Back in the summer of 2008, I had finished one novel (still unpublished; poly-friendly medieval adventure without unicorns, talking bears or halflings doesn’t sell, apparently), but I had written a fair bit of other stuff (much of which is also still unpublished), and was feeling kindof analytical, so I decided to create a boilerplate Author’s Q&A meme, which no one picked up on. In the end, I answered the questions myself and called it a day. I posted them in parts in a couple of blogs, one of which no longer exists. I actually liked my answers, though, so I recovered the lost posts and have decided to repost them here, in their entirety, almost exactly three years ago to the date. Enjoy!
LEE IN LIMBO’S AUTHOR Q&A
1. Why are you drawn to the genre(s) you work in?
Well, I always seem to write in a different genre or subgenre from what I did last. I like the challenge of writing in different genres, but more to the point, I suspect it’s probably an urge to move on before anyone points out how bad I am at one genre or another. I used to have whole multi-volume epic story arcs planned out, but these days, I generally try to write complete stories in one go, and leave very little to come back to, even if I don’t answer all of the questions. Better unanswered questions than being caught and called a fraud, I suppose.
(Of course, that was all before I split The Uninvited Guest into a four-part mini series and worked most of my orphaned short story ideas into one anthology featuring my fictional Gary Stu, The Author ~Ed)
2. When you sit down to write your stories, do you think at all about what message you might want to send to readers?
Absolutely. It might not always be the very first thought, but I rarely get far into the planning stages without considering the theme and premise with a careful eye towards making the story meaningful. Sometimes I’ll fly straight into writing a story with little more than a theme and some atmosphere, and work out the rest later. I usually only lose my way if I forget what a story is really about, and have to rediscover what’s at the heart before I can continue.
3. What would someone take as a lesson from your stories?
I have no idea what folks would take away from my stories. I’d hope that they’d come away with greater tolerance for people and situations they aren’t comfortable with in real life.
4. Where do you get your ideas?
I steal my ideas shamelessly from my favourite comicbook writers. Okay, that’s not true, because actually, I can barely keep up with some of those guys, so stealing from them is just asking for trouble. I actually get my ideas from reading bits of news and talking to people about their lives and letting my imagination run wild with ideas until I find something that sounds like it has an ounce of truth in it.
I like to put different ideas together and see if anything grows into one idea, or figure out how to combine ideas that don’t want to associate with each other. That’s my best attempt at explaining it. I create ideas like I used to play with building toys as a child. If it collapses, I decide if it’s worth saving, and then get back to work when I have a better idea of how to continue.
Only occasionally do I have a definite idea handed to me that I want to run with straight off. I always tinker and try to come up with something that speaks to me. Writing is solitary, antisocial and selfish, so I need ideas that amuse me, while helping to justify and enamour me to the people who put up with my antics.
5. What is your writing process?
I hammer out an idea, try to figure out what makes the idea appealing to people who aren’t me, and then write as much as I can on the subject as quickly as possible, until I hit a brick wall. Then I go back, figure out where I lost the plot, and then sit down and figure out what the plot actually is. If I’m not thoroughly sick of the whole idea by that point, I sit down again and write as much more as it takes to reach the finish line, again as quickly as possible. If not, I put the story down for a year or two and come back to it when I’m no longer in the mood to burn every trace of it from my studio.
Months later, after it’s all finished but long before I’ve gotten up the nerve to submit it to someone to actually
reject publish, I’ll sit down and do some editing to see if I can shake out the bugs. I also get close friends to look things over and make any suggestions they have time to mention. If their ideas don’t irritate me too much, I’ll sit down (there’s a lot of sitting down in this job. ~Ed) and try to figure out how they might be worked in. If not, I send them a nice thank you note and move on heedless. When I’m happy that I haven’t made any serious mistakes, I start looking for a home for it.
(‘Start’ being the operative word, as I have yet to ‘finish’ finding a publisher for any of my work. ~Ed.)
6. What do your characters want more than anything?
I think that, to a man, my characters all want to be understood. Maybe not necessarily be liked, but for people to have a basic understanding of why they do the things they do is at the core of who they are. That’s probably the one trait all of my main characters inherit from me.
7. What emotions and ambitions drive your characters?
As for specifics, I’ve got a number of characters no one has read yet, so I’ll just run down the few protagonists that actually have been read in the last few years:
Martin wants to make things right for Aachen, and wants to make peace with himself for having maintained the status quo at the expense of his love to the women he’s had to put in peril to ensure Aachen’s safety.
Cassandra wants to live and be allowed to love whom she loves.
Carl wants to do what he feels is right, no matter who that pisses off.
Sterling wants to get to the truth of any situation, and wants to be paid for doing so.
Djoran wants to be acknowledged for her intelligence and hard work, and doesn’t mind being admired for her beauty either.
Richard just wants to write something that gets him some acclaim, but also has to think about the practical problems of his career choices.
8. What was the reasoning behind you lead characters’ names?
Martin is a name I’ve used a few times in my life, and generally is this guy I admire but don’t think I can be. The meaning of the name fits that in a sense, because I always see Martin as being this highly capable, physical guy whom everyone steers clear of when he’s angry. The trick is, Martin never gets angry without a good reason.
Cassandra is a name I’m fond of for its lyrical quality more than its association with fortune telling. However, Cassandra is a prophetic character (in The Bride of War ~Ed.), given that she has visions of past and future Brides of the Dragon, and heedlessly bucks the status quo when she sees the people of Aachen running headlong into tragedy. I think I’d selected her name even before I knew for sure how she’d have those visions. I just knew she was going to be given some sort of insight into the Dragon that others wouldn’t have until much later in the story, in part to prepare the reader for what came next.
Carl is actually the name of a big, mild mannered guy I grew up around, a competent and patient man who focusses on his work and takes care of the people closest to him. He has a responsible job doing work that he finds meaningful. I guess my Carl isn’t an exact match, but it’s fairly close, and a suitable homage, even if my Carl’s story gets a fair bit darker.
Sterling Carcieri is actually the first of a series of names I collected from my email spam filter. I saw that name, and it immediately struck me that it would be a good name for an unorthodox private investigator. I immediately started saving up other names for the people he would meet, and started thinking up stories for every name I chose to use from the list. Sterling is a dependable, unorthodox guy whose life doesn’t work quite as well as he’d like. the peole he keeps closes to him are the ones who help him to gain his balance.
Djoran was just this strange name I decided to give a character I was writing for Virginia Hey of Farscape fame, whose character Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan had to be killed off when she became too hard for her to play, due to health issues with the body makeup she wore. I figured I’d write a Sebacean character for her to reenter the series with, and figured I’d give her a similarly long, slightly alien name, but reversed the main name to the front, as Sebaceans have more Western name structures. Djoran was originally going to be called Jordan, but I decided that was too Earthlike, and so played with it a bit, until she was dubbed Djoran Sendal Lav. I thought it sounded Farscapey enough. Later, I decided to make what I had into an original novel, and all of that Farscape stuff got thrown out. Still, I liked the character names, so I kept them.
Richard I think I chose because the meaning of his name is ironic. I have a friend named Richard, but unlike Carl, Richard wasn’t modelled after him, Richard is modelled after me. The irony is, Richard is not really a powerful leader in my story. He’s kind of a victim of circumstances from start to finish.
9. What thoughts did you have about setting the story where you did?
Martin and Cassandra were placed in a slightly backwards medieval village called Aachen, because I’ve always wanted to write one, and because I had an idea about writing the story of a dragon guarding over the village, but paradoxically keeping it from growing into a more Rennaissance city. I chose the name Aachen for it without ever having researched the name, and learned later that there was an historic German city of the same name, which I then had to deliberately write my village to be entirely unlike. I had grown attached to the name, but knew my Aachen could never be the same place. Interestingly, though, I think I made my village map roughly the same layout as the medieval village map of Aachen (or maybe it was Armagh), but my village is trapped inside a mountain chain. I did it just to confuse the issue.
Carl is an outcast from a very backwards protestant religious community called Purgation, built on a puritan community structure, who leaves the village under a cloud of controversy with a young lady he is implicated with having impregnated. I knew I needed an unnamed religious group because frankly, insinuating that any modern puritan society could have done such a thing would have been needlessly confrontational. I have no axe to grind with the Quakers or Amish or Mennnonite communities. I admire them. But I needed to have Carl banished to make the story work. So I made it an unnamed group in a fictional North Eastern U.S.A., having quietly established themselves and then become very private, hardly spoken of outside the county they inhabit. It’s more an examination of xenophobia than of religious zealotry. Carl was just the odd man out who sacrifices his social standing for his principles, and then later comes to resent the outcome.
Sterling lives in a fictional version of Hamilton, my home town. I never call it Hamilton, though; It’s been called Bartonville and Great Lake City at various times. I haven’t settled yet. I just wanted to write a detective mystery in a fictitious city closely modelled on 1940s Hamilton. I thought it was time Hamilton had its own hard boiled detective. Also, I’ve never lived in New York, L.A., San Francisco, or Chicago, so writing him in one of those cities would have been difficult and pointless, since I have little way of researching locations in those cities in that time period, unlike here in Hamilton, where numerous books have been published that can help me there.
Djoran was originally part of the Farscape continuum, because I loved the series and wanted to write my take on an expanded spinoff of the series, which had already been cancelled and ceased transmission when I was introduced to it. When I came to grips with the fact that it wasn’t a very successful spinoff, I decided to relocate it to its own cosmology, and have started reworking the references to be original and well rounded in their own way. It’s taking some time. It’d be much easier if Brian Henson would just hire me to write a sequel for Farscape instead.
Richard lives in a fairly accurate fictionalisation of N.Y.C., c.2007 A.D. I had to do a little research to make that work. I married a New Yorker, but she gets tired of answering my stupid questions. I chose New York because it seemed like the right place to stage a multimedia writing career with an urbane guy who becomes a victim of his own poor decisions and neuroses.
(of course, it may also have had something to do with the lack of sex-and-drug-fueled writer’s groups (something I really ought to fix) and big psychiatric hospitals in Hamilton. Also, I did start by basing Terminal Monday in Hamilton, but changed locations about four chapters in. ~Ed.)
10. Why do you choose to tell your stories from the point(s) of view you do?
Martin and Cassandra take turns telling the story of The Bride of War because, after I discovered my story was too big to be a short story, I realized that I had a whole other point of view from Martin’s that was needed to explain what was going on. So I started writing fill-in chapters for Cassandra and married the two narratives. I also give Leanna, Maria and Bishop Vavers a chapter to themselves, because by that point, I’d started to understand that this was the story of many people, and they all had their parts to play. Finally, I even dared to get inside the heads of a number of other characters I wasn’t planning on exploring from the village, including Cassandra’s power-hungry father, Theodore Goethe, who had been cast as a villain for a while in the piece, but comes into his own when faced with the greater villainy of The Dragon. I think the only lead I never really got into was Odovacar himself. I wanted him to remain alien, even after I justified his original transformation. I give him some good lines, but I never take the reader inside his head. I figured it was better that they just imagine how warped and selfish he’d become over the centuries.
Carl is the star of Act 1 of The Devil’s Cabinet Maker, but becomes part of an ensemble cast in the second and third acts. One of the things that Devil does is tells a lot of little stories in the midst of the bigger story. Lots of characters get their fifteen minutes, until it finally ends with Carl again.
Sterling is the main POV character of The Uninvited Guest, but the story isn’t really told from inside his head. It’s presented in an almost cinematic format, because it’s attempting to emulate Howard Hawks and Mike Curtiz and John Huston and Alfred Hitchcock, rather than Hammett and Chandler Spillane. In a separate story called Winterlude, the main POV is Jeannie Kinneman, one of Sterling’s love interests. We actually do get inside her head for that story, as it’s more romantic, and feels nicer as an intimate little story.
Djoran and B’tel Azur Zheyen (or whatever I called her) share a fair bit of the lead duties in the first act of ASHES, but Dolan Zhessoff also gets the mic for a little while. Basically, Ashes centers around three strong alien women who are all deeply intertwined for various reasons. Ashes has male characters, but they are all intended (so far) to be supporting characters. I’ve written some good dialogue for these guys, and their back stories are pretty good, but I’ve been trying to keep the camera on Djoran and Zhessoff and Zheyen. I think in later acts, the camera moves around some more, to outline some characters who come to unhappy situations that Djoran and them are trying to avoid.
Richard‘s story is so wrapped up within his head that moving the camera around would confuse the story. It needs to be about his mental state at all times. The other characters are meant to be well written, but they don’t really have their own narratives in Terminal Monday.
(As it turns out, the epilogue wound up being written from the perspective of Andie, Richard’s young lover, but isn’t actually his girlfriend in the epilogue. It’s deliberately complicated. ~Ed.)
11. Which character would you say is most like you and why?
Leanna. Self-possessed, passionate, mature beyond her years, sexually aware, emotionally insecure, loyal to her loved ones, haunted by the ghosts of her past, determined not to let others fix her problems for her, eternally grateful for the help others insist on giving her. Also, not particularly masculine, but not hindered by the lack. Not always aware of her limitations, given to making ridiculous gestures of solidarity, and going out of her way to help her loved ones in any way she can.
12. Which character is your favorite?
I’m tempted to say Djoran, but I can’t quite explain why. I think just because she’s so dynamic and so challenging. Writing her made me feel like a better writer than I am.
13. Do you write character deaths, and what reasons would you write them for?
Yes, I kill characters. I’m fussy about character deaths. They don’t always have to be deeply meaingful deaths, but they need to be done well, with little ambiguity. I don’t always kill off people I intend to kill, but I rarely kill off somebody I originally intended to keep alive. Only one death made me feel like I’d done a horrible thing. I won’t say which one. It’s complicated, and would spoil the ending.
Death is important, not only to the tools of drama, but in making it clear that Life doesn’t play favourites. The moment you start giving every character you like an escape from death, you draw them just a little closer to the time when you will have no choice but to take them away for good. No character can be rendered immortal to your story, or your story loses gravity. Any escape is only temporary, and Death always comes to collect. Maybe not right away, but always sooner than you’d hoped. Except when it’s dramatically more touching to have them die quietly in the garden many years later.
14. Do you base any elements of your stories on people, events and places in your own life?
More often than I should, but then, who doesn’t? It’s the surest way to make sure at least one thing in your story is believable.
15. Have you ever wrtten anything that could be considered autobiographical?
Terminal Monday is eerily close to autobiographical, so far, but the plot diverges and goes off on a wild tangent that has nothing to do with my real life, right around chapter ten. I’ve also slipped bits of my life story into other pieces of my work over the years, but never as overtly as Monday.
16. If you had to be one of your characters for a day, who would you pick, and why?
I think I might like to be Sterling for a day or two, just because he gets to do stuff in this city that I can only dream of doing, and yet he still gets to come home to his apartment and relax when the day is done. He’s truly part of his city, whereas I always feel like I’m here accidentally, and barely that.
17. It’s been said that writers write their obsessions. How would you say that that idea applies, or does not apply, to your stories?
Hmmn. Obsession is such a strong word, but I will say that the things that bother me do get resolved in my stories fairly often, even if they’re not central to the plot. I sometimes work out my thoughts and feelings on an issue in my stories, where I can do a nice hypothetical analysis of a problem that has been bothering me for some time, without upsetting anyone around me. It’s wish fulfillment, but if I write it into virtual existence, I get it out of my system and move on, instead of dwelling on it. I should really write more. Might save on time lost in therapy sessions.
18. Do you prefer writing stories that focus more heavily on character development than on plot development, or vice versa?
I like to think I keep things balanced between characters and plot, as well as atmosphere and imagery. I don’t believe I’ve mastered this juggling act, because I’m a lousy juggler, but it’s my intent to try and keep all things balanced.
That said, I greatly appreciate writers who work primarily in terse characterizations and strong plots, or in gorgeous character studies with relatively muted plots. I just don’t feel particularly drawn to writing in those styles myself. Characters drive my plots, but my plots are sometimes very involved. It’s a balancing act to keep it all moving and flowing nicely.
19. How do you feel about writing sexual scenarios and themes in your stories?
I’m still a little uncertain about whether it’s a good idea for me to write the scenes I have in the last few books. I like writing sex because, like struggle and death, I think it’s a big part of life, and I think stories that completely dodge it are clever but hollow, denying the human experience on an intimate and vulnerable level. I don’t think less of writers who don’t write sex, but I do think that writers who write solid stories with great characters and gripping plots, but who can also work in credible and stirring sexual themes and scenarios are brave and honest with themselves and their audience.
20. How do you feel about writing violence and strong subject matter like crime and deviant behaviour?
Like sex, I tend to think that violence and the darker side of the human condition are important motivators, and that, even in stories that don’t focus primarily on these ideas, the threat of violence or slipping between the cracks of society are very real for most of us, and needs to be reflected in as intelligent and honest a manner as possible. It can be exciting on a visceral level to depict a heroine knocking the villain on his ass, but I believe the greater part of the job for the writer is to use these themes responsibly, and make it clear that it’s not fun or glamourous.
21. How do you feel about writing mentally unstable characters?
It feels like looking in a mirror too long. Every character I’ve ever written who has mental problems, no matter how far they are from my own, somehow always manages to get their condition mapped out in my head to such a degree that I have trouble writing them as anything other than sympathetic victims of fate. It takes a great deal of willpower on my part to write someone who has severe mental health issues, and yet who is an antagonist. I believe that some people who are naturally antagonistic may have mental instabilities that need to be attended to. However, when I actually try writing them, unless I gloss over their problems and keep them in the background as much as possible, they have a way of taking over my narrative.
22. How do you feel about writing non-human characters?
I like to try my best to give a portrayal that feels profoundly uncanny, and yet still comes out sympathetically. This is not easy, since people really don’t expect to have to get inside the head of someone who isn’t a human. Even anthropomorphic authors tend to write their animal people with human minds. I find that, when writing someone or something truly inhuman, I often deliberately don’t enter their head, and instead try to simply show them doing things without any inner monologue to explain them away. I let the reader draw their own conclusions, based on the information I give them, and if no conclusion can be drawn, then the alien nature of the character is safely preserved.
I think one of the important reasons stories like Doctor Who survive is because the Doctor is human enough in his ‘alienness’ that we can identify with him, and yet alien enough in his overall behaviour and past dealings that we rarely if ever forget that he’s not from here. He constantly defies expectations, which is important for a hero that old. In writing aliens, I try to make them strange enough that their nature can’t be overlooked, but still find ways to paint their personalities in colours that aren’t invisible to us. If all else fails, show your audience the eyes. We can identify with just about anything that has expressive eyes.
23. Do you feel that non-contemporary settings need to be written with contemporary sensibilities to connect with the readers better?
How do you handle this in your stories?
I like to try to present period and futuristic locations with as much detail as I can muster, and to present the events and daily occurrences as something that can be understood even if you’ve never seen it before in your life. That said, I think it’s important to write something that your audience doesn’t lose interest in, that it’s hard enough keeping people’s interest in subject matter that is contemporary and familiar to them. As such, you have to present the unfamiliar in terms and imagery that the audience can easily internalize while moving them through the events of your scenario. Find things for your characters to do that aren’t so completely alien or so archaic that most folks reading it would completely and utterly fail to understand what they were seeing.
I like vivid historical fiction, and I’m also fond of brave sci-fi writers who portray future vistas with clarity, but if I run across anything that I dont understand because I’m not as well versed in that period, or because I’m not scientifically minded enough, then the writer has essentially failed me. That doesn’t mean it’s a total failure. I’m not the most educated man alive. However, I think it’s usually an indicator that the author has allowed specialized knowledge to get in the way of their storytelling, and am usually not surprised when only a small audience lauds such work as a triumph. More power to them. I just won’t be picking up any sequels.
24. How do you feel about the ‘no edit’ clause? Do you feel it hurts some authors’ work?
At this point in my life, I’ve never been paid for my writing, so I haven’t yet had to do serious rewrites. I’m almost certain that’s going to change before too much longer. I believe in the need for rewrites in principle, but have little patience for them in practice, and so I don’t like to rewrite finished manuscripts unless it’s absolutely necessary. I do tend to edit things in stages as I go along though, so often I can’t see the point in going over it all yet again when I’m done, and need someone else to point out where more editing is needed.
I think authors who believe their work needs absolutely no editing, particularly by a competent and caring editor, suffer from the worst kind of hubris. Editors are those nice, friendly people who keep us from parading our new clothes and discovering ourselves to be naked in public.
The only thing authors need to look out for is developing a bad relationship with their editor. Authors need to actually treat their editors as a sort of collaborator, and realize that they aren’t out to steal your thunder or make you look stupid. If you believe strongly enough in an idea that your editor is questioning, you need to be sure of yourself and make it clear why you made those decisions. You do have to be honest with yourself though. If an editor proves that your idea is poorly thought out or executed, your first move isn’t to fire them and demand a no edit clause.
Even weathered pros make choices that could use a little constructive criticism before going to print. The only reason (and it’s not a good one) for ever going to print with something that hasn’t been rigorously shaken down by a skilled editor is because there isn’t enough time before a print/distribution deadline. Barring that, accept the critique and stop being so sensitive. Not every editor is out to prove they’re a smarter, better writer than you.
And if you get one of the ones who does treat you like that, ask them how many best sellers they’ve written lately. Then ask them which ones were published with their name on it. That usually quiets them down a bit.
25. Who are your biggest influences? Whom or what do you enjoy reading the most?
When I was really young, my greatest influence was Charles M. Schultz. This later transferred to Jim Davis and then Berkeley Breathed. I was also influenced around this time by Chris Claremont, an influence that creeps out in my work even now. Then I discovered Piers Anthony, and followed his work through four ot five series for a good handful of years. Then I discovered Douglas Adams, and that changed my ideas about what you could do with fiction in a hurry. Robert Anton Wilson came next, and he captured my brain for a handful of years there. I also discovered Alan Moore at long last, and my ideas about what you could write about in comics shifted practically to the opposite pole. He’s probably still my single biggest influence.
More recently, I’ve seen some Tad Willaims and Jack Whyte creep into my prose, and Warren Ellis creep into my plotting and dialogue choices. These are far from perfectly reflected influences, mind you. Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett still creep through here and there, and Neil Gaiman has had a strong influence on the kinds of stories I like to tell as well. Certain stories I’m working on strongly reflect the effect reading Neil’s work has had on me.
Finally, reading some of the work of my friend, Karen Burkey, had a strong pull on me, and made me start writing prose fiction again, after years of relatively little writing at all. (I don’t really ape her style, but our styles are rather sympatico, so it’s perhaps a little difficult to tell the difference. ~Ed.)
26. Of the living authors whom you admire or consider an influence, which ones do you think would appreciate your work?
Well, Karen Burkey likes some of what I do, so that’s good. Scott McCloud at least acknowledged my existence, but he’s a pretty nice guy. Warren Ellis mostly ignores me, and probably hasn’t read more than one or two things of mine, if that. I suspect he’ll never be impressed in the slightest. I can only guess what Alan Moore would think of my work.
27. If there was one thing you would hope your audience gets from your stories, what would it be?
That I’m really a terribly charming, intelligent and interesting person, even if I’m usually an inarticualte mess when you meet me in real life. Oh sorry, we’re not talking about me.
I’d like for people to get a sense of having actually been there and experienced the stories I tell. If a person can walk away from one of my stories not entirely sure of where my story and the readers’ recollections of things they’ve seen or done in their life meet, I figure I’m attracting a pretty strange crowd who probably shouldn’t be invited over for dinner. Still, it’s flattering to think they enjoyed themselves.
28. How does your perception of gender affect the way you write your characters?
Well, I’m a little old fashioned in that I think my characters address one another on a sexual level that isn’t often Politically Correct. Rarely do I write someone who has absolutely no thought to finding a sexual partner. It’s not their sole raison d’etre; it’s just that they often interact with people in such a way that their sexual nature comes into play. My characters still see each other as potential sexual partners, even if circumstances negate the possibility, and sometimes see themselves in fairly traditional (thought rarely abusive or dominant) sexual roles. Some of these stories are period pieces, and others are informed by societal standards that have nothing to do with what I personally think is appropriate or ideal for a duosexual species/society.
Mostly, I write from my understanding of the issues which exist between the sexes, which is an undereducated view. Most of what I’ve read in an attempt to get a better feel for the delicacy of the issues ends up swimming past me for being too strident or naive. Some very important issues, like subjugation, rape, and predatory violence, get brought up in these dabates, but they are often cast as the inevitable result of all sexual tension. I worry about this because I don’t think all sexual politics is about power struggle; I know it’s there, but I think it’s an over-simplification of the deeper emotional and biological imperatives involved. I think a lot of sociological and psychological baggage gets dragged into the debate from both sides, and it becomes a little too politically charged for folks to clearly and compellingly see one anothers’ points of view.
I don’t argue these points publicly because there are a number of strong points that intelligent women I know and care for deeply feel very strongly about. I sympathise, though I don’t always agree 100% with the explanations. We use a lot of terms that to me don’t work the way convention seems to dictate. Rather than argue for redefinition, I simply keep my thoughts on the matter largely to myself, and hope my overly sexual nature doesn’t offend anyone I care about.
This doesn’t stop me from exploring sexual themes in my fiction. I just try to explore ideas I haven’t seen expressed much in the fiction I’ve read. Anyone can write the One True Pairing of some fairly standard heterosexual couple. I find myself drawn to question just how stable and reliable those implied presumptions about sexual roles and customs really are.
I still have a long way to go in this department, but I’m trying to answer questions for myself as much as anyone else. I’ll never be the great writer of LGTB fiction. I think asking the questions and trying to answer them honestly is really the best any of us can do. We may not be two sides of the same coin, but I think we find common ground with one another when we stop making assertions and start answering one another openly. I may never completely understand the female (or human, for that matter) mindset, but I try.
29. How does the culture and time period you were raised in affect your storytelling?
I was born at the tail end of the hippy era. I think I inherited a lot of that questioning of social values and personal identities that the 60s and early 70s gave us. We had a lot more questions than answers back then, and didn’t like answers that were too pat, based on assumptions that hadn’t been questioned in a long time. I’m still like that, even as I approach my middle ages. I don’t know a lot, but I think I understand a fair bit. I think that’s a legacy a lot of people from my generation share, though perhaps not all as keenly as I do. I’ve always been a little outside.
30. Do you have more of a preference for writing in older, more established storytelling media (e.g. novels, theatre, film), or in newer media (e.g. graphic novels, video games)?
I like to try and understand what makes each medium tick, and experiment with my style to see if it adapts well. I’ve been particularly interested in new media, as I see great possibilities for telling stories in new ways that don’t rely on the conventions of older media. That said, lately I’ve been writing a lot of novel prose. It’s the medium I’ve felt the most in control of in the last few years. Still, I’d rather be designing interactive narratives. I think the future of storytelling will involve a great deal more audience participation.
31. Do you gravitate more towards short fiction, standalone novels, or episodic series (and applicable equivalents in other media)?
I used to think in serial format, simply because I didn’t know how to tell complete stories in one volume. I used to think it was going to take several volumes to say everything I thought I wanted to. These days, everything is a single novel to me. When I start to think I’ve got a series on my hand, I start getting gun shy, wondering if I couldn’t rewrite the ending to close the door on future exploration. I suppose this is also an illogical idea. I just fear that I don’t have the stamina for a series anymore. Not a good one, anyway.
Also, I haven’t written much short fiction lately. I don’t feel it’s my strong suit. I started, a few years ago, to sit down with a series of story ideas that I was going to write as short fiction, and almost every idea I explored turned into a novel. I look forward to the day when I can confidently start and finish an idea in a concise and compelling enough fashion without making it into a novel. I think one of my greatest achievements will be to have written a collection of short stories that actually works as a solid anthology, and not as a series of prompts for novels that I was too lazy to write.
(I’m not sure I still feel this way. I think I prefer the idea of finding the hidden connections between my short story ideas and trying ot put them in the context of a larger narrative. ~Ed.)
32. How do you feel about collaborative writing?
I’ve had partners that I’ve collaborated on writing and comic projects with for a very long time. I’ve always enjoyed it, though I do often wind up taking great pains to exert a lot of control over them, once I think I have a solid idea of what the story is about and how it should go. In recent years, I’ve tried to mellow on this bit of egotism, but it still flares up in places. I hope to be a better collaborator as I advance my erstwhile career more. Hopefully, when I’ve written enough work on my own that has gained some acceptance, I won’t feel as much need to dominate projects I work on with other people.
(Of course, actually seeing projects through to release would be nice, too. ~Ed.)