In one of those It’s-a-small-world moments, as I was getting ready to write up this post for our first 2007 selection to the 25 Years of Spectra list, I happen to run into one of the authors in the building. Christopher Golden is in town visiting, and had just gotten back from breakfast with his editor, Anne Groell and was being shown around the office.
The weird thing is (and this is true of a lot of editors, I think)–this was the first time I ever met him. I’ve e-mailed him hundreds of times, but I’ve never actually seen the man.
He seems nice.
Haha–no, really–he seems like a great guy. And perhaps more prosaically, he’s a great writer. And when you combine great writing with the art of Mike Mignola (who I have met), and you get one of my favorite Spectra books: the incredibly long-titled Baltimore, Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire.
A mash-up of Hans Christian Andersen, Dracula, and the under-explored time in history, World War I, Baltimore is a rare illustrated novel for adults, carrying with it the darkness inherent in Chris’s writing and driven home by the stark-yet-beautiful art of Mignola. This was definitely something new for Spectra, and hopefully it’s a direction we can venture into again in the future.
Below, Chris and Anne discuss Baltimore.
“Baltimore, Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire had a strange journey from concept to publication. I had known Mike Mignola for years, ever since I had first interviewed him for Flux magazine around the time that Hellboy was first being published. After we became friends, I became tangentially involved in his creative universe in many ways. I wrote the first two original Hellboy novels, which he illustrated, and edited three short story anthologies. I also co-wrote (with Tom Sniegoski) the first BPRD miniseries, The Hollow Earth. Over the years, Mike had told me a great deal about the “vampire graphic novel” he intended to write and draw eventually. Listening to Mike talk about his ideas is often like being one of the blind men trying to describe an elephant…you only get to see a portion of what the beast really is. His ideas also have a tendency to morph over time…but after a while, the major components of the “vampire graphic novel” were in place. There were some major pieces missing, but he had the arc he wanted. What he didn’t have, was time.
I confess I was pretty surprised when he called me one day and said he didn’t think he’d ever have time to draw the thing, and would I be interested in writing it as a novel, to which he would also add at least 100 illustrations. Of course I agreed. Working with Mignola is a gift to someone like me, who is always trying to find the logic in fantasy worlds. In the doomed, cursed world of Lord Baltimore, sometimes the weird, awful, unsettling things happen simply because they do, and you don’t need to know why. What’s important is the story, and what happens to Baltimore…what he’s forged into. Hearing the response from readers to the novel’s gothic influences and weird vibe and archaic vampire mythology was all that we could have hoped and more.
Now, in August, the first issue of the first Baltimore comic book miniseries arrives, spinning out of the novel–Baltimore: The Plague Ships. And Mike and I have other collaborations in the offing. But Baltimore is where we were first able to find the places where we were in creative agreement, where our goals were the same, and I’m extremely proud of the result.”
–Christopher Golden, July 2010
“As I’ve said before, one of my favorite things about editing is getting in under the skin of a book, figuring out its secrets, and then bringing out whatever potential is still untapped. Now, I’d been excited for Baltimore to come in since I had first won it at auction based on a proposal and some sample drawings. I knew it could be intensely cool. What I didn’t know was how completely awesome it actually turned out to be when I got it in.
I’d worked with Chris Golden a bunch before this, and I loved his writing. I always have. But together, he and Mike really hit something special in this book. When the completed manuscript came in, I was utterly blown away. The book was dark and lyrical; it sang! And Mike’s artwork was moody and stunning! But something was missing; something structural. The book needed a framework to keep it from feeling too episodic. But what? I couldn’t quite figure it out…until the moment I came to the chapter where the lake monster eats the lamb. And then it struck me: Agnes Dei. The goddamn book was a requiem mass–to humanity, to WWI. No wonder it was singing! In a frenzy, I got out all my requiem mass CDs. I looked up more online. I looked at the Latin names for all the segments of the traditional mass. The fact that each name perfectly matched one section of the book… Well, it just proved I was right. This WAS a requiem mass! And so I made it, with the authors’ full blessing.
The other amazingly fun part was placing the art. Mike had turned in over 100 pieces, and I loved going through text and trying to find the perfect juxtaposition for every piece. Mike and I consulted a lot about this, and even sat down in a conference room at the Bantam offices in New York, going over the galleys page by page, moving and balancing each piece of art against its fellows until we had what we felt was the perfect harmony. I have never had quite that much fun with a book before.
Sure there were production headaches and a steep learning curve for all of us here–we had never done an illustrated book of this nature before. But I have never been prouder of the final product than I am of Baltimore–and I even got to walk home with a piece of original artwork afterward!”
–Anne Groell, Senior Editor, Spectra
To see the complete list, click here