FWG Interview: Weasel on Furry Publishing, Editing, and Diverse Voices

Welcome to another FWG interview! On Twitter we got requests to interview both publishers and editors, so today we decided to do just that. Today we’ll be sharing an interview with Weasel, owner of Weasel Press, and an experienced editor and writer within the furry fandom. Enough with the introductions, let’s get to the interview!

FWG: For those that might not know you, tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Weasel: My name is Izzy, though most people know me as Weasel. I’ve been a writer for so many years, I’ve already forgotten, and a publisher for about 8 years. I’m a queer, biracial latinx author, and I’m the owner of Weasel Press/Red Ferret Press/Sinister Stoat Press. It’s been a long few years, haha!

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Weasel: That’s a tough one. Characters. They’re the backbone of your story. Worldbuilding can happen at any point, but if you got weak characters, characters who are problematic, your story is going to fall apart. It just will.

I also think representation matters. As a queer Latinx reader, it’s a hard blow when I pick up a book and the characters are coded as straight, cisgender, and white. People of color exist in this world, we deserve to be in media as much as white people are.

The moment I see a book that is white and heteronormative, I’m not as interested.

Make strong characters. Be diverse.

FWG: As you mentioned, you do publishing within the furry fandom. What got you into the publishing scene, and what made you want to become a publisher?

Weasel: You’re asking me to go way back! So, I got into publishing after working with my community college’s art journal. I wanted to do something like it, so I started Vagabonds: Anthology of the Mad ones. I released the first issue of that journal in 2012, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel like 2012 every time I look at it.

I did about 3 issues before starting Weasel Press. I had an author ask me if I was ever interested in putting out single-author books and I was like “man, lemme think on it.”

And well, here I am, 70-somethin’ books later.

FWG: You publish some non-furry things at Weasel press, so what drew you into a more niche publishing scene like in furry?

Weasel: The first book we published was Furry. Ribbon and Leviathan by Manna Plourde. I’ve been a furry for years. The exact number I don’t even know, but it’s been a time.

I didn’t know what I wanted to publish when I first started. I knew I wanted furry, I wanted beat generation style work, and I wanted works that were sex-positive.

About 20% of the books we publisher are furry, and I’d like to do more. It’s a touch difficult to do from a funding perspective, but there are ideas that I hope to implement someday.

FWG: You publish a lot more poetry than other publishers within the fandom. Can you talk about that a bit?

Weasel: Poetry is a big thing for me. Poetry is a way of processing. For me, it’s processing trauma. So publishing poetry was more so second nature for me. It’s like “of course, I’m going to publish poetry. ”

I think we have some of the coolest poetry projects on the net right now. Only 2 of those projects are furry, but each book I have is unique and tackles something personal to the author. We publish books on domestic violence, environmental issues, drug addiction, sex, experiences from people of color, trans experiences.

If you’ve not checked out a poetry book from us, you’re missing out, because we have some really gut-punching titles.

FWG: Weasel Press always seems to be an outlet for diverse voices to express themselves. As of May 2020, Weasel press is only accepting works from authors of color,  authors who identify as LGBTQ+, authors with disabilities, and current and former sex workers. Can you talk about why you decided to go that route?

Weasel: I did it because I’m tired of seeing marginalized voices not having a platform. I did it because for a period I was getting submissions from old, straight, white guys. How many of them get published? A lot. And that ain’t what I want anymore. For anyone who has had a book with weasel press in the past, sure I’ll work with you. But new folks? Nah. I’m good.

We need more people of color. We need more queer people. Authors with disabilities. Current and former sex workers. Where are their voices in publishing? For a long time, all I heard was crickets on that front. And I’m tired.

I’m tired because any book I pick up is from a white perspective and that perspective ain’t always for me. it ain’t always for people of color. White people write for white people.

So I made some changes. If you’re a queer author, I want your work. If you’re an author of color, send it my way asap. If you’re an author with a disability, we need your voice. And if you’re a current or former sex worker, we want to work with you.

Representation matters. It took me so many years to realize that. Other publishers should do better, and I don’t want to hear the excuse of “well they just don’t submit to us.” That’s called laziness. Don’t bring that to my table.

FWG: When these diverse writers send you their works, what can they do to help them stand out? What makes a good query to you?

Weasel: That’s a hard question for me. I get so many good queries we can’t take due to our line up being full or our funding just isn’t there. Ultimately, I want works that are real though. I tell every author, be real, be you.

Don’t send me something you think will sell. Give me something you wrote, that has your voice and needs to get out. Give me your fantasy novel that’s been queered up, or give me your horror book from a non-white perspective.

If you’re writing it, love what you’re writing. If you don’t love it, I don’t want it.

FWG: What do you wish more authors knew about the challenges of getting books out and published?

Weasel: So much. The first thing I wish I knew is the amount of money you receive from sales. I knew it wouldn’t be much, but it’s definitely a lot less than I expected.

Put it this way, Weasel Press made $1000 in sales this month. After printing charges and fees and distribution discounts, we maybe got about $300 of that as actual profit. $300 we didn’t have before, but definitely a jump from what I would have expected.

I wish I would have known how much of my job would be administrative as opposed to production.

And I wish I knew how many death threats I’d get beforehand haha

FWG: You have received death threats due to your publishing work? Are you comfortable discussing this with our readers?

Weasel: I’ve received my fair share of threats. None were from the fandom. I’ve had old white guys say they would find me and kill me. I’ve been called one racial slur after another. Most of these are just due to rejection. I haven’t gotten any in a few years so it’s gotten better on that front.

FWG: This segues into our next question. What kind of challenges do you find in not only being a publisher that isn’t white but in publishing diverse voices like you do?

Weasel: A lot of the challenges stem from people who don’t follow our guidelines and don’t meet the requirements. There are the people who believe I’m censoring them because I won’t publish their white narratives.

I’ve had people tell me I’m not a real publisher because of who and what I publish. Even members of this fandom have made a passive remark like that.

I know from my perspective, I’ve felt like some see me as second class or low tier.

I know I’ve had some difficulty recruiting diverse voices. But since the shift in our guidelines, it’s been way easier. I think because of how we started, and how we didn’t have our guidelines explicit like we do now, it’s been a challenge to shift our brand the way we want it. It’s getting there though, slowly but surely.

I haven’t had an issue with the voices we do publish, they’ve all been phenomenal to work with. It’s given us a big positive energy boost and I love it.

FWG: You have multiple imprints related to Weasel Press. Can you explain why you chose to go this route over keeping everything under the Weasel Press banner?

Weasel: It’s an organizational thing for me as well as a branding thing. I didn’t know there were some genres I wanted to explore until I received more of it. Like horror, or sex-focused works. With horror, I was able to create that brand, logo, and tailor it to horror. The imprints all function the same as Weasel Press, but I wanted to be able to make it fun, to create an image that says “horror” or “sexually explicit.” it gets tough when genres blend, but Howl and I work it out.

FWG: Outside of publishing, you do also are an editor. What has been your favorite anthology or book that you’ve done editing for so far?

Weasel: I have several. I’ve loved working on all of our books, but if there’s a few that stand out, it’s the titles below (not all of them are furry):

Vagabonds: Anthology of the Mad Ones -This is my baby. I started with this journal, and I can’t let it die. It’s been with me since the beginning and I’ve loved watching it grow each time we put an issue out.

Tales in Liquid Time by Neil S. Reddy – I didn’t know what I was doing at all. But this book was one of our firsts and I look at it so much! We’ve come so far from 2014, but I’ll never forget how fun it was with the strange stories in that book.

#ohmurr! – I can’t not talk about this book. This is such a big moment for me. We blended kink and sex-focused photography with fandom businesses, short fiction, furry experiences, and it was the most fun I’d had in all the years I’ve put out an anthology. Check out #ohmurr! if you’re looking for something different and sex-focused because the magazine is an experience. #justsaying

FWG: Any last thing you want to tell our readers?

Weasel: Don’t let anyone tell you what to write. Write your truth.

We would like to thank Weasel once more for answering all of our questions! In lieu of promoting himself, Weasel asked us to promote recent Weasel Press releases. #ohmurr is currently available for purchase and more information can be found on Twitter @ohmurrmag (NSFW). What Makes a Witch, written by Linnea Capps, has also recently released and will have an audiobook coming soon. It is available for purchase here. Until next time, may your words flow like water.