Tuesday, October 08, 2013

May post brings Halloween treat

In May of this year, Wellington writer Dan Rabarts posted an internet link about some of the creepy things kids say, suggesting to his writer friends that those sayings would make great story fodder. One writer took him up on it, then another, and another. A crowd funding campaign followed, a publisher appeared, and the result is Baby Teeth (Paper Road Press), a collection of bite-sized horror stories, out just in time for Halloween. I talked with Dan and his co-editor Lee Murray.

BB: Were you surprised at the response from the writing community?
Dan: I was more than surprised; I was blown away. From a random suggestion that maybe we write some stories, we suddenly had a wave of support not only from both new and established writers submitting work but also proof readers offering their services, publishers offering contract and business advice, artists creating work for us to use in our promotions, and even a professional audio production house wanting to do an audiobook of the anthology, at no cost to us. The enthusiasm and the momentum were infectious. Before we really knew what was going on, our simple writing exercise had taken on a life of its own, with a pile of great stories, cover art, and, above all, a plan to do something with all of this energy for good. What better way to make the most of all that excitement and generosity than to turn it into a fundraiser for a worthy charity? And then to have it picked up by Wellington’s newest independent publisher, Paper Road Press headed by award-winning editor Marie Hodgkinson. Well, that was just the icing on the cake.
Lee: If we’re talking about the response from the writing community, I think it took someone like Dan to pull it all together. He has this endearingly helpless quality that makes people want to put their hands up. It’s a great ploy because we all fell for it. One of our contributors even offered up her own precious baby teeth for the cover art not what you usually expect when calling for anthology submissions!

BB: Proceeds from Baby Teeth will support the Duffy Books in Homes Charity, and yet the book introduction cautions that these stories aren’t for children?
Dan: That’s right, Graham. Kids occasionally come out and say some creepy things, and Baby Teeth taps into those reflections. Context is always a factor of course, but our writers have taken these little fragments and spun them out into tales of humour, wonder and terror. Some of the stories are powerful, disturbing and gut-wrenching. They look into those things that lurk in the dark, in the minds of small children, or of the unwell, perhaps. They make the reader ask questions, and evoke a sense of raw unease which leave you asking: What was real? What was not? Sometimes, I think, fiction like this can make us wonder about the real world, maybe help us see some sort of nightmarish reason in the things that happen which defy explanation, things we can’t personally stomach or even fathom another human being doing. Horror goes there. It forces us to look at the world, and sometimes we don’t like what we see. So in answer to your question, no: these stories are not for children. We don’t want to give them nightmares. Just our regular readers. [laughs]
Lee: I agree with Dan. If you like a good fright, then these stories make perfect reading for Halloween just don’t read them to your kids.
Dan: But the focus remains on the why of the project - on writers banding together to raise money for a cause, with the intent that kids will keep wanting to read books for years to come. Because writers need readers, and it’s hard to imagine being a kid and not growing up with books to read.  

BB: Do you think the group will be mobilised to write another similar book?
Lee: Perhaps not exactly like this, but many of the Baby Teeth contributors are now working together on other projects, so yes, in time I think we’ll see some new work coming out as a result of the collaboration initiated here.
Dan: This has been a totally spontaneous and unprecedented project, and I think we’re truly fortunate to have so many fantastic and giving writers and creative people in New Zealand to have made it possible, not to mention the many writers groups like SpecFicNZ and Tauranga Writers who have helped pull it all together and spread the word. It’s been a huge undertaking though, and despite how rewarding it has been I think I’ll be careful what I post on Facebook in future! But while there are no immediate plans to try and pull something like this off again, I’ve already heard rumours that some other writing groups might be considering a similar approach.

Paperback, e-book, audio book - RRP $25.00
Publisher - Paper Road Press - marie@paperroadpress.co.nz

Featuring the work of:

Alan Lindsay

Jenni Sands
Alicia Ponder
Kevin G. Maclean
Anna Caro
Lee Murray
Celine Murray
Lewis Morgan
Dan Rabarts
M. Darusha
Darian Smith
Debbie Cowens
Matt Cowens
Eileen Mueller
Elizabeth Gatens
Sanborn Smith
Grant Stone
Michael J Parry
Jack Newhouse
Morgan Davie
Jake Bible
Paul Mannering
Jan Goldie
Piper Mejia
JC Hart
Jean Gilbert
Sally McLennan

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