Monday, May 23, 2016

Portraits of Bizarro #2: NBAS Editor Kevin Donihe

by Lee Widener

Today we're talking with a real legend in the Bizarro Fiction movement: Bizarro author and editor Kevin Donihe. Kevin wrote one of the very first books Eraserhead Press ever published, and he was the very first editor for the New Bizarro Author Series. His manic style of performance is as memorable as his writing. He is the author of SPACE WALRUS, MUSCLEBOUND MARIO, and many other Bizarro masterworks.

LW: How did you first discover and become interested in Bizarro Fiction?

KD: Prior to 1999, I tended to submit stories in the horror genre. Anything that could have been considered proto-Bizarro remained hidden away and unpublished because I felt there was no market for it. In fact, my first published novel was one that I'd stopped working on for a few years prior to my discovery of Eraserhead Press.

In the fall of '99, I was on a quest for submission guidelines and happened upon Eraserhead's website. Then, it published only a webzine and a chapbook series. But that didn't matter. They were accepting the weird, idiosyncratic stuff that I wanted to write, and this gave me real hope. It wasn’t until 2001 that the first six books—including my SHALL WE GATHER AT THE GARDEN?—were released. In 2005, what was once nameless became Bizarro.

LW: And then how did you move into becoming an editor for the NBAS?

KD: I was approached by Eraserhead Press for the position, and I accepted. Prior to this, I'd only written books for them, though I had edited the BARE BONE anthology series for Raw Dog Screaming Press. After 11 issues, BARE BONE was put to rest so work on the New Bizarro Author Series could begin.

LW: How many years did you edit the NBAS?

KD: I've edited for the NBAS since 2009, and I continue to do so. For the first few years, I was the sole editor. Now, others have come and gone--or stayed on--in the continuing effort to grow the series. It's not always easy. Some years, I find no submissions I want to accept. 2015 was one of those years. 2016, however, shall be different...

LW: How did your approach to the NBAS change over time?

KD: My approach has, more or less, remained consistent. I look for well-written and enjoyable manuscripts that are in line with the NBAS ethos. Then, I do all the things necessary to get those manuscripts ready for publication. Also, and though it's only tangentially related to your question, I'll make note of a positive personal side effect: My novella/novel-length work has, in my estimation, improved since I started to edit for the press. Spending so much time with other writers' manuscripts has helped me better locate errors and inconsistencies in my own.

 LW: How would you say the NBAS has changed over time?

KD: At heart, I'd say the NBAS hasn't changed very much. The point of the NBAS is now and has always been to open up Eraserhead Press to a greater number of writers and expand the boundaries of Bizarro Fiction. We want new blood, after all. With new blood comes greater variety, and with greater variety comes additional readers, who are always welcome. There is, however, one change I might note. In the past, the NBAS accepted only previously unpublished authors. Now, however, the author just needs to be new to Eraserhead Press

LW: Do you have any particular fond memories of working on the NBAS? Horror stories?

KD: Tons of them. Whenever I hold in my hands a NBAS book that I've edited, I have fond memories. In fact, I'm overjoyed that the author and I had the opportunity to work together and release a book in which we can both take pride. To be the recipient of that sort of joy is exactly why I do the things I do. Conversely, all editors have their horror stories. It might, however, be best to use your imagination in cases such as these...

LW: If someone wanted to submit to the NBAS what should they know? Do you look for pitches, or something that's near completion?

KD: Personally, I prefer well-written, character-driven work in which oddity feels natural to the story, not shoehorned into the narrative. At the same time, I realize a newer writer might require extra assistance. So, if an author has amazing ideas but certain issues with prose, then I will work with that author to correct these issues. If, however, an author's prose is solid, but his/her ideas could be more compelling, then I will work with that author to see if he/she can’t rethink certain elements.

As to the second question, it's always best for an author to send me a pitch first. Nothing too formal. Just clue me in on the manuscript's plot and subject matter. Also, I'm willing to hear about a project during any stage of production. Customarily, however, I tend to wait until a manuscript is complete to read it.

LW: In terms of the NBAS what is it you DON'T want to see?

KD: Not to say I'd never take submissions that rely on these subjects, but I see too many that involve zombies and Jesus, God and/or the Devil. Also, I receive too many submissions that are straight-up horror. Those would be more suitable for the Deadite Press imprint. Likewise, I don't want to see submissions that aren't even remotely bizarre. I assume these come from people who fail to read guidelines and send submissions blindly.

LW: Anything else you'd like to add?

KD: I'd just like to remind those who submit to remember that the author/editor relationship is just that...a relationship.

Photo of Kevin Donihe performing at BizarroCon 2015 by Gabino Iglesias.


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