SHELFIES: Adele Wearing of Fox Spirit Books

See full issue for 2018 04-09

Introducing Adele Wearing of  Fox Spirit Books

I have to admit, I chased down Adele Wearing for an interview merely because I fell in love with her Twitter persona, Aunty Fox. Several of my writing friends followed her, so I knew she must be something special. Her posts range from the amusing to the educational.

Ad captandum vulpus, the motto from the Fox Spirit Books website, which roughly translates as "to catch a fox." Which is what I did. :-)

And, I'm not too shy, nor too proud, to admit now she's a publisher that I'm going to be submitting my silly but dark stories to.

Adele on Her Book Shelves....

As far as shelves, they are scattered all around the house, and they are in constant chaos, but here are a couple of living room shelves, one non fic, one mostly fiction and the signed books.

Those particular funkos are all mine. :)

See below for those Funkos and her other bookshelves.

Adele Wearing on Fox Spirit Books

How did you come to found Fox Spirit Books? What titles and writers did you start with?

We call the birth of Fox Spirit ‘the great fox con,’ because I never intended to start a publishing house. I was running a weekend genre event and had a group of fabulous writers staying over during the weekend. We were discussing the pub names and all agreed that The Nun And Dragon would be an amazing pub name. If one of us had owned a pub it might have stopped with a re-branding, instead we decided to put an anthology together, just one, for fun on equal splits with everyone involved. By the time Tales of the Nun & Dragon was published Fox Spirit had been born.

How focused is your company on fantasy? How do you define what you are looking for? What happens when you come across a great story that isn’t in your wheelhouse?

We are shockingly unfocused. The great joy of being so small to me is that we can follow the projects that interest us. We are mainly SFF, with a little horror and crime, but we have done two volumes of poetry, we have a line that is purely translations of HEMA (historical European martial arts) fencing manuals originally written by long dead masters. This year we decided that since we have always had the odd story here and there that would classify, it is time to do our first Furry anthology. The fun for me is being able to focus on stories that I love, and I have eclectic tastes.

Do you have a staff? Can you introduce us?

Well, not a staff as such, but we have some mainstays without whom we could not do what we do. We all work around day jobs, so the dedication these people put into FS really is remarkable.

We have Daz who does our in house editing, wrangles the accounts and is my sounding board on which books will and won’t happen.

Gav who right at the beginning told me bad formatting is unacceptable, so ended up taking that on. Gav is also part of the quiet behind the scenes emotional support crew.

We have an a amazing group of writers and artists, some very loyal readers, who are collectively known as the Skulk, and in particular, Kate Laity and Margret Helgadottir have been a huge force in our anthologies as writers and editors. Also Geraldine Clark Hellery who took on the Fennec (middle grade-YA) line which she has had to manage with next to no support from me since my dayjob changed.
Adele Wearing's Bookshelf and her Funkos.

"Another of Adele Wearing's Bookshelves and her Funkos."


Politics have become interesting these days. Has the local, national, or even international political climates changed the way you look at your business model or the titles you might put out?

Yes definitely, in all good ways. We always considered ourselves open and inclusive but we put more effort into reaching out now. We realized early that with the Monsters books, which tour continents examining myths, that it was important to us that those books involve own voice writers. We include some translated stories where possible and will be going back to Eurasia because European Monsters ended up with a very Western European focus. On a personal note I realized how narrow my own reading was and have sought to expand that, which obviously impacts on what we want as a publisher. As far as politics, I used to think it was important to keep politics out of my role, after all I don’t only represent myself at FS. Now though I think it’s important to speak up. We believe in equality, we believe in people telling their own stories and being heard, we are #metoo and #timesup and #ownvoices and #diversewriters.

Tales of Yourself

What was the Young You like? Would Young You recognize Current You? What would you tell Young You?

Young me was not so different in many ways from 40 year old me, but didn’t earn her own money so couldn’t have cake for breakfast. Also read a lot more books with ponies in, now it’s dragons.

Young me would definitely recognize current me and would probably be like, ‘you do what as a dayjob? But we wanted to do something cool.’ Publishing though I would be impressed by. My main advice to young me would be ‘Dad is right about pretty much everything, you will save yourself a lot of aggro by getting that now’. Also young me would wonder why I don’t listen to more heavy metal these days (because it’s really loud young me, and I am too old).

What do your friends and family think of your publishing endeavors? Are they supportive? Have they tried to hold an intervention? Or do you find yourself reminding them of your true calling?

I have been really lucky. My family don’t really read the sort of stuff I publish but they are very supportive of me trying to do something that matters to me. Most of my friends are creatives of some sort, many of them writers, so no risk of an intervention. My folks were super proud when we won the British Fantasy Award even though they didn’t really know what it meant.

What historical person would you most like to meet for dinner? Would it be all about the conversation or would there be a little footsie going on under the table?

Perhaps Oscar Wilde, I appreciate his wit. I suspect any footsie would be unwelcome from me but it would be a good evening of conversation and food. Or one of the Pirate Queens, like Anne Bonny or Ching Shih because my gods what they must have seen, and honestly wouldn’t you want to hear those stories?

Adele Wearing's Bookshelf.

"A third bookshelf in Adele Wearing's home. There may be more."


On Community Interaction: Readers/Fans

How do you interact with your readership? Do you have a forum? A newsletter? Pen-pals?

I am on twitter, there is a facebook page, we do an occasional newsletter and we have a group on FB for chat. The formal forum may be coming soon. A lot of the interaction is on twitter or at events really, for the ones we know.

What is the typical fan of Fox Spirit Books like? Do you even have a typical fan? Are your readers attracted to different authors (or imprints) differently? Or do your readers tend to be attracted to the whole she-bang?

We have a mix, there are people who will buy books by particular writers, but our core fans, the Skulk ones, trust us to do something different and to entertain them. There is a community feel to some of our readers and writers which is just a joy to me, and keeps me going.

Fill in the blank: Readers who like _________ are going to read your books?

‘punching nazis’. Is that ok? We have books full of powerful women and own voices and strange tales.

What conventions or conferences do you attend where you meet fans? Do you tend to appear on panels, or do you prefer to revert to a fan yourself?

We regularly attend Edge.lit in Derby and will have a table this year, I will also be at FantasyCon this year. Obviously our writers keep their own schedules so the Skulk gets about a bit.

On Community Interaction: Writers

In the winter of 2017, another small publisher announced that they'd no longer be working with agents and set off a Twitter storm. Do you have any opinions on that?

Ha, yes. I was reasonably vocal about the absurdity of this. FS works on profit share and token payments so agents rarely get involved, but the writers who have one will often pass the contract over to have a quick look at and we will sometimes get requests to alter a phrase or add something. It makes me a better publisher to get an agents perspective. If a publisher is afraid of agents then one has to wonder why. It’s an absurd approach that has the potential to prey on the inexperienced.

Even ebooks have to have covers. How much say do your creators have in selecting a cover artist? How much say in the layout and design?

We try to make everything a collaboration. Our writers have a pretty free choice of artists we work with, or if they want to bring someone in there is a discussion around that. We will then get any comments from the writer. We then trust the artist to do something that works for the book. For anthologies the editor gets the role of indicating preferred artists. It is a discussion, we aren’t paying advances, but even if we were I want our authors to be proud of the books they are in.

Do you have one perfect font for your books or do you work with the writer to find the best font for each book?

My formatter has standard fonts that work well for printed and ebook which we default to, but they occasionally veer from them for a particular project that calls for it. I trust my experts.

On Marketing

Where do you recommend indie writers go to market their books? Are there any types of services that you suggest that they avoid?

I think it depends on the writer. You need to be out there and have a presence but it needs to be you, not endless marketing babble. The thing I see over and over again with our books is no matter how much I do, it’s when the authors promote or get out there and talk to people, that the books sell. You need to pick what format works for you. I like twitter, it’s quick and easy to interact.

Have you and yours won any awards or titles? What was that like?

We won the British Fantasy Society Award for best small press in 2015. It was awesome. I was completely flawed and there were so many people we have worked with in the room, it was a lovely feeling. We have had a number of works shortlisted and it’s always nice to get that acknowledgment of our authors and all the work we do. In some ways when a writer we work with gets an agent or sells books that feels the same as when we get shortlisted for an award, James Bennett and Ren Warom have got amazing trilogies with Orbit and Titan and every time something like that happens we celebrate a little at FS. That’s partly the ‘I was right, they rock’ dance and partly the ‘good things happening to good people’ dance btw. I would love Fox Spirit to be seen as somewhere to discover new writers you might enjoy as a reader and seeing our writers go on to bigger better things is confirmation that that can be the case.

On Community Interaction: Local Real World Stuff

What is your area like? What attracted you to it? Do you find it inspiring in any way?

I love Leicestershire and Leicester itself has a brilliant literature scene, with ‘everybody’s reading’ festival and ‘States of Independence’ at De Montfort. Both Universities have a great reputation for Creative Writing and Lit. In the wider East Midlands Edge.Lit in Derby at the Quad is well worth a visit. We also have a very active poetry scene. Scratch the surface and there is a lot going on round here. For me, I am Leicestershire born and bred, while I went away to the North East for Uni and now live in the south of the County having grown up in the north side, I love it. It’s also relatively easy to get to events all over the country.

Do you work with any local writers or know any? Does the area find its way into their work?

I never had the pleasure of working with him, although we had spoken, but Graham Joyce was well known for Leicestershire featuring in his books, I recommend Some Kind of Fairy Tale for both a taste of how lovely my home County is and also how fantastic a writer Graham is.

In FS we did a Fox Pocket called Missing Monarchs, and while he doesn’t feature it was a little bit of fun because we had just dug up Richard 3rd.

On Business vs Passion, Publisher vs Creator

What’s your day publishing like? How many days or hours of publishing are you able to get in per week?

Sadly it fluctuates. My dayjob can be demanding, and I have a commute so some weeks I get to do more FS and others I get home, take a pain killer and crash out. Ideally I fit roughly a working day in, Sat and Sunday mornings and a bit in the evenings. I also do bits on the train, mostly twitter and email.

If you feel your connection to or appreciation for your literature fading, how do you reconnect or revitalize that loving feeling?

I reach out to some of my writers and editors and fans. If I feel drained and am struggling to find the love I speak to them and they remind me why I do all this and how much I love it.

On That Damn Slush Pile

Anthologies? Love them or hate them?

Love them. They are a lot of work, but it’s a great chance for me to discover new voices, or see writers I work with do something different. I hope that if I find them so exciting the readers will too.

What makes a good cover letter or query letter? What was the last one that really blew your mind and made you want to read the whole book? Do you have any examples of the worst?

A query is like the cover letter on your CV. If it’s right, and professional it won’t stand out especially, the book will do the work. It’s the bad ones that stick out. We have submission guidelines, ignoring them isn’t individual, it’s annoying and you go straight into the bin.

On Current and Future Plans

What was 2017 like for you and Fox Spirit Books? What were some of the highlights for you?

2017 was, as it usually is, fairly manic. We had a lot to get out and as anyone who has done the small press thing knows it doesn't take much to throw everything out. Highlights though, aside from every time an author messages on receipt of their copy, the Monsters books are always incredible to see in their final version with all the art. We also launched our younger readers line with Ghoulsome Graveyard and The Girl in the Fort. It's nice to have something we can say confidently is suitable for middle graders. Hopefully a gateway drug.

What are the plans for the immediate future? What books will be rolling off the presses shortly?

This year is going to be just as busy, we have a chapbook of two horror shorts coming and Pseudopod 2 which is a collection of endcap essays from the podcast by the host Alasdair Stuart. Then we are launching volumes 2 & 3 of our werewolves in space trilogy StarFang by Singaporean writer Joyce Chng. All this by early spring. We have got a call open at the moment for our first official foray into Furry fic. The Jackal Who Came in From the Cold will be a spy themed mixed genre collection of Furry stories. We have a number of stories among our collections that would classify but we wanted to do a complete collection. If it does well there will be more. We have pretty much firmed up our 2018 line up and are now sorting out edits and artists and all the other business that goes on in the back ground. 2019 is also shaping up nicely.

Do you have any long range plans in the works?

It's hard to plan more than a year or two ahead as a small press, but more books, more events and if Jackal does really well I have my eye on a couple of people to manage a separate Furry line for me, just a couple of titles a year, but I would love FS to do more in that field.

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Bill Kieffer

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