Joe Bonadonna speaks out on “Doctors in Hell,” the perfect prescription for damnation’s ills

First published in Black Gate Magazine:

Doctors in Hell is available in print and digital editions at Amazon:

And at Barnes & Noble:

The Perfect Prescription for Perdition: Doctors in Hell, edited by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Sunday, September 13th, 2015 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Doctors in Hell-smallDoctors in Hell
Heroes in Hell, Volume 18
Edited by Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Perseid Press (336 pages, $19.98 in trade paperback, $7.92 digital, June 23, 2015)
Cover: Pandemonium, John Martin (1789-1854), circa 1841, oil on canvas, from private collection. Cover design by Sonja Aghabekian

Be careful to preserve your health. It is a trick of the devil, which he employs to deceive good souls, to incite them to do more than they are able, in order that they may no longer be able to do anything.
— St. Vincent De Paul

By now, many of you no doubt know of my association with Janet Morris and Perseid Press. Maybe you’ve read the reviews of her novels that I wrote for Black Gate, including my reviews of Lawyers in Hell, Rogues in Hell, and Dreamers in Hell. In 2014 Janet and I collaborated onan article for Black Gate, in which we discussed Poets in Hell, how I came to be involved with Hell, and how she put that volume together.

Now, for 2015, Perseid Press offers you Doctors in Hell, the 18th volume in the popular and long-running Heroes in Hell saga, created by Janet Morris back in 1986 .This year I’m going to do something similar to what Janet and I did last year: presenting a brief synopsis of each story/chapter, with the diabolical assistance of my twelve fellow Hellions — the damnedest writers in perdition, to paraphrase the text on the book’s front cover. That makes 13 of us… a nice number, don’t you think?

First, however, I want to share with you my take on the infernal Afterlife of Hell, as it’s portrayed in the Heroes in Hell shared-universe.

Perseid Press logoThe series is often called “Bangsian fantasy,” a genre of fantasy which concerns the use of famous literary or historical individuals and their interactions in the afterlife. It’s named for John Kendrick Bangs (1862 –1922), an American satirist who often wrote such tales. Heroes in Hellitself is an epic series of shared-world novels where the famous and infamous throughout history all wind up together in Hell, where they virtually pick up right where they left off when still alive — but now with a diabolical twist: Hell may give you what you want and what you need, but these things are never quite what you asked for. Hell is not what you’d expect, so always expect the unexpected. Things are broken in Hell, things malfunction, and there’s always a grand touch of irony to everything that happens. Hell gives and Hell takes away, and in Hell the Damned get just what they deserve. There is comedy and tragedy in this eternal and infernal arena of Lost Souls, where human drama is played out across a wide spectrum of such literary genres that include heroic fantasy, horror, action-adventure, political thrillers, westerns, science fiction, and even romance. Each individual story in each book reads like a chapter in a novel, and each story/chapter bears the unique touch and personality of its author.

The premise of the series is based on the tradition that 613 is the number of mitzvoth or commandments in the Torah, which began in the 3rd century CE when Rabbi Simlai mentioned it in a sermon that is recorded in Talmud Makkot 23b. Our series of novels begins with the 613 original commandments, binding on every living soul, and ignorance is no excuse: break just one little commandment and you go to Hell. So almost everybody who was anybody broke some commandment or other while on earth, and now here they are, sometimes in a part of Hell where they belong, sometimes in an area of Hell where they don’t. The Damned come from across the length and breadth of time and history to interact, to scheme and plot, and even go adventuring — all the while suffering the torments of a well-deserved damnation. The worst and best from all of time make the same mistakes in Hell that got them there in the first place: character is destiny, in life Topside and in the Afterlife of the underverse, as well. You could read these books in order, in any order, or without having read any of the previous volumes in the series. In Hell, Time is meaningless, so it doesn’t matter which book you begin with: start anywhere, for the cohesion in each volume makes it stand alone. You can read Hell forward or backward or upside down: Hell is still Hell. It still unsettles minds and makes hearts skip beats. The Damned get the Hell they deserve. Expect what will be, nothing less, and nothing more. This is not your mommy’s world of fantasy: this is Hell, and tonight we dine on gore, tonight we feast on souls.

Lawyers in Hell-smallNow, as to what’s going on in Doctors in Hell

For all the horrors and torments that Satan has unleashed upon the Damned, the Almighty has decided that he’s been too lenient on them, and so to Hell were sent Ezra, the Babylonian plague god, and his henchmen, the Seven Sibitti, to spread plague and terror, to wreak havoc and further punishment throughout the underverse. Erra then stirs the pit by adding his own little brand of mayhem, maleficence, and malefic maladies to the mix. The result is that pestilential misery runs amok in Hell, lost souls wail in even more torment, doctors raise their fees, and snake-oil salesmen make a killing selling all sorts of bootlegged versions of vaccines and so-called remedies for the plagues sweeping across and through all levels and circles of Hell. But the damned must suffer, and the Devil is furious about Erra and his enforcers being sent from Heaven to prove that Hell is insufficiently hellish. And since death in Hell for all lost souls is only fleeting, followed by a horrifying turn in the Mortuary where they are worked on by the Undertaker prior to being reassigned, torment and suffering are eternal.

There is no escaping Hell. And don’t bother telling Hell’s doctors where it hurts, they won’t care. They have their own problems.

Ah, but Satan has a plan. Satan always has a plan. It’s a purge that may be even more terrible than anything cooked up by Erra. Satan, you see, has always held to the belief that Mankind is worthy of neither salvation nor damnation, and deserves only oblivion: total obliteration into nothingness. His Satanic Majesty has been trying to prove his point to Heaven and the Big Man Upstairs for ages upon ages, and this argument is what landed him in Hell in the first place. The Devil has always insisted that modern souls in Hell — called the New Dead, roughly anyone born Anno Domini — are so vicious, self-centered, hubristic and morally bankrupt that they would punish themselves and each other, if given a chance, more horribly and thoroughly than Hell’s bureaucracy could ever contrive to do. This leads to a bet between Satan and the angel Altos, who wants to prove the New Dead worthy of salvation — or at least deserving of leniency, to show themselves no worse than their predecessors or successors.

This brings us to the first story, The Wager, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, wherein Altos, Hell’s only volunteer angel, has been sent from Above to effect Satan’s rehabilitation, a daunting task. Altos and Satan wager on the outcome of a battle between 20th and 21st century militarists who, Satan says, “will combat one another in battles fought exclusively by volunteers: armies manned by voyeurs of violence who find vicarious thrills reading of heroes who never were, fighting villains who never could be. If we hold this war and nobody comes, or the doctors of the damned heal the wounded and save the plague-ridden, then, Altos, you will win, and I shall soften my heart unto the New Dead and forestall the purge you know I am readying.”

Poets in Hell-smallChris Morris follows this up with The Cure, where Satan orders John Milton: “Tell Marlowe you have learned the difference between oblivion, impossible in my domain, and obliteration, which a soul can claim, be he brave enough: obliteration — complete and sweet: Not only ‘not to be,’ but to be expunged as if he’d never been at all. This will make an end to his playwriting and poetry, and an end to his affair with Shakespeare.” So Milton, horrified at what he hears next, must infect Christopher Marlowe with the knowledge of this cure.

Next up is Andrew Paul Weston’s tale, Grim: Satan demands a purging laxative to clear the bowels of the underworld of the dross that has accumulated over the centuries, and turns to the doctors for assistance. However, it appears our infernal physicians are hell-bent on fomenting rebellion. Forced to act, His Satanic Majesty turns to his Chief of Surgical Strikes and cure-all remedy — Daemon Grim — to wield the scalpel of injustice… and wield it he does.

In The Right Man for the Job, Deborah Koren’s story, we learn that the only thing worse than having Wyatt Earp gunning for you is having Wyatt Earp and plague victims after you. Bat Masterson joins forces with Dr. Henry Porter, the only surviving surgeon from the Little Big Horn, in order to stay alive.

The main premise of Nancy Asire’s Memory is the plague that’s struck hell and Napoleon’s memories of dealing with plague during his Egyptian campaign. The ramifications of these memories color his actions when dealing with the threat to those he cares about and shows the response of his friends in the face of potential disaster.

R.E. Hinkle’s story is What Price Oblivion? In this, he writes of 19th Century confidence man Charles “Doc” Baggs, who abhorred violence in life, but finds himself in death forced to be the thing he loathes the most, so much so that even oblivion is preferable to the monstrosity he has become. But when he encounters another doomed soul in worse torment than his own, who deserves that oblivion more than Baggs himself craves it, he finds himself tempted to take action. Can there be good deeds, even in Hell?

Rogues in Hell-smallRichard Groller’s In the Shadowlands picks up where his previous story, (“Island Out of Time”) left off. Houdini’s brief escape from Hell results in him returning to Hell with an unwitting passenger: a living lawyer, not yet a member of the damnable dead. His self-assigned mission is now to return the lawyer to the land of the living before it is too late.

In Matthew Kirshenblatt’s Let Us Kill the Spirit of Gravity, a fallen angel awaits and a Beast awakens as Lilith, the first wife of Adam, and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche come to an unlikely accord.

Pavlovian Slip, by Bill Snider, is up next. In Hell, one would expect that psychologists would be in their place; the variety, the divergences of human experience, the interactions, the very grist of individual will and the exercise thereof. But, for Ivan Pavlov and Sigmund Freud, there can be no joy of discovery, there can only be the persistence of existence, in Hellish accord. When Ivan and his demonic horde of Grumbles join with Sigmund… what kinds of insanity are likely to happen?

My own story, Hell on a Technicality, continues the misadventures of Doctor Victor Frankenstein who, with the assistance of Quasimodo, concocts a plague vaccine that has some unforeseen and diabolical side effects. Meanwhile, Galatea and Frankenstein’s Monster visit a panel of so-called experts to find out if they have or don’t have souls — and if they don’t, can they get out of Hell on a technicality?

In Michael H. Hanson’s Convalescence, Nurse Calamity Jane, with the help of her Sinchester Rifle, protects Satan’s final outpost, The St. Rictus Nursing Home, from the all-encompassing plagues sweeping across Hell.

Dreamers in Hell-smallPaul Freeman’s Hell Noon deals with the plagues sweeping through hell, corrupting souls already suffering the harshest torments, and a group of gamblers holed up in a saloon on the outskirts of the Dead Plains. Doc Holliday leads the motley crew of damned souls as they seek to sit out the spreading contagion. But hell holds no place to hide from Satan’s punishments, least of all for a gambling man seeking to con the lord of all evil.

In The Judas Book, by Jack William Finley, Lobotomist Dr. Walter Freeman thinks he’s got a loophole to free himself from Hell. Judas Iscariot thinks he’s got Hell’s new bestseller, and Frank Nitti thinks they are both a pain in his ass worthy of Hell.

Now we come to the end of it all with Writer’s Block, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris. This time out, Shakespeare insists on taking Christopher Marlowe to the most infamous witch doctors in hell, where Marlowe begs their aid to find his lost Muse: “Can you help us? Spin a spell? Weave a charm? Vex a potion? Hex an enemy? Do any magics such as your sign outside boasts you can?”

“I can. I’ll give ye a push toward destiny,” cackles one bristly hag.

And the witch doctors do just that.

Oh, wait! We’re not quite finished yet. As a special treat, there’s A Moment of Clarity, a wonderful excerpt from Andrew Paul Weston’s forthcoming novel, Hell Bound.

So there we are, Doctors in Hell, where the doctor is always wrong, sinners never win, misery runs amok, and Hell’s damned get their just deserts . . . eternally. I hope you join our Company of 13 Hellions on a journey through all the pits, circles and levels of Hell, where not only doctors, but explorers, warriors, playwrights, lawyers, rogues, dreamers, and poets become an unlikely band of heroes — and anti-heroes — in Hell.

Janet Morris, mother of Heroes in Hell, the damned saga, interviewed by Jennifer Loiske…

Originally posted at:

‘Mother’ of Heroes in Hell is on my blog today! Meet Janet Morris!

Janet bio pic cropped 12 05 13 Janet B&W Portrait 2Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Want to know more about Janet? Here you go:

Heroes in Hell series Wikipedia page:
Janet’s wikipedia bio:

Heroika 1 Perfect promo 6&9Janet, you’ve had your fingers in many literature jars, as one might say, and it seems you’re exactly where you were meant to be. Do you believe in destiny?

I believe in destiny and also in predestination. So do the heroes and villains in my fiction, such as our newest book, “Doctors in Hell.” Too many things have happened to me in my life that came to me unbidden, on the one hand, and seemed unavoidable, on the other. In the Silistra Quartet I wrote about the metaphysics of an “amenable universe” where what you expect conditions and shapes what actually occurs. A scientist named John Wheeler had a similar approach to modern physics, and he called that view of the universe the “anthropic principle.” To explain this most simply is to say that you get what you expect. Mind shapes reality. So expect the best, not the worst. When I have feared the worst, it has come to me; when I have envisioned great things, they have become reality.

In the Heroes in Hell series we explore the way the damned recreate the behaviors that brought them to hell in the first place. Heraclitus of Ephesus said, “Character is destiny.” I consider this a universal truth. In our Heroes in Hell series, and especially in Doctors in Hell, the protagonists (including mortal damned and fallen angels, heroes and lords of all the underworlds that humanity’s minds have created) shape their predicaments and their solutions as is natural for the character of each. For example, in the story “The Cure,” Satan sends John Milton to destroy the relationship between William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe. How? You’ll need to read “The Cure” and the following story, “Writer’s Block,” to find out.

Do you do a lot of researching before starting to write or do you go with the flow and check the details (if doing so) later?

I do both: I find my characters, their destiny, so to speak. I decide how the book will end and how it must begin. Then I research detail as required, most deeply for books such as Doctors in Hell and the Heroes in Hell series, or the new Heroika series that begins with Dragon Eaters: if I’m using historical characters or historical events, or even historical models to create parallel fictional events, I read about the times, the personalities, and if there is any literature about events or people, I read that. I most love to find words spoken by a person with whom I’m trying to connect in order to create or recreate that character– or primary stories written by them or about them from their own time. Examples? In Doctors in Hell I’m using Will Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, Diomedes, John Milton; even Lord Byron’s dog, Boatswain, has a part to play. With those and my purely historical works, such as I, the Sun I try to quote the characters’ own words: nothing rings as truly as truth.

Once the story is ongoing I research more as I go, since the story opens up for me and I have more questions that need answers. After I’m done, I check everything – but once I’ve written the last word of a piece, it’s as if a door slams shut, and I know less about them than I did when I was writing. The metaphysical connection of the writer to a time and place is something that keeps me writing: I write a door and walk through it, hopefully taking the reader with me into another time and place and into other minds.

doctors-in-hellThat is beautifully said! And I like the image it brings into my mind…something very ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of thing…you’ll never know what happens on the other side of the door… Have you ever had a writer’s block and if yes, how did you make it go away?

Ha! I wrote a story called Writer’s Block for Doctors in Hell. You’ll need to read the story to learn the prescription given by one of my characters to another to banish writer’s block.

I will! And hopefully my readers will, too! Thanks for being here today, Janet, and thanks for sharing some of your writing secrets with us!


Jen x

Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ Roundtable Podcast part 1

New podcast with Janet Morris and Chris Morris:

Dave Robison of Roundtable Podcast says:

This week’s “20 Minutes With…” segment isn’t.

20 Minutes, that is.

Why? ‘Cause when you get the opportunity to sit down with your literary heroes, you don’t hold yourself to petty things like temporal constraints.

I and the exceptional Michael R. Underwood sit down for an incredible conversation with Janet Morris and Chris Morris, creators and editors of the “Heroes in Hell” series, numerous Thieves World tales featuring the cursed immortal Tempus Thales (whose adventures are continued in The Sacred Band of Stepson’s series), and more marvelous speculative fiction than can be listed on Wikipedia.

Seriously… there’s never been a conversation like this on the RTP before. DO NOT miss this episode.

We’ve had some amazing authors Guest Host the RTP, astonishing creators who’s ideas ring through genre fiction and the SpecFic community.

But I’ve never interviewed one of my heroes before.

The fiction of Janet Morris and Chris Morris (“Heroes in Hell”, “Thieves World”, and more) has been a fundamental influence on my taste and aesthetic in genre fiction and having them on the show was an unparalleled delight.

I knew I’d never be able to do it alone, so I was hugely grateful when Michael R. Underwood agreed to co-host the show with me. Between the two of us, we engaged in (waaaay more than) 20 minutes of incredible discourse with these eloquent storytellers, discussing the symmetry of music and story, the resonance of the craft of fiction and non-fiction writing, and how to “ascend from the pit of self-doubt into the light of self-knowledge and mastery”.

This is one episode you DO NOT want to miss.

Janet Morris and Chris Morris interview on the collaborative process in literature

Originally published in Uviart.  Thanks. Uvi Poznansky, for this incisive interview


Interview about Collaboration:
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Authors of
And more books
So said Shakespeare’s Polonius of Hamlet, in Hamlet. So say Janet Morris and Chris Morris, lifetime collaborators in words, music, and strategy. I cornered this elusive pair to ask some hard questions about how they do what they do, and why.
Janet and Chris, writing is known to be a solitary art. How do you two manage to write seamlessly together, so much so that no one can tell which of you wrote what?
Uvi, Apropos of collaboration, Shakespeare’s Touchstone said in As You Like It, “We that are true lovers run into strange capers.” As Chris and I often do.
But first let us give you our view of collaboration as an art form. For centuries, two or more people have been collaborating on written works under one person’s name. History is rife with collaborations, announced and unannounced.
Some examples? Shakespeare had several close collaborators, none so famous in his own right as Christopher Marlowe, who seems to us to have been his closest collaborator, due to similarity in each man’s work and style. We’ve written of these two collaborating in various tales in our Heroes in Hell series. J, the Yahwist, first writer of the Old Testament, also had many collaborators. Even before Biblical times, collaboration was common: the Greek mythic cycles were written not only by Homer, but by many writers; whether these collaborators wrote at the same time, or followed one another, is immaterial: these were true collaborations. As literature became a business, not merely an art form for the collective memory of the human race, the custom and marketing strategy of putting one — almost always male — name on a work became an unwritten convention, pushing anonymous contributors into the background. Yet they often can be found, peeking out from history’s shadows, unsung and influential.
But these questions are about us, collaborating today: while we’re alive, we can answer what questions we choose, rather than leaving posterity to wonder; be as forthcoming as we wish about life and love and art. For us, life and love and art are one. We have always written together, first song melodies and lyrics, later novels — but always with one of us taking the lead, the other in support. In our early days, Janet supported Chris’ music, and Chris supported Janet’s prose. Since we met in 1966, we spent years smoothing the rough edges of our collaborative process, learning to focus on the art in question, not the artist, and thereby improving both. If we write seamlessly, it is because we deliberate about every thought, every phrase, every word, every rhythm, yet strive never to lose the shape of the initial conception. Our prose is rhythmic, our plots inventive, our song lyrics carry messages because we are keenly aware that a person has only so much time in life, and must use that time wisely.  When we begin a new piece of prose or piece of music, we start with a clear idea of what that story or song must say. We vigorously weed out irrelevancies and polish our idea until it is bright, clear, shining in our hearts and in our minds. When writing prose, the mind’s eye is where the visualization first takes place; when we write music, it is the ear which first carries the message to the brain.
All art is communication of ideas. We have co-written op/eds and policy pieces for governments, strategic plans for military, academic, and industrial users, as well as fiction. Writing nonfiction has taught us when and how to be sparing of words. Chris has been the voice of a TV station and products as well as our music. Now we are exploring the close relationships between music and writing fiction by producing audio books. The Sacred Band (audio edition) took a year to complete. Because the story’s characters live deep in our hearts and first drew breath in the 20th century, we took great pains to ensure that the narration remains true to the characters, who have evolved over decades and millions of words. Narration is only one breath away from literary exposition.
For each art form, our process is the same: one of us begins the effort with a title, a musical passage, a topic or an idea, or a clearly-stated purpose. Once the title and the purpose of the piece are agreed, the process of perfecting story and rhythm — yes, even fiction should have its rhythms, its beats — is sometimes begun by one or the other. Often, when a day’s work is completed by one, the other adds a voicing, a suggestion, recognizes a lost facet or missed opportunity, clarifies whatever is unclear; changes are agreed, and at the end of the day, we are sitting together, reading or playing the work aloud and finishing what the morning began. In music or prose, we never continue drafting or recording a long piece of work until we’re both happy with what we’ve done previously. If later in the evolution of the piece an element needs to be included that was omitted or unrecognized in the work as we began it, we go back and make those changes. Some recent examples of this process can be seen in our Heroes in Hell series,
For instance, Chris began Babe in Hell (a story in Rogues in Hell) with the idea of a baby and Solomon reprising the famous Biblical story, albeit in Hell. To Hell Bent in Dreamers in Hell Chris immediately added the quip “And twice on Sadderdays.” Once we’d named the play which is the centerpiece of the story, Janet added the flayed skins of heroes to be used as props. But sometimes, in longer works, we can’t recall who authored what lines. In “Words” in Poets in Hell, working on the first paragraph, Janet asked Chris to supply the crucial word: “Words are the what? of the mind” Janet asked. Chris said “mortar.” So the line now reads “Words are the mortar of the mind.” And so it goes, a natural give and take, sometimes contentious, often strenuous, always fascinating.
Our process is not quick. We’ve taken years to do a book such as I, the Sun; we say The Sacred Band (TSB) took eighteen months, but if one includes the research and discussion time before the first word was written, TSB culminates years of effort to crystallize that story so we could then write it. In this way, we please ourselves, and have pleased many readers and listeners as well.
You who know our body of work are now wondering why one name appears on so many of the books or musical compositions. For now, suffice it to say that publishers think readers want a work crafted by an individual, preferably a male (unless the work is a romance or a book about women in society).
Now that you have told us how you write together, answer this harder question: Why?
Why write together? A collaborator provides perspective, a broader view; a universality that one mind, male or female, often cannot attain. For centuries such collaborations were known only behind the scenes:  the woman or man who was the editor, co-creator of ideas, first reader, was the power behind the throne, unnamed, a secret presence. So how do we decide whose name goes on a work when only one name appears? If one writer drives the work individually, or if a work is best read as the product of male or female, we so credit it. For this reason, we have several times used male pseudonyms when selling a book to a publisher for a particular market.
As you point out, the two of you haven’t always published with joint bylines. How did your first official collaborations come about?
Our first official collaborations in song music and lyrics preceded our collaborations in books and stories by about a decade. Although Janet received some writing credits on The Christopher Morris Band (MCA 1977) record album, and High Couch of Silistra was published under the byline ‘Janet Morris’ in that same year, not until 1984 was the first fantasy fiction story, “What Women Do Best,” published with the byline ‘Chris and Janet Morris’ in Wings of Omen, (Ace, 1984). And that occurred only with editor Bob Asprin grumbling that ‘now everybody’s going to want to do this in Thieves’ World®.’”
If Janet hadn’t been a canonical contributor to the series at that time, we wouldn’t have gotten permission for the dual byline. And sure enough, other spouses and collaborators long relegated to the background began appearing in Thieves’ World volumes and other places.
Subsequently, we signed a multi-book contract with Jim Baen, one of the caveats being dual authorship for some titles, but not all. We delivered those books, including The 40-Minute War, M.E.D.U.S.A, City at the Edge of Time, Tempus Unbound, and Storm Seed with dual authorship and Jim published them that way.
This in turn led to other joint book contracts, including but not limited to Outpassage (1988), Threshold (1990), Trust Territory (1992), The Stalk (1994), as well as several books by single-author male pseudonyms.
Nevertheless, publishers generally still wanted single male names on adventure or nonfiction or ‘serious books’ and female names on romance books, so the market continued to conform to its preference for single-writer bylines.
A book with the name ‘Janet Morris’ was still worth more to a publisher than a book with ‘Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ as listed co-authors. So we created male pseudonyms and these books commanded substantial advances in markets formerly closed to us. In the minds of publishers then, and perhaps readers, a story told by a single male was preferable, but even a tale told by a woman was preferable to a tale told by one woman and one man. We set our sites on this ox, and set off to gore it. And might have succeeded, as male/female co-authorship became more commonplace, but our brainchild “nonlethal weapons” intervened, taking us out of the fiction marketplace for nearly two decades. In that interval, Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, another writer at the literary agency which handles us, wrote War and Anti-war with his wife Heidi Toffler, insisting her name appear this time as co-author. The revolution had begun in earnest among writers with enough clout to enforce their wishes.
Do you believe that putting a man’s name or a woman’s name on a book effects who will read that book?
We experimented, as did other writers and publishers, with putting different names on books. Sometimes Janet wrote with other male or female writers, to see if the ‘Janet Morris’ brand could be transferred as publishers looked for ways to turn writers into franchises, as was done with Robert Ludlum, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, etc. But when a better writer is paired with a lesser writer, quality may suffer, and even honest writers trying to accommodate one another may lose the consistency of purpose, passion, and voice that a single writer or a self-chosen pair of writers can achieve.
The ‘brand name writer’ bias may then kick in, causing readers to buy only books written by the individuals or pairs of writers they already enjoy, not the franchised producers of subsidiary works or ‘as told to’ books.
As for the ‘gender’ bias in literature, at present this is still a real and strong force. Men looking for adventure fantasy or science fiction or military books are less likely to buy a book written by a woman; women with a strong allegiance to women’s rights and women’s issues are less likely to buy a book by a man or co-written by a man.
So the issue of whether a man’s name or a woman’s name goes on a book may be inextricably linked to subject as well as story, insight, and prose quality.
You’ve both written under single-author pseudonyms, always choosing a single male. Why did you do that? Do you still do it? If, so, why or why not?
We did this to break out of the science fiction/fantasy ghetto, into the mainstream, in days when those genres had a more limited market than today.
Do we still do it? No.
In actuality, our body of work allows us to write what we wish under either or both our names. For instance, we’re writing a novel about Rhesos of Thrace — as is our wont, this book has a Homeric feel, a purport that takes the Iliad for true, but focuses on a single character from that story and his later adventures. This book is a true novel — one part mythical realism, one part dark fantasy, one part heroic fiction in the literary sense, and one part a historical representation of the mythos of that character. We plan a new Sacred Band of Stepsons novel, which requires very specific voices and explores the hero-cult as a fait accompli, a subject fascinating us.
But if we were to undertake a contemporary story dealing with modern politics (sexual, racial, governmental and corporate), we’d consider writing such a book under a new male pseudonym, to allow us complete freedom of what we’d say and how we’d say it, because the truths behind these topics are brutal and unwelcome to those who think revisionist history will solve all the problems inherent in modern society and the human condition. Which condition is, of course, the only fit subject for fiction.
What are the benefits and debits of collaboration so far as process, not marketing, is concerned?
If a pair entering into a collaboration sets ground rules, defines story elements and shares a joint preoccupation with the characters, two hearts, two sets of eyes and two sets of ears impart an enhanced perspective, powering the creation of characters spun from utmost reality, characters perhaps more fully realized than a single mind might contrive to make them. In a pair made up of one male and one female writer, the native intelligence of both sexes is present in great measure, bringing a universal verisimilitude. The process of reaching truth and clarity for characters and story may have uncomfortable moments for one or both writers, but facing those places in the soul where one hesitates to look is the true purpose of fiction — to portray the world through a temperament (or two, or three).
What advice would you give to other collaborators about creating and marketing their joint works?
If two collaborators each have a previous body of work, then once both acknowledge parity, a new book can begin taking shape. If one writer is better known or better at structure or at lyric, then play to those strengths. Do not show this book to third parties, or discuss it with others until both writers are completely certain of every nuance, every line, every twist and turn of plot and psyche.
If two collaborators have no previous experience working with others, they must work harder to put aside their preconceptions and look at story and character honestly: success, not in the short term but for all time, depends upon the quality of every word. Make sure that both collaborators share the same goals. Define the story elements. Invoke the characters and be sure both agree who those characters are and what they represent concerning the story’s driving purpose.
Then begin, starting at the beginning. Create an adventure that two can share, and you will have created an adventure that the world can love.
Only when this first book is finished, no longer a fragile vision, but a full blown juggernaut of risk and beauty, show it to a publisher whose other publications attract you. If you both like what an editor or publisher has previously chosen, they may well decide to choose you.
Book Links:
Author Links:

Janet Morris and Chris Morris Interview with Van Heerling



Read a rare interview with both Morrises on “Three Questions with Van Heerling” at:



Three part interview with Janet Morris by Todd Brown (part 1)

Three part interview with Janet Morris by Todd Brown (part 1)


Interview with Janet Morris by Fiona McVie 08/12/12

Here’s Janet’s interview with Fiona on writing, the craft and the art, with a bi of discussion about her two series.  Although no links to the books are given in the interview, all books mentioned are available at Amazon in the USA as well as on Amazon UK. Image

Author Interview with Janet Morris and Chris Morris 12/06/10 on

Christopher Crosby Morris (born 1946) is an American author of fiction and non-fiction, as well as a lyricist, musical composer, and singer-songwriter. He is married to author Janet Morris.[1] He is a defense policy and strategy analyst and a principal in M2 Technologies, Inc. He writes primarily as Chris Morris, a shortened form of his name, but occasionally uses pseudonyms.

Janet Ellen Morris (born May 25, 1946) is an American author of fiction and nonfiction, best known for her fantasy and science fiction and her authorship of a nonlethal weapons concept for the U.S. military.

Janet’s Amazon Page   
Chris’s Amazon Page
Janet’s Wikipedia Page

Chris’s Wikipedia Page

Hello! What are your names?

We are Janet Morris (also known as Janet E. Morris) and Chris Morris (also known as Christopher Crosby Morris).  Jointly we have written a multitude of books, musical compositions, papers, and short pieces and fiction, as well as works under pseudonyms including but not limited to Casey Prescott and Daniel Stryker.  Janet Morris and Chris Morris have been writing and editing fiction, nonfiction, op/eds, policy pieces, since 1976 and music (words and lyrics) since 1966.

What do you write and why?

We always focus on the human condition and its evolution.  When we write fiction it is mythic in nature, allegorical, and lyrical.  When we write nonfiction it is often cautionary, ground-breaking, and/or controversial since for many years we served as research directors and senior fellows at Washington think tanks, specializing in long-term strategic planning for international security.

In fiction we write what we call mythic novels and stories, which often don’t fit into the deconstructed genres of market-driven fiction today because of the breadth and depth of our work.  Our fiction has been variously marketed as “science fantasy,” “military science fiction,” “erotic fantasy,” “high-tech thrillers,” “thrillers,” “suspense novels” “epic fantasy,” “science-fiction,” “fantasy,” “historical,” “historical fantasy,” “heroic fantasy,” “sword and sorcery,” “heroic fiction,” “novels,” and “short stories.”

Do you read the same genre that you write? Why or why not?

When we are writing fiction we read nonfiction, often in areas of ancient history and archaeology, international security, defense policy, military history, cosmology, philosophical problems of space and time, genetics of behavior, or emerging threats and technology.  When we are writing nonfiction we read fiction or early writings from the Ancient Near East, Ancient Greece, and classical BCE sources.  We also will read different translations of note and critics of substance, and like particular translators such as Dryden and Richmond Lattimore and Harold Bloom.  We reread Spenser and Marlowe and Shakespeare and Milton and such poets as Byron as well.

When we write either fiction or nonfiction, we run the risk of stylistic deformation or “print-through” from whatever we’re reading:  echoes of other styles and perceptive devices that can creep into otherwise cohesive work; so we are careful about what we read for pleasure when we are writing.  We also continually research any area in which we are writing while we’re writing, so we read material that explores aspects of concepts involved in the book or paper or story we’re writing.

What is the title you are promoting right now?

We are most excited about our newest mythic novel,The Sacred Band  (and the accompanying releases of “Author’s Cut” editions of classic works in our “Sacred Band of Stepsons” series).  In addition to the new, expanded and enhanced release of classic “Sacred Band Tales,” we have also resurrected our “Heroes in Hell” series with the first 21st century title in this series of shared-world anthologies, Lawyers in Hell,”  soon to be followed by “Rogues in Hell.”  Both series were bestsellers in the 20th century and we are thrilled to introduce them to a new readership.

What is it about?

The Sacred Band,” (Janet Morris and Chris Morris, Paradise Publishing, 2010; Kerlak Publishing, 2011) is an epic historical fantasy.  This is our favorite of all the novels we’ve done and can be enjoyed without having read the earlier books in the series.  In 338 BCE, during the Battle of Chaeronea that should result in the massacre of all the historical Sacred Band of Thebes, the legendary Tempus and his Stepson cavalry rescue forty-six Theban Sacred Banders, paired lovers and friends, to fight on other days.  The thwarted Fates give chase, following our heroes and heroines to the fantasy city of Sanctuary® (from the million-copy bestselling “Thieves’ World”(R) shared universe).  These forty-six Thebans join with the immortalized Tempus and his Sacred Band of Stepsons, consummate ancient cavalry fighters, to make new lives in a faraway land and fight the battle of their dreams where gods walk the earth, ghosts take the field, and the angry Fates demand their due.  Heroism, honor and loyalty and the Sacred Band Ethos itself are sorely tested as the Band and their lovers fight for survival.  This book is about love and war and love in war, about commitment, about the coming of age of a new generation of heroes and the battle of good against evil in a gritty, lyrical context unlike any other.

What makes this book different from others in your genre?

This book is deeper, more ambitious, and more a novel than a genre book.  There’s nothing formulaic about it.  “The Sacred Band” is called on its cover “a novel.”  It is all of that.  Because of its breadth, it bears as much relationship to the “fantasy” of Homer and Shakespeare, of Marlowe and Milton and Spenser, as it does to modern, narrowly-constructed works in any genre.  Most of all, this book is about the Sacred Band Ethos and mankind’s relationship to its cosmos.  Gods help their favorites and the Balance of the cosmos itself shapes the action.  Some have likened Tempus and his Sacred Band, and this book in particular, to the heroic, lyrical, brutal fiction of Robert E. Howard – and in some ways that comparison is justifiable.  In other ways, The Sacred Band bears more resemblance to Umberto Ecco’s “The Name of the Rose” and other modern fantasies grounded in historical events.  However, The Sacred Band is more tempestuous, more metaphysical, and a story of unique proportions:  “an adventure like no other.”  BecauseThe Sacred Band begins with the rescue of forty-six famed warriors from an historical battlefield where the bones of two hundred fifty-four of their companions are buried in a mass grave, The Sacred Band gives one answer to what happened to the forty-six skeletons missing today from the grave at Chaeronea.  Such an historical mystery exists nowhere else and makes this book even more unique as it blends truth and myth and legend and fantasy into something new.

What’s the story behind the story?

When we first started writing about Tempus, our immortal cavalry commander, we introduced the Sacred Band concept to modern fantasy readers because we wanted to write about the doomed Sacred Band of Thebes but couldn’t find a story for them:  their destruction was too horrific for us to write a straight historical culminating predictably with their annihilation.  So we constructed our own Sacred Band, primarily cavalry, not primarily infantry, and primarily pansexual, although the homosexuality of ancient times (where sexuality was a behavior, not an identity) is correctly portrayed in all our Sacred Band tales – and very different from the politicized homosexuality today.  Plato first wrote about the “Sacred Band” concept, suggesting that elite fighting forces be formed of homosexual lovers in age-weighted pairs, to inspire other warriors and provide a corps that wouldn’t desert the field during battle.  From Plato’s concept came the expanded “Sacred Band Ethos” of our fiction, which now has an entry of its own on “” that has accrued over nine thousand hits so far:

Since the greatest Sacred Band in history, the Sacred Band of Thebes, was massacred by Alexander and Philip of Macedon at Chaeronea, bringing Sacred Banders into fantasy was one way of saving their ideals, if not their persons.  For years we wrote one “Sacred Band of Stepsons” story per year, and then wrote more about them in three novels (“Beyond Sanctuary,”  “Beyond the Veil,” and “Beyond Wizardwall”).  Then we wrote three more novels of Tempus and his Sacred Band (“City at the Edge of Time,” “Tempus Unbound,” and “Storm Seed”).  Soon after, we ceased writing fiction for about 20 years to work on the nonlethal weapons concept.  When we came back to fiction in 2009, we realized that we COULD write about the Sacred Band of Thebes in a fantasy context:  tell a tale of survival of the forty-six… and more.  So “The Sacred Band,” daunting to conceive but joyous to write, was born.  And we have followed it with the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl , a novella in our newest anthology of the same name, which picks up the Sacred Band of Stepsons stories after the battle for the land of dreams is lost and won, and takes the Band into unknown realms for new adventures.  The two Sacred Band Tales anthologies, first Tempus with his right-side companion Niko” , followed by “the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl,” weave together all the classic 20th century Sacred Band Tales, surrounding them with new material available nowhere else.

What are your goals as authors?

As authors, we explore the human condition, the nature of being, and provide examples of ethos in action and story.  We also write the book we want to read, so our multilayered approach to fiction, with its questions of humanity’s place in the cosmos, is always fresh to us  Our goal is constantly to experience and explore concepts important to our species through the imposition of an artistic temperament and the mechanism of story, which is how the human brain organizes information.  But most of all we hope to inspire the reader, show the glory of life, and help us come to terms with mortality.  We are currently of the opinion that the universe has no boundary conditions, and therefore neither does the human mind, beyond those that we impose on ourselves.  We try to free the reader’s mind by taking it to a world in which what is important can be considered and experienced without concerns of contemporary fads or politics:  find what is eternal about us, and set the reader’s mind free thereby.

Are you working on anything new? Give us a preview of what’s to come!

Next on deck is a story for “Rogues in Hell,” (due out July, 2010 from Perseid) in which we bring this volume of twenty-two stories by different writers to a climax.  After that, comes a new Sacred Band of Stepsons novel, which will deal with what happens AFTER a god or goddess immortalizes a mortal:  many myths deal with the salvation of favorites by gods or goddesses, but none say what happens next:  this adventure underpins the next Sacred Band novel.

Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?

One book?  One author?  Impossible to answer.  In fiction?  Homer’s Iliad.  Shakespeare’s Hamlet or MacBeth – a tossup.  Marlowe’s Faustus.  Milton’s Paradise Lost.  In nonfiction:  all of Marcus Aurelius, all of Sun Tzu, all of Herakleitos’ Cosmic Fragments; what remains of Sappho; Harold Bloom’s Book of J.

Where can readers find you and your work?

“The Sacred Band,” as well as the follow-on “the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl” and “Lawyers in Hell” can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble; some editions are available everywhere by order and on iTunes and from various other e-book and physical book vendors, including Kerlak Publishing.  The “Author’s Cut” (revised and expanded) editions of “Beyond Sanctuary,” “Tempus with his right-side companion Niko,” are available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon and through affiliate vendors worldwide.  Wake of the Riddler  and Mage Blood  are available as Kindle e-books only.

We have many additional titles that have not yet been reissued but can be found used, all the way back to High Couch of Silistra .  Most of our 20th century books are available as used books through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and numerous other outlets.

What’s your view on the self-publishing/traditional publishing thing? Ideally, which one would you prefer and why?

Publishing is changing; e-publishing combined with publishing on demand is the future for us all.  We created Perseid Publishing because we wanted to try small publishing, not quite self-publishing, but close when you ARE the publisher and you CAN make the decisions.  We had been with many of the big publishers over a long career and were nearly always disappointed in covers and print size and production values, even though our first series, Silistra, had four million in print before the fourth volume was published and we had award-winning stories and bestselling series among our credits.  We also wanted control of our e-book rights.  When we spoke to our New York agent about retaining e-book rights while selling print rights to a major New York house, at that time it was not possible.  So we didn’t offer “The Sacred Band” to any of our former New York publishers, and we are pleased with the results.  About a year after e-publication of “The Sacred Band,”  Kerlak Publishing came to us, offering to do a hard cover edition – and this is very high quality, with sewn bindings, real linen boards, and archival paper.   So for us, instead of hardcover first, e-book and paperback later, the model has up-ended:  e-book first, then trade paper, then hardcover if we wish to provide one.

There are good and bad aspects of “self-publishing.”  Some such books could only be published by the creator, meet few of the criteria that a publisher would apply to selection – and yet even these may find a constituency among people of like mind.  Many have poor production values:  front matter and book formatting are too often nonstandard in self-published books, which is not good.  But there have always been books for every level of readership:  At Perseid we say we publish “for the experienced reader.”  The books we publish have a certain gravitas, crisp description, a literate style.  We are known for including new authors, emerging authors, even undiscovered authors, in our anthologies, but inclusion is invitational and very few can be chosen:  each must meet our standard.

With so many unprofessional books being published, some think we are entering a new Darker Age.  We  don’t think so.  Self-publishing was once the ONLY publishing available.  Commercial publishing has sliced and diced and deconstructed the novel into so many constituent parts, in order to claim a “bestselling” book in some tiny genre, that trash is once again triumphant (as Henry James said at the end of the 19th century).  Yet literature survived James’ time.  Is our situation so different today?

Our books may challenge readers with small vocabularies unless those readers aspire to become better readers:  reading is a skill to be constantly improved.  The better the reader, the better that reader will like the books we write and publish.  There are many books – some published by New York’s “taste-making” publishers, that blatantly offer “trash triumphant.”  Good for them.  It has always been so.  In the Olympic poetry competition at which Hesiod and Homer contested, Hesiod won for “Works and Days,”beating Homer’s “Iliad.”  How many know of “Works and Days” today?  In its time, it was more politically correct.

Whether or not we are entering a New Darker Age, publishing today is characterized by a lack of any objective standard of “good” or “bad,” as is so much entertainment and commerce.  Fine.  The good books will find their way; the semi-literate will find books to their taste, and everyone can be a part of the growth of literature in the new century.  You can get your neighbor’s book about their travail at the hands of a local hospital for free on Amazon, but you can also get Shakespeare or Dante or Sun Tzu.  Your mind is in your keeping; what you do with it is your choice.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Sorry, don’t have a single one, but have several:

“Nature has a surer plan than mortals can devise.” – Tempus in “The Sacred Band.”

“Love sees all; hate is blind.” – Harmony in “The Sacred Band.”

“Good-night, sweet prince;/ And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” – Horatio in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

“The boundary conditions of the universe are that the universe has no boundary conditions.” – Anonymous.

“Come, Muse, sing to me not of things that are, or shall be, or were of old; but think of another song.” —  Hesiod

There are two hundred quotes Janet Morris quotes on Ranker:

There are one hundred and nine Chris Morris quotes on Ranker:

What is the most important advice you have for aspiring authors?

Write the story you want to read.  Write the story that impels you to write it.  Don’t write until you are ready, until you have characters that demand their story be told.  Know why you are writing what you are writing but tell a story:  As Lewis Carroll said, “go from the beginning to the end, then stop.”

Become increasingly literate.  Bead writers better than you are.  The urge to write a story confers neither the ability to write a story nor the right to be read:  bring your reader with you into a special world, where you want to be, and hopefully where the reader will want to be.  Take no other advice; show your work to one person only, whom you trust; do not waste time with groups of writers no more experienced than you.  Writing is a solitary sport.

Is there anything else you’d like to say before we finish up?

I think we have said quite enough.

Awesome, thanks for allowing me to interview you!

Our pleasure – jem and ccm

Please don’t forget to pay Chris and Janet a visit at the following websites:

Janet’s Amazon Page   Chris’s Amazon Page   Janet’s Wikipedia Page   Chris’s Wikipedia Page

Excerpt from the Sacred Band novel on Summer 150

Excerpt from the Sacred Band novel on Summer 150

This teaser for the Summer 150 Tour blog interview with Janet Morris contains an excerpt from”The Sacred Band,” copyright (c) 2010 by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Walter Rhein’s interview with Janet Morris about her novels, stories, and everything

From Walter Rhein’s Blog, here’s his interview with Janet:

The Sacred Band novel is my favorite: Forty-six of the doomed Sacred Band of Thebes is rescued from the battlefield at Chaeronea in 338 BCE, by Tempus and his Stepsons. The gods and fates take umbrage or support, and a war (actually a theomachy) begins that follows Tempus and his fighters to Sanctuary. Do you need to be a history or mythology of fantasy buff to enjoy this? No, but knowledge deepens experience, always. All our favorite characters from the earlier series take a hand, and eventually the Unified Sacred Band fights the battle of their dreams. Since there really are forty-six skeletons missing from the mass grave at Chaeronea where the slaughtered Sacred Band of Thebes are buried, this story was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to blend history, fantasy, and mythology. We loved doing it. It’s been widely quoted on sites such as Ranker and has a big presence on Freebase and even a Wikipedia page.

Interview with Janet Morris, Author of “The Sacred Band”

I began interacting with you after posting a link to a negative review of my novel, “The Bone Sword.” Rejection slips and bad reviews are just a part of the game for writers. Can you share an anecdote about a rejection or a negative review?

Negative reviews and rejections happen: reading is a subjective pass-time; different people bring different abilities, different levels of literacy, and different emotional states with them when they read. I sold the first draft of the first novel I ever wrote through the first agent that we approached, Perry Knowlton, and stayed with him until he died. I knew no one in publishing; my first book, High Couch of Silistra, cover several controversial topics, including eroticism and the genetic basis of sexual behavior. It found no friends among conservatives or feminists; the characters were pansexual but adhered to no earthly “group identity” that would please anyone. High Couch sold very well; I had done two sequels; they sold very well. In general the sf/fantasy people didn’t know what to make of this very intelligent sword-wielding courtesan. We got a pretty good New York Times Sunday Magazine review for High Couch, which meant that the sf/f people felt required to review it. A.J. Budrys reviewed it for F&SF and Omni within 30 days of one another: the Omni review was a qualified rave; the F&SF review said, “What a dirty book.” I asked Budrys how in good conscience he could write two diametrically opposed reviews of the same novel, and he said, “For money.” After that, I paid no attention to reviews for the next 20 years. Now, reviews are more important in that many are done by readers who are not getting paid and receive no instructions as to what to write. Nevertheless, all reviewers are not created equal. Write for yourself: soon enough, you’ll be dead and the reviewers also, but your work will remain, as you wrote it.

I see that you did several Thieves’ World novels. When I discovered that I consulted my library and discovered the first Thieves’ World book by Robert Lynn Asprin & Lynn Abbey. Did you have much interaction with these writers?

Bob Asprin asked me at a covention to write forThieves World (TW). The first volume had just been published. Lynn was not yet an editor. Bob asked for a gritty character suitable for a town that was the “armpit of fantasy.” I had already written “An End to Dreaming,” a short piece about two characters that later ended up in the TW series, but I wrote the first Tempus story, about an immortal warrior with a curse, for Bob: whomever Tempus loved was bound to spurn him, whoever loved him was fated to die. Bob loved the first story, “Vashanka’s Minion.” Writers were encouraged to use one another’s characters, so I used the god “Vashanka,” and several others, and thus interacted with Andy Offutt. Bob asked me to keep writing Tempus stories, and in close coordination with Bob and Andy, for TW #3 we did three connecting stories that included my “A Man and His God” (the life and death of the Slaughter Priest, Abarsis). Bob and I made a deal for that: I could kneecap his character if he could send mine to the vivisectionist (since Tempus always healed); Andy was drafted to get Tempus out of the vivisectionist’s clutches. So we became “canonical” TW writers, and seven novel and many stories followed. Much later I did the first TW spin-off novel, Beyond Sanctuary, part of a three-book hardcover deal, and TW took off about that time. Subsequently I wrote a three-writer TW novel with Lynn Abbey and CJ Cherry, “Soul of the City,” published as TW #8. We all had friends and enemies among the other writers; alliances shifted. Eventually I took Tempus and the Sacred Band Stepsons out of Sanctuary — twice, because of writer politics, and wrote my own Sacred Band of Stepsons series of novels. Then with Lynn’s permission my co-writer Chris Morris and I brought the Band back to Sanctuary, ten years after they left, in “The Sacred Band,” (Morris & Morris, Kerlak, 2011). Tempus and the Sacred Band of Stepsons, who began in 1980 and are still going strong today, are my favorite fantasy characters. With the sole exception of “I, the Sun,” a rigorous historical of the Hittite Empire, stories about Tempus and the Sacred Band are my favorite of my works alone and with Chris or with anyone. Lynn and CJ and I still keep in touch; Bob Asprin’s loss is deeply felt by many.

You’ve been an established writer for a long time, in what ways have you seen the publishing industry change for the better and for the worse?

The publishing industry, when I first started, had a strong mid-list, wherein a writer could incubate. While I was writing for a living, two things happened: the super book with huge advances destroyed publishers’ interest in mid list (the 35K to 65K book); Star Wars made sf/fantasy more successfully, but imposed a hunger for formulaic “B-Movie” type restrictions that took much of the fun out of sf/f, which previously had been more intellectually interesting. Fantasy has rebounded a bit from this formulaic hunger, but still the chance to experiment in sf/f was shrinking until the e-book, Publication on Demand, self-publishing and the new crop of small publishers arising as the big publishers fade away are a good sign.

The novel in general has deconstructed about as much as it can: categories are marketing tools; a novel contains all elements, and should do. We like small publishing because the chance to experiment survives there. So we’ve started doing Heroes in Hell seriesand the Sacred Band series again, using small publishers so we can keep our e-book rights, and we like the freedom the small publishing world enjoys.

I’ve seen that more and more established writers such as yourself seem to be more inclined to publish their own work rather than work with a publisher. What are your inclinations regarding self-publishing?

Perhaps I covered this, but small publishers can and do provide better physical book production, better copy-editing, better covers, and more chances to experiment. Of course a small publisher can do a poor job, but really, is it a worse job than the big publishers do when they buy a book they don’t push? This is why we brought back The Sacred Band of Stepsons series and the Heroes in Hell series. With a small publisher, an established writer such as myself can have more control about many facets of how their book is presented. Writing to establish a corpus of work demands this. Most great books from earlier centuries were “self” published: the author controlled the process, and found a publisher to provide the book to the pubic.

At small publishers like KerlakParadise, or Perseid, I can ask for an get archival paper and real linen-covered baoards; I can get high quality metallic stamping; sewn bindings; I can control the cover, the cover copy; I can approve all phases of the work, not simply have a clasue in my contract that says “approval, not to be unreasonably withheld” that, when I try to exercise it, means that the publisher threatens to pull the book from its schedule if you want to make changes late in the process. Kerlak, especially, is great about last minute changes. They offered to reprint my entire Hell backlist and Sacred Band backlist but I’m going through each, making changes long overdue, so that each new release is an “Author’s Cut,” significantly revised by Chris and me, and — finally — just the way I want them. Do I miss the “big” promotion? “Publicity tours?” reviews from the big reviewing entities? Not really. My books will find their way; they always have. The three-book Silistra series had 4 million in print when “Carnelian Throne” was released; according to Jim Baen, when he reissued the four they gave Baen Books its first million dollar month. But that’s not why I write. I LOVE the e-book format, the big readable trade paperbacks, the quality hardcovers.With these publishers no one asks me to dumb down what I’m doing. No compromise is required in story or quality. Can everyone enjoy reading what I’m writing? Maybe. I write for my ideal reader; that reader gets a great ride. And now, thanks to the new publishing, a beautiful, literate presentation.
Can you discuss “Adventurers in Hell” and “The Sacred Band”?Adventurers in Hell (working title: may yet be changed to “Rogues”) is the second of the resurrected “Heroes in Hell series we’re doing. The shared universe of the damned as we did it in Heroes in Hell was very popular in the 20th century. Beginning with “Lawyers in Hell” (Perseid/Kerlak), edited by Janet Morris, we’re sinning once again. We have a great time with the Hell books: they combine myth, religion, history, and fantasy in a unique way. These stories take no prisoners: they can sly, cryptic, cynical, disturbing, or horrific. We have a waiting list of authors hoping to get in, despite the story curve, which is very steep. And, finally, we are getting great covers, beautiful hard covers, infinitely long-lived PODs and e-books. What fun.The Sacred Band is the ultimate (so far) tale of the Sacred Band of Stepsons, who began in Thieves World (R) and Sanctuary (R), a “shared universe” created by Bob Asprin, and return there in this epic novel. Tempus, Abarsis, Niko, and the rest are my greatest delight. The Sacred Band (Morris & Morris, Kerlak, 2011) novel is best accompanied by the recently reissued Author’s Cut” of the anthology “Tempus.” If you read those two, in any order, then you’ll enjoy each one more. We’re working now on reissuing the six additional Sacred Band novels and a second anthology with new stories and the remaining TW stores.But The Sacred Band novel is my favorite: Forty-six of the doomed Sacred Band of Thebes is rescued from the battlefield at Chaeronea in 338 BCE, by Tempus and his Stepsons. The gods and fates take umbrage or support, and a war (actually a theomachy) begins that follows Tempus and his fighters to Sanctuary. Do you need to be a history or mythology of fantasy buff to enjoy this? No, but knowledge deepens experience, always. All our favorite characters from the earlier series take a hand, and eventually the Unified Sacred Band fights the battle of their dreams. Since there really are forty-six skeletons missing from the mass grave at Chaeronea where the slaughtered Sacred Band of Thebes are buried, this story was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to blend history, fantasy, and mythology. We loved doing it. It’s been widely quoted on sites such as Ranker and has a big presence on Freebase and even a Wikipedia page. And I think, having had the ride of my life with TSB, we’ll do another Sacred Band novel soon….

I see that you’re a horse person. I grew up with Morgans as well, they’re beautiful animals with a good temperament. Most people probably don’t realize how much of a personality horses have. What do you see as the greatest benefit to caring for horses? The Sacred Band is an ancient cavalry force. No surprise, since we raise war horses — the descendants of the US cavalry horse — horse and have been riding our whole lives. Horses bring you nose to nose with nature. You can’t lie to a horse. Crying does no good. And the gods look out at you through the eyes of a horse. No more transcendental experience can be had than what you experience with a horse. We’ve won a few races, a few Morgan World Championships. We had some reining horses of renown, some in-hand horses. But you don’t do horses for prizes, or for anything but your soul’s sake. Do horses inform my writing? Absolutely. Do they ennoble my life? Always. We breed to sell, and that’s hard: letting the baby you’ve foaled out go into someone else’s hands. But even an old gelding rescued and living in a back yard paddock is precious. Without horses, all the frailties of humankind at times seem overwhelming — until you find a horse. If the horse loves us, wants to be with us, companion in all weather, fair and foul, then how bad can we be, as a species? We’re deeply involved in the campaign to end horse slaughter, and we hope the day will come when horses, who helped us build civilization, are honored and respected for all they’ve done for us.
Thanks for the time Janet, awesome thoughts!