Thunderstorm Books was established in 2008 by Paul Goblirsch. Notable authors which have had books published by Thunderstorm include Brian Keene, JF Gonzalez, Wrath James White, Bryan Smith, and Ronald Kelly. Thunderstorm Books specializes in collectible signed limited edition hardcover books. Whether it be the uniquely small black and white beauties of the Elemental chapbooks (which also happen to be available in trade paperback), the limited to preorder-only White Lightnings or the oversized Black Voltage line with breathtaking cover and spine dustjacket artwork, we have something unique and beautiful for small press book collectors.
HELLNOTES: How did Thunderstorm Books come about?
PAUL GOBLIRSCH: Back in the late nineties I discovered the joy of book collecting. In 2001 I bought my first signed limited edition. And this fueled this collecting habit even further. Anyway, there was a small Australian publisher called Wild Roses who was creating a six book set of “up and coming” authors. Each book had awesome artwork by Keith Minnion. Book one and two came out (I still own these two titles today.), but then they went under (pun intended). One of the titles affected was The Wicked by James Newman. So I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror and I actually said out loud to myself, “what if I could make this book?” This was the spark that started it all. I spent several years researching and evaluating what it took to be a successful small press publisher. (Don Koish, a friend and mentor, of Necessary Evil Press had published The Wicked by the time my evaluation was done.) Finally, I officially took the plunge and contacted Bryan Smith about doing a limited edition of his first novel, House of Blood.
HN: What distinguishes Thunderstorm from other collectible publishers?
PG: Unique and uniform. I know these sound contradictory, but within each line of books Thunderstorm produces I like to keep things uniform. However, I try to be as unique as possible as well. For instance, I use a wide range of endsheet materials for the Black Voltage line. Another example, the BV line is on an oversized trim. And the books contain spine art, which I feel creates a special look when displayed on the shelf. Even something as simple as using photos of the author on the signature page is a bit different compared to other presses. And that is just the production. I also try to mix in various authors, both veterans and newbies, various styles of dark fiction, ranging from quiet to extreme, and use a plethora of different cover artists (and their various techniques) to keep the covers fresh. In my opinion, not very many presses are doing that today. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I take the “collectible” term very seriously and don’t overproduce and/or discount my own product very often.
HN: Tell us about your Maelstrom line.
PG: Maelstrom is the line specifically created as a Brian Keene imprint. Each three book set contains: a long work by Brian, a short work by Brian, and a long work of Brian’s choosing where he is the editor. In addition to this there usually is a special collectibilty aspect built into the set. For example, in our last volume, the short work, Sundancing, will never be reprinted in any format.
So far there have been three volumes (nine books total). Each volume is typically done on an annual basis. The great news is, and this is the first time it has been mentioned in public, Brian and I have signed a multi-year deal for future Maelstrom sets.
HN: You have a Members area on your website? What does being a member entail and how does the program work?
PG: There are currently two different types of memberships offered by Thunderstorm Books.
One is the “master” membership, which basically is for hardcore bibliophiles who buy all the numbered editions of the books. They get specials such as matching numbers, free US shipping, automatic reservation of titles (no matter how fast they sell out), free hardcover chapbooks every year or so, access to the members webpage, and monthly emails where I discuss all things related to Thunderstorm. Basically, they are a huge part of why Thunderstorm is so successful … the foundation of which the press was built. Those who are interested in joining this can contact me at [email protected] for more information.
The second membership is actually more of a book club, designed for those who may not want everything. They may want certain authors or certain types of stories. This club is actually debuting in January 2013. Each month, the customer of this club can choose from a list of two or three books with discounted pricing for the club member. Also titles in this club are more economically friendly versions of the books (although they are still signed by the author and hardcover limited editions). One very cool feature for this club is that if members stay current, towards the end of the year, they will get a specially designed chapbook (not available to the general public) with new stories by Brian Keene, Kealan Patrick Burke, JF Gonzalez, and Shane McKenzie. Information for this can be found here: New Membership
HN: You also publish ebooks, which makes sense in this day and age. How does the ebook program differ from your hardcover program?
PG: This is a tough question. I think ebooks are a marvelous, wonderful thing. And in the long run I think they are better for small press collectible markets than most people realize. The reason being that when the ebook comes out via self publishing by the author, or through a collectible press, or through a paperback/ebook company … that should be the bread and butter of the book sales. And the author has the chance to have more control over this, now, more than ever before, which is a great thing. There really are no limits. No out-of-print. No remainders. No limited shelf space. Of course there are new challenges associated with ebooks as well … one being selling something where so many are available for free … another being even talentless wanna-be writers can create an ebook. But overall the positives outweigh the negatives a hundred to one.
And now comes the “but” part (don’t worry we can still be friends!). All that being said, I get my enjoyment from creating a physical object that can be displayed and admired. This is why I think the small collectible press will continue to endure through the slow times and thrive during the good times. I think authors still like to see a physical manifestation of their work as well. I think book collectors and readers still like real books. And therefore, I, and people like me, will step up and continue to create them.
Thunderstorm will exist with or without ebooks, but without the signed limited edition collectible market, there is no Thunderstorm.
HN: Any thoughts on the state of horror at the moment?
PG: I think there is a huge misconception among those outside the genre that horror is at the bottom of all genres. I see this question in a lot of interviews I read and often wonder if the intent of the question is to build up something that doesn’t need a crutch. Maybe a good interviewee can create an inspiring passage of wisdom that can be quoted for years to come. That somehow can be heard outside our community. But rather than attempt that I am going to give you my thoughts on horror specifically for the horror fan. After all, they are probably the ones reading this. And I am going to break it down into three sections.
First, horror literature. I am way to biased to answer this fairly. Put simply there are so many authors that I would love to publish, so many great storytellers out there, so many up and comers who hit a home run on their first book, so many veterans that make me just as eager for their twentieth, thirtieth, fiftieth book, that describing this in any detail would require space that just can’t be contained in an interview.
Second, horror movies. I think these are a prime example of why those on the outside don’t understand us. Most movies are overrun with clichés, sequels, and remakes. I guess you could say I am not a huge fan of horror movies. I’d be just as likely to want to see a comedy, a drama, or a western. Hell, I’d be just as likely to want to see a chic-flic, and that says a lot.
Third, tv shows. I think that TV is offering some of the best storytelling right now. Certainly more than movies. It is the one area that if the right show came along, I think horror could really shine. Shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Sons of Anarchy are just so well written. Of course, you have to ignore the scripted reality crap … why in the hell would anyone be interested in watching people sit and argue with each other hour after hour? Anyway, back to the good stuff. Those mentioned above. Or older shows such as The Wire or The Shield. Dexter is a pretty good show. Overall, I’d recommend it. Definitely fits the horror category. But we need shows that will rise up to the best of the best.
HN: What’s on your upcoming publishing list that’s got you really excited?
PG: You’re probably going to think this is a lie, but I still get just as excited with each new release as I did with my first releases. The experience really is a thrill … to open up that box of newly arrived books, to open up that cover art file, or to read the first chapter of great storytelling. And I am still trying different things, even after publishing some sixty hardcovers. Thunderstorm’s last release, The Coyote by Michael McBride, had a manuscript page bound into the book. Within the next week or two, I’ll be releasing Michael McBride’s God End Trilogy. The artwork is just phenomenal with this one. And I have a surprise that I am excited (and nervous) to see how it turns out. Another first, as far as I know, no press has done this idea.
January 2013 is going to be a very cool month. We have The Damned Highway by Brian Keene and Nick Mamatas, Sins of the Father by JF Gonzalez, and Walk the Sky by Robert Swartwood and David B Silva.
I am pretty excited about Walk the Sky because it will be the first book in a new Thunderstorm line called Douglas Westerns.
And in Fall/Winter 2013 … something so cool I get goose-bumps just thinking about it.
HN: Any final comments?
PG: I’d like to thank Rose O’Keefe and Jeff Burk of Deadite Press, who are vital to the paperback market and give horror a wider audience, for their generosity by letting a collectible guy have his own message board on their website.
And I’d like to thank Larry Roberts of Miskatonic Books, the absolute best high end collectible publisher I know (Infernal House), for his years of friendship.
And to anyone who has or will buy a Thunderstorm book, I am especially thankful for the support.