It’s been a while since the original Kickin’ The Willy Bobo Interview with Tommy Hancock. In that time, the flamboyant and outspoken Mr. Hancock has been hard at work doing what he does best: being the spokesman of Pro Se and the public face of New Pulp. So I thought it about time we caught up with him on the anniversary of that first interview and here he is 12 MONTHS LATER…
Derrick Ferguson: Have there been any major changes in your life personally and professionally since we last talked?
Tommy Hancock: Nothing major, other than dealing with a few health issues that seemed to get in the way of creativity and spreading the word of Pro Se some. But overall things have remained much the same. Still have a great wife, three kids I totally do not deserve, and enjoying every day - and this has been happening daily for a while- hearing from a writer, artist, or fan about their interest in Pro Se and the work that everyone involved is doing.
DF: How do you feel Pro Se has grown in the past 12 months?
TH: Pro Se won’t stop growing. Not only are we adding titles and creators right and left, but our numbers on all levels are on an upswing. More importantly, though, I think Pro Se’s greatest growth has been in its appeal to more readers and different audiences. We spent 2014 laying a lot of groundwork for expanding our readership and, although much of that won’t see fruition until this year, we’re already finding that what we do appeals to an extremely broad base. Being identified both as a Genre Fiction and a New Pulp Publisher has helped open up several titles that have sat dormant for months, even years to readers, that we always knew were there. And now we are finding them or, in a lot of cases, they are following all the bread crumbs Pro Se’s left in various ways and finding us.
DF: How do you feel that you personally as an editor and publisher have grown in the past year?
TH: As a publisher, I have gained a tremendous amount of focus on just what Pro Se Productions is capable of. When I started out, I was like a wide eyed kid at a candy store, not only wanting to taste every little thing I could, but working up ideas on how to make it all even better. I’m still that kid, but I understand what I have the privilege of managing now isn’t candy, but little bits of magic. Not my magic, I’m not the wizard, I’m just the guy who gets to pull them out of his hat. And that’s not only a blast, but it’s a responsibility. One that I feel like I understand better than I ever have before.
It’s also one that all publishers approach in different ways. Some aren’t big fans of how I do what I do, others have said they think it’s the best way to go. Me, it’s what works for me. Pro Se Productions is a publishing company, but we’re a company with intentions, with various plans that all boil down to one mission- getting the best stories out to as many readers as possible.
As an editor, I think I’ve matured as well. And a lot of that I owe not only to having so much wonderful work that I get to help edit, but to one man. Joe Gentile, the mad genius behind Moonstone Books, has taught me more in five or six sentences over the last few years concerning editing than any course, seminar or book ever could.
DF: Is the direction Pro Se heading in now the same as it was a year ago?
TH: Yes, most definitely. I think we’ve discussed before that I sort of had a five-year plan for Pro Se from 2011 forward. It is moving exactly the direction I wanted it to when we started publishing novels and anthologies in 2011. Could things be better? Well, sure, every book could sell thousands and millions of copies. But we are heading in what I consider the right direction for what we want to do long term. And that, simply put, is to be around for many years to come and to be a defining voice in New Pulp and Genre Fiction.
DF: Where do you see Pro Se in five years?
TH: Well into the next phase of our plan to be around awhile. We are building a catalog now and have done quite well at that. Five years from now, I hope to see us still adding to that catalog, but also to have several properties that readers are just seeing debut now or in the last few years, to have a collection of flagship titles to rival any company out there. We’ve grown at an amazing speed intentionally and that may level off beginning in the next two to three years, but growth won’t stop. We’ve been building the house from the ground up so to speak, hopefully in five years we’ll be expanding, adding on bells and whistles to our many rooms.
DF: What’s the best thing about dealing with writers? The worst?
TH: This can be answered with the same answer. Their excitement about their work. It is thrilling and invigorating to bask in and be a part of the fire that burns in a writer, or any creator for that matter. It is one of the major reasons I do this.
And as for that being the worst thing, let me explain. Sometimes writers, and being one myself I have been guilty of this, believe that what they have is the best possible work ever and nothing can make it better and the world has to have it now. And all of those are wonderful emotions and feelings and attachments to have. But when a work comes to a publisher and the writer cannot let go of those feelings, then it becomes somewhat problematic at times. I’m proud to say that issues arising because of this have been few and far between at Pro Se. And also, I believe every writer should commit to that passion should stand up for their works. But there has to be a willingness to compromise when working with a publisher and although most every writer we have understands that, not all do and find their way to self-publishing or other avenues that are just as valid as what we would provide them.
DF: How do you see the New Pulp Community these days? Is it still a community?
TH: I am told on a regular basis that I’m one of the organizers of the New Pulp Movement, and I suppose I am. Not that I invented New Pulp, as I didn’t, or that I was the first to envision the concept, because again I was not. But I did have a hand in organizing several publishers and creators under a unifying ‘New Pulp Movement’ banner of sorts.
So there’s my answer. No, I don’t think New Pulp is a community and I really haven’t ever seen it that way. A community denotes a group of people all existing together and working in concert to better the group as a whole on a consistent, regular basis. And although New Pulp publishers and creators have done that and continue to do that every day – if one of us succeeds, then all of us float a little bit closer to the top is a concept I believe in – I do not see New Pulp as cohesive conceptual village all having the same goal. There’s a reason why I suggested calling it ‘The New Pulp Movement.’
Movements move, and hopefully forward. And not only that, but Movements grow and change and rise and fall…and the people, the movers, they change also. Sometimes the faces change, other times the place the movers have in the Movement shift for better or worse, but everything in a successful movement continues evolving, expanding, becoming something different. And just about the time you think it’s matured into one thing, it pushes even harder and is on its way to being something else. That’s what New Pulp is to me.
DF: Do you think that New Pulp will ever have respectability?
TH: It sort of depends on what you mean by that. I think New Pulp is very highly respected within a particular niche, that being that cadre of fans that identify themselves as New Pulp fans. Now, there’s at least one other niche that hasn’t always had the highest regard for what we do, but even that has changed in the last few years. If you mean do I think we’ll ever have the respectability of being considered ‘proper’ literature and completely mainstream, God, I hope not.
One of the great things about New Pulp, and in a larger sense specific Genre Fiction, is that there’s a roughness to it, a rawness that allows each writer to come at it individually, to put in appropriate elements shared by others, but also to leave a mark on a story, on a genre, on a reader that is uniquely the creator’s own. I would argue that being mainstream and literary, that that sort of respectability requires creators to give up that edge, that individuality to a large degree. So, no, in that sense, I hope New Pulp is never respectable.
DF: Are you working on any writing projects of your own?
TH: I have several things that are due, some a long time now, for Pro Se and others. Thankfully, I have patient publishers and can only hope the readers are as patient. Running a publishing company, especially one as aggressive as Pro Se has become, takes a lot of time. Writing has taken a back seat and will have to for a bit longer, probably through March. But, yes, there’s several things on the burners…and, of course, new ideas brewing as well.
Derrick Ferguson: What is the one thing above all others we should be eagerly looking for from Pro Se in 2015?
Tommy Hancock: The best damn Genre Fiction and New Pulp on the market between the covers of every single book bearing the Pro Se logo.