I'm Axel Howerton - punch-drunk Canadian author, hometown anti-hero, and Publisher-in-Chief of Coffin Hop Press, the new home of weird fiction and dark crime. AMA! #CoffinHopAMA

CoffinHop
Mar 19, 2018

I'm a recovering entertainment journalist, out-of-shape pugilist, and the Arthur Ellis Award nominated author of the detective caper Hot Sinatra; the modern gothic fairytale Furr; the zombie novella Living Dead at Zigfreid & Roy; and the noir fable Con Morte. My forthcoming “Wolf & Devil” urban fantasy series for Tyche Books kicks off with Demon Days in 2018. When I know what I'm talking about, I can talk a lot.  I mean, a lot.

In 2012 I spearheaded the Coffin Hop horror author event that ran from 2012-2014 and included upwards of 200 indie horror authors. That led to the formation of my own publishing company Coffin Hop Press and the publishing of Death by Drive-In, a charity anthology of 22 B-movie inspired horror stories by some of the best indie horror writers around. After a few years of experimentation with my own work, in 2014 I sought out like-minded writers for what would become 2015's Tall Tales of the Weird West, an anthology of weird western tales featuring stories by Scott S. Phillips, Jackson Lowry (aka Robert E. Vardeman), C. Courtney Joyner, and the  mysterious El Cuchillo. Also in 2015, CHP released the very Canadian crime collection, Ab Negative. Featuring fourteen Alberta-based crime writers including  S.G. Wong’s Arthur Ellis Award-nominated alternate history whodunit (Movable Type: Best Short Story Finalist 2015)

In 2016 CHP had planned a collection of Science Fiction noir stories. When that project fell apart, Coffin Hop Press underwent a minor restructuring, and re-emerged with a new mandate, and a new long-ranging slate of projects. New Crime. New Weird. New Pulp. That’s our motto.

In 2017 we released Robert Bose’s Fishing With the Devil: and other fiendish tales, and launched an ongoing line of dark crime novellas, NOIRVELLAS, beginning with my own Con Morte and followed by Manchester Vice by Jack Strange. 2017 also saw the release of It's a Weird Winter Wonderland featuring stories from a wide-range of incredible talents, including Steve Brewer, Scott S. Phillips, Will “The Thrill” Viharo, David James Keaton, and Jessica McHugh.

2018 promises to be another great year, with CHP celebrating the “Year of Publishing Women”, starting in April with Infractus by Sarah L. Johnson, and the new Noirvella Murdering Mr Edwards by Shawn L. Bird. Also appearing in April is Timothy Friend’s incredible two-fisted pulp throwback Rocket Ryder and Little-Putt-Putt Go Down Swinging. 

Summer 2018 will see the projected release of The Dame Was Trouble, a collection of stories from the best female Canadian crime writers around, as well as Kill as You Go, a short story collection from two-time Arthur Ellis Award nominee and Bony Pete Award winner Therese Greenwood. Winter 2018 brings dark crime to the holidays with Baby, It's Cold Outside featuring all-new stories from the likes of Rob Brunet, S.A. Cosby, Sam Wiebe, and E.C. Bell, and an anthology of hilariously crooked tales of nimrod criminals in Knucklehead Noir.

All this is basically to tell you that - Hey! I started a publishing company. I ran through all kinds of growing pains, put out a handful of books before we found our niche, and now we're forging straight ahead, blazing a new trail. I know books. I know writing. I know publishing. Ask Me Anything! #CoffinHopAMA

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How long did it take you to let go of your influences and find your own voice?
Mar 26, 10:32AM EDT0
What would have been some of the suggestions you would have appreciated being offered to you when you first started writing and why?
Mar 26, 6:41AM EDT0
How did you come up with the name Coffin Hop?
Mar 26, 4:17AM EDT0
What is a pugilist and how are you one?
Mar 25, 11:03PM EDT0
Did you interview any famous celebrities as a Entertainment journalist?
Mar 25, 10:19PM EDT0
What kind of poetry did you write when you were younger? Do you still write poetry?
Mar 25, 10:18PM EDT0
What are some of the steps one should use to establish whether there is a market for their idea and if not what are some suggestions to find writing ideas that are marketable?
Mar 25, 7:18PM EDT0
What are the things that you consume, including TV, books, etc, that makes up your daily creative diet?
Mar 25, 12:39PM EDT0
How much of your individuality and private philosophies are reflected in your writing and is its inclusion unplanned or premeditated?
Mar 24, 3:53PM EDT0
Why is one’s writing atmosphere important for one’s process?
Mar 24, 3:48PM EDT0
If you could put your brain in a robot and live indefinitely, would you and why?
Mar 23, 9:54PM EDT0

Hi Laraloum,

It depends on how handsome that robot is. This fragile male ego supersedes all things. 

If I  could not be bound by age, broken body parts, this damned cold my kids gave me... what excuse would I possibly have to ever stop working and creating? Maybe a frequent oil change.

Mar 24, 11:27AM EDT0
How did you develop your individual writing style and voice and what methods did you use to cultivate these skills?
Mar 23, 8:06PM EDT0

Hi Jann,

Time. Time and a lot of work. I actually just had this conversation with a visual artist last night, and we were discussing the learning curve in any art - how you begin by copying things you like,  perfecting your technical skills while aping someone else’s style. Eventually - hopefully. - you get to a  point where copying becomes hollow, and you start trying o understand your influences more deeply. You start dissecting those influences and critically examine how things are put together. Once you understand how that art was really made, and the subtext and emotional meanings behind it, you can begin to think that way in the planning and execution of your own art. Once that happens, your work will begin to take on more of you and less of your influences. Other than that, relax. Let the voice on the page be the voice in your head, without trying to sound right. Just let it sound natural.  That’s where you find your voice.

Mar 24, 11:25AM EDT0
Why do you prefer traditional publishing and what are the reasons behind your choice?
Mar 23, 4:20AM EDT0

Hi Jasnazugic,

I wouldn’ say Iprefer traditional. There’s a big difference between small presses and big traditional publishers. What we do at Coffin Hop Press is, more or less, the same that any self-published author (and I have self-published myself) would need to do. The difference being that we’re helping other authors get their work out in the world. With my own work, I find that working with small presses helps alleviate the amount of work that I personally have to do to put a book together, and it also gives me the confidence that my work is properly edited and vetted by someone I didn’t pay,  meaning that someone else thinks it’s good enough to be in print, and good enough to spend time and money on. Big traditional publishers (and I have worked with them as well) tend to be a massive factory, less concerned with quality and art than cranking out sellable products. And, while I’m perfectly fine with making money for my work, their system is too impersonal and too results oriented for me.

Mar 24, 11:18AM EDT0

Hi fellow Canadian, which province are you from? hehe!

Mar 22, 1:58PM EDT0

Hi Raina,

I’m an Alberta boy, born and raised (I did spend a lot of my childhood in B.C.). Where do you make camp

Mar 24, 11:10AM EDT0
How old were you when you wrote your first draft?
Mar 22, 4:51AM EDT0

Hi Seyide,

My first draft of anything ever? Probably 4 or 5.  My first draft of my first novel? That took three years to complete, and I was in my mid-30’s. I wrote a bunch of short stories and poetry that was published when I was younger, and then I lost my way for a long time, picking it up here and there, and never really finishing anything. I did some crypt doctoring,  some editing,  and spent 10 years as an Entertainment journalist, doing movie and music and book reviews, celebrity interviews, etc. When I finally came back to fiction, it was in my thirties, almost as a mid-life crisis, to prove that I had something to offer the world, and to show my very young sons that they shouldn’t give up on their dreams,  or settle for boredom and mediocrity. Since then, I’ve worked very hard to hone my skills and improve my output and turn my talents into a real career.

Mar 24, 11:08AM EDT0
How do you find names for your characters?
Mar 22, 3:42AM EDT0

Hi Nathalie,

Sometimes thenames have meanings behind them, like Finn in my book FURR who is named for Irish mythological hero Fionn MacCumhaill. Sometimes, like the side character Bob Dylan in the same book, it’s something that strikes me funny, or a dumb inside joke. In my first book I had characters whose names I borrowed from friends of mine on a dare. Scott Phillips had the names. “Manlove” and “Kickerdick” in his back pocket for a long time and. Couldn’t figure out how to use them. I took a dare from him and turned them into hired leg breakers who happened to be underground sex performers and a romantic couple.  They turned out to be two of my favourite characters and have starred in a number of their own adventures since. 

Mar 24, 11:01AM EDT0
Which crime book do you wish you had written, and why?
Mar 21, 8:17PM EDT0

Hi OLJKA91,

So many of them! Anything by Hammett or Chandler. Most of Elmore Leonard’s crime stuff. I wish I’d come up with Raylan Givens - such a great character - or Louis and Ordell from THE SWITCH and RUM PUNCH

Mar 24, 10:53AM EDT1
Do you ever rewrite material that you think is excellent because you feel it would be perceived as a rip-off of a pre-existing work?
Mar 21, 5:16PM EDT0

Hi Gellert,

I try to use the planning stages to make sure nothing I write is too derivative, subconsciously lifted from somewhere else. If I do find a phrase or a piece of dialogue that slips through, absolutely I would change it. It’s inevitable to be influenced by other work, and sometimes it comes through in obvious ways, but I  try to cut it or modify it before it reaches the final draft.

Mar 24, 10:48AM EDT0
Your work in publishing shows an interest in putting a spotlight on female-authored fiction. What motivated this initiative?
Mar 21, 2:09PM EDT0

Hello Yosmaryluna,

I just believe that anyone who has a great story should be heard. Starting out in indie publishing, there seemed to be more female writers than male. Consequently, when we did our first book - Death By Drive-In, there was an excellent representation of gender and culture.

I can't honestly claim that we've been out actively looking for specifically female authors, or specifically minority authors, but when they bring their work to our attention, we really don't think about anything but the quality of the story and how well it fits with our purpose. Thankfully, in most cases, we have had plenty of kickass women submitting their work. I only hope that we can continue to attract all kinds of new voices from every corner of humanity.

Mar 21, 3:27PM EDT0

What is the reputation of your publishing company?

Mar 21, 2:53AM EDT1

Hi Jane,

I hope that our reputation is as a small press that works hard to publish interesting, exciting and entertaining books that feature a myriad of voices and viewpoints. We are currently focused on crime and "weird" fiction, but would like to have as many varied cultures and flavours represented as we can manage. 

Mar 21, 3:18PM EDT0
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