If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology,this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. However, as we reach the close of the series, we now have the opportunity to turn our attention to the guiding forces behind the anthology — the editors themselves!
Welcome author and editor Anthony S. Buoni to the blog!
You and your colleague Alisha Costanzo have been instrumental in putting together the anthology for After Happily Ever After. Can you give us some insight into the genesis of this project? How did it come about?
Alisha was originally planning the project with someone else, and I figured I would do some light editing on it. The other party fell through around the time she and I were getting UNDERWATER into the world. I love fairy tales and stepped up because after UNDERWATER and DISTORTED, I couldn’t imagine not being a serious part of the project.
This anthology is not your first creative project. In addition to this, you have participated in editing other anthologies and writing novels. How did you get started on this writing journey?
I started writing poetry and creature stories in elementary school. In second or third grade, I had a teacher call my parents in for a meeting because I had written a poem about gloomy skies and creeping darkness and therefore must have been suicidal or depressed. I wasn’t, I just loved the tone I saw in horror movies like THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, DRACULA, THE FLY and those early Tim Burton flicks.
By middle school, I was listening to a lot of the Doors, the Damned, and the Cure, emulating the music’s beautiful, dark poetry. By high school, I was making music and writing shorts, always horror. To this day, I never outgrew the goth stage that began after my first stint in New Orleans.
I got serious with fiction in college. I burned a lot of that dreadful material I was writing in high school, chalking it up to my apprenticeship. How many times can you rhyme “bliss” with “kiss” and still look at your reflection without laughing? Under the guiding hands of Lynn Wallace, I learned how to harness the writing reigns by being concise, entertaining, and finishing what I started.
As an upperclassman, I interned with FSU PC’s physical and electronic newspaper, editing and paginating. Taking those lessons, I began self-publishing a zine called MEOW and making chap books, mostly comprised of absurdist vignettes or filthy prose that was crudely illustrated.
Michael Lister discovered my work and showed me the ropes around the publishing business: the marketing, event planning, public appearances, etc. Through his house, Pulpwood Press, I organized two anthologies of fictional ghost stories, BETWEEN THERE vol. 1 & 2, and released CONVERSION PARTY, a screenplay novel about a party kid trying to catch and spread HIV in the club scene.
I met Alisha through a facebook author exchange, a virtual meet and greet for writers to gather and talk shop. She contributed a story for the 2nd BETWEEN THERE, and we began editing each other’s novels-in-progress. Our styles jived well, so we began working together.
Can you share with us how you’ve moved from this creative background to wear other hats, particularly as a publisher? What new challenges have you faced in that arena?
In college, I was getting placement here and there, but I wasn’t landing as many stories as I wanted. Articles in tourist magazines and the occasional anthology acceptance simply weren’t enough.
Through the zine MEOW, I was able to publish my more unpolished and experimental work. Published with the punk rock spirit, MEOW went from a few pages featuring fake news stories, song fragments, flash fiction, and poetry by myself and a few other authors local to the Florida Panhandle to a full-color sub magazine complete with pin-up girls, serious film and music articles, drink recipes, and advertisements featuring authors, artists, and photographers from all over the country. It got too complicated for me to produce with a laptop and home mimeograph, so I dug a hole and let it rest…for now.
Using the same methods that went into creating MEOW, I produced several chapbooks, most notably …A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT, a collection of absurdist and surreal vignettes, and THE ABSINTHE BUTTERFLY, a dirty book with nasty illustrations by myself and CONRAD YOUNG.
Piecing all of these projects together became as rewarding as creation process, so I learned how to design book interiors when paginating the physical and electronic paper for FSU PC. Working with Pulpwood Press helped me put all the pieces together in a mature way.
When I returned to New Orleans, I wanted to start fresh. Alisha and I had already began DISTORTED, we released it as a team. When UNDERWATER followed, we realized it was a serious collaboration beyond editing each other’s novels and decided to make the partnership legit.
The real challenges rest in balancing time.
We both have families and other jobs. Alisha is a teacher, and I tend bar on Bourbon Street, so a lot of our time is consumed before we can write, edit, market, and brainstorm. Now when I sit down to work on my own stories, novels, or songs, every word has to count. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room for false starts or projects that might shipwreck on rocky, unlit shorelines.
I’ve never been great with deadlines, but now we have to meet them and follow through. That can be tough when I am in the mood to play guitar, mix records, make dance loops, or tinker with my camera. I have to distribute my time so that I can work on all my interests.
Can you tell us what it’s like to sift through all the stories that came in from the submission call? What perspective can you give us as someone sitting in the editing chair?
The call for submissions went up, and we were inundated with entries, mushroom clouding the scale of the anthology. The sheer volume of submissions took me by surprise and made the reading period take longer than anticipated. We had authors following up on their work, wanting to know if they had made the cut, but we were still chopping through the vines, trying to figure out the overall tone of the anthology and how many we were going to accept.
We bounced around the idea of three books: one for the aftermath of the fairy tales we grew up with, one of retellings, and one for the bizarre and unusual. When we started talking, we remembered those huge volumes filled with fantastic stories and how they looked on a shelf. We wanted AFTER THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER to have home next to those tomes, the ones that inspired our own fledging imaginations.
The range of the stories was intense.
We got tales so good they make you question your own writing abilities. It would be amazing to come across one that stopped me in my tracks, contact Alisha, and have her say that she just read it, too, and it also blew her away. Those moments make the process magical.
Then there are some that we requested another draft—that one of us wasn’t quite feeling but the other defended. Most of the rewrites exceeded our expectations.
And then we got a few that simply were not ready for publication. It’s hard telling someone no, especially when their work is close, but their rewrites might not be finished in time for release. We want to produce established authors as well as open the door for newcomers. Those gates were unlocked for us along the way, and so it’s only fair that we help others with their journey. Neither one of us likes writing rejection letters, but we got a few that didn’t seem to tell any story or were so riddled with grammatical or storytelling errors that we had to pass.
Maybe next time they’ll resubmit and blow us away. We’re all learning together.
Your bio mentions that you hail from the south, NW Florida and New Orleans respectively. Southern gothic has experienced some popularity within the past decade or so. Does geography play into your creative work, or do you build worlds from brand new?
My work is rooted in the South.
I travel, and my parents raised me nomadic and free, but my heart and soul rests somewhere between the swamps, beaches, pine tree forests, and cities that line the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve come up on the white sandy beaches of the Miracle Strip and the nightclubs of the French Quarter, so they both factor in my writing.
Writing and music are spiritual pursuits. My inspiration comes from the moon, stars, and clouds—the cyclical dance of nature. Something new from something old. Circles.
Living and creating in New Orleans, Louisiana, Anthony S. Buoni haunts swamps and bayous along the Gulf of Mexico, writing, editing, producing, and lecturing about his craft. A practicing pagan, he’s responsible for the BETWEEN THERE anthologies as well as his screenplay-novel, CONVERSION PARTY, available through PULPWOOD PRESS. Recently, he’s co-edited and co-produced two exciting anthologies with Alisha Costanzo with their independent imprint, TRANSMUNDANE PRESS: DISTORTED: vol 1 and UNDERWATER: vol 1.
You can keep up with Anthony at his website.