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Interview: James Kaelan of FMC

Yep, that’s right, had the wonderful opportunity to interview James Kaelan, managing editor of FLatmancrooked.

Tons of good info, new news, & in-depth coverage –  read more after the break


According to the FMC website: ‘in 2010, Flatmancrooked will launch the Zero Emission Book—a project that will take viable and green publishing to a brand new level’ – can you tell us some of the details of this project?

We officially announced details regarding the Zero Emission Book Project on Tuesday. For those of you who haven’t seen the article in WordHustler, or the article and video on The Nervous Breakdown, check them out, or got to www.zeroemissionbook.com. But, so you don’t have to leave this page, I’ll explain what the project’s all about. The Zero Emission Book—my collection (two novellas and a story) WE’RE GETTING ON—is a book that offsets its own production carbon emission. How? Well, we had Porridge Papers in Lincoln, Nebraska produce a special stock that contains spruce seeds. So, if you plant the book in the ground, it turns into a tree. We thought that idea was cool enough to choreograph a tour around, so I’ll be saddling up next September to tour the book across the country—by bicycle. 3,600 miles in forty days. I’ll be going through ten cities, chased by an electric car that one, or both, of my business partners (Elijah Jenkins and Deena Drewis) will be piloting. During the tour I won’t be allowed to use any electronics. No hot water, either. It’s going to be horrible (for me), and also pretty amazing (in retrospect). I should add, for the sake of longevity, we’ll be planting one book in each of the ten cities where I’m reading, so that the book will live on (literally) in the communities it encounters.

FMC also has a book coming in January that isn’t about vampires – an anthology said to ‘combat the recent spate of popular vampire fiction’ – so does the book actually have any relationship to vampires? Does it have genre underpinnings or scary-story roots?

The book does include terrifying new work from Brian Evenson, but it isn’t a genre anthology. Over at Flatmancrooked, we’re all pretty devoted fans of Californication (Showtime, Sundays), and on the third episode of this season Hank Moody railed against the Twilight series. This spoke to the hearts of our staff, so we thought we’d make a reference to that sentiment with our new anthology. A friend of mine in L.A., Kevin Best, is a bit of a rising art star who tends to satirize pop culture, so I asked him to do a painting of Hank Moody killing Edward Cullen. The resulting work–Hank Moody vs. Twilight–came out absolutely rad, so we used it for the cover of NOT ABOUT VAMPIRES: An Anthology Concerning Everything Else. But the coolest thing is that last Monday, Kevin and I tracked down Tom Kapinos, the creator and head writer of Californication, and gave him the painting. It’s now hanging on his office wall at the studio. To say the least, we’re pretty excited about the conceptual and contentual (I made that word up) aspects of the book. There’s work from Shya Scanlon, Kevin Walsh, J. David Stevens, N. A. Jong, Daniel Grandbois, Christoper Robinson, Thomas McCafferty, and a horde of others.

Not to be outdone by the books, FMC is also playing with new ideas about growing authors – can you talk to us a little about how the FMC Launch program came to be and where it is headed?

Last August we debuted Launch, which we call “the most innovative author promotion program in the industry.” With Launch, we take an author we’ve already worked closely with and give our audience the opportunity to invest in the artist’s work. Our guinea pig was Emma Straub. We released 200 “shares,” and sold all of them. That investment period led to the first edition of FLY-OVER STATE, which is, six weeks in, still on Book Court’s bestsellers list. Right now we’re developing a project with Alyssa Knickerbocker for her novella, YOUR RIGHTFUL HOME. We’ll launch her early next year.

And Launch of course ties in with the FMC novella imprint – how many titles are planned per year and, in looking ahead, any that can be newly announced or spoken of here?

Other than Ms. Knickerbocker’s book, we’re in negotiations with Thomas McCafferty, Matthew Yost, and a few others. In other words, the New Novella list ought to be stacked by the close of 2010. We’re also developing longer books under our HyperLimited imprint. We’re releasing, as many people already know, Shya Scanlon’s FORECAST. I believe we also just locked down N. A. Jong’s debut collection. Finally, Big Other contributor Molly Gaudry is editing an anthology of telling (not showing) stories that will come out next fall. Authors in that book include George Saunders, Rick Moody, Aimee Bender, Benjamin Percy, Matt Bell, Stuart Dybek, and a host of other kids. That book ought to be a party.

Let’s take a moment to recap: FMC has (or will have) anthologies featuring Daniel Grandbois, Shya Scanlon, Matt Bell, George Saunders, Rick Moody, Aimee Bender, and too many others to mention; has commissioned artwork now hanging in the office of Californication’s creator; has and will continue to sell shares in new  authors and their works; and is literally going to create books that can be planted in the ground and will sprout into trees – in all seriousness where do these constant ideas and concepts come from?


Flatmancrooked is all of 18 months old, which means, virtually from the day we opened our doors we were running a business during a recession. Add on top of that the fact that the print publishing industry is in flux, and you have a perfect breeding ground for invention. If we’ve been innovative, it’s because we’ve had to be. Rehashing old ideas wasn’t going to get the company off the ground. So we’re always developing and testing out novel approaches. The secret is, being revolutionary (or at least trying to be) is a whole lot more fun than waiting around for the economy to improve.

So, if our Big Other readers / writers are anything like me, they want to know the quickest and best way to get acquainted with FMC – what is the must have title for folks brand new to FMC endeavors?

For me, of course, it’s difficult to choose a title, because I love them all. But for sentimental reasons I’d have to say our first anthology, FIRST WINTER. It has newly translated (just for the book!) work from Jorge Luis Borges, and also one of the stories from Ha Jin’s collection A GOOD FALL—which came out a few weeks ago. For personal reasons I’d say y’all should buy my book WE’RE GETTING ON, but it isn’t out just yet. So get FIRST WINTER. Or THE ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT NEW WRITING DONE DURING AN ECONOMIC DEPRESSION. Or NOT ABOUT VAMPIRES. Or the second edition of Emma Straub’s FLY-OVER STATE.

5 thoughts on “Interview: James Kaelan of FMC

  1. As someone who’s been working with this crew for a few months now, sharpening up a manuscript and discussing publishing and promotion strategy, I have to say I’m quite impressed by their enthusiasm, openness to new ideas, and by the high merit of their own insights.

    This is a really exciting new press, and I’m spastically happy to be participating in their project at such an early stage, before they establish themselves as essentially the model for publishing in the 21st century.

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