The restraining order hasn’t been lifted, but co-founder / co-editor of Creeping Hemlock Press and Print Is Dead Julia Sevin, felt safe enough to grant me a quick and dirty interview, with bodyguards in tow of course. If you don’t know about Creeping Hemlock Press or Julia Sevin, then my feelings are hurt because that means you didn’t read this. Luckily, I’m a forgiving woman.
Twenty-twelve is going to be huge for Creeping Hemlock Press and their zombie imprint Print Is Dead. You’ll see them everywhere, even haunting your dreams! With the release of the zombie road novella by genre favorite Greg Lamberson just around the corner (April 2012!), a collection of zombie tales from Joe McKinney called Dating in Dead World coming soon, and a hoard of other goodies clawing their way out of the graveyard, this’ll be a book apocalypse you can’t escape. And why would you want to?
So, then why all the fuss about Julia Sevin? Isn’t Creeping Hemlock Press / Print Is Dead a husband-wife venture? Well, yes it is. But Julia is the smarter, sexier half of this beast of a small press. She’s also got the most bitchin’ haircut in the entire horror lit community. There I go again, objectifying women by their hairstyles. But seriously, it’s killer.
Besides having the best hair in the biz, J-Sev (that’s what I call her now) is a writer, editor extraordinaire, and artist. In fact, she is responsible for the beautiful cover you’ll see further on down the page, the cover for the upcoming Print Is Dead book Dating in Dead World by Joe McKinney. It’ll make you wanna fall in love in a post-apocalypse world.
J-Sev is smart and wickedly funny (as you’ll find in our interview), but if that isn’t enough to make your heart go pitter-patter than feast your hungry little eyes on THIS:
That’s right, folks, she is also an unabashed part-time nudist. To that, dear Julia, we say, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”
Find out more about the better half of the smallest small press beyond! If you think you can handle it…
DT: On the Creeping Hemlock Press website we read that you (and your husband RJ) “were frustrated with the scarcity of generous-paying, atmospheric and bizarre short story anthologies.” Was there something in particular that prompted this venture or was it a general distaste for the market as you mention on the site?
J. SEVIN: If there was “something in particular”, it was simply a financial windfall that came to us and we decided to do something exciting with it. Some folks have coke and Moet benders in Monaco; we have books. Arguably it was not the best choice we could have made but, god damn, we had fun, and we are awfully proud of the result.
We threw everything in to Corpse Blossoms: every dollar, every minute, every heartbeat, in order to make it the best book it could be. In a way, it saved us in return. Just as we were going into the final stage of production, Hurricane Katrina kicked our asses and the failure of the federal levees turned New Orleans into what felt like a wasteland of disregard and despair. Corpse Blossoms gave us something to focus on. We mailed the final galleys to the authors on the road, a week after evacuation, before the public was permitted back into the city, did our final typesetting and design in a 600 square foot apartment housing five people back in New Orleans, and received the entire run of 500 copies at our FEMA trailer. Without Corpse Blossoms, we might have gone around the bend, and who could blame us?
You can see why our love for that book is fathomless. We continue to be delighted that other people seem to find it just as exceptional as we do.
DT: Could you explain the origins of the name Creeping Hemlock Press? In brainstorming names, did this one pop up immediately or do you have any embarrassing names you can share that didn’t make the cut?
J. SEVIN: We were originally known as “Ghostly Haunting Spooks n’ Monsters Press” but then we found out it was already taken. So then we were going to be “Even Better Than Ghostly Haunting Spooks n’ Monsters Press” but we had trouble fitting in a logo on the spine so we cut it down.
DT: In Joseph Nassise’s introduction to Creeping Hemlock Press’ first release, the anthology “Corpse Blossoms,” he talks about how this book came to fruition and RJ’s initial attempt to solicit the Horror Writers Association via their message board. The first attempt was unsuccessful, but he gave it another shot, this time with you on board. How did he approach you about this project? Were you already collaborating on it together? How did the direction change once you got involved?
J. SEVIN: We were already collaborating on various marital projects, so it was kind of a gimme. I believe I was involved as soon as it became a Big-Ass Anthology instead of just a web-zine. A lot of editors complain about wading through slush but we loved it! Corpse Blossoms did not have a stated theme (other than the admittedly vague “quiet horror”), but a pattern that emerged as we made our selections – and which was not even apparent to us until after publication – was that in almost every case, the bugaboo (whatever that may be, the revenant or the walking fungus or the eerie phenomenon) is not nearly as dangerous or fascinatingly broken as the human characters. The evil we can and do effect upon one another, through action and omission, day in and day out, is much more real and much more horrifying than anything a ghost or a jellyfish-like thing in a shack can do.
DT: “Corpse Blossoms” is subtitled Volume 1. What is the plan for this anthology? An ongoing series, 2 volume set, trilogy? Any target date for when fans can expect to see the release of the next installment?
J. SEVIN: Haha! This is a Sword of
Damacles Conan over our heads. Yes, we intended to serialize it, thus the name. The plan hasn’t changed, but the trouble with Corpse Blossoms is that doing it as properly as we want involves a lot of capital and putting everything else on hold, and right now we’ve got a fancy little maelstrom of activity happening. Everyone will know when we’re moving on Volume 2 because, as with Volume 1, we will be seeking to fill the slots with roughly half unknown or emerging writers, so you’ll see us all over the market listings during the open submissions period.
DT: The horror community seems to be split when it comes to zombie fiction these days; one group still has a great enthusiasm for the subgenre and the other gives a roll of the eyes and wave of the hand at the mere mention of zombies. Despite the wild popularity of the zombie subgenre, with The Walking Dead TV series, magnets, t-shirts, and endless rows of books, sometimes it seems like that latter group is the majority (although I am not one of them). So, what, in this environment, motivated you and RJ to launch the zombie fiction imprint Print Is Dead? Were you inspired by a particular story or writer?
J. SEVIN: We’ve had our hearts set on the undead for a long time. In fact, RJ and I first got to know each other at George A. Romero’s message board back in 2000/2001. Because our love for zombies brought us together, naturally, we kept up our interest in the stinkers, watched them go from a niche fixation to a mainstream fixture, and always hoped to find a way to do something with them.
It wasn’t until the 2008 Zombiefest Convention (now Horror Realm) at the Monroeville Mall in Pittsburgh, where Dawn of the Dead was shot, that we lived with zombies on the brain every waking moment, bringing our interest back into sharp relief, causing us to re-examine publishing zombie novels. Permuted Press had demonstrated that there was a considerable demand for zombie books. Around the same time, Ingram launched Lightningsource, which we use for printing all our trade paperbacks now, allowing us to put out way more titles than we could before. After wrestling with whether a series of fun, punchy, gory zombie books would be inappropriate for Creeping Hemlock, which we have thought of as pretty quiet and sophisticated. Once we decided to come up with the imprint — Print Is Dead — everything clicked into place!
DT: Since the start of Creeping Hemlock Press, is there a particular moment where you said to yourself “Ah, THIS is why we do what we do!”?
J. SEVIN: When we get money. No, for real, when people like what we do and tell us so, we know we’re on the right track. That’s all.
DT: When / How did you first get into horror? Was there a particular book or author that started this obsession? How, if at all, has your taste in genre literature changed over the years?
J. SEVIN: I’ve been attracted to the redder side of life since before I can remember. In kindergarten, we once had an activity in which some sixth-graders came to visit us and wrote out a sentence on a two-foot wide scroll of paper describing what we see in our mind’s eye at that moment. The other girls came up with something about ballerinas or princesses. I came up with “I see a dead skeleton with green slime on it.” My mom couldn’t have been prouder; she kept that paper tacked above our kitchen window until it fell apart. She was a big horror reader, kept a whole room as a library stocked in part with Stephen King, Peter Straub, and other great authors and collections. My dad was the one who got me into horror movies. He showed me Texas Chainsaw Massacre when I was about nine, and I must have responded warmly because he continued with a dozen other totally age-inappropriate horror flicks in the next couple of years. He got me hooked. Regarding taste changing, naturally — but only because I was only really exposed to classic, gothic, and mainstream popcorn horror for the longest time, and it’s only in the past few years that more experimental and genre-bending stuff has come onto my radar. I love not knowing where a book is going.
DT: You’re not only an editor and publisher, but a writer as well. You collaborated with your husband, RJ Sevin, and Bram Stoker Award-winning author Kim Paffenroth on the chapbook “Thin Them Out.” Can you tell us about your contribution to this chapbook?
J. SEVIN: Thin Them Out was the very definition of whirlwind. We decided a mere TWO WEEKS before Zombiefest that we wanted to have something special for that event, and we conceived this with Kim and tag-teamed the writing in about a week and had it printed the following week. The division of labor was kept pretty simple; it was round robin style, with Kim penning the first leg, and his bits all from the perspective of a single zombie who is starting to gain some degree of sentience. RJ’s bits are those centering around Wayne, and my bits are those featuring Sue, a fairly awful lady. I accessed some of my worst tendencies to write her. Sue is an anti-Mary Sue.
DT: In addition to “Thin Them Out,” we can find your work in Keith Gouveia’s “Bits of the Dead,” which is a flash fiction piece “The Shunned.” What else is on the horizon for writer-hat-wearing Julia? Where else can fans find your work?
J. SEVIN: I keep saying I’m going to throw a novel into the Print Is Dead hat but boy, writing is hard! I’m overworked as it is so I don’t have any plans for the IMMEDIATE future. I do have something tentative slated, a collaboration with a name you’ll recognize, but I hate to jinx it by saying too much before we actually get it off the ground. Keep your eyeballs peeled!
DT: Along with editing, publishing, and writing, you also designed the website. Oh, and I saw the flier you created for Slow Burn Burlesque. Is there anything you can’t do!? Can you juggle?
J. SEVIN: I don’t juggle. Not since… the accident. [she looks away, her eyes a churning darkness, betraying a tortured and complex soul who only sells the finest horror literature]
I can’t sing, I can’t sew, I can’t meet deadlines, I can’t lie, and my dancing looks like a marionette who might just be considering suicide. I can paint, I can drive, and I can cook like a motherfucker, though that doesn’t place on most curriculum vitae.
DT: Of all the hats you wear in your professional endeavors, is there one you favor more than the others?
J. SEVIN: Sombrero.
I enjoy doing original art for our book covers more than anything else. I did a piece for our upcoming Joe McKinney collection, Dating in Dead World, that’ll really grab ya. I did it while wearing my sombrero.
DT: You posed partially nude for “The Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society.” Were you nervous? Did your husband take the photo? I’ve thought about doing something similar for “Naked Reading Sunday.” Any tips for a bashful and frightened gal like myself?
J. SEVIN: In the immortal words of Aqua Teen Hunger Force‘s Carl Brutananadilewski, simply “TAKE YO’ TOP OFF!”
Yes, RJ took it (and happily! He’s a showoff). Of course I was a little nervous, but I’m like 80% sure that I’m not a cave troll, so I just needed some decent lighting to feel comfortable, as well as the conclusion that breasts are harmless and are only so concealed in contemporary culture here and abroad because of some pretty arbitrary Western standards dating back hundreds of years. It’s all skin, baby. Maybe some people get off on elbows, I’m not about to wear long sleeves everywhere at the risk of titillating the minority. I’m not terribly worried about my professional reputation because the kind of people who buy our books realize, I think, that it’s all in good fun. And I believe the, ahem, exposure earned us a few more readers.
DT: You got your day job, Creeping Hemlock Press, Print Is Dead, and you’re a mommy! How do you introduce your son to horror, if at all? As a parent, what do you think is an appropriate age to break out the good stuff? And what, for you, is the good stuff?
J. SEVIN: This is a LONG-simmering debate between RJ and me. The kid has seen tons more already than I ever intended but because Mom and Dad work behind the scenes, he understands acting, understands special effects, and takes most of it in stride. Still — as my argument goes — just because he can handle it doesn’t mean we should fill his brain with it and nothing else. We’re directly or indirectly indoctrinating him with a love of zombies and whatnot, but we encourage him in the stuff he has glommed onto all on his own, most recently Real Steel. He adores that movie, watches it regularly, plays the video game, and has tons of toys. We hope that his own interests balance out the ones we force on him, and that he’s just well-rounded overall. He’s a super sweet, unusually smart, highly creative and somewhat absentminded regular seven-year-old. Who occasionally sculpts zombies. He’s perfect for us. Good job, God and/or genetic lottery!
DT: What’s next for Creeping Hemlock Press and Print Is Dead? What’s coming up that every genre fan should know about?
J. SEVIN: Aside from fiery apocalypse, 2012 will bring more zombie goodness from Print Is Dead: there’s The Crossing, a short novella by Joe McKinney currently available as an ebook, coming shortly to print; Slab City, another adrenaline rush from Nate Southard, author of Scavengers; Tom Piccirilli’s apocalyptic crime novel, Vespers, as well as Pale Preachers, a nasty little novella that sets the walking dead against a backdrop of moonshine and mountain magic; Eric Shapiro, author of It’s Only Temporary and The Devoted (read them both NOW!), is working on something dead sexy for us. We have not set dates for these titles, but April brings Carnage Road, from Gregory Lamberson. Not long thereafter, there’s Dating in Dead World, an epic collection of zombie tales by Joe McKinney. And loads more nudity, of course.
All this plus a few big surprises, and 2012 is going to be an awesome year for us.
If you’re not in love with Julia Sevin by now, you’re dead inside!
And don’t forget about the zombie imprint Print Is Dead because they’ll be releasing a hoard of flesh-hungry undead from the barn this year.