J.R. Martin is a writer and the founder of The Underdog Press, a new publishing company with the goal of giving voice to marginalized writers and the stories they are trying to share.
Read on for an interview with J.R.
Q. What’s your background?
A. I’m an IT who has worked in IT for the past 15 years. I’ve been writing longer than that and have done some copywriting as well.
Q. What inspired you to found The Underdog Press?
A. I’ve read multiple reports showing how authors of color are not being well represented and not receiving advances comparable to other authors. My goal is to offer authors fair compensation for their work and over time create a hybrid model where we handle marketing and split revenues with the author.
Q. The Underdog Press’s mission on the website says your goal is to take short stories and novels that are a “hard sell” and give them a place to shine. Can you elaborate?
A. I’ve spoken with authors who have been told their work is a “hard sell.” From what I gather this may include extreme genre bending or blending and stories where protagonists do not fit the mold of a traditional protagonist. I believe publishing has taken on the Hollywood bad habit of not experimenting with new ideas and is leaving quality work unread.
Q. You’ve got two books slated to come out this year: The Engineer’s Apprentice and The Underdogs Rise. What excites you about these two books?
A. The Engineer’s Apprentice is one of those books that although considered a “hard sell” is getting well-reviewed. It’s primarily an adventure novel with mystery elements and takes place in an alternate-history U.S. where Native Americans stopped westward expansion.
The Underdogs Rise is exciting because it includes stories that are different from newer authors and some just beginning to rise. Marianne Xenos is one example. She recently won the grand prize for Writers of the Future.
Q. The Engineer’s Apprentice is an alternate-history steampunk western. As the author, what inspired this story? Any tips for writing in multiple genres?
A. You don’t see many African Americans taking the lead in sci-fi or fantasy in the contemporary world. I was always a huge fan of Benjamin Sisko and Geordi La Forge from Star Trek. I also love steampunk and wanted to try writing in that genre. Steampunk typically takes place in the Victorian era so I changed it to a steampunk western to refresh it some.
As far as writing in multiple genres, I try to let the idea behind the story dictate the genre it takes place. Honestly, a lot of my stories blend genres but I will always have a primary genre with elements from others. Supernatural horror is just a mashup of fantasy and horror, with horror taking center stage and fantasy playing a supporting role. I’d also say it’s important to know the tropes of the genres so you can understand where to plant your flag when looking for new ways to mine that genre for a story.
Q. The Underdogs Rise is a short story collection featuring a number of authors. What was the process for creating and publishing this anthology? What sort of stories were you looking to include?
A. I wanted a collection of stories from authors around the world and from totally different backgrounds. The overarching theme was weaving underdogs into the story in some way. I believe these authors did a great job of that and telling unique stories that are good, but may not have been seen elsewhere. My goal is to continue to publish more of these anthologies and to start looking at novels.
Q. What types of books are currently in the pipeline for The Underdog Press?
A. There is a sequel in the works for The Engineer’s Apprentice and it will be coming out in 2025 or sooner. The Underdogs Rise volume 2 will be out next year and the call for submissions will open in June. Beyond that I’m working on a theme for an additional anthology and we have a take on Romeo and Juliet coming out as well.
Q. For authors looking to work with The Underdog Press, what sorts of stories are you currently looking for and what guidelines can you share?
A. We are looking for imaginative, well-written and edited stories that showcase your passion for writing. The goal is to put out work that people want to read but is not seeing the light of day because everyone only wants rehashed versions of what’s already out.
I believe that there are many more stories to be told than the tried and true ones and if an author has ever been told by an agent their book is well written, but a hard sell, we’ll gladly market and publish it.
For more information about The Underdog Press, check out their website.
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