Interview with Marina T. Stern

Marina SternMarina T. Stern’s short story, Drevka’s Rain, appears in the Spring 2006 issue of Shimmer.

Questions About the Story

Where did the idea come from?
I was getting over a failed friendship, trying to convince myself not to try to regain what had been lost.

How did the story change as you developed it?
It didn’t. The first draft differed from the finished story only in details of prose style.

You know the advice “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” Was there a scene or line that it really hurt to cut, but cutting it made the story stronger?
I’ve done that in longer works, but not in this one. When I wrote my first published book, I had to throw out 2/3 of the finished manuscript, and start over. That was the last time I wrote something long, without an outline.

How is this story like your other work? How is it different?
Nonfiction is easier to write. When writing nonfiction, I write out a detailed outline, look up the information, and fill in the blanks. In fiction, I have to make everything up.

I didn’t notice until after I had played out this vein, that I had written several variations on the same theme. Settings varied, from contemporary to medieval to alien, but they all involved women who were in love with men who came and went, and had multiple other lovers. I hate to think what that says about my own life!

Another theme that recurs in my fiction is the relationship between an older woman and a little girl.

Questions About Writing:

How long had you been submitting before you made your first sale?
I sold my first nonfiction book to the first publisher I submitted it to.

Fiction is a different story. “Drevka’s Rain” is my first fiction sale, six years after I started submitting.

Do you work with a critique or writers group?
No. I have trust issues.

What authors, if any, have had the most influence on your work?
Nonfiction inspires my fiction. When I read science, I write science fiction. When I read folklore, I write fantasy.

I read fiction in binges, locking myself in a room and reading a particular writer’s entire oeuvre over a few weeks. This technique works best with authors who were not very prolific. A few years ago I binged on the oeuvre of an acquaintance who had written or co-written over 60 books. I’m only beginning to recover, now.

Random Questions

Do you believe in ghosts or the supernatural? Why?
I don’t consider that I have enough evidence to either believe or disbelieve.

Fast food: Yea or Nay?
Everything in moderation. I know a taqueria in San Luis Obispo that makes dynamite burritos.

Name one place in your hometown that you love to go to and would recommend to others to visit.
None of the places I love are in my hometown. If I can stretch the idea of hometown by 150 miles or so, I’d recommend the little natural history museum in Santa Barbara, behind the mission. I have happy childhood memories of the giant squid hanging from the ceiling, and a glass wall full of butterflies.

Is there anything that you would “sell your soul” for?
Nah. Who’s buying, anyway?

Do you have a secret skill that you never get to show off? (i.e. ambidextrous writing, blood-curdling screams, double-jointed, badminton champion…)

I used to belly dance.

Quiz: How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? Please explain your answer:
None. I have my husband do it.

Speculative fiction for a miscreant world

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