Author in the Spotlight: Marie Powell

Another inspiring author has come to visit me today!

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M.E (high)

Marie Powell is a professional writer based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Her publications include children’s books, poetry, short stories, and nonfiction.

Amicus Publishing recently published her six-book series of beginning-readers in picture book format, Word Families. Her second six-book series will be published in Fall 2014. Scholastic Canada published her children’s book Dragonflies are Amazing.

Her award-winning short stories and poems appear in such literary magazines as subTerrain, Room, and Transition. Her journalistic articles appear in more than 70 regional, national, and international magazines and newspapers, as well as broadcast and online markets.

Marie holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia (UBC), among other degrees. Her writing workshops are popular across Saskatchewan, and have led to a monthly adult free-writing club in Regina. She is founder of the Professional Writers Association of Canada Saskatchewan Chapter, and a member of such organizations as CANSCAIP, the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and the Editors’ Association of Canada. She also participates in such group blogs as Sci/Why (http://sci-why.blogspot.ca/2014/01/stories-in-slate-touring-underground.html) and Canscaip Sask Horizons (http://skcanscaip.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/research-how-much-is-enough/).

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

When I write, it’s like I’m “in the zone.” My perspective changes and my mind opens to new possibilities. I have to write every day, or my world – and my personality – just isn’t right. I write often about my fears or what scares me, or things and people that haunt me.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I recall writing a short story in my back yard in about Grade Two. It was about a wasp that terrorized a town until the people rose up against it. I was afraid of bees and wasps then, so I guess I’ve been writing about my fears from the start. I made it into a book and gave it to my neighbor to read, and that was the start of a trend. My school writing journals were full of short stories and poetry.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

That’s a tough question. The only thing I can say for sure about my day is that I get up about 6 am and write. I try to write for at least an hour a day, beginning with Morning Pages (Julia Cameron), which settle my mind to work. I’ll write for the whole morning if possible, but I don’t have a routine life so often that isn’t possible. I write in several genres, give workshops, and do part-time library programming – which means I get to tell stories and read books to children, and share books with teens and adults. My hours are variable each day and each week. Plus I was a single mom for years, so I learned to make time and write “in the cracks” as they say.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

Another good question! My personal writing mentors include Glen Huser, my thesis supervisor at UBC, Alison Lohans whose workshops in Regina moved me toward children’s writing, and Dr. Mary Blackstone, my MA thesis supervisor. I read all genres and have so many favorite authors. My formative reading included T. H White for The Once and Future King, Edgar Rice Burroughs especially for John Carter of Mars series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Aldous Huxley, and Edgar Allan Poe. When I was in Grade 7, I volunteered in the school library with mostly Grade 8 girls, and one lunch hour I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” aloud to them. I think I’ve been hooked on suspense and speculative writing ever since. I hold a BFA and MA in theatre studies, so I love reading plays and poetry. I’ve started and facilitated writing groups, and that helps broaden my reading too. In terms of fiction, I read everything I can in many genres: Suzanne Collins, Susan Cooper, John Flanagan, Robert Sawyer, Jack Whyte, Ken Follett, Lois Lowry, Cassandra Clare, Robert Cormier, Eric Walters, and so many more.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

Mostly I’ve learned the value of persistence. I haven’t had anything come easily, but I just kept writing, even when it seemed I wasn’t getting anywhere. I had to learn to listen to the voices that helped my writing along, and tune out the others. In about 1994, I wrote a short story for a writing class. During the group feedback it received positive feedback from everyone (including the instructor), but one person said, “This is really just a character sketch, isn’t it?” That was the only voice I heard. I couldn’t figure out how to make it more of a story, so I put it in a box of writing that ended up in my basement. Then in 2004, I saw a local call for submissions from well-known author Byrna Barclay, who offered to give feedback on every submission. (She did, too, on more than 200 manuscripts.) I thought, “If anyone could help me turn it into a story, it’s Byrna Barclay.” Her letter back said, “I love your story and I want to publish it.” It changed everything. After that, I began to take writing more seriously. I joined writing groups and started sending my work out to contests and publications—and getting published followed.

#6: Describe your writing method:

I write in multiple genres, including feature articles, short stories, poems, children’s books and picture-books, and novels-in-progress. My short stories and novels are speculative fiction and historical fantasy. My process tends to move along a path: idea—research—writing—research—writing—research—revising—feedback—research—revising etc.

I have ideas all the time, and keep a journal to jot them down. I always try to keep that 6 am time for Morning Pages, so I know I will have that time to track my ideas (and fears), no matter how far-fetched or mundane they may seem. I flag all ideas that come up for future reference. Usually the ideas require research. I know very little, so I was never encouraged by that old adage, “Write what you know.” I like to think of it as, “Write about what you can find out.” Research can mean Internet searches, books, maps, personal travel, seeking out experts, interviews, letters, photos, images, chance meetings with strangers – you name it. I’m an inveterate researcher, so I often get ideas from the research too.

During the research, it also becomes time to write. One feeds the other. I usually engage the idea on several levels with a combination of “pantser” freewriting, charts, outlines, and the 10- to 20-page synopsis. Then as I begin to write, I find gaps in my research. I look up historical details, a setting, a photograph or image, or some other bit of research that helps me build the scene, so it leads directly back to the writing again. I’m also in two writing groups so twice a month I will need a 10- to 20-page submission, and that kind of deadline keeps me going.

That said, I once wrote and revised one postcard story for 10 years before it was finally published, and I also once had an idea while I was out for a walk, came home, wrote it down, sent it off to a contest the same day, and had it win second place with publication. So I’m not sure my method is that strict. Sometimes it’s a flash of luck or being in the right place at the right time.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Read voraciously. Write, and keep on writing. Believe in yourself. Take classes, join associations that help writers in your genre, join a writers’ group for feedback — and learn to analyze feedback so you can hear the comments that will help move your writing along. And above all, enjoy yourself.

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subTerrain63

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Check out Marie’s short story, “Grid Lines”, published in subTerrain magazine (issue #63, winter 2013), which was runner up for the Lush Triumphant Award.

Buy cover for buy page.

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Another short story of note is “Ghosting”, published by Room magazine (issue 33.1, Spring 2010), which placed second in the Room Annual Fiction Awards.

Buy it here: http://www.roommagazine.com/issues/competition

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Books medium

Marie’s Word Families series (12 books), available from Amicus Publishing, is a beginner-readers series in hardcover picture-book format. It’s geared for Grade One children to learn to read themselves. The first six – That Cat, Dig Pig, Out for Trout, Grow Crow, Nab the Crab, and Sleep Sheep – are nonfiction narratives with photographic illustrations. The next series will be fiction narratives with illustrations, expected out in Fall 2014.

Learning about word families is an essential skill for helping young readers become familiar with both the sounds and the spellings of words. These silly animal stories highlight common rhyming words with endings that are spelled the same way.  A fun way to introduce kids to phonics and early literacy skills.

Buy it here:

http://www.amicuspublishing.us/search?search_api_views_fulltext=word%20families

 

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Connect with Marie:

Webpage: http://www.mepowell.com

Twitter: @Mepowell

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mepowellmendenhall

Blog: http://mepowell.com/blog/

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Author in the Spotlight: Matt Moore

I’m pleased to welcome Mat Moore as my author in the spotlight guest this week!

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Matt Moore is a horror and science fiction writer who believes good speculative fiction can both thrill and make you think. His short story collection Touch the Sky, Embrace the Dark was released in 2013.

His columns and short fiction have appeared in print, electronic and audio markets including On Spec, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Leading Edge, Cast Macabre, Torn Realities and the Tesseracts anthologies. He’s a multiple Aurora Award nominee, Friends of the Merrill finalist, frequent panelist and presenter, Communications Director for ChiZine Publications and Chair of the Ottawa Chiaroscuro Reading Series.

Raised in small-town New England, a place rich with legends and ghost stories, he lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Find out more at mattmoorewrites.com.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

It’s said stories were the first form of virtual reality. They transport the listener/reader into another world where they can explore others’ lives. As the storyteller, I enjoy this process of creating an immersive place with realistic people you might know in your real life. So, the escapism of it. And, I hope readers enjoy visiting these worlds as much as I do in creating them.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I recall being in third grade and missing recess twice in a row so I could work on a short story I was writing about treasure-hunters as a class assignment. I was “that guy” when the teacher told the class they were to write a story and someone would ask for the minimum length, I would then ask about the maximum since I could easily go over it it. I don’t recall what I got as a grade, but I did enjoy writing a lot more than recess.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

I work a full-time day job, so a day in my writing life is different every time.

If I have a full day I can set aside to writing, I find I have about three or four good hours of writing in me before I fade, so if I can get that time, it’s great. But there is more to writing than just pounding out words. There’s paper line edits, revising the manuscript, marketing, submitting stories, interacting with people on social media, reading, critiquing others’ work. I need to be able to do this wherever I am and with the time I have.

So a day in my writing life is getting as much done as I can with the time I have.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

There are so many.

Growing up, I read a lot of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. King, unfortunately, did not teach me restraint and so many of my stories from high school and university have massive digression and side stories that add nothing to the plot. Lovecraft was just so far out there that I learned that a plot’s resolution did not need to be wrapped up tightly in a bow. Sometimes, we have no idea what happened—that’s life.

Currently, I admire the work of David Nickle, Lydia Peever and Joel Arnold, who I think are doing great things in the horror genre. They are telling literary stories with strong themes and characters without sacrificing the toe-curling creepiness of horror.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

Be humble. It doesn’t matter if you routinely sell to pro markets and are nominated for awards, never act like you’re too good for something. Be grateful to those who read your work, appreciative of conventions that invite you to attend, and professional when dealing with fellow writers be they first time published or NYT bestsellers.

Also, understand the difference between the art of writing and business of publishing. As an author and artist, you can sigh heavily, stare out the window for hours, scribble notes to yourself as if they were written by a character—that is all fine. Honestly, we all wrestle with the creative process. But once you are dealing with someone else’s time, effort or money, you are a businessperson. Be professional and understand that others have their own motive in working with your story; rarely is it your greater glory. Editors will not care that you have not turned in your story because you’re “blocked” or can’t find the resolution for a minor character’s arc. They expect you to meet your deadline. If you think a contract is unfair, go ahead and try to negotiate, but don’t negotiate every single contract just because you think you deserve better than others.

#6: Describe your writing method:

Most stories begin with a kernel: “What if when you die, your afterlife flashes before your eyes?”, “What if the zombie apocalypse is the singularity?”, “What is the most useless were-animal?”

I then try to map a character’s growth, a theme or series of events onto this idea. If I find ideas are connecting, I try to outline and hopefully a theme will solidify.

Then I’ll start to write, but ultimately by the second draft I find something is not working and I revise, re-work and revise some more. I am usually on draft six before the major plot elements and character beats have finally lined up. I then revise to clean-up the language. During all of this are bouts of insecurity, second guessing and self-doubt.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

I have three: one about the art of writing, one about the business, one about the lifestyle.

The Art: Work on strengthening one storytelling skill in every story you write, and make it an essential element of the story. If you have a dialogue-heavy piece with three main characters, give each a distinct voice. If you have an interesting setting, tell us about it using all five senses. Really work and hone that skill so that it comes naturally in your next story. But only work on one element per story. If you work on too many, you won’t strengthen anything.

The Business: Like I talk about above, understand the business of publishing. Who does what, what terminology is used, where does the money come from and go to? Read blogs and attend panel discussions with professionals in the industry. Publishers and editors are much more likely to take work from a good writer they can do business with than a great writer who is unreliable. Time is a publisher’s most valuable commodity. If you show you understand their world and can work with them, you will stand out.

The Lifestyle: Saying “I need to write” is not a magic ticket that excuses you from your responsibilities. Non-writers do not understand the need to write and the time that it demands. So, be open and honest with your family, partner, children and friends. Make sure your kids understand that if you are in your writing space with the door closed, they shouldn’t enter. If you are on a deadline, communicate this to your spouse that you might not have the time to do chores for the next day or two. But (and this is the main part), there has to be a balance. The time you spend writing is seen as time not spend with your significant others. If you are giving the impression that your writing is more important than they are, it will hurt your relationships. So make up for that time. If you get a writing night once per week, your husband should also get a night to do what he wants. If you hole up to do NaNoWriMo, how will you make it up to your girlfriend come December?

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Check out Matt’s latest book, Touch the Sky Embrace the Dark, ten horror / scifi short stories of the terrifying, the bizarre, the all-too-near futures. These stories first appeared in leading markets such as On Spec, the Drabblecast and Leading Edge. For fans of thought-provoking horror and science fiction, it includes the Aurora Award-nominiated stories “Delta Pi” and “Touch the Sky, They Say.”

TtSEtD-cover

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These worlds, and more, await you…

Only able to recall the memories of others, a ghost tries to solve the mystery of his death.

The zombie apocalypse is the gateway to a higher level of human consciousness.

An amusement park of the future might turn you into the attraction.

An engineer-turned-mercenary races to kill the savior of mankind.

When the sky falls, what room is there for hope?

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Matt’s Book is available on any of the platforms below:

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/Touch-Embrace-Dark-Matt-Moore-ebook/dp/B00F6G5WJW/

Amazon Canada: www.amazon.ca/Touch-Embrace-Dark-Matt-Moore-ebook/dp/B00F6G5WJW/

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Touch-Embrace-Dark-Matt-Moore-ebook/dp/B00F6G5WJW 

Kobo: store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/touch-the-sky-embrace-the-dark 

B&N: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/touch-the-sky-embrace-the-dark-matt-moore/1117053835

Sony eRader: ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/matt-moore/touch-the-sky-embrace-the-dark/_/R-400000000000001137365

Apple iBookstore: itunes.apple.com/ca/book/touch-the-sky-embrace-the-dark/id720794872

Google Play Books: play.google.com/store/books/details/Matt_Moore_Touch_the_Sky_Embrace_the_Dark?id=CZPlAQAAQBAJ

Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/books/view/360291

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Connect with Matt:

Webpage: MattMooreWrites.com

Twitter: @MattMooreWrites

Facebook: facebook.com/MattMooreWrites

Fan email address: MattMooreWrites@GMail.com

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Author in the Spotlight: Dennis L. McKiernan

Today I welcome Dennis L. McKiernan as my author in the spotlight!

Dennis’s debut trilogy, The Dark Tide, was my first taste of fantasy, and I was immediately hooked. In fact, it was the reading encounter that soon started my fantasy writing journey. I’ve since read all his Mithgar novels and am excited today to feature his new novel—a return to that indelible fantasy world.

Without further ado, Dennis is going to introduce himself, then answer my 7 spotlight questions.

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dennislmckiernan

I write fantasy (the Mithgar series, the Faery series), science fiction (Caverns of Socrates), paranormal mystery romance (At the Edge of the Forest), and many short stories. I have had some of my tales put forward for the Nebula award and others. I have been the writer guest of honor at the World Fantasy Convention, and have been the GOH at several other conventions. I was born in Moberly, Missouri, have a BS in electrical engineering from U of Mo, and a Masters in the same field from Duke University. I spent 31 years with Bell Labs working on antiballistic missile defense systems, on other various software and electronics designs as well as system designs, and as a think-tank consultant. As of this writing, I have been married for 56 years to Martha Lee, whom I met in college. We have two sons (sadly, no daughters, but we do have a daughter-in-law). I like playing fantasy role playing games, like playing XBOX video games, and I read a helluva lot. I have been a SCUBA diver, a dirt biker, and with MLee have toured the US and Canada on a Goldwing. Oh, and I am a veteran of the Korean War, US Air Force (1950-54) after which I used the GI bill to go to college.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

I like telling stories.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

Other than school assignments, I began writing stories in collaboration with my father when I was in the USAF. We write a very funny-to-us story of a detective named Pat Hatchet (Mike Hammer was big in the bookstores at that time).  We continued writing via letters, alternating chapters, and each chapter had to end on a cliff hanger. It was the job of the person who received the latest chapter to get Pat Hatchet out of the peril, to move the story on a bit, and to end that new chapter on another cliff hanger, and then to mail the chapter for continuation of the story. It was a lot of fun, but nothing we wrote at that time was/is publishable.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

When I am working on a story, before getting out of bed the first thing I do while drinking a wake-up cup of coffee is to read and edit the previous day’s work. After that, I usually read the newspaper. I then have breakfast, after which  I take care of e-mail and other business. I typically get back to the story around 10 AM, at which time I input any changes that I made during the editing time. I then continue the story, breaking at somewhere in the noon hour for lunch, and then get back to the story. I usually knock off somewhere around 4 PM unless I am on a roll, in which case I keep on keeping on. When I finally do quit for the day, I print out what I have written this day, and put it by my bedside for the next morning’s edit. I almost always take the weekend off. I do goof off a lot, XBOXing with friends, playing FRP games, reading, etc. on the weekends.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

Patricia McKillip comes to mind (lyrical writing), Edmond Hamilton (Captain Future made a reader out of me), JRR Tolkien (’nuff said), Robert E Howard (splendid story teller), Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd & Gray Mouser, great buddy stories), various mystery writers (such as John Dickson Carr— outstanding locked-room mysteries), and many more. All of them bring something different to the table, and by looking at what they wrote and with a bit of pondering, one can see better ways of doing things in my own stories (all part of the “art” of writing).

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

That’s a tough question. My success was more by accident than deliberate plotting. The things that I take for granted come naturally to me (perhaps it’s my engineering background). Have I learned anything? I dunno. I do know that there is no silver bullet. Hard work and perseverance and the ability to read with a critical eye are necessary. I do know that when I finish a story I am a much better writer than when I began that story. Hence, the story is not “finished” at this time. So, I go back to the beginning and try to make the tale as good at the front and middle as it is at the end. Raising the quality of a “finished” story is something to strive for. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” which for a writer means that you should let the story rest for a while, and then fix it and fix it again. Get that quality up.

#6: Describe your writing method:

I always do a rolling edit as I finish each chapter. Some writers like to write down the entire story, be it a novel or a shorter story, and then go back and do the editing. They say that they want to keep up the cutting edge rather than to dull the sharpness of the story. For me, that wouldn’t work; you see, when I try to edit a longer story, I get caught up in the story and forget to do the critical editing. In other words, I begin to read for pleasure rather than reading to edit. And so, I edit each chapter as I go.

I also get stuck on using just exactly the “right” word, and if I can’t get it, I look in thesauruses and unabridged dictionaries and other such references till I get something that pleases me. Other writers just pop in a known substitute word (such as XXX or Phud or some other nonsense word) and move on, and later go back to every reference of that substitute word and then do the research. But such things nag at me till they are gotten right.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

I think the very best advice I can give an aspiring writer is to read your work out loud, either to other writers or to friends or to an empty room. The ear hears what the eye misses. It is a great method for finding echoes, tongue twisters, and long dull stretches of prose.

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Check out Dennis’s latest book, a new Mithar Novel called Stolen Crown, now available from Penguin/Roc.

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“For Classical fantasy, there is no better author” than Dennis L. McKiernan, who created the legendary realm of Mithgar. Now the national bestselling author of Dragondoom returns to his most beloved fictional world to reveal the untold history of the rightful heir to the kingdom—the War of the Usurper—

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“Faster, Jamie, faster! I can hear them at the main door.”

“I’m going as fast as I can, Ramo. This blasted lead has turned to steel.”

The distant dull thump of the battering ram against the great bronze portal thudded through the deep stone in counter point to the steel-on-steel ping of Jamie’s hammer against the chisel as it peeled metal from the seam.

For one hundred nineteen years a bitter dispute over succession to the High King’s throne simmered in dark palace halls. How the new King had been selected those decades past yet rankled in the hearts of a royal family not chosen. Finally, through treachery and by force of arms, Arkov of Garia seized the throne, claiming it was rightfully his.

Thus begins another remarkable epic, one that sweeps across Dennis L. McKiernan’s wondrous yet perilous world of Mithgar. It is a tale that heretofore was missing among his many recorded sagas—the story of the War of the Usurper. At last this bestselling author set his pen to parchment and chronicled the fantastic and magical story in full.

Come join the heroes in their quest to regain the crown of the true High King and set him on his throne, yet beware, for dark and dreadful sorcery is at work to overthrow all.

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Connect with Dennis:

Webpage: Mithgar.com

Twitter: @dlmckiernan

Facebook: Dennis L. McKiernan’s Mithgar

Fan email address: dlmck@cox.net

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Author in the Spotlight: Susan Forest

A warm welcome to Susan Forest, my author in the spotlight guest this week!

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Two-time Prix Aurora Award finalist and winner of The Galaxy Project, juried by Robert Silverberg, David Drake and Barry Malzberg, Susan Forest is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and a fiction editor for Edge Press. You can find her stories in Analog, Asimov’s, OnSpec, Blood and Water, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tesseracts, AE Science Fiction Review, and The Urban Green Man, or in her collection, Immunity to Strange Tales (Five Rivers Press). www.speculative-fiction.ca.

Besides writing, Susan paints (acrylics and oils) both speculative and western landscapes. She teaches creative writing for adults (the novel, speculative fiction, and some weekend courses) and goes into elementary schools as an artist-in-residence (writing).

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

Stories bubble up in me all the time. As a child, I had imaginary playmates, and I still love to play with my imaginary friends. Writing, for me, is being immersed in story–surrounded by bizarre, dangerous and exciting landscapes, interacting with surprising characters. When I was younger, I enjoyed acting in community theatre, and I directed plays as well. Writing for me is the best of theatre, because I get to be all the actors and the director at the same time.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

In grade two, I wrote, “Jimmy the Fish That Couldn’t Swim.” In grade six, my teacher suggested my contribution to the class talent show would be to write, and read, an original story: “The Eyes on the Wall” (my first horror piece). In grade seven, the last section of my school binder with all my subjects was my first (uncompleted) novel: “Jean-Paul Travels Twice.” I used to work on it in class, after I finished the assignments for homework.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

First, I get rid of my email commitments, then go to the gym. Too much sitting is not only bad for your health, but leads to all sorts of stress injuries like carpal tunnel and tendonitis; besides, I like to get the blood flowing through my brain, and I find one of the most productive places to think about my stories–and solve plot problems–is on the treadmill. The afternoon is spent writing until supper, and I do my hobbies (painting), volunteer work (I am secretary for SFWA, IFWA and When Words Collide) and prep for courses I teach, in the evenings. As well as go to book launches, of course! Reading and critiquing happens while I eat or at bedtime.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

My earliest influences were Edgar Rice Burroughs and Walter Farley, but I love so many genre authors: Ursula K LeGuin, Sherry Tepper, Robert J Sawyer, Barbara Hambly, Connie Willis, Lois McMaster Boujold, Lois Lowry, and Margaret Atwood, and non-genre authors such as Betsy Byars, Katherine Paterson and Natalie Babbitt. Burroughs was formative–Tarzan, his Martian stories and the centre of the earth stories: his worlds were so exotic. I got to hear LeGuin speak when she came to Calgary, and I’ll never forget her advice to writers about crowding (adding all the detail to make your story as complete as possible) and leaping (cutting until what is left is only your best). Tepper created the most bizarre worlds, and Sawyer has been a personal mentor. Hambly creates the most amazing turns of phrase, and Willis can kill you with laughter and tears. Boujold integrates threads. Lowry’s book “The Giver,” is the only book I closed at the end, and immediately re-opened to read again. Atwood is the master of the telling detail. Byars captures the pre-teen voice and Patterson gets to the heart of pre-teen angst. Babbitt makes you think.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

There is no substitute for experience. Once, at a conference, I listened to a pro respond to a question from the audience by saying, “In that situation, I’d do this, then I’d do this, then I’d write the book.” Simple! But not necessarily simple for me because at that time I lacked experience. Over time, I have begun to develop those tools as a writer: you can learn and study, and people can pass on their tips, but it takes time and lots and lots of reading and writing and reflection–in other words, experience–for those skills to become so integral to your being that you use them as an artist, rather than as a craftsperson.

#6: Describe your writing method:

The opening of a new story or novel is slow for me, because I have to go back and forth between writing (pantsing), planning and research. I need to be sure the characters and setting are very clear in my head, and I take the time to go slowly, revising as I write until I get the exact words I want, to make the world, the characters and the situation very real. The draft tends to pick up speed as I write, and as the plot twists itself into knots I focus on the target: the idea I am trying to express as the sum of the story. Like a game of chess, from the opening gambit, the entire goal is the opponent’s king, and one cannot get distracted by juicy bishops or rooks along the way. I am constantly reminding myself to keep the main plot elements simple, because complications love to multiply. The end usually goes very quickly. Then the real work begins: shaping through revision. I love revision, because I can see how the story improves.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Read. Write. Heard that before? It’s true: I never sold to Asimov’s or Analog until I read Asimov’s and Analog. There is no substitute for experience: write! Analyze and listen to the feedback you get from other writers whom you admire. Read the best your genre has to offer (the award winners, the top sellers) and read outside your genre. Read Donald Maass and Robert McKee.

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Check out Susan’s book, Immunity to Strange Tales, available from Five Rivers Press.

12 immunity Strange Tales

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A collection of 12 short stories by one of Canada’s rising stars of speculative fiction. Forest takes you from death-bed wishes to the eerie regions of madness employing subtle skill and fresh prose. Nine of the stories have appeared in publications such as Asimov’s, On Spec, Analog, Tesseracts Ten, Tesseracts Eleven, Tesseracts 14 and AE Science Fiction Review. Three of the stories make their debut in this collection, with an introduction by one of Canada’s respected editors and experts, Mark Leslie Lefebvre.

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Excerpt:

We made movies in those days. Lasha did everything. She woke at dawn, made lists and organized, calling people, always calling people. We lived upstairs, she and I, intimate as lovers, celibate as eunuchs, in the warehouse where the filming was done, where the fantasies played out. I did nothing but what Lasha told me to do, which was everything. I went for coffee. Answered emails. Painted sets, hung lights, sewed costumes, picked up.

Mostly, I dressed Lasha. I made her clothes. I styled her hair. Lasha had wonderful hair, then, long and kinky and willfully wild. I lived to touch it, to smell it, to adorn it. I was the only one to work with her hair. She didn’t want the natural look. No, the red was a dye, a lie, different with every mood. “Put more orange in it,” she’d say. “Streaks along the top.” Then she’d lay all the way back in the barber’s chair and give herself up completely to me. “More burgundy. More red.”

Then she would be gone.

Doing things, being with people. Because people were what Lasha was all about. Actors, designers, musicians. Long-haired technicians in ripped jeans with wrenches in their pockets climbing ladders to tighten the nuts on big tin-can lights. Makeup artists smoking Camels in back rooms, swathed in chenille and rehearsal socks. Government arts funders with pale fingers and obscure forms, rigid with ass-tight loopholes. And executive producers who didn’t really matter, because Lasha was in charge. She fought for every scrap of film that ever came out under her name. A bullet-proof vest might have helped her to bear the world.

We existed in perpetual deep night, and brilliant day. Lights seared the stage so it became a desert, barren and dry. They broiled the actors, who walked through Sandbox and Godot and No Exit. But in the cool dark, behind the sandbags and dollies, behind the folding chairs and empty beer cans, there was a richness, of furtive movement and silent cues, the smell of greasepaint and spirit gum. Costumes fluttered on racks, cigarettes glowed in ballet hands. Paper cups emoted on overturned oilcan coffee tables, and ropy wires slithered across the floor or hung like vines from impossibly high catwalks.

Lasha’s life was a spotlight. Intense. Hot. Forever struggling to spill beyond the black box eclipsing her. But, as her movies leaked into the world, cracks appeared in our warehouse, admitting strangers and fear. We saw how they knocked at the doors, and we huddled inside, in curiosity and despair, she and I.

When the work was done, and it was never done, the play began, which never stopped. The actors came off stage and into the fantasy to smoke and strip out of costume and gossip. The lights dimmed then, and candles appeared, and the bottles and joints, and the Ouija and tarot. Hands, gracefully dancing in smoky glow, gestured, illustrated, slowed. Tongues loosened and names dropped, and grand ambitions flowed. They’d trade their souls for a chance at Hollywood. And it was Lasha who summoned the séance.

Other things happened, too; secretive things, in dark corners. Love-making in broom closets or overstuffed couches or deserted kitchen tables on top of the silverware and grapes, beating the table, moaning, crying.

I watched her.

From the space between the counter and the window, beneath the hanging pots, bypassed by moonlight and candlelight, I watched her jerk to the rhythm of a faceless stunt man. She watched back, eyes on mine, fever bright. Lightning current pulsed in the space between us, sharpening, demanding, insisting, until we quivered and throbbed and burst.

Read more of Immunity to Strange Tales:

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Barnes & Noble, print and digital: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/immunity-to-strange-tales-susan-forest/1110920009?ean=9781927400142

Five Rivers catalogue: http://www.fiveriverspublishing.com/p/fiction-adult.html

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Waterstones UK, print: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/susan+forest/immunity+to+strange+tales/9246966/

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Connect with Susan:

Webpage: speculative-fiction.ca

Twitter: @susanjforest

Facebook: Susan Forest

Fan email address: go to speculative-fiction.ca

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