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Miscellany II: Interview With Editor James Elliott

January 5, 2022

I sat down and talked with James Elliott, the editor of the upcoming anthology Miscellany II.

[Rodney M. Bliss]Your bio says that in addition to a day job, you’re a writer, a publisher, an editor and run two small bookstores. That sounds exhausting. How do you manage to keep that many irons in the fire? Is there one you find more enjoyable?

[James Elliott] The tiny book corners are pretty easy. It takes a few hours a month between inventory and ordering.

With publishing, I love editing when the writer and I are clicking and we find our groove. I consider editing an extremely intimate team effort, because I’m digging into this creation from the writer’s mind. It’s my job to capture their vision before I can make any suggestions. Writers put themselves in a vulnerable position when they ask for help from an editor, and so many creative people are already very sensitive beings. The fact that I’m sitting here reading a manuscript is more or less a miracle. I take this trust seriously. What I love most, but the thing I do least, is my own writing. I just don’t have the time. This is frustrating for me, and I hope to get more time to simply write in 2022.

[RMB] As a publisher, especially, an Indie publisher, what advice would you give to new authors? If someone came and said, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I’m not sure where to start.” What would your advice be?

[JE] I would ask them if they like reading, how much they read, and how often. I would tell them they should read their primary genre—the one they want to write—and various other genres. They should also read works from genres they dislike. They should figure out what makes a story tick. They should read literary works of fiction that have stood the test of time, and research why people like them. This doesn’t mean they have to like these stories, but they have to understand the reasons many people do. I would say to the writer: Meanwhile, start drafting your own writing. Never think your current draft is your final draft while you’re in the throes of this deep learning stage. The learning curve is steep, and you’ll find that something you thought was near-perfect just two months ago is actually really poorly written in hindsight.

That’s where I’d start. I earned a degree in literature, but nothing taught me more about writing than when I earnestly began to read every single day and to really figure out what elements of style and storytelling make readers love or hate a work.

[RMB] Obviously not every submission is ready to be published. If you have to reject a manuscript or a story, what approach do you use?

[JE] I generally try to give the manuscript a good read as well as give the submitter some solid feedback on how to improve the work. This takes a lot of time. I could probably get paid on some site like Fiverr for the level of work I put into my manuscript rejections. I don’t want any writer to give up, but I do want them to have a successful book, however they end up publishing it.

[RMB] Most published authors have been asked, “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?” And while I know you are also a talented writer (Link to this blog’s review of Dead On The Corridor) when did you decide you wanted to take on the task of editor/publisher?

[JE] I wrote the stories in Dead On The Corridor as I underwent the insane deep dive into literature that I described in the second question. Those were some intense days of study. Once the stories were finished and edited, I put them out there. I have since drafted some novels. But I’ve veered headlong into the publishing world. I got into publishing like anyone with attention deficit disorder gets into a majority of their shenanigans: pretty much on a whim. Allison Brown’s first book had been accepted by an agent. The agent had an in-house editor who was going to sell the publisher a finished product. But just before her book was ready for publication the agent closed her business and released publishing rights back to her authors, including Allison. I’ve been friends with Allison for years, and I said, “I’ll help you publish your book.” She agreed. It was kind of an off-the-cuff thing. Since then I’ve worked hard for several years to hone my editing skills, and I’ve done freelance work for self-published authors and taken on publishing projects from other authors where we take the book from manuscript to press.

[RMB] Obviously, Word Addicts, the writing group that you and I are both members of, has Miscellany Volume II coming out January 12. What part of the process of putting this book together was the most challenging? Was there anything that came up that you didn’t expect to have to deal with but came up anyway?

[JE] This is my second year publishing the anthology. (NOTE: I don’t take publisher fees from this anthology. I consider my Word Addicts time kind of sacred, and also voluntary. Each contributor to the anthology receives an equal share of proceeds). The first two anthologies were published by a different press. I felt like the first anthology, which was written and published in the middle of the pandemic, went smoothly. This one though…I’ll just say this one went the opposite of smoothly. The most challenging aspect of this project was certain participants failing to meet deadlines, and who went on failing to meet deadlines or responding to requests until months later, and then seemed blissfully unaware of any deadlines or requests. This was our first time experiencing this kind of lolly-gaggery with a group anthology; consequently, we didn’t have mechanisms in place for firing a Word Addict from participation. We were stuck begging writers to meet deadlines, and then extended deadlines, and then double-extended deadlines (just being honest and open here). Eventually, these writers dropped out of the book voluntarily.

I chalk this up to growing pains, as our group only became an extended community in the last couple of years, opening up to people outside our geographical area (We were founded in the Central Utah region in 2015). Things were simpler when we saw every participant every month at group meetings and could hold each other accountable in person. We just need a few more ground rules and we’re good to go. The next anthology, planned for release in September 2022 will have these more solid ground rules and mechanisms for corrective action.

btw, we have some cool things in our pipeline that involve our extended online community. Stay tuned.

[RMB] What can you tell readers about ordering Miscellany II?

[JE] I would say, you can pre-order the ebook NOW on Amazon at a reduced price of 99 cents. Go and grab it. Make sure to check out Rodney’s story. His work is very high quality and will give you a great payoff. I feel like a fanboy to most of the authors who ended up contributing stories. Amanda Luzzader wrote a tear-jerker. A. Shepherd wrote a sci-fi story—if you read Rodney’s, please also read A. Shepherd’s sci-fi story too (their stories could be part of the same anthology series on a premium streaming service). Natalie Gate gives a humorous first performance, and I’m so proud of what she accomplished. Amy Jorgensen digs deep and writes something I can only describe as “autobiographical mysticism,” and it’s a rare gem. There are others I love too. Grab the book and give it a try!

Despite a bit of rocky terrain to get here, I’m pleased with so much of the work in this book.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

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(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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