Interview With Mari Ness

Mari’s tale “A Cellar Of Terrible Things” appears in Shimmer Issue #15.

How did “Cellar” come to be?
Cellar more or less came about the way pretty much all of my fiction comes about: a sentence popped into my head, I typed it out, and then decided to see where it went. Somewhere along the way I realized that I was writing about guilt, and how we deal or don’t deal with it.  The ghosts and the basement killings are loosely – very loosely – based on the execution of Nicholas II and the simultaneous murder of his servants and family members.  (I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Nicholas II, one of the all time leaders in the “Bad Decisions of the 20th Century” list, but I do for his children and the servants.)

Do you have daily writing goals?
No, but that’s mostly because I have a severe and unpredictable chronic illness which makes planning goals for anything on a daily basis difficult to impossible.

What piece of advice would you give writers for the coming year?
1. Get a dragon.

2. If you have a large sized dragon, get on its back and see where it takes you. If a smaller dragon, fasten it to your wrist and use its little flames to keep your hands busily moving over a keyboard or notebook.

(Some writers attempt to substitute a cat for a dragon. This never works, since the cat will inevitably choose to attempt to sleep on the keyboard or notebook the writer is attempting to use, slump over the arms of the writer making writing a difficult physical endeavor, or stand in front of the screen, notebook or book meowing loudly that they – the cats – are far, far more beautiful, important, fun to play with, cute, and deserving of attention than whatever the writer may be working on. This is always so inevitably true that the writer will pause and pay attention to the cat.  Some writers attempt to substitute a dog.  This rarely works, because the dog is very very very very very excited about everything and loves the writer and particularly loves making the writer take nice long walks and play with the dog. Some writers attempt to substitute tropical fish. This works.)

3. Feed the dragon regularly.  The expenses alone will keep you writing – dragons typically demand to be fed imported caviar, fine single sourced chocolate, organic ranch raised bison and beef, teddy bears, and fairies.

4. Do not set your dragon on editors. They will bring out basilisks in revenge.  This is a bad thing for everyone, especially the basilisks, who would prefer to be taking naps.

5. Remember: for every rejection you receive, you get one piece of chocolate. Possibly two, if it’s one of those personalized rejections that make you feel bad. That will provide plenty of incentive for you to face rejections.

6. For every acceptance you receive, write more. That dragon still needs to be fed.

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