Thursday, August 16, 2012

Interview With Ken Harrison


People that follow me on twitter or Facebook know my postings can be about many diverse topics. Today, I am chatting with the editor-in-chief behind Seventh Window Publications. I met Ken Harrison first on twitter and then in person last spring at the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC. He is part of the group of people known as our 'tribe' on twitter who are there to support and encourage one another. I've read some of his authors and even know some of those with titles coming up from him this fall. I wanted to have him talk about the ever changing world of the LGBT author: what that means from contemporary fiction to erotic material and especially sharing one of the larger readers of gay fiction: women.

So, Ken. Now that "Fifty Shades of Grey" has brought certain topics out into the open - I can finally have you on my blog. Just kidding, of course. Tell us how you started Seventh Window and when?

I started Seventh Window back in 2002, when I wanted to stop writing and shift career goals so I was behind the scenes. Back then I was known for erotica (Daddy’s Boys, Young, Hung & Ready for Action) and needed a change without leaving publishing. I have to say that I prefer the business side of the creative process and working with authors on their stories. 

Happy 10 year anniversary to you! A huge accomplishment to be around this long. What changes in the publishing world have you noticed over the years?

The switch from print to eBook was probably the biggest change in publishing since the introduction of the mass market paperback. It has changed every aspect of publishing that I can think of. Gone are the days of a small press doing a book run of 3,000 copies. Print on demand is now the most common way print editions get into readers’ hands. The nostalgic part of me misses lugging around cases of books, but deep down, I don’t miss it. 

You know I have written a book with gay characters (and I have heard from a few readers they had to jump over certain pages in that book due to sexual content). But what do you think is the biggest misconception people have when it comes to M/M books?

Calling all M/M Romance erotic romance. That goes up my tush. Gay romance (M/M) is just like regular romance: some of it is highly erotic, but not all of it. In fact, a vast majority of what is type-cast as erotic romance is not erotic romance. Erotic romance is a sub-genre of romance, not a genre to itself. 

Do you think overall bookstores and society tends to lump all GLBT books together and hide them in the back of the store? And if so, is that one of the reasons you offer your own virtual store as part of your publishing house?

Back in the late 1980s the GLBT community wanted bookstores to have GLBT sections, so I blame ourselves for the lack of inclusion our writers get when it comes to be being placed in bookstores. I never thought it was a good thing to separate our fiction from the rest of fiction. It gives the idea that it doesn’t belong, which is false. GLBT stories are just as well written as any other fiction. 

With that said, I would love to see gay romance mixed with straight romance; gay mystery mixed with straight mystery. Doing this would give writers more opportunity to be read by someone outside of the GLBT community. The best thing to happen to gay romance (and the fight for equality) was when straight women began reading it. For some of these women, it was their introduction to gay life. They’re able to see our relationships and realize that we do love each other and grow compassionate towards our fight for marriage equality. 

People may scoff at romance, but the one thing that romance has done is paint a picture of how society viewed the rights of women and gay people over the years. There was a time in romance when a gay character would only show up if he was a child molester or a villain; when it was okay for the heroine to get raped by the hero, and so forth. Romance has also tackled such difficult topics as alcoholism, drug abuse and cancer. 

I'm not asking you to play favorites with all the many authors at your press, but if someone were starting to put their foot in the M/M book world - where do you suggest they start?

That’s difficult to answer. It would depend on the person and what s/he enjoys reading. There’s not a single book that will speak to every person out there—thankfully. Books are individual, much like people. I also have to say that Seventh Window doesn’t have a quota of titles to put out every month, so I believe in every author and title I publish. And although there’s not a monthly quota to fulfill, I do have an idea of how many titles I want to publish in any given year. If I meet my goal, that’s great, but it’s not a necessity. 

You started out as a writer yourself. Can you tell us some about that?

My first published story was in the early 1990s in the now defunct magazine Christopher Street. It paid a small amount of money, but gave me the confidence to continue writing.  From there I continued plugging out stories with the hope of making it in one magazine or another, and getting a lot of rejection slips telling me they liked my work, but it didn’t quite make it. 

By the mid ‘90s I got sick of rejections and read a compilation of erotic fiction edited by John Preston called Flesh and the Word, which opened my mind to erotic fiction. I then penned my first erotic story that was immediately picked up by Blueboy. From there I continued to write for Blueboy while branching out into other magazines. In time I was a regular at Mandate, Honcho, Playguy and Torso. My first collection of erotic stories was Daddy’s Boys, published by Lelyland Publications. I continued to write and publish for porn magazines, making sure I was able to keep the rights to everything I published so it could later be collected in a single volume. Because of this practice I was able to put out Young, Hung & Ready for Action (Leyland Publications) and Ten Thick Inches (Seventh Window). Granted, each of these books have stories I wrote specifically for the collections, but the bulk of the stories had been published elsewhere. 

Wow! You just completely educated many of my readers to the world of erotica and porn. (Though I know some of them secretly read 50 Shades & aren't telling anyone.) What is coming up through the rest of 2012 for Seventh Window?

I have titles coming out from Bebe Burnside (A Cup of Late), GL Roberts (Light and Shadow), Ron Radle (Degrees of Passion) along with some new unpublished authors ready to be discovered. 

And what is happening next for Ken? Any rest on the horizon or are you too excited learning new tech toys to make your job easier?

I’m hoping not to get too much rest. At the moment I don’t have a single title for 2013, but 2012 is full and I’m not looking for anything new until I get the backlog of manuscripts published. I have spoken to a few new authors who shopped their novel ideas to me over the phone or in person. As exciting as it is to talk to an author about a title they would like to write, I never know if it will happen until the author sends me a manuscript. And since these are just ideas and novels in progress, the authors do not have a contract with Seventh Window, so I can’t discuss them. 

I’m a big technology person and keep a blog where I discuss tech, publishing and things I like called The Publishing Geek (http://ken-harrison.tumblr.com/). Since that blog is more or less a hobby, it doesn’t have a cohesive posting schedule. But in it I talk about tech articles I’ve read, all things Android, ePub and CSS, Windows and Windows Phone, review apps and publishing software, etc… It’s a place where my other interests come together.

You can always find me at Top 2 Bottom Reviews , where I have a monthly post about writing and publishing (the first Thursday of every month, generally).

You can also find me on Twitter @ken_harrison 
I’m always interested in new story and author. Feel free to follow me.

Thanks to Ken for joining my blog and sharing more from the other side of the publishing world.

3 comments:

  1. Great interview! I've read a few titles published by Seventh Window Productions and agree with Ken that the books not to be lumped into one generic genre.
    I also believe that LBGT books should not be segregated at the back of a bookstore but be more in the eye of the public for consumers to purchase.
    That's my two-cents for what it's worth.
    Jodi (chaptersandchats)

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    1. Thanks, Jodi! Couldn't agree with you more.

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    2. Glad you enjoyed the interview and got something out of it. Hopefully you enjoyed the Seventh Window titles you read.

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