Category Archives: Issue 16

Author Interview: Helena Bell (Issue 16)

Tell us how the story came to be.
The story began as a flash piece for a competition in which you have only a weekend to write 750 words or less.  I went back to look for the prompts to figure out which one I used but I have absolutely  no idea.  None of them seem to fit which I guess indicates I tend to be belligerent regarding rules in general (an excellent trait for a lawyer to have!).

What I do know is I came up with the title first.  I have a particular fetish for long titles and often strive to come up with something which will have a different meaning at the beginning and the end of the piece.  I also have a particular fascination with second person direct address and started writing the story as soon as I had the narrator’s voice in hand.  The rest was fleshed out over time as I borrowed from various hurricane and other childhood experiences.

You write both prose and poetry. Do you see a difference between the two, or do you feel they’re related?
One is more often than not longer than the other? I get frustrated when people call a story a ‘prose poem’ since they usually do so when they feel that the language used within the prose is poetic.  A prose poem on the other hand is a distinct form of poetry in which, to borrow the words of one of my professors, ‘the poet resists the rhythm of the line’.  The best example I can give is ‘A Story About the Body’ by Robert Hass in which the author is sparing and sharp in his word choices.  The effect is a frictionless sentence and you find yourself constantly running into periods.  Yes, there is a rhythm to it but it’s not the same as the rhythm of line breaks. Then again a lot of people disagree on definitions in general, but my feeling is that you need to keep the two separate otherwise there’s no point in calling one one thing and the other another thing.

I like words and poetry and image and rhythm–I would be lying if I said the one discipline did not inform the other but they are very different disciplines.  A poem can travel from the body to the room to the other side of India to the migratory pattern of bees with less effort because a poem does not have the same expectations of form and structure attached.  At the same time, you are allowed fewer reversals.  The poem must have a thesis which builds and builds and each image and leap must support this thesis.  It’s very difficult for characters to change in poetry unless it’s very linear.

Then again, there are many different types of poems: the confessional, the narrative, the language, the imagist… I divide poetry and prose in ways that make sense to me, but these divisions are hardly universal.  In fact one thing I think genre fiction could borrow is the concept of the School.  How interesting could it be to create competing and overlapping manifestos–perhaps even full scale battles could be waged at conventions.  I should probably come up with a name first… Or a particularly long title.

On your blog, you talk about going to Lafayette Cemetery #1 in New Orelans, and you point out that fantastic lime green tomb. When I visited, I never for one minute felt alone; that place feels occupied. What feeling did you come away with? Did the location inspire anything in your writing?
Mostly feeling like I wanted a Plum St snowball because it gets dreadfully hot in New Orleans in July…

On a more serious note, I think the dead are a presence in New Orleans and the South in a way they are not in other cities.  Since I’m originally from there it never seemed strange to me that we use above-ground tombs, but more than that, in my family we frequently talk about the dead as if they’re still here.  The other night at dinner my Aunt told a story of my great-grandmother’s funeral: because she was too cheap to buy new underwear, but she’d shrunk considerably in her old age, my grandmother and aunts had to stuff her bra.  Apparently she’d been a very busty woman since later, sitting in the front row of the funeral parlor, you could see two round peaks just over the lid of the casket.

As the story is being told, others jump in with how appalled my grandmother (who is dead) would be that we’re telling this story at dinner and how my other great-grandmother (also dead, but also not the great-grandmother with the stuffed bra) would find it hilarious.  I’m sure lots of families, particularly writers’ families, have similar tendencies, but since it’s my entire frame of reference, I have no idea how ubiquitous it is.

As for inspiration, I had to give myself a rule a while back that I’m not allowed to write about dead people, dead babies, or kill anyone at the end of the story anymore (what’s strange is I don’t actually write horror or what I consider dark fantasy–it just happens that I have a lot of dead stuff in my work).  The lime green tomb will have to make an appearance somewhere, someday eventually.

What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
Something Wicked This Way Comes which is strange because I’m pretty sure I never actually finished reading it–I just always loved the title (it’s so long!).

Do you have a favorite story among your own?
I love all my stories equally!  Which course, like children, is a big lie.  Space Elevator has always been a favorite because of the last line (which I will not share in case people have not read it).  Like titles, last images are often the first thing I come up with.  However finding the correct last line is always more work than I think it should be and I always find it in different ways: writing past the last line, then cutting, or rewriting the ending completely and it comes in a passing fit of inspiration, or sending the story out to multiple markets before I realize the ending is incorrect and try out various things until they work.  Space Elevator had an incorrect last line for a long time, but fortunately I found it in time for submission to Shimmer.  Another favorite currently making the rounds is another pseudo alien invasion story featuring a nun.  Like Space Elevator it deals heavily in the construction and perpetuation of myth in order to navigate situations of upheaval.  Perhaps ‘myth’ will have to be added to the list of ‘do not include’ for my fiction along with dead things.

What’s next for you?
Cake please.

Author Interview: M. Bennardo

How did “The Haunted Jalopy Races” come to be?
All I remember is that the title popped into my head one day. Haunted conveyances have a long history in folklore and literature — there are ghost ships, ghost trains, and even phantom rickshaws if Rudyard Kipling is to be believed. But I wasn’t aware of any ghostly jalopies. I loved the image, and so I decided to figure out a story to go along with it

Of course, I didn’t know anything about jalopies, so I spent a long time on the Internet trying to learn as much as I could about the history of hot rodding. One of my favorite things about historical fiction is that much of the story writes itself during research. I try not to fudge dates or facts to jam in something that doesn’t belong. Instead, I use whatever is naturally at hand, even if it substantially changes the story I thought I was going to write. For instance, I didn’t know that World War II would figure in this story before I started my research.

Machine of Death seems unstoppable. How is volume two coming along?
My co-editors and I are very excited that the sequel (called This Is How You Die) will be published by Grand Central Publishing in July 2013. The book is terrific — even more diverse in terms of genre, settings, and characters than the first one. If we hadn’t found a publisher, we’d have done it all ourselves again, but having a partner means broader distribution. The only downside is how long it takes to put all that distribution machinery in place. It’s hard being patient!

There are also a few foreign editions of the first book still trickling out. In particular, we’re waiting on the Korean, Hebrew, and Croatian editions… Each new edition has been amazing and beautiful. And weird in the sense that we’re totally disconnected from the publishing and the marketing, and even from the criticism and commentary surrounding the books. Sometimes our fans in other countries will send us a review of Machine of Death in Italian or German. It’s neat that the book has a life of its own like that — but after being so involved in the English edition, it’s a completely different experience to be that removed.

Here’s a link to learn more about the books:

Tell us what your favorite Ray Bradbury story/novel is.
I love all of Ray Bradbury’s “fix-up” novels — the ones that he cobbled together out of previously published and mostly unconnected short stories. He even famously called The Martian Chronicles “a book of short stories pretending to be a novel”. But as wonderful as The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine are, my favorite of the bunch is Green Shadows, White Whale — a loose (and not always factually accurate) account of the time he spent in Ireland in the 1950s, writing the screenplay for Moby-Dick with director John Huston.

Bradbury’s great strengths are his amazing ideas and his use of language. He’s not, however, well-known for creating memorable characters. But the fictionalized John Huston in Green Shadows, White Whale is utterly memorable — a sort of cross between a dictatorial taskmaster and the Cat in the Hat. It makes me wish that Ray Bradbury had immortalized more of his friends and colleagues in books before he passed on. I wonder if he wrote any stories about Ray Harryhausen…

Do you have a favorite story among your own? Why does it stand out?  
My favorite story is usually the one I’m in the middle of writing, since I’m excited and learning and I haven’t had to agonize over the ending yet. But I was very pleased that I was able to sell a story called “The Famous Fabre Fly Caper” to The Journal of Unlikely Entomology recently. It’s the story of two good tree frogs pushed too far who plot to steal a box of flies from the great French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre.

I wrote the story with no expectation that it would ever be published (the main characters are frogs, after all), but simply because it combined my loves of history, nature, and literature with a long-standing desire to write a heist story. Fabre’s books about bugs are wonderful reading and many of them are freely available, so I also hope readers of my story will be inspired to check them out as well. (I especially recommend The Life of the Fly.)

Best book you’ve read this year?
One of the most exciting books I read this year was Vera Caspary’s Bedelia. It’s a pulp thriller from 1945 (but a very good one) about a man who marries a woman with a murky past who may or may not have murdered a string of prior husbands. Most of the well-known crime writers are men (like Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain, to name my two favorites), and I loved getting a different perspective on the genre.

I later discovered that the Feminist Press at City University of New York is reprinting a whole series of pulp and crime novels by women. Some of the classic noir movies of the 1940s and 1950s were based on books by women — including Laura (also by Vera Caspary), Bunny Lake Is Missing, and In a Lonely Place. I always get excited when I discover publishers doing this kind of archival work with genre fiction, and I can’t wait to read more of the books in the series.

What’s coming up next for you?
Hmm. More short stories, I hope! Novels get all the glory, but I suspect that short story writers have more fun.

Author Interview: Nicole M. Taylor (Issue 16)

How did the story come to be?
This one actually had a kind of circuitous path into existence. I’m a big proponent of NaNoWriMo and, in my mind, the best thing about it is the community that surrounds it. The one year I actually completed a novel in a month, I think it had a lot to do with that community.

One thing I especially liked was the challenge threads, where people “dare” you to include various elements in your finished novels and there’s one that I really loved, which challenged you to write a story to a prompt every day of October. “Gemini in the House of Mars,” came from one of those threads with a really crazy list of elements I had to include. That list dictated almost all the content of the first iteration of the story, which was, perhaps not shockingly, a mess. I put it away and kind of forgot about it for a few years and then, a couple of summers ago, I was in Belgium for a few months. As I was on a visitor visa, I wasn’t legally permitted to work, so I decided to focus on my writing, specifically refurbishing old stories. One morning I came across Gemini and decided to clean it up and streamline it a little. Mainly because I think it’s the only legitimately good title for a story that I’ve ever developed, normally I’m terrible at that part of the process.

The prompt really focused on the adultery and murder in this very kind of noir way, but the twins were there as an element. As an only child, I’ve long been really fascinated with sibling and especially twin relationships. Those stories you hear about twin language or twins who are effectively living in their own private universe. That’s a very Narnia-like conceit for me and I think it fits really naturally into speculative fiction. So that’s what I really focused on when I revised it.

How did you celebrate your first fiction sale?
I am almost certain that I ate a really nice grilled cheese sandwich. That’s actually still how I celebrate. I’m a big proponent of all the dairy-based methods of celebrating accomplishments.

Do you have a favorite first line from your published stories?
That’s a great question! I’ve made a study of first lines. When I’m deciding whether to buy a book, I check the first line and the last line. If they aren’t both arresting and interesting, I don’t get the book. Sometimes I think my writing life is an on-going journey to perfect my own first and last lines. There’s a story I published recently in Northwind Magazine called “The Last Day of the Armistice” and it starts with the line “The war was coming in the windows.” I’ve always been proud of that one.

What is up with Are You Afraid of the Dark? If you were on that show, what would your role be?
I relocated to Los Angeles last year to be with my partner, who was committed to a PhD program here and, for the first few months, I was kind of flailing around. I was just out of undergrad and I was having a hard time getting work and I was sort of anxious and unsettled. A wise friend of mine advised me to use that time to develop my career as a writer, rather than just wringing my hands about my lack of job. He gave me a list of practical things to try and one of them was to update my blog regularly (something I still struggle with, obviously) and to create some sort of “hook” for the blog. Around that same time, I discovered that the entire run of the early nineties Canadian/American kids horror anthology show Are You Afraid of the Dark was on Youtube. I was immediately obsessed because I was all about that show when I was a kid. It was a kind of Night Gallery or Tales from the Dark Side, but for kids. I love anthologies in all their forms, honestly, short stories are by far my preferred form to work in and to read and I’ve always been really into anthology shows, especially anthology horror. AYAotD was probably my earliest exposure to that and I decided to do a mini-series on it, looking at a couple of episodes from each season that I remembered from my childhood. My goal was to see how it stood up to my adult sensibilities and to kind of examine what watching this and loving this might have done, in terms of forming me creatively. I was pleased to discover that, for a 30 minute horror anthology show aimed at tweens and younger, the show is surprisingly good. Inconsistent, as those kinds of shows always are, but usually fairly strong and often actually scary, especially in shockingly existential ways.

I’ve also noticed some amusing trends as I watch the show. For example, the stories almost always feature some sort of odd couple reluctant team up with the popular but troubled kid was a chip on his shoulder and the nerdy, goody two-shoes (almost always wearing age-inappropriate brown slacks) who have to work together to deal with the sinister supernatural threat. I know myself well enough to say that I would almost certainly be donning the Beige Slacks of Nerdom.

What’s your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
Oh man, that’s like picking a favorite baby (it’s this one. Definite best baby.)

There’s a section in From the Dust Returned where the family’s “daughter” of sorts (an insubstantial ghost/presence) decides she wants to explore life amongst the living for one night and she inhabits the body of a young girl preparing to go to a town dance. I read that for the first time when I was about twelve and the aching bitter-sweetness of that scene and the fully realized sensory story, has stuck with me ever since. But I really do find it hard to pick a favorite, so many different stories meant different things to me at different times.

What’s next for you?
I’m at the time in my life where I’m kind of building lots of things in different directions. I’m going to grad school right now and getting into professional ghostwriting, which has been awesome.

Writing-wise, I’m working on completing a penultimate draft of the novel “The Undertaker’s Son” comes from, called “The Witches Knot.” It’s a dynastic fantasy story about five generations of a family of, for lack of a better word, witches. It’s partially a response reading a lot of fantasy about people who discover that they magical abilities and it changes the entire tenor of their life and thrusts them into a magical world, Harry Potter-style. I wanted to write a story about how magical ability might be shaped by the constraints of real life and personality. A person who never discovers they have magical powers has a wholly different experience of them than one who runs away from home and apprentices herself to a magical mentor who has a further different experience from someone who knows about their powers and has information available, but struggles with it because of contradictory religious beliefs. It’s also a bit of a love letter to the kinds of bizarre and baroque family stories that I would hear if I was quiet and patient after Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner about my paster great-great grandfather who founded a church in frontier Michigan in the midst of a diphtheria epidemic or my own freewheeling teenage grandmother. I’m hoping to have it finished before the end of the year. Beyond that, I have a big list of partially finished short stories to complete and a YA series of novellas that I’m really excited about. Essentially, I’m trying to work as much as I can, consume as many stories as I can and be ready to take the opportunities that fetch up on my doorstep.

Author Interview: Laura Hinkle

Tell us how the story came to be.
I think it’s a biological fact that little girls love unicorns. I’ve always wanted to do a unicorn story, but without the traditional princess-in-the-woods approach. One

What authors, if any, have influenced your own writing?
Stephen King’s “On Writing” has been an essential manual for me to improve my style of writing. I am also a huge fan of Caitlin R. Kiernan and Poppy Z Brite.

Are you satisfied with traditional labels for genre fiction? Do words like “speculative,” “slipstream,” and, for that matter, “genre” cover it?
I don’t pay much, if any, attention to the labels for fiction. If an author’s story is convincing and can hold my attention, regardless of the topic, I will devote my time to it.

If you could invite three authors, past or present, to dinner, who would it be, and what would you talk about?
I would absolutely love to sit down with Stephen King, John Green, and Charles Bukowski. Each of them brings something unique and starkly honest to their work. I’d like to think that we’d skip discussing business and get to laughing over drinks instead, though.

What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
“There Will Come Soft Rains” is absolutely my favorite. It’s such an ominous ghost story that immerses you immediately.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a story based around the condition folie a deux. So far it’s a surreal kind of horror story, the kind of monsters that you see from the corner of your eye rather than being attacked directly. I can also sometimes be found lurking around WordPress at

Author Interview: Rebecca Emanuelsen

Tell us how the story came to be.
Three months after I returned home from a semester-long study abroad program in Japan, the earthquake and tsunami disaster of 2011 occurred. It took me almost a year to digest the events well enough to begin writing “The Sky Whale”. I put together the first draft of the story while enrolled in a fiction workshop – just before the one year anniversary of the tsunami. I sent an early draft to Shimmer and received a rewrite request; the next draft was written after the anniversary of the tsunami had passed, so I researched how the Japanese had mourned their loss, weaving those events into the story.

The whale itself was partially inspired by images of flying whales that I’ve seen here and there over the years. Although, of course, Hitomi’s whale has special significance.

What drew you to Japan and Asian studies?
A childhood fascination with Japanese cartoons stoked my interest in Japan early on. But as I matured, I discovered that Japan had a lot more to offer than magical moon princesses and Pokémon. My current interests in Japanese culture and history have a lot more to do with my degree than the childhood events that first sparked the flame.

Did spending a semester in Japan teach you anything when it comes to writing?
Staying in Japan taught me a lot – about myself, life, another culture. It also taught me that writing is not, for me personally, a process of simply putting pen to paper. A huge part of my process is going out and experiencing new things. To be honest, I wrote hardly a word of fiction during my entire time in Japan because I was focused on making the most of my time there and overwhelmed by all of the new concepts with which I came into contact. I needed a lot of time to sift through my own thoughts.

While I didn’t produce much in the way of fiction while abroad, I actually kept a blog during my trip. It’s a few years old and I’m not sure whether it’s of much interest, but you can find it here:

If you could invite an author, past or present, to an evening of karaoke, who would it be and what would you make them sing?
This one’s a toss-up between Diana Wynne Jones, David Sedaris, and Oscar Wilde. But I’d be much more interested in engaging them in conversation than in listening to them sing.

What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
I know it’s strange, but outside of a few journals and the books I read as a young adult, I don’t read very much speculative fiction. I often find myself in the middle of conversations concerning authors I am sadly clueless about. I’m sure most of my peers would shudder to know that I have never read a thing by Bradbury, although it’s something I intend to soon amend.

What’s next for you?
I’m hoping to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing in the near future. I’ve also got my eye on the Clarion West program, although I know the chances of my being accepted are outrageously slim. That’s okay though – I live in a make-believe world, so even if none of this pans out, I’ll go back to skipping through fields of singing flowers and fantastical happenstances in my daydreams.

Author Interview: William Jablonsky

Tell us how the story came to be.
This will sound crueler than it is. It’s in part based on someone I met at my first and only SF convention about ten years ago, this vendor of arcane action figures and trading cards—a very dumpy man, very boring, spent half an hour telling me about the origin of his last name. He was clearly lonely and just wanted to talk to someone, and I should be kinder in invoking him now. For some reason he crept back into my thoughts  recently, and I quite morbidly wondered if anybody would miss him or even be saddened if he were to suddenly die. In that morbid moment I decided nobody really would, which seemed a far greater tragedy, so in my head I brought him back to try again and hopefully get it right.

So, zombies. What’s the appeal?
Truthfully, I’m not such a big fan of zombie stories except for those that go beyond the usual “eat-brains” premise, which is rather sad, because zombie-ism is a fantastic, versatile metaphor that can be applied to so many aspects of the human condition (disconnectedness, loss of self, etc.). Never had I seen a story where a zombified person’s life was actually better for it, and therein the story began.

Do you have favorite zombie books or movies? Do you watch The Walking Dead?
I always thought the film Fido (starring Dennis Hopper as a zombie made into a pet) was remarkably original. I’ve seen The Walking Dead and always felt they were missing out on some great thematic opportunities—I wish the writers and producers would aspire to more.

Tell us something most people wouldn’t know about Iowa. What, if anything, draws you to it?
What drew me to it originally was a job offer with a regular paycheck. But having grown up just across the river in Northwest Illinois I’m from a very similar culture. Iowans are, by and large, friendly and willing to help one another out, which is something everyone expects, but they’re also intelligent and curious, and open to art and culture, and they understand the value of a good education. Also, Iowa is home to a couple of really good wineries, which I never would have expected, and some quite stunning pizza.

What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
Far and away, my favorite Bradbury story is “The Kilimanjaro Device.” It’s a beautiful intersection between fantasy and reality. Novel-wise, I’d have to say Fahrenheit 451, for the same reason.

What’s next for you?
At the moment I’m slowly piecing together another story collection, trying to maximize the pool of stories I have to choose from so I can include only the very best. On the whole, they seem to be about transformative experiences gone terribly awry.

Author Interview: Christie Yant

How did the story come to be?
Ah! I was hoping you would ask. This story was originally intended for only one set of eyes: It was a present for my then-boyfriend, now-husband, John. We met at a convention in 2009 and started dating long-distance a few months later. He lived in New Jersey, and I lived in California. We still spent more time together than we did apart, since we could both work from anywhere, but there were stretches of time when we had to stay on our own coasts, missing each other.

Anyway, at some point we were discussing the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse*, as one does, and it dawned on us that we needed a plan in case it happened while we were apart. So we looked at Google maps and established that Wichita, Kansas was almost exactly equidistant. We picked the landmark where we would meet, and I went so far as to plot my route. Because we are complete dorks.

John’s birthday was coming up–it was the first since we’d started seeing each other–and I had an idea. I got a cigar box from a local tobacconist, and started assembling a survival kit: waterproof matches, a compass, a space blanket, a multi-tool, a MagLite, etc. At AAA I picked up a road map, highlighted my route, and then left it outside for a few nights to weather it a little. I edited a picture of the landmark to look like a postcard, taped that to the inside of the lid of the box, and wrote “In Case of Apocalypse” on the top in red Sharpie.

I also left a small spiral notebook outside, which acquired that wonderful crispy, wavy texture that wet paper gets. I spent the weeks leading up to his birthday writing this story in it by hand, in different pens on different days.

I never intended to submit it anywhere–it was for him–but John encouraged me to. It’s actually really cool that it’s appearing specifically in Shimmer–my husband is an editor (it was intimidating writing a story as a gift for an editor!) and the Shimmer pirate issue was his first lead editorial gig.

*There are no zombies in this story.

You have attended Taos Toolbox, Launchpad, and possibly other writer workshops. What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned from them?
I’ve learned different things at each. I got my new-writer mistakes mostly taken care of at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference; at Taos Toolbox I learned a lot about plotting and writing at novel lengths; Launch Pad is entirely about the science. I think a writer can’t go too far wrong with any workshop or conference because theirs is always more to learn. At Taos Toolbox, while much of what was taught was information I had come across before in other workshops or books, there was something about getting it all fed back to me at the same time that really made it all come together. I think Taos in particular really pushed me off the plateau I’d been on for a while.

Your website name and your Twitter handle, until quite recently, were “inkhaven.” Tell us what that word means to you.
“Inkhaven” was a hold-over from when I had more of a purpose to my blog. As a new writer, publishing seemed like a really cold and scary place where no one was ever allowed to make mistakes. Editors were terrifying, professional writers intimidating, agents practically a different species–I had a hard time getting answers to some of my own questions at first, and I wanted to talk about what I found out in a place where it was safe to just be new and not know everything, and I wanted other people to feel safe there too.

Unfortunately I’m a terrible blogger and my grand plans kind of went off the rails, but I maintain that I would like to be a safe person for people to just be new with and know that’s okay. I only recently changed my Twitter handle to my actual name because it was starting to get confusing–people I met at conventions couldn’t easily find me on Twitter, and I like to keep in touch!

If you could talk to any author from the past, who would it be and why?
I think you already know the answer to that because I know what your next question is. The sad thing is that author actually is part of the past now, when it seemed like Ray Bradbury had surely earned the right to be immortal and share the present with us forever. Bradbury’s work was transcendent, accessible to everyone–he fit everywhere and nowhere. He painted pictures and evoked emotions like no other author I’ve read. And he was so encouraging to new writers! I got to meet him twice, and they are treasured memories.

What is your favorite Bradbury story or novel?
That’s so hard to answer! I think that probably the first two stories of his I encountered made the biggest impression on me, so I’ll call those my “favorite.” They were read to my fourth grade class by our teacher: “The Fog Horn,” and “All Summer in a Day.” I remember getting teary in class over that poor dinosaur, and just livid at those cruel children. I didn’t really know what science fiction was then, I only knew that these were the kind of stories I liked best–stories that had impossible things in them, and that made me feel something deeply.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on a novel now, a portal fantasy with other worlds and creepy monks and a small-time con artist who gets pulled into a tangle of magic and intrigue. And of course I’m writing short stories. I have a couple more coming out in the next few months, in Daily Science Fiction and Kaleidotrope. Right now I’m most looking forward to the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto–I hope to meet many Shimmery people there!

Author Interview: Dennis Ginoza

Tell us how “Word and Flesh” came to be.
I wrote the story during my second week at the 2011 Clarion Writers’ Workshop. I’ve always been fascinated by anthropodermic bibliopegy (binding books in human skin) and knew I wanted to write a story about it. The idea was vague, however, and I was struggling to assemble a coherent plot. As I wandered the UCSD campus mulling over the story, I came to realize how disconcerted I was by the architecture around me. The notion of a city-state dedicated to esoteric pursuits got stuck in my head, eventually becoming the Universidad portrayed in “Word and Flesh”. Once I had that physical setting, the rest of the story came more easily.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Since I was very young, maybe eight or nine. I’d always thought I’d be a playwright, however.

If you had a working time machine what advice would you give a younger self?
Stop waiting for inspiration and write everyday. Actually, I’d just shorten that to, Stop waiting.

Print or ebook, what is your preference for reading books these days, and why?
Definitely ebooks. My iPad and iPhone give me instant access to a ton of books, I can adjust the font size and brightness at will, and ebooks and ezines are often cheaper than their paper equivalents.

What is your favorite Bradbury story or novel?
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of sitting under a banyan tree in Kailua, Hawaii, reading The Illustrated Man. I remember that my cheek was stuffed with black licorice and I had a can of RC Cola in one hand, the paperback in the other. A light breeze made the tree’s aerial roots sway and creak, the pages were dappled in sunlight.

What’s next for you?
I’m sending out more short stories and working on a novel. Also avoiding World of Warcraft and Reddit. And reading. Lots of reading.

Author Interview: Greg Leunig

Tell us how “Opposable Thumbs” came to be.

Well, oddly enough it actually began as a writing exercise for a class in my MFA program. We’d just read Kamby Balongo Mean River by Robert Lopez, and the idea was to write a short story making use of some element of Lopez’s novel. The whole time I was reading the book (which is fantastic and quite strange), I was becoming more and more obsessed with the idea that this particular voice would lend itself really well to a wealth of potential sci fi ideas. So when it came time to write the story, I co-opted his voice and started there. I like to think that EV91’s voice evolved away from Lopez’s narrator, but that’s where it started, anyway.

We both enjoyed Zone One (Colson Whitehead); what other books have you read recently that you think deserve a wider audience?

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, for one. It’s an absolutely brilliant book. And with a Tom Hanks movie coming out based on it, I’m sure it will GET that wider audience shortly. Another book that I think deserves a wider audience is Jess Walter’s The Zero. He’s an incredible writer, and it’s an amazing book that almost made me cry. Really, all of his stuff (at least that I’ve read) is fantastic.

What’s up with autocorrect, anyhow? What’s the oddest correction you’ve seen?
It’s probably just the first ripples of an eventual global takeover by Siri and friends. The weirdest I’ve had isn’t that weird, I tend to be sort of meticulous about my text messages. I did get “her” autocorrected to “errr” though. Siri must’ve been having some doubts about that girl. The weirdest one I’ve heard about is from my friend Matt, who was autocorrected from “Vidal” to “Visakhapatnam.” That one gets all kinds of points for oddness

Do you stalk Duotrope?
I spend a goodly amount of time there. Though at this point, my list of which magazines have rejected which stories contains almost every semi-pro and pro zine on the duotrope sci fi list, so I often just use that word doc instead of duotrope. Still, it’s a great resource and I spend way too much time on it.

What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
I remember really enjoying Something Wicked This Way Comes, but to be honest it hasn’t stuck with me. I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. So my answer is going to be sadly typical: Fahrenheit 451. Something about it just sticks in the mind, which to me is the hallmark of a great story or novel.

What’s next for you?
Well, I’m going to be serializing a novel on a website called Jukepop Serials starting very soon. The novel’s called Multipocalypse, and I’m excited to begin that journey. There will be zombies and some other stuff, in a certain way it harks back to my childhood… but I can’t really say how without giving some important bits away. Aside from that, I’m just going to keep flooding editor’s inboxes with short stories.

Author Interview: K.M. Szpara

Tell us how the story came to be.
Ordinary Souls is a combination of three things, the first being sex. I remember being down on my writing at the time. So, I decided to get back to my roots and write an erotica. And not just the kind you write alone in your room and revisit it whenever you want a good jerk. I wanted to show people tasteful (hot, gay) sex, with an engaging plot and characters worth caring about.

The second part of Ordinary Souls is loss. Not long before this story, a good friend of mine had passed away. Her name was Judith Christopher, but we all knew her as “Pod.” She was in her 60s, a feminist, a lawyer. She said things like, “Every mother should have a gay son,” and always asked to read my stories. When I wrote the ending of Ordinary Souls, I thought of her. I cried the last pages of that rough draft out. Endings are the worst. They hurt. Especially when it’s the end of a person’s life. So, I wrote a story about endings.

The last part of Ordinary Souls is probably the most notable: experimental form. I had read The Lies of Locke Lamora recently, and loved how Scott Lynch had played with time. I wanted a weird timeline. It took lots of rearranging and strategy, but was fun to craft.

On your blog, you talk about how you blindfolded yourself to better write a blind person in a story. How did that experiment work out? What did it teach you about writing?
I don’t know why I’d never tried it before. I try everything! This experiment re-enforced that notion. It was scary, though. Every step really did feel like my last. My very rude imagination placed monsters around corners and black holes under my feet.

I did try to boil water, but discovered when I’d “finished” that I’d lit the wrong burner–whoops! I got bored before I lit my apartment on fire, though. Luckily, the character in question has more pressing issues than making pasta.

If you could talk to any author, living or dead, who would it be? Would you talk about writing or something entirely different?
I’m such a Harry Potter nerd, I should say J.K. Rowling, I would love to get inside her head with regards to plotting out series and world building. I think, after a couple rounds of Firewhiskey, I’d yell at her a little for not putting more queer teens in Hogwarts.

Red wine or white?
I used to swing exclusively towards white wine, but lately my poison has been sweet red. Never has less writing been done than after a few glasses of red wine.

What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
Is it too cliche to pick Fahrenheit  451? I remember reading it in high school alongside Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron and Lois Lowry’s The Giver. The trio had quite an influence on my sense of individuality.

What’s next for you?
I’m an advocate of dreaming big. So, in my dream world, I finally finish and sell my novel. It reaches people around the globe. They love its characters and want to live in its world, just like I wanted with my favorite books. But, more than that, my protagonist makes a difference–and not just in his own story.

I am tired of walking into bookstores in search of queer protagonists and baffling the sales clerks. I know that if I expect change, I need to make it. I write queer characters because queer people exist and should be able to see themselves in fiction, too. I’ve been frustrated my whole life reading heterosexual pairings and not identifying with them. So, hopefully, “next” is a novel with a gay protagonist, by yours truly.