Since forming Alucard Press we have come across lots of people in the indie publishing world. We have met or interacted online with writers, editors, publishers and cover designers from all walks of life. Meeting such people is one of the major perks in what we do, and we recently crossed paths again with a remarkable woman named Lisa Vasquez who just happens to be all of the things we just mentioned. She is the owner of a small horror press based in Texas called Stitched Smile Publications and is also a talented author herself (Unsaintly and The Unfleshed), as well as and editor, publisher, and extremely gifted cover designer. If you are into indie horror the odds are very good that you have either read her books or seen her cover work.
Lisa was kind enough to sit down with me for a quick interview which you can read below:
C.S. Anderson– So tell us a little about yourself..
Lisa Vasquez– I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. At heart I am still a Chi-town gal. I live in Houston, TX now and it has become my second home. I was raised on good old fashioned horror..Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, etc. My father had a real passion for it so that was our bonding time. I got to learn about special effects when I was five years old because he didn’t want me to be too scared to watch the movies with him. As I grew up the love for horror evolved. I began writing in the 4th grade in a creative writing experiment my teacher was doing with us to get us to read more. I don’t think I ever looked back after that. Mostly the writing was for fun or world building for role-playing characters. Then one day my friend said to me “You know what? Why are you wasting your time with this? You should write a book.” And, I thought that that was a cool idea. I had one story I really loved with a character I wanted to expand on so I started writing. Eventually, The Unsaintly was born.
CS– What led you from writing horror to designing covers? I see your work all over the world of horror publishing.
Lisa– Oh, that’s a funny story. Originally I started making graphics because of the online role-playing scene. Everyone wanted these cool websites and character profiles. Everyone would beg and plead for the ‘chosen few’ of us with the skill set to do it and I didn’t want to ask anyone. I wanted to do it myself I grabbed a graphics program, joined a few online tutorial groups (virtually non existent now) and just began doing it. After about ten years of doing thousands of character profiles when it came to doing the cover of my own book i didn’t trust anyone else to put the vision I had in my mind to it. I decided that I wanted every piece of my first book The Unsaintly to be put together by me only. I saw a few people that were indies after I started networking that had AMAZING stories but who’s covers were less than aesthetic so I offered to do covers for them for free. Just to see how I stacked up. From word of mouth it slowly (very slowly) got out and I saw that I could charge fair prices to indie authors who may not have a had a huge budget while helping to supplement my own income.
CS– Tell me what made you take the plunge and form Stitched Smile Publications? Walk us down the road that led to its creation..
Lisa– Yeah, at first I was talking to fellow author Heath Stalicup, I have a little bit of tech savvy and were working on his WordPress. A lot of authors don’t have any technological skills at all and I hate to see them struggling. If I have a skill and can teach someone or help someone I will usually do it. Especially if the person has been generous to me such as Heath. So he says, “Why don’t you open your own pub house? You know how to do all this stuff”. I don’t know, that kind of took me off guard. I was trying to get my own book out there, how could I help anyone else outside of the production of the book? I sat on it for a bit and then ran across an opportunity to help a newly formed pub house as their book cover artist. I got to see a lot of how it was run, good and bad. There was talk of me being brought on as a partner but there were some issues going on that I wont disclose here. It was taking too long and I was putting my own opportunities on hold for it, is what it boiled down to. My contract with them was expired and I wasn’t fond of limbo. I had this idea that if I could help other authors like myself who just wanted to learn – not fast track but honestly and humbly learn how to be better at their craft – then I wanted to do that. And so there I was. I just needed a name. I played around something that could be scary but cool and came up with Stitched Smile.
CS– Can you give me a timeline on the creation of the company? How long have you been around?
Lisa– It was three months of preparation in November 2015, opened January 1st 2016. So we have already celebrated our one year anniversary!
CS– You have approached indie publishing from a lot of different angles, writer, publisher cover designer. With all of that under your belt what is your advice to new writers coming into the field?
Lisa– Patience, desire, and passion are three words to keep as a mantra. Patience as in do it right, not just right now. Have a sincere desire to write because it is not going to make you into a rock star (at least not over night). You will get a lot of rejections. If you don’t have a desire to write, regardless of all that you won’t be around long. Passion is the spouse to desire. If you are passionate about something, it’s not about the money or fame. You are doing it because it genuinely makes you happy. And finally, ask anyone that wants to publish your stuff a lot of questions. If they are too ‘busy’ to answer them, then you turn around and walk away.
CS– Name a writer, a film maker, and an artist who have influenced your work.
Lisa– Clive Barker, Thomas Harris and George Romero. I don’t think that those are in order, sorry.
CS– No worries, I actually predicted one of your answers. I will let you wonder which one [laughs]. How many books have you published so far and what are your future plans for Stitched Smiles?
Lisa– I have published two novels, one novella, and a sprinkling of short stories out there. I actually don’t count how many, is that weird?
As for my future plans for Stitched Smile, I want to just build the value of the company so that I can pay my staff and do better for my authors. All that takes is money so we will keep grinding, keep marketing, and keep finding amazing authors.
CS– One last question, what has your experience been like as a woman writer/publisher in a male dominated field such as horror publishing?
Lisa– I think that the experience has been amazing frankly. There’s a few ‘good old boy’ types out there but for the most part everyone I have come into contact with has been supportive. The bottom line is, I don’t allow people to discredit or push me aside; I am professional and respectful to everyone. The result is that 98 percent of the time I get treated that way in return.
It is not about gender. It’s about what you put into your work. It speaks for you when and where it matters.
CS– Thanks for chatting with us, Lisa, and good luck with Stitched Smile Publications
Lisa – Thank you.