Archive for the ‘interviews’ Category
As part of Apex Magazine’s Operation Fourth Story (learn more here), I was lucky enough to score an interview with Sigrid Ellis, the Editor in Chief of Apex Magazine. You might know her from Chicks Dig Comics, Queers Dig Timelords, or Pretty Deadly. So, whaddya say, wanna better get to know Sigrid Ellis? I do!
Little Red Reviewer: How did you come to be involved with Apex Magazine?
Sigrid Ellis: I was asked.
I had worked with Lynne and Michael Thomas on other projects – co-editing Chicks Dig Comics with Lynne, and co-editing Queers Dig Time Lords with Michael. I liked working with them and I respect the work they do. When the opportunity arose to be a submissions editor for Apex, I was happy to help out. At the point where Lynne was looking to move on to other projects, work on Queers Dig Time Lords was just wrapping up. The timing worked out for everyone!
I recently reviewed King David and the Spiders from Mars, and last year I got a kick out of She Nailed a Stake Through His Head, the first two anthologies in Tim Lieder’s series of Biblical horror story collections. It’s easy to say “The Bible is full of violence”, because yes, it is. But what about the violence we don’t see? What about the horrific reasonings behind why people did the oh so strange things that they did? Is that *really* the a Temple of Dagon over in the next valley? Why yes, yes it is. This is what makes historical fantasy so much fun – the authors have free range to take the tiny details that speak to them and go crazy with them. The result? Stories that speak to me.
In my interview with Tim Lieder, we discussed lessons learned in the publishing industry, the Bible as Literature (and seeking different translations), the importance of diversity in your TOCs, and more. So let’s get to it!
LRR: Tell us a little about yourself.
T.L.: I’m a writer. I live in New York. When I was in college I decided to convert to Judaism which was a surprise to everyone, including me, especially since the original inspiration was from an academic class on Biblical literature. I did convert but it took a long time. I have four cats. I started Dybbuk Press (Dybbuk Press facebook page) back in 2004 and I have published 9 books through it. I named it after the Ansky play The Dybbuk which takes liberties with the Jewish legends of the Dybbuk put is one of the spookiest plays ever written (the movie was put on by the 1939 Warsaw Yiddish Theater so that adds even more disturbing subtext). Currently, I make a living at writing but most of the writing is freelance for several clients and includes personal statements, editing jobs and term papers. Still, I manage to sell a few stories every year and I keep working on the fiction.
LRR: How did you get involved with editing and publishing? Any big lessons you’d like to pass on to anyone thinking of a career in editing?
T.L.: Ten years ago, I thought it’d be fun to edit a multi-author anthology and stick my story in it. I was unpublished and thought that it’d be my big break. I think I made every mistake that you could make when trying to edit an anthology. I didn’t offer much money. I tried to work with friends who were also amateurs. I agreed to work with a small press publisher whose only interest was self-publishing (something I learned when I realized that he had thought that his girlfriend’s terrible vampire story was going into the anthology). I didn’t even copy edit. About the only thing I did right was naming the book Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre. I think that’s the only reason why it ever made a profit.
This interview is part of the Book of Apex Blog tour. Want to win a copy of the book for yourself? Click here for some give aways!
What a great experience to get to interview Tim Susman, author of Erzulie Dantor (read the story here, read my review here). I knew that Tim was involved with small press publishing, but until now I had no idea it was his press that published Ursula Vernon’s Hugo Award winning Digger! How cool is that? You can learn more about Tim at his website, but before you click on that, let’s do the interview, ok?
LRR: Your story “Erzulie Dantor” takes place in a disaster ravaged Haiti. Can you tell us what inspired this story?
T.S.: My sister-in-law organized a relief effort from the hospital in Denver where she worked and went with them to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. We followed the pictures and stories she sent back, which painted a vivid picture of the devastation and desperation there. That was in the back of my mind when I was researching werewolves of different cultures and found the Haitian je-rouge. It was a mysterious creature in legend and also on the Internet; I could find very little about it. So it occurred to me that where there is disaster and tragedy, there are also people willing to take advantage of the disorientation of others. From there, a story about jealousy and voodoo took place, and when I found Erzulie Dantor in the pantheon of Haitian gods, I had the last piece of the story.
LRR: What is your favorite type of fiction to write? Are there certain ideas or themes you enjoy writing about?
T.S.: I have in the past couple years written science fiction, fantasy, contemporary fiction, mystery, and horror…but if you pin me down to one, I like writing contemporary fantasy. A lot of my longer fiction is written with anthropomorphic animal characters (“furry” stories, about which more below); no matter what the setting, it’s always the characters that push me to finish stories. My works often involve questions of self-discovery or self-actualization, especially in the areas of sexuality or creative inspiration. I don’t like “message” stories, but I think that the best works do contain something that the reader can take away to make his or her life better, and that’s something I try to include in all my work.
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As the Book of Apex Book 4 tour continues, I find myself interacting with more and more of the authors, be it on twitter, or reading their guest posts and interview on other blogs, or interviewing them here. I’ll let you in on a little secret about how I come up with interview questions: I check out the author’s website. I read their recent blog posts, I look at different projects they are involved in, I wanna know what their deal is. After a quick glance through Cecil Castellucci’s website, I e-mailed a friend of mine and said “have you looked at her website? this woman is awesome!”. The more I looked at Cecil’s site and everything she’s involved with, the more often I found myself picking my jaw up off the floor. This woman is involved with everything, she does everything, she’s passionate about literature and storytelling and youth literacy programs. She does everything. It’s inspirational, is what it is.
Wanna know more about Cecil Castellucci? Of course you do! let’s get to the interview!
LRR: I’m not usually a fan of zombie stories, but I really enjoyed your Apex story, “Always The Same. Until It Is Not”. Did I interpret it right? Is the guy a zombie? And what inspired this story?
C.C. Yes! You got it right. He is a zombie. To be honest, I’m a little freaked out by zombies. They really are creepy. Writing this story was a way for me to try to confront my fear of zombies. I tried to think of it as a way to own my fear. The idea came after I’d talked with an acquaintance who writes for The Walking Dead. I swore I’d never watch the show. Then she sort of challenged me on that because she knows I like a good story. I started thinking about how it’s always an infection that takes over like wildfire and then descends the world into a nightmare. I thought, what if I switch what “infection” and “descent” means? So in this story the infection is humanity and the descent is the rise of it. It’s sort of the after of the after.
LRR: I’m also a huge fan of your short story “We Have Always Lived on Mars” (Tor.com May 2013). What inspired this story, and without spoiling the ending, can you tell us how you hit on that twist?
CC: Oh, I’m so glad that you like that story! I think it’s safe to say that Mars has always been a place where we humans have longed to settle. It’s close enough to us that we could actually go there, but far away enough that if something happened there or here it’d be hard to get to or get off of. Right now, there is a lot of Mars love and attention with things like that Mars One and us landing Curiousity on Mars and the Mock Mars missions that they have on Earth in Antarctica, Northern Canada and Utah. It was a combination of these things that inspired the story. I wondered what it would be like to be a girl born on Mars who had been cut off from Earth, living in a colony that had no room to grow because it had no supplies with which to expand. I can’t say more than that or I’ll spoil it!
LRR: Congratulations on your soon to be released Tin Star! What’s the quick elevator pitch for Tin Star?
CC: Tin Star is the story of a girl named Tula Bane, a colonist from Earth who gets abandoned on an alien space station by the charismatic cult leader of her ship at the brink of a Galactic war. She’s the only human there and human’s are not well liked.
LRR: You’re incredibly active in your local community, hosting teen writing workshops at the library, being continually active in the local arts scene, even reading at local elementary schools. Can you tell us a little about your passion for the local arts scene and especially youth fiction and reading?
CC: Yes it is true that I am super active in the LA literary scene. I am very passionate about reading and literacy because I love stories and I really believe that books and stories allow us to see past the boundaries of our day to day life. It allows us to dream and stretch and grow and travel and see possibilities for different ways of living. That is especially important when you are in low economic circumstances. I work at a Title One elementary school doing read aloud to first and second graders. I’ve been doing it for 12 years now, working with the same two teachers and it is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I read books, this year it’s The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo to the first graders and A Wrinkle in Time with the second graders. We take forever reading the book because I stop and talk about every little detail and we use the book to talk about how stories are told, style, history, science, everything! As for the LAPL Teen Author Reading series that I run, there is one in NY and I know a lot of authors here, so I work with Mary McCoy at LAPL and we coordinate the series together. I thought LA needed one! Also, I co edit the LA Review of Books YA / Children’s section. Mostly we run essays and thought pieces about young people’s literature. I do these things because I am passionate about young people’s literature and these are ways that I can get our field to be sitting at the big kids table in the larger literary world. Also, because I think that we fall in love with reading when we are young and that is when we become life long readers.
LRR: You manage the fascinating “Letters for Kids”, where kids get a letter in the mail from an author. What a fantastic idea! What other authors are involved in this, and what’s the most creative letter that has been sent?
CC: It is a great idea! Stephen Elliot who runs the Rumpus asked me to coordinate the Rumpus Letters for Kids, after the wildly succesful Letters in the Mail for adults. It’s kind of a perfect thing, because I think our sweet spot is about 6 -10 and that’s a perfect age to be getting letters in the mail. By they way, you don’t have to be a kid to subscribe, anyone can subscribe! Even classrooms! You get a letter from middle grade author twice a month. It’s great fun! Some of the authors who have written letters are Rebecca Stead, Susan Patron, Natalie Standiford, Lisa Yee, Janet Tashijian, Arthur Slade, Bobbledy Books. They are so good! I have a few favorites, but of course, it’s hard because they are all so different! But Adam Rex did an original comic story. (you can see it here http://therumpus.net/2012/12/letters-for-kids/ ) Sherri L Smith wrote an original short story and this guy Nolan O’Brien did an amazing thing with circles. It’s truly a brilliant thing, and I would have totally subscribed to Letters for Kids when I was young.
LRR: Your graphic novel Plain Janes was a kick-off publication for the D.C. Comics Minx imprint. The imprint didn’t last, but Plain Janes did very well. Would you consider doing graphic novels again?
CC: Of course! And I still have! For the record, Vertigo reprinted The Plain Janes, so it’s still available. And you can still get the sequel Janes in Love. I have actually written many other comics! I did a hybrid novel called The Year of the Beasts with Nate Powell. It’s alternating chapters of prose and graphic novel. I also had a ghost story in Vertigo’s ghost anthology, a comet story in the SPACE anthology over at IDW, an Aquaman/ Mera love story in the Young Romance issue #1, I wrote Green Lantern: The Animated Series issue #11 and most recently I had a comic book for little kids called Odd Duck illustrated by Sara Varon on First Second. Upcoming in early 2015 I have a graphic novel called Pearl in the Rough illustrated by Joe Infurnari out on Dark Horse. It’s about a girl who rides the rails in 1932 with an old hobo. So I’d say that at this point I consider myself a YA author and a comic book writer!
well, that’s what I get for not researching Cecil enough on her website. Otherwise I would have known about Odd Duck, Year of the Beasts, and her other graphic novels. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Learn more about Cecil on her website, or by following her on twitter.
As part of the Book of Apex Vol 4 blog tour, I feel very lucky to be able to interview Alethea Kontis. An award winning author, she describes herself as among other things, a princess and a force of nature. Alethea was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and give me more information on her short story “Blood From Stone”, her current projects, adventures on YouTube, and how she stays sane.
Let’s get to the interview!
LRR: Your story, “Blood from Stone,” is a dark fantasy about a woman who seduces the man she loves and they succeed with their alchemical magic. What inspired this story?
A.K: “Blood from Stone” is based on the Grimm Brothers’ “Fitcher’s Bird” (some are more familiar with Perrault’s “Bluebeard”). “Fitcher’s Bird” is the tale of Fitcher’s last three wives, all sisters, the last of whom ultimately reveals his true nature (because she heeds the warning of a noisy bird) and leads the townspeople to murder him at his wedding. But what about Fitcher’s first wife? What kind of woman twisted this man into such a serial killer? Had he always been a sociopath? And if so, what sort of woman would have fallen in love with him in the first place?
Few have tried their hand at telling this part of Fitcher’s tale, and I am honored to be one of them. To prepare for this story, I researched the real-life historical figure that Perrault’s Bluebeard was based on: Gilles de Rais. Gilles de Rais was a baron who fought beside Joan of Arc, but he went on to squander his fortune until his family was forced to place him under something similar to house arrest.
His get-rich-quick schemes then turned to summoning demons, with the help of an Italian magician called Prelati, dark magicks that involved the sacrifice of countless children, whose bodies they subsequently burned in the fireplace (which is why no exact number is known). Once an author hears a history like that, how does she not write it?
I encourage readers who enjoyed “Blood from Stone” to explore further into the real life of Gilles de Rais.
LRR: I found “Blood from Stone” to be dark and very adult. But you also write a lot of children’s and YA fiction. Is writing for different ages a different mindset? What’s the trick to being able to write kid’s stuff one day, and very adult fiction the next day?
It was just about a month ago that I met author Matthew Thyer at Confusion. We hit it off, he sent me home with a copy of his new novella The Big Red Buckle (review will be posted later this week), and we’ve been emailing and tweeting back and forth a bit since them. After some initial confusion on my part, we ended up trading interviews. You can learn more about Matt by following him on twitter, or checking out his blog, Feet For Brains, where he talks about writing, publishing, technology, traveling the world, parenting, and more. He’s a pretty cool guy, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again at ConText later this year.
In our extensive interview, we talk publishing, sports, influential authors, NaNoWriMo, getting into science fiction, and more!
LRR: The Big Red Buckle is a novella in the scifi subgenre of “sports in space”. How did you come to the decision to make sports a large part of the story?
MT: It was not so much a decision as a happy circumstance. The Big Red Buckle was a short story I took to a critique group for fun. I am a huge fan of endurance sports, and I had written this piece because I could not shake the idea. The critique group liked it, way more than I had expected anyone would, they gave me some feedback and I went home and let it mature. Soon it had doubled, then tripled in size and the concept, “sports in space”, seemed like more and more like a series.
In the days before NaNoWriMo I was doing a great deal of preparation work for a novel idea and in tandem with that I finished the first one and outlined three more stories in the “sports in space” series. All the stories are based on sports I enjoy, but they were also world building exercises.
Why sports? Well, think about all the hubbub that we just lived through. Another Super Bowl is done and gone. High enough anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere it’s hockey and the Stanley Cup that are celebrated with equal vigor. Europe and South America have soccer. Sport is a huge part of any contemporary human society.
If fiction is supposed to be a mirror for self observation than this particular sub-genre seems underrepresented. With the series, I hoped to address a couple of issues. With The Big Red Buckle, in particular, what happens to sports that have a money problem (see Professional Bicycle Racing). I wanted to juxtapose athletes with elite levels of funding next to the people who compete because they love the activity. Book two, Up Slope, is more about a sport that is used as a utility, how it affects us mentally and physically, and becomes a part of our lives which can bridge functional gaps. How a sport, especially in a non-professional setting, makes better people.
Books three and four, will have similar thought experiments going within them.
This post is part of the Book of Apex Vol 4 blog tour! We’ve got about 20 authors involved, traveling the blogosphere doing interviews and guest posts here and there. Today it’s my pleasure to have Ian Nichols, author of “In The Dark”, visit and answer a few questions. Ian doesn’t mention it below, but you can read his short story “Mortal Coil” at Daily Science Fiction.
LRR: In “In The Dark”, Morgan doesn’t recognize the language the gypsy is singing in. What do the words of his song mean? What language is the gypsy boy singing in?
I.N.: The gypsy is singing Portugese fada, sad songs abut the harshness of life and love. I heard these for the first time when I visited Portugal in 1996, and they are the blues of Portugal. The words mean “I was dancing in my boat besides the Cruel Sea, and the sea was roaring that I was stealing, and I wonder if the sea will have reason to see my heart dancing.” That’s a very loose translation of a sad song.
LRR: What inspired this story?
I.N.: I was born in Wales, but came to Australia when I was three. I didn’t go back to Wales until I was forty-six. Down in those valley towns, it’s not like “How Green Was My Valley,” or even like Dylan Thomas. The mines have always been dark, dangerous places, and when Maggie Thatcher closed them down in the eighties, the mining towns fell to ruin. Unemployment was running at well over 50% in Blainah, where I was born on the kitchen table at No. 12 Part St, alcoholism was rife and so was dependence on social services. There were holes in the hillsides where the old mine working had collapsed for lack of maintenance, and every now and then part of the hill would slide down into the valley from this and bury a house or two. If you were lucky, no-one was killed. The older people still talked about what it was like down the pits, and I took this mood, this feeling, as the basis of my story about how the mines can have a darkness that is theirs alone, a darkness of the soul.
LRR: Where else can we find your fiction? What work of yours are you most proud of?
Last month I met author Matt Thyer. He’s @feetforbrains on twitter, and he’s very nice. When he e-mailed me and suggested an interview, my first thought was “sure, I’ll interview Matt Thyer, that will be neat!”. And then he sent me back questions! He was going to interview me! How very flattering! Anyway, here’s a link to the very thoughtful interview. He asked very insightful questions. That last question he asked? I’ve never told anyone about that before. Also, there are some really cool articles on his blog, I really liked the one on solar panel cars.
I’ll be posting a review of Matt Thyer’s The Big Red Buckle in the next few days, along with his answers to my questions. stay tuned!
This post is part of the Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine blog tour, and it’s my pleasure to welcome Michael Pevzner, author of the short story Faithful City, to the blog. Michael was kind enough to answer my questions about his Apex story, role playing games, and more! so let’s get to the interview, shall we?
LRR: What inspired The Faithful City?
M.P.: It was originally written (in Hebrew, back then) for a contest whose theme was “city of the future”, and that was what I came up with. The image of the city speaking to the protagonist was vaguely inspired by the image of SHODAN from the computer game System Shock.
LRR: The Faithful City was your first published short story. Where else can we find your work?
M.P.: Sadly, nowhere. I manage to find very little time to write, and so Faithful City remains my only published story to date.
I did dabble in translation from Russian to English. Here you can find a few short stories by the Russian authors Dmitry Gromov and Oleg Ladyzhensky, which I translated together with my mother. Specifically, “The End Justifies the Means” and “The Eighth Circle of Subway”.
LRR: What types of fiction do you most enjoy writing?
M.P.: It’s mostly dark science fiction and fantasy, sometimes bordering on surrealism.
LRR: Who are some of your favorite authors? Do you they inspire you to write your own fiction?
Ok blog tour participants and anyone else who has a copy of The Book of Apex Vol 4, raise your hand if you have a print copy. it looks wet, doesn’t it? I left the book on the kitchen table a few times, and even my husband wondered why I’d let water get on a book. The magical cover of this book, my friends, is the work of the unbelievably talented Julie Dillon.
(in fact, all of the artwork you see in this post is by Julie Dillon)
That names rings a bell, doesn’t it? Oh yeah, she also did the cover art of the very first Subterranean Press special edition I bought for myself, Silently And Very Fast, by Catherynne M. Valente.
So it goes without saying that I was over the moon when Julie agreed to do an interview for this blog tour. When you’re just browsing through the bookstore, not looking for anything in particular, what do you gravitate towards? Interesting cover art, of course. Julie Dillon makes that cover art. She’s the reason you touch a book. She’s the reason I expected my finger to come away wet every time I picked up The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine.
So let’s get to the interview!
LRR: You’ve won the Chelsea award twice, been nominated for the World Fantasy award and you were nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 2013. What was it like to learn you had made the Hugo ballot? And speaking of, we’re right in the middle of nomination season. Are you eligible again this year?
J.D.: It was very validating to make the Hugo ballot. I didn’t think I’d be ready for that kind of recognition for another 5 years or so, and I was blown away that I was nominated. I was very honored and flattered that people saw anything of value in what I do. That said, I try not to let awards or nominations affect me too much, and I try to keep learning and working hard regardless of whether or not I am recognized. The recognition definitely helps, though, and goes a long way for helping me to reaffirm my decision to purse art fulltime. Getting awards and nominations encourages me to keep trying even harder.
LRR: Did you always want to be an artist? Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a professional artist?
J.D.: That’s a tricky question. I was always interested in drawing and creating, but it never really occurred to me that I could pursue art as my profession until my mid twenties. From all I had heard from other people, art was just something you do as a hobby in between your real work and real jobs. I spent much of my college life prepping for other careers, but I was always drawing and painting whenever I had free time. Eventually, thanks to the internet, I started noticing that there were such things as art schools, and professional artists, and people making a living doing a variety of types of art. I started wondering if maybe that was something I could do, too, and slowly I began taking actual art classes and investigating local art schools, and eventually started seeking out more freelance jobs. It took many long years before I got my portfolio up to a level where I was able to have fulltime freelance work, and I probably would have progressed faster if I had believed in myself more earlier on, but all things considered I think I’m doing an okay job of it.
LRR: What are your thoughts on traditional media (oil, acrylic, etc) vs digital?
J.D.: I think traditional media is vitally important, I think there are a lot of benefits to working in traditional media, and I enjoy doing working with real paint when I get the chance. But I think digital media is a valid tool, one that has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. So often I see people dismissing digital art as somehow cheating or not as valid or important as traditional art, but the computer is just another tool. It doesn’t do the work for you, you still need to have foundational drawing and painting skills to make a good digital piece. I personally prefer working digitally because it allows me to work quickly and cleanly. I don’t have to buy paint or brushes or canvases, I don’t have to wait for paintings to dry before sending them to clients, I don’t have to photograph or scan my final work, and I can make edits immediately and easily. But, I also do not have a physical original painting that I can hang up or sell, and I do miss out on the fun and satisfaction of working with real paint.
LRR: How long, on average, does it take you to complete a piece of art?
J.D.: It’s hard to tell, since I’m usually working on multiple illustrations that I rotate through, but I’ll usually spend at lease several days or weeks working on something. The actual time spent on any given piece are probably something like 8-20 hours, depending on the complexity.
LRR: Do you do commissioned pieces as well? How does that creative process differ from when you are creating a piece out of your mind?
J.D.: Most of my work is commissioned, although I don’t post all of it online. The main difference between commissioned work and work I do for myself is that if I’m doing for myself, I don’t have to worry about sticking to an art description or working for a specific audience or project. On the one hand, with commissioned work it’s sometimes nice having an art director to bounce ideas off of, because sometimes it’s difficult narrowing down concepts or compositions. But it’s also nice to be answerable only to myself and to work on projects where I have full control over how the piece progresses.
LRR: I really enjoyed the Digital Illustration Tutorial you have on your website, it really opened my eyes to all of the behind the scenes work that goes into art creation. do you think you’d do more tutorials like this?
J.D.: Thank you! I’m glad it made at least a little sense; I worry if I’m being coherent or helpful at all when I make those things. I might do more tutorials in the future, although I’m not sure what my focus would be. For the most part, my actual method of painting has remained the same. Any improvements I’ve been making have been because I’ve been going back and trying to work on my art foundation skills more with figure drawing and anatomy studies.