By Carl Slaughter: Magazine editor, anthology editor, book publisher, novelist, short story writer, franchise novelizer. Kristine Kathryn Rusch knows good fiction and meets a lot of people. All this comes in handy when you edit a multi genre anthology magazine.
CARL SLAUGHTER: What was the need for Fiction River? What has it been doing that wasn’t being done before?
KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH: Fiction River is multi-genre, which no one else is doing. It’s essentially good fiction, done to a theme at times, and at times just to an editor’s whim. Dean and I did a Kickstarter in 2012 to see if there was interest, and there was, much more than we expected. We funded in hours. We were stunned—and Fiction River was launched.
CS: What’s the business model?
KKR: The anthology series comes out every two months. It’s an anthology magazine. An anthology in that each volume is self-contained and somewhat different from the others. A magazine in that its appearance is regular. The unifying factor is me and Dean as series editors and the format itself. We have guest editors, but we oversee what they do. Sometimes we reject stories they want. Sometimes we suggest writers. We also act as editors ourselves. We believe in having different voices all the way through, from editing to the writers themselves.
The other thing I should mention is that the volumes don’t go out of print. You can pick up Issue 1: Unnatural Worlds in all formats right now. Issue 20: Last Stand came out this week (as I type this). You can get that and every issue going back to the beginning. You can find out how to get them all at your favorite bookstore or at Fiction River‘s website: http://www.fictionriver.com/
CS: Any podcasting or audio?
KKR: We did podcasting in our first year, when WMG Publishing had an audio director. She’s since left the company, so we stopped doing a podcast in the short-term. One will start up again in a year or so. The first eight volumes are in audio right now, with more to come. We’re auditioning audio producers, trying to decide if we want an outside producer or to hire one directly for Fiction River. Still on the fence about that.
CS: Who does your art?
KKR: Publisher Allyson Longueira of WMG Publishing handles all the design, including the covers. She’s an award-winning graphic designer. Sometimes she commissions artists and sometimes she blends previously published pieces she finds on art sites. It just depends on the issue.
CS: What genres does Fiction River include? What genres does it not include?
KKR: It’s easier to say what it doesn’t include. It doesn’t include erotica. I think that’s the only genre we don’t do or aren’t planning on doing.
CS: How many stories? How long are these stories? How many total words?
KKR: The issues are between 70-90,000 words. The story length varies. We’ve published novellas, novelettes, shorts, and short-shorts. Some volumes have 20+ stories, some have ten or less.
CS: How many stories are original and how many are reprints?
KKR: ALL are original.
CS: How do you generate material?
KKR: Invites to our favorite authors. Because Dean and I teach so much, sometimes we snatch up a story from one of the workshops we do, either online or here on the Oregon Coast. Then, every year, we do an anthology workshop, and sometimes we use Fiction River for the writers to write for. The anthology workshop is for professional writers only, and has existed long before Fiction River ever did. We used to call it the Denise Little workshop, because Denise came every year. (It looks like she’ll be back in 2018.) Often, she would bring a “live” anthology—like a DAW anthology or something else she was editing. Sometimes Dean and I would use an anthology we were trying to sell (often under pen names.) When Fiction River started, we just brought it to the writers.
I have to tell you: Gathering 50 professional writers, having them write on a theme or an idea or a genre, is a godsend. Because all of the stories we see are high quality, and all of them are worthy of being published. Many of the ones that get rejected from Fiction River show up in other publications a year or so later. We sort of stumbled on this side way of reading for the series, and I personally love it. I’m seeing stories I would never otherwise see from writers who write all over the genre map. It’s spectacular.
CS: Who writes for you?
KKR: Everyone from New York Times bestsellers to beginners we discover thanks to our large network of writers.
CS: What kind of feedback have you gotten from readers?
KKR: They love it. They’re constantly referring friends and promoting the volumes.
CS: Any major awards?
KKR: Award nominations, including some for the project itself. We seem to do best in mystery, with several nominations for the various short fiction awards, including the prestigious Derringer. Stories have been shortlisted for The Best American Mystery Stories and have appeared in The Best Mystery and Crime Stories 2016.
CS: Fiction River has been going for several years. This is on a landscape that has been in constant upheaval for a while. How do you explain Fiction River’s endurance?
KKR: It’s of consistent high quality and it’s different every volume. So people know they’ll enjoy the read, but they don’t know what they’re going to get exactly. I think readers value that. We just held our third Fiction River Kickstarter, and we raised double what we’ve raised before. We do Kickstarters in lieu of regular subscription drives. The support grows and grows. We’re very fortunate.
CS: How long will this project continue?
KKR: Until we tire of it—which I don’t see coming at all.
CS: What’s new on the horizon?
KKR: We just started reprint volumes, Fiction River Presents, edited by Allyson Longueira. The fourth one will appear this month. They’re very popular as well.
Can you tell we’re having fun?