Ada Hoffmann is an Aspie computer scientist from Canada. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, AE, and Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. You can find her online at http://ada-hoffmann.livejournal.com or on Twitter at @xasymptote. Her work “The Herdsman of the Dead” appears in Issue #17.
Tell us how “The Herdsman of the Dead” came about.
This started in early 2012 with an episode of writerly dissatisfaction. I was writing a lot of little stories, but my heart wasn’t in them. I wanted stronger emotions. So I did a check to see what I was feeling most strongly about, at that point in time, and all these mental-illness and archetypal themes came out.
“The Herdsman of the Dead” is set in the same universe as an earlier story of mine, “Moon Laws, Dream Laws” (from Tyche Books’ “Ride the Moon” anthology), though the two stories don’t have much to do with each other. The themes came first, the universe second, the plot and characters third. Journeying to the underworld is a time-worn theme, and I realized that the mix of myth and technology in the “Moon Laws” universe would give me fresher ways to depict it without destroying the archetypes that make it meaningful in the first place. My beta readers helped me weave futuristic and unexpected descriptions into the story more thoroughly.
I think I will return to this universe again in the future, though I have no specific plans.
What’s your normal process for writing—or is there a “normal”? Do you strive for a certain page or word count every day?
I’m weird about process. I have trouble with truly open-ended time and take too long deciding what to do if I have a choice. So I make up an insanely detailed process schedule which is supposed to include and prioritize every activity I could want to do ever. Then after a while I get tired of it and make up a new one. I was setting myself a lot of sharp deadlines earlier in the year, which worked really well for a while and then turned counterproductive. Right now my process has me writing in short bursts throughout the day, with a lot of breaks for reading and chores. It mostly works. I’m sure if you check back a year from now, I’ll be telling you why this process was terrible and I needed a different one.
The one constant through all this is my writing spreadsheet. I don’t mess with that much. It’s color coded, so I can glance at it and immediately see what needs to be revised, what needs to be submitted to a market or sent to beta readers, what needs other sorts of work. That way the really vexing question is not what to do, just what order to do it in.
What book have you enjoyed most so far this year?
After hearing for ages about how great she is, I have finally discovered N.K. Jemisin for myself. (I’m slow with these things.) I’m most of the way through “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” right now. It’s really wonderful.
What is currently in your cd player/iTunes/Spotify/8 Track?
I’m going through every album I have on iTunes in alphabetical order so I can get rid of the songs I don’t feel like listening to anymore. I’ve been doing this since the beginning of the year. Right now I’m on “R” for “Road Rage” (a live album by the Canadian band Great Big Sea, who are at their best live). It’s mostly a keeper.