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Interview: Kris Jacen, MLR Press Editor


We are excited to have the executive editor for MLR Press, Kris Jacen, with us for an interview about the new collection Storming Love: Meteor Strike, a five book series by five different authors, including some QSF folks.

Kris will also answer our questions about what MLR is looking for in submissions, and what they might be planning in the near future.

Angel and I will moderate the interview, and will open it for questions near the end.

J. Scott Coatsworth We’ll start in a couple minutes. Kris, Angel are you both here?

Angel Martinez I’m here! Hi Kris! How about we start by letting you tell our QSF’ers a little about yourself?

Kris Jacen I’m here

J. Scott Coatsworth Welcome!

Kris Jacen Thanks…a little about me. I started as a proof reader for a different press in 2004 and was asked to join the staff at MLR in 2008. I took on the role of Executive Editor in 2009 – there was another editor that had been doing the EIC role who became really sick and so as to not seem like I was taking her place, the different title

J. Scott Coatsworth What does an executive editor do?

Kris Jacen I’m basically the last stop in editing decisions; I assign titles to the content editors for review and work; I step in if there are any issues with manuscripts; come up with submission calls; I edit for over twenty authors personally; and I’m the formatting director

Kris Jacen I can handle just about everything EXCEPT money, marketing decisions and uploading files for release

J. Scott Coatsworth Sounds like a lot of work!

Kris Jacen I’m a bit busy smile emoticon

Angel Martinez Wow! You do a lot of things. gasp emoticon I am in awe! For MLR, you do quite a few submission calls – the latest on to release being the one our QSF’ers will probably be very interested in. Storming Love: Meteor Strike – what was the inspiration there?

Kris Jacen We do have quite a few calls (got to keep things interesting). The inspiration behind Meteor Strikes was to figure out a way to have a Storming Love series that was sci-fi.

Kris Jacen With the Storming Love series, we’ve been picking different natural disasters and having a group of authors write stories around them

J. Scott Coatsworth Do you put those out as general calls? Or do you approach authors directly to write for them? (Or both?)

Kris Jacen For the Storming Love, I do tend to approach authors about the stories. Every so often through life events of authors I have put out a general “hey does anyone want to write a x story” but mostly it’s invitation

J. Scott Coatsworth We have a lot of authors here, and I’m sure they would like to be a part of one of these future collections. smile emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth Can they contact you to be considered?

Kris Jacen If someone is interested, I’m always available to PM or send me an email at I keep a running list

Kris Jacen Yes, they can

J. Scott Coatsworth Woo hoo!

Angel Martinez Storming Love is a very cool idea – I’ve seen forest fires and blizzards and floods – have authors had any challenges working in a shared environment?

J. Scott Coatsworth Oooh, good question.

Kris Jacen We started with a hurricane (which the authors named Lauris), then have done: a blizzard, flood, wild fire, earthquake and volcano. Currently I have authors working on a heat wave and a tsunami

Kris Jacen Most of the series are stand alone stories with just the general disaster details the same except the Flood one. The authors did a lot of cross-writing with that one

Kris Jacen Since I edit the Storming stories, I see all the details so I can correct discrepancies

Angel Martinez Very cool! And that makes sense, having a single editor for the series.

J. Scott Coatsworth Full disclosure here – we have three QSFers in this five book collection – Angel Martinez, Atom Yang and Mario Kai Lipinski. Which is awesome. smile emoticon Angel, how did you approach the challenge?

Atom Yang Sorry for not being able to attend when this was happening! Checking out the interview now and it looks great!

J. Scott Coatsworth (I read Angel’s in Beta, and loved it, BTW. Just sayin’.)

Angel Martinez It’s a great group of authors, with stories already starting to release (2/26 for Ethan Stone’s) – and we worked together on the setting. Since it was SF, and anything would have been possible, We needed a consistent backstory that could include lots of different ideas. It was a collaborative effort, with everyone involved.

Atom Yang It was great coming up with the back story, and having different options. I may be the only one who chose to make it contemporary, so no aliens in mine, just big rocks falling out of the sky.

Angel Martinez And big rocks have they’re own perils… and I probably shouldn’t have said that.

Atom Yang Haha!

Kris Jacen What was interesting in the Meteor stories is none of the aliens are the same species and to see how the authors approached their stories was great

J. Scott Coatsworth Angel – so in a nutshell, what is yours about?

Angel Martinez Alien who is very alien to us gets rescued by and involved with a reclusive music instructor. wink emoticon

Angel Martinez Mario – would you like to talk a little about yours?

J. Scott Coatsworth I loved your approach to the alien character, Angel. smile emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth Yes, Mario… jump in. smile emoticon

Mario Kai Lipinski Sure smile emoticon The nutshell description of my story is: shy geneticist and outgoing male nurse work together in a research facility to investigate an alien infection.

J. Scott Coatsworth Did you run into any challenges with the shared universe?

J. Scott Coatsworth (hates those pesky alien infections – isn’t there a creme for that?)

Kris Jacen No cure for the infection, J. Scott…it’s either deal or die

J. Scott Coatsworth Damn. *scratches green rash*

Mario Kai Lipinski No problems with the shared universe for me. We had decided on a backstory for the meteor strikes which allowed for many different aliens. This flexible frame allowed enough room for my own interpretation.

Angel Martinez How many stories did we end up with, Kris? And are they ones you consider longer short stories? Novellas?

J. Scott Coatsworth I can’t wait to read them and see how you all tackled the challenge.

Kris Jacen There are five stories in the Meteor Strikes series and they range from 10k by Katherine Johnson (Mychael Black) to around 30k by Atom Yang

Kris Jacen Most are in the 18-20k range

Angel Martinez Sounds like a good mix!

J. Scott Coatsworth That great. smile emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth OK. a hypothetical for you.

Kris Jacen And not one was the same

Kris Jacen Okay, hypothetical?

J. Scott Coatsworth Let’s say I was a writer, and I wanted to submit something to you (yeah, I know. It’s a stretch, right? LOL) What are you guys currently looking for, especially in the speculative fiction end of the pool?

Kris Jacen Hmmmm…I love stories smile emoticon bring them on.

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL… yeah, but a little guidance for an aspiring MLR author, please.

Kris Jacen What do we want to see in the spec fiction end?

J. Scott Coatsworth Yes. smile emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth Or to flip it around, what do you already have waaay too much of?

Kris Jacen I know this is going to sound strange but believable aliens wouldn’t be a bad thing

Kris Jacen I don’t know that I’ve seen too much of any one trope

Angel Martinez Believable in that you believe they’re aliens and not blue humans?

J. Scott Coatsworth Hey, I like blue humans. Leave Avatar alone. tongue emoticon

Kris Jacen That the author sets the world building and sticks to their rules, Angel Martinez

Kris Jacen I have an editor that would LOVE to work on more sci-fi

J. Scott Coatsworth Awesome. As one of the admins for Queer Sci Fi, it’s great to see that you are looking for more of it.

Angel Martinez Excellent! We love to hear that smile emoticon

Kris Jacen I’ve always been of the belief that write what you know, know what you write

Angel Martinez When you read submitted stories, what are your big red flags?

Kris Jacen I did a blog about that for Talia Carmichael

J. Scott Coatsworth Oooh… dish.

Kris Jacen Besides the no-no’s for red flags (i.e. scat, golden showers, pedo, rape for titillation)…I have a problem when an author tries for military and hasn’t done their research

Kris Jacen Umm, actually if they haven’t done their research period

J. Scott Coatsworth Yes, I’ve been slapped for that. *grin*

Angel Martinez I completely understand that. *side eyes Scott for laws of physics violations*

J. Scott Coatsworth Hey, it’s sci fi. I can invent my own rules!!!!!

Kris Jacen I’ve always said that I can teach grammar and punctuation but I can’t teach good story telling

Angel Martinez That’s a good point – what tends to really grab you in a story?

Kris Jacen But if you’re writing sci-fi Angel and you want to bend the laws of physics then if you make the rules in your world and stick to them, you can bend them

Angel Martinez You can – but there better be a damn good explanation, lol

Kris Jacen I get grabbed by characters

J. Scott Coatsworth Do you tend to see the same characters over and over again?

J. Scott Coatsworth (pretty, young, hung, emotionally unavailable)?

Kris Jacen I’m lucky in that with the variety of authors that I work with they all have their own niche so I don’t see a lot of the same thing

Kris Jacen I have been seeing a lot of the older/younger dynamic lately in the genre

J. Scott Coatsworth Oooh, that’s cool. We need more over 30 characters (and over 40, and over 50 etc)

Angel Martinez You edit for Wilde City as well as MLR – and I see that they’re closed for submissions currently. Any idea when they might open subs again or if they’ll do special calls?

Kris Jacen Atom’s meteor story has characters over 40…and I just worked on another….ummm, author/title escaping me

Kris Jacen I do work for Wilde City as their Editorial Director

Kris Jacen WC doesn’t want to grow big fast…it’s a slower growth so it can be sustained. As for open subs? I haven’t seen any calls this year, yet

J. Scott Coatsworth I have something with Wilde City – so we are already kinda working together. LOL…

Kris Jacen Ahhh, eventually you’ll get an email from me as I’ve stepped into galley proofing for them

J. Scott Coatsworth Woo hoo!

Angel Martinez I think that’s smart. Especially in the current market with all that’s been happening.

J. Scott Coatsworth Yes, we’ve seen several big name LGBT pubs announcing plans to wind down this year.

Kris Jacen There is some volatility right now

J. Scott Coatsworth Yes, but it’s nice to see them winding things down in an orderly fashion, instead of just closing the doors abruptly one day.

Angel Martinez Yes, thank goodness

J. Scott Coatsworth Speaking of plans, what are MLR’s plans for 2016 and beyond? Anything you can share with use?

J. Scott Coatsworth FB is being difficult this morning. *sigh*

Kris Jacen MLR is holding its own. We’re working with some of the authors that have been displaced from other houses to get their books back out there. We’ve got some great calls out too

J. Scott Coatsworth Yes, I’d imagine there are some great authors who have works suddenly freed up.

J. Scott Coatsworth I know a couple myself. smile emoticon

Angel Martinez Ha! Yes, yes we do.

J. Scott Coatsworth One more question, and then we’ll open it up if anyone else wants to ask things.

J. Scott Coatsworth Have you ever passed on a story that you regretted later?

Kris Jacen There are. We don’t want to be seen as vultures contacting authors. It’s a hard blow to the industry losing these houses

J. Scott Coatsworth yes, it is.

Kris Jacen But if authors want to chat, they’re more than welcome to contact me

J. Scott Coatsworth There you go. MLR is happy to speak with any displaced authors. smile emoticon

Kris Jacen This is just so hard that if we can help ease this for some, we will

Kris Jacen Passed on a story that I regretted later? Hmmm, sadly I hate to say that since I’ve been editing since 2008….I can’t remember. I work on so many fantastic stories

J. Scott Coatsworth Very diplomatic response. LOL

Kris Jacen It’s true! I’m lucky I know what I’m working on right now LOL

J. Scott Coatsworth (this is the place where a spurned author should bang down the door and say “Kris passed on my book ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul.’ I took it to Random House and sold a million copies. Muwahahahahaha.”)

Kris Jacen Oh thanks…

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL don’t mention it.

J. Scott Coatsworth That would have been soooo cool.

Angel Martinez Did you not have enough sugar this morning or something?

Mario Kai Lipinski Perhaps too much? tongue emoticon

Angel Martinez That’s possible

J. Scott Coatsworth Um… I haven’t eaten yet?

J. Scott Coatsworth OK, lets open things up. Does anyone else have any questions?

J. Scott Coatsworth And the way these FB things work, they may come now, or later as folks check out this chat.

Kris Jacen I’ll make sure to check back throughout the day if anyone has questions

J. Scott Coatsworth That would be great. While we see if there are any questions, where do folks go to submit to MLR?

Kris Jacen Our submissions page has the open calls and the guidelines. As I’ve said, authors can contact me with questions
ManLoveRomance Press – Gay, Erotic Fiction at its Best
Kris Jacen is a good email address to use for a query

Kris Jacen See now? This wasn’t painful and Angel said that I was going to be tortured

J. Scott Coatsworth Oh, we do that afterwards. offline.

J. Scott Coatsworth But there WILL be video.

Angel Martinez Mwahahahaha!

J. Scott Coatsworth And we just announced the first Meteor Strike book yesterday – Angel & Griff, by Ethan Stone – when are the rest coming out?

Kris Jacen One a week through the end of March

Atom Yang Kris Jacen and the authors posted the release calendar a couple of weeks back, but we’ll be helping to celebrate each new release via blogs and social media, too, with announcements (I know for sure I’ll be doing it, if I can keep up).

Angel Martinez Seriously, no editors will be harmed during or after this interview.

J. Scott Coatsworth Thanks, Kris, for hanging out with us for an hour. If anyone has questions for Kris, please post them on this chat – she has promised to circle back around and answer them.

J. Scott Coatsworth I will pull this interview off FB and post it on our blog interview section in a day or two.

Atom Yang Please let me know, I’ll be happy to share it in my networks.

Angel Martinez Thank you, Kris!

J. Scott Coatsworth

Mario Kai Lipinski Thank you all for the interview smile emoticon

Kris Jacen Thank you for having me. I had fun. It’s a good thing I’m not going to be injured, I’ve got lots of work to do today

Jana Denardo Not sure I have any questions but I wanted to say thanks to Kris and the others for doing the interview. It was interesting.

Kris Jacen I hope that this has given some authors another option to send their stories too. I love seeing new-to-MLR authors submit stories

Kris Jacen You’re welcome, Jana Denardo

J. Scott Coatsworth Oh, one more question, when you have a chance. Is MLR exclusively MM? Or do you guys have lines for other pairings as well?

Kris Jacen We are exclusively MM but do have a m/f imprint that could possibly pub m/m/f
Aidee Ladnier Really? What’s your m/f imprint?

Kris Jacen Passion in Print

Aidee Ladnier This was a fascinating interview. Thanks! I have one question. Do you prefer for authors to submit stories that they’ve edited lots on so that they’re technically closer to a published piece or one that’s a little more raw so that the editor can help shape its development?

Kris Jacen I’ve done both and I don’t know if I have a preference. I do think that authors need to make sure that they proofread their manuscripts
J. Scott Coatsworth Yes – raw should not equal filled with typos.

Aidee Ladnier I wasn’t talking typos as much as editing until your voice is gone. I worry that I edit too much before I submit.

Kris Jacen Aidee Ladnier I think if you’re doing the edits then your voice won’t sisappear

Atom Yang Hi all, sorry to be joining late! Thanks for the shout outs, Kris! My story is a contemporary romance, no aliens, just big rocks falling out of the sky and how they affect the lives of Herc, a Chinese American, forty-something psychotherapist going through a recent breakup; and Pyotr, a Russian American, fifty-something astrophysicist whose mother recently passed and who’s working on a meteor detection system for the government. It’s a light-hearted apocalyptic romance and will be released on March 25, 2016.

Angel Martinez I don’t think I’d ever heard those words together before this, Atom. Lighthearted, apocalyptic romance wink emoticon

Atom Yang Right?

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL

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