Anna has posted up an interview she did with me a wee while back for Regeneration – you’ll find snippets of both the short story from Regeneration, Carving Out a Life, and from one of my WiPs, The Way the Sky Curves.
Check it out here!
I’ve known Anna for a few years now, have been staff with her at both Kiwiwriters and SpecFicNZ. We’ve edited an anthology together, and I have the pleasure of being in a writers group with her (online). So I can definitely testify to her awesomeness. Fate (a.k.a Dan over at SpecFicNZ) threw us together in the Matrix of Doom this year, and so I got to interview her, which is something new for us! Strangely, all this prior knowledge didn’t make it any easier for me to come up with questions. Thanks for taking the time to answer them, Anna!
Having read many of your stories, I know that you are not afraid to write about things that others might shy away from. Personally, I love that your characters are unique, and face many challenges beyond what your regular writer might pit against their creations. What are the topics that you most enjoy exploring in your fiction?
I love writing about characters who are outsiders in some way. I don’t mean the type who wander round lonely clifftops in the rain making maudlin pronouncements, but those who have a myriad of points of tension and exclusion and friction with the world in which they live, who are all the wrong shape, physically and metaphorically, for the space they’ve been allotted. Who are fighting against the society they live in, but have to adapt themselves in so many ways to survive in it, and for whom even the usual paths of rebellion may not be an option.
Recently much of my writing has been concerned with disability and bodies in some way. Blueprints, which was included in the anthology Fat Girl in a Strange Land, is set in a time when everyone who can is leaving Earth for a more hospitable planet. The story is about those who can’t. Millie, to be published in the forthcoming Outlaw Bodies anthology, is about a woman whose parents and doctors made decisions about her body when she was a child, and the repercussions of those. My almost-finished novella-in-progress plays with the oft quoted idea of autistic people being or feeling like we’re from another planet, and is about an autistic woman who has chosen to live on (literally) another planet.
What other areas are you looking at delving into in your future writing?
I’m currently planning a novella set in a near-future world of environmental decline, when scarcity is just beginning to bite in places it never has before. I suspect that may be harder to write than post-apocalyptic fiction. It also touches on child refugee issues and power and abuse – but I think I’m most apprehensive about the fact it’s primarily a romance. That’s not my usual style!
More broadly, I’m hoping to write more poetry and I’m quite determined that next year will see the production of a novel.
You’ve published quite a few short stories now, as well as a co-editing two short story anthologies—in what ways has this combination approach benefitted (or hindered) your writing? If you had to choose only one to do for the rest of your life, which would be the ultimate winner?
Developing writing as a craft has given me a lot of insight into what makes a good story, and so has editing. More specifically, submitting stories has given me an overview of the processes editors use (for Regeneration, which is currently open to submissions, we’re using an online submissions manager, which is making things a lot easier, and which I learned about through submitting to publications which already use it) and editing has reinforced something I knew in theory but only half believed: that rejected stories are not (necessarily) bad stories. And both have helped me make a lot of connections, contacts and friends, who have been of great help in ways I didn’t necessarily predict.
On the negative side, it’s a time suck. I keep meaning to take an editing-free year and it keeps not happening. This year I’ve been just one member of an editorial board working on an issue of an already established publication so it hasn’t been so bad, but the anthologies have effectively taken out at least a couple of months of writing time each.
If I had to choose between writing and editing, writing would win, no contest. There’s no way to answer this without clichés, so I’ll just shamelessly indulge in them: editing is something I enjoy doing, writing is something I need to do. Editing enhances my life; writing is integral to it. I’m planning to keep doing both for the foreseeable future though.
When trying to decide on the theme for an anthology, what are the key elements you are looking for in that theme?
For both the anthologies of New Zealand speculative fiction (A Foreign Country and the forthcoming Regeneration) we wanted something that was specific enough to give a shape to the anthology – and generate some ideas for writers – but not so specific it inhibited our goal of showcasing a range of speculative fiction from around the country. The theme of ‘regeneration’ also marks the anthology as a sequel, is, I think, very relevant in NZ at the moment given the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes and we’re hoping may result in a few stories with more positive endings.
For Tales for Canterbury, something similar applied, but given the very limited time frame we were working with, only a few authors were able to write something specifically for the theme. So we wanted something that most writers could fit something into. Because the focus was even more broad (including multiple genres) we divided it into sections to make it more structured. We played with a few variations before settling on Survival, Hope and Future, which I hope acknowledged the reality but also reflected a path forward.
I also have some very tentative ideas for future anthologies which are more thematically specific, and those are based on both my own interests and where there’s a gap in what’s already available that I’d like to see filled.
Finally, if you could impart one piece of advice to other writers, what would it be?
When I was at school one of my teachers had a poster of what I think was a Sufi proverb : “Trust in God, but tie your camel”. I may not be religious, but the idea it’s important to both follow high ideals, but pay attention to the practical side, has always appealed to me. You can follow your dreams and believe this is what you were meant to do, but don’t let that stop you proofreading and paying the power bill. Paying attention to the boring side, making sure other parts of your life are in order, being open to criticism and the interests of your readers do not somehow sully or devalue your writing – quite the opposite.
Last night, Tales for Canterbury won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Fiction. Anna was kind enough to post evidence on my facebook page because I was totally surprised!
This anthology taught me so much. It was a huge undertaking that really pushed me out of my writer shell and helped me to build connections with other writers both within New Zealand, and outside of it. Anna was the best co-editor I could ever ask for, and I would totally do it again (though, preferably with a longer deadline! lol).
I’m still a little stunned, and I can’t stop looking at that picture. And grinning.
I’ve said it before on other forms of media, but thanks again to everyone who was involved. And not just those who contributed stories but those who cheered us on and gave us support and encouragement in other ways. This was a team effort, and a total privilege to work on. What began as a way to help Christchurch turned out bigger and better than I ever expected.
Thank you all.
The lovely Jennifer Neri named me as an award winner just the other day (Thanks, Jennifer!). She is a fellow writer-mum, and our youngest are only a few months apart, so I had the pleasure of following a similar path to her in 2010 when we had our babies – it was great to know someone else going through the same things at roughly the same times.
Anyway, here are the rules:
Upon receiving your Liebster award, you should:
1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed. (some say just 3 or more blogs of less than 200 followers each)
5. Let them know they have been chosen, by leaving a comment at their blog.
So, without further ado – I’m going to introduce the members of my official writers group! These folks are some of my staples in the writing world, in alphabetical order:
1) Anna Caro is someone who I have been staff with at a couple of writers orgs now, she’s a writer, a student, has a job and is passionate about many things – I really admire her drive, and her conviction to stand up for her beliefs. She is dedicated and hard working, in everything she does. This year she is focusing on finishing a novel.
2) Kerryn Angell is the founder of kiwiwriters.org and I’ve known her for five years now. She has been working steadily at her writing, and launched her new look blog last year. She is working on revising the novel she wrote last year, and vanquishing her editing demons.
3) Leigh K Hunt is possibly the newest edition to my writers crew, but trying to remember my writers life before she showed up is pretty difficult as we trade emails on a daily basis. This year she is joining in our big challenge, as well as having her first baby in the near future! Yay!
4) Merrilee Faber is an awesome writer, and at the core of my writing crew. She’s been one of the best writing buddies I could ever ask for, and is the instigator of Project 2012: From first draft to submission. You should totally check out her blog because there is a lot of fabulous info on there.
5) Tama Wise is the only male in my official writers group, but he does just fine. He has been the creator of many whacky writing games, which I am always drawn into, and I’ve really enjoyed writing alongside him for the last few years. He has his first novel coming out in March this year, and I may be more excited about it than he is 😉 He is the first of our official group to get a novel published, but I don’t think he’ll be the last!
There are many other awesome writers out there who are part of my circle, all of them unique and wonderful in their own way. So even though I’m limited to five, I want to give a shout out to everyone else – love you all!