The master editor of horror: A salute to Don D’Auria.

me and don dauria

Though it’s grown to be much more than just a promotion tool, I began this blog a long time ago primarily to publicize and support my books. In 2011 when I was first getting this site going I was shopping around a little volume I’d written called Zombies of Byzantium. A small press called Samhain Publishing expressed interest in the book, and it led to a contract. The person who made the decision to publish Zombies of Byzantium was Samhain’s horror editor, Don D’Auria. Four years later he has guided me through the process of three further novels with Samhain (Zombie Rebellion, Doppelgänger and The Rats of Midnight, which releases December 1). This month is the 10th anniversary of Samhain’s foundation as a company. I was thus deeply shocked to learn a few days ago that Don D’Auria has been let go by Samhain, which can no longer afford a full-time horror editor. He leaves a stable of terrific writers, including Hunter Shea, E. Michael Lewis and my friend Stephen Graham Jones, essentially “fatherless” at a publisher to whom all of the writers Don nurtured have contributed some of the finest horror fiction on the market today.

This post isn’t going to be about how I think we “fatherless” Samhain horror writers should react to Don’s departure. There are already some good posts out there in the horror blogosphere about that; if you’re interested you could check out Frazer Lee’s, Hunter Shea’s, or Brian Keene’s (which addresses some controversy that has arisen in the wake of the announcement). I’d rather take this opportunity to thank Don for the wonderful job he’s done at Samhain and, possibly without you knowing it, for all of you out there who have read mine or other Samhain horror authors’ books. When I sold Zombies of Byzantium to Samhain in January 2012 a friend of mine in the publishing industry told me that Don D’Auria was the best horror editor in the business. My experiences with him have proven that to be absolutely true.

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William F. Nolan, author of Logan’s Run, Stephen Graham Jones, author of The Gospel of Z, and me at the World Horror Convention. Don D’Auria is largely responsible for this meeting.

I think one of Don’s strengths is spotting great new talent and then making each author feel valued and important to the publishing house as a whole. When I attended the Bram Stoker Awards at the World Horror Convention in Portland, Oregon in May 2014 (sponsored by Samhain), Don was there, and he spent much of the day meeting one-on-one with “his” authors who were there. I remember I was supposed to meet him in a part of the hotel lounge at 10 PM. When I got there I saw he was over in another part of the lobby meeting with another author. That meeting ran long and I had to wait, but actually I appreciated it–he was willing to take the time to hear everyone’s ideas and listened enthusiastically to our pitches and ideas for future projects. He was also a very nice person who wanted to get to know everyone. I ran into him several more times over the course of the convention and he was extremely popular, with many of the authors he handled wanting to sit down and have a drink with him or chat about family or whatever. There was a real personal connection there.

Professionally Don was an ace. Over the course of four books his edits were always very light, very incisive and he had a reason for everything. I recall once on Zombies of Byzantium we got into an interesting discussion over email about whether a zombie’s body stops moving if you chop its head off–a question that seemed internally inconsistent as I originally wrote the book. His eye especially for continuity, logic and the flow of a story was unmatched. He was never overbearing or heavy-handed and it was very clear that he saw his primary duty as helping me tell the story I wanted to tell more effectively and with greater impact. And he loved the stories. I think Don really does fall in love with every book he works on. He approached Samhain’s horror line exactly the way its most insatiable fan might. Genre readers, especially of romance and horror, tend to consume book after book from the authors and publishers they know and like. Don made sure that pipeline was never empty and that the quality within it was always top-notch, and this is the service he did to you, the horror fans and readers, as much as for us the authors.

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If you enjoyed this book, thank Don D’Auria for bringing it to you. He’s largely the reason why.

So what does the future hold? I find it difficult to believe that a man with a 20+ year career as a horror editor, and who is widely known as the best in the business, won’t land at another publisher and that he’ll do for them what he did at Samhain. If and when he does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of the writers he worked with at Samhain go to his next house, whatever it is. I may be among them. My current project is not horror but rather historical fiction about World War II, and I have some other science fiction projects in the pipeline (including The Valley of Forever which I’m still trying to get published) ahead of another horror book, so it may be a while before my next horror book anyway. When I do write it I certainly hope Don will still be out there somewhere. I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me and the wonderful job he did for everyone at Samhain. Behind every good author is a great editor. Don D’Auria is one of the best.

The photos in this article are copyright (C) 2014 by Cody Z. Climer, all rights reserved, used with permission. The cover of Zombies of Byzantium is copyright (C) 2013 by Samhain Publishing Inc.
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8 Comments

  1. I don’t really understand how they can let someone go who is obviously so talented and has such vision. I hope that Don finds a place that appreciates him and his skills.

  2. Well said, Sean. From a reader’s standpoint, I’ve been following Don’s career since he started at Leisure and all the way through his time at Samhain. With the great stables he built for both of those publishers, I suspect he will land with another good house sooner rather than later.

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