Interview 2 with Marissa Lingen

Marissa LingenMarissa Lingen’s story, “Kay’s Box” appears in the Clockwork Jungle Book (Issue #11).  Her other Shimmer story, “Pirates by Adeline Thromb Age 8,” appeared in the Summer 2007 issue of Shimmer (you can read her interview about that story here). To read more about Marissa, please visit her website or write her an email!.

Q: Did you ever want to write “just like” someone else?  Who?  Or was there any book that made you say “I can do better than this!”?

A: No, I don’t want to write “just like” anybody but myself.  We already have them.  I know how upset I’d be if my favorite authors had written just like someone else instead of like themselves.

Not exactly “I can do better than this,” but “I can do this,” which is very different: rereading Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series as an adult made me say to myself, yes, I can write YA.

Q: Do you have favorite characters?  Any characters, yours or others, are applicable.

A: Of my own characters, I love Orvokki from my Finnish stuff, and I really really love writing everybody in the Carter Hall stories (which have been in On Spec so far).

For other people’s characters, oh, too many to name.  Stephen Maturin in Patrick O’Brian’s books.  Colin Cotterill’s Siri and Dtui.  CJ Cherryh’s Florian and Catlin.  I am about equally fond of Aerich and Tazendra in the Khaavren Romances Steve Brust finished up a few years ago, which is strange because I am more Aramis-inclined in Dumas. Patrick and Ruth in Pamela Dean’s Secret Country books.

Q: Have you ever been disillusioned by a character or a book?

A: By a character, no, that’s not how I interact with character.  Disappointing someone is not the same as disillusioning them.

By a book–I remember the moment when it hit me that the 1970s Larry Niven novels I was reading had no room in their entire universe for women anything like me.  That was disillusioning but mostly disorienting.  Also the moment when Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker books shifted from reading to me like interesting alternate history fantasies to reading like they had an agenda (and I don’t mean a political one per se–having to hit historical spot x to have a conversation with historical figure y whether you like it or not is an agenda that doesn’t always jibe with the previous direction of the book and can knock the shape out of the story completely).

Q: How do you explain what writing is like?  Is it something that you think about?  Do you ever find yourself debating it with strangers?

A: I only debate this sort of question with strangers if the strangers are trying to insist on universality.  If they want to say, “Writing is like dancing,” that’s lovely, and I can poke at that and see if it
works for me and if so, how.  If they want to say, “Writing is like dancing *for everybody always*,” that’s not so good; I can’t work with that.

Every time I explain what writing is like, it’s something different again.  Metaphors are communication tools, not eternal truths.

Q: If you could choose any five literary people — real or imagined, living or not, friends or otherwise — for a tea party… who would they be?  A night on the town, karaoke, whatever suits.

A: I am fond of tea parties, but I’m afraid the answers aren’t obvious to me without picking a theme.  I could do Favorite Short Story Writers and get Octavia Butler and Charles Sheffield and Mike Ford back from the dead to have tea with Samuel R. Delany and Robert Reed.  That’d be good.  Or I could go with Fictional People Who Would Appreciate My Exquisite Beverage Choices, with Mervyn Bunter [Dorothy Sayers] and Kate Talgarth [Pat Wrede and Caroline Stevermer] and Alys Vorpatril [Lois McMaster Bujold] and Lady Teldra [Steve Brust] and Maati [Daniel Abraham].  Or any of a number of other themes.

Can I count Jon Singer as the obvious zeroth guest for any theme, because of his great personal versatility and astuteness about things culinary?  No?  Oh well.

Q: How did writing a theme story work out?   Is it more complicated than not having to adhere to a theme — or less?

A: I find writing theme stories either easy or impossible.  If I have something that cooks down into story in the right amount of time (writing is like stew!), then the trigger to have written it right then is useful.  If I don’t, I don’t really get anywhere good with it.

I wrote the pirate theme story in my sleep, literally: I went to sleep on the plane home from World Fantasy Con after talking to guest editor John Joseph Adams about his theme issue, and I woke up with the story completely formed.  That’s the only time that’s ever happened.  The Clockwork Jungle book theme was something I wanted to push myself on because The Jungle Book was such an important book in my childhood–I wanted my grandpa to have something I’d written that was directly inspired by something we’d shared.

He did not live to see this issue go to press.  But he knew I’d done it anyway, and that mattered to me.

Q: What was the absolute worst piece of advice someone gave you about writing?

A: I have run into people who are absolutely sure that if you want to write seriously full-time, you need to put on standard business clothes and keep standard business hours, 9 to 5.  If it works for
them, great, but as generalized advice it is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.  I start my writing day at 6 a.m. in my pajamas, and I take a break to work out and feed the dog and read and generally do other stuff.  If people think better in business clothes, why do so many ideas come to us in the shower?  Also it completely mistakes the purpose of standardizing hours, which is for the convenience of people who need to work with groups and have people available at particular times, neither of which applies all that much to writers.  Having a schedule is very different from having *that particular* schedule.

Q: Have you ever wanted to let your character[s] run your interview?

A: I could easily do an interview with some of my characters, but I’d only do it if there was some specific reason it seemed like a good idea.

Q: Is there something you do that no one ever asks you about?  This can be anything — something unusual you eat, playing poker as a day job, a hobby, whatever you like.

A: No, people are pretty nosy.

Q: Particular favorites for books, movies, series, comics, blogs, etc.?

A: I am sadly tone-deaf to comics.  I am not a visual enough person to appreciate all the things they’re doing, I’m afraid.  And mostly I let my lj feed keep my blogroll for me.

For TV series I really love Criminal Minds and MythbustersVeronica Mars is my favorite series ever–too bad it only had two seasons. (Please do not correct me.  Maintaining the illusion of the lack of the third season is *hard*.)

For movies, Galaxy Quest, Enigma, Sneakers, Desk Set, Real Genius.

For books, overwhelmingly many because life is good like that.  At the moment I am really looking forward to Marie Brennan’s In Ashes Lie, because after all the Tudor fantasies out there, I am *so ready* for some Stuart fantasy.

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