Q&A with One Story’s 2017 Mentor of the Year: Lan Samantha Chang

At One Story, we believe that being a part of the literary community should include helping others. In that vein, each year at our Literary Debutante Ball we honor one established author with a “Mentor of the Year” award for their extraordinary support of fellow writers. This year, our Mentor of the Year is Lan Samantha Chang.

Mentoring is the kind of work that happens behind the scenes, but is vital to keep the literary world alive and kicking. It comes in all forms—from teaching, to blurbs, to recommendation letters, to late-night reads, agent advice, one-on-one conferences, career guidance and inspiration. Behind each book on the shelf is an unseen mentor, giving an author the help they need to make their work better, to keep writing when they are ready to quit, and eventually give them a boost over the publishing wall.

Lan Samantha Chang exemplifies this kind of gallant hard work, and we’ll be honoring her, along with our Literary Debutantes this Friday May 12th at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball at Roulette in Brooklyn.

In today’s post, Sam kindly took time from her busy schedule to talk with One Story about writing and teaching, the importance of being a mentor, and what she’s looking forward to the most at the big party this coming Friday.

  1. You’ve been a great supporter of emerging writers. But who were your mentors and how did they help you along the way?

I was fortunate to work with extraordinary teachers when I was starting out.  At the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I studied with James Alan McPherson, Frank Conroy, and Marilynne Robinson—all famous to the world for their writing and, to their students, for their presence in the classroom.  Each of them made at least one remark about my work that I will remember forever. But the special person who has read my work the most, and whom I turn to when I want to shed a tear, is the wonderful novelist Margot Livesey, who was a visiting professor at the Workshop at that time and is now on the permanent faculty there.

After the Workshop, I had the very good fortune to receive Wallace Stegner and Truman Capote Fellowships at Stanford University, where I studied with John L’Heureux, Nancy Packer, and Elizabeth Tallent.  They were all very generous with me, and Elizabeth, who is still at the program, remains vibrantly in my mind as a writing professor who somehow, by her presence, taught me the possibilities of life.  Eavan Boland, as well, gave me unforgettable guidance about what it means to be a writer in the world.

  1. Any words of advice for our nine Debutantes as they start their literary careers?

My one bit of advice is to keep hold of that part of you that first compelled you to start writing through the vicissitudes of “career.”  A writing life and a writing career are two separate things, and it’s especially crucial to keep the first.

  1. For the past twelve years, you’ve been the director of the Iowa Writing Program. How do you find a balance between teaching and writing?

Since taking on the directorship I have published one novel, All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost.  Frankly, I lost the balance for a few years there, but I am regaining it now.  I’m not sure how writing has come back to me, but I’m very grateful.  I don’t know if I have any advice about keeping balanced.  It’s a challenge and being a parent on top of it is perhaps more challenging.  I’m lucky that my partner is a wonderful, deeply understanding father and husband.

  1. Your work has appeared twice in Best American Short Stories. Can you talk a bit about what you think makes for a great piece of short fiction?

People try to find rules for short story writing, and there are none.  Greatness is indescribable—you know it when you see it.  But I do think that a great short story is both ruthless and complete.  I also think that a great short story clearly belongs to only one author. 

  1. What are you looking forward to the most about the One Story Literary Debutante Ball on May 12th?

Discounting a couple of award ceremonies, the One Story Literary Debutante Ball will be the first bona fide New York Literary gala event I’ve flown East to attend for since I moved to Iowa.  So there’s something exciting about looking forward to the experience. I anticipate with great excitement the “coming out” of the debut writers. I’m also looking forward to seeing former students and colleagues.  I’m thrilled that Angela Flournoy will be there, and I can’t wait to see Michelle Huneven and Emily Ruskovich.

Introducing 2014 Literary Debutante: Amelia Kahaney

BHOn May 22nd, at the 5th annual Literary Debutante Ball,One Story will be celebrating seven of our authors who have published their debut books this past year. As a lead up to the event, we will be introducing our Debs with a series of interviews about their debut books.

This week we’re discussing first books with Amelia Kahaney, whose YA novel The Brokenhearted was published by HarperTeen in October and called “an action-packed, adventure-laced debut” by Publishers Weekly. Amelia made her One Story debut back in 2007 with “Fire Season.”

The Brokenhearted is an engrossing novel with a solid core of noble heart. Anthem Fleet, ballerina-turned-vigilante is a heroine for the ages–one who defies the life that society has given her in order to be with, and then save, the one she loves. By the end of the book, Anthem has become even more than that, though, and is well on her way to becoming a symbol of rebellion for a society on the cusp of riotous change. “Go ahead and try” says author Adele Griffin “to predict the hairpin turns and steep reverses as you race through this sharply–conceived urban odyssey.”

Our thanks to Amelia Kahaney for speaking with us about first books, voice, and the image that inspired her to write The Brokenhearted.

The Brokenhearted is a story about a young ballerina vigilante in a quasi-dystopic society who is sort-of-accidentally given superpowers. The imagery is bizarre, gorgeous, and unique; what was the first image or idea that came to you and inspired The Brokenhearted? 

I knew I wanted to write a superhero story set in a city with a vast divide between rich and poor, and the Occupy movement popped up just when I most needed inspiration in building the world of the book. The original call to arms from Adbusters that sparked the first Occupy protest absolutely floored me in its emotional power, and I had it hanging above my desk for months as I wrote the first draft. occupyI love the juxtaposition of soft and hard, of art, commerce, and revolution. The fragile strength of the dancer on top of the brute aggression of the Wall Street bull, all surrounded by tear gas and masked protestors, epitomized the world as a place of good and evil, as a place that needs saving. The simplicity of the image (and of course the ballet component) worked with the aesthetic of the superhero story I was trying to build, and the girl on the bull guided me whenever I lost my way in the first draft.

You’ve written for both a YA and an adult audience. In The Brokenhearted and “Fire Season,” your One Story issue, you have the ability to balance two very distinctive voices. Is there a difference in your approach for each? 

A short story may start with a sledgehammer, but the drafting process always ends with the painstaking use of toothpick-sized tools to whittle it into the final product. In contrast, the novels I’ve been writing feel more like throwing plot grenades at the page and then sculpting the wreckage into shapes that make sense.

The challenge of creating movement on the page is the same for both, but short stories require more ruthlessness and economy, more precise emotional calibration, whereas the young adult novels I’ve been working on are looser in their form but demand a ton of action that all has to make emotional sense. The novels also have to be written quite quickly to meet the publisher’s deadlines. So my approach has been different for sure, and the voice in the Brokenhearted books has by necessity been a less interior, less idiosyncratic narration than I’ve ever used in a short story, as I’m more concerned in these books with finding a consistency of tone that allows me to nail the action and pacing.

Your story “Fire Season” was published as Issue #98 in One Story. What has happened in your life between the publication of “Fire Season” and the publication of The Brokenhearted? How did you celebrate when you found out that The Brokenhearted had been accepted for publication?

The Brokenhearted sold to HarperTeen on April 20, 2012 – the day of the One Story Debutante Ball. So after some screaming, calling my mom, hugging my husband and trying to explain to my then-four-year-old what had just happened, I floated down to the Invisible Dog and made merry. It seemed a great coincidence to be surrounded by my first literary champions on the day I was embraced by a set of new champions at Harper.

As far as what has happened between the two publications, I couldn’t really tell you. The highlight may have been having and raising a baby, who is now almost six years old. I also ghostwrote three tween novels, got and lost and got some jobs, visited Maine and Puerto Rico, learned to cook paella, and acquired crow’s feet. All the usual things have happened. On the writing front, the main thing that happened is I learned to write young adult novels and to manage the anxiety of deadlines.

The Brokenhearted has been optioned by New Line–what has that process been like for you? What are some of your hopes for The Brokenhearted as a movie? 

My only hope for the movie is that it actually gets made! The optioning process had nothing whatsoever to do with me, except that I received a lovely phone call with the news and then made a few even more lovely calls of my own to family members to share it with them. Not having anything to do with the film makes it that much more fun to think about – there’s absolutely nothing about it that I can screw up, which is such a relief.

I’m so excited to read The Invisible, the second and final book in the Brokenhearted series. When writing The Brokenhearted, did you already know how the story would end in The Invisible? Can you tell me more about the process of writing a series? 

I figured out around draft two of The Brokenhearted that I’d been unconsciously laying the groundwork for an enormous revelation in the second book that would change everything we thought we knew about the main character and her family. (Cue the ominous music here.) Knowing I was building toward this enormous twist, which is revealed in all its bonkers glory toward the end of the second book, was probably the thing that sustained me during the difficult marathon months of writing book two.

The process of writing a series, in my case at least, is that the first book developed reasonably slowly, but the second book had a hard delivery date assigned by the publisher, and that date was not terribly flexible. By the time I had my outline approved by my editor for book two, I only had eight months to get the book from outline to finished, copyedited manuscript. Subtract two months for the time the editor or proofreader had the manuscript, and we’re down to about six months of writing time. Subtract a month of procrastination, and now we are close to the truth, which is that I wrote and edited Book Two in five months, give or take a couple of weeks. At some point during the writing process, I had to just accept that this was the timeframe I had and that I could only do so much at the sentence level because I had to focus as much as possible on the action of the book making sense. The first book took maybe a year and a half all told, so for the second book, I shrunk my writing time to a third of what it had been.

It was a difficult six months that was eased somewhat when a friend sent me Death In The Fifth Position, a catty, hilarious whodunit about a string of murders in a ballet company that Gore Vidal wrote under the pseudonym Edgar Box. Vidal claimed to have written this absolute gem of a book in eight days, and he became my spirit guide while I finished The Invisible. I liked to imagine him laughing bitchily at me in the final weeks, telling me that I ought to have written three books for all the time it was taking me to finish this one.

What are you most looking forward to about the Literary Debutante Ball? (And will you be arriving in ballerina regalia, with or without a super-powered heart?) 

Like any debutante, I care about one thing above all else when I go to a ball: gossip. I look forward to schmoozing with the literary folks I only see a few times a year or on Twitter, and to hanging with my agent, my editor, and the formidable posse of glamour and glitz that is the Brooklyn College MFA alumni. With any luck, there will be literary mini-scandals and prognostications a-plenty to keep all of us entertained.

As for attire, I have the misfortune not to be built like a ballet dancer and so a tutu-esque ensemble of any kind is out of the question. I am considering a black floral headpiece to jazz things up. And thank you for giving me this opportunity to set the record straight: I never go anywhere without a super-powered heart.

Marie-Helene Bertino Named a Center for Fiction Fellow!

http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/pub/media/bertino.jpgWe’re very proud to announce that OS Associate Editor (and all around swell lady) Marie-Helene Bertino has been selected as a 2011 Center for Fiction NYC Emerging Writers Fellow. The inaugural honor, eligible to early career writers residing in New York City’s five boroughs whose work has shown promise of excellence, was bestowed upon just eight recipients who will hold the title over the next year. Among other benefits, each writer was awarded a grant of $3,000 as well as their own desk in the Center for Fiction’s Writers’ Studio in NYC. The winners were selected by a panel of five writers: Stefan Merrill Block, Michelle Hoover, Fiona Maazel, Drew Perry, and Patrick Somerville.

Marie’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Pushcart Prize Anthology XXXIII, The North American Review (Kurt Vonnegut Award 2007), Mississippi Review, Inkwell, The Indiana Review, American Short Fiction and West Branch. She received an MFA from Brooklyn College, where she was the fiction editor of The Brooklyn Review. She hails from Philadelphia and lives in Brooklyn. Upon finding out her daughter had received the Center for Fiction fellowship, Marie’s Mom called it “such a nifty thing to be a part of.”

Celeste Ng Joins the Pushcart Prize Party

More great award season news! OS author Celeste Ng’s (Issue #86, “What Passes Over”) short story from the Fall 2010 issue of the Bellevue Literary Review, “Girls, At Play,” has also been awarded a Pushcart Prize this year.

You can follow Celeste by reading her blogs at  the Huffington Post and Fiction Writers Review, where she serves as a contributing editor. Or take a fiction class with her at Grub Street, a non-profit writing center in Boston. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of short stories.

Published by the Department of Medecine at NYU Langone Medical Center and created in the tradition of Bellevue Hosptial, the Bellevue Literary Review showcases fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that utilizes ideas of the human body, illness, health and healing, as a starting point for illumiating the human experience.

Stations West named as finalist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

Exciting news! One Story author Allison Amend’s (Issue #13, “Stations West”) debut novel Stations West (Louisiana State University Press), which Time Out Chicago says casts “a keen eye for the eccentricities of ethnicity, particularly at a time when lines were so clearly drawn, and so quickly crossed…” has been named a finalist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize in fiction for Jewish Literature. The prize, given to writers of “exceptional talent and promise in early career,” awards $100,000 to its top winner, with a $25,000 Choice Award given to its first runner-up. This year’s award ceremony will be held in New York City on May 31.

For more information on Allison and Stations West, check out her author website. And keep your fingers crossed. We know we will!

Marie-Helene Bertino in American Short Fiction

Congrats to One Story Associate Editor, Marie-Helene Bertino, on her recent publication in American Short Fiction! Marie’s story, “Carry Me Home, Sisters of Saint Joseph,” is featured in their current issue. We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at AWP. Now it’s your chance to check out this great magazine, support short stories, and give props to an extremely talented writer/editor. Get your copy today!

Lydia Peelle named one of the 5 under 35!


Congratulations are in order for One Story author Lydia Peelle (issue #87, “Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing”), who has been selected as one of the Top 5 Authors Under 35 this year. Lydia was chosen by 2008 National Book Award fiction nominee Salvatore Scibona and was named alongside fellow short-story writer Karen Russell, and the novelists Ceridwen Dovey, C.E. Morgan, and Josh Weil. The honor is given out by the National Book Foundation and recognizes emerging talent in the fiction world. Its yearly celebration, to be held in Brooklyn on November 16th, kicks off National Book Awards week, which culminates in the announcement of the 2009 winners. More information on Lydia and the other honorees can be found here. And if you haven’t yet, be sure to pick up Lydia’s book, which the NYTimes says has “a wildness under the surface … that calls to mind masters of the unsettling short story like Mary Gaitskill, or even Alice Munro.” Get it here or at your favorite local book store.

Orange Prize Winner Announced!

marilynnerobinson_1416339cAs we’ve blogged about previously, the Orange Prize for Fiction is a prize sponsored by Orange, a mobile phone service in the UK. Each year a prize of £30,000 is awarded to the author who the all-women cast of judges feel has authored “the best novel of the year written by a woman in the English language.”  According to the prize’s website, the Orange Prize was established “to widen the net and to try to introduce a prize that would be less traditional and that would put readers at the centre.” 

This year’s prize-winner is Marilynne Robinson for her novel Home. She was chosen from a shortlist which included:

Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt
Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

For the Guardian’s coverage of the announcement go here.

For an interview with Marilynne Robinson go here.

Happy Birthday, Jack Kerouac. Your writing made me quit my job.

Today is March 12th. Jack Kerouac is 87 today. But, he is also dead.

Here is a brief history of Jack Kerouac’s life:

Born, drove around, drank, died.

Here is a less brief history of Jack Kerouac’s life:

Jack Kerouac (Jean Louis Kerouac) was born March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell, Massachusetts is famous for him, and not famous for its area called “Spaghetti Town,” where you cannot find a decent plate of ravioli. His father was a red and white striped barbershop poll and his mother was a wooden roller coaster. People called him “Ti Jean” which means “Little Jean” in French because he was French-Canadian, which is kind of like being French. He went to Columbia University on a football scholarship but was told to take a hike after a prank he and Allen Ginsberg pulled. He took a hike, all the hell around America, and wrote a book about it you may have read, and a pamphlet about it you definitely did not read called “Suggestions for Improving Safety at Roadside Gas-ups in America.” He was married 7 times. He had the first wife beheaded, the second electrocuted, the third he annulled after forming The Church of Lowell. Here is an easy anagram to remember Jack Kerouac’s wives:

B: Beheaded

E: Electrocuted

A: Annulled

T: Took a midnight train going anywhere

N: Non-fiction writer (divorce)

I: Irreconcilable Differences

K: Killed

Here is something that is actually true: Jack Kerouac’s grave is extremely hard to find, and his is the only framed picture of a person in my house. As you can imagine, this has not gone over well with exes. But if you want your picture framed, write a book I like as much as “On the Road.”

“On the Road,” typed on the scroll and the whole bit, was published by Viking Press in 1957, launching Jack Kerouac into cataclysmic success and threatening his privacy for the rest of his life. Jack Kerouac didn’t seem to like being famous, didn’t seem to like that his word “beatific” inspired a following of beatniks, after a while he didn’t seem to like his old pals or writing very much.

Upon reading “A Book of Verse,” Ed Sander’s colossal story about a Midwest boy’s catharsis triggered by Ginsberg’s “Howl,” I knew the Beat Movement’s defining characteristic was that it encouraged exactly that: movement. In the first short story I ever wrote, I borrowed the main character’s last words to his friend: “So long,” he said. “I’m off to New York City!” His best friend’s response, the last line of the story, has loitered in my head since I was 13. “Don’t do anything I would do.”

The Beat Movement’s writers and those influenced by its writers weren’t sedentary about it. The movement filled cripplingly shy kids up so much they had to start talking. They took to their cars, their town square soapboxes, boxcars, trains, they talked and they talked and they talked. What was it about the writing that held so much kinetic energy?

I’ve heard people say that “On the Road” is what you like when you’re young, before you “grow out of it.” That might be true. “On the Road” does seem to embody ideals few people can sustain into adulthood: sense of adventure, spontaneous travel, kinetic friendship, optimism and expression of true feelings. Old passages, especially the thick paragraphs describing jazz and, more specifically, Sal Paradise’s reactions to it in dusty ol’ Denver, can read slightly dated. Caricatures of themselves, perhaps. Yet, sometimes I wonder if those passages seem familiar because they became used so widely as examples. Imitators sprung up and bastardized the good and true elements of the style. In the way bitter tasting things stay in our mouths more than sweet, we begin to hear the imitators in our heads more than we hear the originals. So, when we go back and read the originals we think: Jesus, how derivative. We forget that everything derived from them, that they were the first ones to do it.

Plainly, it’s not Jack Kerouac’s fault that he inspired a bunch of crappy writers.

Or, maybe we’re all a little fucking jaded.

“On the Road” has inarguably beautiful sentences, some of which I will leave at the end of this post. Sentences that became a part of the American literary landscape, and cut right through the literary bullshit: farmers liked his books, academics liked his books, mothers liked his books, teenagers liked his books. You think it’s easy to write a book that inspires an entire generation to do something?

Until someone else does it, he stays in my frame, with a small inset of Cormac MacCarthy.

Happy birthday, Jack-ero.

“They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn…”

“Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it… and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear?”

“This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.”

Kelly Link talks about Pretty Monsters

We at One Story can barely keep up with the success of our authors.  This month we were lucky enough to interview Kelly Link, whose short story “The Great Divorce” was One Story issue # 59.  Kelly’s new collection Pretty Monsters was published by Viking Children’s Books in October.  Pretty Monsters has received outstanding reviews, and was included on Amazon’s 2008 list of Top Ten Books for Teens.

Kelly Link is the award-winning author of Stranger Things Happen and Magic for Beginners (selected by Time Magazine as one of the Best Books of 2005).  The recipient of a 2006 NEA grant, Link lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she and her husband Gavin J. Grant run Small Beer Press who, among other great offerings, publish Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, a consistently brilliant literary magazine.

Here Kelly talks about loving dead people, exhuming ex girlfriends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other subjects of Pretty Monsters.

The stories in Pretty Monsters seem to have a shared, funny narrator, giving the sense they are being related to us by a friend.  Was your intention to have a continuous narrative feel?

Point of view is a way of manipulating distance.  You can get inside the heads of your characters, and then draw back and comment on those characters’ prejudices or peculiarities through the filter of that intermediary, your narrator.  It allows for lateral movement.  And of course you (and now I mean you the reader as well as you the writer) may begin to suspect that the narrator has their own agenda or story.  There’s more of a sense of play, of elasticity when the characters want one thing and the narrator may want something else.

It can also be a way of tethering a story that heads off into fantastic or supernatural territory.

Until you asked, I hadn’t actually thought about how many narrators were lurking and loitering in these stories.  They’re smart alecks, aren’t they?  It’s a relief to hear they’re likable, which is not to say always trustworthy, I hope.

The kids in the story “Magic for Beginners” are obsessed with a “reality show” called The Library, whose reality bleeds into the real lives of the characters, who may or may not be characters on the show itself.  Was The Library based on a real TV show?

The story “Magic for Beginners” was based on the experience of watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I moved from Somerville, MA to Brooklyn to Northampton, MA during the seven years Buffy was on, and the one thing all of the places I lived had in common, besides too many books, was a room with a television where we got together with various friends to watch new episodes and then dissect, praise, complain, rewrite and rewatch.  It was an enormously social experience, and it’s not one I’ve had since Buffy ended.  I wanted to write something that would capture the way it feels to be a fan and a member of a fandom.

On the other hand, the television show itself, The Library, was my attempt to write all the things that would be–if not impossible, then at least costly and impractical–to do in an actual television show.  Like having different actors take over key roles in each episode, and putting in elaborate settings and all manner of special effects.

Speaking as a slush reader, there’s nothing worse than a piece of fiction that reads like a transcript of an episode of a television show, and so, in self-defense I started to wonder what could be done in fiction with a television show that you couldn’t actually do using a camera, a script and a bunch of actors.

People loving dead people pops up here and there in the stories.  Jeremy loves Fox (who may or may not be dead on a show that may or may not be “reality”), Miles loves Bethany (a teenaged-sweetheart whose grave he digs up to recover his poems).  Was it a happy accident to have so much death and loss in the collection, or was it an intentional theme?

Well, that collision between love and death is inevitable, isn’t it?  There are a fair number of ghosts in this collection because I love ghost stories.  There are some bloodthirsty monsters because when I was a kid, I loved reading monster stories.  Pretty Monsters is actually a young adult collection, and so these stories needed to have a certain dramatic urgency.  The possibility of death raises the stakes.  So does the threat of humiliation.

“The Faery Handbag” is a story about a magic pocketbook that contains several changing worlds.  Where did you come up with the idea for this story?

I’ve always loved stories where the insides of something were bigger than the outside.  I was drawing on folklore about fairy hills and people going in for one night and coming out hundreds of years later.  I was also inspired by a friend who proposed marriage to his girlfriend on a Scrabble board.  I started to think about other uses that Scrabble boards and tiles might have, such as divination.

What influenced your decision to make so many of the main characters young?

I like writing from the point of view of children, or young adults.  They’re in this weird transitional space, between worlds.  Their actions have real consequences, but that doesn’t mean that they’re taken seriously.  They’re specialists in music, or dinosaurs or clothing labels.  They want things with a kind of great and terrible intensity that makes them great characters to write about.  They say things that adults wouldn’t let themselves say.  When I write about adults, I’m most interested in writing about adults who have retained some of these qualities.

Why do you write, for lack of a better word, fantastically?  Do you hope to get at human emotion through alternative means?  Is it just more fun?

I don’t know that I have a particularly good reason at the moment.  It’s not just that writing fantasy, or ghost stories, is more fun, because I’m not sure I’m willing to go on the record saying writing is fun.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.  But certainly I’m more interested in the fantastic and the weird, in the experimental and pulp traditions.  It just feels like more expansive territory.  You can still use all the tools of realistic fiction.  You’ve just got this other, complimentary set of tools as well.

I love Angela Carter’s fiction, Joe Hill’s short stories.  The world that matters most to me is the kind of fiction that I imprinted on, and never stopped reading.  That’s science fiction, fantasy, ghost stories, Stephen King and Terry Pratchett.  I’m an unapologetic fan of space opera, heroic fantasy, hobbits, novels about dragons like Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw or Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books.  I still read young adult fantasy by writers like Ysabeau Wilce and Elizabeth Knox, M.T. Anderson and Diana Wynne Jones.  So maybe these are all the reasons why I write what I write, because I want to create work that will exist, at least partially, in that same space.