Q. Which aspects of the writing process present a challenge, and how do you overcome them?
A: Sometimes, I’d write myself into a corner in an early draft, and have to dig myself out. Sharon English (author of Zero Gravity) helped supervise a considerable chunk of this story, and often the problem was that what I’d written didn’t carry the meaning I wanted. In some places, she helped me rewrite and focus and tighten my characters and narratives, but in some areas, I’d throw the whole story out and start over. Chapter 2 of this story was originally titled Planet 57, but I rewrote it and changed it so much, it became my own inside joke to rename it Planet 58, letting the scrapped 57 become just another of the narrator’s imagined alternate realities.
Q. Do you have any quirky writing habits, such as a favourite snack or music playlist?
A: Oh man, there are so many. I like to create a playlist while outlining a story – often made up of rock or jazz – and I’d let it play while I was going about my day, on the bike, or running, or just walking around. Then when I’d actually start writing, I’d have to switch to movie soundtracks! If I write to music with lyrics, I end up just writing down the lyrics. I also find that I have to get up and walk around each time I finish writing a scene of a story, sometimes sitting down pretty far from where I’d started. I’d also doodle terrible artwork for the covers of each story while coming up with them. I still have some of those drawings somewhere.
Q. What have you learned through your writing?
A: I didn’t always know what I was trying to say in my writing, so I think I learn a lot about myself as I go. Sometimes I finish a story, and then read it over and go “oh, so that’s what I care about!” writing is a wonderful place to dump all your fears and hopes and anxieties and turn them into something beautiful.
Q: What is it about the short story format that you enjoy? Do you prefer writing short stories over long form?
A: Originally, I wasn’t interested in short works at all. But hanging around literary journals helped me to fall in love with them. In a short story, every word has to count, there can be no fluff. I love that. Speculative fiction was really birthed in short works in early 20th century magazines, and that’s a legacy I care about. Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles was a significant influence on me. I also care a lot about Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s works, and I often found that the best parts of his novels were when he was just throwing out short story pitches! But then again, my “short” stories can be very long, so maybe I like to hang out somewhere in the middle.
A: My favourite story is the one I haven’t written yet. Once a writer’s favourite story is behind them, the show might as well be over. That being said, different chapters in this book serve different purposes, and I love them for various reasons. A Carnival World has one of my favourite character scenes between a parent and child, and The War with Space is maybe my favourite speculative concept in the book. But really I love them all, and I don’t think I could choose just one without adding endless stipulations.