Writer Wednesday

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Writer Wednesday: Jessica May Lin

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Today’s writer is Jessica May Lin. I discovered her when I read her amazing flash piece, “Mortar flowers”, in Nature‘s Futures section, and then read her “Dark, Beautiful Force” at Daily Science Fiction, found out we have friends in common, she’s going to school in the first town I moved to when I left home after high school, and she’s a fellow Codexian. Naturally, I had to ask her a million questions. (Okay, ten. Ish.)

When she’s not writing, Jessica is a student at UC Berkeley. She is also an acrobatic pole dancer. You can find her at www.jessicamaylin.com.

1. How does your life as a full-time university student inspire and/or detract from your writing? Does your major influence your writing, or do you keep the two separate?

I think the exciting thing about being a student is that every day, you get tons of new stuff thrown at you from all sides, which is inspiring in strange ways. Once, after being unable to fall asleep all night, I misunderstood some theory my physics professor was describing, which eventually inspired me to write a story with the title “The Insomniac’s Guide to Collapsing Universes.” I’m majoring in Comp Lit, which has introduced me to radically different ways of storytelling that depart from the Western emphasis on plot and interiority, my two current favorites being Chinese vernacular literature and Soviet avant-garde cinema.

That aside, my writing life, my student life, and my dancing life are all pretty different from each other with very few overlaps, and I like to think that each one engages a different side of myself. It’s kind of like living in 3 different worlds at once with the ability to jump between, but I like it that way. When I get overwhelmed by one, I can easily slip into another. That way, everything I do always feels fresh.

2. What local authors groups or online communities do you actively participate in?

I’m very close with the Odyssey Workshop Class of 2012, who are the first writer friends I’ve ever had. It’s been pretty exciting, watching their careers blossom over the past year and getting to cheer them on from the sidelines. More recently, I made a lot of new friends at Taos Toolbox 2013, who I’m still in touch with. I’m also a member of Codex Writers Forum, which is a supportive, insightful resource that throws the best contests.

3. You’ve written and published some excellent very short fiction. You’re also working on a novel, A Dream of Burning Cities. Do you prefer one kind of writing over the other?

I’m a novel person through and through. When I get an idea I’m super excited about (which happens like, once a year), I want to hold on to it and explore it in as much depth as possible. Sometimes I think I get too invested. I do feel like there’s more room for experiment in short stories though, so every now and then when I stumble across a catchy concept that I can’t stop thinking about, I will write a short story.

4. Which publication are you most proud of, and why?

The bit of writing I am most proud of is actually something I wrote this summer. It hasn’t found a home yet, but I like it because it forced me out of my comfort zone. It was definitely a risk, but one I’m glad I took.

5. You’ve already attended a couple of writing workshops (Taos, Odyssey), which is unusual for a young writer so early in her career. What did you get out of those experiences, and which workshops do you want to attend next?

Before attending workshops, my writing was pretty much an explosion of feelings and ideas without much organization. I liked painting pretty pictures with my words, but I had no idea what a plot was… I think I’m much more disciplined now. Also, I’ve met some incredible people and mentors, who have been there for me through thick and thin. However, I think I’m done attending workshops for a while. For me, there are two parts of learning to write, which are 1) learning to write and 2) living and growing. I’ve been spending a lot of time learning to write but I don’t think I’ve been on an adventure in a while, so I think I’m going to do that next summer. (more…)

Writer Wednesday: Wesley Chu

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1. Your first two novels are scheduled to be published by Angry Robot books this year. You originally submitted during AR’s “Open Door Month” in 2011. What was that process like?

The Great Angry Robot Open Submission was probably one of the most fantastic and angst filled experiences of my life, which is unusual for me because I usually live a pretty happy, zero-angst life. I’m like a cross between that singing meerkat in Lion King and a Labrador Retriever.

The robot overlords, Marc Gascoigne and Lee Harris, opened their doors to subs for one month in March of 2011. The subs went through four levels of review, from query and chapters, full manuscript, editorial and finally to acquisitions. At the end, out of a nearly a thousand submissions, twenty-five manuscripts made it to editorials and five received deals. The entire process from submission to signing the deal took fourteen months.

An added bonus about the open sub process was that fourteen of us in the editorial stage bonded on the Absolute Write forums and created our own social Group: Anxious Appliances. Since our inception, we’ve been the most active writing group on AW. Not gonna lie. Those guys kept me sane. I got pretty batshit crazy as the process drew to a close.

2. Once your book was in to the final stages of consideration, you got an agent. How did you find yours? Looking back on it, should you have started looking sooner, or waited longer?

I did query an earlier draft of The Lives of Tao a few years ago. I received some great feedback, and a request for a rewrite, but things fell through. It was still a great learning experience and helped me develop as a writer. It’s fair to say the book wouldn’t be what it is without the suggestions and changes I made from their critiques. I took a year off from the book and then rewrote it with a fresh pair of eyes.

After the manuscript was promoted to editorial during the open sub, I leveraged the potential deal and began querying again, and received offers from two agencies for representation. I was very fortunate to sign with Russell Galen of Scovil Galen Ghosh, who was one of my top targeted agencies. What better person to lead your career than the guy who represented the authors that wrote the books and movies you grew up with (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Screamers)?

3. You have a wife, an executive-level job for a major corporation, family, friends, and a dog. How do you find time to write?

There’s a lot of time in the day. You just have to figure out how to prioritize what is important and what isn’t. I admit to being an OCD kind of guy. I am a single purpose driven machine, like a Phillips screw driver.

During my hardcore martial art days, I used to drive an hour to my friend Tony Marquez’s school (he was the original Kung Lao in Mortal Kombat), Extreme Kung Fu, and train at his facility. Then afterward, I drove thirty minutes to another school where I learned from a Bagua Zhang/Tai Chi master. It was four hours of training a day, six days a week. This went on for many several years.

One day, I thought to myself. “Man, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I don’t know how, but I’m going to figure it out.”

So I gave it a shot. Without knowing what I was doing, I began to write when I had the free time. Eventually, writing took over all my other hobbies. I stopped clubbing. I retired from martial arts. I quit raiding in Wow (that freed up a crap ton of time), and focused on what was really important to me. (more…)

Writer Wednesday: Fran Wilde

Photo courtesy of A. E. Bogdan

Fran Wilde is a writer and technology consultant hard at work on her third novel. You can read her short stories online at Nature Magazine and Daily Science Fiction She can tie various sailing knots, set gemstones and program digital minions. She blogs at franwilde.wordpress.com.

1. You have two novels completed and two more in progress. Tell us about them.

Moonmaker is adult science fiction. It’s my first novel, and I’ve recently received some fantastic feedback on it. The story is pretty ambitious, given that I’d never written a novel before. I am lucky to have people who believe in it, since the process of finishing a novel and getting it out there is so complex. Moonmaker combines game building and programming with a bunch of things I didn’t know much about until I dove into the research. A friend was kind enough to loan me an astrophysicist at one point (he’s awesome), so I had some great insights when it came to moons and orbits. I did a very light query on the book last fall, but have decided to take it back into editing. A few spin-off short stories are in process too.

The second novel, Bone Arrow, is my baby right now. It’s young adult fantasy, with a lot of low-tech engineering. I was a house writer for university engineering programs for a long time, and my first job was proofreading engineering articles. The tech behind bridges and towers and a few other things got stuck in my head, I guess. But that’s just setting, and offstage background. The characters in Bone Arrow — they ran away with the book. I had all these plans for what was supposed to happen, and… yeah. They had other plans. I loved watching the story unfurl. I love hearing reactions from people who have read it.

One thing I should say is that my friends from Viable Paradise who have urged me on while writing this book, and who are a really incredibly generous source of support, even while deep in their own work, have been there from the start on this. I’m very grateful for them. In addition, I took Bone Arrow with me to Taos Toolbox last summer. After an all-night plot-breaking session with my roommate and several amazing upcoming writers and friends, I’d grown a whole new grasp on how to plot story. Bone Arrow and the stories that come after are much stronger for these experiences.

The third novel is set in the same world as Bone Arrow, and the fourth is a distant-future offshoot of Moonmaker.

2. What short fiction publication are you most proud of, and why?

All of them, for different reasons. If you press me, I’d say, so far, the 2012 Nature story, “Without.” It’s short, but there’s a lot in it. I’m proud of it mostly because the story wasn’t working, even after a critique. Then I quit taking one character’s side over the other and let both characters have completely valid points, as they saw it. Then it worked. That was an important lesson.

3. You’ve interviewed an impressive collection of genre authors for your “Cooking the Books” project. Where did you get the idea to talk about writing by talking about food?

I’m having a ridiculously fun time with Cooking the Books. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement along the way, especially from author A.C. Wise and all the writers who have agreed to be interviewed so far.

Back in a previous life, I interviewed a lot of people for work. I missed doing it. When I started the column, it felt a bit more risky: this time I was interviewing people not for a client, or a journal, but because I really cared about the answers, for me. It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

The whole thing started at Viable Paradise. Steven Gould (who not only has a new book out, Impulse, but is running for SFWA president – go check him out!) and I were talking about a recipe I had in the back pages of a foreign service cookbook. The recipe was for “Elephant Stew.” (the book also had “Stuffed Camel” and something for cobra.). The first direction is “Cut elephant into bite-sized pieces.” Steven Gould said “That sounds like a recipe for a novel.” I asked him if he’d say that in print, and we were off to the races. Shortly after, Elizabeth Bear and Gregory Frost agreed to interviews – and then people began suggesting others who might like to participate as well. I had a lot of fun interviewing more of the Viable Paradise faculty last fall: author James D. Macdonald, Macallister Stone (of Absolute Write), Bart, and author Steven Brust. The December interview with Aliette de Bodard was just amazing, and the upcoming interviews — well, they’re going to be awesome.

I’d love to have a dinner party with the recipes. Except for the marmot. And Joe Haldeman’s foxhole pizza. Also, we’d need more beverage recipes to pull off a good party. I’m also dreaming up ways to do a Cooking the Books game show at a convention.

4. Which fictional recipe would you most like to try?

Oh gosh. All of them? I love new tastes. I might skip the alien food from Neal Stephenson’s Anathem.

I’m a little limited by food allergies in real life, so that’s probably why I like fictional food so much.

The best source for someone who makes fictional recipes come to life is Chelsea over at Food Thru the Pages and the folks at Fictional Food. Not only are the recipes fantastic, the photography is gorgeous.

5. You attended Viable Paradise in 2011. Now that you’ve had a year to process that experience, what stands out in your memory as the best moment of the workshop? (more…)

Writer Wednesday: E.C. Myers

Photo courtesy of S. Kuzma Photography

Photo courtesy of S. Kuzma Photography

E.C. Myers is the author of two YA speculative fiction novels – Fair Coin & Quantum Coin – out now from Pyr. When he isn’t writing, he reads, plays video games, watches films, sleeps as little as possible, and spends far too much time on the internet. Luckily, he let me steal him away to answer a few questions …

1. You’re a prolific reviewer of television, film and video games. One of your current projects is The Viewscreen, where you’re rewatching every episode of Star Trek TNG. How does that kind of writing fit in with the rest of your writing career?

Sometimes I worry that writing for The Viewscreen or even my own blog might be too much of a distraction from my fiction career. It may not make the most sense to devote so much of my limited writing time to work that doesn’t pay, but economics aside, I do think it’s valuable. Writing regularly—any kind of writing—helps me grow as a writer, and the regular deadlines are powerful motivation to sit down at the keyboard and work fast. I love stories in all their forms, especially in television and film, and these re-watches are opportunities to examine fiction critically and think about what makes it brilliant, a spectacular failure, or an interesting effort that just falls short of success. I also think it’s important to be able to write many different things, just as it’s important to read widely, and one day perhaps I will be able to support myself from a variety of freelancing projects like these. It’s also a lot of fun, and I enjoy discussing Star Trek with the smart, engaged community at The Viewscreen.

2. You have a wife, a day job, friends, pets, and hobbies – and you still wrote four novels and several short stories. How do you find the time?

I steal the time wherever I can get it: by falling hopelessly behind on my favorite TV shows while dodging spoilers on the internet, watching the stacks of unplayed video games and unread books grow, getting by on four or five hours of sleep a night so I can stay up late and wake up early, writing during my lunch breaks, and unfortunately giving up too many hours I could be spending with family and friends. I don’t feel like I’ve been as productive as I used to be, so I’m experimenting with new writing routines to counterbalance all the recent changes in my life. The changes are all good ones, but they’re also challenges when you’ve become accustomed to working a certain way. I think if something’s important enough to you, you make the time for it no matter what else you have going on.

3. You’re a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. How did you get involved with the group, and how has that influenced you as a writer?

One of the founding members of Altered Fluid, Kris Dikeman, was one of my classmates at Clarion West in 2005. When we both returned home to New York City after the workshop, she graciously introduced me to the group and sponsored me for membership. I went through their rigorous screening process and happily was accepted. Second to Clarion West, Altered Fluid has probably improved my writing the most. Everyone in the group is deeply committed to the craft of writing and has diverse strengths, areas of expertise, and perspectives. The constant demand for new short stories to critique made me more prolific, and it’s very helpful to not only receive critiques from such smart, experienced writers, but to think critically about each others’ stories and hear everyone else’s reactions and suggestions on every piece. I also appreciate what supportive, fun friends they’ve become—we keep each other informed about story markets, share publishing news and advice, help each other with various projects, and we even go on writing dates and retreats together.

4. What short fiction publication are you most proud of, and why?

Every one of them is a victory, but I’m especially proud of “All the Lonely People”, which appeared in Shimmer issue #13 in April 2011. I think it’s one of my best published pieces, but it took a long time for it to find the perfect home; Shimmer is one of my favorite fiction magazines, and I had been trying to break into the market for years, with several close calls. I also had the privilege of reading that story at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, which was definitely a highlight of my career so far.

5. You’ve published two YA novels, Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, and have two others you’re revising. What stage of the novel/publishing process do you enjoy the most?

Naturally I am particularly thrilled by the part that puts my books in the hands of readers! But as far as the writing process goes, it’s a toss-up between writing a first draft, when there’s still so much potential, and revision, when the book is creeping closer to what I want it to be. I like revision when I know what to fix and how to fix it. (more…)

Writer Wednesday: A.C. Wise

A.C. Wise was born and raised in Montreal, and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with a spouse, a stripey cat, a spotty cat, and a very short dog. Her fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications such as Clarkesworld, Apex, Lightspeed,and The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, among others. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits The Journal of Unlikely Entomology(www.grumpsjournal.com), an online publication of fiction and art generally dedicated to all things multi-legged and creepy-crawly. You can find her online at www.acwise.net, and on twitter as @ac_wise.

1.    What is your favorite of your published works, and why?

Well… My favorite work is usually the one I haven’t written yet, but is currently setting my brain on fire. Or the one I’m deep in the middle of, slinging words hither and thither like an irresponsible maniac. Among the works actually published, I find it harder to choose. There are pieces I think I like, but haven’t read in a while, so it may just be a factor of looking back with rose-colored glasses. With the more recent works, I have a certain fondness for ‘Final Girl Theory’ and ‘Venice Burning’. That said, as a general rule, I try to avoid re-reading my stories once they’ve been published.

2.    You started publishing your work in 2004. Has the state of the publishing industry changed since then? Anything you prefer about being a writing now? Anything you miss?

I think online publications have gained more respectability since I started publishing. They were already well on their way with publications like Strange Horizons, Abyss & Apex, and ChiZine (know as Chiaroscuro back then), but I think the advent ofClarkesworld, Tor.com, Lightspeed, and its predecessor Fantasy Magazine, really tipped the balance in making online publications widely acceptable and desirable. In addition to the rise of online publications, I think the widespread acceptance of electronic submissions is more prevalent these days, which is definitely an improvement. In terms of things I’ll miss… I’ll always lament the loss of Story House Coffee. Not only did they print my first-ever professionally published story, but they printed it on a freakin’ coffee can label. Coffee! Fiction! It’s so many things I love all in one place. What more could a person want?

3.    What market would you most like to be published in, and why? What do you think has kept you from breaking in there so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to have my work published in the majority of publications I admire – Strange Horizons, ChiZine, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, and (forthcoming) Lightspeed, among others. Something I aspire to is being invited to contribute to an original anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. I adore her work; it was, and continues to be, a major inspiration and influence on my writing. I distinctly remember an ‘ah-ha’ moment reading the fairy tale anthologies (Black Thorn, White Rose; Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, etc.), which she edited with Terri Windling, where I thought: Yes. This is what I want to do with my life. I want to write stories like these.

 4.    You often talk about your super adorable corgi. What other people, creatures, or activities help keep you relatively sane in a field known for breaking aspiring writers?

My cats ‘help’ in their own way. Mostly by insisting my lap is the absolute best place in the world to be as soon as I settle down to write, which means the laptop needs to be shoved out of the way, and chin scritches need to be administered NOW, or else. In the realm of things that are actually helpful, my family has always been incredibly supportive of my writing, which definitely helps, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet other writers along the way who help keep me sane(ish). Or, who are at least willing to listen to me rant and moan when sanity abandons me for warmer climes.

5.    In your, well, let’s call it “free time” you also co-edit the Journal of Unlikely Entomology. How did that project come together? 

The short answer is: It started as a joke, which rapidly turned into, ‘Hey, we could actually make something of this.’ The longer answer requires finding me or my co-editor at a con and buying us a drink. (No, I’m not trying to scam free drinks, how dare you suggest such a thing!) In all seriousness, even though it did start as a joke, I take my role as co-editor of the Journal of Unlikely Entomology very seriously. It’s also given me a whole new appreciation for the multi-legged critters that share our world. In a way, bugs are much like zombies, the ultimate blank-slate monster. It’s the story the author tells around theme that counts and one can tell some incredible stories around bugs. There’s an amazing wealth of symbolism and mythology to do with bugs. We get the question ‘why bugs?’ a lot, but, really…why not bugs?

6.    How does being an editor affect your writing?

Heh. It makes me more conscious of time management, for one thing. It also gives me a new appreciation of the submission process. I’m far more patient with response times than I used to be. It also helps me take rejections less personally. Ultimately, I hope it’s allowing me to build better instincts, and helping me avoid clichés, slow openings, and all the other things that annoy me when I encounter them in the slush pile.

7. What are currently writing on? 

Theoretically, I’m working on a novel. (Ha!) It’s based on my short story ‘The Thief of Precious Things’, which appeared in Ekaterina Sedia’s Bewere the Night anthology. At any given time, I also have a handful of story stories brewing. And there’s always editing to keep my busy.

Thanks for stopping by! Looking for other Writer Wednesday interviews? Click on the links to read more about Ken Liu, Claude Lalumière, and Mercedes M. Yardley.