04 August 2010

Conversations With the Dirty Prophet II: Theological Fiction and Publishing

A continuation of my interview with Adrew Bowen, founder of Divine Dirt Quarterly.  To read part one, click here.


Jello World: So, thinking more about novels now, do you have any thoughts on the mainstream publishing industry? I know a lot of people who are going the self-pub route, or going to smaller indie presses, and even some who've started their own publishing houses. And since you've seen fit to start up something like DDQ, I thought you might have an opinion on what is (or isn't) currently being published.

Dirty Prophet: A lot. That's it; there's a ton of material being produced despite the image of so much rejection. And now with the relative low cost of printing and small-scale production, artists can in effect tell the companies to screw themselves. This democratization is a two-edged sword. At once, it's great that more and more art can be shared due to this freedom, but the negatives are that the ratio of artist to consumer is tilting to a point of inflation. It's in vogue to diss the big houses and authors who rake in five to seven figures per title, but put yourself in their shoes: would you say no? Artists have a hard time supporting themselves as it is, but now a non-paying market is the norm. The next few years will be interesting.

Jello World: I wouldn't say no! haha. I think it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years, whether digital will make print books obsolete (I doubt it) and stuff like that. I know you've had a submission out with an agent for a while now. Do you plan to continue pursuing the traditional publishing route, or would you consider self-publishing or e-publishing?

Dirty Prophet: Oh no, "the submission". It's been with this particular agent for almost eight months. So I suppose that yeah, I'm shooting for traditional, at least at first. Like I told the agent, writing is a career move for me. Sure, I'm an artist and want to express myself and all that jazz, but when it comes down to it, I know that this is what I'm built for and what better result than to do what brings me joy and be able to support my family?

Jello World: Amen! I have nothing but respect for anyone who chooses to do it themselves. I just don't have the discipline and motivation to be my own marketing machine. Plus, at least for now, I think the pros of traditional publishing still outweigh the benefits of self publishing.

Dirty Prophet: This is an aspect artist folks tend to forget about publishing: it is a business and what you produce is a product. I'm not entirely reticent to the idea of going solo, it's just a business choice: publisher = less risk. Artists have to be able to see themselves as business people if a career (and therefore income) is to rise to fruition. Should I get a contract, I'll have no problem going from writer to pimp of my work quicker than Clark Kent to Superman in a phone booth.

Jello World: haha! So you'd kill your darlings, so to speak, at the request of a publisher or editor to make your product more marketable?

Dirty Prophet: No, to make it better. I have no shame and very little ego. There have been several pieces of my short fiction that were modified and edited due to an editor's suggestion. This doesn't mean I'm a whore to the industry, but I recognize that there are people out there whose job it is to analyze work, recognize weaknesses, and make corrections. Being a writer is just a link in the creative chain and if my ego weakens that chain, show's over.

Jello World: But there are limits to what you'll do? I know a lot of writers feel that there are editors out there who will want to re-work your book until it hardly resembles what you set out to create.

Dirty Prophet: There are limits. This novel I've written literally defines me as an artist. I'll move and mold a lot, but I won't relinquish my identity or artistic soul to make a buck for myself or anyone else.

Jello World: Good for you!  So do you think your "brand" will be theological fiction, or do you see yourself ever branching out into other areas?

Dirty Prophet: I actually think theological fiction has a ton of real estate. There are really just two areas here: Inspirational, where the literature is biased toward a particular mindset, and more literary work that sinks away into general fiction. The market has a tough time sorting the latter out. It's even more difficult to find this material (non-inspirational) in stores because they are buried in the "Literature" section. I'd love to see an emergence of this genre as it's own distinctive niche, like mystery or romance. This would make room for great sub-genres that, before, would have been unthinkable amalgams such as theo-erotica, theo-historical fiction, even theo-graphic novels...all of which center around this concept of theological expression and exploration.

Jello World: Sign me up for theo-erotica! I'm totally there. I think it would be great to see that kind of development, practically creating a new genre. Side rant: I really do hate how bookstores have that "Literature" section, because what it usually means is "we didn't know where else to put it" and just because you like one book in that section doesn't mean you'll be at all interested in the one sitting right next to it!!! *end rant*

Dirty Prophet: It's really like the Wild West of literally expansion. You realize this dream, this idea, that there's all this room to spread and build and then it suddenly hits you how enormous of an undertaking it would be.

Jello World: I have a friend who writes terrific Steampunk, bordering on erotica sometimes, and that genre is just starting to take hold too. I think she's on the leading edge of something that will be really great, and I think you are too. There are so many possibilities and so many stories to tell. The agent who snatches you up will be very lucky!

Dirty Prophet: Thanks! What's great about this genre is that it requires no baggage to contribute. To write Christian Inspirational, you kinda need to be a member, but with theo-lit, you could be an outright atheist and still have something to contribute. When you see theology and spirituality as something free to explore, it takes the barbs out it and suddenly we're all members of one diverse congregation.

Jello World: So true! And even under that heavy tag of "literary fiction" you have to have a certain something that not every writer has (or wants to). So you're envisioning more of a mainstream genre. Like you said, something more recognizable, like romance or mystery. Do you see DDQ almost as a first step in building the genre and getting the word out there?

Dirty Prophet: There are other zines out there. Image is a big one. A good friend of mine, Edward Simon started 31st Bird Review a few months before DDQ, Ashe Journal is another. There are others, but as I said, the horizon is wide open and there's certainly room for niches to develop and grow.

Jello World: Cool, I'll have to check out some of those too.

Dirty Prophet: Tell them I said hi.

Jello World: Will do! Wow... So this has been quite a productive chat! I think I've asked all the questions I had and have gotten lots of great material. Is there anything you wanted to share or tell readers that I haven't touched on?

Dirty Prophet: The standard I live by is this: We are all but neighbors, borrowing sugar (ideas, concepts, etc.) from one another to create our own pastries. Once we grasp this, that our humanity isn't stagnant, but a continual narrative where we share and make anew, the day gets brighter and the thunder of our lives becomes music instead of something mysterious to be feared.

Jello World: Prophet, indeed.

Andrew's fiction has appeared in Metazen, Full of Crow, Nanoism, Pulp Metal Magzine, and Prick of the Spindle, just to name a few. He is the founder/editor of Divine Dirt Quarterly, and he blogs at The Dirty Prophet. If that's not enough, he also wrestles with God and they share beer afterward.


  1. Just caught up and read the full interview. Excellent, and very interesting. And now I know where I should submit a couple stories no one else will touch (or perhaps they're not touching them because they're just not that good...ha).

  2. Thanks, Robb! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview, and definitely let us know how those stories do! If you ever want to hijack my blog for a post or two, let me know. :-)


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