Interview: Thurston Howl on Multimedia Fiction and Sensory De-Tails

Welcome to another interview with a member of the Furry Writers’ Guild! Recently, Bound Tales released an anthology called Sensory De-Tails. Before we go any further this is an adult anthology that is most certainly NSFW that we will be discussing today. However, it’s not simply the adult nature that makes this anthology one worth exploring.

Bound Tales offers a deluxe edition of the anthology which includes things like cologne samples, faux fur, and a music CD. The idea is to allow readers to interact with the stories presented in the anthology. Today we’ll be talking to the editor of Sensory De-Tails, Thurston Howl, to discuss multimedia fiction ad how the anthology came to be. He has edited works like The Electric Sewer, Infurno, and more. He’s also made several anthology appearances including some in ROAR, FANG, and HEAT.

Enough with the introductions, let’s get to the interview!

First for the folks that might not know you, tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing.

Howl: Sure! So, I’m Thurston Howl. I’m an editor for Sinister Stoat Publications and the lead anthology editor for Thurston Howl Publications. I founded the Furry Book Review program and have received both Leo Literary Awards and Ursa Major Awards for my writing. I typically work in erotic horror, both inside and outside the fandom. I’ve been a judge for the Silver Falchion Award and the Claymore Award, both horror awards in the Killer Nashville program. Personally, I am a bigender person living with HIV and work with a lot of activism regarding that.

FWG: What inspired you to make an anthology like Sensory DeTails?

Howl: So, before Sensory De-Tails, I’d edited a lot of furry anthologies. What bothered me very often, even with big-name furry writers, was that canines couldn’t hear someone turning the corner up ahead. A feline couldn’t smell musk until they were right up against a body. A snake didn’t have any taste buds different from the canine or feline. And for me, it wasn’t a matter of “accurate” biological representation. It was about untapped potential.

In non-furry erotica, sensory details are great for immersion in sex scenes. In furry erotica, usually not much had changed despite heightened senses. So, I started the anthology as an exercise for furry writers and readers. Show off furry senses in unique and erotic ways.

FWG: So when was it that you came up with the idea to add an interactive element to the anthology? Where did the idea come from?

Howl: Well, it’s not the first time I’ve gone for something interactive. 12 Days of Yiffmas had an erotic holiday music album to accompany it, for example. The stories in Sensory De-Tails begged for an interactive component. When Al Song describes how erotic a classical piece of music is, you kind of have to hear it to believe it. When Linnea describes why you’d want to rim a beaver, well, we need to taste that, too. It just seemed totally natural to do.

FWG: Since you obviously have a well storied writing career, pun somewhat intended, you’ve edited quite a few anthologies over the years. From what you have seen, have multimedia anthologies, or multimedia fiction in general, gotten more interest from audiences? Sold more? Generated more interest?

Howl: It’s a hard question to answer. About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about how anthologies generally don’t do well. Period. Talking with other publishers, that seems to be the standard (though each of our definitions of “well” might vary). I can’t say that multimedia anthologies have done any better sales-wise. But when they are read and reviewed, people always comment on how enjoyable those components are and how they really make the reading a full experience.

FWG: So in general, the audience benefits, and that gets more people possibly interested in furry lit?

Howl: Perhaps. I don’t think I went about the anthology explicitly trying to get more people interested in furry lit. But I think that’s part of the drive for producing anthologies in general.

FWG: Let’s take a look then at how making a multimedia anthology works then. Other than picking the stories, formatting, and things seen in typical anthologies, what kinds of challenges were there in getting the deluxe edition out there?

Howl: For scents, I worked with Shoji Tiger. They work with making colognes already as a small hobby business. I had them read the stories, and they crafted scents based on the way that smell appears in those stories. One was easy, a very sweet smell. The other was a bit tougher, “muskier.” That one took a lot of trial and error.

For sounds, I just had to make a CD featuring classical songs related to the stories. Not as bad.

For sight, an artist read the stories and focused on the ways colors mattered in them, making colored art prints based on them.

For touch, I went to a hobby store to pick up textured fabrics, faux furs, and leathers in order to match the featured species of those stories. A bit tough to get it just right, but I think it’s at a good point now.

For taste, I actually had a barista turn flavor profiles from those stories into latte recipes! They taste great.

FWG: So if another editor, publisher, maybe even a self publisher, wanted to add interactive elements to their book, what suggestions might you have for them?

Howl: For starters, I’d say only do it if you want to for non-financial reasons. I’ve seen too often people pay for exquisite art, bookmarks, posters, etc. for their book, and it sell under ten copies, and they’ve been devastated. If you want to do interactive stuff, do it because it’s just fun for you. And because you want those ten people to have a good time.

FWG: Do you think there’s any smaller ways individual authors might be able to make their own stories interactive? Like a playlist to go with their story or something similar?

Howl: For sure! Playlists are one easy way (we did that with Electric Sewer). Little recipes, too. If your story has a world-building element, throw in a “Which Nation Would You Be From?” quiz. If you ship your own works, add little things like stickers, textures, Valentine’s Day cards from the characters, etc. There are so many options, and they largely depend on what kind of story you’re telling. But by all means, go for it. A little goes a long way!

FWG: Before we wrap up on things, any last bits of general advice to writers, editors, and publishers out there?

Howl: Be safe. Be well. Keep fighting against oppression. Keep being creative.

We hope you enjoyed our interview with Thurston Howl and learned a bit about multimedia fiction in the process! In lieu of our usual social media promotion for those interviewed, Thurston requested that we ask readers to check out Difursity.  It’s an anthology that features stories written only by furries of color, many of which are FWG members. That’s all we have for you today so until next time, may your words flow like water.

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