Two Minutes for High-STAKING: an interview with Ian Thomas Healy

Ian Thomas Healy is an independent publisher, editor, and writer out of Denver, Colorado. He founded Local Hero Press in 2011, which specializes in superhero fiction set in his Just Cause Universe. He is also the creator of the Writing Better Action Through Cinematic Techniques workshop, which helps writers to improve their action scenes. He’s written everything from absurdist fiction to western fantasy, and his novel Blood on the Ice represents his foray into comedy-horror (emphasis on the comedy).

Where are you from?

I grew up in the People’s Republic of Boulder. I was born in Salt Lake City, UT, but otherwise I’m a pretty okay person.

Where do you live now? What do you do in real life?

In a house that is way too small for the number of cats, dogs, and teenagers inhabiting it in the north of Denver. My day job is a parts troubleshooter for people in the ground-engaging construction industry.

Tell me a bit about Local Hero Press.

I started Local Hero Press in 2011. It was always my intent to publish my works via a publishing imprint, with the intent that someday in the future I would be able to publish other authors under that imprint. Today, that dream has become reality as just before Christmas 2015, I released an anthology called Caped consisting entirely of work by other authors. I wanted to do small publishing the right way after being involved in it on the author side with a company doing it the wrong way.

I don’t spend as much time as I want to on LHP business, because my day job and parenting duties fill a ton of my time. If I could afford to run LHP full time, I’d quit my day job in a heartbeat. You and your readers can help that by buying LHP books! [/plug]

The next big step for LHP will be to publish another author’s project, and we are planning to start accepting submissions later this year. We’ll be looking for a middle-grade superhero novel, so start sharpening up your pencils now!

What is Blood on the Ice?

Blood on the Ice began life as a NaNoWriMo book written back in 2009 at the height of vampire hysteria. I figured to cash in on it by writing my own vampire novel. Being a long-time hockey fan, it was only natural that the two genres would meet and that’s how the Fort McWilliams Fighting Aardvarks team was born. They’re a (mostly) jovial bunch of guys and gals playing in the dregs of the lowest level professional league in western Canada. When a vampire infestation starts spreading through the team, the remaining players have to come to a decision: stop the vampires or keep winning hockey games. It’s a harder choice than you might think.9780615661469_p0_v2_s260x420

Is it inspired by classic sports or comedy films?

It was inspired by any number of comedic sports films including Mystery, Alaska, Major League, and of course, the legendary Slap Shot. Years after I finished and published Blood on the Ice, I saw the movie Goon and it was like director Jay Baruchel was all up in my brain. Hands down the best hockey movie I’ve ever seen. Also, I am a big Canadaphile, and my friends north of the border have awarded me honorary citizenship for how well I captured life in small-town British Columbia.

Why leave the superheroes behind to write this one?

Sometimes I have ideas that don’t fit well into the superhero mold. Sometimes they’re powerful enough that I finish them, like Blood on the Ice or Starf*cker. Other times I let them quietly decay in my trunk.

Why vampires? How are yours different?

My vampires aren’t particularly different as far as horrible creatures of the night go. They’re actually pretty basic. The thing that makes them different is how they came to be in the first place and why all vampire hunters are Jewish. Vampires in Blood on the Ice aren’t particularly scary. They just happen to be better at hockey, and that’s the dilemma of the characters. My heroes are a wacky, well-meaning bunch including first-line center Hamish “Hammie” Hamlisch, goalie Cat Haley, and vampire hunter Doogie Van Halen.

Why does horror and humor seem to mix so well?

I think a big part of it is that a lot of tropes in horror are patently ridiculous, and even though we love to be scared, we still know that. Being scared and being amused are both cathartic, emotional reactions that are closely related. Some people laugh when they’re scared. It’s a natural blend to me, like chocolate and peanut butter or shotguns and chainsaws.

What’s the independent literature scene look like in Colorado? What does it look like regionally?

It’s pretty much the same here as it is anywhere else. There are a lot of authors publishing their own work. There are a handful of micropresses like Local Hero who are aspiring to greater things, and another handful of them who are doing a poor job. There is a tremendous support system in place for people who want to do the right thing. You can distribute work via Amazon, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and CreateSpace. There are numerous places to find talented artists and editors online, many at very affordable rates. People who can’t fund their own work have crowdfunding resources available to them if they can convince folks to support them.

What do you recommend a writer or burgeoning publisher do to build an audience?

Write/publish as much quality work as you can as frequently as you can. To build an audience, you need to keep attracting return buyers as well as new ones, so it helps to keep your work limited to a few genres. Spend the money on quality cover art and editing, because people won’t look at a book with a bad cover and won’t come back to buy another book if the first one is poorly-edited. Go to cons. Talk to people when you can. Join or form cross-marketing groups with other authors/small publishers. Consider advertising carefully, because I’ve never had any investments in it pay off. I’ve had better luck investing in things like the Fussy Librarian’s Read & Review program.

What’s your next project?

The next project coming from Local Hero Press is book 9 in the popular Just Cause Universe superhero series, called Tusks. It is releasing this spring, release date TBD. There’s a couple other projects twisting in the breeze but nothing firm yet beyond a fall release of JCU Book 10: Arena.

You can find Ian on Twitter and Facebook.

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