I was tagged for this post by writer pal Joe Iriarte. Joe's writing has appeared in Strange Horizons and Stupefying Stories, and he is currently working on a magical realism YA novel. Check out his blog, and his stories! Now, my answers:
Any time prior to the past couple months, my answer would have been "short stories, always, forever." But after I moved to Portland, I got an intense itch (I should probably see a doctor about this) to polish up my novel, which right now is called Entity, but I'm totally changing it because that title sucks. It's an SF novel set in the present day about a schizophrenic stock girl at a Walmart analogue in southwestern Pennsylvania who fights in a proxy war between two alien forces... or does she? It's weird, but also rather familiar, since it's anchored in the real world. Some of it is very familiar to me! (Well, the Walmart part, and the southwestern PA part. Everything else is fiction. Or is it???)
I first wrote Entity in 2006-07 in an avalanche of productivity. I wrote it in something like two months, and didn't really edit it afterwards, because I hate editing. No seriously, I hate editing. It's why I'm such a slow writer, I like to get things right the first time. But that wasn't going to happen with this novel (I don't think it can happen with any novel), and because I believe in the story so much, I'm making the sacrifice of spending a few months editing so it can truly shine. At least I know that if it fails to get published this time around, it's not because of weak writing.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
As far as Entity goes, I'm not sure what genre it fits neatly into, and I'm not exactly stoked about that. Is it YA (or dare I say "New Adult") lit with a side of science fiction? Soft SF? I don't know, guys, I just wrote the thing, figuring out the genre is for publishers. I will say that there aren't many books quite like it, though Daryl Gregory has mined some similar ground recently. I also take pride in having written a novel about a mentally ill working-class Appalachian heroine. Not enough of those in the world.
Short story-wise, my stuff tends to be more generally of the standard SF type, although I still do write quite a few short stories essentially based in reality. Reality with a twist. Hey, maybe that's my genre!
3) Why do you write what you do?
Kicks, man, kicks! No but seriously, I write the books/stories that I want to read, which tend to be stories about people similar to people I know, dealing with circumstances that real people never would. I really enjoy blending speculative fiction and the present-day world. The idea of strange forces lurking right under the surface of reality is very appealing to me. Even for all his faults, Philip K. Dick is still my favorite writer, and I think that's because even though his novels were set in "the future," they were really about ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances. There were no chosen ones, just workaday schlubs trying to get by who get caught up in crazy stories involving telepathic slime molds or whatnot. I don't think there are enough truly ordinary protagonists in speculative fiction. Bring on the mundanes!
Also, while I don't think my writing is explicitly political, I'm basically a giant lefty and I have to think that comes out somewhere. Not in every story, but in enough of them. A lot of my stories involve working-class protagonists, and resistance is an ongoing theme, whether resistance to mega-corporations or invading alien forces or even just resistance to being stuck in a small town with no clear way out.
4) How does your writing process work?
4) How does your writing process work?
For short stories: I get an idea. I turn that idea around slowly, step by step, inch by inch. Go on a lot of long walks or bike rides. Then write the whole thing basically in one sitting after mind-plotting it out to almost the very letter. I don't outline on paper. Ever. I also can't start a story without a perfect first line. I get most of those in the shower. Don't ask me why.
For novels: Well, I only have the one so it's hard to tell what my "novel writing process" is. I will say that Em's character and the idea for an alien proxy war fought at a big-box store came to me totally separate. (The second part arrived, naturally enough, when I was working at Walmart after college.) I think at one point I believed the concept could have fit into the short form but after I made the choice to hitch the story to a complex character, that was all over. The process of turning over the story multiple times still held, I just mind-plotted it in chunks instead of as a solid unit. Virtually all of it was written between the hours of ten p.m. and one a.m., as this time of day is my creative apex. After I finished I sent it to a few agents but didn't edit it, and finally it went into a trunk for like five years (during most of which I wasn't writing at all) until I became re-obsessed with the story and dusted off the mothballs. And here we are.
I'm turning over the idea for my next novel and unfortunately it looks like it will be a multi-POV affair so I may have to do something that scares the hell out of me. I may have to outline.
Tag, you're it!
Her short fiction has appeared in many venues, including Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Toasted Cake and Escape Pod. Her novelette Fire. Escape. was shortlisted for a 2012 Sir Julius Vogel Award.
Born and raised in Canada, she currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand after sailing down the west coast of the Americas and across the Pacific Ocean with her partner, Steven, on their sailboat, Scream.
Read her blog here!