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Thursday, June 27, 2013

THE URBAN GREEN MAN ANTHOLOGY - INTERVIEW WITH EDITORS, ADRIA LAYCRAFT AND JANICE BLAINE

AS ONE OF THE CONTRIBUTORS to the Urban Green Man anthology, I'm excited about the book's launch this coming August through Edge Books. (I'm also thrilled that my story Evergreen is the lead and appears right after Charles de Lint's introduction.) I thought I'd pin down editors Adria Laycraft and Janice Blaine to talk about the anthology, how it came about, and what their experience was with it.

Ladies, your inspiration for the anthology was the Green Man in all of his (or her) manifestations. Question #1. In a nutshell, what is a Green Man? What drew you to this subject in the first place?

Adria: As a gardener, I’ve always been fascinated with the Green Man faces that are a popular garden decoration. As a writer, I had to know what the story behind the face was. The research taught me about the archetype of renewal and protection of all green growing things, and that many societies had their own version of this mythology. It seemed an obvious idea for a themed anthology, rich with symbolism and ripe for visual art as well. When I mentioned my idea to Janice when we worked in the EDGE office, her excitement led me to invite her to team up on the project and present it to Brian Hades—with very happy results.

Janice:  In college, I was introduced to the writings of Joseph Campbell and Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The universal myths and archetypes that they wrote about—the idea that we are connected by the stories we tell—fascinated me. I love stories that have a purpose, stories that explore the world and our role in it, myths as metaphors. The Green Man is one of those stories that shows up in many different forms all over the world. He is an Earth spirit who represents the connection between humanity and nature. He represents the cycles of life, renewal, and rebirth. He is often carved on old churches, surrounded by greenery with leaves protruding from his mouth. I've been painting and studying him for years, so I was thrilled with the opportunity to work on an anthology that celebrated him.

2). Before you received submissions, what overall ‘vision’ did you have for the anthology? Was there a particular message or theme you wanted to get across to the reader? Does your original vision reflect what the book has become? 

Adria: My original vision was simply to explore the mythology in all its facets, especially because many people I talked to hadn’t even heard of the Green Man. When we decided to narrow submissions to Urban Fantasy, the project took on a life of its own as we saw this myth brought into the modern day. Janice and I realized we wanted this be our way of being environmentalists of a sort, to talk about how the Green Man would feel if he ‘woke up’ to the world today. Our vision was met again and again in the stories and poems we received.

Janice: Because the Green Man is such a huge theme, we needed to narrow it down from the beginning. There seemed to be many Green Man books out there, but most of the ones we found explored the history of the archetype. We thought it would be interesting to bring the myth into a contemporary setting, to see how the Green Man might react to what humanity has done to his wild, natural world. For me, this anthology is an environmental statement. Some of the stories are hopeful visions of the future. Some are cautionary tales. All are explorations of green magic that can still be found in concrete jungles. 

3). Did the two of you two choose to work on this anthology together, or were you assigned to work on it? What do you feel you both brought to the process?

Adria: The original idea was mine, and as I said, Janice became an obvious partner because of her enthusiasm for the project, her knowledge of the mythology, and her strengths that were so different and complementary to mine. Janice turned this fantastic collection into a veritable work of art, enhancing our theme and making it something to collect and treasure. I can’t thank her enough for that. My job was to be a fast reader and to bring my writing, editing, and critiquing experience to the table. 

Janice: The idea was originally Adria's. She mentioned it to me one day while we were working at the EDGE office, and my excitement prompted her to ask me to partner with her. At first I was a bit hesitant, because I'm not a writer by trade. However, I am a storyteller, an illustrator, and an environmentalist. I've spent years studying and painting tree mythology and the Green Man legend. This anthology gave me the opportunity to explore these passions in a way I never expected. Adria and I come from very different backgrounds. Our skill sets compliment each other brilliantly. 

4). Of course, the stories you liked best were the ones you chose for the book. But what drew you to particular stories the most? Was it theme, characterization, plot? 

Adria: We had to reject some stories that we were very much in love with because they didn’t fit the theme. Once we were clear on our theme, we knew that we needed to stay true to it. At first we worried we might not get enough stories that fit—we shouldn’t have worried. The excitement over the project blew us away and provided enough amazing stories for several anthologies! I won't be surprised to see many of the stories we couldn’t keep appear in other publications.

Janice: The response we got to our call for submissions was incredible, not only in volume, but also in quality. We could easily have put together two full length anthologies with the number of excellent stories we received. This was clearly a theme that many people were very passionate about. In the end, we had to reject many excellent stories simply because they didn't quite fit the theme we wanted to reflect.

5). Were there any stories that surprised you? Why? 

Adria: Many of our stories go beyond the speculative fiction I expected to receive. Some of them expanded my mind and left me asking all the right questions, which is what good stories do. The book actually ends on a question, and it fits what the entire project was trying to do, overall. 

Janice: This was my first experience in this type of role, so I honestly didn't know what to expect. A part of me was concerned that there might not be enough interest in the project . (The humble side of me worries about that with every project I take on.) In this case, I had nothing to worry about. The submissions we received exceeded my expectations. I was most surprised by the volume and scope of the stories. We had people submitting from all over the world. 

6). What was the best thing about editing this anthology? The worst? What advice would you give to anyone who might consider writing for, or editing one?

Adria: There have been many wonderful moments. Reading through the stories the first time was a thrill and a privilege, and I enjoyed the process despite receiving three times as many submissions as expected. The worst thing by far was sending out rejection letters. I don’t like getting them, and now I know I don’t like sending them either. It got harder with every round. As to advice, I would say to be sure you’re up for the sheer magnitude of work involved. That, and don’t be surprised in how invested you become. When you write, your stories become your babies. This is no different.

Janice: I am an incredibly slow, meticulous reader, so the biggest challenge for me in this project was working through the volume of submissions. The majority of the slush pile was filtered by Adria. I loved watching our theme take shape as we added more and more stories to the "Interested" pile. I loved exploring creative ways we could arrange the final selections so that the stories would flow and complement each other. And, of course, I loved building all the visual elements. Creating the cover, illustrations, and layout was my role once the stories were chosen, while Adria had the job of editing and polishing the collection.

7). What’s next for you both? Another anthology, perhaps? 

Adria: I would be honoured to work with Janice again, but at this point we’re not sure what that might look like. I know we certainly work well together, but I also know the project has to be right before I would commit to it. I have my own novels and short stories I’m working on, including a middle grade science fiction series that I’d like to see in schools someday.

Janice: I would welcome the opportunity to work with Adria on another project. What that project might be, I can't say at this point.

Adria’s Bio: Adria Laycraft is a grateful member of IFWA and a proud survivor of the Odyssey Writers Workshop. She works as a freelance writer and editor of The Write Initiative. Look for her stories in Tesseracts 16, Neo-opsis, On-Spec, James Gunn's Ad Astra, DKA Magazine, Hypersonic Tales, The Alien Next Door, and In Places Between. Author of Be a Freelance Writer Now, Adria lives in Calgary with her husband and son. Learn more about Adria at www.adrialaycraft.com or at www.thewriteinitiative.com

Janice’s Bio: Janice Blaine is a professional commercial artist working out of Calgary. Throughout her career, she has worked on a wide variety of projects, ranging from pre-production animation to design and illustration of children’s books. Her illustrations have appeared on the covers of numerous magazines and books. Her cover illustration for Neo-Opsis's Issue #20 was nominated for an Aurora Award. She currently works as the Production Manager at EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. She also does freelance illustration and design work. Her personal work is fuelled by a passion for storytelling and a love of nature. Her paintings explore the universal language of myth and folklore. Her portfolio may be viewed a www.paintersblock.com

(Thanks Adria and Janice! For those who are interested, you can pre-order the book from Edge Books here: 

Next Post: Dropping the 'F' Bomb, Guest Post by Michael R. Fletcher

Stay tuned.

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