Category Archives: interview

Snapshots: Robert Freeman Wexler interviewed

In Springdale TownWhat kind of writer are you?
Geologic. Words, thoughts, ideas materialize slowly and find their way to the page.

What are you working on now?
A novel, tentatively called Recollections of a Malleable Future, but I also call it New Springdale Novel, because it’s set in Springdale.  I’m around a third of the way through it, but I’ve put it on hold to work on a novella.  The novella is a historical/Western-ish thing set around the Gulf Coast of Texas in 1888.  It’s a crime/detective story with strangeness.  I’m about halfway through and still trying to think of a title.

What’s recently or soon out?
This is the longest period I’ve had without new things out.  I’m looking for a publisher for a short story collection.  The Western novella is supposed to come out from PS at World Fantasy in Brighton…assuming I finish in time.

In Springdale Town is one of those stories that plays with the boundaries between the weird and the very real. Tell us about the story’s origins and why it became something you had to write.
It really started when I went to a movie theater and no one was there (I describe that situation in the Afterword; that doesn’t mean it really happened—I fabricate many things—but in this case it’s true). I had been thinking about writing a Jonathan Carroll-type of story in which the people from a television drama are actually real. After writing a bit about a man who can’t find other people, I realized that I had found the television program story. And had hooked myself, so I had to finish it.

Describe your typical writing day.
I write for twenty to thirty minutes Monday through Thursday during lunch breaks at work, then longer on Fridays. Rarely on the weekends. I wish I had more time, but I’ve learned to be efficient with the time I have.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
Besides In Springdale Town, newly released in ebook from Infinity Plus…? I’m still (after all these years) looking for a U.S. publisher for The Painting and the City. It came out in 2009 from PS, in French translation from now-defunct Zanzibar Editions, audiobook from iambik audiobooks…but no U.S. publisher.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
I recently posted on my blog about a fine contemporary noir novel called Robbers, by Christopher Cook. Older writers, Robert Aickman and Arthur Machen, newer writers, Michael Cisco, Brendan Connell, Kaaron Warren, Sébastien Doubinsky, other writers available from Infinity Plus, Iain Rowan, Neil Williamson, Anna Tambour.

Who are the people who’ve made a real difference to your writing career?
Teachers from Clarion West: Lucius Shepard, Michael Bishop, Nicola Griffith, people who’ve published me, mainly Peter Crowther of PS—without him the world would be a sadder place of fewer books.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Don’t write what you think will sell. Write what comes from yourself, in a way that only you can write it. Otherwise you’ll sound like everyone else. There’s a market for people who sound like everyone else, so you’ll sell a lot more books than me, but that’s my advice.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
I can’t tell you. I figured it out, but it’s a secret. No one else has figured it out. Just me. All will be revealed at the proper moment. No sooner.

Any other questions you’d like to have been asked? Feel free to add and answer them, and I’ll pretend to have asked them.

I’d like to say thanks for putting this new Springdale ebook together. It’s great to give new life to the story, send it out to find new readers.

More…
In Springdale Town

Robert Freeman Wexler’s latest novel is The Painting And The City, PS Publishing 2009. His new infinity plus novella, In Springdale Town, originally came out in 2003 from PS Publishing and was reprinted in Best Short Novels 2004, SFBC, and in Modern Greats of Science Fiction, iBooks; his other work includes a novel, Circus Of The Grand Design (Prime Books 2004 and infinity plus ebooks, 2011), and a chapbook of short fiction, Psychological Methods To Sell Should Be Destroyed (Spilt Milk Press/Electric Velocipede 2008). His stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including PolyphonyThe Third AlternativeElectric Velocipede, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He lives at Sanity Creek, Ohio with his wife, the writer Rebecca Kuder, and daughter Merida Kuder-Wexler.

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Snapshots: Nir Yaniv interviewed

The Love Machine & other contraptions by Nir Yaniv with a foreword by Lavie TidharYour first English-language story collection, The Love Machine & other contraptions, is just out. Tell us more about its contents and history.

The beginning, as stated in Frank Herbert’s Dune, is a very delicate time. Therefore I can’t say I remember much about the beginning of this book, for I was probably in a questionable state of mind then, an assumption I make mainly because I’m in a questionable state of mind most of the time, now included.

In any case, this book collects short stories written over a period of ten years or so. Most of them were published in Hebrew, and some were published in various publications in English and other languages. The recurring machines theme comes for my great love of everything mechanical, both in the real world and outside it, and from the fact that we are machines too. That’s also why I decided to augment the collection with some contraptions.

Contraptions?

Contraptions, to me, are just like fish: I’ve never eaten one. I mean – Gefilte-Fish doesn’t count, right? (If you don’t know what Gefilte-Fish is – count yourself lucky!)

In any case – after I finished selecting the stories to be included in the book, I sat and wrote twelve short-short ones, each dedicated to another impossible yet somehow very real machine. You’ll find there, among others, a Real Machine, an Id Machine, and even a Non Machine. They were not only great fun to write (and hopefully to read!) – I feel that they also bind the other stories of the collection together. Just like appetisers in a really good meal. You do notice the recurring theme of food in this interview, yes?

I’m ignoring it as best I can. So – you’re creative across a number of media: writing, editing, music and film. What are the connections between these? Do you ever stretch projects across several media? Are there even any boundaries?

One of the stories included in the collection is called My Uncle Gave Me a Time Machine. It is based on a song by the same name which was a part of my science-fiction rock album, The Universe in a Pita. That album, in turn, was a part of a radio-play I tried to produce a while back, in which an Israeli rock band is kidnapped by intergalactic mafia and has to pay by performing all over the universe. So projects in one medium influence projects in another. But it also works in other ways: when writing, I listen to the words. They have to have a tune and a tempo. In other words, they have to be a sort of music. In short: my mind is a mess.

Also, I am tempted to say that there are no boundaries, but of course there are: to me, boundaries, or rather – limits – are vital for creating any form of art. When everything is possible and everything is allowed, the result is boring. That’s why I’m a great fan of concept albums and themed projects, and my own works always have strict guidelines.

You’ve collaborated successfully with World Fantasy Award-winner Lavie Tidhar. How does a collaboration work for something as individual as writing fiction?

Lavie is a good friend and a great writer. I would compare collaborating with him to being in a rock band – I’ve been a bass player and a lead singer in several of those – only the work is serial instead of parallel: in a band everyone plays together at the same time, while a writing collaboration, in our case, goes chapter-by-chapter, one by him, one by me. But the rest is just the same: the alcohol, the drugs, the sexy young fans, the fights, the ruined hotel suites, the lot.

What’s special about Israeli SF? Who else should we look out for? Is it a good thing or bad to be labelled an Israeli SF author, rather than simply an SF author?

The very term “Israeli SF” is somewhat problematic, as even most Israeli fans fail to agree what it means. Is it SF written by Israeli authors? Or SF with Israeli protagonists? Or maybe SF written in Hebrew?

The other problem is that, even if we accept all of the above as genuine Israeli SF, that leaves us with only a few active writers, who don’t share much common ground besides that factor. An excellent Israeli writer I’d recommend is Shimon Adaf, whose work never ceases to amaze me.

As for the word “Israeli” being added or omitted to “SF author”, I’d say that this is mainly a question for the marketing department. I was born and raised in Israel, and Hebrew is my mother tongue, so yeah, I’m an Israeli guy, and my writing is influenced by that. On the other hand, most Israelis are sons or grandsons of immigrants: my grandparents are east-Europeans – mostly Polish – which explains the weird humor, and also the silly food. How “Israeli” is that? In some respects, my writing has more in common with Polish and Russian literature. Other Israeli writers have roots in such places as Spain, Egypt or Yemen, and draw their cultural background from there. And of course we all share the love, even if it’s in the form of nostalgia, for good old American and British SF.

What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working on my second short film, about a young doctoral student who builds a time machine out of the microwave oven in his home, which gets stuck and sends him 6 hours into the future once every 20 seconds, that being only his second-worst problem, the first one being his extremely pissed-off roommate.

I’m also working on a very complex novel dealing with King Solomon, a character which always fascinated me. There are a couple of ancient Jewish legends telling about Solomon making a bad deal with Samedy, the king of the devils. Samedy takes Solomon’s signet ring, throws him to a distant land, takes his form and rules in his place. My idea: Samedy doesn’t take Solomon’s ring, but rather they exchange rings. And Solomon is not thrown in space, but rather – with the help of the ring he got – in time. Now starts the fun.

Describe your typical writing day.

I have a full-time job as a computer programmer, which, if you’re smart enough, is a good way of getting money for nothing-in-particular, meanwhile using an overly powerful computer for making your own stuff. I write in bits and pieces over the day, and in between I take pictures, edit video projects, soundtracks and texts, eat and sleep. I also do a bit of programming, yeah, but don’t tell my bosses at work – I don’t want them to get used to it.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?

The Tel Aviv Dossier, which I co-wrote with Lavie Tidhar. I shamelessly declare that it’s not only the craziest book I wrote, but also the craziest book I’ve read.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?

No excuses. If you find yourself in the need of any excuse whatsoever regarding any part of a story or a book – it isn’t good. Make it so good that you don’t need excuses. Or throw it away.

Also, regular meals are important.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?

I am tempted to say that life will get better and that writers will get more money for their work due to the advances of e-books. However, I don’t think it’ll happen. The main factor for succeeding in any form of art was, is and will remain the marketing department. In other words, the concept of big publishers will stay with us, even while the technology changes.

I like paper books quite a lot, and the first thing people notice, when they get into my house, is the terrific amount of books in it. Well, maybe that’s the second thing, right after the terrific amount of bass guitars. Still, I do most of my reading on a Kindle these days, and I think it’s a game changer for the readers. Especially ones who used to carry one kilogram of books per flight, and can now reduce that to whatever it is the Kindle weighs.

Any last words to your audience, then?

No, sir. You haven’t heard the last of me!

More…
The Love Machine & other contraptions by Nir Yaniv with a foreword by Lavie Tidhar

Nir Yaniv is a writer, musician, editor and filmmaker based in Tel Aviv. His short stories were published in Israel and outside it, including such publications as Weird TalesApex Magazine and Chizine. And they have been translated into German, Portuguese and Polish. His first story collection, One Hell of a Writer, came out in 2006. Two novels he co-wrote with Lavie Tidhar were published in 2009: The Tel Aviv Dossier and Fictional Murder. His second story collection, The Love Machine & Other Contraptions, came out in 2012.

Nir founded Israel’s first online SF&F magazine, sf-f.org.il, in which he served as chief editor for seven years; went on to edit Dreams in Aspamia, a printed speculative fiction magazine, and created the first Hebrew science fiction rock album, The Universe in a Pita.

Nir’s first short film, Conspiracy, was screened in film festivals in Israel and in the UK. He served in various film projects as cameraman, soundman, sound-editor, and even actor.

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Snapshots: Tim Lebbon interviewed

Coldbrook by Tim LebbonYour most recent novel, Coldbrook, is a refreshing take on Zombie Apocalypse: grounded in science, with the apocalypse – while suitably gory – a backdrop for the stories of some compelling, and very human, characters. What drew you to a sub-genre that could easily be seen as played out by now?

Partly because I’d never written a zombie novel, and partly because I wanted to try to write one that was suitably different. Oh, and also because I wanted to destroy the world again. I’ve done that so many times in novellas and short stories, but only once or twice in novels. So I wanted to write my own great big apocalyptic novel, and Coldbrook is it (so far … there will be more). I’d written a couple of short stories featuring zombies, and my novel Berserk is, I’m told, a zombie novel (though the Z word never once crossed my mind when I was writing it). I’ve also become fascinated with multiverse theory (who can’t be fascinated with it?) and wanted to wrap that into a novel at some point. This seemed the ideal one.

What’s the reaction been to Coldbrook?

It’s had excellent reaction from readers and reviewers so far. The novel took a long time coming – it was actually with another publisher for a while, and they publicised it pretty widely – so to actually see it out from Hammer at last was great. I think by then there were quite a few people itching to read it.

Your Toxic City trilogy has just been snapped up by ABC for development as a TV series. Tell us more about what will be happening.

Yes, that’s really exciting. I’m not heavily involved in the writing process (although I’m here as a consultant). ABC Studios optioned the trilogy, and it was immediately sold to ABC Network. What this means is that the pilot script has been commissioned, and writer Jaime Paglia is working on that right now (I’ve seen the proposal and it’s amazing). Early in 2013 we should hear more. It’s a much quicker process than any movie option, some of which I’ve had hanging for literally years.

London Eye by Tim LebbonI’m very positive about Toxic City because of the great team attached. Jaime wrote A Town Called Eureka (SyFy’s longest running series). And the director Alex Proyas is known for The Crow, I, Robot, and Dark City, amongst others. Watch this space!

Will this TV attention change your writing in any way? For instance, are you drawn to writing more televisual and cinematic work, either as scripts or with a view to adaptation?

I am writing scripts occasionally, and I’d love to do more. I’m working on a TV proposal myself right now for the UK, writing the pilot on spec (because I’m not known as a screenwriter), and I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also writing a spooky animated kids’ movie called My Haunted House for a UK producer and director. I’ve written a script with Steve Volk that’s doing the rounds, and Chris Golden and I adapted our first Secret Journeys of Jack London novel for 20th Century Fox. I love screenwriting and hope to do more of it in the future.

But writing novels and novellas, no, I never really think about the screen side of things. If you do that you might as well write a screenplay … and a novel should be what it needs to be. After I’ve written something I think about it, of course, because that’s the business. I think Coldbrook would make an amazing movie or TV series – imagine each episode taking place in a different Earth! – but the budget would be immense.

What are you working on now?

The script I mentioned above, My Haunted House. The pilot script for my TV proposal, tentatively titled Breaking Rocks. A short story with Mike Marshall Smith for an anthology. A YA novel with Mark Morris, The Trials of Toby Stone. A new novella for Spectral Publications. And just yesterday I heard that I’ve sold a new novel from a proposal, called The Silence, so I’ll be amping up to start that after Christmas. Lots of other stuff too … a new script, another novella, another TV proposal in the USA… all at varying stages, of course.

What will we see from you in the near future?

The second and third books in the Toxic City trilogy are due out next year, as well as my Star Wars novel Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void. Coldbrook will have a US release next year, too, which is great news. And at World Fantasy 2013, my new novella from Spectral will be launched.

Describe your typical writing day.

It usually fits around the kids going to school and my wife working. So I’ll start writing around 10am and usually finish around 3 or 4 when the kids come home. I do other stuff early morning and evenings, like emails, interviews, all the business side of things. And I also do a lot of exercising now – cycling, running, swimming – in preparation for an Ironman race next year, so that all fits in between everything else.

But some days, there’s a lot of window staring. Just part of the process.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?

For horror lovers, my novella collection White and Other Tales of Ruin. For fantasy lovers, my first fantasy novel Dusk (although I’d say that Fallen is better). And for something a bit different, my novella The Thief of Broken Toys.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?

I’m a big fan of Paul Meloy, a UK writer who only writes a few stories per year. His collection Islington Crocodiles is fabulous. Also, Adam Nevill is a fantastic writer, and he’s continuing his success writing horror novels. Perhaps my favourite of his up to now is The Ritual. Helen Marshall is a Canadian writer everyone needs to watch out for, her first collection of short fiction, Hair Side, Flesh Side, is out now and it’s staggeringly good.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?

Never give up.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?

I wish I knew. Easy question first … I think readers will be reading the same stuff they are now, but with much easier access to different work, I’d hope that horizons expand. We certainly live in interesting times, and publishing is very volatile right now. I’m discovering that myself. I think everyone has to embrace the change rather than being afraid of it, because it can’t be stopped. Some people I know predict the end of publishing houses and agents entirely, but I don’t for a moment think things will go that far. There’s still business to be done, and most writers I’m sure would rather just write. Things will change, and then settle. I have a decent sized backlist that I’m keen to get out there as ebooks … but I’m not rushing things.

More…
Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon

Tim Lebbon is a New York Times-bestselling writer from South Wales. He’s had almost thirty novels published to date, as well as dozens of novellas and hundreds of short stories. Recent releases include Coldbrook, London Eye, Nothing as it Seems and The Heretic Land. Future novels include Into the Void: Dawn of the Jedi (Star Wars). He has won four British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, and a Scribe Award, and has been a finalist for International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, and World Fantasy Awards.

A TV series of his Toxic City trilogy is in development with ABC Network in the USA. He is working on new screenplays and TV proposals.

Find out more about Tim at his website www.timlebbon.net

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Snapshots: Jeff Noon interviewed

Just out as an ebook, Channel SK1N is your first novel in ten years or so. The novel has already been highly praised by William Gibson, Cory Doctorow, Lauren Beukes, SFX and more, and it’s clear that your return to book-length fiction is long overdue. Tell us more about the novel.

Jeff Noon - Channel Sk1nChannel SK1N charts a few days in the life of a pop star called Nola Blue. She’s a manufactured entity, very much in the X-Factor, American Idol mould. I wanted to push that process to the extremes, to really have a good look at it as a subject matter. So Nola has lost her former identity, her name, many of her memories, and so on. She’s an artist who has given herself over completely to the pop machine. Now she’s starting to regret that decision. And her regret coincides with the appearance of a mysterious bruise on her stomach. This grows and starts to take on shape and colour and even sound; it turns out to be a TV broadcast. So Nola is picking up TV signals on her skin. That’s the basic theme: the body taken over by the media, for good and for ill. It’s a short novel, just a few days in the life of this incredibly troubled woman as she struggles to preserve her own identity. I follow her as closely as I can, like a handheld camera. I really wanted the book to have that “handheld” quality; so the prose is a bit jittery in places, and later on my word-camera gets infected with the same parasite signal.

Why the move to self-publish this novel, rather than take the traditional route? I believe there was at least one commercial publisher who wanted to publish this book.

We sent the book off to one publisher and they picked up on it, and wanted to publish it. So I really did almost go the traditional route. But they wanted to release it in 18 months’ time. Now, I’ve been out of the world of books for a long while – ten years since Falling Out of Cars was published – and I was really keen on connecting to a reading audience again. So I did a bit of research, and realised that the possibilities of self-publishing had changed a lot in those ten years. I made the decision to do it myself. This way, the book is already out, and reaching people, and that’s a really great feeling. Best of all, it allows a more or less continuous stream of creativity; I can write something and get it out a short time later. That whole waiting period between the creation and the publication can be very short now. This is brilliant: current thought and current work can move hand in hand.

Was it an easy decision to turn down conventional publishing and go it alone?

No. Not at all. But you know, I’ve always had an independent streak to me. I started out writing and producing fanzines in the punk era, and this feels very similar in many ways. And of course these days we see so many musicians going it alone; that was a major inspiration. It just seemed the right thing to do, at this particular time in my life. Of course, there are problems; for instance, the major print newspapers give very little review space to self-published eBooks. Thankfully, the world of the blog now exists. There are an amazing bunch of really well-informed writers out there, both at the centre and the edges of the SF genre. They bring a far greater individuality to their writing than a lot of professional journalists do, and they really get and support the independent spirit. They’re independent themselves, right? Publishing is changing in so many ways. We’re in transition, and I’m really happy to be part of that transition, that wave.

What lessons have you learnt along the way?

The initial set-up is time-consuming. You need some help along the way, even if it’s just a couple of well-informed friends. The biggest problem facing the independent author is visibility; how can I get people to notice my work? One approach is to place your work within the limits of a known genre pool, but it’s so easy to get lost that way. My personality forces me in the opposite direction: I like to write books that slip and slide between genres. But I knew that Channel SK1N was a simple, strong subject matter: a woman turns into a television set. There it is. A story. And I knew it would connect with the present-day world in various interesting ways. So I think I would advise people to really think about subject matter and style: make your work stand out from the crowd. At least then, you’ll have some chance of being noticed.

To many people, publication of Channel Sk1n will be seen as your return after a break of a decade or so. In reality, you’ve been working hard online, with a prolific output of new fiction, remixes, microfiction, poetry and much, much more. Not so long ago, it was easy to say that an author was someone who wrote novels, stories and/or poetry, for print, but now… what exactly is it that you do?

I’m a writer. That’s how I see myself, fundamentally. I manipulate words to create effects, stories, emotions and so on. But I’m not the kind of person who can just do one thing, forever; I need to change, to hit the REFRESH button on a weekly, if not daily basis. So I’m always experimenting, just trying to come up with new ideas for both subject and form. I do that every day. I have hundreds of little one or two page Word documents on my computer, that I’m constantly looking at, tweaking, remixing and so on. Eventually, one of these will grow into something larger, and maybe take on a public life. I’ve spent years perfecting things that nobody’s ever seen. It’s my nature. But now, with the self-publishing venture, I hope to get some of these works out, in front of people. For most of the ten years’ time I was hidden away in the world of screenwriting, which suited me at the time. I still love film, and hope to see some scripts given a visual life one day.

Jeff Noon - Pixel JuiceAs well as your online output, and the publication of Channel SK1N, your backlist is now being made available for the first time in ebook format. Are there any titles in particular that you would like to highlight?

I couldn’t get hold of good digital copies of the older books, so I had to pay for them to be professionally scanned. I then had to check the scans for errors. So, in effect, I’m currently in the process of reading my own back catalogue. Which is a mighty strange, and somewhat scary thing to do. But it hasn’t been too bad. I have a particular fondness for Pixel Juice, because I can remember my imagination running on overload when I wrote it, and also for Falling Out Of Cars, for its extension of the Alice in Wonderland myth into a near-future scenario.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing the spores on Twitter, just these little packets of story and image. Eventually, I will collect these into a volume called Pixel Dust. I’m also looking at ideas for apps, especially for the spores and Cobralingus. This is all about finding new ways of presenting story, new narrative processes. I love all that. Also, I’ve just started a new film script, an inter-dimensional romance. And the usual array of experiments. I always have a lot of works on the go.

Describe your typical writing day.

I work best at night. So I tend to go to bed very late, around 3 or 4 or even 5 in the morning. I get up at 10am, mess about for a bit, do any admin type work, get all that boring stuff out of the way, you know? And then start thinking about the day’s writing. I’m quite organised; I have a to-do list, and all that. But, as I said, after dark is when I really start to feel creative. I must have some Vampire blood!

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?

I don’t really read contemporary novels. I love magazines (paper ones), which I devour cover to cover. I adore poetry. Whenever I go into a bookshop, I quite naturally head for the poetry section. That’s my compass point. I like contemporary poetry most of all, so I always try to keep up with the latest volumes. My favourite poet is Pauline Stainer. I find her work endlessly inspiring. She has a very powerful visual imagination, which I really respond to. I think I’m actually a frustrated poet, in many ways. (When I’m not being a frustrated musician, that is!)

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?

Really concentrate on individual expression. Be bold. Take a chance on being strange. Of all the genres, science fiction will most readily reward you for this.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?

I think paper books will still be around in five years. Beyond that, it’s difficult to predict. I imagine the big newspapers will go completely digital first, losing their paper editions. That will change people’s attitudes. We will see more and more digital books. I think the new media will change the nature of storytelling in some way, but as always, the novel will be at the back of the queue, desperately clinging onto its 19th Century status for as long as possible. At a certain point in history the novel and the story wedded themselves together. This never happened to the same degree in visual or musical arts, so those media have been free to progress at a far quicker rate than the novel. But there will be a number of writers exploring narrative on the new platforms. More power to them. Meanwhile, the publishing industry pats itself on the back because it successfully made money from the paper editions of Fifty Shades of Grey. I mean, what are the chances of that novel being taken up by a big publisher, just from scratch? Absolutely minimal. But what interests me the most is the growing number of “amateur” writers that the new media has brought to light. I read once that Britain has more creative people per square mile than any other country in the world. I think that figure will need to be seriously upgraded, because we’re just now starting to see the astonishing range of people who are taking advantage of digital culture to show their writing to the world. There is a terrible snobbery about this stratum of writers amongst the industry and the press (until of course one of them makes serious money). In fact, Shades of Grey is a perfect example; that was a seriously personal novel, emerging from the world of online fanfiction. It doesn’t get more grassroots than that! For myself, I welcome this new wave of writing. For sure, not all of it will operate at the “accepted” standards, but my God the people will speak out loud. We’ve all got a hilltop to shout from now. The question comes back to visibility. More than ever, artists of every stripe will have to really make themselves stand out in the market square. I think we’ll see an increasing number of highly individualised novels, stories with unique themes and styles. It’s survival of the strangest. And that can only be good. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I’m keen to see the future of books, in whatever form it takes.

More…Jeff Noon - Channel Sk1n

Jeff Noon was born in Manchester in 1957. He trained in the visual arts and was active on the post-punk music scene before becoming a playwright. His novels include Vurt (Arthur C. Clarke Award winner), Pollen, Automated Alice and Falling Out Of Cars. Pixel Juice was a collection of fifty avant-pulp stories. He also writes microfictional ‘spores’ via @jeffnoon on Twitter. His latest novel Channel SK1N is an experiment in independent digital publishing. He lives in Brighton, on the south coast of England. More information can be found at www.metamorphiction.com.Buy stuff:


Snapshots: Henry Gee interviewed

Siege of Stars by Henry GeeYour first novel, Siege of Stars, is just out, the opening instalment in a projected trilogy of Big Ideas SF. Tell us more about the novel.

Baldly, it’s about a young member of an alien space-faring species called the Drovers. Their historic charge is to guide the endless migrations of immense beasts – the Drove – as they criss-cross the Galaxy. The Drovers, like the Drove, exist in several dimensions. They can be best thought of as moving knots of space-time. The Drove beasts are of a similar order to the Drovers, but huge and unintelligent. They eat stars for breakfast and kick planets around like footballs – but the Drovers have to keep them away from stars hosting planets where life might be found. But lately they have been getting too much for the Drovers to handle.

The Drove Elders come up with the only solution – the Drove must be destroyed. The Drovers cannot do this themselves as it is against their creed (look, is this making any sense?) To do this, they choose a young Drover called Merlin, whose task is to find, and if necessary evolve, a species capable of destroying the Drove.

The book – and the series – is really all about Merlin’s various adventures over millions of years as she tries to carry out her task. She has to battle against her own feelings of inadequacy, and has to face up to her mistakes (even gods suffer from Imposter Syndrome). Many times she has to assume the shape of an ordinary material being, but in doing so she runs the risk of losing sight of her task. I asked myself a question – were a being we’d regard as divine to be made incarnate, would she be fully aware of her true nature?

But, well, there’s a lot more to it than that. Some might say that it’s really all about good Scotch.

What led you to writing this particular story, rather than pursuing other ideas and interests?

I’d been a professional writer for some years and had written quite a lot of non-fiction, but I felt I couldn’t really consider myself a writer unless I tried some fiction. The freedom fiction offers is quite scary – many science writers are deterred by the plethora of free parameters. Even if you have a story to tell, there are so many choices to be made about how to tell it. Perspective, characterisation, tense, mood, structure. Well, I was also a fan of SF, and was the founding editor of Futures, the long-running series of SF short-shorts in Nature, where I worked. I’d written a couple of vignettes for the series myself. They were rather different from each other, but I thought I’d put them together to see if they’d play together.

But there was a lot of other stuff there in the mix.

I wanted to write a story about a marriage, a love match, from its beginning to its very end, spanning more than half a century of life events. I was quite consciously influenced by Anthony Burgess’ book Earthly Powers, a fictionalised biography. One of the appealing features of that book is that the protagonist’s brother-in-law is a priest who becomes the Pope. I liked that idea. Through that I was able to use the novel to scratch some itches I’d had about religion and what it means for human beings – and other people. I was also influenced by a sketch on that old comedy show Not The Nine-O’Clock News in which an anthropologist is interviewed – along with the gorilla whom he has trained. I’m sure readers can have lots of fun influence-spotting, from Olaf Stapledon to Julian May.

And there are quite a lot of other SF tropes in there – all part of my teach-yourself-fiction home study course. There’s scientists, doing science of various kinds. There’s some fairly outrageous space opera. I adore space opera, which must be the only form of literature that it’s impossible to parody. There are parts where it gets very gothic, even steampunk. There are fight scenes. There is horror. There is graphic violence. Action scenes are hard to pull off, but I felt I had to give them a go. And sex. Lots and lots of sex. I found I liked writing sex scenes. The trick is to get the balance right, between prissy and coy on the one hand, and anatomically pornographic on the other. I think I succeeded. There’s one sex scene that’s fairly crucial to the whole thing, which I must have re-written dozens of times. When people have asked me to describe the novel succinctly I sum it up like this: sex, violence, aliens, violent sex, sex with aliens, and violent sex with aliens.

How long have you been working on this series, and how far through it are you?

I wrote the first draft of the whole thing in an adrenaline rush between Christmas 2005 and Easter 2006. I was up until two or three in the morning, night after night, writing, and would still turn up to work each day fresh as the proverbial daisy. The experience was wonderful, truly enjoyable and fulfilling. I remember the sense of achievement as I reached the final sentence.

I remember my characters coming alive on the page, so that I felt that I wasn’t really writing the story, but witnessing it as it played out before me. My characters evolved their own personalities, their own behaviour. There’s one scene where I’d planned for the central married couple to have a row, and the husband would walk out. Well, I wrote that, but I couldn’t write any further. The tale was killed stone dead. I discovered that the husband wouldn’t have done that – he stayed home and faced the music. Once I’d let the character tell me what to do, the story worked itself out. I’d heard authors describing such things, but before it happened to me I thought they were being pretentious.

That was the first draft, all 125,000 words of it. Of course, that was just the start. Most people who read it hated it. Some quite violently. But a few really liked it, so I took the constructive criticism and expanded it into a trilogy, adding lots of backstory, doubling it in length.

People still mostly hated it.

So I put it back into the bottom drawer and wrote some other stuff instead. I wrote another novel, a gothic horror mystery called By The Sea. in which I try to do for Cromer what Stephen King does for Maine. I self-published it (with my agent’s agreement I must add) and the few people who’ve read it seem to have enjoyed it. I wrote a children’s book, with my younger daughter. It’s called Defiant the Guinea-Pig – Firefighter! That’s also self-published but still in search of a proper home. And I wrote a serious pop-science book for the University of Chicago Press that should be coming out next year.

All the while, this sprawling SF trilogy was working its way back to the top of the pile. Just as I was about to embark on another edit earlier this year, Andrew Burt of ReAnimus Press asked me if he could publish it, if it was still available. Andrew had liked the novel, right from its tender and shy germ years before. He ‘got’ what I was trying to do. So I did another comprehensive edit, cutting here, adding material there, and delivered the trilogy. So, it’s all written. The plan is for all three novels to come out before the end of 2012.

You’re already well established as senior editor at Nature, and long-time editor of that journal’s Futures fiction slot. How did a science-fiction slot ever find its way into such a prestigious journal?

It’ll be no surprise to you that Nature editors are geeks. We don’t talk to one another in equations, and it’s not quite The Big Bang Theory, but many of us grew up with SF before we became scientists, and then editors.

I hope you won’t mind my telling a yarn about how the Futures thing got started, as I don’t think I have told it before (you may correct me if I’m wrong). Many years ago I wrote a review in Nature of a Roland Emmerich popcorn movie called Independence Day. I noted that it started with spaceships hovering ominously over the cities of Earth, and bemoaned the fact that nobody had filmed Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, which starts the same way but is much more interesting and profound than the slush that so often passes for SF in Hollywood. Clarke read my review, and faxed me – for my information – a table showing all his books and the dates when they’d been optioned by film companies. The irony was that the only one of his works that hit the screen was 2001 – which started as a screenplay. As a result of this I got to correspond with Clarke.

Roll forward to 1999, and we geeks at Nature were wondering how we should commemorate the upcoming millennium. The idea of a series of SF stories seemed to be in the air, and I was chosen to run it. It was originally commission only. So I got to write to all my SF heroes and cadge stories from them, but I needed a really big name to kick it off. The only SF author I could think of whose name transcended the genre was Clarke. I asked him for a story – and he delivered by return, bless him. That first series ran from November 1999 to the end of 2000. It was resurrected for a run mid-decade, and then went into abeyance. There was enough good stuff to make an anthology, which I put together under the tutelage of David Hartwell at Tor. I learned that putting together an anthology is far more laborious than collecting some stories and putting them together in a book.

The Futures series restarted in 2007 and has been unbroken since. My agreement with the Chief Editor was that it would be open-ended, and we’d continue with it until we got bored or an asteroid hit the Earth, whichever came first. Neither has happened, and after twelve years and more than 300 tales on I have passed the baton to my colleague, the redoubtable Colin Sullivan.

Some way along I opened the door to all comers, and we still get about ten times more stories than we can publish. Some stories come from established professionals, others from scientists who’ve decided to venture into fiction, and yet others from young people just starting out. There is an awful lot of young talent out there. One is Shelly Li, who was just fifteen when she made her first sale – to me. She’d destined for greater things, and I’m more proud than I can say to have been there at the beginning.

Describe your typical working day.

Time was when I’d commute to London three days a week from Cromer. The long train rides gave me plenty of time to think, and to write. A lot of what became the SIgil trilogy started on my little Asus Eee, back in those long-ago days before St Steve of Jobs came down from Heaven on his fiery chariot bearing the iPad. These days, however, I work from home – and keep office hours. In my office. It’s an office job.

Really, though, my office is in my head. It is there that I think about the manuscripts submitted to Nature, and deciding which of the deluge might be a good bet for publication. It’s not rocket-science, mainly because it’s mostly done by instinct. The hardest part is rationalising your choices. The Chief Editor once characterised it as choosing a few drops of water from a firehose.

You live in a small seaside town in north Norfolk (one of my favourite places) – what are the attractions of that environment for you?

The main attraction is that I get to walk the dogs lunchtimes on the beach. Just fifteen minutes walk from my house is the most glorious beach that’s virtually deserted, even in the summer. When the sun shines it could be a tropical desert island. Of course, the sun doesn’t shine that often, so the days when it does are extra special. But even stormy winter days have a rugged grandeur. I find I much prefer small towns to large cities. Cromer is the right size – not so small that it effectively disappears outside the tourist season, not so large that it becomes anonymous. People know one another. It’s old-fashioned in a comforting way that cities aren’t.

As well as writing and editing, you’re a keen musician. What does that offer that writing doesn’t? Are the different forms of creativity part of a single spectrum for you, or very different things?

For many years I have been a keyboard player in rock and blues bands, specialising in Hammond Organ. I enjoy playing live, not having the patience to do much home recording – though lately I’ve been having lots of fun exploring GarageBand on my iMac. I was quite ill recently with depression – it gets me from time to time – but even in my darkest times I’d go to band rehearsals once a week. I can honestly say that these stopped me from going completely round the bend. Music seems to occupy a different part of my brain from writing. When I am stressed, I play music, and I can feel my brain reboot itself, getting rid of all those worries and niggles with which one is plagued

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?

Gosh! There are so many. One thing I’ve discovered while editing Futures is that there are lots of authors out there, some with a sizeable canon of published books, many of whom I have never heard. I shall not embarrass you by mentioning anyone too close to (your) home. I’ve already mentioned Shelly Li, but there are other writers, many of whom have made sterling contributions to Futures and should really be better known – John Gilbey, Julian Tang, Sue Lanigan, Gareth Owens, Deborah Walker, Jeff Crook, Polenth Blake, Ken Liu (who’s just won a Hugo), Ian Whates, Hiromi Goto, Larissa Lai, Martin Haynes – loads more. And there are some authors who’ve been at it for ages who deserve more recognition than they usually get. People such as the late Barrington Bayley. And Ian Watson, whose novels such as The Embedding and Chekhov’s Journey tend to remain in the mind long after you’ve read them.

There are also authors writing SF in English who come from far outside the usual Anglophone orbit, particularly in the Middle East and Asia – China, Singapore, Japan. I set up a Facebook page for Futures that now has more than 3,800 subscribers – many of whom come from the Arab world and India. It has more readers in Cairo than London; more in Tunis than Los Angeles. We recently published our first story from a writer in Iran.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?

Write every day. Writing, like any other skill – whether it’s playing football or the piano – improves with practice. It doesn’t have to be a chapter of the Great Novel. It could be a poem, a few random lines, or even a shopping list. Having a blog and maintaining it is good practice. Most writers I know keep office hours – they don’t sit around waiting for the muse to strike.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?

Writers will make a living the way they have always done – by doing something else as a day job. As for the future of publishing – well, as someone once said, prediction is very hard, especially about the future.

I’ve been in the publishing industry as an editor and a writer for a quarter of a century and the changes have been immense. Back then hot metal still existed; ‘paste-ups’ involved paste; and we took ‘copy’ to people called ‘typesetters’ – who were among the first casualties of the digital revolution. The very term ‘typesetter’ now seems like some arcane and bucolic pastime of an earlier age, like grummet-nadgering or lummock-woggling. Now we work completely within the digital environment. Traditional publishers are having to diversify or die. Agents are becoming publishers. Heavens to Betsy, AUTHORS are becoming publishers. So what does the future hold?

It’s hard to say, but the music industry might be a model. Diversity will be the key. In music, there are still record companies and CDs, which survive next to downloads and do-it-yourself. In publishing, there will still be books, made of paper, for many, many years to come. Except that they’ll be printed on demand – doing without warehouses full of unsold stock is a no-brainer. And the eBook is here to stay. The ecology of publishing is already much more diverse than it once was. The main effect will be that people won’t concentrate on just one task, such as writing, marketing, printing, typesetting or being an agent. Everyone will have to be at least passable in more than one of these tasks to make a living.

Have you any more fiction in mind?

Not as yet. I’m simply basking in the utter amazement that some of my fiction has been published; that people seem to be buying it and enjoying it; and that it has cover art by someone other than me. (Which is itself interesting – seeing one’s own words translated into pictures by a mind other than one’s own is fascinating. Clay Hagebusch is doing a fine job with the Sigil trilogy.) Really, it’s all a matter of confidence. Now that I know people like my stuff I might try some more. Though I can’t imagine what. Perhaps, like Clarke’s Star Child, I’ll think of something.

Any other questions you’d like to have been asked? Feel free to add and answer them, and I’ll pretend to have asked them.

Who put the benzedrine in Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine?

I am often asked that – all I can say is that it wasn’t Mr Murphy, who was just as mystified by the nembutal that appeared in his overalls.

More…

Siege of Stars by Henry GeeHenry Gee got his first degree in Zoology and Genetics at the University of Leeds, and his PhD in Zoology at the University of Cambridge. In 1987 he joined the staff of Nature on a three-month contract. He is still there. He has written quite a few books, mostly non-fiction. He lives in Cromer, Norfolk, England with his family and numerous pets.

The Sigil trilogy is published by ReAnimus Press.

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Snapshots: Roz Kaveney interviewed

Rituals by Roz KaveneyAugust 2012 saw publication of your first novel, Rituals (Rhapsody of Blood, Volume One), a dark and eclectic romp through history and myth which opens very appropriately with quotes from Nietszche and Cyndi Lauper. Tell us a bit more about this novel.
One of my characters says that people talk of magic as a technology of will, as if that were a good thing. I wanted to write a fantasy novel that regarded magic as pervasive and wonderful, but probably quite a bad and corrupting thing. Both my heroines are caught up in it – and compromised by that. Mara has spent millennia tracking down those who use torture and murder rituals to acquire power – which makes her both Justice and top predator. She pre-emptively bullies Aleister Crowley telling him tales of Aztecs and Atlantis, and her complicated alliance against Evil with the untrustworthy Jehovah, her former apprentice, and about her search for her occasionally incarnate dead sisters/lovers. In the early 80s, she casually saves Emma, my other heroine – who finds herself hired by a mysterious boss who talks through her dead lover Caroline. She sorts out various threats – elves, vampires, angels, Brit Artists, and a particularly dangerous invasion. Later volumes deal with the French Revolution, the Crucifixion and the end of the world.

Writers normally have lots of ideas and inspirations to choose from. What made this the novel you just had to write?
I wanted a loose baggy structure into which I could fit all my obsessions, and a lot of snarky dialogue – I justified my years of writing fanfic in terms of the book it was preparation for, which turned out to be this. And there are the critical books – a decade of film and television studies left me with lots of cool things I wanted to see done and no-one was going to. So a vast queer blasphemous book that’s full of cinema and comic book ideas that no one else was ever going to do.

You have a background as critic, poet, literary and cultural commentator, activist and editor – how does this shape and inform your fiction?
Some people have seen this book as a logical outcome of my drift back to anarchism and my complicated relationship with religion. It is certainly a critique of power – it’s also a fairly intensely woman-centred book with a major trans character in later volumes. Like my poetry, it is all about putting in what the great tradition leaves out.

It takes a long time to build up a rich and convincing backdrop for a novel – a series – like this. How long have you been working on Rhapsody of Blood?
I’ve worked as a publisher’s reader for decades and for quite a long time was reading a lot of historical manuscripts – I accumulated a lot of interests and those fed into this. And it also – as I just said – came out of my other interests as they matured.

With your diverse interests and career to date, why fiction, and why now?
I first wrote a novel back in the 80s – a mainstream novel about trans hookers in Chicago in the years before the epidemic. It’s quite good – it nearly sold a couple of times but I got discouraged when it didn’t. Then Midnight Rose came along and my fellow editors bullied me into writing for our own anthologies. I started a big space opera on the back of those stories but it died on me and I got sidetracked into memoir and fanfic and critical studies, Why now? Same reason as the return to poetry – old and tired and in a hurry.

What’s the schedule for the rest of the series? Is it written yet? Do you have publication dates?
I’ve finished a draft of Book 2 – Reflections – and started 3 – Returns. No schedule – there are also a couple of linked short stories, one of which may become a section of a later volume. I am planning to wrap it up in four books, total. Honest.

What are you working on now?
Book 3, some poems, a critical book on fantasy film.

Describe your typical writing day, if there is such a thing.
I tend to spend much of the day on my actual job – reading manuscripts for publishers and reviewing. Poems come when they come. I do most of my actual writing late at night. Or not.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
I think Kari Sperring doesn’t get the praise she deserves – I’m a huge admirer of Nora Jemisin.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Consume all the art you can – not just books but paintings, music, film.

What else do you have out now?
I’ve two books of poetry out at the same time, more or less, as Rituals, from Midsummer Night’s Press – one selects my poems about love and sex Dialectic Of The Flesh and the other What If What’s Imagined Were All True collects some of my poems about robots, and gods, and sf writers. I was poet GOH at Eastercon 2011 – pretty good a mere two years after I came back to poetry after thirty some years away.

Rituals by Roz KaveneyMore…

Roz Kaveney has had a chequered career as writer and activist – she has had a bad attitude since her teens. She helped create Feminists against Censorship and was Deputy Chair of Liberty; she has worked tirelessly for trans rights and on broader LGBTIQ issues. She is probably best known for her books on popular culture Reading The Vampire SlayerFrom Alien To The MatrixTeen Dreams and so on, and for her involvement in the Midnight Rose anthologies.

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Snapshots: Lawrence Schimel interviewed

The Drag Queen of Elfland by Lawrence SchimelCirclet Press have just published the first electronic edition of your collection, The Drag Queen of Elfland. Tell us a bit about the stories in this book.

It’s a collection of fantasy stories with lesbian and gay characters, first published as a collection fifteen years ago, back when queer genre material wasn’t as prevalent as it is in today’s (digital) world, although many of the stories had originally seen print earlier in anthologies and magazines. It was my first collection of my own work, and I was very lucky in that it managed to “cross-over” and find an audience in both the SF field and the LGBT literary scene; often books that straddle two separate genres or niches wind up falling between the cracks and not finding a home in either. Despite short story collections being notoriously poor sellers, it went into a second printing a few months after it was first published. Of course, this was a very different publishing (and especially bookselling) climate than the present, when a vibrant network of independent specialty stores still existed in the US: SF specialty bookshops, LGBT bookshops, feminist bookshops, etc. The book was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, the Firecracker Alternative Book Award, the Spectrum Award, and the Small Press Book Award, and was translated into Spanish and published a year later in Spain.

Sexuality, and gay sexuality in particular, is a recurring subject for your fiction and editing. What’s the relationship between this and SF/fantasy? What kinds of things can you do with SF/F that you couldn’t do in contemporary fiction? Is it fiction with an agenda, or simply fiction about subjects that interest you?

There are four different ways to write queer SF:

  • you can write for an SF audience and explain the queer cultural references,
  • you can write for a queer audience and explain the SF-nal references,
  • you can write for an audience of queer SF fans and explain nothing,
  • or you can write for a “neutral” (or perhaps “alien”) audience and explain everything.

The stories in TDQoE were sometimes published in SF collections and sometimes in gay and lesbian venues. Sometimes I was a gay man trying to find myself reflected in the SF world, and sometimes I was an SF fan looking to make sure my geekdoms were represented in queer literature.

But often we have an audience in mind when we write, and one of the things I’ve liked most about writing erotica–or perhaps I should say, publishing erotica–especially in the gay erotica magazines, is that one could presume that the audience reading me was also an audience of my fellow gay men, in other words, my tribe. This is different from erotica that is published in a book, or online, where it falls under the “heterosexual gaze”, by appearing in bookstores (or the internet) where heteronormative criteria continue to hold sway. So when I was writing many of the stories that appear in my second collection, titled His Tongue in English, I was often writing as a gay man for a gay audience, even if the stories were later reprinted in other venues (Best Of The Year collections, etc.).

You have a very eclectic involvement in publishing: writing fiction, poetry and non-fiction, editing, criticism, translation, and probably far more. How would you describe this? How do you decide what to work on next?

I am and have always been a reader, first and foremost, and one with omnivorous interests and tastes. But it has usually been my reading interests which have led to my various other involvements in publishing.

As for deciding what to work on next, I am inherently lazy, so I work by crises: the most immediate deadline (or the one that has just passed) is what gets the focus of my attention. I am a binger, so I work in a flurry of activity, and then I collapse.

In addition to the above, I have in the past sold foreign rights for various presses, and I also run a small poetry press, A Midsummer Night’s Press, which primarily focuses on two imprints: Fabula Rasa, publishing mythic poetry, and Body Language, devoted to queer voices (two areas of interest that are also reflected in my own writing, as well as audiences I know how to try and reach as a publisher).

What are you working on now and what have you recently finished?

For the past handful of years, I’ve been writing very little adult fiction. I’ve published around 40 children’s books over the past decade, most of them in Spanish. The most recent one to appear in English was Let’s Go See Papá, published by Groundwood, in a translation by Elisa Amado. This was a curious experience since it was the first time I’d been translated into English by someone else. But it was a good learning experience in letting go and letting the translator have her say, create her version, of my text. (Even though I did ask them to keep Papá in the title, instead of daddy, and I’m glad they did.)

Lately, I’m mostly writing poetry in Spanish, part of a manuscript in progress called Los Cuerpos Del Lenguaje (The Bodies of Language).

I’ve also been translating various Spanish authors into English, both poetry and prose, and some of those pieces are beginning to find homes in magazines and anthologies.

What’s on the horizon for you?

Later this fall will see the publication of a new children’s book written in Spanish, titled Volando Cometas (Flying Kites), which features an HIV positive woman as a character.

And I also have a Spanish early-reader coming out from Panamericana in Colombia, titled La Casa De Los Espejos (The House of Mirrors), which is a fantasy adventure about two sisters who come to accept themselves for who they are, after a visit to a funhouse.

And for adults, I’m finishing an anthology titled Flamboyant: A Celebration Of Jewish Gay Poetry that I’ll publish with A Midsummer Night’s Press.

Describe your typical working day.

As I mentioned, these days I’m translating more than anything else. I’ve published over 100 books, and while I’ve not given up writing altogether, right now I’m enjoying the intellectual stimulation of recreating other people’s words in English, which is creative without the exhaustion that creation itself. Translation is both my day job (mostly institutional text for museums and the like) and also what I do on my own personal time (where I’ve lately been translating the work of various poets, even on days I’ve been engaged in paying translation work, after I’ve finished my day’s allotment of translation, as a way of cleansing the palate so to speak, or keeping the act of playing with words something I still love).

One of the nice things about being a freelancer, though, is that I have a large degree of flexibility in terms of when I work, deadlines notwithstanding. Madrid is, in general, a late-night town, something that suits my night owl tendencies. I can translate in either the morning or evening, although I tend not to do my own writing until the day is somewhat advanced. For prose, I write directly on the computer, although with poetry, I generally take a notebook and a pen and go off to a café in the afternoon, leaving the computer behind, and write longhand first drafts or snippets of verses or idea brainstorming.

While the writing (or translating) itself is a very solitary act, the writing life, especially here in Madrid, is a very social one. With lots of presentations of books or poetry readings or other events going on in the evenings, and meeting with editors or other writers for a drink or a meal. There’s often that human element in working together, less about being taken out on an expense account than simply treating the people you’re working with as people and not simply their function (writer/editor/reviewer/etc).

How does living in Spain influence your work?

Well, not only do I spend a lot of time translating between Spanish and English, but I write in both Spanish and English, especially the children’s books, which is most of what my last 40 or so books have been.

I also write poetry in Spanish, and it’s been interesting how my work in Spanish is often considered to be “European” (when I am being invited to take part in a poetry festival, say) whereas all my work written in English, even what I’ve written from Spain, is “American”.

Life in Spain is also more laid-back than the time-is-money attitude of my native New York City, where if you’re not earning money you’re wasting time, and as such it offers me the luxury of free time to read, which is very important to me (as an individual as well as a writer).

Living in a country with socialized medicine is definitely a boon for anyone involved in creative endeavors (with the general concurrent low-ish income these tend to provide).

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?

Probably the second book I published with Circlet Press, the anthology Things Invisible To See: Lesbian And Gay Tales Of Magic Realism, which never quite found an audience, in any community, but which I think is a very solid book.

Probably after that might be my poetry chapbook Fairy Tales For Writers which offers cautionary tales for those of us looking for a path through the deep, dark woods of the publishing world…

What are the attractions of editing anthologies, for you? Is it just a matter of picking stories you like, or is there more to it than that?

Almost all of my anthology projects have been all (or primarily) originals, which is a different process than putting together a reprint anthology (where you already have the material available and it’s just a matter of clearing the rights and paying the permissions fees). Also, even when I have an open call for an anthology, I still also solicit work directly from authors I admire or find interesting or think will be able to add or contribute something to the subject of the collection. In almost all of my collections, rather than trying to force a single issue or theme, I’ve tried to show diversity and complexity, shades of nuance, and I actively encourage or architect a blend of authors, genres, etc.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?

I’ve been reading a lot of young adult novels lately. I especially admire Ellen Wittlinger, who often includes queer characters integrally in her work, in addition to tackling many other social issues, always from a very human perspective. Her novel Love And Lies is a wonderful book for anyone who writes. And Parrotfish is such a smart and fun and moving book, featuring a transgendered character.

In the “guilty pleasures” category, I love Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series; great voice, perfectly balancing James Bond spy thrillers and teen girl boarding school drama.

In terms of adult books, I think Chris Moriarty’s Spin State and Spin Cycle are brilliant and very underrated.

Likewise, Nancy Springer’s feminist fairy tale retellings, like Plumage and Fair Peril (sadly out of print).

I wish Janet Kagan had written more novels, and regularly buy up copies of Hellspark whenever I find them to give to people.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?

Read widely.

Perseverance is also very important, so much of writing is just ass-in-chair dedication, and getting through a draft of something, to later go back and revise it.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?

I’ve sort of been sitting on the sidelines as far as this is concerned. In recent years, my income stream has shifted from being primarily from my writing to being primarily from my translating, which has been very liberating in terms of letting me write less-commercial projects, or even not write for a while. I’ve not been involved in any of the crowdfunding or online self-publishing endeavors that many mid-list (not to mention bestselling and new) writers have turned to.

I don’t have an e-reader and am not a fan of digital content. (After all, I run a small press publishing poetry of all things, which started out on a letterpress even if we now use commercial printers, so you can tell I’m not motivated by either sales or money in my love of the physical book!)

It’s been interesting to see how, for instance, as a poet, I earn almost nothing for publishing the poetry itself, but can earn some (sometimes decent) money from giving readings or talks about poetry. (Although with the economic crisis in Europe a lot of those venues are without funding right now.)

So I don’t have any easy answers, I don’t think anyone does.

And meanwhile, I’m just muddling along, reading lots and writing some and translating lots and trying to be happy (and also somewhat happily oblivious) while all this flux is going on.

The Drag Queen of Elfland by Lawrence SchimelMore…

Lawrence Schimel writes in both Spanish and English and has published over 100 books as author or anthologist in many different genres. He has published one collection of poems written in Spanish, Desayuno en la cama (Egales), as well as a chapbook in English Fairy Tales for Writers (A Midsummer Night’s Press). His picture book No hay nada como el original (Destino) was selected by the Internationales Jugendbibliothek for the White Ravens 2005 and his picture book ¿Lees un libro conmigo? (Panamericana) was selected by IBBY for Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities 2007. He has won the Lambda Literary Award twice, for PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions about Gender and Sexuality (with Carol Queen; Cleis) and First Person Queer (with Richard Labonté; Arsenal Pulp), among other prizes and honors. In addition to his own writing, Schimel is a translator from Spanish into English. He has translated work by Juan Goytisolo, Vicente Molina Foix, Luis Antonio de Villena, Care Santos, Jordi Doce, Joan Fontcuberta, Sofía Rhei, Jesús Encinar, and others for magazines, anthologies, and festivals. He is also the publisher of A Midsummer Night’s Press. He lives in Madrid, Spain.

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