Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Interview with Andy Duncan - April 1, 2015


Please welcome Andy Duncan to The Qwillery. “Santa Cruz” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the twenty-sixth 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!


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! The Kickstarter ends tomorrow (April 2, 2015 at 11:00 AM EDT)!



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?

AD:  Having never written a novel, only short fiction, I can’t compare the experiences.
I always have a plot, a premise, a structure in mind, and I always violate them whenever I need to, depending on the discoveries I make while writing. I urge my writing students to avoid simplistic “either/or” categories; a good writer has to be both plotter and pantser – or (another way of putting it) neither plotter nor pantser.



TQ:  You are a teacher and a journalist. How does this affect (or not) your fiction writing?

AD:  Much of what I know about fiction writing was learned during my 12 years of full-time journalism: characterization, dialogue, description, pacing, scene-setting, exposition – not to mention cutting, proofreading, working with editors, and meeting deadlines. My students challenge me and inspire me every day. If I have grown at all, as a writer and a person, since I started teaching in 1993, my students deserve much of the credit.



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

AD

Question: “May I write you a seven-figure check for Hollywood rights to one of your stories?”

Answer: “Yes.”



TQ:  Describe "Santa Cruz", which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

AD:  “Santa Cruz” accurately recounts one of the strangest nights of my life.



TQ:  Tell us something about "Santa Cruz" that will not give away the story.

AD:  I told Chris McKitterick what happened to me that night, and he said, “You really should write that down.”



TQ:  What was your inspiration for "Santa Cruz"? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

AD:  See answer above.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from "Santa Cruz".

AD:  “That is probably impossible, but it happened.”



TQ:  In which genre or genres does "Santa Cruz" fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

AD:  Like every text, it fits multiple genres. It’s non-fiction; it’s also an anecdote and a short memoir. It counts as Forteana; it’s also a Jungian text, because it’s about apparently meaningful coincidence. It’s an example of what Roz Kaveney and John Clute (in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy) call the Night Journey story. And, because it’s being published in the middle of a fiction anthology, it’s also a short story – and, because it’s a fantasy anthology, also a fantasy story. Much of what we call genre, after all, is merely context. Genre classifications are most useful as finding aids and as tools for comparison, but they occasionally can be inspirational. I helped an undergraduate student with his story manuscript by saying, “There’s a name for this genre; it’s a Locked-Room Mystery, and here are some models for you.”



TQ:  What's next?

AD:  In summer 2015, I’ll teach the first week of the Clarion West writers’ workshop in Seattle.
My third collection, An Agent of Utopia: New and Selected Stories, is upcoming from Small Beer Press.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

AD:  You’re welcome.





About Andy Duncan

Andy Duncan has won a Nebula Award, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and three World Fantasy Awards, most recently for the Tor.com novella “Wakulla Springs,” written with Ellen Klages. Upcoming is An Angel of Utopia: New and Selected Stories, from Small Beer Press. He’s a tenured associate professor of English at Frostburg State University in Maryland, where he coordinates the journalism minor and advises the student newspaper.







Blog  ~   Twitter @beluthahatchie


Interview with Evan Jensen April 1, 2015


Please welcome Evan Jensen to The Qwillery. Evan is one of two artists for GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the twenty-fifth 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!


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. How did you get your start in illustration?

Evan:  Hey, howdy. Thanks for the questions! As to this one, I've always been drawing. One of *those* kids you hear about, messing with markers and pencils since early days. I didn't quite realize you could do it FER SRS until I was about 14, though. At that point I aimed at art college, and after university (which whatever your feeling on the ROI of art school, is at least a years-long span of dedicated practice time), I've been sort of stumbling through life at various freelance work. From illustration to design to mural work. It's worked out so far!



TQ:  How do decide what to illustrate for a particular work?

Evan:  Generally I like to read the story end to end, then pick and choose interesting seeming visuals from the narrative. Sometimes there's just a sheer volume of book and you rely a bit on the Art Director or Editor to highlight passages/imagery they would like to see come to life. Such may be the case with Genius Loci, in that this book is awesomely long and if we read it all it would be a while until we were able to sketch up the best parts!



TQ:  What is your process for creating your art?

Evan:  When I read I tend to visualize the tale that's coming through the words (maybe most people do), so if something exciting leaps out I'll proceed to thumbnail sketches. Lots of small pencil doodles to get the awesome imagery out of my head into a physical shape that keeps the awesome feeling it had in my head. This is a lot of minor refining of composition and layout, shapes and sizes, poses and expressions. After that, maybe a big sketch and then a final drawing; or if it's feeling right, I go straight to final drawing and paint. Generally I work in watercolor over pencil with acrylic gouache or colored pencil to bring out final details. Also, walnut ink is a super fun medium to paint in for monochrome stuff.



TQ:  Please tell us about what you are creating for Genius Loci?

Evan:  It's the interior art, so it will be in greyscale, varying from spot/quarter page illustrations to a couple full-page artings. Lisa Grabenstetter & I were each going to do 6 illustrations originally. But then there's the More Art! Stretch goal we hit, so...



TQ:  What are some of your own favorite works prior to Genius Loci?

Evan:  I particularly like the cover work I did for Crossed Genres Magazine 22: Bildungsroman (http://fathomlessbox.com/folio/CG_Bildungsroman_800.jpg), as well as the non-commissioned painting Plucking the Night Orchard (http://fathomlessbox.com/folio/tailspinning1.jpg). In the vein of that walnut ink I mentioned, I have a whole steampunky series about a hedgehog adventurer (http://fathomlessbox.com/folio/hedgie8.jpg) on his exploits. I feel really good about the illustrations I did for 826DC's (826dc.org) Museum of Unnatural History, as well, though that was a while ago now. They led to some fun changes in style and working method for me.



TQ:  Are there any artists/art that inspire you?

One of my favorite illustrators when I was younger was Tony DiTerlizzi. His art for RPG titles are one of the big things that got me into fantasy work. He has a great way with line, color, and character. Likewise, John Jude Palencar's sense of mystique is very appealing to me, if a bit lonely sometimes. I love looking at work very different from my own, too; Ivan Bilibin, sculptor Beth Cavener Stichter, Wylie Beckert, Julie Dillon, printmaker Shane Chick... dang, so many others. It's hard to choose just a few, and you don't want me to list a book's worth I'm sure. : )



TQ:  Where can we find your work online?

Evan:  My (rather dated) portfolio site is www.fathomlessbox.com, but evanjensen.deviantart.com is also kept fresh, and I'm on twitter as @etchlingsart and lurk on tumblr, but haven't used it much. I'm around!



TQ:  What's next?

Evan:  Genius Loci will have my attention for a bit, but after that Lisa & I hope to move to the Pacific Northwest and find some new chances to make art out there. I have a bookplate relief commission to finish as well, which is the printmaking side of my work.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Evan:  Any time, thanks!





About Evan Jensen

Evan makes a mean masala chai, plans to build a bamboo bicycle when he finds some long-lost free time, and lives on rain and fog. He pays the bills off art and freelance illustration. Sometimes he wears the graphic design hat.



www.fathomlessbox.com  ~  evanjensen.deviantart.com

Twitter @etchlingsart


Interview with Caroline Ratajski - April 1, 2015


Please welcome Caroline Ratajski to The Qwillery. “The Forgetting Field” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the twenty-fourth 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!


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 are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Caroline:  Thank you!

I feel like one of the biggest challenges in writing shorter stories is leaving the reader feeling satisfied. It's like the difference between a light lunch and an appetizer: one is complete in itself, one leaves you waiting for more. You want to make sure the reader doesn't walk away feeling cheated, or like you as the author have wasted their time.

I'm definitely a pantser. I've tried plotting in advance, but once I've finished the outline my brain thinks its done writing the story and it makes drafting really boring for me. I wish I were a plotter. It seems so much more organized than stumbling through a story, trying to figure out what's going on.



TQ: You're a codemonkey (software engineer). How does this affect (or not) your writing?

Caroline:  Because I write software for a living, I feel like I wind up taking a very methodical approach to my writing and editing. I set realistic, attainable goals with firm deadlines, and work to meet them. I also analyze the structure of my books the same way I analyze software systems, looking for ways that seemingly separate things can influence one another.



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

Caroline:  I can't really think of a specific question, but lately I've been thinking a lot about figuring out your identity as a writer. What kind of stories do you want to tell? How do you want to tell them? How do you begin to figure that out? It's hard when you're so close to your own work, to pull out common themes and images. It might be tempting to think of this as your "brand," but I feel like it's a deeper question than that. I feel like a lot of my stories have themes of hurting and healing in them, especially "The Forgetting Field." So that's my answer for now. I hope in the future someone asks me this question. It would be interesting to see if my answer has changed!



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

Caroline:  Hidden deep in the mountains is a field of flowers. If you eat the flowers you will forget the things that haunt you. But there is a cost.



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

Caroline:  I really enjoyed writing this story from the perspective of a field of flowers. That was a fun challenge!



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

Caroline:  It's such a cliche, but the inspiration for this story actually came from a dream. The first time I tried to write it, I focused more on the person rather than the field, and it wasn't working at all. When I saw the call for this anthology, I thought of this story almost immediately. When I rewrote it focusing more on the place and less on the people, it finally came together.

The closest I feel I've come to a Genius Loci was when I was in Pompeii some years ago. I remembered learning that the people who lived there knew of the threat of the volcano, and yet they built their city anyway. I didn't understand why until I went there and stood on the green hills and walked among the ruins. Something about that place was so heartachingly tranquil that I felt like I wanted to stay there forever. It felt like the air was alive and smiling peacefully at me. I wonder if the ancient citizens of Pompeii must have felt the same.



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

Caroline:

"Once we had eaten our fill, that one’s pain was gone. All that remained was a memory of pain, like a knotted scar in treeflesh, growing over what had been clawed away."



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

Caroline:  I would say it's fantasy, but a bit dark. I don't believe it quite crosses over into horror. I think genre classifications are still useful in describing something, but I feel like they should be looked at less like rules and more like guidelines. Sometimes they can be used so rigidly, and that can be to the detriment to great works that don't necessarily fit neatly into any one genre.



TQ: What's next?

Caroline:  I'm currently editing a horror novel that I hope to have to go on submission when it's completed.



TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Caroline:  Thank you so much for having me!





About Caroline Ratajski

Caroline Ratajski is a writer and software engineer currently living in Silicon Valley, California, USA. Previously published as Morgan Dempsey, her short fiction is currently available in Broken Time Blues and Danse Macabre, as well as at Redstone Science Fiction, and is forthcoming in Genius Loci. She is represented by Barry Goldblatt of Barry Goldblatt Literary, LLC.

Website  ~  Twitter @geardrops  ~  Facebook  ~  tumblr

Interview with Vivienne Pustell - April 1, 2015


Please welcome Vivienne Pustell to The Qwillery. “The City” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the twenty-third 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!


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 for you about writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Vivienne:  For a long time, I was just a pantser, but I've become a loose plotter. I usually have a start and an end destination in mind, but then I get terribly messed up in the middle bit. One of the hardest things for me is having a lot of characters—I tend to essentially take a magnifying glass to just one character, but I love stories with a great ensemble cast! I want to write that, but I really struggle with developing those exciting, varied groups.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences and favorite authors?

Vivienne:  So many! Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles were huge for me growing up, as well as Tamora Pierce's Lioness series. They both have left such a huge mark on my writing. Likewise Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon and Anne McCaffrey's Pern. I would love to be able to write like Kurt Vonnegut—I feel like he has this perfect blend of absurd and funny meets painfully honest and human. His writing makes me cry-laugh, which is what I would like my writing to do. David Foster Wallace, too! I really love Lev Grossman's Magicians series—so dark, so clever, so intriguing. Arundhati Roy and Mary Rickert are two others—their stories are ostensibly set in reality, but there's something magical and otherworldly about them, and they use language with such beauty. I can sit and reread sentences of theirs over and over for the sheer pleasure of how amazing they are.



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

Vivienne:  Oh no! I don't know if there's a question about my writing I wish people would ask. I'm actually very scared of talking about it at all. Maybe “Can I get you another coffee and some cozy slippers so you can keep writing?” The answer would be “yes please.”



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

Vivienne:  The city is disintegrating people--stealing memories, voices, and entire bodies. But how do you defend yourself against a city?



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

Vivienne:  I genuinely have no idea how the City became the way it is. I don't know what city it is, or what apocalyptic thing happened or how it got these powers. There is a lot of ambiguity and open-endedness in this story, running on the never-seeing-Grendel theory of scary—don't worry, dear reader, there is room for all of your neuroses and fears to come out and play!



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

Vivienne:  This story was actually originally a novel manuscript. The City was a dreamscape, rather than a reality, so I didn't have to figure out where it was or how it got that why or why it had powers. I still really like the idea, but I tried too hard to give it a happy ending, which is just not something I tend to write. Paring down what was going on to just a short story actually really improved it, which was quite the blow to my authorial ego. Oops! But I feel like I'm being more honest in the short version than in the novel-length one. It's more true? Something like that. The inspiration is that feeling of despondency that comes with being unsatisfied with life—the slow erosion of self, the mounting sense of loss, but not really know why or, if you do know why, not knowing how to fight it. How profoundly powerless we so often are. I was thinking a lot about friends and students and the frustration that they have expressed about having to minimize themselves to be accepted, whether its over race or gender identity or religion or any number of things. We lose so many beautiful people to the anonymous crushing of the world. And you can be angry, but how do you fight it? Kicking a building won't do anything other than hurt your foot. Finding a way to hold onto yourself is hard. As a teacher, I was constantly worrying about my kids and about myself. We were all getting eaten up. I spent a lot of time angry about what our society was doing to my kids. The City was just what was going on in my head.

I haven't had a lot of experiences with genius loci. Maybe one? I think I also could be reframing how I see places, because San Francisco is full of character. It's more that I tend to be oblivious than that they aren't there!



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

Vivienne:  Oh my. I suppose it's fantasy? I'm not really sure. I don't mind genre classifications as a way to help people know what they're getting into—if I'm looking for a classic bodice ripper romance and I end up with military science fiction, I might be confused or disappointed. But outside of that, I think genres usually do more harm than good. I write in a lot of different genres, and I'd hate to be categorized as only able to publish in one because that's just how it's done. I think there are a lot of great writers out there who blend genres and cross lines, and I think that's great. I also think that too often genres are used as ranking systems, or ways of assigning value—like science fiction, by virtue of not being “literary fiction,” can't be literature. And we all know that's not true. I think genres can help people narrow down their search when they're looking for a book and just know they want a certain category or content, but I always get worried when classifying and pigeon-holding people and works. Nothing is ever as cut and dry and straightforward as we like to make it!



TQ:  What's next?

Vivienne:  Well, right now I'm pretty focused on finishing up grad school, but I'm working on a couple of other stories. I'm dabbling in military SF right now, which I've never done before, so it's been fun and interesting. Hopefully I'll have a few more pieces out and published by the end of the year!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Vivienne:  Thank you!





About Vivienne Pustell

Vivienne Pustell is a graduate student at Stanford University and a former high school English teacher. She has presented her fiction at San Francisco's Litquake and to her cat. “The City” is her first publication.