Therese here, with a special post today. Several months back I heard about a group of authors who’d decided to pool their talents to create an anthology, giving all of the proceeds to charity. How wonderful, no? Since that time, the book has indeed been born. Called Entangled, it offers paranormal short stories by eleven authors–headlined by NYT’s bestseller Allison Brennan–and with topics as diverse as the offerings from a season of Fringe (e.g. magic pastries, telekinetics, nocturnal predators, monsters, ghost seers, and vampire kings).
How does one go about working on an anthology? What does it involve? Is it easy, difficult? Two of the anthology’s authors, Michelle Diener and Edie Ramer, are here with us today with their unique perspectives, offering us a glimpse into what it takes to build a multi-author book–and what inspired them in the first place. Michelle kicks things off first. Enjoy!
Building an Anthology
Thank you so much to Therese for inviting me back.
I’d like to talk about my recent experience contributing to an anthology, ENTANGLED, and tackling the short story format, and then I’ll get Edie Ramer to discuss the nuts and bolts of putting an anthology together.
At the beginning of this year Edie Ramer approached me with an invitation to contribute to an anthology to be released in mid-September. There were a couple of things about this anthology that were different. For a start, all the proceeds would be going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and everything would be donated to the project; from the short stories themselves, to the art work (by Laura Morrigan), to the formatting (by Lori Devoti), to overseeing the handling of the money (Liz Lincoln-Steiner). The anthology was going to be ebook only, to maximise the amount going to the charity, rather than to paper, printing and distribution costs.
I have to say I was simultaneously excited and scared. I loved the idea of giving back to charity with my writing. Really, I often feel I need to do more when it comes to charity, and this was the perfect way to do it, while still doing what I love. And this cause in particular is very close to my heart. My aunt died of cancer, as did my grandfather and my mother-in-law, one of my critique partners is a breast cancer survivor, and the other is still battling it, so I had a really personal stake in helping further research into curing this disease.
But I had never written a short story before. On top of that, the anthology was to be a collection of paranormal stories with the theme of Halloween, and I had never written a paranormal story before, either. (WU regulars will know I’m an historical author, not a paranormal author, and Therese interviewed me about my debut historical set in the court of Henry VIII, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, in August this year.) The reasoning behind the theme was ENTANGLED would be released just before Breast Cancer Awareness month which runs through October, and Edie Ramer and Misty Evans, whose brainchild this project was, thought it would be fun to link it into the Halloween holiday.
I accepted the invitation, absolutely humbled and flattered to be asked at all, and got to work on the short story, which may have been one of the biggest challenges I’ve had all year. Aside from the genre of the story itself, the biggest challenge for me was the short story form. I had never really tried my hand at it, but I knew it was hard to do well. Very, very hard. I think I wrote the last third of my story, BREAKING OUT, five times. For me, the challenge with a short story is to deliver a satisfying read in 10,000 words or less (I simply wasn’t able to achieve this, my story is 13,000 words), without skimping on character development or plot. A deep connection to characters, a believable bonding between my protagonists, all had to come together in such a short time, and that last third of the story was key. I had to find just the right note.
Because my story is a paranormal thriller about three people with special powers – a telekinetic, a healer and a mind reader – who are being held against their will in a secret facility and get the opportunity to break out, I was really stretched to keep up the pace, keep the tension high, but not drop the reader cold at the end. The ending had to have a resolution, but given my plot and my set-up, it could be neither pat nor convenient. Believe me, every one of those five rewrites was necessary. :)
The benefits to me personally that have come from this charity anthology have been first and foremost the connection that has been created between the contributors: Cynthia Eden, Allison Brennan, Jennifer Estep, Nancy Haddock, Dale Mayer, Misty Evans, Edie Ramer, Liz Kreger, Michelle Miles, Lori Brighton and myself. We have brainstormed ways to promote this anthology, put our heads together and cooperated on promotional articles, all contacted reviewers to get the word out. It was been a pleasure to see such wonderful cooperation in action. I have also learned a great deal about writing a short story, and my experience with ENTANGLED spurred me to write a short story connected to my historical series, which should be available around Christmas.
For all this to come out of doing a good deed, well, give and you shall receive has never been truer for me than with this project.
Now I’ll hand over to Edie, to talk about the technical and practical matters involved in putting an anthology together.
Therese, thanks so much for inviting us to talk about ENTANGLED. Michelle, I never had a doubt that you would write a fantastic story. Yours is so good and so different. I’d love to see you expand Breaking Out into a book.
ENTANGLED is one of the biggest and easiest projects I’ve done. It started with an email I sent to Misty Evans, saying I’d like to do an anthology some day and give the proceeds to charity. Misty replied “Let’s do it!” After a few more emails, we decided the stories would be paranormal with a Halloween theme. We sent out invites and to our absolute delight, the Yeses started sweeping in. Allison Brennan’s was one of the first, and I sent a Squee-mail to Misty, saying “Allison said YES!” A few writers had to get an okay from their agents and editors, who all gave permission.
You hear about projects being a labor of love. That’s what this was, but without the “labor.” These authors are all fantastic. Amazingly prompt and sending stories that had me going “Wow!” As a bonus, Stacia Kane wrote the best foreword I’ve ever read. Looking back, it feels as if we had a fairy godmother waving her magic wand over us. Of course, Misty and I have known the writers for years, so it wasn’t a surprise that they’re wonderful to get along with, and are brilliant and hard-working. The fairy godmother analogy just sounds better.
The only glitch was the formatting. Lori Devoti’s files corrupted when she sent them, and I put them on my computer. She ended up formatting her story a second time and sending them to Dale Mayer. Dale sent it to me with no problems. Who knew that could happen? It reminded me of Chinese horoscope signs, where the rabbit is incompatible with the rat. Apparently Lori’s and my computers are like the rabbit and the rat.
I had help on the financial end, too. Three accountant/writers advised me, as did indie author Leigh Morgan, who’s a lawyer in her day job, specializing in family law. A tech person from the Amazon KDP department gave me advice on how to set up an account for ENTANGLED under the Authors4theCure publisher name to keep it separate from my personal account. I set up pages on Barnes&Noble, Smashwords, and All Romance sites as well as Amazon, using the KDP advice. I needed an EIN tax number, too, which only took moments to create online.
Lastly, so many amazing people have been sending the word out about ENTANGLED, from Faygie and Whitney at RT Book Reviews, to Barbara Vey at her PW blog, to review sites and book bloggers, to readers tweeting, RTing and blogging about it, saying how much they love the stories. It’s incredibly gratifying, and I’m thankful to all of them.
I feel privileged to have been a part of this. I hope we make a ton of money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I want to see this disease stopped soon.
Thanks so much, Michelle and Edie, for being with us today and sharing your process, and for creating this anthology. It’s a wonderful act of kindness.
Readers, you can learn more about Entangled–and purchase it for $2.99–via its page on Amazon. Read on!