Monday, April 6, 2020

Fantastic Hope: Interview with Laurell K. Hamilton & William McCaskey

Times are difficult for everyone right now. And there is no better time for stories with happy endings, of perseverance, and determination than now. Fantastic Hope is an anthology of stories, with just these themes! I was lucky enough to interview the brains and editors behind this collaboration, Laurell K. Hamilton and William McCaskey!

Release Date: April 7th, 2020
Genre: Sci-fi & Fantasy
Synopsis: A collection of sixteen sci-fi and fantasy stories edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author Laurell K. Hamilton and author William McCaskey.

A child’s wish for her father comes true. The end of the world has never been so much fun. Conquering personal demons becomes all too real. It’s not always about winning; sometimes it’s about showing up for the fight. It’s about loving your life’s work, and jobs that make you question everything.

In this anthology, seventeen authors have woven together brand-new stories that speak to the darkness and despair that life brings while reminding us that good deeds, humor, love, sacrifice, dedication, and following our joy can ignite a light that burns so bright the darkness cannot last.

Laurell K. Hamilton and William McCaskey are joined by Kevin J. Anderson, Griffin Barber, Patricia Briggs, Larry Correia, Kacey Ezell, Monalisa Foster, Robert E. Hampson, John G. Hartness, Jonathan Maberry, L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Jessica Schlenker, Sharon Shinn, M. C. Sumner, Patrick M. Tracy, and Michael Z. Williamson in this collection.

And now, without further ado, here are Laurell and William to tell us more about this collection of stories!  

Q. Fantastic Hope’s title implies this anthology will leave readers feeling uplifted and strengthened. Where did the idea for this collection originate? 

L&W: Will and I had been talking about how tired we both were of Dystopian literature and movies. I was totally done with depressing books and wanted to read something more hopeful. It was Will who sat down and wrote a story that would turn out to be “Ronin,” his contribution to the collection. When I read the story, it made me cry, in a good way. I think I may even have punched him in the arm because he made me cry. Then I said the words that started the ball rolling, “This is the kind of story I want to read. Something with hope, a happy ending.” I wanted to do an Anti-Dystopian anthology. That was actually what we called it until we came up with the title, Fantastic Hope. 
William: YesShe did punch me. 

Q. The contributing list of authors runs the gamut from list toppers and best sellers to those who are relative newcomers. Can you speak a little about how the contributors were selected? 

L&W: Once we got the green-light for the anthology we began to talk about what we wanted to accomplish with it. We knew we wanted happy-ever-after endings or at least hopeful ones, but what else? We wanted to include new voices like Will, and veteran writers like me, we wanted heavy-hitters and novice writers. We wanted to show the wide range of possibilities in science-fiction, fantasy, and horror. Our genres encompass so much more than most people realize and with Fantastic Hope we had a chance to show that. 

Q. Laurell and William, can you share a little about your contributions to this anthology? 

Laurell: “Zombie Dearest” comes from a side plot idea that I wrote in my novel, Dead IceI used the side plot to help explain zombies in my fictional world, because the main mystery revolved around zombies being used for illegal activities. I find that worldbuilding for one plot point often leads to new ideas, or new ways of looking at old ideas. One of those new ideas stayed with me strong enough that I knew I wanted to follow the story thread and see where it went. The thread led to this stand alone story.  

William: “Ronin” was inspired by a picture I saw of a teddy bear defending a child from a nightmare, and for me, it brought up the question of how do we as adults face our nightmares and how do those nightmares look to children? It morphed into how do PTSD and suicidal ideations look through the eyes of a child, and what are the coping mechanisms that can be used to address these mental health issues. 

Q Which stories from the anthology have remained with you the longest? 

Laurell: “Fallen” by L. E. Modesitt Jr. was very powerful and left me thinking about perspective and who gets to decide what’s good and what’s evil. “Twilight Falls” by Jonathan Maberry reminded me of how light, quick, and clean prose could be. “Broken Son” by Griffin Barber was just so well written for a relative newcomer that I was impressed. “Asil and the Not-Date” by Patricia Briggs had an idea in it that I liked so much I wished I’d thought of it, and that doesn’t happen to me very often. “In the Dust” by Robert E. Hampson seemed important and had ideas that I wanted people to read. “Last Contact” by M. C. Sumner made me laugh at a very scary subject. “Not in This Lifetime” by Sharon Shinn was just so lovely, and so satisfying. Even more so because the first story she sent in we had to reject, but she didn’t take it personally, just sat down and wrote something we loved. “Working Conditions” by Patrick M. Tracy had a new take on vampires and since that’s one of the things I write, I always like to see a fresh take on it. “Ronin” by William McCaskey because I loved it, and without it there wouldn’t be an anthology. “SKJOLDMODIR” by Michael Z. Williamson and Jessica Schlenker because it’s a hard story and I debated the longest on putting in an anthology about hope, but in the end this was the story that made me realize that hope isn’t always happy, but that doesn’t make it less valuable, maybe it makes it more so. I could list something for all the stories we chose, because if they didn’t stay with me then I didn’t want them in the anthology. 
William: “Mr. Positive” by Larry Correia made me laugh the first time I read it. Kacey Ezell’s story “No Greater Love” really spoke to that sense of duty to family that I have carried with me since I was a child. 

Q. What do you hope readers will take from this collection of stories? 

Laurell: That hope and happiness, faith and honor, love and duty are important. We need them. We can’t let the cyniscim of modern day life, the constant bombardment of negativity steal our belief in goodness away from us.  

William: Never give up. Life may bloody your nose and knock you on your ass, but if you get back up, if you stay in the fight, then you aren’t beaten. 

Q. Is there anything you can share with readers regarding any works in progress you may have?  

Laurell: I just finished up the last edits on my 27th Anita Blake novel, Sucker Punchwhich comes out August of 2020. I’m writing the first novel in a brand new paranormal thriller series set in a new world with my first ever book-length male main character. It will be out in 2021.  

William: I just signed a contract for a short story inspired by the warrior cultures of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines that will be included in an anthology coming out later this year. I’m polishing and editing a short story for submission to a project that may or may not get off the ground, and I’m about halfway to two-thirds of the way through the first draft of the second book in the Fury’s Fire series. 

 Q. What difficulties did you face as co-editors of the anthology? 

Laurell: When I agreed to co-editing I thought we’d be in the same state, but it didn’t work out that way. I’ve never tried coordinating so much from so far away. Technology makes it possible, but it still made it harder that we couldn’t do any of the editing face to face. Will’s right about him jumping into the deep end of the pool with this project. He got to hold his first published novel in his hands while we were starting the process of editing Fantastic Hope. I’d just published my 38th novel in 2018, my 39th if you count my collection of short stories, Strange Candy. There were so many parts of publishing that I just took for granted that Will had never experienced. I explained and shared my knowledge; Will adapted and learned. This was a first for me, too, in one way, I’d never edited an anthology before. I’d had short stories in other people’s collections, but never been at the helm. So some things Will and I learned together.  

William: I think our biggest hurdle was not being face-to-face and having to play phone tag to coordinate. Though I jumped into the deep end of publishing with Fantastic Hope, my first book was published in September of 2019 and by that point, we had completed the edits of the anthology. Everything was a learning experience for me from coordination with authors to coordination with the publisher to trying to get everything in by deadlines. Which we succeeded at.    

Q. How long did it take to compile and edit everyone’s stories? 

L&W: From start to finish the entire project has taken about a year, while the compiling and editing took us about three months due to the flow of the stories. We didn’t get them all at the same time, some came in well before the deadline while others came in right at the wire. 

Q. Does the placement of the stories have any importance or relevance; do the stories stand alone, or are there any connections between them? 

L&W: Some of the stories are from their author’s published worlds with established series characters, others are brand new everything. There is no connection of story or plot, but there is the overall theme of hope throughout. We did brainstorming sessions with the publisher about what story to lead with, who goes in the middle, who’s our anchor story. Once those were chosen then who gets in between was the next question. It was interesting to hear the reasoning between choices at the publishing level and to keep shuffling until we were all happy with the story order.  

Q. What if anything, was edited out of the anthology?  

L&W: Nothing really, if we didn’t like a story we didn’t accept it. If we liked someone’s story, but there was a plot point, or something that didn’t work we would ask the author to do their own editing to change it, if they were okay with the change. We tried to treat other writers as we’d want to be treated. We would always prefer to have a chance to make any large changes to our own stories ourselves. The only things edited out were a word or phrase here and there, and not much of that.  

Q. Can readers hope and expect any anthologies with similar or different themes in the future? 

L&W: If this anthology does well, i.e. it sells well, then the publisher will be more likely to give the green light to a second anthology like Fantastic Hope. We hope it does well, not just because then we will have succeeded, but also we would love to put out more uplifting stories to share with readers. The world needs more hope and happy endings to read, to enjoy, to escape to, and just to remind all of us that good does triumph in the end, one way or the other.  Question 12. What was your favorite part of working on Fantastic Hope? 

Laurell: I loved creating a new market for short stories. One that was looking not just for the established authors, but also new voices. It’s so hard to break into publishing, so it was great giving people that first foot in the door.  

William: There are a few authors on this project that I have been reading for years and being able to work with them as a peer was amazing. 

 Q. Are there any stories in this collection that might appeal to those who are relatively new to fantasy, science fiction, and their respective subgenres? 

L&W: It’s a somewhat simplistic answer, but there is a story in here for almost anyone to dip their toe into fantasy and science-fiction. There are stories from well-established authors and up-and-comers with stories based in hard science and stories that completely blow through the rules into the realm of the fantastical. 

Q. Please share some titles you read recently that you loved and would like to share with readers. 

Laurell: I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s Wintersmith, the third in the Tiffany Aching Adventures. Start with book one, Wee Free Men. I love the Nac Mac Feegles, reading their dialogue out loud is too much fun. Goddesses in World Mythology: A Biographical Dictionary by Martha Ann & Dorothy Myers Imel is a wonderful research book and covers areas of the world that many research books on mythology neglect, as well as hitting the usual major ones. It has a detailed bibliography which is a must for me on research books.  

William: I’m currently reading The First Wall by Gav Thorpe in the Horus Heresy series, and my boys love hearing me read The Little Blue Truck to them. 

Thank you Laurell and William for your time and answering all of my questions!  The book releases TOMORROW, April 7th! Get your copies here:

About the Editors
Laurell K. Hamilton is one of the leading writers of paranormal fiction. A #1 New York Times bestselling author with more than 20 million books sold, she is the writer of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter and Merry Gentry series. She is a fulltime writer and lives in a suburb of St. Louis with her family. 
William McCaskey is a veteran of the United States Army who traded in the hot and sandy for central Florida with his family, dogs, and a very demanding feline overlord. In his free time, he enjoys honing his martial arts skills while imparting a few of them, traveling, and scuba diving. William made his debut with the science-fiction novel Dragon Two-Zero. 

Lastly, I'd like to thank Berkley, especially Erin Galloway for this opportunity!   

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