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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with Z.M. Quỳnh - April 1, 2015


Please welcome Z.M. Quỳnh to The Qwillery. “The South China Sea” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the nineteenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with Z.M. Quỳnh - April 1, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and reached the Deluxe format printed edition stretch goal! There are additional stretch goals!


TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing about writing for you? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

ZM:  Writing is like taking a walk through the routine peace of your life and noticing, usually somewhere that requires you to trespass and break other personal and property laws, an unusually unique flower, object, or phenomena that wrenches at something inside of you. Then for days, weeks, months, years…your life is spent strategizing on how to reach it, obtain it, possess it, own it, eat it (if that’s what you’re into) - just get near to it dammit. And once you actually are within grasping distance, you have to battle through a tangle of thorns that cut and bruise you until finally… and even then, once you write that story, it may still go through a dozen or more revisions and rejections from publishers before you can capture that special something that first caught your attention and drew you to it in the first place.

For me, the idea comes to me first and it marinates inside my head, haunting my dreams, invading my daydreams until I free write to get it out of me. When I free-write, invariably, some new twists will always come up that I did not imagine before. Then at some point, once I’ve reached a point where I feel like I have way too many words (and I type 100+ words a minute so…), I straight forget about it. I bury it in a pile of other ideas somewhere and I just let it sit. There is a point where our subconscious feeds our creativity. For a story to truly evolve for me, it needs to make that transition from my conscious world into my subconscious. Once it’s there, though, it begins to trickle into my dreams, and my brain begins to form crazy images of it.

It’s at this point that I do a plot diagram of the story. (I know that sounds so mundane!) Usually when I do this, I will plot it right to a point before the climax (on a three act system) - but then I usually have no idea what else will happen in the story - what is the climax? What is the goal? What is the resolution? So again, I have to sit and wait and marinate some more until those come to me. This can be a drag…especially if there is a deadline that is approaching.

Then I just wait. Its like planting a seed and you water it and you just wait. But there is no timescale. It will sprout when it wants to and in intermittent unpredictable intervals. Then someday, when I’m doing something completely boring usually - like driving, cooking, gardening - it will suddenly come to me - the climax, the resolution, the emotion of the piece. And then I drop everything and rush to my little writing corner and scribble like crazy until I get the idea out. Then I plot some more, free write some more. Finally - usually one day before the deadline, I sit and write everything out.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors??

ZM:  I love writers with beautiful prose and hidden questions in their stories that stay dormant in your mind for years, surfacing at moments when you least expect it. Anita Diamante’s book, “The Red Tent,” made me question the validity of the mythology and history, and to look for the spaces in between stories that we sometimes bypass. T.S. Eliot’s poetry, especially “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (which I, the eternal nerd, actually memorized) made me wonder for years at the power of symbolism, imagery, and allegory. And every single brilliant word ever written by Octavia Butler who seemed to be channeling all the mysteries of the world from our internal philosophical struggles to the challenges of always striving to find equitable, fluid, peaceful, and natural social models within which to coexist.



TQ:  Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

ZM:

Are you sure you really really want to be a writer even though no one seems to want to publish your stories (especially that funky erotic one), you really have no time to write anyway, the day job is squeezing every last minute out of your day, you have tons of important stuff you have to do pay the bills, eat, and sleep. AND…when and if you do sell a story you’ll only make enough to pay for a meal at the Con you went to where you workshopped the story with a pro (that made a big difference!), you are way too shy to build a fan base - so are you sure you want to be a writer?

ZM: I am a writer. Being published does not make me a writer. What makes me a writer is that pull - that passion for the word that wakes me up in the middle of the night - usually around 2:37 a.m. or so when I know waking up and spending hours writing would be detrimental to my sanity for the rest of the day (and the safety of anyone that gets in my way) - but I just can’t help it - I have to get up and I have to write and my stories have to take flight.



TQ:  Describe “The South China Sea”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

ZM:  The sea is death, is life, is hope, is a gateway. The sea will capture you, enslave you, free you. The sea is alive…



TQ:  Tell us something about “The South China Sea” that will not give away the story.

ZM:  “The South China Sea” is a vignette of a side character (whose name I never reveal in “The South China Sea”) from a novel that I am working on (and working on and working on). The events that take place in “The South China Sea” serve as the character’s backdrop story. I am unsure if the events in “The South China” sea will make it into the novel, or if they will simply be referenced. “The South China” sea also has a companion short story that will be published in “The Sea Is Ours” by Rosarium Publishing. That short story, titled, “The Chamber of Souls” picks up where “The South China Sea” ends, following the same unnamed (sorry!) character through another adventure.

That’s the thing with these side characters - you give them an inch, and they demand a mile. Pretty soon, I’ll have to write a novel just for the side character even if they only have a bit part in my novel (which may or may not ever get published and may simply remain a running sitcom in my mind to entertain me and only me).



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “The South China Sea”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

ZM:  My inspiration for many things - but in particular, for this story was Khanh, my cousin and a character in my story, whom I lost to pirates at sea during his attempt to flee Vietnam with his wife for a better world, a free world. My people, the South Vietnamese people, are also my inspiration. They risked everything to leave a world that was, to them, so insane and so cruel - to step into a rickety small fishing boat that was supposed to deliver them to freedom knowing they had a slim chance in hell to survive. But they did it anyway. I wanted to write a story where a group of Vietnamese refugees did board such a boat, only to be delivered to an entirely different world than any that they ever imagined (and believe me, America, at that time, was an entirely different world to Vietnamese refugees!)

I believe I have encountered a “Genius loci,” but you didn’t ask me where, when or what - so I’ll just hold that memory to myself…



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “The South China Sea”.

ZM:
“It was intermingled with the smell of misery and remorse and the taste of sweetened rust, as if you plunged an abandoned nail into sugar cane and then sucked on it for days on end.”


TQ:  In which genre or genres does “The South China Sea” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

ZM:  “The South China Sea” is an oddball with respect to most of my stories because I believe it actually fits in the genre of horror - this coming from someone who does not really read or enjoy horror (because its dern scary!) My mentor, Tananarive Due, however, who has written award winning horror novels, reassured me that the genre of “horror” is actually more broad than most people think it is. Tananarive described “horror” as “an emotion rather than a genre,” which puts an interesting twist on works that may fit within this genre. She also noted that horror can be “nestled within science fiction.” So, if anything, my story would be horror nestled within a steampunk alternative history…I guess my short story crosses several genres.

I think genre classifications are useful mainly because speculative fiction or literary speculative fiction can encompass so many different art forms that we truly should respect each one and provide the foundation for artists to create, expand, cross boundaries and genres, innovate, and evolve within their respective genres.



TQ:  What's next?

ZM:  I have about a handful of short stories I’ve been workshopping to try to see if I can see my name and said stories in big lights in a major science fiction or fantasy magazine. My very first short story that I ever wrote (ever!) is being published in SciPhi Journal (http://www.sciphijournal.com/) in some future edition. It is titled, “The Last Crane,” and is completely unrelated to anything else I’m working on. I’m hoping 2015 will start popping for me!

In the meantime, I have a novel I’ve been writing that is a historical speculative fiction novel that is entirely unrelated to “The South China” sea that has been slipping in and out of my consciousness and subconsciousness for over 12 years. It's demanding to be written. I just need to create the extra hour every day that will allow me to actually do that (sigh…).



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.




About Z.M. Quỳnh

Interview with Z.M. Quỳnh - April 1, 2015
z.m. quỳnh huddles in a room tinged with blue nursing calloused hands worn down from the chronic transcription of restless dreams. past lives have included scattered jaunts through urban minefields with each misstep hinting at a life less easily mapped out by this amateur cartographer. irrationally drawn to moving mountains one stone at a time, quỳnh has tackled the tasks of labor organizer, juvenile hall literacy coordinator, artistic director of a guerrilla feminist theatre troupe, mother, mentor and best friend (all rolled up in one), civil rights advocate, guardian ad litem for foster care youth, waitstaff at one too many late night diners (hey…free food - what?), slam poet, urban horticulturalist, visual junk artist, passionate lover, and cocktail server/candy salesperson at all night rave parties (hungry people pay $5 for candy bars!). Genius Loci: The Spirit of Place will be quỳnh’s debut in spec fic.


Twitter @zmquynh

Interview with K. C. Norton - March 31, 2015


Please welcome K. C. Norton to The Qwillery. “Reef” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the eighteenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with K. C. Norton - March 31, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

KCN:  Pantser! I definitely revise later, but plotting doesn't work for me. When I plot, I write a boring storyline with a traditional plot structure. When I pants, I get something I wasn't expecting. The biggest challenge for me lately has been keeping focused. I'm working on about six pieces at the same time, so it feels like nothing is getting done. Maybe if I learned to plot ahead...



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

KCN:  I'm a big fan of Philip Reeve, and I wish he would finish the Larklight series! Gaiman, Tolkien, Lewis, and Roald Dahl figure heavily in my list of influences. Also Kij Johnson, who is a genius.



TQ:  Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

KCN:  I wish someone would ask, "Do you feel comfortable writing characters of different ethnic backgrounds?" I'm always worried that I'm going to get something wrong, or come across as invasive or entitled. I really don't want to, but I also want to tell stories about all kinds of people living all kinds of lives, so I keep my fingers and toes crossed and press on.



TQ:  Describe “Reef”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

KCN:  "Reef" is a story about a girl and a coral reef working together to protect each other.



TQ:  Tell us something about “Reef” that will not give away the story.

KCN:  I had to do a lot of research about dangerous animal life on the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding ocean. One of the animals I learned about was the Crown of Thorns sea star, which is not something you'd want to touch. I went scuba diving this March, and I saw Crown of Thorns on every dive.



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “Reef”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

KCN:  I'm a diver and a general ocean-lover, so I pulled a lot of the setting from places I've visited. When I heard about the anthology, I knew I had to write from the perspective of coral. Reefs have spirits, absolutely. I've visited a lot of places on land that have personalities, but in a reef, the landscape is actually a living organism.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Reef”.

KCN:  "No single living creature has a heart as unified as the uncountable hearts of a reef."



TQ:  In which genre or genres does “Reef” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

KCN:  I guess "Reef" could be called slipstream, although now that I think about it, if one of the humans were telling the story it might not read like spec fic at all. I think there is still a place for classifications on a very basic level, at least as much as there has ever been. Star Wars is set in a sci-fi universe, but (at least in the classic trilogy) the main characters use what amounts to a spiritual magic system. Genre tropes don't limit what can go on in a story, and they never really have. Genre tags pretty much exist to point people to the next thing they might want to reach or watch.



TQ:  What's next?

KCN:  I have a story coming out in Flash Fiction Online next month, and I'm working on a children's adventure novel about Bigfoot that features a few of the same environmental themes as "Reef." I have a few other short stories in the pipeline, almost all of which take place in the ocean.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

KCN:  Thank you for having me!



About K. C. Norton

Interview with K. C. Norton - March 31, 2015
K. C. Norton's work has appeared in publications such as Writers of the Future Volume 30, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Galaxy's Edge, and Women Destroy Science Fiction! among others. She is an alumna of Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she studied children's writing. She is also a scuba diver, although she has yet to visit the Great Barrier Reef. You can find her on Twitter @KC_Norton.





Interview with Wendy N. Wagner - March 31, 2015


Please welcome Wendy N. Wagner to The Qwillery. “Scab Land” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the seventeenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with Wendy N. Wagner - March 31, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Wendy:  Thanks for having me! I like working in both forms quite a bit. The wonderful thing about writing short fiction is that I can keep the entire story arc in my mind, which makes it easier to see how all the details build up to make a piece work. When I'm writing a novel, I have to keep very careful notes so I don't forget anything.

I guess you could call me a pants-plotter hybrid (is that a “plantser”?). For my two work-for-hire novels, I really had to get good at working to an outline, and I really enjoy having a framework constructed before I start digging into the real writing. But when I write on my own, I enjoy having a lot of flexibility, too. I tend to start with a very loose outline; I'll write a bit, and draw up an outline for the next section, write a bit, and then stop and do a detailed outline of something that's bothering me ... I go back and forth throughout.



TQ:  You are also a poet. How does writing poetry affect (or not) your prose writing?

Wendy:  I find that when I'm working on poetry, I'm much more conscious of the images I'm using and the rhythms that occur in my prose. The rhythms and shapes of words really change the reader's experience, I think.

I've been on a poetry break for the last year, but I'm hoping to get back to it this summer!



TQ:  Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Wendy:  I can't think of any! I'm a pretty boring writer. I just sit down and work!



TQ:  Describe “Scab Land”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

Wendy:  It's about the secret stories families and landscapes keep beneath their surfaces.



TQ:  Tell us something about “Scab Land” that will not give away the story.

Wendy:  The title comes from the name of a real geographical feature—the channeled scablands—of Eastern Washington. It's a very gray landscape with a lot of agriculture, and the story is about a farming family.



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “Scab Land”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

Wendy:   My parents live in Eastern Washington on a property that's been in our family for generations, and my grandmother actually came out to this dry, gray place on the train. She'd never seen the town or the farm, but she had met my grandfather and fallen in love with him, so she left everything to be with him. She was from Maine. She would tell me stories about Maine, and I could tell, even though I was just a very, very little girl, that she missed it desperately. So I always knew there were things that haunted her, and that idea of a haunted grandmother stayed with me.

I think every place has a genius loci. Some places slap you with their ambiance, and some you have to listen a little harder to, but yes, every place is full of stories that are just bleeding out into the air and waiting to inspire us.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Scab Land”.

Wendy:  All my favorite lines don't make any sense if you don't read the story!



TQ:  In which genre or genres does “Scab Land” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

Wendy:  “Scab Land” is definitely a fantasy story. It started out as a literary piece, but I wasn't quite happy with it, and when the call for Genius Loci went out, I revised the piece to make it speculative.

Sure, they're useful. They help you find things you enjoy. I go to the library and browse through the mystery shelf because I like who-dunnits. I dig through the gardening section because I want to find books about gardening.

I know I should have a more serious answer than that, and I know there are a lot of discussions about the different ways to define the different genres. What's fantasy? What's science fiction? What do you call a piece with some magic but also space ships? At what point do subgenre classifications become so specific they're no longer of any use?

There are over a million books published every year and we need tools to help us find what we're interested in. Genre may not be the greatest tool, but it is one.



TQ:  What's next?

Wendy:  I have a lot of short stories coming out this year—I have a story in Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places, an anthology about Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger; She Walks in Shadows, an all-women-written anthology about women characters in Lovecraft's stories; and Cthulhu Fhtagn!, a new Lovecraftian anthology from Ross Lockhart.

I'm also serving as the guest editor for Nightmare Magazine's Queers Destroy Horror! special issue (due out in October), which I'm really excited about. And I have a second novel coming out in the Pathfinder Tales line, but I'm not sure when it will be released.

It's a busy year!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.


About Wendy N. Wagner

Interview with Wendy N. Wagner - March 31, 2015
Wendy N. Wagner grew up in a remote town on the Oregon coast, a place so small it had no grocery store and no television reception. When the bookmobile came every two weeks, the whole town gathered to explore its latest offerings. Books were her lifeline, her window into the outside world, and soon, an obsession.

Her short fiction has appeared in magazines like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and The Lovecraft eZine, as well as many anthologies, including Armored, Heiresses of Russ 2013, and The Way of the Wizard. She is the Managing/Associate Editor of Lightspeed and Nightmare magazines, and is the former Assistant Editor of Fantasy Magazine. Skinwalkers is her first novel.

Wendy lives in Portland, Oregon, with her very understanding family. You can keep up her at winniewoohoo.com or find her on Twitter, where she’s @wnwagner.

Interview with Keris McDonald - March 31, 2015


Please welcome Keris McDonald to The Qwillery. “The Sleck” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the sixteenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with Keris McDonald - March 31, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Keris:  I’m a pantser. I start writing, and I research as I write. I like research and I love it when things fall into place and fit exactly where you need them in the story, like you somehow mysteriously knew them all along…

The most challenging thing for me about writing is keeping off the goddamn Internet. Somewhere in my psyche is a deep urge to know ALL THE THINGS, and since I joined Facebook this has forced me into a never-ending loop of procrastination. No longer do I just read the news on teletext several times a day: I have to absorb the entire Interwebs. Maybe I should just shoot myself now…



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Keris:  M.R. James. H.P. Lovecraft. Angela Carter.



TQ:  Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask?

Keris:  “Would you like to sign this lucrative contract for the publication of your collected horror stories?”
:-D



TQ:  Describe “The Sleck”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

Keris:  A small girl has drowned in a pond in a patch of urban wasteland. Dad gets drunk and goes to investigate.



TQ:  Tell us something about “The Sleck” that will not give away the story.

Keris:  It’s all about the stinky slimy mud. “Sleck” is a dialect world from the north of England, meaning “foul-smelling mud”.



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “The Sleck”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

Keris:  As a child I was passionately drawn to natural places that seemed otherworldy and eerie to me – little patches in the midst of the mundane world that no one else seemed to notice the wonder of. Now, as an adult, I struggle to recapture that numinous sense of immanence. I wanted to write a story about an adult forced to see the world from that child’s-eye point-of-view.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “The Sleck”.

Keris
“Even in his day, before the invention of Health And Safety or parents giving a shit where the bairns were off to, it had had a dire reputation.”


TQ:  In which genre or genres does “The Sleck” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

Keris:  Horror/paranormal. Genre classifications are a necessary evil because most readers want to know what they are getting in advance. Personally, I like writing cross-genre. I like to confound expectations.



TQ:  What's next?

Keris:  I’m writing a trilogy about fallen angels and huge religious conspiracies for Cleis Press, under my other writing name, “Janine Ashbless. The first novel, Cover Him with Darkness, is already out. I recently visited Ethiopia to research the second volume, and now I’m going to write it.


TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Keris:  Thank you so much for having me!





About Keris

Interview with Keris McDonald - March 31, 2015
Keris McDonald lives in the not-very-grim north of England and has seen her horror short stories published in All Hallows magazine and anthologies by Ashtree Press and Hic Dragones Books. She spends most of her writing time under the pen name ‘Janine Ashbless’ though, spinning tales of supernatural erotica and passionate romantic adventure for publishers such as HarperCollins and Virgin. Her ninth novel, Cover Him With Darkness, a tale of fallen angels and religious conspiracy, was published in 2014 by Cleis Press. The Sleck was inspired by the post-industrial landscape of County Durham and childhood memories of visiting her aunts and uncles in Newcastle, as well as stories of “sacred” wells and springs. “Sleck,” by the way, is a very old dialect word for “stinking mud”.

Interview with Heather Clitheroe - March 30, 2015


Please welcome Heather Clitheroe to The Qwillery. “Coaltown” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the fifteenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with Heather Clitheroe - March 30, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing about writing for you? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Heather:  A big challenge is carving out the time to write. I work full-time -- most writers, I know do -- and I try to come in to the office a couple of hours early and settle in with my chromebook to get to it. Some days are a lot harder than others. I'm kind of a hybrid when it comes to writing. Plotser, maybe.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors??

Heather:  Hmm, literary influences. Jose Saramago, for sure, though I think it would take a lifetime to become as lyrical as he was. Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey, and James S. A. Corey for science fiction. Tanya Huff and David Eddings for fantasy. My influences change up depending on what I'm reading. I've got 'Pontypool Changes Everything' by Tony Burgess on the go, and also Anthony Trollope's 'Barchester Towers.' I'm a bit of an eclectic reader!



TQ:  Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Heather:  Hmm, maybe the first story I wrote. It was called 'A Riding Lesson' - the elementary school typed up stories and made a little booklet out of them!

Interview with Heather Clitheroe - March 30, 2015


TQ:  Describe “Coaltown”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

Heather:  Coaltown is about ordinary people, obligation, and impossible choices. The mood is dark, I think, and bittersweet.



TQ:  Tell us something about “Coaltown” that will not give away the story.

Heather:  A lot of fantasy is about heroic characters being elevated and taken out of their environments -- almost about how you can go beyond your circumstances. I wanted to tell a story about the more ordinary, the common -- like me -- but still bring a strong fantastic element to the story.



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “Coaltown”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

Heather:  I'd been watching a quasi-documentary series on coal mining and the images of the mine really stuck with me. It's haunting and scary to look at, and it ended up giving me the basis for the story.

Have I encountered a genius loci? I think so. Romantic descriptions of the sublime really resonate with me -- the sense of landscape being so awe-inspiring that they can create a moment of terror and frozen fascination in the observer. The sense of landscape as character is something I believe strongly in, and I've witnessed it myself in the Rockies.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Coaltown”.

Heather:  I love this little passage:
By the time he was thirteen, he was 'prenticed to his uncle, learning how to swing his pick and set a charge just so, bringing the coal down but not the roof. His skin was pitted with black dust, pale from so much time spent in the down under. He'd come to court her with his skin raw from washing, scrubbed so hard it was pink when he'd come to stand at the bottom of the porch step to ask her aunt if he might take her to the hall for a dance.

It touched her. It touched her powerfully.

One thing led to another. She found she was late.


TQ:  In which genre or genres does “Coaltown” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

Heather:  Coaltown is not quite an urban fantasy -- it's not specifically contemporary, but it's not sword and sorcery, either. I'd characterize it as second world fantasy, I think.

I do feel that genre classifications can be useful. Not so much to narrowly define a work, but to give a nod to the conventions that inform writing, and to consider the literary tradition that came before it. I'm mindful of T. S. Eliot's 'Tradition and the Individual Talent' and that sense that every new work of art (and literature) reshuffles the continuum of the art that came before it, and what comes after it:
"No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of æsthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new."
I love this, because it reminds me that when I produce and publish, I'm part of a larger community. It's nice to be reminded that I don't work in isolation.

I also don't think that genre classifications mean you can only write in that particular vein, either. There are always new intersections, new angles and beats to consider.



TQ:  What's next?

Heather:  I have a piece out this week at Beneath Ceaseless Skies - 'Wild Things Gotta Go Free.' I've been working on a sci-fi novel, so my short fiction has dropped off a bit as I do...so it's back to the office in the early, dark mornings with my coffee and my words.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Heather:  Thank you!





About Heather Clitheroe

Interview with Heather Clitheroe - March 30, 2015
Heather Clitheroe lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta. She is an alumni of the Banff Centre for the Arts. Her work has appeared in Lightspeed's Women Destroy Science Fiction and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.






Website  ~  Twitter @lectio


Interview with Mercedes M. Yardley - March 30, 2015


Please welcome Mercedes M. Yardley to The Qwillery. “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the fourteenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with Mercedes M. Yardley - March 30, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mercedes:  I adore writing flash fiction and shorts, but the space constraint definitely challenges you to condense your story. You either have to focus on a short, precise section of a character’s life and give it rich detail, or you can follow the character for quite a while but lose the detail. Everything is streamlined with the short form and you have to choose your words very carefully. Each one is like a jewel that must be polished.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Mercedes:  I adore so many authors! I grew up reading Erma Bombeck, and I’d say she’s influenced me with her humor and ability to make the mundane seem funny and magical. Peter S. Beagle has influenced me. All of his work is stellar, not just The Last Unicorn, although that is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. Aimee Bender has influenced me with her delicate prose and dreaminess. I haven’t read anything of hers I haven’t liked.



TQ:  Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Mercedes:  I’d love it if somebody asked about one of the most memorable moments in the author’s life and how that influenced their art. I was driving home from work one day when a Monarch butterfly swarm passed through on migration. Suddenly there was a cloud of butterflies. They were literally all I could see, and everybody stopped on the road so the butterflies wouldn’t be killed. I rolled the windows down in my car, and several flew inside. It was one of the most stunning, meaningful moments I’ve ever experienced. I had my hands on the steering wheel, sharing it with several butterflies. They were in my hair. They covered the hood of my Geo Metro. When I arrived home, I opened the door and let several more out, and watched them as they wheeled into the air. I’ll never experience that again.

Butterflies, and especially Monarchs, tend to be a theme in my work. I try to capture that moment of whimsy and perfection and also that sense of danger. The darling things are so vulnerable. Their wings are torn so easily. People are damaged easily, as well, and I write about that often.



TQ:  Describe “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

Mercedes:  The desert openly lusts for a young boy’s blood.



TQ:  Tell us something about “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes” that will not give away the story.

Mercedes:  This story is actually part of a larger canon. I have a novel titled Pretty Little Dead Girls, which is actually a Genius Loci backing reward, that has to do with this very desert. It’s a hungry thing, this monster of sand and bone. “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes” takes place before the novel. The desert is never satisfied.



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

Mercedes:  I grew up in a small desert town, and spent quite a bit of time outdoors. We were always hiking and climbing. We learned Rattlesnake Bite 101 in school. I can’t tell you how many times I stepped on cactus or saw something whip into its hole out in the middle of nowhere. The desert was exceptionally beautiful but also dangerous. Everything out there could kill you. So that became the powerful, sentient inspiration for Pretty Little Dead Girls and “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes.”
That’s my Genius loci. The desert is very much alive.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes”.

Mercedes

The desert prowled up to the front porch, eying Lucas Marsh with interest. Lucas eyed it back.



TQ:  In which genre or genres does “Cactus Flowers and Bone Flutes” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

Mercedes:  This story is a magical realism story, along the lines of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think classifications are still useful as a general guideline toward what interests a reader, but works straddle so many genres right now that one story could easily be classified as several things. In my opinion, genre classifications are used for marketing purposes and to give the reader a general idea of what the book will be like, but it really isn’t super useful beyond that. And the classification system is growing every day. A few years ago nobody had heard of Grimdark, but now not only is it a genre, but it has its own subgenres as well.



TQ:  What's next?

Mercedes:  I’m currently working on a couple of shared-world novellas, and that’s really a lot of fun! I’m also working on the second book of THE BONE ANGEL trilogy, which will be out later this year. It’s called Heartless: Carnival of Isolation and it really takes a dark turn. I’m breaking the main character into teeny tiny pieces. I’m far too excited about that.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Mercedes:  Thank you for having me! It’s absolutely a pleasure.





About Mercedes M. Yardley

Interview with Mercedes M. Yardley - March 30, 2015
Mercedes M. Yardley is a dark fantastic who wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She writes short stories, novellas, nonfiction, and novels. She is the author of Beautiful Sorrows, Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, Nameless, Little Dead Red, and her latest release, Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy, from Ragnarok Publications. Mercedes lives and works in Sin City, and you can reach her at www.mercedesyardley.com.






Twitter @mercedesmy  ~ Facebook


Interview with Sunil Patel - March 30, 2015


Please welcome Sunil Patel to The Qwillery. “The Gramadevi's Lament” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the thirteenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with Sunil Patel - March 30, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!


TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Sunil:  In short fiction, every word counts, and the economy of language is key (even though you are frequently paid by the word, wordiness is not advised). You must say much with little, convey worlds in sentences, paint characters with phrases. As far as writing short fiction, I’m a pantser, though I am trying to be more of a plotter to keep from flailing around so much.



TQ:  You are a playwright. How does this affect (or not) your writing?

Sunil:  My Kickstarter reward is a one-hour writing workshop, and I answer this very question! Writing plays has absolutely helped me hone my dialogue skills and find the natural rhythm of conversation. Plus envisioning story scenes as play scenes gives me a good sense of space. I’m also an actor, and I can draw on my experiences feeling a wide range of emotions in a controlled environment when describing characters.



TQ:  Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Sunil:

“As a man, how do you write good female characters?”

Well, sir, I grew up reading The Baby-Sitters Club, and also I think women are people, it’s not that hard.



TQ:  Describe “The Gramadevi's Lament”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

Sunil:  Tuldara is full of corpses. The village spirit has been alone for decades. Now you approach, and she tells you about a girl named Pooja.



TQ:  Tell us something about “The Gramadevi's Lament” that will not give away the story.

Sunil:  I did a lot of research to write this story, and my favorite part was going to Curry Up Now and buying a bottle of Limca so I could describe how it tasted.



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “The Gramadevi's Lament”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

Sunil:  “The Gramadevi’s Lament” is one of those stories completely inspired by the anthology theme: I had never heard of a gramadevi before Googling to find out what the genius loci in India was. I figured there was untapped story potential there. The story itself stemmed from an image in my head of someone going to an abandoned village to find out what happened—I modeled the village after my father’s village—coupled with my apparent ongoing obsession with telling stories about the relationship between a woman and a non-human character (usually coded as female). I’ve never encountered a genius loci myself, but there are some places where the history feels palpable: not the manifestation of a particular spirit, but the psychic energy of centuries of life and death and atrocity.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “The Gramadevi's Lament”.

Sunil:

“I am every particle of dust, I am the quiet, I am the swing no longer creaking.”



TQ:  In which genre or genres does “The Gramadevi's Lament” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

Sunil:  I’d say “The Gramadevi’s Lament” fits best under dark fantasy, but even that doesn’t seem right, though it is a fantasy story that is dark. “Dark fantasy” conjures up images of monstrous beasts and murderous witches, but I’ve never read a story about a gramadevi before, so maybe it’s its own genre, who knows. Genre classifications are still useful for the works that do tidily fit into them; genres are a shared language, and their conventions let a reader know what to expect. But many of the best, most interesting works mix genres, and that’s what makes them fun and original.



TQ:  What's next?

Sunil:  I have stories coming out in Fireside and The Book Smugglers, and I’m writing a story for Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, an anthology co-edited by Jaym Gates. I am nearing the end of the first draft of my first novel, a YA superhero novel starring a teleporting Indian teenage girl, and I’ll be attending Taos Toolbox this summer in hopes of making that second draft better. Finally, I have a secret project! Because all the cool writers have things they can’t announce yet. Though this isn’t actually a writing project. (A CLUE.)



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sunil:  Thank you for inviting me, and thank you for your support of Genius Loci!

TQ:  My pleasure!





About Sunil Patel

Interview with Sunil Patel - March 30, 2015
Sunil Patel is a Bay Area fiction writer and playwright who has written about everything from ghostly cows to talking beer. His plays have been performed at San Francisco Theater Pub and San Francisco Olympians Festival, and his fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Saturday Night Reader, Fireside Magazine, The Book Smugglers, and Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place. Plus, he reviews books for Lightspeed. Find out more at ghostwritingcow.com, where you can watch his plays, or follow him @ghostwritingcow. His Twitter has been described as “engaging”, “exclamatory”, and “crispy, crunchy, peanut buttery.”








Interview with Richard Dansky - March 30, 2015


Please welcome Richard Dansky to The Qwillery. “Beer and Pennies” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the twelfth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with Richard Dansky - March 30, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Richard:  Thank you. It's a pleasure to be (virtually) here.

I think the biggest challenge in writing short fiction instead of novel length is that you have a lot less room to spread out in. Because you're working in a constrained space, you don't have room to chase tangents to see where they'll go. This is actually something that writing for games helps with tremendously, because for all that game scripts can be massive, the actual writing has to be incredibly tight and focused. There's no room for fat in video game dialogue, because that gets in the way of the player playing, and keeping that mindset is tremendously helpful when it comes to flensing off all the extraneous clever phrasings and asides that can put drag on a short piece.

As for the plotter/pantser question, I think I'm still a plantser. I'll plot meticulously, then get into the story, meet the characters, and find that they've hot-wired my car and headed for either Vegas or the world's largest ball of twine. It's not always predictable, but it is always interesting.



TQ:  You also work as a game designer and writer. How does this affect (or not) your novel and short story writing?

Richard:  Writing fiction and writing games are, for me, such functionally different things that in a lot of ways they serve as breaks from each other. There's a ton of stuff in my fiction toolkit that I never need to unpack for game writing, and when I'm writing fiction I never have to worry about player agency or collaborating with developers in other disciplines. So when things are going well the two sorts of writing kind of serve as a break from one another, and I can recharge the fiction side while I'm doing game work. And if things aren't going well, I always have a project on the other side of the fence to flip to and work on while giving the problematic story or game a break.



TQ:  Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

RichardWhy do you write the scary stuff?
(or, as my mother phrases it, "When are you going to write something nice?")

One of the more interesting things my wife has said about my writing is that the real horror of it is that people don't change. And there's a lot of truth to that, and it calls out the fact that the stuff I find scariest - to write about or in real life - is people. What's interesting to me to write about is people, not tentacle monsters or werewolf ninjas or whatnot, and horror fiction lets you put people - well, characters - under some unique and interesting stresses. That's where I find stories, in the moments when people get pushed into an impossible place by something impossible and they either shine or break - or a little bit of both.



TQ:  Describe “Beer and Pennies”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

Richard:  The problem with investigating a place like the Devil's Tramping Ground is that sometimes you find the Devil there, and you catch his eye...



TQ:  Tell us something about “Beer and Pennies” that will not give away the story.

Richard:  It features the same main character as my story "The Man Who Built Haunted Houses" in the Haunted anthology, and "A Meeting at the Devil's House" in The New Gothic. In fact, this is his origin story, so if you want to know how a nice guy like that got tangled up with the Devil, this is the place to look.



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “Beer and Pennies”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

Richard:  The story is set at The Devil's Tramping Ground, which is a legendary site here in North Carolina. It's a large circle of bare dirt that nothing has grown in for well over a century, and according to the stories, if you leave anything in the circle overnight, come morning it will have been thrown out past the edge by...something. Other stories say that the reason nothing grows there is because that's where the Devil spends his nights, walking in circles and thinking up new ways to bedevil mankind, and that he's the one who throws out whatever's left in the circle. And that imagery was absolutely irresistible to me. Once I had the idea of the Tramping Ground in my head, I could sort of walk it to its logical extreme - what happens when someone decides to spend the night in the circle - and then go beyond that.

I can't say I encountered the spirit of the place when I finally went out there with my wife and some friends, but I did try to be respectful, and we picked up some of the trash other passers-by had left at the site. You know, just in case....



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Beer and Pennies”.

Richard:
“You can call me the Devil,” he said with a grunt. “I don’t hold with being too familiar.”


TQ:  In which genre or genres does “Beer and Pennies” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

Richard:  If "inspired by a deep admiration for Manly Wade Wellman" isn't its own genre, I'd have to say it's very much a Southern Gothic. It doesn't have all of the checklist gothic touches - no crumbling old houses or deep family secrets - but it has that sense of lushness intertwined with shadows and rot that you get from Southern Gothics.

As for genres themselves, I think they're useful as guides, less useful when they become barriers. If a genre description is a help to the reader in that guides them to work they're going to like or an approach they want to try, then they can do a lot of good. It's just when they get used as cannon fodder in culture wars that they have a negative impact - "Oh, I never read science fiction/horror/romance/mysteries/stories about guys who shove fish down their pants", when said with disdain, is that sort of negativity in a nutshell, and all it does is keep people away from reading they might genuinely enjoy.



TQ:  What's next?

Richard:  I'm working on the 20th Anniversary Edition of Wraith: The Oblivion. That's the RPG I really cut my game design teeth on, so to speak, so I'm having a ton of fun working on that. I've also got fiction coming out in anthologies like Achtung! Cthulhu: Dark Tales from the Secret War and Gods, Memes and Monsters from Stoneskin, not to mention the Exalted tie-in anthology from Onyx Path and a few more beyond that. And the day job is keeping me busy with all sorts of fun things I can't talk about...yet.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Richard:  Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.





About Richard Dansky

Interview with Richard Dansky - March 30, 2015
Writer, game designer and cad, Richard Dansky was named one of the Top 20 videogame writers in the world in 2009 by Gamasutra. His work includes bestselling games such as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Far Cry, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3, and Outland. He has published six novels and the short fiction collection Snowbird Gothic, and is currently hard at work as the developer for the 20th Anniversary Edition of classic tabletop RPG Wraith: The Oblivion. Richard lives in North Carolina with his wife and their amorphously large collections of books and single malt whiskys.

Twitter @RDansky

Interview with James Lowder - March 29, 2015


Please welcome James Lowder to The Qwillery. “The Crooked Smile Killers” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the eleventh in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with James Lowder - March 29, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here.



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

James:  You have to be more concise with short fiction than with a novel. Not that you can just let your novel wander all over the place, but the novel form is more forgiving of digressions and leisurely pacing. Though I try to be more concise, I’ve found that my work tends to run toward the upper end of the short story range, which is usually capped at 7,500 words, and the lower end of the novelette range. “The Crooked Smile Killers” clocks in at about 9,700 words.

I usually rely on plotting in the early stages of a work, when I’m trying to set up its basic shape and theme. I like to know where a story in supposed to end when I start writing. But while I’m writing, I’m open to the organic part of the creative process taking me in unexpected directions. That may be why I tend to write a little long when I tackle short stories—the characters or the setting reveals something surprising as I’m writing and I have to include it in the final draft.



TQ:  You've worked as an editor. How does this affect (or not) your writing?

James:  Being an editor does indeed affect how I write. On the plus side, I have a very well-developed critical sense. This means my work tends to be disciplined. As I write, I am simultaneously reviewing and critiquing my work, so I usually catch any major problems in the early draft stage. One the minus side, I have a very well-developed critical sense. This means that I can get bogged down rewriting a paragraph or a sentence when I should be moving on so I can wrap up the first draft. It’s only with effort that I can lower the volume of my editorial voice so I can write at a reasonable clip.



TQ:  Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

James:  Are there any common themes in your stories?

My short work tends to deal with the dangers of certainty. Many of my protagonists have very clear, very fixed worldviews—an unwavering belief in science or a set idea of how justice should be meted out. My stories frequently explore what happens when those characters realize that their worldviews are wrong or incomplete, or, worse, what happens when they insist on clinging to the worldview in the face of obvious evidence of its faults and limitations.



TQ:  Describe “The Crooked Smile Killers,” which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

James:  A “mystery man” hero wears the mantle of protector to Jazz Age Chicago, and he’ll do anything to keep that city safe.



TQ:  Tell us something about “The Crooked Smile Killers” that will not give away the story.

James:  The protagonist for the story is the Corpse, a character I’ve written about in four works—two novelettes and two short stories. All are set in Jazz Age Chicago, but “The Crooked Smile Killers” is the most overt exploration of his self-appointed role as the Windy City’s guardian.



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “The Crooked Smile Killers”? Have you ever encountered a genius loci?

James:  The Corpse stories are influenced by the more horror-leaning noir works of Cornell Woolrich and Dashiell Hammett. They’re most directly inspired by the more unhinged hero pulps of the 1930s, titles such as The Spider and Operator 5. I love the grim spectacle of these works. But the Corpse tales also comment on the hero pulp tropes and view the characters and their actions through a more critical moral lens. In the original mystery man pulps, the heroes are cast as unquestionably good, even though their actions are often brutal beyond belief. They’re the heroes because the writer and reader accept that role for them. I don’t cede that point in these stories and neither should the reader. “The Crooked Smile Killers” also reference Lovecraft’s Dreamlands cycle and the King in Yellow stories by Robert W. Chambers

I’ve never encountered a genius loci, as in a guardian spirit, though I know I experience different places as possessing very different atmospheres—joyful or sad, vital or decaying. It’s all based on personal perception, of course, but those differences in geographical mood or tone can be very striking.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “The Crooked Smile Killers.”

James:  The blonde leveled the still-smoking revolver at the man sprawled at her feet. “Of course I love you,” she said.

(They’re the opening lines of the story. I had them rattling around in my head for months before I knew they would be the start of “The Crooked Smile Killers.”)



TQ:  In which genre or genres does “The Crooked Smile Killers” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

James:  It’s a neo-pulp story, a mix of noir and supernatural horror. But it doesn’t fit in any category too neatly. Genre classifications are useful for establishing general expectations for a reader, but the works I find the most interesting tend to push at the boundaries and reexamine the tropes of the traditional genre categories.



TQ:  What's next?

James:  I should be wrapping up work soon on The Munchkin Book. It’s a collection of game rules for and essays about the popular card game Munchkin. I’m editing the book for Steve Jackson Games and BenBella Books, who will publish it as part of their wonderful Smart Pop line. As a writer, I’m penning short stories for three different anthologies, projects that are not public just yet. I’ve also got a new modern horror short story, “Morning in America,” in a book titled Delta Green: Extraordinary Renditions. That should see publication later this year.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

James:  Thanks very much for the invitation and the hospitality!





About James Lowder

Interview with James Lowder - March 29, 2015
James Lowder has worked extensively on both sides of the editorial blotter. As a writer his publications include the bestselling, widely translated dark fantasy novels Prince of Lies and Knight of the Black Rose, short fiction for such anthologies as Shadows Over Baker Street and Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction, and comic book scripts for DC, Image, Moonstone, and Desperado. As an editor he’s directed novel lines or series for both large and small publishing houses, and has helmed more than a dozen critically acclaimed anthologies, including Madness on the Orient Express, Hobby Games: The 100 Best, and the Books of Flesh zombie trilogy. His work has received five Origins Awards and an ENnie Award, and been a finalist for the International Horror Guild Award and the Stoker Award.


Website

Interview with Alethea Kontis - March 29, 2015



Please welcome Alethea Kontis to The Qwillery. “Blue & Grey and Black & Green” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the tenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

Interview with Alethea Kontis - March 29, 2015

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here.



TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Alethea:  My approach to short stories and novels is very much the same: "Put your butt in the chair and write, Princess." The challenge is that short stories pay far less than novels, so now I write fewer of them. That's literally the long and short of it.

Plotters and Pantsers are such misnomers: I've only ever known of two authors at either end of this spectrum (SF author David Drake, whose outlines are sometimes 30,000 words long...vs. Fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, who would never tell people about what she was working on because the act of telling the story immediately ruined her love for the project.) The rest of us all fall in between.

Me? I know where I'm going. Like a road trip from Florida to Seattle. I know I want to stop at Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and the Giant Ball of Twine. Otherwise, I allow the adventure to unfold as I live it. I HATE writing synopses. I have found that they make me fall out of love with the story...much like DWJ. So it is doubtful that I will ever sell a novel to a publisher on a pitch. A shame...but there you have it.



TQ:  I noticed in your bio that you copyedit. How does this affect (or not) your own writing process?

Alethea:
  1. Whenever I have a copyediting job, I drop everything else. I put my copyeditor hat on and that is all I do until I finish the project.
  2. Whenever I sit down to write, I have to tell myself that "it's okay to write crap." What I write is often NOT crap--I write slowly, and cleanly (some due to being a copyeditor and some due to starting in poetry), but I still have to remind myself of this every time I sit down. Every. Time.
  3. I know that whatever I write will never be as bad as some of the books I copyedited for the vanity press I worked for back in early 2000. (I still want to needlepoint "The money clock-runneth over" onto a pillow someday.)



TQ:  Describe “Blue & Gray and Black & Green”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

Alethea:  "Blue & Gray and Black & Green" is a ghost vs. ghost story, best told to children around a campfire in the woods of West Virginia.



TQ:  Tell us something about “Blue & Gray and Black & Green” that will not give away the story.

Alethea:  I believe in Stone Memory. I think if a place is home to more than one family throughout the years, that the stones will remember them all....and possibly even fight to keep those memories intact.



TQ:  What was your inspiration for “Blue & Gray and Black & Green”?

Alethea:  I was originally commissioned to write this story for an anthology about Haunted Places in West Virginia. I know very little about West Virginia and even less about the Civil War. Moreover, I was assigned to write about the General Jenkins House. A cursory search on the intarwebs got me only a repeated (and brief) account from Ghost Hunters who had visited the house...and a notice that the house itself had been closed indefinitely for repairs by the Army Corps of Engineers.

So I dug deeper. I was redirected to a site called The Archaeology Channel, where there just so happened to be a half-hour video lesson called "The Ghosts of Green Bottom." By the end, I not only knew about General Jenkins and his family, but about the several generations of previous owners before that, dating all the way back to the original Native American tribe that lived in that area.

The house came alive for me--Green Bottom herself--made rich from the history of the land she was built on and the eccentric souls who had lived within her walls. My story would not be about a ghost haunting some mortal in the real world; it would be about Green Bottom, and how she has protected centuries' worth of her own spirits from whoever--or whatever--might have tried to take them from her.



TQ:  Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

Alethea:  There was this one place, at my horrid ex-fiance's mother's house in Newcastle, England. The ex was horrid but his mother was lovely, as was her husband (the ex's stepfather) who, in his retirement, did things like climb mountains and grow things. There was a stone wall beside their house, and through the archway I found the most amazing garden. I walked among the flowers and plants, barefoot in the thick grass. Standing there on the top of that hill, with the wind in my hair, I had a moment of complete serenity. It occurred to me that this was the most beautiful place I had ever been to on the planet. It was as if I could feel the soul of the place...and it could feel mine in return.

And then the ex called me inside and ordered me to wipe my feet off so I didn't get grass stains on his mother's white carpet.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Blue & Gray and Black & Green”.

Alethea:  "Happiness does not want to stay in a place that is dark and lonely, so part of Daniel's job was to keep things from being dark and lonely."



TQ:  In which genre or genres does “Blue & Gray and Black & Green” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

Alethea:  Um... Campfire tales? Ghost stories? Children's horror? Genre classifications have become much like Starbucks orders these days. Readers search through a loquacious menu looking for something they feel like, and no description is really going to be perfect for the story or its consumer.



TQ:  What's next?

Alethea:  "Princess Alethea's Fairy Tale Rants" is about to go on hiatus until after Dragon Con, giving me more time to write--a move that makes me both sad and happy. This year I will be publishing Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome (another illustrated collaboration with Janet K. Lee), and then the rest of the Woodcutter series starting with Trixter. After that, I plan on putting out a trilogy of short contemporary romance novels set in a small beach town in central Florida...but that might not be for a few years at this point. Either way, I'm very excited about all of my projects!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





About Alethea Kontis

Interview with Alethea Kontis - March 29, 2015
New York Times bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a fairy godmother, and a geek. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, and ranting about fairy tales on YouTube.

Her published works include: The Wonderland Alphabet (with Janet K. Lee), Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome (with Janet K. Lee), the AlphaOops series (with Bob Kolar), the Woodcutter Sisters fairy tale series, and The Dark-Hunter Companion (with Sherrilyn Kenyon). Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in a myriad of anthologies and magazines.

Her YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2012 and the Garden State Teen Book Award i 2015. Enchanted was nominated for the Audie Award in 2013, and was selected for World Book Night in 2014. Both Enchanted and its sequel, Hero, were nominated for the Andre Norton Award.

Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea currently lives and writes in Florida, on the Space Coast. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.You can find Princess Alethea online at: www.aletheakontis.com.

Interview with Z.M. Quỳnh - April 1, 2015Interview with K. C. Norton - March 31, 2015Interview with Wendy N. Wagner - March 31, 2015Interview with Keris McDonald - March 31, 2015Interview with Heather Clitheroe - March 30, 2015Interview with Mercedes M. Yardley - March 30, 2015Interview with Sunil Patel - March 30, 2015Interview with Richard Dansky - March 30, 2015Interview with James Lowder - March 29, 2015Interview with Alethea Kontis - March 29, 2015

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