Lisa Morton is a friend of mine, a good editor, a better author, and an all-around spooky kind of gal. I love working with her. Today, she tells me why it took her 30 years to put together her first short story collection.
My first professional short fiction sale happened in 1994, when I sold a story called “Sane Reaction” to editors Stephen Jones and David Sutton for a British anthology called Dark Voices 6. Since then, I’ve sold more than 150 short stories, to magazines, anthologies, and online venues. My short work has won awards and a lot of nice reviews, it’s been frequently reprinted, and I’ve reached the point where I get a lot of invitations into new projects.
So why did I wait almost thirty years to put out my first real collection?
Well, first of all, there have been other collections. My first was a themed collection called Monsters of L.A., which put twenty classic monsters in the middle of the SoCal metrosprawl; but that collection included only original stories, and was not a “greatest hits” sort of book (it was also nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Collection).
I was honored when Cemetery Dance included me in their “Select” series, which were small books that collected just a few stories from each author; mine included four reprints.
In 2017, JournalStone put out a collection of my Halloween-themed stories (as a Halloween expert, I’ve written a considerable amount of both fiction and non-fiction about the holiday), The Samhanach and Other Halloween Experts. That one was a substantial collection of reprints that also included novellas.
But never a more general collection, until now. Why did I wait so long, especially when so many authors put out collections as soon as they have enough stories to create something that’s acceptably book-length?
There are a couple of reasons. First off, I think too many authors rush into collections too soon; I see new authors self-publishing collections all the time, and I wonder how they’ll get people to buy a book full of short stories by an author they may not know yet (collections and anthologies are both notoriously tough sells).
Second: as a kid growing up, I loved mass market paperback collections. When I had a few weeks’ worth of allowance saved up, my mom would drive me to the local used bookstore, I’d peruse the science fiction and horror sections, and come home with stacks of paperback collections by authors like Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, H. P. Lovecraft, and Robert E. Howard. I probably learned the art of short story writing from absorbing those collections, so of course I always dreamed of having one of my own. Unfortunately, the mass market paperback story collection is largely a thing of the past now, kept only for the major bestselling authors and not the midlist masters and mistresses.
I still wanted a traditionally published book, although I’ve self-published some mini-collections, mainly as giveaways to my newsletter subscribers. I talked to a few publishers over the years, some expressed interest, but nothing ever came of it.
Cue Kate Jonez. Kate is the owner of a wonderful small press called Omnium Gatherum. A few years ago, while we were working together on assembling StokerCon™ 2017, Kate mentioned to me that she’d love to publish my collection.
And that’s how I landed here, with my first major retrospective collection, Night Terrors & Other Tales, being published by Omnium Gatherum. The collection includes twenty reprint stories, chosen by me, and one new piece written for the collection (“Night Terrors”). Kate did a wonderful job with the book, hiring my friend Greg Chapman to create the creepy cover art, and I couldn’t be prouder to have this big slice of me finally coming out into the world.
To quote the Grateful Dead…what a long strange trip it’s been.
Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, and prose writer whose work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening.” She is a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, the author of four novels and over 150 short stories, and a world-class Halloween expert. Her recent releases include Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction from Groundbreaking Female Writers 1852-1923 (co-edited with Leslie S. Klinger) and Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances; her latest short stories appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2020, Speculative Los Angeles, and Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. Forthcoming in 2021 is the collection Night Terrors & Other Tales. Lisa lives in Los Angeles and online at www.lisamorton.com .