Welcome to our new blog! THE BOWSPRIT section of our website is laid out in blog format, featuring interviews, book reviews, a behind-the-scenes look at different aspects of the publishing / writing life.
First up is an all-new father-and-son double interview with Richard and Billy Chizmar, from Cemetery Dance Publications and magazine.
In celebration of our recent double-anthology, Fearful Fathoms: Collected Tales of Aquatic Terror (which features a first-ever, landmark collaboration between the father-and-son writing duo) Scarlet Galleon Publications' founder and editor, Mark Parker, had the pleasure of conducting an interview with both Chizmar men, in an effort to glean some insights into the many aspects of their lives as writers, and members of a family that heads one of the industry's most well-loved and respected specialty publishing companies and magazines, bringing readers the very best the genres of horror and dark suspense fiction have to offer.
Titles from Scarlet Galleon Publications featuring works from Richard and Billy Chizmar to date include:
INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD CHIZMAR
Fresh off his recent collaboration with Stephen King on the hugely successful GWENDY'S BUTTON BOX (returning readers to the beloved town of Castle Rock, Maine) Cemetery Dance Publications founder Richard Chizmar edits the company's acclaimed magazine, while managing the company under the same name, and still finding time to tour the country doing book signings and meeting with his growing number of fans. But most important to Chizmar are his two sons, his eldest of which is following in his footsteps by embarking on a writing career of his own.
PARKER: Richard, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer? What was the first piece you remember writing? Can you tell us a bit about it?
CHIZMAR: I was very young when I first felt the pull of storytelling. Probably seven or eight years old. I grew up in a family of readers, so I was surrounded by books. That was a huge influence to be sure. Trips to the local library were a big deal in my house. I was around eight or nine when I started writing my own short stories. These were usually monster or war stories, written by hand in a grade-school writing tablet. Once I was finished, I would try (always unsuccessfully) to sell copies of the story to my friends. My mom, bless her heart, was my first paying audience.
PARKER: Was there a particular book you read early on that caused you to want to write? And, if so, what was it—and how did it shape your desire to write?
CHIZMAR: Too many to list here! Everything from Doctor Seuss to The Red Badge of Courage to those early Alfred Hitchcock anthologies. They all fired my imagination and made me want to tell my own tall tales. I was enchanted by the process and possibilities of storytelling.
PARKER: When did you first know you wanted to be a publisher? Was there a particular event that led you to consider moving into that part of the industry? What would you consider to be the greatest challenge of being a specialty publisher in today’s changing climate?
CHIZMAR: I was approaching my final year of college at the University of Maryland when I decided to publish Cemetery Dance magazine. The catalyst for that decision was learning that Dave Silva was largely a one-man show behind The Horror Show magazine. I was amazed to learn this, and I was just young and energetic and naive enough to believe that if Dave could do it, I could do it. A few years later, I started the book imprint, and the rest is history. As for the greatest challenge facing a small press publisher today, I think it’s finding an identity and sticking around long enough to earn the trust of a strong customer base. It’s a tough climate out there.
PARKER: If you had to name one writer you especially enjoyed working with, whom would it be, and why? Are there any writers you’ve not yet worked with but would like to?
I could list a dozen or two writers here, but I’ll stick with just two today: Ed Gorman and Steve King. I didn’t read Ed until I became a publisher, but from the very first short story and the very first novel I read, I knew Ed was the kind of writer I strived to become. He told a story full of heart and surprise and never talked down to his readers. Ed Gorman stories pack a lot of emotion into a handful of words, and that’s something I’ve always admired about his work. As for Steve, I spent my teenaged years and beyond with a Stephen King paperback tucked away in my pocket or my backpack or my locker. To eventually work with Steve was truly a dream come true.
PARKER: Are there genres outside of horror that you’d like to publish? What kinds of books besides horror to you gravitate to, and why?
CHIZMAR: I’m pretty happy publishing what we currently publish, so no real strong desire to stretch boundaries there. As for personal reading, I read a lot of history and biographies and non-fiction. I also enjoy thrillers and mystery novels, and the occasional true crime volume.
PARKER: Do you have any publishing stories or anecdotes that readers might be interested in learning about? If so, can you give a behind-the-scenes glimpse into one such example?
CHIZMAR: Probably enough to fill a book, but I’ll share one funny story from the early years and leave it at that! In the Spring of 1990, my wife and I were headed out to the very first Baltimore Orioles game at the newly-opened Camden Yards. On our way out the door, I checked the box for mail and pulled out a postcard from a guy named Chuck Verrill. I had never heard of Chuck before and we were in a big hurry, but I gave it a quick glance. It read something like this: Hi, Rich, I am Stephen King’s agent and Steve asked me to send you a new short story about five or six weeks ago. I’m following up today to see if perhaps the story is sitting in a slush pile somewhere. Steve is a big fan of Cemetery Dance and would love to see the story in its pages. Well, I almost had a heart attack right then and there, but I gathered myself enough to run (yes, I literally ran) back inside our apartment and down the hall and into my office. I dropped to a knee and sorted through what were probably two or three hundred submissions. Sure enough, there it was near the bottom of the pile: a large manila envelope with the return mailing label of Chuck Verrill in New York City. I ripped open the envelope, pulled out the manuscript, and sat on the floor of my office and read “Chattery Teeth.” When I was finished, hands shaking, I called and left a message for Chuck explaining what had happened and telling him how much I loved the story. My wife and I went to the Orioles game in a daze, celebrated with hot dogs and cotton candy, and later when we got home, there was a message waiting on the answering machine. It was from Stephen King, thanking me for liking his story.
PARKER: As a writer, is there anything about the writing process you find particularly challenging? And why?
CHIZMAR: It’s all challenging for me, which is one of the attractions. But if I had to point a finger at one particular part of the process that presents me with the toughest challenge, it would be the rewriting stage. I’m an editor, so I shouldn’t say this, but here goes: I despise rewrites. When I’m finished telling the story I’ve set out to tell, I’m done. It’s certainly not because I am too good for revisions (Lord, no, not even close) and it’s not because I’m lazy (at least I don’t think so, but I could be wrong); it’s just how that part of my brain works. I finish a story and I’m on to the next one. It’s hard for me to hit reverse and back up.
PARKER: With your recently published Castle Rock novella Gwendy’s Button Box (co-authored with Stephen King) can you describe what the story’s about, and what your favorite part of the process was in bringing it to fruition.
CHIZMAR: Gwendy’s Button Box is about a twelve-year-old girl growing up in Castle Rock named Gwendy Peterson who receives a mysterious and powerful box from an equally mysterious and powerful stranger dressed in black. The box features a number of buttons (including an ominous black one we come to know as the “Cancer Button”) and a pair of levers that deliver special treats. We follow Gwendy as she passes through her middle school, high school, and college years, and as she struggles with the enormous responsibility of controlling the box and the everyday challenges of growing up in small-town America. It’s a fairly quiet story, but there’s enough darkness and shadows to be found if you really look for them. As for my favorite part of the process, it would have to be the actual writing of the novella. Steve and I took turns rewriting each other and adding to the story--playing a sort of ping-pong back and forth with drafts--until we were finished. It was exhilarating and eye-opening and so much damn fun.
(Hardcover - Cemetery Dance Publications) (Trade Paperback - Gallery Books)
PARKER: Can you speak to what it was like collaborating with your business partner, Brian James Freeman, on this year’s publication of Darkness Whispers? Were there any challenges to writing with someone you so closely work with at Cemetery Dance Publications? Any hidden benefits?
CHIZMAR: It was a joy from start to finish. Brian took what was a very rough-around-the-edges early story of mine (originally written back in 1988 and titled The Sniper) and transformed it into a terrific little novella. When Brian was finished with his initial draft, I took a couple days to do a pass, sent it back to him for one final run, and we were finished. Brian and I are both pretty traditional storytellers who tend to focus on characters, so I think it was a natural fit.
PARKER: As this year seems to be one of collaborations in your writing life, how has it been working with your son, Billy, in writing “Widow Point” for this summer’s Fearful Fathoms anthology? Creatively, what have you learned about your son—or yourself—that you didn’t know before taking on this opportunity?
CHIZMAR: Great question. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned (and remembered) is just how expansive your imagination is at that age. Billy isn’t afraid to tackle much of anything and that kind of courage is contagious. It’s been a dream to collaborate with Billy. Something I never even really imagined until just recently. I hope it’s the first of many for the two of us.
PARKER: What are some future projects you are currently working on, or will be working on soon, that you can tell us a bit about?
CHIZMAR: I’m working on my first novel right now, a thriller. I’ll have a new collection out in 2018 from PS Publishing in England and a new novella from Subterranean Press. JournalStone Books is releasing A Long December in audio later this summer, as well as trade paperback and eBook editions of Darkness Whispers. Plus a handful of brand new stories in various anthologies.
PARKER: If you were marooned on a deserted island and could take the works of only one writer, who would that writer be? And which of his/her books would you most want to take with you?
CHIZMAR: That’s easy. Stephen King. I’d take IT, The Stand , and ‘Salem’s Lot.
Scarlet Galleon Publications would like to thank Richard Chizmar for taking the time to do this interview with us. We look forward to publishing his collaborative effort "Widow Point" in the forthcoming FEARFUL FATHOMS double-anthology. We're sure his ever-growing readership is going to love it!
SIGNED copies of FEARFUL FATHOMS: Collected Tales of Aquatic Terror (Vols. I & II) are available for purchase through Cemetery Dance. By clicking on the images below, you will be redirected to their online ordering page.
INTERVIEW WITH BILLY CHIZMAR
PARKER: Billy, when did you first know you wanted to follow in your father's footsteps and become a writer?
CHIZMAR: I was always around his work, so from Day One I enjoyed reading and writing. I guess it wasn't until the "Stickman Incident" that I realized how powerful and incredible storytelling could be. It was at my birthday party, I must've been in second or third grade, and my dad gathered all my friends and me around a bonfire. He told us a story about this creature called The Stickman. It terrified us. The story became an urban legend within my class. My mom and dad would get calls from other parents, saying their kids were having nightmares and trouble sleeping. I was amazed at the sheer power that the story had over all of us. I was enchanted! Since then, storytelling has always been something that I've wanted to be part of--and good at.
PARKER: Was there a particular writer or reading experience that influenced you--and your desire to write? If so, who/what was it?
CHIZMAR: As a kid, I loved the "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" books that my elementary school library had. Those, along with my father's stories, encouraged me to try my hand at writing when I was young.
PARKER: What has it been like for you growing up in the world of CEMETERY DANCE?
CHIZMAR: It was wonderful. Every Monday, my dad would pick me up from school, and I would enter my own twisted version of Disney Land--the CEMETERY DANCE offices. While the mood in the office was always light and happy (thanks to Mindy and UPS Bob playing UNO with me all the time!), the posters and pictures on the walls were anything but. There was grotesque art all over the place; disturbing but also fascinating. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have been allowed to see some of it at such a young age!
PARKER: What has been the most fun or exciting part of that kind of upbringing, being so directly influenced (and potentially shaped) by your father's work?
CHIZMAR: There have just been so many fun opportunities. Getting to see the inner workings of CD, receiving "screener" copies of upcoming movies, going to Stephen King readings (and getting to go backstage!), shenanigans at the CD office, and watching a LOT of horror movies with my dad are some of the highlights.
PARKER: Besides Stephen King, have you met any other well-known authors? Who among them was your favorite to meet, and why?
CHIZMAR: I met a ton at HorrorFind when I was really young. Sadly, I can hardly remember any details! I DO remember meeting Tom Monteleone more recently. He's a great guy. My favorite, without question, was when my dad and I went backstage before a reading in New York City, and I got to meet Stephen King and his son Owen. I couldn't believe I was meeting a legend, and he couldn't have been a nicer guy.
PARKER: What kinds of books do you like to read, and why?
CHIZMAR: I like to read anything that is good and exciting. Anything that can take hold of my imagination, I will read. I love pretty much anything horror, from The Turn of the Screw to The Stand. I'm also one of the few high schoolers who actually looks forward to English units of Shakespeare--Macbeth being a particular favorite of mine.
PARKER: What genres appeal to you most as a writer, and why?
CHIZMAR: Horror, for sure. I've tried my hand at other genres, but to me horror is just the most fun to write. It's a wonderful mix of imagination, creativity, passion, and exploring my own fears, I feel physically exhilarated just thinking about story ideas for the genre.
PARKER: Having recently graduated from high school, and moving on to college, are you planning on pursuing writing professionally, or do you have other plans for your future?
CHIZMAR: I certainly plan to try my hand at it. I plan to take a hefty amount of writing classes at Colby College, but my major will be oriented elsewhere--likely psychology--but that's still up in the air.
PARKER: How many pieces of writing have you had published to date? What were they? Do you have a favorite among them?
CHIZMAR: I published my very first short story a couple years ago with Scarlet Galleon. It was titled "The End" and appeared in the anthology Dead Harvest. I have an essay titled "The Role of Religion in Stephen King's Desperation" in editor Brian Freeman's forthcoming non-fiction book Reading Stephen King. And my dad and I recently collaborated on a story titled "Widow's Point" for Scarlet Galleon Publications' Fearful Fathoms double-anthology. If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be the essay on Desperation, simply because - 1) it required the most work/effort by far, 2) I think it probably represents my best work out of the three.
PARKER: What was it like collaborating with your father on "Widow's Point"? What was the most enjoyable part of that process? And the most challenging?
CHIZMAR: It was really fun just to bounce ideas off one another and brainstorming together--definitely my favorite part of the process. As for challenging...I found it difficult to match my dad's writing style, especially since he has so much more experience and is far more aware of the smaller details. I clearly have a lot to learn!
PARKER: If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only take the books of one author, whose works would they be, and which books in particular would you want to make sure you had with you? And why?
CHIZMAR: I think I would have to go with Stephen King, as he's written so much, and a lot of his books are really long! But, of course, above all else, they're flippin' good! If I had to be specific of which of his titles I would want to
bring alone, the Dark Tower series would be my pick.
PARKER: What is the most enjoyable part of writing for you, and why? The least enjoyable--and why?
CHIZMAR: My favorite part is just seeing where the story takes me. When I'm brainstorming ideas, I feel very...out of control. My conscience takes a backseat to my imagination, the ideas start flowing, and all of a sudden I feel like a spectator, watching the events of the story unfold for the first time. And then I write it. And as I write it, the story changes, and sometimes even surprises me! My least favorite part has to be the amount of time it takes to sit down and write a story. I love writing, but I struggle to make time for it, especially during the school year.
PARKER: Big picture, what do you see the future holding for Billy Chizmar? Beyond writing, what are your life passions, your goals?
CHIZMAR: Oh jeez, that's tough. I honestly have no idea where I'll be later down the line. I'm passionate about a lot of things, writing being one of the major ones, accompanied by psychology, film, sports, and much more. I tend to stretch myself pretty thin. My actual goals have changed a lot over the course of the past few years, even, ranging from going into the military to joining my father's business. In the end, as long as I'm doing something enjoyable and worthwhile, I'll be happy.
Scarlet Galleon Publications would like to thank Billy Chizmar for taking the time to do this interview with us. We look forward to seeing what he has in store for us in 2018. He has already said he'd like to work with Galleon again. We'll have to see what form that takes. If you're a fan of King, give Billy's essay "The Role Religion in Stephen Desperation" from Cemetery Dance Publications. (Clicking on the book cover to the right will take you to the book's order page).
PARKER: Was there anything you learned about yourself and/or
your father through the process that you didn't know before
collaborating with him?
CHIZMAR: I learned that I have a lot to learn, that's for sure! I also have a
tendency to over-complicate things in my writing He helped me to simplify
PARKER: Are there any writing projects that you're currently working
on? If there are, can you tell us a bit about them?
CHIZMAR: I'm floating a few ideas around, and have a few stories started.
One revolves around an old recurring nightmare that I used to have as a
kid. My dad and I also just finished up a short film that we wrote and
filmed, and are in the process of submitting it to festivals. It's called
GONE. We wrote it together and I directed.
PARKER: Do you see yourself joining forces with your father in running
CEMETERY DANCE and its magazine after college? If so, why? If not,
CHIZMAR: My dad and I have discussed what my future role could be. We
both think I could lead the expansion of the brand name, opening it up to
be a sort of media outlet for anything and everything within the horror genre. That's all at this point--just brainstorming how I might fit into the company.
Cemetery Dance Productions, 2017
Written by Richard & Billy Chizmar
Directed by Billy Chizmar
Cemetery Dance Publications, 2017
Edited by Brian James Freeman
WIDOW'S POINT NEWS
Cemetery Dance Publications recently announced that they will be publishing an expanded version of Widow's Point by Richard and Billy Chizmar. The new novella will be printed in both a trade hardcover edition and Limited Edition, both SIGNED by the authors!
WIDOW'S POINT: A Novella by Richard Chizmar and Billy Chizmar
Interior artwork by Glenn Chadbourne
About the Book:
“This is a bad place. I don't think people are meant to live here.”
Longtime residents of Harper's Cove believe that something is wrong with the Widow's Point Lighthouse. Some say it's cursed. Others claim it's haunted.
Originally built in 1838, three workers were killed during the lighthouse's construction, including one who mysteriously plunged to his death from the catwalk. That tragic accident was never explained, and it was just the beginning of the terror. In the decades that followed, nearly two dozen additional deaths occurred in or around the lighthouse including cold-blooded murder, suicide, unexplained accidents and disappearances, the slaughter of an entire family, and the inexplicable death of a Hollywood starlet who was filming a movie on the grounds.
The lighthouse was finally shuttered tight in 1988 and a security fence was erected around the property. No one has been inside since.
Thomas Livingston is the acclaimed author of thirteen books about the supernatural and this evening he will enter the Widow's Point Lighthouse, searching for material for his next bestseller. He will be locked inside for the weekend with no way of contacting the outside world. And although no human has stepped foot inside the structure in nearly three decades, Livingston will not be alone.
In this remarkable collaboration, father and son writing team, Richard and Billy Chizmar, combine forces to tell a chilling ghost story that will make you think twice about what is waiting for you in the dark. This novella is a much-expanded version of the short story of the same title.
Published as a trade hardcover edition:
• Printed on acid-free paper
• Bound in cloth with colored head and tail bands
• Featuring hot foil stamping on the front boards and spine
• Wrapped in a full-color dust jacket
• Retail price just $25
Published as a Signed Limited Edition Hardcover:
• Limited to just 300 signed and numbered copies
• Personally signed by the authors on a special illustrated signature page
• Includes an artwork frontispiece tipped in after the signature sheet
• Printed on 60# acid-free paper
• Bound in full-cloth with colored head and tail bands
• Featuring hot foil stamping on the front boards and spine
• Printed and bound with full-color endpapers
• Smyth sewn to create a more durable binding
• Wrapped in a different full-color dust jacket than the trade edition
• Limited ONE TIME printing of this special edition
• Retail price just $50
Early reviews are in, and WIDOW'S POINT is another Cemetery Dance Publications' best-seller!
"WIDOW'S POINT simmers, bubbles, and boils over in the most seductive, troubling, and finally throat-gripping manner possible, and along the way neatly solves the problem of how to handle the fate of a first-person narrator of a tale remarkable for accelerating dread. Richard and Billy Chizmar have given us a cold and delicious treat." — Peter Straub, New York Times best-selling author of Ghost Story and In The Night Room
"With WIDOW'S POINT, the Chizmars deliver a fantastic new take on several old tropes, making the sea and haunted house stories scary again. A masterful, atmospheric and genuinely frightening ghost story. I loved it." — Brian Keene, Grandmaster Award-winning author of The Complex and End of the Road
"The spirit of William Hope Hodgson is alive and well in WIDOW'S POINT, a briny ghost story infused with sinister new life by Richard and Billy Chizmar. If you're looking for a tale that has you reconsidering that trip to the coast while telling yourself those whispers from 'neath your bed are simply the wind, you've found it. WIDOW'S POINT is a chilling addition to the haunted house sub-genre." — Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Sour Candy and Kin
CLICK ON BOOK COVER TO ORDER
You can learn more about Richard Chizmar at his website by clicking on the image below.