Interview With Lesley Conner About Invisible Threads

Off The TBR_ Interview

I’ve got a little something different for everyone today. Lesley Conner, the Managing Editor for Apex Book Company is joining me to discuss a new project that has me really excited…Invisible Threads: An Anthology About Defying Social Threads; a speculative fiction anthology about overcoming the insidious social, cultural, and economic threads that hold us back. Be sure to check out the Kickstarter link at the bottom of the page before you go.

Lesley 2019

OTTBR: Hey Lesley, welcome to Off The TBR! I’m super stoked about this interview for a number of reasons. My first experience with Apex was reading Alix E. Harrow’s Hugo Award winning short story A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies in the February 2018 edition of Apex Magazine. It’s how I discovered Apex and Alix. And, living in Lexington, Kentucky I kind of consider Apex my hometown publisher. But, I know others may not be aware of Apex or the kind of stories you publish…so, for those who don’t know who you are, tell us a little bit about yourself and Apex Publications. 

Lesley: Hi! Thanks for having me. I’ve worked at Apex Publications for nearly 10 years, and have been the managing editor for the past 6 years. Apex is a small press publisher based out of Lexington, KY specializing in dark science fiction, fantasy, and horror. We published a successful monthly zine called Apex Magazine, that went on hiatus after the publication of issue 120 in May 2019. The magazine was nominated for the Hugo-award three times, and we had stories, such as Alix E. Harrow’s, win the Hugo, Nebula, Stoker, and many other awards. The decision to put the magazine on hiatus was not an easy one, but Jason Sizemore (Apex’s owner/publisher) and I both wanted more time to focus on the book side of Apex Publications. We’ve published novels, short fiction collections, and nonfiction by Brian Keene, Lavie Tidhar, Damien Angelica Walters, Cheysa Burke, Maurice Broaddus, and many more. We’re passionate about finding and publishing stories that push boundaries and open readers’ eyes to new experiences. 

In addition to being an editor, I also write. My first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in 2015. Most of my work tends to be very dark. I enjoy blending the supernatural with historical figures. The Weight of Chains is an alternate history dealing with Gilles de Rain–a serial killer who lived in 15th Century France, and my current WIP was inspired by Lois Long, a reporter for The New Yorker during prohibition. 

OTTBR: Wow that’s awesome! Apex seems to fill a nice niche in the industry and I didn’t realize until recently that you’re also a writer. Definitely need to check out some more books.

So, speaking of books, tell us about this new Invisible Threads anthology you’re putting together. What is it and why this particular topic? Where’d the idea sprout from? Was it something the Apex team has been thinking about for a while or did it strike like a lightning bolt from the sky?

Lesley: Invisible Threads is an anthology that will explore the insidious social, cultural, and economic barriers that hold us back. Previously Jason Sizemore and I edited an anthology titled Do Not Go Quietly. Do Not Go Quietly was purposely very political. It was an anthology about revolution and resistance and standing up for what is right. Since then, Jason and I have thought about the stories that aren’t so pointedly about resisting. Everyone you meet is facing something that keeps them from realizing their true potential. Yes, these can be big social issues such as racism, misogyny, or ableism. But society has a way of tying us up with less pronounced issues. 

Jason and I are both from poor communities in Appalachia. He grew up in a small town in Kentucky. I grew up in West Virginia. I love where I’m from, but there is a mindset that can grow in these types of communities. A mindset where trying to better yourself can be seen as a negative thing. That you think you’re better than everyone else or uppity for wanting to break out of the cycle of poverty, to go to college, to move away.

There are threads like this in every community, each specific to personal experiences. With Invisible Threads, we are striving to give authors a platform to explore these barriers. We’ve solicited stories from a diverse group of writers, and are hoping to be able to shine a light on the struggles so many people are going through but that you may not be able to see. It’s a chance to both give marginalized authors a platform, as well as for readers who may not see themselves reflected in stories often a chance to connect with a story on a personal level.

OTTBR: This anthology had a great author lineup! There’s like 20 or so. Can you give us a list of the authors? And I’m really curious how you selected them. If you sought them out, what drew you to them, OR if you put out a call for stories how did you select those to be included? Will you be adding any more authors to the lineup?

Lesley: Thank you so much! We were blown away by the positive response we got from solicited authors. At the moment, we have 16 authors who are planning to contribute to the anthology. They are Alix E. Harrow, Fran Wilde, Damien Angelica Walters, Chesya Burke, A.C. Wise, Andi Buchanon, Beth Dawkins, Jordan Kurella, ZZ Claybourne, Geoffry Girard, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Maurice Broaddus, KT Bryski, Stephania Malia Morris, Sabrina Vourvoulias, and Michael Wehunt. 

Jason and I selected this group of authors based on our past experiences with them and their writing. Many of them have been published in Apex Magazine. It was important to us that we solicit authors who we felt could both write a fantastic story and who would have a variety of views. Having a diverse table of contents is important for any anthology, but I feel like it’s even more so for one with a theme like Invisible Threads. 

The plan is to hold an open submissions period so that we can add more stories to the anthology. If it looks like the Kickstarter will fund, we’ll open submissions when we hit 50% of our funding goal. Submissions will remain open until April 13th. Stories must be science fiction, fantasy, or horror, with a maximum word count of 7,500. More details about submitting will be available when we open to submissions. 

OTTBR: Now, I’m a firm believer in the power of cover art. I say that the cover is the first lens through which you interpret a book. Tell us about that arresting cover and a little about the artist (the artists never get enough praise!).

Invisible Threads low res

Artist: anges-cecil

Lesley: I am passionate about cover art! One of my favorite tasks for Apex is finding our artwork. When you find the perfect piece, it’s amazing! 

The cover art for Invisible Threads is by an Italian artist named agnes-cecile. I came across her work on Deviant Art. At the time I wasn’t sure exactly what look I was searching for the anthology. I’d plug in different search terms and see what came up. Luckily, I came across this piece called “burn, burn, burn” and absolutely loved it. I sent the link to Jason and he also thought it was great! Then of course comes the nerve-wracking part of contacting the artist out of the blue to see if the piece is available. It was like fate. Everything fell into place and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I think it is a stunning cover and is perfect for the anthology. 

OTTBR: Back to the nuts and bolts a bit. Why a Kickstarter? Why not publish the old-fashioned way? Have you ran other successful Kicksarter’s prior to this one?

Lesley: Kickstarter is a wonderful tool to see if the public is interested in a project. Running a successful campaign allows us to move forward knowing we have the funds to pay the authors professional rates, it allows us to add extras such as essays and poetry to the anthology, it gives us the flexibility to hold open submissions and add even more fiction. Basically, by funding an anthology through Kickstarter, we are able to make them more spectacular than we ever could by publishing them the old-fashioned way. 

Apex has successfully funded four anthologies through Kickstarter: Glitter & Mayhem edited by John Klima, Lynne Thomas, and Michael Damian Thomas, War Stories edited by Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak, Upside Down edited by Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli, and Do Not Go Quietly edited by me and Jason Sizemore. 

OTTBR: Tell us about your fundraising goals. From the Kickstarter webpage I’ve noticed many different pledge levels for supporters to choose from, some of which come with some really cool opportunities for editing and critiques. Any stretch goals?

Lesley: Our goal is to raise $20,000 through Kickstarter to fund Invisible Threads. This would cover paying all of our contributors professional rates for their stories, cover art, graphic design, printing costs, shipping rewards to backers and contributor copies to all of our authors and artists, as well as paying for swag given out through the Kickstarter. It would also cover expenses incurred through running the Kickstarter itself–Kickstarter takes a portion, we paid to have a book trailer made, and all the graphic design elements on the Kickstarter page. Basically, that $20,000 is our breakeven mark. 

With every Kickstarter that we run, we try to have backer levels to fit everyone’s budget. If you can chip $3 into the Invisible Threads Kickstarter, I will send you a personalized ‘thank you’ postcard. For $150, Michael Wehunt will put your name into an upcoming story he writes. We have signed books, short story critiques from Jason Sizemore, A.C. Wise, Jordan Kurella, and others. I donated three crocheted baby blankets as backer rewards. And we’re adding new rewards every couple of days. 

Of course, if all that is just too much, you can back the Invisible Threads Kickstarter by preordering a copy of the book. Both ebook editions and trade paperback editions are available as backer rewards. 

As for stretch goals, yes, we have them! When we hit funding, we’ll officially begin announcing our stretch goals, but I can tell you that all stretch goals are geared to making the anthology even more amazing. We want to add interior artwork, poetry, and more stories from our open submissions period! I’m excited about all the stretch goals, and I really hope we get a chance to unlock them all! 

OTTBR: Now, I know you don’t want people to procrastinate on supporting this anthology and you hope they’ll make a pledge right now. But, for those who can’t do it today, when will the Kickstarter Campaign end?

Lesley: The last full day for the Kickstarter is March 17. The campaign will run over into the 18th, but it ends pretty early that morning, so if you want to back the project, I wouldn’t wait till then. You might miss it! But the 17th is safe! If you back Invisible Threads by then, you are good to go! 

OTTBR: Well, that’s about all I have for you today Lesley. Thanks again for joining me. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book! Is there anything else you’d like to add before you go? Oh…and let everyone know where they can find you and Apex Publications online if they’d like to follow you.

Lesley: Thank you so much for having me and for allowing me to squee about Invisible Threads. I’m really excited about it and hope that everyone will back the Kickstarter! You can find me on Twitter at @LesleyConner where I chat about the books I’m reading, my current writing project, and all things Apex related. Follow Apex on Twitter at @ApexBookCompany, or check out all of our books at our website: https://www.apexbookcompany.com/

OTTBR: Once again I’d like to thank Lesley for joining me on the blog today. If you’re interested in supporting the Kickstarter for Invisible Threads click on the link below:

Invisible Threads: An Anthology About Defying Social Threads Kickstarter Link

I hope you’l join me in supporting this great anthology and this fantastic group of authors!

– Jason

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