Author Interview: Nicky Drayden!

Nicky Drayden
Nicky Drayden
Nicky Drayden is a Systems Analyst who has made the recent life decision that she’d rather spend her time working with prose than code. She resides in Austin, Texas where being weird is highly encouraged, if not required. You can see more of her work at Nicky’s story “You Had Me at Rarrrgg” appears in Issue #12.

How long had you been submitting before you made your first sale?
I made my first sale to Flash Me Magazine after about a year of submitting.

Do you work with a critique or writers group?
I’ve belonged to several, and am currently a member of Slug Tribe. Cat Brains was well received there to say the least. The laughter was contagious.

Which authors, if any, have had the most influence on your work?
I don’t think my muse works like that, but I’ll play around with different authors’ styles from time to time. As far as my favorite authors to read, I’d say Neal Stephenson, Terry Pratchett and Christopher Moore.

Favorite short story you’ve read recently?
I’ve read a lot of good short fiction recently since I started reviewing short stories on my blog. My favorites so far: Bad Matter by Alexandra Duncan, Non-Zero Probabilities by N. K. Jemisin, and Bearing Fruit by Nikki Alfar.

You say you are a “novelist at heart,” but you’re committed to writing short stories this year. How are you finding the forms are different? How are they the same?
Writing a good short story is harder than writing a decent novel. With novels, I have time to find my voice and figure out my story. I can get to know my characters as I go and let the world and plot settle in around them. For me, that approach doesn’t fly when dealing with short stories. There’s no room. I have to hit the ground running and also have an idea of where I’m headed and what obstacles are in my way. Novels are forgiving. Short stories can be vengeful little things when they aren’t working, but when they come together in just the right way, they can touch you just as deeply as longer pieces.

In your blog, you review short fiction–a good deal of short fiction, in fact–in an effort toward learning what editors are looking for. But, what is all of this reading/reviewing teaching you about your own craft?
Well, for one, I’ve learned that I’m not weird enough. There are a lot of good writers out there with impressive craft, but the stories that stand out in my mind are the ones with odd, daring, and fresh ideas, or old ideas put together in fresh ways. They’re the ones that make me say “I wish I would have thought of that!”

Have you ever been disillusioned by a character or a book?
Yes, unfortunately. I absolutely hate it when a great book goes bad during the last fifty pages. A gripping mystery turns out to be an elaborate hoax; a hilarious comedy gets derailed by a political rant about 9/11; writing gets sloppy; characters become too whiny; the climax peters out. It’s happened enough times that I get wary if I like a book too much in the beginning. I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment.

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?
Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, Philip K. Dick, Octavia Butler, and Rudy Rucker. And then after tea, I’d install spigots on their foreheads to tap all of their brilliance and creative juices. I’d make myself a delicious brain smoothie, then sell the leftovers on Ebay.

What was the absolute worst piece of advice someone gave you about writing?
Write what you know. I’m not going to grow as a writer or a person if I stay in my comfort zone. If I put myself in a vulnerable position, writing about people and places I’ve never had experience with, I know I’ll make mistakes, but I’ll learn. It’s a gift to be able to walk in other people’s shoes, so why not make the most of it? With the internet, the world (and beyond) is at my fingertips. So my advice is know what you write.

What was the best?
Don’t bore the reader, the only sin in writing.

What did Nanowrimo teach you about writing a novel (specifically), and what did it teach you about writing in general? (These can be good or bad things…either way.)
NaNoWriMo gives you permission to write crap. It allows you to leave expectations at the door. Not that I set out to write crap, but not having the pressure to get it right the first time is incredibly liberating.

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.
I took up yoga last year to do a little research for a novel in which my characters practice something very similar. I love my yoga practice, and have been hooked since.

Particular favorites for books, movies, series, comics, blogs, etc.?
Favorite books: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett. Favorite movies: The Fifth Element, Galaxy Quest, and Mystery Men. And right now I just started watching The Greatest American Hero, which was my favorite show as a kid. In case you didn’t notice, I have a thing for Reluctant Heroes. The more
inept, the better.

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