An Interview with Giovanni Valentino
Ok, Kiddies, another interesting interview for you – This time with Giovanni Valentino, the publisher of Strange Musings Press, and the editor of the series of five anthologies entitled Alternate Hilarities. His newest one, ONE STAR REVIEW OF THE AFTERLIFE has some very funny, strange, and quirky insights into what a handful writers think may happen to us when we “pass over.” God help us all if any of these stories actually pan out! Trigger Alert: If you are serious about the afterlife, this book is not for you!
Giovanni Francesco Valentino has struggled with the art of writing for four decades, against the demons of self doubt, chronic depression OCD, and severe dyslexia. He has written a few memoir pieces about these struggles, as well as a dozen humors, speculative short stories. His long term goal is to be a science fiction and fantasy author that will inspire other people to write fan fiction in worlds. http://giovannivalentino.blogspot.com/
JWM: You have a very prolific background as both short story writer and an editor of five successful anthologies. Which one of these is your favorite role – and why?
GV: I’m more proud of my success as a writer because I grew up with a severe learning disability. If you could find any teacher of mine from school, all the way up to high school, and told them I’m a published author, they’d laugh at you. It’s not really their fault. I was in school during the seventies and eighties. Learning disabilities weren’t even a thing back then. I didn’t even hear the work dyslexia until college. Teachers just presumed because I sounded intelligent but did poorly in school that I was just lazy.
Before computers, 1000 monkeys with 1000 typewriters had a better chance of producing readable text than I did. Now with modern technology like spell checking (which google is better at than word), text to speak and online grammar checkers, my creative spirit is finally free to express the mad capped ideas in my head for others to comprehend.
I do like my role as editor because I enjoy working with and helping other authors. At least two or three stories per edition have gone through a revise and resubmit process. I do this when I get a story that’s really close to acceptance but it’s missing something fixable.
I’ll send the story back with some notes on what I think didn’t work and even suggest a joke or two. If the author wants, they can make these changes and give it another try.
Not everyone is on board. I’ve had a few people thank me for my time but pass. They usually say they liked the suggestions but they just don’t see it fitting the story they were trying to tell and that’s the author’s right.
I’m sadder to admit that I’ve had a few come back without enough improvement or in one case, return in worse shape than without the changes and I had to reject it.
Still, it has worked more than a few times and has resulted in some very good stories in each anthology.
JWM: Your five anthologies are all branded as ALTERNATE HILARITIES – 1) ALTERNATE HILARITIES, 2) AH VAMPIRES SUCK, 3) AH HYSTERICAL REALMS, 4) AH WEIRDER SCIENCE, and now 5) AH ONE STAR REVIEWS OF THE AFTERLIFE. Alternate Hilarities is obviously a take off on the overworked term of Alternate Realities. Does this mean that you (and your stable of writers) find the alternate universe a lot funnier and more ironic than this one?
GV: That was the general idea. The first edition was just named after the original fan zine to express that very concept. I started using the subtitles after that because I felt the lack of theme made the first edition a little too disjointed by covering fantasy, science fiction and horror all at once.
Still, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are running for President in this universe. I can’t imagine things could get any more strange or ironic here in the real world.
JWM: Your own stories obviously reflect this view point, Your website categorizes your writing as humors science fiction, humorous fantasy, and humorous horror – with a only a short nod to memoir. But yet some of your short stories reflect a deep dive into serious issues – such as your story KIDS DON’T GET CHOICES ( Eleven-year-old Eliza finds out a surprising secret about her past… and her future) – Do these serious stories come from your struggles with OCD, dyslexia, and chronic depression, as stated in your biography?
GV: Often these short stories are bits and pieces of character histories created for larger works that never got off the ground. I wrote KIDS DON’T GET CHOICES as a background history for a novel featuring the Uncle Gavin character. I never got further than that.
Although, TAMING YOUR INNER CHILD is definitely about people struggling with mental illness. I’ve never had it as bad as Mickey does in this story but it was an attempt on my part to bring people into my world. I actually wrote that for a writing prompt about my greatest fear.
My one and only memoir piece, Sometimes it’s OK TO BE NICE to people, was more about forgiving myself for not appreciating my grandmother’s complete and totally unconditional love for me while she was alive. I still choke up when I read it.
JWM: When (and how) did you get the inspiration to start STRANGE MUSINGS PRESS?
GV: Strange Musings Press came into being as a dream reinvigorated. I published Alternate Hilarities as a fan zine in the 90s, more about that later, but stopped because the cost of publishing back in the day was too high and the quality you would get was too low. And you couldn’t get small print runs either. I would have to order at least 1000 copies of any one issue to get time on the schedule with the printers and I didn’t need anywhere near that many.
Fast forward to 2012 and an author friend of mine had just gotten back the rights to two of her novels because her small press publisher had gone under. She asked me to look into the cost and efforts of getting those books back into print via self-publishing and I was surprise to see how easy it was now a days to get your own work to market if you just had some computer savvy. Having mad skills in Microsoft office, I could do a lot of the work myself and I had a few good contacts that could help me with the rest.
My friend got her books back into print with a different small press but I’d been bitten by the publishing bug again. So I started Strange Musings Press and for much less money and at a higher level of quality, I brought Alternate Hilarities back from the dead.
JWM: It’s easy to get the impression that you are a one-man-band at STRANGE MUSINGS PRESS and in putting together the AH anthologies. Is this true? If so, how do you find the time to put all of this together, plus the financing, marketing, etc.?
GV: I am not ashamed to admit that I am a one man band for the most part. I outsource the jobs that I can’t do like cover art and the final proofreading but the rest of it is all in my wheel house of skills.
I read all the submissions. I typeset the print and ebook editions. I run the blog tours, the social media and Kickstarters.
As for the time, I’m already doing all these things for other people as a freelancer. I just added Strange Musings Press to the calendar like it was any other client. I have the experience to budget my time because I’ve done it all before. Although, I do enjoy complaining about what a jerk the client is when working on Alternate Hilarities.
JWM: Do you have a consistent stable of writers that you work with for your anthologies or does it vary widely, depending on the theme (i.e., the folks writing vampires may not be into weird science or the after life)?
GV: The anthologies are open to anyone. I post notices of the reading periods on the Grinder, Duotrope, and a number of Facebook groups to get the word out.
Still, I’ve developed a few authors that I like for their style or just being easy to work with. I always give those people special invites to the anthology. I’ve even gone so far as to prompt them to submit a few weeks before the deadline rolls around if I haven’t heard from them. Case in point, I will be inviting you back for sure.
JWM: What is the favorite story that you ever wrote (and why)?
GV: My favorite story so far is in One Star Reviews of the Afterlife called THE ACCIDENTAL RAPTURE. I got to work out my frustrations from my long career in I.T. with that one. I hope I was fair by mocking the end users and the IT people evenly. My biggest struggle with the story was keeping the tech references in check. I wanted them to be difficult to follow for a laymen but not impossible.
As you shuffle off this mortal coil, many things will go through you mind. Will you be remembered well? Did you leave the iron on? Did you delete your browser history, lately? But the big question – is there something after this? If so, will it suck? This is a collection of humors tales of the afterlife that cover the I.T. woes of heaven, the dangers of out-of-state occult tools. the perils of not saving appropriately for the hereafter, the shock of finding out not every good deal will get you through the pearly gates, and maybe, just maybe, paradise isn’t for everyone!
JWM: How busy are you with your Editorial Services? Do you enjoy this as much as you obviously do writing and putting the anthologies together?
GV: The Editorial Service is a pleasure and a burden. I do enjoy working with good authors helping them get their manuscripts ready for submission. It brings me great joy to see a good manuscript grow into a great one with my insight and guidance. I’ve been told I have a very strong sense for plotting and character development.
I like making the money the work brings but it does take time from my writing which I do enjoy more by far.
I have had a few instances where I just couldn’t help the author that has contracted me. Either their work was nowhere near publication ready or they just didn’t want to listen to anything I’ve told them. In each of the cases, I’ve just canceled the contract rather than steal the author’s money. My help doesn’t promise a publishing contract but I feel bad working on something I don’t think will have a chance even with my help.
JWM: Now that you have the ONE STAR REVIEWS OF THE AFTERLIFE launched, are you already planning your next anthology? Any hints about the theme?
GV: I am planning Alternate Hilarities 6. It probably will not happen this year but I definitely want to put one out in 2017. I’m still mulling over the theme but I’m leaning heavily towards Apocalypse/Dystopia. I have the sub-title “Not your Mama’s Apocalypse!” stuck in my head but there’s still time for that to change.
JWM: Your bio says your long term goal is to become a famous science fiction and fantasy author, which usually means moving into novel writing – Do you have a few such novels hidden in drawers ready to come out? Or are you working on these in your “spare” time? Anything you want to share on this?
Writing is my main focus at the moment since fate has given me a little unscheduled time to work with. I have two novels on tap right now. One that I am shopping around as we speak. I’m hesitant to go into too much detail about it because I might be using a pen name for that. The story is a nice clean young adult Fantasy and I’m not sure if my humorous speculative fiction background is going to help or hurt in getting that published. I’ve been told by a few industry friends to consider using a new pen name to make a clean break between the styles. The book would be the launching point of a huge fantasy world that I’ve been working on in my head for over thirty years.
The second one is a humorous science fiction novel called Happy Birthday to the Galaxy. It’s about a high level government Bureaucrat that gets thrown to the wolves during a global coup. He’s forced to live by his wits and the apps on his smart phone to avoid taking the fall for the gross corruption in his government. I’ve finished the first draft of that and I’ll be working on the second next month. I hope to be sending that out by July. That one will clearly work with the Giovanni Valentino name on it.
For more stops on Giovanni’s blog book tour for the One Star Review of the Afterlife, go to: http://www.strange musings press.com/2016/03/one-star-reveiw-of-afterlife-blog-tour.html