Danielle Ackley-McPhail: An Interview

This first appeared on The Writing of a Wisoker on the Loose in May 2010.

Today I have a guest blogger on hand, Danielle Ackley McPhail. A regular at RavenCon of Richmond, always cheerful, she runs a table in the vendors’ room stacked high with dozens of titles, most of which have her name somewhere in the credits. Last RavenCon, as I buzzed about excited over my first Guest Author Appearance at that con, she was very supportive; for example, the signing table was directly in front of her booth, and during my lonely stint there (it’s good for the swelling ego to be ignored once in a while), she kept me from feeling gloomy with a running conversation and jokes.

Having thus vouched for Danielle as a Damn Decent Human Being, I will now step aside and let her speak about her love of anthologies.

Confessions of an Anthology Editor 

I’ve often been asked why I do anthologies and what is involved. The smart-ass answer is that I’m a masochist in denial, but really, the joy of taking a bunch of unrelated stories and turning them into a polished, packaged book far outweighs the pain involved in the process.

I guess I should start at the beginning. I get ideas. LOTS of ideas, and some of them have great potential for becoming themed anthologies. But it’s not enough just to come up with a topic. With anthologies you need something that is going to interest a wide range of people, be different than the scads of anthologies already out there, and be able to carry 200+ pages of variety and originality. That can be a challenge.

Let me give you an example. I just completed a project for Dark Quest Books (2021 note:now defunct) called Dragon’s Lure… yes, Lure with a “u”; anyone hearing it will assume an “o”, but that’s intentional. We didn’t just want a random book about dragons. In today’s market it is very important to have some kind of a twist. For this collection…it is our “u”, or rather what it represents. See, most people think they know everything about dragons. Because of this, assumptions are made on what dragons are like and why they do the things they do. We wanted to capitalize on those assumptions by focusing on what the legends say dragons are after, and then turning it on its head by giving unexpected explanations as to why. See, there’s our twist 🙂

Now, this is tricky because though there are dragon legends in nearly every culture, there is also a lot of overlap when it comes to what those dragons want. So we not only featured stories based on actual myths, but made up a few myths of our own. The result was a great mix of the expected and unexpected, with unique and delightful stories. Where we based the tales on actual legends, we gave explanations, but other than that the authors were free to take things where they wanted to. The final collection takes advantage of the popularity of this mythological creature, while at the same time avoiding the over-done tropes.

Basically, we took an idea, made it our own, and ran with it!

When and if you plan your own anthology you must consider several things:

1) Is the topic broad enough?

2) Is there enough variety among the stories?

3) Have we kept to the theme?

4) Is there interest in the market?

Anthologies can be great fun, but they are a LOT of work…before, during, and after their creation.

Now, it occurred to me I didn’t answer “why put together an anthology?” For me, I like creating a book from a concept, and taking it through the process. From a promotional standpoint,  it takes less time to put together an anthology than it does to write a novel. In this time of the vanishing short story market, as magazine after magazine fades away, anthologies are the best opportunity to get your work out more quickly, and build a name and a bibliography for yourself. And since anthologies primarily have one story per author and come out a bit quicker, it is possible to keep your name in the public eye with relatively little effort while you finish that next great novel.

To find out more about my work and some of the anthologies–and novels!–I have done, please visit www.sidhenadaire.com.

To find out more about the fantastic book launch parties that Danielle always throws at Balticon, please visit… well, visit Balticon!! Or browse through Danielle’s Facebook Page for even more up to date information!

Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Author of:
Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories,
and The Halfling’s Court;
Editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries Anthology Series
but wait, there’s more…. so visit Danielle’s web site to find out what’s new!