The following is an interview with editor and contributing writer Patrick R. McDonough (co-host, Dead Headspace podcast) and contributing writer and foreword author R.J. Joseph (writer, Hell Hath No Sorrow Like a Woman Haunted) regarding the upcoming release of Hot Iron and Cold Blood: An Anthology of the Weird West with Dead Sky Publishing. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with McDonough and Joseph about the thematic approach to the horror anthology, what they see as unique in today’s horror landscape and the stories within the collection, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Hot Iron and Cold Blood! Patrick, as the editor, how would you describe your thematic approach when arranging the collected stories?
Patrick R. McDonough: Thank you! My goal was to start with a fairly straightforward Western with a horror/supernatural bend to it. Jill Girardi’s “Ruthless” was the only story that made sense. Everything about it felt like, this is how we start the anthology with a bang!
I wanted each story to progress in the weirder side of things until the halfway point. I’d bet anything that readers haven’t read anything as bizarre and unique as Drew Huff’s “Old Weird Birds.”
From that point, I wanted the stories to head back into straightforward Westerns, ending with an epic, fast-paced adventure—Wile E Young’s “Seeking a Grave in Canaan.” Once I filled those three points, the rest fell into their natural order.
BD: R.J., as an award-winning horror author and lifelong fan of the genre, what excited or intrigued you about the stories collected within Hot Iron and Cold Blood?
Rhonda Jackson Joseph: The best thing about these stories is the way they all capture the resilience and untamable wildness of the West. I’m also a native Texan, so I was excited to see how these writers provided an authentic look at what life can be like here in the West. For this anthology, they tapped into the resounding strangeness encapsulating those uniquely weird elements that we still have echoes of here, today.
BD: In bringing together a Murderers’ Row of creators for the project (including Joe R. Lansdale, Edward Lee, David J. Schow, Jill Girardi, and many more), what can you tell us about the shared creative process of working with the creators to shepherd their stories to completion?
PRM: For Joe, Edward, and David, their [contributions] are the only reissued stories in the anthology, so I didn’t touch their stories. As for everyone else, I tried helping each writer cut out anything that felt it was weighing down the story and also helped with historical correctness, be it the proper names of territories and not yet-established states, to specific words and/or phrases. I wanted to be someone they could all lean on and know I’ve got their best interest above all.
As for my story, “It Calls,” Patrick C Harrison III edited that one.
BD: R.J., in looking at the current landscape of horror and what lies ahead for the genre, are there any new directions for the genre that have been most interesting for you and/or that you feel are tackled within this collection?
RJJ: I think one of the most interesting areas of growth the horror genre has experienced has been reconciling the genre’s foundation with its future: understanding there is no future without the past and there is no way the past lives on without the future to give updated renditions of the genre’s tropes. Also, there has been quite a bit of progress towards determining whose stories and characters have value and should be given voice to speak. One thing this anthology does especially well is show how foundational characters and writers, such as Joe Lansdale and his stoic Reverend, coexist necessarily alongside the gun-wielding Madam Jennie created by Vivian Kasley. The range of stories also touch on ideals of agency and diverse experiences of the weird West in ways that allow this anthology to present a robust picture of what life could have been like for just about all the people who lived in this world. We’re starting to get many voices detailing the same experiences through different lenses, and that aspect maintains the progress of the horror genre.
BD: What makes Dead Sky Publishing the perfect home for this collection?
RJJ: Dead Sky Publishing has carved out a well-deserved signature lane in the horror genre as one of the most innovative weird Western publishers around. Any writer who writes these types of stories aspires to work with DSP, not just because of their positive reputation in the whisper networks writers maintain, but also because they’ve proven they’re dedicated to producing high-quality stories wrapped in collector-level artistic covers that readers appreciate. The staff at DSP is also professional and yet comfortable to work with.
PRM: I’m gonna piggyback on Rhonda’s well-said comments. Also, my experience with them is they granted me an opportunity I literally can say no other publisher has. They took a chance on a guy with no track record as an editor before, believed in my vision, and allowed me just about as much creative control as an editor could wish for.
I hope to work with them in the future–Steve, Jeremy, Kristy, Anna, and the Kaye Publicity team have all my love and respect.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
RJJ: Just in time for the holidays, I’ll have a story in the holiday horror anthology, Solstice in Purgatory, by The Seventh Terrace. Also, I have an academic essay on horror coming out later this year in the Medgar Evers College of the City University Center for Black Literature’s journal, And Then Heard the Thunder.
PRM: I urge readers to consider checking this book out and following the stories in order, but the book opens only one way, with Rhonda’s foreword. After you see how damn good of a writer she is, check out her books. You won’t regret it.
As for what I’m currently working on, it should be announced soon, but I’m in the process of working on my next anthology. It’ll be edited by me and two friends I think the world of. Also have a few books I’m co-writing with a few friends.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Hot Iron and Cold Blood: An Anthology of the Weird West and your other work?
RJJ: Thank you so much for having us over to chat! The best way to find my other work is on my website, www.rhondajacksonjoseph.com. I also haunt various social media platforms under the handle @rjacksonjoseph.
PRM: I really appreciate you having Rhonda and myself here to talk about Hot Iron! The best way to find out more about the anthology, myself, and my work is following me on Twitter at prmcdonough.