Jennifer Brozek’s World of Words

Jennifer Brozek

by Lillian Cohen-Moore on October 12, 2011

Jennifer Brozek is an author and editor who has spent years continually perfecting her craft. Recipient of an Origins Award, an Australian Shadows Award, and a silver ENnie, Jennifer’s writing in horror, science fiction and role-playing games is a labor of dedication and love. The editor and publisher behind the long-lived web publication The Edge of Propinquity, her projects have included columns on making anthologies, writing for role-playing games, a number of short stories, and a forthcoming anthology from DAW as editor for Human for a Day.

Jennifer is also someone I’ve known for years; from standing in line together for lattes to watching her win an ENnie at GenCon in 2011, Jennifer started out a friend and professional that I knew well, eventually becoming my boss. Our long familiarity means I’ve read a number of her interviews, and knew there were questions about her industry and career that she had yet to be asked.

AP: What convinced you to take writing seriously?

JB: So, way back in the long ago, I believe around 2000, my friend David Webb was part of a small indie RPG company called Otherworld Creations. And I wanted to write for him. A mutual friend of ours and I were talking, and I mentioned this to our friend. And what our mutual friend said was, “Well, I suggested you to him, and Dave’s response was, “She’s just a dreamer. Until she gets out there and starts publishing, she’ll never be a professional. And that’s why I can’t use her.”

I was so angry and so offended at it — he’d used someone else who was unpublished — to me at the time it felt like a double standard. The other reason I was so angry is because it was true. He got to the heart of it. I was too afraid to submit my work. So I was just a dreamer. The next day, after I got over the rage part of my pique, I emailed Don Bassingthwaite, an editor at Black Gate Magazine, and told him “I noticed you guys review RPGs, but you don’t have a female reviewer. I’m a female gamer and I want to write for you.’” I have no idea what Don’s personal feelings were, but he emailed me back and said, “Okay. I’ll send you some product, and you write me a 600 word article. If it’s good, I pay you and you keep the product. If it’s bad, you keep the product.” That started my writing career.

From there I did reviews for Campaign Magazine, because I gamed with one of their editors, and he discovered I was doing reviews for Black Gate. And then after that, I pitched him a fiction series called Tales of the Hucked Tankard. Campaign Magazine accepted the series, and started out paying me .5 cents a word. You know the kicker? I had no idea .5 cents a word was an industry pro standard. So I said, ‘Why don’t we do a flat fee?” I’ve learned a lot since then. My way of getting into publishing was to prove to someone else that I wasn’t just a dreamer, and that I was good enough to write for him.

AP: What are some of the things you’ve learned producing the Edge of Propinquity?

JB: Authors are a flakey bunch. Some of them are divas when they don’t deserve to be. But! When you get a good continuing story, it makes my job so awesome. Webzines are expensive to produce. I must have liked it; I’ve done it for six years. I think most of my hard lessons came in the first year or two. But right now I think the best lesson I learned was one I put forward from the beginning: the due date is ten days before anything is actually due. In six years I can count on two hands the number of times an author got me their story on time. Building in a deadline buffer is key to doing a monthly zine, especially when you have continuing stories.

I also learned you have to be patient, and that life happens. You have to send out reminders. And when you see something going wrong in a story, you need to stop and talk to the author. There’s one author I didn’t do that with, and I kind of regret it.

AP: What do you think readers get out of reading horror?

JB: Readers get a safe but proactive way to face fear. It’s our modern-day way of passing on cautionary tales. Cautionary tales of what the author wants to express could be bad for you. Horror allows readers to face personal demons by living vicariously through the characters. And when you are frightened by a book, there’s a psychological and chemical response, it’s a way to get your adrenaline rush without someone actually wielding a knife at you. Because honestly, I’d never want to live the life of people in my books! There’s this saying, “An adventure is someone a thousand miles away having a perfectly rotten time.”

AP: What is it you love about science fiction?

JB: I love the potential. I love the stories and the dreams and where my mind goes and where it’s led. I think science fiction makes the world a better place because it encourages people to look forward, and invent, and to strive for things like the stars.

AP: Why is travel so necessary for writers?

JB: One of the most important aspects of being a writer is face to face contact with your peers, members of the industry and your fanbase. The industry is very small, and it’s good to forge face to face connections. I as an editor and an author am more likely to do a project with someone after I’ve met them and had a good experience.

Example: an author bought me a drink at a bar two years ago. She said, “Hey, let me get that for you. I’d heard your name around and wanted to say hi.” She didn’t pitch me after that, she just bought me the drink and we started talking. I’ve discovered from face to face meetings with people that some folks who telegraph as very short online are some of the most wonderful people in person. At one convention I met a senior member of a publishing company, and my meeting with them was fantastic. I had a great time, even though before I’d been nervous about it because of what I’d heard about them.

AP: What do you get out being a member of SFWA [Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America]?

JB: As an editor I get access to a means to contact most authors I want to work with. So networking is key in SFWA, it’s one of the most valuable things about it. You also know every active member in SFWA has had three pro sales or a novel sale, and every affiliate works in the industry. Next up, you get all kinds of advice. Help on contract negotiation, dispute help, there are certain calls for submission for SFWA only members. You have a group of like minded individuals, all working for a common goal, which is to benefit authors and authors’ rights in the publishing industry.

For more, visit Jennifer’s website and be sure to follow @jenniferbrozek on Twitter. Also, check out her web publication The Edge of Propinquity. Photos by Rasmus.

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