Literary Landscape: Aqueous Books
Cynthia Reeser is the publisher for Aqueous as well as the Editor-in-Chief for literary magazine Prick of the Spindle. We spoke about Aqueous’s inception and popularity, as well as her work load and what she looks for in a manuscript.
SD: How did Aqueous start: what inspired its creation?
CR: I can honestly say that the idea for the company came to me suddenly, just as so many inspired ideas do for some writers.It also made a lot of sense to initiate an avenue for print publication. Prick of the Spindle was receiving more than its fair share of long-form fiction, and publishing it–and by long-form I mean novellettes, novellas, and even novel submissions–and these, added in to the mix with the sheer volume of submissions we receive, made it a bit hairy for our team to get timely decisions sent out as quickly as we would like to. So I thought, why not give it a shot, and Aqueous Books was born.
SD: Aqueous already has a lot of forthcoming publications under its belt, and according to your website you’re booked with submissions until 2015. Did you anticipate this level of popularity, and how does it affect your work week?
CR: I did anticipate this level of popularity, and then some. I continue to work on contract as a writer/editor/ghostwriter; work full-time in editing and publishing for nonprofit nursing associations; manage the Prick of the Spindle print, online, and Kindle editions; facilitate the journal’s community outreach competitions, competitions, and other nonprofit endeavors; and manage the business side of Aqueous Books, including edits, contracts, web management, graphics, book layout, and acquisitions, etc. I’m also a single mother of two. My work week has consisted of 16-hour workdays, 7 days a week for the last 5 years, with very little variation. I love this work. I thrive on it.
SD: Aqueous’ imprint Waxwing is devoted to philosophy specifically. Is philosophy is something you look for, to some degree, in everything you publish?
CR: It depends on the submission. It is something I enjoy, certainly. I look for some depth in everything I publish, however that may be presented. I think of philosophical work as something that is overtly contemplative and analytical, and I can identify with that type of writing because that’s how I’m wired. However, some works of fiction are philosophical without being overtly philosophical, in that philosophy is a genre. There are degrees of philosophy in most everything, from a philosophical to out-and-out philosophy. You can have sprinklings of philosophy embedded in the most unassuming metaphor, in places you wouldn’t expect it to be; that, too, is philosophy, and it is something you can find in varying degrees in much of the literary canon, if you are looking.
SD: You publish literary fiction but also magical realism, horror, and paranormal works. How would you distinguish say, magical realism or more literary horror, from what people would consider mass market fantasy?
CR: To me, mass market fantasy is dragons and swords and fair maidens trapped behind castle walls, with fairly little variation. In Aqueous Books’ infancy, we were open to fantasy submissions. Through reading the fantasy submitted to us, I realized that it wasn’t what we were looking for. I was hoping for fantasy to be submitted that was more literary in its quality, like Lord of the Rings is literary and yet fantasy. The magical realism and horror that we publish has distinctive literary qualities–in terms of its narrative, its conceit, and so on. To me, the literary qualities are what give it staying power and universality to the readership, not to be confused with mass market appeal. If a manuscript submitted lacks sound qualities of narrative pacing, structure, character development, metaphor, and so on, no matter what the genre or category, then it is not right for us.
SD: You’re the Editor-in-Chief for Prick of the Spindle, an online, e-book, and print literary magazine. Are all of Aqueous’ titles getting e-book and print editions?
CR: Yes. All Aqueous titles are published in print and e-book format. The only exception is that our heavily illustrated books receive print-only publication, because of the current limitations of graphic support for e-book versions. As a Machine & Parts by Caleb J. Ross is one such example.