If you had to liken writing to anything, what would it be?
People have asked me about my writing process, and the best description I can give is that it’s a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I start by looking for pieces. This is basically anything shiny and interesting that happens to catch my attention — it could be a phrase or a photograph or a character — most anything, really. I collect several pieces, and then I mash them together. Some of the pieces fit, others don’t (so I save them for other stories). Once the entire story-puzzle is assembled, I repaint all the pieces so they match.
Do you ever get to a certain point, reading a story, and feel the click! as you have got to the point of no return/can’t stop now? Does writing ever feel that way?
Yes! I definitely get that. I think of it as being the opposite of the ‘red line of death’ that some editors use — a sort of ‘green light of life.’ It’s that moment where the story pulls you in and you are immersed in the world. I love that moment, both in reading and in writing. I don’t get the click with every story, but it’s so much easier to write the stories that click early on than the ones that don’t.
What’s the best piece of writerly advice someone has given you?
When I was just getting started, a friend of mine told me that what new writers need most is encouragement. There’s this notion that if someone is meant to be a writer no amount of disparaging remarks or discouragement will turn them away from that goal. But I think having a good support system early on is what allows writers develop a thick skin. I’m so grateful for all the encouragement I’ve gotten from my family and friends.
Do you see stories as images?
I’m a very non-visual writer (and reader). Even when I’m completely immersed in a story, I don’t see images in my head. It seems strange to me that I’m not more visual — I do a lot of photography, and I often find story inspiration in photographs.
Where did you get the idea for Firefly Igloo?
This story was one of several I wrote as part of a flash-writing challenge on Codex (an online writers’ group), and the story came from a prompt: “Write about a house or other dwelling with an unusual property.” With a prompt like that, a firefly igloo was pretty much inevitable.
If you could talk to any author from the past, who would it be? Would you use a character to speak to that author, or yourself?
How far past? It’d be fascinating to talk to Socrates, or Aesop (or anyone who had a hand in the writing of what are now called Aesop’s fables). In the less distant past, I might pick Emerson or Louisa May Alcott. Someone from the immediate past who I never got to meet but always wanted to is Octavia Butler.
My mind has a tendency to go completely blank when meeting someone for the first time, so maybe sending one of my characters would be a good idea! Honestly, I wish I could have my characters answer interview questions — I’m pretty introverted by nature, so it’s tough to spend so much time talking about myself.
Through the magic of interview wish-fulfillment, Marta is conjured from the pages of Firefly Igloo. She enters, carrying a hanging basket with an octopus inside.
Marta: I can answer questions. What do you want to know?
What writing projects are you presently working on?
Marta: She’s writing a sequel to Firefly Igloo! One where I get to ride on a unicorn and rescue dragons and eat chocolate ice cream. Or if she isn’t working on it now, I’m sure she’ll start soon. It’s a good story.
Um, we’ll see. My current projects include a fantasy story about semi-autonomous puppets trying to break free from the boundaries of their world, and a pair of science fiction stories that I’m doing in collaboration with a colleague of mine.
Particular favorites for movies, series, comics, blogs, etc.?
Marta: TV is boring. Caroline never watches TV.
Well, I wouldn’t say that I never watch TV. But I did somehow manage to make it all the way to 2008 without having seen a single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and when my friends found out, they remedied the situation by holding a series of Buffy nights where we watched the entire series. And I loved it! I’m now a huge Joss Whedon fan, although I have to admit that Dollhouse hasn’t grabbed me yet.
What kind of advice do you wish characters listened to? Or offered?
I’m driven more by ideas and plot. If I’m not careful, I end up with characters acting . . . well, out of character. So I wish my characters would protest when I make them do things they don’t want to do.
Marta: I don’t want to do that.
Oh, but it would be so much better for everyone if you did! It’s very important that you stay in character.
Marta: Yes, but that’s your job. You’re supposed to think up what happens, and I get to have adventures.
Marta, I notice you are carrying an octopus in a basket. It seems to be waving its tentacles a lot.
Marta: The octopus wants to go home now. I think we should end the interview. End with something about food. People like food.
Milk chocolate or dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate, definitely. But not too dark. I like chocolate to be bittersweet.