In a home office in Uptown Seattle, there’s a publishing company hoping to publish books about the strange and bizarre, with a confused hedgehog as its logo.
Fuzzy Hedgehog Press founder Matthew Buscemi didn’t start out with the intention of creating a science fiction and fantasy publishing company. He was trying to publish his own book, and he slowly started acquiring things, like a business license, and learning skills like page layout. Over time, Fuzzy Hedgehog Press was born and is growing out of Buscemi’s home.
The meaning behind the name is simple: “I like hedgehogs; they’re cute,” Buscemi said. He and the company’s art director, Aubry Andersen, came up with the logo, and she drew it on the spot in a cafe.
The press has two primary parameters, Buscemi said. The books need to be “speculative fiction with a weird bent.” This means “using the bizarre or the unnatural to shed some kind of light on a part of the human existence you wouldn’t have considered otherwise,” he said.
Science fiction and fantasy is a way to see the world through a situation that is fantastic, explained Buscemi, who grew up on classic sci-fi shows, like “Babylon 5” and “Star Trek.”
The press’ other goal is to create LGBT characters that are well-rounded, whole people. Often, these characters are only side characters, who follow a common trope of having their heart broken and spending their lives sad and alone.
Buscemi, who writes under the pen name Zachary Bonelli, writes LGBT characters whose sexuality rarely comes up. In one young-adult book, his character is “on a science fiction adventure, and occasionally, [his sexuality] comes up where it’s relevant, but there are whole segments where it’s not.”
Buscemi has already published two books, and he has a third one on its way in September.
Andersen lives in Belltown and works as a web designer. She has written four books under the pen name A.KA. She likes her books to have a psychological or philosophical bent. Right now, she’s focused on historical fantasy, which places characters in a real-life time period but with a fantastical slant. Her fourth book publishes this September.
She’s always had a vivid imagination and obsession with mythology, Andersen said: “I like mythology and religion, and I like the stories that the human mind comes up with to explain the way the universe is going. Science fiction is a way to explore that without it being religious.”
Like Buscemi, LGBT issues are important to Andersen. She also likes to write female characters who are tomboys or dress as men and don’t follow strict gender roles.
Small publishers, big ideas
The company is small — in fact, Bescemi and Andersen are their only authors. They’re currently looking for other authors to join their growing business.
Buscemi handles the business side, doing e-book layout and the publishing. Anderson is Fuzzy Hedgehog Press’ creative director: She creates the book’s covers, illustrations and layout.
“It’s very interesting, but not that strange in this day and age” to be both the writer and publishing-company employee, Andersen said.
Andersen and Buscemi edit each other’s work extensively and bring in other beta readers. That has been one of the most difficult parts of the process, Buscemi said.
“It gets to a part at the end where it’s like, ‘Ugh, I’ve read this seven or eight times already, and I have to go through it again with a fine-toothed comb,’” he said. “It’s taxing, but when you end up with the final book in your hands, it’s all worth it.”
Buscemi works full-time in the web-development industry, primarily in video games. Despite the extra workload, Buscemi doesn’t mind coming home from a day of programming to write. Writing drains energy but in a good way, he said.
“Writers are just driven to do this,” he said. “We have these ideas that we’re compelled to put out in the world for some reason.”
With e-books, writers have the ability to just upload a Microsoft Word file and get their book out there to readers. So, in the case of authors who are just focused on e-books, a small press like theirs might not be necessary, Buscemi said.
But the press really shines when it comes to print: They’re able to design the books professionally and get it out to stores that individual authors might not have access to.
“Our goal is to be on every platform that’s possible,” Buscemi said.
So far, audio books seem to be the one medium that’s still out of reach, but Buscemi is looking at ways to make that a possibility in the future.
The industry seems to be in flux right now, with so many changes. That’s why Fuzzy Hedgehog is focused on all publishing mediums. “Because if the ground slips out from under me, this is the best position to pivot,” Buscemi said.
At Fuzzy Hedgehog, they’re “just trying to create quality stories,” Andersen said.
‘A long-term game’
Buscemi and Andersen both attend book readings, book signings and Q&As as a way to get their company and their books out into the local community.
Andersen said she feels that going through the process of writing, working for the company and pushing herself to go out and do local, in-person marketing has made her a better person.
“That’s one of the greatest benefits,” she said. “I’m a happier person in general.”
Buscemi isn’t sure if he wants this to be his full-time job in the future. He had switched to part-time work to focus on the press, but working from home — both in coding and for the press — was too isolating. He went back to full-time work and is doing press stuff after his normal workday.
In the future, Andersen sees Fuzzy Hedgehog Press continuing to grow. “We’re both confident and dedicated to what we’re doing,” she said. Things are in flux right now, but this is a long-term game, she said, and if they’re smart, they’ll be around for a long time.
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