INTERVIEW: Richard Thomas on the Launch of Gamut

Gamut Magazine Cover
Photo from Gamut

Richard Thomas has been doing some great things for a while now. He's written some awesome books, edited two anthologies we loved (Exigencies and The Line-Up) and now he's launching a literary magazine, which we're super excited about.

Click here to go support Gamut, get it while it's hot.

So, why do people need Gamut magazine?
I think Gamut will be a part of a larger landscape, some excellent magazines and websites out there. But we'll also have our own aesthetic, which comes out of my own history of reading and writing, as well as the four anthologies I edited (The New Black and Exigencies at Dark House Press; Burnt Tongues with Chuck Palahniuk and Dennis Widmyer at Medallion; and The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers at Black Lawrence press) and the work I've published at Dark House Press. We'll also be paying ten cents a word, which is double the current pro rate. We won't be "classic" anything—fantasy, SF, horror, noir—we're looking to publish neo-noir, speculative fiction with a literary bent, that sweet spot between genre and lit, voices that embrace the new weird, and transgressive fiction. I think fans of other publications will find familiar names and voices, but also a number of new and emerging authors that may not be that well known (yet).

And do you feel that you're filling a hole or fixing a problem with literary magazines? Or is it for the art?
I definitely am excited about the art we'll have—work by Luke Spooner, George Cotronis, Daniele Serra, Bob Crum, and Jennifer Moore. The fiction is about the kind of writing I like to read, and I do think there is a demand for it, and based on how those anthologies and DHP titles have been received—several nominations, some awards, overall great reviews—I'm pretty stoked. So, partly filling a niche or hole, but mostly complementing what's already going on. A lot of publications tend to stay firmly in one genre, but many more are publishing more hybrid, genre-bending work, and that's really exciting. As far as literary, I do think academia can be pretty short-sighted, and even hypocritical. What is Blood Meridian? What is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle? What is Jesus' Son? For universities, and especially MFA programs to ignore genre fiction, to consider it "less," well, that's just irresponsible. Look at the NYT Bestseller List, you know what's on there? Mystery, fantasy/sf, horror, romance, AND literary fiction. I'm personally drawn to smart genre fiction, or, intense literary fiction—I don't see why we can't take the best aspects of all of these genres and make them work together.

Following your career, this kind of seems like it's quite fitting. Started out submitting and trying to land. Now with an agent, editing at Dark House Press and just had two books out through Random House Alibi. How do you have time to breath, this all just after the release of The Breaker, too?
It's pretty intense. It's a labor of love. I can look up from my computer 12 hours later and the room has gone dark, the day gone, and think, "What happened?" But I'm smiling, having fun. I love writing, it's probably the most fulfilling thing I've ever done. Gamut seems like the next step for me. I try to balance my days by writing, editing, teaching and publishing—an hour here, and hour there. It's all connected. Breaker was an intense 25 days in December of 2014, seems like a million years ago. DHP, man, next to breaking into a great magazine or getting an excellent blurb for my own work, publishing the stories and books that we've acquired, it's the next best thing, and equally as thrilling. With DHP or the upcoming Gamut, I try to surround myself with talented people, and then get out of the way. It's tough to make a living as an author. For 2016 I'll be taking a long, hard look at the work I do, and decide what will continue, what's worth the time and compensation, and what isn't. To function as a writer, to pay my mortgage and take care of my family, there may be some tough decisions ahead. I love teaching at LitReactor and writing my Storyville column for them, and I love that I'm going back to the University of Iowa this summer to teach again. Those are steps in the right direction for sure, great people all around. And of course Gamut has immense potential.

For sure. What's the predicted timeline for Gamut?
The Kickstarter will start on 2/1/16 and if we raise the funds, it'll launch on 1/1/17.

And other than the great fiction, how is the Kickstarter going to be appealing?
It's going to be so much fun. The art is amazing, I think the people will take one look at the people involved and think, "OH, I want to see that new art with every story. The columns are going to be a mix of informative and helpful (reviews, interviews, essays) and humorous. Can't ALL be dark. Also, we're offering the subscription for $30 a year ($2.50 a month) which will never be offered again. The regular rate will go back up to $60 a year ($5 a month). AND, as long as you renew, you can retain that initial rate indefinitely. I wanted to make sure that the people that support us now, the early adopters, get something special, a reward for being a part of this. We're also going to release one short story over the course of the Kickstarter just to give you an idea of what we like.

I know you love great titles - why Gamut?
Ha. Well, as I'm sure you know, it just means "a wide range." I wanted to show that there is a wide range of speculative fiction, of dark fiction, of horror. I've had this name in mind for 15 years. Plus it rhymes with damnit. Fun to say.

Lots of these authors you're fans with and worked with before. Will you be open for submissions for the site?
Yes, we will be, for sure. I wanted to solicit to start for several reasons—I know these authors will turn in excellent work, it's the kind of writing I love, and they've all been supportive of my career as well. There are a few that are newer to me, but they are just as powerful, "emerging" voices I guess you could say, but many of them breaking out already, or soon, for sure. We will open up to submissions later in 2016, which is why I solicited some 40 stories (1 new and 1 reprint from each author) leaving another 12 weeks of the year just for submissions. I wanted these voices to be the ones that start us off, and create our aesthetic. And since many are well known, I think subscribers will be confident that their money will be well spent.

And you've had people like Irvine Welsh state approval. That must be pretty inspiring. You were a big fan of his before you knew him, right?
Yes, we have gotten a few endorsements already. Irvine is great, such a nice guy, so generous. He blurbed my second book, Disintegration, calling it "A stunning and vital piece of work," and I had the pleasure of meeting him this summer at Chuck Palahniuk's tour stop here in Chicago. I loved Trainspotting, and many other books of his. His support of Gamut is very cool, it's so kind of him to do that.

I mean you're an inspiration to lots of authors. Does this seem strange to you? I imagine your inbox must be rammed.
LOL, well thanks, I appreciate that. We were just joking about the fact that I have like seven email accounts, and still cling to my old AOL as well. If I take a day off, it's 200 emails for sure. It is strange for sure to think that somebody is reading my work, or the anthologies I'm publishing, and being inspired by what I do. I hope that happens. I can remember the first time somebody approached me at an AWP conference, asking me, "Are you Richard Thomas?" I was floored. I still have days where I feel like a hack, like nobody cares, that my writing is crap. All I can do is put as much of myself into my writing as I can.

When I finished Disintegration and broke down crying, thinking I might throw up, I knew I'd done as much as I could for that novel.

I guess you'd call it "method writing" when you sit in that place, spend long periods of time AS your characters. It's rewarding when I teach, and a student has an epiphany, the light bulb going off, when they tell me a class is "life changing" as recently happened. I know we're all out here competing, but I like to think that "a high tide raises all ships." It means a lot to me when a student at Iowa talks to me about parents not being supportive, practically in tears, just wanting to write the stories they want to tell, without judgement. I know there were a ton of authors who inspired me, when I was just getting started, who took the time to talk to me, to answer my questions, to encourage me to write and study and create—Craig Clevenger telling me to send out "Stillness" which ended up in Shivers VI alongside Stephen King and Peter Straub; Matt Bell taking the time to educate me about MFA programs, and the industry, and my craft. Pay it forward, right?

Gamut Promotional Pic
From Gamut

Speaking of Disintegration, that was a long process but the Breaker was over 25 days, big difference in styles!
Yeah, Breaker was much quicker, I had deadlines, having signed a two-book deal with Random House Alibi. And, between some conversations I had with my agent, and my editor at RHA, Dana Isaacson, I made an effort to write a book that was less surreal, less "purple" as some readers called it, to appeal to a broader audience. Hopefully it's successful, I've heard in a few reviews that some people liked it better, which was kind of shocking. I was worried about the sophomore slump, didn't want it to be WORSE. So, that's always nice to hear.

Other than Gamut, any projects for 2016?
Yes, for sure. You mentioned Breaker, which came out a few weeks ago. I have a new collection of short stories, Tribulations, out with Crystal Lake in March. I also have a group project, a novel-in-novellas, The Soul Standard—four novellas set in four different parts of a city over four seasons, written by four different authors. That's myself, Nik Korpon, Axel Taiari, and Caleb Ross. Kind of a Sin City thing. And, I have two stories slated for publication—"The Offering on the Hill" in Chiral Mad 3, alongside Stephen King and Jack Ketchum, and "Repent" in Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, alongside Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker. Those are going to be two really excellent anthologies so many other people I haven't even mentioned, and what I consider some of my best work to date. Both stories are also over 6,000 words, which is long for me.

Anything else you want to say about Gamut until we leave you to battle the inbox?
Well, I hope that people will check it out and be a part of Gamut. I want your input, this is all being created. If there is an author you want involved, let me know. An artist? Shoot me a name. A feature we aren't offering, or a reward you don't see—speak up. Nothing is carved in stone. I want you all to feel like this is your magazine, your website, too. I can't do it alone. And I think we have an opportunity here to create something special.

Thanks for having me, Jay, it's always a pleasure to chat with you. I appreciate the continued support.

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