Erin Cashier is a nurse at a burn ward in the Bay Area. She attended Clarion West in 2007, and her story “Near the Flame” appears in (Issue #12). Her website is www.erincashier.com, her blog is at therinth.livejournal.com, and you can email her at email@example.com.
Tell us a bit about the writing of “Near the Flame.” From where did this idea come?
I used to live up in the redwoods (now I merely live near them) and periodically there’d be wild fires that meant a lot of people had to evacuate. I never had to, but I drove close to places that did, and the entire sky would take on this red-black cast, and your car would be covered in ash. The smoke had power, even without the flame. The idea germinated from there.
If you could talk to any author from the past, who would it be? Why? Who would you NOT want to talk to?
Jules Verne, all the way. We share a birthday, which means absolutely nothing, but still gives me a warm glow in my heart each time February rolls around. I’d love to ask him what he thinks of the tech we’ve got, and how he’d extrapolate our future out from here once he got caught up. I would not want to talk to Lovecraft. I’d bet in real life that dude was spooky. (Which doesn’t stop me from playing Arkham Horror.)
Would you use a character to speak to that author, or yourself?
Myself. I can only impersonate my characters when no one else is looking.
Do your characters talk to you? Do you see your stories as images? Do you ever argue with characters you hadn’t planned?
I don’t think my characters talk to me so much as I talk as my characters, usually when I’m alone at my desk, or in the car. It’s sort of like getting into character as an actor, I imagine, though I’ve never been an actor before. I wait to work on stories until I have the voice now — or I make repeated attempts to begin a story, but don’t go any further till I have a voice I like — because it’s the voice that’ll make the plot make sense. I have a general idea of a plot, but I’ll never know who is going to go through with it until I have their voice.
I’ve had characters walk off screen before, and been really saddened by it, and I’ve had characters make me cry before. (Although I suspect that has more to do with me being a sap and having a heavily influenced Sturm Brightblade / Japanese anime sense of the needed noble death than it does with any intrinsic goodness of the writing.)
What piece of writerly advice do you wish someone had given you?
It’s hard to do without Boolean operators. Don’t give up, unless you were meant to give up, don’t stop sending out stuff until you know you’ve gotten better, and how do you know? Well, when you’ll know, of course.
Here’s three things I’ve learned, and maybe they will help someone, maybe they won’t. The internet will keep everything around for a long, long, time, so don’t flame people unless they really need it. Be nice to random people at conventions. Don’t make yourself sound better by putting other people down.
What kind of advice do you wish characters listened to? Or offered?
Make this story cooler! Haha. If only it were that easy.
My characters don’t really offer me advice, but they’ve given me the chance to be hundreds of different people and do thousands of different things, so I am grateful for them regardless.
What book(s) are you currently reading? What blog is a must-read for you?
Currently I’m reading all of Zelazny’s short fiction. (If you’d asked me last month, it would have been Cordwainer Smith. Apparently I’m the NESFA press’ mega-anthologies perfect consumer.) Other then that I do a lot of research reading for assorted projects.
I read my friends-list on LiveJournal religiously — I’ve only missed three days of posts from the people I read (which is everyone who friends me) in the past four years. I love knowing what’s going on in people’s lives, and I find more interesting links there than I ever would scouring the internet on my own. People are welcome to friends me there — most of my posts are private for personal reasons, but I’m really not that shy.
The title of your blog is Fate Loves the Fearless. How does that concept apply to your own writing?
I think originally that title embodied me and my efforts towards publication, which was for me (as it is for most writers, and if not, I don’t want to hear about it) a decade long grim slog of talking myself off of assorted ledges while I was not quite good enough. I always enjoyed writing, but for a long time I was mystified about what made a story a good story — that weird resonance thing when the magic happens and the story takes off. (Which isn’t to say I think writing is magical, that I sit around and wait for the magic, or that the magic is always there now.) Luckily, I genuinely believed that my efforts at the time were worthwhile, and thank goodness I did, because otherwise I’d have never gotten anywhere. (I was much more cheerful back then. That helped, too.) So I tried to keep a game face on and keep being fearless in writing, sending stuff out, skinning my knees, getting back up and running full tilt along. It leeched over in my life into a lot of other things too. It’s been a useful philosophy.
The alternative title for my blog could be Bad at Waiting. Because I am.