Guest post: Mark Allan Gunnells talks

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Mark Allan Gunnells has been pretty busy this year on the writing front. His co-authored book with Aaron Dries, ‘Where the Dead go to Die’ is featured in my years best of 2016. It is an astonishing book that turns a familiar horror trope upside down, pulls out its intestines and devours them. It is also another fine release by Crystal Lake Publishing. Today, Mark agreed to stop by and talk about his other recent release through Cemetery Dance, ‘Curtain Call and Other Dark Entertainments’ – a collection of short stories. I’ve read two of Gunnells previous collections in ‘Flowers in the Dumpster’ and ‘Welcome to the Graveyard’, both of which I really, really enjoyed. Mark really excels in the short format and I am sure that ‘Curtain Call’ will be another winner.

I always really enjoy guest posts by authors. Particularly when its an author I really enjoy reading too. So, without further ado, I will hand you over to Mr Gunnells. To find links to this book and where else you can stalk follow Mark, please see the end of this post. As always, thanks for stopping by.

GOING BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Putting a Collection Together

By

Mark Allan Gunnells

I’m a writer who has been fortunate enough to have published several books with a variety of great publishers, and as someone with a burning passion for short fiction, I’m extremely grateful to have nine collections on the market. The most recent of these is a digital collection from Cemetery Dance called Curtain Call and Other Dark Entertainments. Having a book with such a venerable publisher is by far one of the highlights of my career to this point. I pitched them the idea for a collection not really expecting them to say yes, but when I got the greenlight to submit a manuscript, I found myself struggling to decide what stories to include. In the end, I felt I picked strong tales that I’m very proud of, and I thought it might be interesting to some of you to know the process I used to choose my Table of Contents.

When I sat down, there were certain stories I knew immediately that I wanted to include. These were stories that I felt very strongly represented the best of what I had to offer. In particular for this collection, recent stories “The Girl Who Watched the Ocean,” “The Grass on the Other Side,” and “Curtain Call” came to mind immediately and I just knew I would include those. Three stories do not make a collection, however, and so I had to start looking at my work critically to determine what other pieces would make the cut.

One thing you have to understand is that I have literally hundreds upon hundreds of short stories, and even with nine collections already out there, I still had an overwhelming number of stories to consider. I decided to narrow down the field, I’d first look at only my most recent stories, the ones I’d written in the last year.

When I am putting a collection together, one of the things I’m looking for above all else is an eclectic mix. I know some writers like their collections to have a thematic through-line, and I respect that, but it isn’t how I approach the matter. I want each collection to show a wide range when it comes to my interests and subjects. I want a little supernatural horror as well as some psychological, a few graphic tales coupled with quieter ones, surreal pieces and some with a firm basis in realism. I even like to occasionally throw in stories with no horror or fantasy elements at all. I figure a collection is my opportunity to show the reader everything of which I am capable as a storyteller.

Keeping that in mind, I picked a handful of recent stories to add to the ones I’d already chosen. “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” “Picnic at Bonaventure,” “Along the Street of Gold,” “The Town that Played Christmas Music for No One,” and “Tanner.” I felt these stories fit the bill in providing an diverse collection of tales.

Next I dipped into my older stories, and what I looked for here were tales that I really believed in but had never found a home for in anthologies or magazines. This collection would be my chance to highlight them and finally expose them to a readership. These are the ones on which I probably spent the most time deliberating, looking at them very critically as sometimes there is good reason why a story can’t find a home. Time and distance can lend me an objectivity to see the flaws in certain tales. However, some of them still stand up for me and I still believe in. “Fates,” “Movie Baby,” “And a Former Child Star Shall Lead Them,” and “Do Over” were such stories.

All told, I picked 12 stories, put together the manuscript, and sent it in to Cemetery Dance, my fingers crossed. I was elated when I got word that they would be moving forward with the collection. Norman Prentiss, my editor, gave me some good notes and I began the revision/polishing process. He also suggested we cut two of the stories—“Tanner” and “Do Over”—and go with ten tales.

And thus Curtain Call and Other Dark Entertainments was born. I gave a lot of thought to the stories that would be a part of this collection, and I sincerely hope that readers enjoy the tales.

Pick up a copy of ‘Curtain Call…’ from here.

Visit Mark at his blog here.

Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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