Salome Jones has been writing and editing full time for the past three years. She has recently edited two successful anthologies, Red Phone Box, and Cthulhu Lives, as well as being the acquisitions editor at Ghostwoods Books. She also writes about her experiences as an American living in the UK over at The Naked American.
Hello Salome, how are things with you?
I’m good, Jim. Thanks for asking.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Well, I’m a writer and editor. I have two writing degrees, one from the US, one from the UK. I like history and science. I’m a catperson. Meaning I like cats. I’m not a werecat or anything. *drum beat*
Let’s get the ball rolling with some simple getting to know you questions.
What is your favourite food?
Hmmm. If I have to choose one food, I’m going to say tacos.
What is your favourite film?
That is really hard. Just one film? I’m going to say ‘The Matrix.’ … I feel like I’m on a game show. Heh.
What is your favourite group?
Group. This is one of those British things, isn’t it? I like The White Stripes.
And what’s the biggest secret never to be told about you?
If I told you that, Jim, well, I’d have to kill you. No, really. I have no secrets. Uh, I’m a cat burglar. I climb tall buildings using rope, pitons, and stilettos. Actually, that’s … a lie. I’m just trying to be funny.
Are you a fan of the horror genre?
I like certain kinds of horror, yes.
What is it about the genre that most appeals to you? And what is it about the genre that annoys you?
I like eerie horror. I like to keep thinking about what was really going on. Did you ever see The Machinist? That’s a kind of horror, in my mind. The horror of revealing the truth, basically.
I don’t like excessive violence and gore. The gross factor isn’t appealing to me. You know what I mean? I hide my face during the really scary parts of movies. That doesn’t work too well with books because you never get to finish reading them.
Why did you decide to become an editor?
It’s weird, editing is a very layered job. Like here as an editor of an anthology, I’m basically a curator of stories. I also arranged the stories in an order. Often editing means copy-editing or correcting grammatical mistakes and typos. But it can also mean developmental editing or helping the author to make the story stronger by pointing out weaknesses in the plot or characters. What I like about it is that I get to collaborate with other creative people to come up with a finished book. It’s rewarding and fun. Why did I decide to do it? Because it’s the natural next step for a writer, to share knowledge and information with other writers. And I found I was pretty good at it.
How frustrated do you get when faced with poor grammar and spelling in everyday life?
Mad like a bull, Jim. Haha, just kidding. You know, spelling is actually a skill that requires the two halves of a person’s brain to function equally well. People have different strengths. So I don’t expect everyone to be good at it. If they were, I wouldn’t have a job! I feel frustrated when people try to correct grammar or spelling and they have incorrect information. But there are worse things in the world, you know?
Oxford comma, yes or no?
Sometimes you have to use it, for clarity. Other times not. Depends on the situation. I saw this example recently.
1. Einstein was walking with two strippers, Stalin and Lenin.
2. Einstein was walking with two strippers, Stalin, and Lenin.
The first sentence means that Stalin and Lenin were the strippers. The second means that Einstein was with four people, two of whom were Stalin and Lenin. The only difference is that Oxford comma.
And one or two spaces after a full stop?
One space after a full stop in modern times. There’s a reason why it’s just one now. We used to have equally spaced letters in our fonts. The two spaces were because old style type had letters which were all the same width, so the end of the sentence wasn’t as clear. You needed that extra space. Now our fonts have kerning, so you don’t actually need two spaces.
The short answer: style guide. Always read the style guide.
You also write for The Naked American about your experiences as an American living in the UK, as a link to career as an editor. When you edit do you favour the U or do you drop it like it’s hot?
It depends what I’m editing. American stuff doesn’t have the u, British stuff and Australian stuff does. In some anthologies where there are stories by both British authors and American authors I’ll leave the Us in the British ones and leave them out of the American ones. I think Americans need exposure to British English in a global society. There was so much I didn’t know when I started coming to the UK.
So how do you feel as an American living in the UK? What do you miss the most? Tell me it’s not Reece’s Pieces?
I miss driving. I would never drive on the left in a big city. Guaranteed to get in an accident. And tacos. I miss easy access to tacos. Lots of little things I miss. But I love England. It’s a beautiful country full of historic buildings and really nice people.
What is it about you Americans and adding peanut butter to everything?
Hahaha, what peanut butter? *hides jar*
If you moved back to the US what would you miss the most about the UK?
This will sound crazy, but there is really good shwarma here. I love the little street markets, too. And I like the tube in London, the subway. It’s so convenient. I have friends here that I’d miss. I’d have to take them all with me. Heh.
Before we chat about your latest book, Cthulhu Lives!, I’d like to talk about some of your previous work. In particular Red Phone Box, can you tell us about this book?
Sure. It’s a story cycle or collective novel. It’s written by 28 people and an artist. Uh, the stories are linked together by a magical red London telephone box.
Who came up with initial idea for the book and the intertwining narrative?
I did. I had some help pulling it off, but it was my crazy idea.
And how did you decide on who should appear in it?
Well, I wrote the first story and I put it up on my website. I asked people to write connecting stories. At that point I didn’t really know what it was going to turn into. I thought maybe just a bunch of related stories. But as more and more of them came in, I realized that with some work it could be made into one, more cohesive whole. So some writers were friends, some were complete strangers to me when we started. I recruited a couple of people. Warren Ellis, the notable author. He’s a long-time friend.
In your role as the editor, how much work was involved in moulding the individual stories into one cohesive story?
There was a lot of work. The original manuscript would have been unpublishable, really. There were conflicts about what happened among some of the stories. There were gaps. Even in its edited state, people said they had some trouble following all the different plotlines at times, but it was much more chaotic before it was smoothed together. Also, we – I and my partner Tim Dedopulos – had to try to tone down the extreme differences in writing style between the various writers.
This is what editors do, though. It wasn’t that weird a thing for us to do. It was perhaps a bit more drastic than if we’d been publishing unconnected stories that didn’t need to work together as a whole.
Without naming any names did any of the authors get upset when you suggested any changes?
Well, people were mostly cool with it. To my great surprise, they were mostly quite happy with what happened to their individual stories. A couple of people were more sensitive to the changes. I did my best to keep the integrity of the stories. In early edits, I went to each writer with the noted versions and asked them to make the changes, but toward the end as the tiniest details either held the thing together or tore it apart, we had to go ahead and make changes. No one else wanted to get that involved in reading and rereading the whole book in order to make their story fit.
On a similar note, when it comes to editing how much can you change without the OK from the author?
Well, it’s my tendency to write notes on the pages and ask the author to make the changes first. In an anthology where each story stands on its own, there’s no real reason to change lots of things. I mean, if a story needs that much work, I’m unlikely to want to use it. Only if the story is very promising but needs a nudge do I think it should be changed, but I try to make sure the author is okay with it first. Anything else is asking for trouble. That said, the writers’ contracts allow copy-editing to match the style sheet for the book. So basically, I say, I think you should change X. The writer says, mmmm, maybe not. Then I show them why I think it should be changed and ninety percent of the time, they’ll see my point. If they don’t, fine. I’m unlikely to argue it if they disagree strongly.
How pleased are you with the final book?
Actually that book is pretty amazing. It’s not perfect. We’re considering a mass market paperback edition where we could do a re-edit to make it a little less complex. But I wanted, in this first edition, to let as many stories stay as possible. I could have cut a lot of the less important stories and characters, but that group of writers felt like my family by the end. I just wanted something they could be proud to be a part of. So in spite of its imperfections, I’m pretty happy with it. I mean, it’s kind of incredible, a giant hivemind book. You know?
Who would you say the book is aimed at and why do think the readers here should pick up a copy?
It’s aimed at readers of dark fantasy who like to use their brains. It’s a very English book but it’s definitely accessible to Americans, and some of the characters are American. I think probably guys will like it more than women, but only slightly. There are definitely women who like it. Readers here might like it if they want something that’s not like anything they’ve read before, with dark, mythic elements, magic, murder, mayhem, heroes, and an uneasy but relatively happy ending. It’s a wild ride.
Which brings us to your latest project, Cthulhu Lives! An Eldritch Tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. What drew you to this project, are you fan of Lovecraft’s stories?
Lovecraft was one of the first writers who really had an influence on me. That eerie atmosphere. I thought it would be fun.
Why do you think that after all this time Lovecraft is probably the most famous horror author of all time?
I think he was ahead of his time. He wasn’t very well known in his own lifetime. So his notoriety has only grown to its potential after his death at a young age. I don’t know. Maybe the things he wrote about reflected a common human sentiment, one no one likes to admit to. The sense that actually underneath all the beliefs we cling to in order to keep ourselves sane, things are actually quite bleak and we’re tiny little dust specks being tossed around by an uncaring universe. I think we try not to look there, but he makes us do that and it gives us a frisson of strangeness.
As always he is a man who polarizes audiences, from his writing style, which some believe to be plodding and far too heavy, to his rather well known views. How easy is it for you to separate the man from the work?
One of the things I wanted to make sure of with this book is that there were no racial issues. I know that is one of the common complaints about Mr. Lovecraft. I don’t necessarily excuse him for being ‘a man of his time,’ but I do take it into consideration. But we’re modern people and we believe in fairness and equality and so we can now avoid those problems. I think if you look back throughout history, if you want to read only writers who had no problematic views, well, it’s a bit like saying “I don’t approve of drugs and I’m not going to listen to any music that was written by people who take drugs.” Professional creative people are creative, in my opinion, largely to deal with ways in which they’re broken. Maybe through their creativity they will come to terms with some of the problematic issues. Or maybe they just help the rest of us see that we don’t want to walk that part of the path they trod?
I didn’t know the man. Perhaps if I’d met him it would be different. But I can pick and choose the parts of his work that I care to read. I can’t fault any one who doesn’t want to read his work. But I think there are important lessons to learn there.
Do you think it is easier to separate the two sides now that so much time has passed since he died?
Yes. If he were alive today with the same views, the internet would get him fired, no doubt about it.
Recently there has been a bit of a to-do over using his effigy as an awards statue, what’s your view on this?
I know people have strong opinions both ways. In a battle like this, I just try to duck the punches. I mean, the Hugo is a rocket...
Back to the book, looking at the list of authors, it’s not full of well-known authors. Was this something that you consciously decided on?
I did an open call for submissions. I took the best stories. Then when I didn’t have enough, I recruited from among writers I knew. You’ll notice there are a few writers from Red Phone Box in the book.
Is the anthology a series of interlocked stories as in Red Phone Box or are they separate stories?
These are just separate stories. Red Phone Box took about three years to put together, start to finish. Just in editing time it was probably a thousand or more hours of work. I wanted Cthulhu Lives! to be a little vacation from that sort of project. Probably 300 hours of work in this book.
In your opinion which story is your stand out tale?
I don’t like to pick favorites. There are some good stories in there. And different people will like different ones. I like them all. I do secretly have a favorite, of course, and if you know anything about how anthologies are ordered, you may be able to guess. [Cthulhu Lives! writers, I love you all!]
There are literally hundreds of anthologies dedicated to Lovecraft, what makes yours unique and why should people buy it?
It’s pretty! It has that great cover designed by Gabor Csigas, with a photo by Dan Wickline of a sculpture by Jason McKittrick. It’s well-edited. It’s Lovecraftian in that it’s grounded firmly in cosmic horror, so it’s not just a mythos checklist wrapped around non-horror tales. But it does have a bit more of a modern feel to it, in spite of some of the stories being set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I mean, there’s actual dialog and everything! I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll like at least some of the stories if you like weird fiction.
Also, Ghostwoods Books shares the proceeds equally with the writers. So when you buy it you’re supporting writers and good books. Pretty much all the money goes to either getting the books out or paying the writers.
Oh, and it’s really good!
As well as being an editor, you are also writing your novel, how is that going? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’m ninety percent finished with the first draft. All I can say about it is that it’s about how imagination is sometimes realer than reality.
As an editor who also writes, how do approach writing, do you always have a more critical eye on as you write, or do you let the writer take hold and edit later on?
It varies. I have to talk myself down off the editor ledge sometimes. But I have an editor (not me) who helps me set that aside.
So what’s next for you, do you have any projects lined up that you can talk about?
You know, I edit and acquire books for Ghostwoods Books. We have a book coming out in November that might be of interest to some of your readers. It’s called Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran. It’s kind of gothic horror, written by the lovely Marion Grace Woolley. It’s a stunning book. And we hope to do the second Red Phone Box book next year, tentatively titled The Crimson Tower. We’ll use our experiences working on the first book to make the second book better.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, do you have any final words for the readers?
Stay cool. Keep reading. You can find me on Twitter at @call_me_salome. I’m friendly.
Thanks for having me on Ginger Nuts of Horror, Jim. It’s been awesome.
"That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die."
At the time of his death in 1937, American horror writer H.P. Lovecraft was virtually unknown. The power of his stories was too great to contain, however. As the decades slipped by, his dark visions laid down roots in the collective imagination of mankind, and they grew strong. Now Cthulhu is a name known to many and, deep under the seas, Lovecraft s greatest creation becomes restless...
This volume brings together seventeen masterful tales of cosmic horror inspired by Lovecraft s work. In his fiction, humanity is a tiny, accidental drop of light and life in the endless darkness of an uncaring universe a darkness populated by vast, utterly alien horrors. Our continued survival relies upon our utter obscurity, something that every fresh scientific wonder threatens to shatter.
The dazzling stories in Cthulhu Lives! show the disastrous folly of our arrogance. We think ourselves the first masters of Earth, and the greatest, and we are very badly mistaken on both counts. Inside these covers, you ll find a lovingly-curated collection of terrors and nightmares, of catastrophic encounters to wither the body and blight the soul. We humans are inquisitive beings, and there are far worse rewards for curiosity than mere death.
The truth is indeed out there -- and it hungers.
Shatter a mirror, and rearrange the pieces. What shapes will you find in the splintered glass?
Sinister forces roam London's streets, skulking through the neon-lit rain. They are not alone. Haunted by memories of the man who abandoned her, Amber goes walking in the deep night. The phone box she enters takes her on a journey she could never have imagined, one in which the past and the future will be rewritten. Others follow in her footsteps, their lives intertwining, and the fate of the world hanging on their dance. Safran, pawn of unfathomable powers. Jon, who has lived and died and lived again. Gloria, who only intended to annoy her daddy. Cory, from a different world, on a desperate quest for allies. They and others will find themselves swept up as the playthings of gods who have managed to get along peacefully for millennia -- until now.
Red Phone Box is a darkly magical story cycle, a network of interweaving tales by a dazzling range of masterful authors, including Gun Machine's Warren Ellis. Let them take you to a very different London -- one that hides on the other side of the fractured glass.