Interview with Myself

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Me wearing contact lenses signing copies of Asimov’s at the Brooklyn Book Fair, Sept 2014. My friend Steven Solomon is behind me. This photo proves I am in fact, human, made of meat, and not some disembodied renegade AI which spawned itself in the Amazon cloud, emerging out of a critical mass of monster porn.

A writer friend of mine, Kayeigh Shoen, invited me to participate in this blog-tour. So here it is.

1) What are you working on?

I’m currently working on SF short stories and novellas. Some of the stories are decades old fragments, stuff I thought I’d write when my skills were up to the task and / or I started selling. Well, I am selling now, so premises that have been lurking in the wings forever are now turning into words on the page.

I have  three novels started, but I’m waiting for some weird sign from The Cosmic All to tell me which to continue. Any day now. I hope.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I tend to write about people with, um, issues, with whom I can empathize. As a person with issues. Genre fiction is often built around kinda bland heros, decent everymen / everywomen… Side characters can be kooky and villians, of course, can always be textured and multidimensional, but protagonists… my protagonists feel to me a bit off the beaten path.

I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. We’ll see!

3) Why do you write what you do?

I write genre fiction because I enjoy it, and I feel like I’m allowed to write it. Genre elements, for me, push stories away from solipism, navel gazing, self-important pseudo-memoir, towards the mythic, the universal. I struggle to be purely entertaining, but of course, art and deep personal meaning creeps in around the edges.

There’s a reason fairy tales and myths survive for millennia.

There is no literary fiction from the Bronze age. All that’s left in the end is myth, fairy tales, religious texts, which themselves are a kind of fantasy. Please nobody kill me for that last sentence, OK? I devote myself to this stuff. I’m not trivializing it.

Why would anyone write anything else? Seriously, though, SF, which I mostly write, can be ephemeral and often ages badly… I am drawn into it for the usual reasons; geeky-techno lust, a brain that ceaselessly extrapolates trends into the future, that conjures worlds into being uncontrollably.

4) How does your writing process work?

My process is a work in progress.

In the past it has involved getting depressed and quitting for decades, so, I’m working on not doing that anymore. Double-plus Un-good.

Stories work themselves out on the page. There is salvation in simply sitting down and making words every day and seeing what happens without a ton of agonizing. I’m trying to think of something more cliched or less useful I can add to that, but I’m drawing a blank.

I aspire to be a plotter, and while I often am working towards some end which has been foreseen, the good parts, the fun stuff, emerges from the seat of my pants, if you’ll pardon the disgusting metaphor, which maybe you shouldn’t.

My process now involves being honest with myself about what I enjoy most in the writing of others, and what I can find inside myself which to some degree resonates with what I like to read.

This seems painfully obvious, self-evident, but for decades I found that as a person I liked to make people laugh, while as a writer I seemed intent on making them cry. It came to me that this was because some part of me disliked being alone, which one is while writing, I was also nervous about my work being rejected, and I was translating that discomfort into my text.

I call this the ‘poisonous subtext feedback loop,’

I write now in the company of my imaginary friends, who are more real to me now than ever, the made-up people on the page, with more joy and freedom than before, with some sense that what I am writing willl be read, and I want to give those readers the best experience it is in me to give.

We don’t become writers to give ourselves a shitty job. I look for the joy in the process, I look for the light, which anyone reading me will snort at, I’m sure, as there’s plenty of dark in what I do too.

And to a degree, the work is becoming its own reward. Thank God.

Practical suggestions: I leave the house to write, so I don’t do housework as procrastination. My family isn’t happy about this but I get more work done.

Cafe-writing also prevents prolonged day-time napping. (Freelance clients also prevent naps, but as I’m trying to move way from design towards writing: cafes, walking, workshops, and coffee, have been hugely important.)

I write with other people, trying to set up deadlines and expectations of word counts, hoping that my own productivity can be inspirational to others.

This can help short circuit depression and ego-fatigue.

Posted in Making a Writing Life

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