GS Chats with New UK publisher Fringeworks

FringeworksAt Geek Syndicate, we are always pleased to be able to champion independent publishers. Therefore we were delighted to get the chance to chat publishing with Theresa Derwin, part of the team behind new book imprint Fringeworks.

So Theresa, firstly, thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedule to talk to us. It’s always great to hear from independent publishers out there. For those that haven’t heard about Fringeworks yet, can you give us a bit of background as to how you started and what you’re about?

Fringeworks was set up by Adrian Middleton as a sort of publisher-cum-consultancy. He wanted to do experimental stuff – cultural, a little bit punky, and very much focused on world-building and how publishing will be in future rather than how it is now. We got talking and when I mentioned I’d like to edit he just told me to go for it! I think I was the first person to actually offer! Within three months we were launching our first kindle book with the paperback available a week later.

As for our books, well some people are already labelling us as a steampunk publisher because of the logo, but really we’re about sub-genres we believe in. Twisted fairy tales, SF, pulp adventure, bizarro, mash-ups, urban myth. We’re not as bothered about the market as we are about the customer. We know what we like, so that’s what we try to do. In most cases what we do will be anthologies, but the chapbooks, novellas and novels are coming.

Now you’ve got quite an experienced team over at Fringeworks, I know that you were published yourself last year as well as having run a successful horror site for many years. Could you tell us about more about the people behind Fringeworks?

Well Adrian is the ideas man. He’s into strategy and innovation and all that stuff, and used to publish fanzines in the nineties. After an editing job and a book contract both floundered, he turned his back on it all. Fringeworks is him picking up the pieces I suppose.

Other than Adrian there’s currently Nigel Potter (the finance guy) and myself. As well as editing the first two anthologies, I’ve now picked up KnightWatch Press to develop as our horror imprint.

We do also call upon a house artist, Martin Reimann, and have some new editors lined up (Alex Davis, Colin Fisher and Matthew Sylvester) who we feel will make a real difference to our output. Also, when we took on KnightWatch Press, we agreed to keep David Naughton-Shires involved so we have some degree of continuity with its fans.

As well as a great team, you’ve also been able to tempt some really respected writers to work with you such as Jonathan Green and William Meikle. How did you manage that and are there any other names you are working with that you can let us know about?

I think we have three things. The first is that Adrian comes up with some solid ideas for the books and anthologies we can produce. The titles always feel right, and the subject matter always seems to attract some positive attention.

The second is my charm and charisma. Seriously though, people know me and I’ve got lots of contacts and not many enemies. Adrian puts his trust in me and lets me get on with stuff, and I’m not afraid to ask people to get involved.

Finally there is our house artist, Martin Reimann. We put a call out for a single artist to take on all our covers, and sifted through more than 30 before we settled on him. To be honest, we’d have been happy for about 80% of them to have graced our covers, but Martin stood out from the crowd. In this day and age a lot of artists are technically brilliant, but it’s a very hard thing to produce a piece of work and have people know who you are. Martin has that. He’s dark, quirky, and most of all, recognizable. For our Fringeworks books we hope to use him on as many books as he’s happy to do. He’s only 19, but we think he’ll go all the way.

Recently we plugged your Christmas anthology, Ain’t No Sanity Clause, back in December at Geek Syndicate. What are the other titles you have out and do you have more planned for the future?
We have more titles planned than is good for our health! Sanity Clause has a sequel lined up in September, while our second book, Grimm & Grimmer, is the first of eight volumes. On top of that we have the KnightWatch Press back catalogue (all of those books are available at sale prices until the 31st March) and plans for some really different stuff.

There will be eight steampunk Sherlock Holmes mash-up novels this year, plus some chapbooks set in the same

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universe. There is a series of novellas based on the idea that Alice Liddell (the girl Alice in Wonderland was based on) has a series of adventures in 19th Century London which go on to inspire Lewis Carroll. There will be Andromeda’s Offspring (SF stories with strong female leads), Black Knights, White Heat (SF shorts set in a shared world where the British Empire wins the space race) and a very unusual anthology called Potatoes! which amazingly attracted more than 50 submissions.

Our KnightWatch Press imprint currently has submission calls out for Raus! Untoten! (Undead Nazis), Rom Zom Com (Zombie romance), Tiki Terror Tales (Quirky horror) and Dead Men’s Tales (Pirate stories told by the dead), and we’re about to publish three books developed by the previous owner, David Naughton-Shires: New Tales of the Old Ones, Machina Mortis and Soul Survivors Vol. 2.

Obviously, this is a lot, so we need to find more editors as well as a lot of good writers. So far we’ve retained interest from those we’ve published, and we’ll continue to be open to submissions for most of our anthologies.

Now we have a number of writers, both budding and established, who regularly visit Geek Syndicate who might be interested in submitting to you. Are those future anthologies open to anyone or just seasoned pros? And is there anything in particular that you are looking for from your writers?

Definitely open to all for now. I think we always want to have a mix of new and established writers, although moving forwards there will almost certainly be a core of people who get what we’re after. Obviously each of our editors will be looking for different things. For example I like pulpier, grotesque fiction that Adrian calls brash fiction, while he likes something a little more descriptive and esoteric. What we do have in common is the belief that if you didn’t have fun writing it, we probably won’t have fun reading it.

As a rule we say what we want when we call for submissions (we only accept stories that we’ve specifically asked for). There are a few things we definitely don’t want. Erotica in any form; combat-heavy stories; and conventional, by-the-numbers stories.

Now, aside from the books, we hear at Geek Syndicate that you are planning on launching a magazine of urban fantasy in the near future called Urban Shadows. What sort of thing can we expect from that?
Well first we need to find a designer! Our original plans for Urban Shadows stalled, and we’re revisiting it as and when we get the right people on board. The plan is for a magazine that is focused on urban horror, SF and fantasy, because we think its a market currently dominated by the paranormal romance genre, and we’d like to redress the balance. When everything is in place, the magazine will launch.

Finally, whipping out your crystal ball, what do you hope to see Fringeworks doing over the next few years?

Well, getting Urban Shadows out for starters! For the forseeable future we don’t need a crystal ball. We have a little book called the sandbox which is packed full of ideas we’d like to see happen. As a rule our calls are 50% planned and 50% spontaneous.

Our aims are to establish our niche, get to as many events as we can to plug our books, and maybe get a couple of publishers to trust us enough to package some books for them. We believe that publishers imprints, authors’ agents and small publishers are all gravitating towards the same space, and that the Indie press of the future will be agent, imprint and publisher all rolled into one.

Theresa, it’s been great chatting with you and we wish Fringeworks every success for the future.

To find out more about Fringeworks

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GS reporter: Phil Ambler

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