessed to be working with them.

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