"The Red Penny Papers is an electronic journal of fantastic fiction, both novellas published on a regular serial schedule and short fiction published quarterly. RPP publishes webfiction that celebrates the spirit of the penny dreadful, the sensationalist and gothic novel, and their more modern successor, the pulp magazine– the catch is that it must have a dark speculative bent."
W1S1: First off, how would you describe your role(s) at The Red Penny Papers?
KVT: This will sound like I'm just trying to be weird, but I'm a collector. I choose and edit each piece myself, but RPP came from my own desire to read a certain type of story, to find it presented in a coherent way, and then share it with people who might enjoy similar things. So in that way my role is more curatorial than anything else: find a story that fits, give it a little dusting off to make sure it's shiny, and put it on display in a gallery created to highlight its particular brand of awesome.
W1S1: What are the top three things you look for in a story?
KVT: The first is emotional impact. It needs to make a reader laugh or cry or hurt or hide under the covers. Anything that'd leave someone breathing hard, for any reason at all--that's what sensationalism is all about, at heart.
The second is voice, which is a major factor in impact, but still deserves its own mention. When someone uses their voice to augment and uplift the plot and characters, it's irresistible.
The third is clarity. A directness of purpose in both what the story's trying to say and its execution goes a long way. Any style of writing from the sparest to the brightest purple can get there.
W1S1: Typically, what makes the difference between a story's acceptance or rejection?
KVT: Everyone says this, but when it's down to the wire, polish matters. If a story is good, but would take too much editorial work to get into shape, it's going to lose out to another story that's equal in all other aspects, but has been more thoroughly edited.
But the truth is that RPP gets an extraordinary amount of well-polished stories. It's usually a question of what fills a thematic gap in an issue or best suits the overall idea of the magazine.
W1S1: What fresh story ideas/themes/genres would you like to see submitted to The Red Penny Papers this year?
KVT: Being an unashamedly sensationalist publication, freshness isn't really that important--idea recycling, even straight up homage is as welcome as originality. The main thing is to add your own flourish to it, make it yours so we take something new from it.
What RPP needs are more stories from those points of view so often underrepresented in genre fiction: PoC, LGBTQ, disabled, and those from varied ethnic and religious backgrounds.
It's not key that the stories are about these aspects of the characters and their lives. It's just that the sensational and fantastic from a different point of view can provide the most satisfying experiences available to a wider range of readers. To those who share the point of view it's like coming home (and everyone should have the experience of reading about characters like them). For readers who don't it brings something new to the game (the other experience everyone should have--identifying with a character they wouldn't typically consider like them).
But please don't think this means stories about white, able-bodied, cis-gendered straight men aren't acceptable, or that just because a story accurately portrays an underrepresented point of view, it'll fit. It's all about the story.
W1S1: Lastly, if you could change anything about the publishing industry today, what would it be?
Now there's a scary question.
Seriously, though, I think a lot of the things that bother me about publishing are changing even now, and that's what a lot of the current upheaval is about. But if I could wave a magic wand and make something happen right now, I'd repair the broken system, the broken relationships between booksellers and publishers, both the indies and the big guns on either end of it. As is, it not only causes the directly involved parties endless trouble, but also leaves readers and authors open to some strange and inventive exploitation.
W1S1: Thanks for your time, KV!
So for all you Write1Sub1ers who might have a fantastic story or two up your proverbial sleeve, go check out The Red Penny Papers submission guidelines and publishing schedule here. Just be sure to bring your own "particular brand of awesome."