Why The Heck We Publish:
A note from Co-Founder Mary Gray
In 2007, after giving birth to my second child, my sister, Cammie, told me to read Twilight, so I did. I wasn’t a huge reader back then, but I did love books and writing.
After reading Twilight, just like so many other writers out there, I knew I had to write my own book. I wrote a paranormal fantasy that, to this day, needs to be vastly edited.
A couple of years later, I finished writing a dystopian just about the time The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games got big. That book, which later ended up being The Dollhouse Asylum, snagged me my first agent who sold it to a mid-sized publisher, Spencer Hill Press.
The year was 2012. In terms of publishing, I believed I was on the road to “making it.” Sure, I didn’t get a fatty advance, but I did sign advance copies at Spencer Hill’s booth at Book Expo America in New York. Also, the line of bloggers to read that book was pretty long. I’d been fortunate enough to work with an amazing editor who whipped that book into shape and snagged an amazing cover artist, so the hype for my little dystopian society was pretty high.
That’s when things started to go wrong. Bloggers around the world complained that my protagonist was “too weak” and some went as far as to say that I should be raped and killed for writing it. In short, I was heartbroken. I knew I’d written a story that was a little weird, but it was the story inside me. A book about a timid girl in love with her captor who needed to escape psychological abuse.
A couple of years later, the amazing Kate Kaynak sold Spencer Hill Press and for whatever reason, I stopped receiving royalty statements or checks. By 2015, I’d signed with a new wonderful literary agent (my former one quit) and I’d written a novel I KNEW would get me that fatty advance.
That’s what I endeavored to do before writing page one: to write a book that was so wrought with love and action and depth that many large publishing houses would salivate over it.
My agent submitted that book, Our Sweet Guillotine, to many publishing houses. Unfortunately, many felt that historical fiction was a hard sell and, again, a few didn’t connect with my slightly off-kilter protagonist. Many publishing houses were looking for diverse books, which is great and we need that, but some blatantly stated that they were not interested in Christian messages.
Here’s the thing. While I’d endeavored to write a story that a broader audience would like, people who like darker historical fiction, I couldn’t help slipping in messages that could bring a reader to Christ. I’m one of those writers who writes stories to expand, share, and validate my own faith. Even before I signed with my literary agent, I had an agent nearly sign me but for some vague reason, said she just couldn’t get excited about it. But my new agent loved it precisely for this reason: it was dark and gritty AND explored Christian messages.
But we quickly ran into a problem. There are Christian publishers—in fact, every large publisher has at least one Christian imprint—but most, if not all, want warmer and fuzzier stories. Ones which would find my little story about guillotines and axe-carrying sirens a little too violent.
The secular publishers just couldn’t get excited about my message. The Christian publishers found it too violent.
What was a girl to do? My agent and I both felt lost.
It was the end of 2016 when I texted Cammie, who had an entrepreneurial background and had been working as a freelance editor:
"What if I started my own small press?"
She laughed. She called me on the phone and said, “That’s what I’ve wanted to do all along.” And then I remembered how she told me that she and her husband had wanted to start a publishing company in a few years, because they saw how much trouble I was having placing my work. They believed in my ability, and wanted to help me and other fledgling writers get their work out there. When they first told me their idea a year or two before, I thought they were crazy. Besides, I wanted to be published by a reputable New York publishing house.
Well. My wonderful agent put in the good fight. To this day, she is one of my best friends, but we both came to terms with what was going on in the publishing world: placing edgier stories with Christian themes is hard. Others might have been successful, but I had a hard time finding other stories like mine.
So, I did what I vowed I would never do: I self-published Our Sweet Guillotine. Cammie and I took the plunge and created our own company. We became Monster Ivy Publishing, which would publish my books, a series we were working on, (Sisters of Bloodcreek), and now, publish other Edgy, Clean fiction from other writers.
Here’s what happened after I published Our Sweet Guillotine: I found that it doesn’t easily sit on one shelf. It’s historical, but it’s fast-paced. It’s dark, but not dirty. Like The Dollhouse Asylum, it’s edgy, but without the stuff people with Christian values usually find offensive. Independently publishing means finding ways to promote your own book online because indie authors mostly sell ebooks.
I’d join promotions, but my book was either too dark for the Christian ones, or my characters wore too many clothes on the covers as compared to the ravenous romance market.
Finding a readership is hard. The market is inundated with many stories. But what of the books with messages that fight the adversary? Ones that are fun and exciting without the guilt?
I may be off-base. I may be a dreamer, but I do feel like God has led me to this path where I understand just how hard publishing can be and just how hard it can be to find an audience. And now we can reach out and network with other believers to create our own bookshelves.
So, our doors are open. We want historical and paranormal and contemporary stories that don’t fit neatly on the literary bookshelf. Ones that encourage our readers to dig a little deeper. Ones which have been breathed into life by authors who don’t have the time or desire to self-publish it.
The industry is changing. It’s in constant flux, and we’re creating our niche within that flux. So if you think you’ve written a story that’s both uplifting and dark, send it our way.
We’re on the hunt.
(Note: If you’re still unsure of whether or not we’d be a good fit, please consider reading one of our books. We’re practically inventing a genre--we're pioneering! We want to help others fulfill their dreams, but we can only do this if you truly understand our type of stories.)
Mary Gray - Co-Owner, Author, Editor, Narrator
Mary has a strong affection for dark and twisty plots that balance faith-based messages. Some of her best ideas come from when she's lurking in the woods, experimenting with frightening foods, or pushing her kids on the tire swing.
She's the membership chair of Indie Author Hub, a contributor to The Faithful Creative Magazine, and is the author of several novels and three nonfiction works.
Cammie Larsen - Co-Owner, Author, Editor, Designer
Cammie loves all things creative, especially something that tells a fantastic story. She's doing what she can to bring more beauty and insight to the world while building her own life's story.
For now, that includes helping run Monster Ivy, doing this and that at
her local church, and hanging out near and far with her hubs, kid, and two giant dogs.
Cammie's an editor, graphic designer, contributor to The Faithful Creative Magazine and co-author of Hush, Now Forget, Sleep, Don't Fret, and the short story, Decomposition, found in The Devils You Meet On Christmas Day.
Vanessa is the creator of beautiful and terrifying creatures. She's a pursuer of elegant prose that bites with truth and never lets go. In the search for beautifully broken characters, she's not afraid to delve into the dark side of humanity and fantasy to find the most authentic and relatable monsters, reminding us all that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
When asked about herself, she often uses the term “literary gypsy.” She’s done it all from interning at a popular Southern magazine, to running two of her own publications, to being a literary agent for a short time. Currently, she’s hosting the podcast Fabled, where she explores lore and legends both historically and through her fiction.
When she's not writing or devouring books, she and her Prince Charming are likely traveling in their vintage camper, enjoying the lake, taking photographs, or creating some other type of art. She believes life is all about exploring, storytelling, and enjoying every tiny moment.
Rich Storrs - Author, Editor
Rich is rarely seen without a book in his hand -- fiction, textbook, whatever he can find. He's a middle-school teacher by day, an editor by night, and a father of two boys all the time. He's been editing books for over ten years, for a couple small publishers and free-lance, and his writings have been in various anthologies and magazines. He's also into cooking, hiking, and collecting stickers and posters for his classroom.
Lydia Craft - Associate Editor
For Lydia, writing is like breathing. Ever since an early age, she has had a passion for stories and the wonderfully subjective field of creative writing.
Each story is like a seed, waiting to grow and blossom into something new and beautiful, and it's that beauty that inspires her to dig deep into the creative works of others and help them fully find their potential. For her, this desire to help other writers flourish stems from her own deep faith in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, her desire is to live as a testimony to His sacrificial death, and to point to the hope found in His resurrection as she serves others. "Even as Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." -Matthew 20:28
In her free time, she enjoys goofing off with her awesome, supportive husband who always finds a way to make every day hilarious. She also spends time focusing on being a mom (the best job ever) while caring for a wide variety of critters (which keeps growing and expanding). If there was a phrase to describe life, it'd be perfect nonsense: a lovely combination of blessings and chaos, and she wouldn't have it any other way. She also loves quiet moments spent in her little home in the middle of the woods, pondering Scripture, the fascinating complexities of God's creation, and the delightful possibilities of different story ideas.
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