Less Than Pulp, Issue 19
John Baltisberger Interview
I am excited to announce that my book Bladejob has been acquired by Madness Heart Press for release in August of next year. It’s a lean, mean novella about blood rituals and time travel, set against the backdrop of professional wrestling. To commemorate the occasion, I’ve included an interview with John Baltisberger, Editor in Chief at Madness Heart Press, in this weeks’ newsletter.
1. As an independent press, what do you think has been key in helping Madness Heart stand out among the many other small horror publishers?
We've tried a lot of different things over the years as a press, and the truth is, there isn't one strategy that's going to work. Some presses create series, some find incredible talent and lift themselves up that way. But at MHP our strategy is a four pronged "attack" First, treat the authors right and with respect. By being someone that authors want to work with, we ensure continued working relationships with authors we like. Second, publish things we know will make money. This doesn't make us stand out, but it does keep us in business. Third, publish the stuff that makes you happy, this is the key to what makes MHP what it is, we don't always have books that blow out the shelves, but we have books that I can put on my table and feel extremely proud to have been a party of. And 4th. Celebrate every book. Every book we publish is the best and coolest shit we've published.
2. With so many manuscripts to read, what keeps you reading a submission beyond the first few pages?
I am notoriously mean about this actually, If the pitch catches me, i give a manuscript the courtesy of reading the first page. If the first page makes me want to read the second, I keep going. If by the end of the first page I'm bored, or haven't been hooked, it goes in the rejection pile. You have 300-500 words to catch my attention. That's it.
3. What made you want to launch a press in the first place?
I've told this story a few times. So, I self-published a couple of chapbooks early in 2017/2018, and I sort of got a feel for how it works. Then one day, I was sitting in the bathroom, and I saw my wife had a copy of a Creepy Pasta anthology. I picked it up to check it out and was immediately underwhelmed by everything about it. It was cheaply made, the cover sucked, the binding was bad, no page numbers, no TOC, the formatting was lazy. I realized that I could do better than that, and so I told my wife we should try, she agreed, and we went and opened a limited partnership company later that month. It's important to remember that my attitude towards trying new things is to barge headlong into them, this publishing thing has worked out, but I've failed a lot of businesses. The key to success in my opinion is Failing Quickly.
4. As a writer who works in multiple mediums, how do you determine what project would work best as a book vs a poem or a game?
I usually know right away. I plan my projects out for a medium, that sometimes changes, like I'm writing a verse book right now that was initially prose, but generally speaking it's a matter of how I want my voice to come across in the story. But every project has its own needs and challenges, games are the hardest to do solo because they have so many moving parts, verse is difficult because I'm constrained by style in how i present exposition and especially dialogue. And then prose, well, prose is difficult because frankly it's hardest to inject my voice into prose. And it's the easiest for me to lose my interest while writing in.
5. In the 70s and 80s, you saw a massive influence of movies on the book world. As video games have become a more dominant medium in recent years, how do you think that has influenced books and how they are written?
I see the video game formula in TV a lot more than I do in books currently. For instance, The Mandalorian was a video game turned into a tv show. Din was the protagonist, and each episode he had to get a mission/objective, he got upgrades/abilities regularly, he had a cast of repeating characters who while helped were nowhere near as important or pivotal as he was... It was a game, and it worked really well. The game format works well for a series of short stories or novellas, not so much in long form, but I think what we're seeing is less about how video games are affecting literature and instead seeing how video games are embracing storytelling, bringing on skilled and talented writing teams to create thriving worlds and meaningful stories. It's pretty exciting.
6. Where should a new reader start with your work?
For games, I would suggest checking out Morkkabeans which is coming out soon!
On the newest episode of MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN PODCAST, we discussed the little-seen slasher movie Splatter University. You can check out the episode here or by clicking the video below.