Q: How long have you been writing, and what kind of stories do you most like to write?
A: I've written since the 70's (yes, that's the 1970's!), but seriously began to tackle fiction in the late 90's. It's been a long apprenticeship. It took me forever to begin to market what I wrote, so while I've been writing a long time, I consider the last ten years to be the ones that count the most. Incidentally, that's the time I've been living in Cape Breton. Good writing must be in the air on this island.
I write mainstream and speculative fiction. I'm most interested in human behaviour and relationships including societal and cultural relationships. Sometimes the stories that come to me are based in our everyday reality and sometimes they aren't. If you write both, however, it soon becomes completely obvious that writing speculative fiction, particularly science fiction, is much more challenging than writing reality-based fiction. My writing apprenticeship continues on that learning curve!
Q: What sparked the idea for your story in Unearthed? Can you remember?
A: I wanted to write something on the lighter side for this anthology. The childhood memory of making mud pies came to me first, but I had no story to go with it. Independent of that idea came this question: if a family had magic at their disposal, would they ever use it to control each other? Those were my starting points and it turned into a fun mix. Read the story to find out how they blended!
Q: What's the title of your story in Unearthed? In general, do you get the title first, or do you write the story first? Do you remember what prompted this particular title?
A: The title of the story in Unearthed is "Mud Pies." Considering that was my initial idea, this story was an easy one, but titles aren't always that obvious. I have started stories based entirely on a title that came to me, but that is the exception. The story folders in my computer are often filled with multiple revisions--all with different titles. I consider the title to be extremely important and it feels like magic when the exact right one comes to me, but let's face it, it's not the most important part. The title is the curb appeal, what's inside sells it.
Q: Please tell us: one book you've read recently, one book you're reading now, and one book on your to-read list.
A: Hugh Howey's Wool (a novella), The Windup Girl by Paul Bacigalupi, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Q: What's the best/worst writing advice you've ever been given?
A: Good advice - "Don't think," from Ray Bradbury. His point is that over-thinking, intellectualizing, kills not only spontaneity, but creativity and makes for self-conscious, and therefore, bad writing. All that thinking also includes the worst writing enemy: self-censorship. Turn it all off for that first draft. Thinking comes later in the revision stages.
Bad advice - One of my early writing teachers told me that whenever a writer--no matter how experienced--starts a new story it is always as a beginner. While I think her point had to do with each story being a journey of its own, the idea that there could be no learning from experience in writing was extremely discouraging to me as a true beginner. Luckily, I've found this bit of "wisdom" to be completely false. Some writers would like you to believe that writing is a mystical, unlearnable craft, but this is simply not true!
Q: What are you working on now, or what's your next planned writing project?
A: I have a handful of stories in various stages of completion plus a YA novel that is finished but needs tweaking before being marketed. I hope to begin a new novel in the fall. It's been a couple of years since I've worked on a longer piece and I'm itching to get into a story with more complexity than short stories allow.