Tomorrow, my first short story collection is out! I’ve been publishing short stories for over ten years now, so this has been a long time coming. I want to talk a little bit about what went into putting this one together.
First question: How do you whittle my list of over fifty published stories into the dozen that show up in the collection? In this case, I started with a theme: Kitty stories, or stories that might be considered part of Kitty’s world. So the initial pick of stories was easy. I had some technical considerations. A couple of the stories that came out over the last year are still under contract — the anthologies they had originally appeared in asked for exclusivity for a period of time that overlapped with the collection’s release date, so I couldn’t include them.
I thought it was important to include new material. I’m asking people to buy a whole book here, I don’t want it to be all stories they’ve possibly read before. I wrote two new stories for the collection, one of which is a novella about Cormac. The collection seemed the perfect way to showcase this novella, rather than trying to publish it on its own. (It runs about 22,000 words, which is an awkward length — far too short for a novel, but too long for most short fiction markets. Alternatives would have been to publish it as an e-book, or a stand-alone chapbook. But bundling it with the short stories made a lot more sense.)
One big question: how much editing/revising to do on stories that had already been published? I will confess, I gave into the urge to polish older stories. In a couple of cases, based on editorial suggestion, I made further changes. I’m still waffling on some of them, but when you write for publication you sometimes just have to make a decision and go with it.
One of the hardest steps was figuring out what order to arrange the stories in. I had a few options: strict chronological order based on when the stories were written, chronological order based on when the stories take place, or a more arbitrary order based on what stories will hook readers early. This is a guideline many anthology editors use — start with a strong story, end with a strong story. Draw the readers in, and leave them with a good impression. Chronological order based on when they were written would make sense for a retrospective collection, but not this one. Chronological order based on when the stories take place made a lot more sense. I discussed this quite a bit with my editor, who preferred the “anthology” guideline rather than a chronological arrangement. The end result was a little of both. I could have shuffled the table of contents around for ages, so again, I just had to make some decisions.
Another choice I had to make: whether or not to include author notes about the stories. I decided to include them. Because the Kitty books are a series, readers have a lot of questions about how the stories and books all fit together, and this was a chance to answer those questions and talk about the evolution of the series as a whole. I put all the notes in the back of the book, so readers who don’t care about them could skip them easily.
In my own mind, I’d been calling the collection Tales from the Midnight Hour. Then Kelley Armstrong’s collection, Tales of the Otherworld, came out. Too similar, I thought, so I nixed that idea. On the other hand, that gave me a chance to come up with a much better title more suited to Kitty and her world: Kitty’s Greatest Hits.
I’m very happy to finally have the collection done and out in the wild. This was one of the sticking points I had with my old publisher, who refused to do a collection at all, Kitty stories or no. When I shopped the series to a new publisher, I made a collection part of the deal. Tor was happy to take the collection along with new novels. So here we are!