Talking to the Trickster — An interview with the editors of Trickster’s Treats, a Things in the Well publication
Things in the Well is an Australian indie press, managed by Steve Dillon, which is known for producing charity anthologies and single-author collections. Steve has published almost 30 books under this imprint, many receiving award-nominations, with stories award-nominated and award-winning in their own rights. Recent nominations/awards include the Bram Stoker Awards®, Shirley Jackson Awards, Australasian Shadows Awards and Aurealis Awards.
Things in the Well often publishes experienced and emerging authors side by side, and has worked with some of the most well-known horror writers in the world, including Ramsey Campbell and Clive Barker.
Louise Zedda-Sampson and Geneve Flynn talk to the editors—past and present—about Steve’s longest running annual publication, Tricksters Treats.
* Trickster’s Treats is about to open for submissions for its fourth issue. Can you tell us a bit about how the Trickster came to life and what inspired the Trickster themes?
Steve: Four years ago, I had this crazy idea to do a fun Halloween-themed magazine: flash fiction, open to all. I randomly chose several Halloween tropes as themes for the first issue, then a year later I decided to use visual themes (photographs, illustrations, and so on.) For issue #3, which was edited by Marie O’Regan and Lee Murray, the theme was the Seven Deadly Sins. Issue #4 will be edited by Louise Zedda-Sampson and Geneve Flynn, and the theme was chosen by the editors. Burial is such a great theme. It conjures many story ideas and serves as a great prompt. As for The Trickster as a persona, the character emerged from my computer screen while I was messing around with 3D sculpting tools (I love to doodle, and 3D clay is a great form of relaxation) and so he appeared on the first two issues as a character, but we dropped him for issue #3, I’m not really sure why… Maybe he’s sulking in a corner, or maybe he’ll return with his trickster friends one day…
In the Trickster’s third incarnation, Steve Dillon handed the reins to Lee Murray and Marie O’Regan. Trickster’s Treats #3: The Seven Deadly Sins was nominated for best-edited work for the Australasian Shadows Awards. We ask Lee and Marie a few questions about the experience.
* Each sin had a separate submission reader. What was it like working with seven separate submission readers?
Lee: In a word? Glorious. As in previous years, funds raised by Things in the Well’s annual Halloween issue, Trickster’s Treats #3, was dedicated to a good cause, in this case charity: water, and that aspect attracted a lot of entries, as did the involvement of world-class editor Marie O’Regan, the evocative Greg Chapman cover art used to advertise the submission call, and the fun seven sins theme. So having seven subeditors, all of them experienced with dark fiction texts (although not necessarily with sinning!), not only helped us to narrow down a large number of ‘blind’ submissions, but it gave us confidence that the stories appearing on our final table of contents were varied, relevant, and of a high quality. Of course, the contributors might not agree since that extra layer meant each story was read by no less than four people: a subeditor, Marie, myself, and finally by the series editor, all of us clamouring to have a say. I recall writing a disclaimer apologising to authors if their work had more edits than they were used to receiving. Happily, our contributors accepted our editing suggestions with good grace despite the slight editorial ‘overkill’!
Our talented subeditors included Tracie McBride, Noel Osualdini, William Marchese, Kev Harrison, Samson Stormcrow Hayes, Rebecca Fraser and Steve Dillon.
Marie: As Lee says, it was a lot of fun—it was my first experience of editing an anthology with someone other than my husband, Paul Kane, or on my own. Lee’s a joy to work with, highly professional, and as she says, the anthology was for a good cause and attracted some excellent entries. The subeditors’ hard work took a lot of the weight off as the initial reading was done by them and we came on board with the shortlist. The authors had to deal with a lot of rounds of edits, but hopefully we weren’t too heavy-handed.
* Did you have a favourite sin to work with? Why?
Lee: I really couldn’t say I have a favourite sin; I love them all. (Whoops. People are going to take this the wrong way, aren’t they?). The great thing about Trickster’s Treats #3 was the variety of interpretations within each of the seven themes and the wonderfully twisted surprises that writers offered us. I recommend buying the print book with its large magazine format; mine has been on the office coffee table ever since the book’s release, making it ideal for a sinful little escape from work.
Marie: I agree with Lee here; I don’t really have a favourite sin—it’s always good to have a large variety to choose from, and we definitely did here.
* Is there anything else you’d like to add about the experience?
Lee: One of the wonderful things about these annual Things in the Well charity projects is the community building element, bringing together dark fiction writers from all over the world. I was able to liaise with all of the writers, many of whom I knew of but had never communicated with before. It was such a pleasure to chat with them online and get to know them better. Finally, it was an absolute delight to work with Marie O’Regan, who is simply one of the best editors in the business. I’m grateful for the skills, professionalism, and diplomacy that Marie brought to the project. Definitely a highlight.
I see this year’s submission call for Trickster’s Treats #4: Coming Buried or Not! is in support of the Indigenous Literary Foundation, another great cause that I know writers will want to get behind. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Marie: Lee’s nailed it here; it was great to work with so many authors from various places— and Lee was a pleasure to work with; she’s very kind about my editing, and I’m very grateful for that, but would like to add that Lee’s an excellent editor and has a very sure touch when working. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Trickster’s Treats #4: Coming, Buried or Not! will be open for submissions in July. As the editors, we thought we’d share how we came up with the theme and what we think the Trickster wants for this edition.
Louise: When I spoke to Steve about editing Trickster’s Treats #4, one word came to mind for theme: Buried! I originally pictured things going to the grave or rising from it, but in this current environment with coronavirus, it felt a bit too real and just didn’t fit. When Steve did the mock-up cover and added the tagline of ‘Coming, Buried or Not!’, it opened things up. Geneve also brought burial rituals, secrets and ceremonies to the discussion which made the theme more flexible, something we all felt would be more to the Trickster’s taste.
Geneve: This anthology and others like it gives writers something to work towards. There’s so much uncertainty with the pandemic and current events that it can be difficult to look to the future. But if we can keep creating and planning, it’s a great way to shake loose some of the anxiety and inertia that we’ve all been under. I think the Trickster’s looking forward to the stories that folks come up with and seeing how they interpret our theme.
Louise and Geneve: There’s so much going on in the world right now and it’s challenging each of us in different ways. We wanted to create something that would do some good. In our callout, we welcome diverse writers and diverse stories, and we hope we’ll have more submissions from writers in marginalised groups.
We chose to support the Indigenous Literacy Foundation because we wanted to contribute to something that could continue to grow after the coronavirus has passed. We want to do what all Things in the Well’s charity anthologies do—deliver some financial aid and a small ray of hope.
Submissions open 15 July and close 31 July AEST. Tricksters Treats #4: Coming, Buried or Not! will be edited by Louise Zedda-Sampson and Geneve Flynn. For this call, we’re looking for things that have been buried, should be buried, could be buried or need to be buried. Undead or barely living? Sure! Buried treasure or buried secret? We want to see it. Whatever it is, dig it up or tamp it down. An element of your story must include the ‘buried’ theme. Scare us with frights, blights, wights, or anything that bites. It is, after all, for Halloween.
You can find the submission requirements at https://thingsinthewell.wordpress.com/open-submissions/
Louise Zedda-Sampson is a freelance writer, researcher and editor from Melbourne, Australia. Her fiction appears in anthologies and her non-fiction and research in journals and magazines. She edits for publishers and individual authors, working with writers of many genres and at all levels of experience. Louise manages Novel Solutions, her editing business. You can find Louise at www.novelsolutions.com.au
Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor from Australia who specialises in speculative fiction. She has been a judge for a key Australian horror award and a submissions reader for a leading Australian speculative fiction magazine. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, TANSTAAFL Press, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies. Check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au.