Stephen Oram

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1. What made you want to become a writer?

I’d love to say it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a small child and without it I’d curl up and die. But, that wouldn’t be true. The reality is that although I enjoyed studying English literature at school I was persuaded to focus on science and maths for my higher studies and it was only about six years ago that I decided to do something creative. At the same time I was rethinking how I spent my spare time, but that’s another story for another day.

After taking a fabulous creative writing course, I set out to see if I could write a novel. I’ve always been an observer of people and society and I quickly became addicted to the act of imagining the future, creating characters and then wrapping them all up in a story. I think one of the things I enjoy most is tackling the extremes of conceiving whole new worlds and choosing the best word or punctuation for a particular sentence. The encouragement I get from reviews and readers keeps spurring me on to write more.

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

I like to think my style is accessible – no long words or flowery phrases where something simple and to the point does the job just as well, if not better. This is particularly important for the shorter stuff where you want to convey something quickly, but with a lot of meaning.

I write thought provoking stories that mix science fiction with social comment, mainly in a recognisable near-future. What does that mean? Well, it means taking a piece of existing or emerging technology, considering how it might develop and how it might get used and then playing around with it. This is pretty consistent across all my work. I don’t think my genre has really changed over time although the novels tend to be more socio-political and the short stuff more technology focussed, but that’s because there’s more room in a novel to develop the deeper thinking. In the Eating Robots collection there’s a few stories where the technology is unexplained, almost magical, and that’s something I’m interested in writing more of. As Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

Hearing what other people think of my writing. That can be reviews, editors, beta readers or just passing comments. I particularly like to hear what thoughts the story has sparked in the reader’s mind. I’m also a member of the Clockhouse London Writers which is a fantastically talented bunch of people that bounce ideas off each other once a month. Hearing their ideas, which are often very different to mine, has stretched my imagination and encouraged me to be more experimental.

I think the thing that’s helped me most is life experience. I’ve had a varied life, seeing society from the heart of government and from the fringes, the dropouts. This range of perspectives gives me a fairly unique edge when contemplating how science or technology might change society, for better or worse.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

Although I work full-time I find some time each day to write or edit and use as much of a weekend as I can. Long train journeys and occasional holidays in isolated shacks by the sea are my favourite ways of getting down to writing something substantial.

Firstly, I find a hook in the present, the mundane of the every-day and then imagine a slightly screwed up version. Next, I work out the beginning, middle and end of the story and then the characters that might inhabit that future. Once I start writing though, my imagination takes over and it goes where it goes – that’s the first draft. I then edit it, pass it in front of some trusted beta readers, even if it’s only 500 words long, and finally edit again until I’m happy. I do quite a lot of public readings of my short stories and that tends to focus the mind on producing crisp and entertaining work.

5. What are you writing now?

I’ve just completed a collection of thirty sci-fi shorts which you can pre-order now ahead of them being published on 31 May 2017. It’s called, Eating Robots and Other Stories. And, I’m about half way through the first draft of my third novel, which weirdly has the working title of Novel 4.

I write a short story each month for my mailing list. Recently, my focus has been on writing stories for the Virtual Futures’ Near-Future Fiction events which are held monthly in Soho, London.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

The published work – Quantum Confessions, Fluence and Eating Robots are available as paperbacks and eBooks from all the usual reputable booksellers. My website has links to them all and blog posts under the thoughts and speculations category which unpick some of the thinking behind the stories. There are also free taster stories if you join my mailing list.

You’ll find it all at www.stephenoram.net which also has details of any forthcoming events and links to videos of past events.

I can be found online at:

Twitter: @OramStephen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StephenOramAuthor.

Levi Andrew Noe

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1. What made you want to become a writer?

I really think that I have always wanted to be a writer. I have notebooks from elementary school in which I proclaim my future self to be a “rich and famus auther” or something to that effect. The author part of that statement has come true, still working on the rich and famous part.

It was in my early twenties, midway through my undergrad, that I think I really decided to pursue the writing path. It was then that I first started submitting and doing the real work of writing, rather than just the dreaming, yearning, pining kind of writer stuff (which I am a professional at).

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

Currently the genre I write most in is flash fiction. I started off writing short stories that were mostly rip-offs in elementary school, this evolved into god-awful teenage poetry, which gave way to slightly less painful poetry and short stories.

In the last decade or so when I have become a “serious writer” I found myself going through many genre phases. Like a parent with his children, I can’t pick a favorite genre. I love short stories, I love fiction, creative non-fiction, science fiction, fantasy and all general speculative fiction. I still pick up the poetry pen now and again, I write children’s books, and I am also undertaking a few manuscript-length pieces as well.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

Writing itself has helped me the most in the writing pursuit. I know that sounds trite, let me explain. The act of writing, but more so the act of creation, are the greatest payoffs in my little world. Intrinsically, I really feel that writing is not a choice for me. I would quite literally succumb to all manner of mental illnesses without the therapeutic/cathartic/pressure releasing qualities of writing. For me, writing is as much a part of life as eating and drinking coffee. Writing is the very means of my survival.

All that said, the outside help I have received in writing has been most essential. The first line of help comes from my wife, my friends and my family, who mostly offer nothing but support, encouragement and crucial, but not overdone ego stroking. The second line comes from the writer friends I have in my life. These people inspire me mostly through the works they write that I adore, and sometimes they offer me insight or praise, which helps me keep going. The final saviors are the workshops, mentors and writers that I consider to be the greats of our time. These writers and the workshops I have attended challenge my comfort and beliefs in writing and help me grow and become a better writer.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

Though I have no musical training or knowledge, I could probably best describe my writing practice in musical terms. I’d start by describing it as arrhythmic, ranging from melodic to cacophonous, and extremely subjective. By genre the range of my practice goes from death metal, to gangster rap, to folk, to ambient instrumental. There is very little cohesiveness to my writing practice except for the passion. That’s what stays constant and holds it all together.

I try to write every day. I try to rewrite or edit, or make an old piece new once a week. And I try to write mostly new works, without forgetting about chipping away at old works all the while. There’s no real “normal day” for me. On a typical workday I’ll come home, have a beer and try and write a flash fiction piece. I might have a day off during the week, or take a weekend day and devote at least half the day to writing and submitting. Wherever I can squeeze it in, I try and make writing a part of every day.

5. What are you writing now?

Right now I have a few dozen new flash fiction pieces that I’m trying to polish, submit and eventually compile into a manuscript. I am entering the Mile High MFA program at Regis University in January 2017, and for this I am prepping a speculative fiction manuscript that has been in the works for 3 years, as well as a creative nonfiction travel memoir manuscript that has been in the works for 5 years or more. Let’s see… in addition to that I am working on a pitch bible for an absurd comedy cartoon show, for which a friend and I have recently finished the pilot. I have a couple children’s books being illustrated by friends as we speak; one is for my children’s yoga company, Tall Tales Yoga. I also try to keep up on content for my podcast Rocky Mountain Revival. I recently picked up a gig writing massage blogs. And then there’s the daily dribble that comes out and may or may not become something.

It sounds much crazier than it is. And again, I write and create because I don’t know what I’d do without it. But as an indie/basically unknown author, I find myself having to hustle a lot more than the big dogs in order to continue successfully as a writer and as a guy just trying to pay the bills.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

My website (which desperately needs an update). My book website and publisher’s website. Facebook: Levi Andrew Noe, Twitter: @LeviAndrewNoe. My podcast Rocky Mountain Revival is where you can find me as a literary citizen trying to give back to the community by showcasing other indie writers and artist (it’s also on all major podcast platforms). And if you’re in Denver, look me up. We can grab a drink or coffee and talk shop.

Terry Kloth

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1. What made you want to become a writer?

A general predilection for suffering. But really, it’s been an evolution. I was always fascinated by the clever tricks good writers, performers, even lawyers could play by using words. Long before reading Oscar Wilde or Voltaire, I’d watch guys like John Cleese on Faulty Towers or Leslie Neilsen in Airplane! and study how to emulate their humor. Apparently I should’ve studied harder! The thing was, I always wanted to entertain people. But I was a shy kid, so live performance was out of the question. So I started learning how to craft the written word. As I got older and the hormones started interfering with my fun, writing became a way to outlet more serious emotions. And as my intellectual curiosity grew, my idea of writing morphed once again into a method of sharing information, of evoking feelings about an issue, of inspiring.

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

I used to fancy myself a fiction writer. When I was young, I was fascinated with voice. I’m not sure if “American Southern Lyricism” is an actual sub-genre of literature, but that’s what I’d call what I was writing. Lately my writing has been almost exclusively creative nonfiction. So, basically, reporting on things I experience, but in a way that annoys mainstream media editors.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

Accountability. There was a long period of time where I wasn’t writing at all. Thanks to some encouragement from friends, I started a blog about a strange experience I was having at the time. It seems silly, but their constant hounding about new posts forced me to develop a writing routine. Before that I had never been published. Now I write regularly. Sometimes people actually pay me for it.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

Aggressively solitary. For any project of breadth, I like to hole up and escape the “civilized world”. I’m doing that right now actually, on Day 30 of a writing retreat on a hillside horse ranch outside of Joshua Tree National Park. I haven’t interacted with a human since I went into town for peanut butter cups. Limiting those interactions is key to focus for me, especially when working on something like a book. Being a bachelor helps, too. Even when I can’t get away from the big bad city, I hole up. I’ve written articles in parking garages before just to get away.

5. What are you writing now?

My first book. It’s a creative nonfiction piece, a memoir, about how secretly moving into my office transformed my life. The story is a very personal one but the themes are universal, particularly in a time in our culture where more folks are aspiring to forge simple, more fulfilling, more sustainable lives for themselves. That’s two-and-a-half years in the making and I think I’ll be ready to shop it around soon. Otherwise, I have a couple screenplay projects I’m toying around with on the side just to keep me occupied.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

My blog, www.theofficehobo.com, has a wealth of writing, informative and entertaining. The press page on that site has links to many of my articles as well. I’ve been published in Salon, LA Weekly, Dapper Dan Magazine, The Good Men Project, and this great LA-local print-only called The Pen Name. A piece of mine was also published earlier this year in an anthology on small-space living called Turning Tiny: A Small-Living Paradigm.

Steven Stam

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1. What made you want to become a writer?

Reading and wanting to express myself. I originally was trying to think of something witty and funny to say here, but I love stories. I love reading them and creating them. It is strange too, I can write a great story, but I cannot tell a great story. Whatever the problem–social cues, the bar test, I fail in oral creation.

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

I tend primarily towards flash fiction. I can capture a scene and moment, carry a story through it, but struggle to hold said thought for a longer space. In terms of direct genre, I tend towards the dark side. I am not trying to be edgy and make people uncomfortable in doing so, but I am trying to rile folks up a bit as I dig into the honesty of human emotion. In essence, I aim to write about the thoughts and ideas that people have but do not want to talk about.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

Diligence. Trying as hard as I can to stick with it, and seeing some success.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

Chaotic. I edit way too much, often rereading an entire unfinished piece before writing anything new. I have to shove a word around here or there. Then I plug on.

I will write while I run, reciting passages over and over in my head and jotting them down once I come home.

5. What are you writing now?

I’m currently working on an a collection of short stories about Florida, an oddity on to its own, called Move to Florida, They Said. I am trying to go with the interconnected web of stories here as I mock suburban life within a gated subdivision of urban sprawl.

I am also in the middle of a piece that blends history and mythology with a magical realism take. Not sure on the final length of this piece, but I am about seventy pages in, but I am pausing to do more research on Mesoamerican mythos, something that has proven to be more fractured and time consuming that I originally thought.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

I do not have a central processing website, I dabble in too many projects to have such a location. I have an interview in The Suburban Review that accompanied my publication, “Visages of A Queen.” My work can also be found in Fiction Southeast, The Kudzu House Quarterly, and The Rappahannock Review, among others. I have also been reviewing books for The Tishman Review Craft Talk section as of late.

Mark Conard

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1. What made you want to become a writer?

I started writing somewhat by accident. I started working on a screenplay in grad school with a friend of mine. When we began, we didn’t have any particular genre in mind; we just wanted to come up with a story, and it turned out to be a suspense/mystery. We came up with the outline of the plot and some character sketches, and he left it to me to put it into screenplay format, which I didn’t know how to do. I left it sit in my desk drawer for a couple of years, then decided one summer to turn it into a novel. I wrote, rewrote, edited, read in the genre (I’d never read any suspense or crime literature until I started writing it), and finally came up with a complete draft. I enjoyed the process so much, that I started right away on a second one. I never stopped.

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

The genre is suspense or crime fiction. My style changed insofar as it took a number of years for me to find my voice. At first, I wrote an Elmore Leonard novel, and then a Jim Thompson novel, and then a James Ellroy novel. I was consciously imitating those authors I liked the most. At some point during the process, the writing started sounding like me. I’ve worked on it since then—mostly paring it down, making it more minimal, but the big change was finding my voice.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

The obvious thing that has helped me is reading those authors I like and appreciate. My biggest influences have always been Elmore Leonard, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, James Ellroy, and Raymond Chandler. But I also like guys like Dennis Lehane and Lee Child.

After that, another important thing is finding good critique partners, other readers who read my work and give me feedback. For a long time, I didn’t fully realize the importance of that. I just thought when I finished writing a book it was done. I put it away or sent samples to agents, and started working on another one. But it finally dawned on me how important that process is of critique and revision.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

Obsessive, in a word. I obsess over everything, and I’m not sure there’s any other way to do it. If you’re asking about more practical matters, I try to write every morning before I go to work. I try to make time to read what I’ve written later in the day.

5. What are you writing now?

I just finished a thriller and I’m starting to send it out to agents. I’m still tinkering with it, and I’m also trying to get some ideas together to start something new.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

Check out my blog: https://marktconard.com/. It’s not just about writing. It’s also about philosophy, film, and various other things.

Spencer K. M. Brown

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1. What made you want to become a writer?

I’m not sure if there is only one thing that made me want to be a writer. I think mostly it had to do with the joy I found in reading, how intimate a story can be if the writing is honest and true. Writing is the one thing I’m good at so I sort of just continued with it.

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

I’m not sure if I am contained to a specific genre, but I guess it would be more or less Literary Fiction. I find most joy in writing about life and things that connect us as human beings. Death, love, loneliness. I tried my hand at a few mystery stories. Tried writing horror, but scared myself. So I had to step away from that.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

Rejections. Some artists and creative people find rejections to be crushing to their ego and when something gets a bad review or they get a rejection slip, they come up with excuses of how the editor or whomever is wrong. But I’ve always found rejections to be what fueled my writing even more. I have a drawer full of rejection slips and I keep them close by when I write.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

I try to be up at a relatively early hour. I’ll usually start my day with coffee and a cigarette and read for a while. Then I’ll sit down and write from eight or nine in the morning until noon or one. My goal is usually ten-thousand words per day. Whether I’m working on a project or not. Some days I’m lucky to get a thousand words, others, the ten-thousand just pours out of me. Either way, I write every morning, no matter the day. It’s just something I have to do.

5. What are you writing now?

I’m finishing up a new novel currently. This is the fourth draft of it. I wrote and completed three earlier versions, and although my agent enjoyed them very much, I still felt there was something wrong. So I deleted them each time. This draft though I think I’m finally getting closer. There’s always the image of perfection that I have in mind and it’s something that stays just out of reach. But I try to get closer each day.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

I have a website and blog that I update every so often: www.spencerkmbrown.com and I am also on social media. I publish a lot of stories and poems in literary journals and magazines as well.

photo by Kristen Bryant

Kellie Carle

Kellie Carle

1. What made you want to become a writer?

Well, my journey as a writer did not start because of a love for reading. I actually started writing very late. This is probably due to my severe lack of reading. The story I tell most often about what made me want to become a writer is as follows: I received an assignment in the 6th grade, our teacher challenged the class to write a small book of poems. Several, if not all, of my poems were mini works of fiction with line breaks. While working on this small collection I realized that I enjoyed creating stories and watching them appear on the page. I knew then that I wanted to write something! The reading did not take place until much later, my dream shifting to wanting to write something to wanting to write story lines for video games.

I initially enrolled in a screenwriting course but when that didn’t work I decided to try poetry again. I encountered the same problem with both, everything I tried to write was too long. You think it would be obvious, if my scripts were prose and my poems were prose then why not try writing prose? Once I started writing fiction I could not stop. So, what made me want to become a writer? The itch in my fingertips after binding that book in the 6th grade with a purple felt cover and ribbons. Searching through different genres in order to find the one that allowed me enough room to put the words on the page and the ridiculous, exhausted smile that emerges on my face after writing a scene and thinking “Yeah, now I’m writing something.”

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

I love writing historical fiction. I have always had a strong interest in the past (I mean I collect old camera’s from the 1940s, love old photos and listen to music from the 70s and 80s). You’d think I would have realized this sooner! Once I discovered a love for fiction I tried my hand at fantasy which…yikes. Those stories are hidden in a drawer somewhere never to see the light of day again. I turned to speculative fiction for comfort which helped with my descriptions and focus on two characters rather than several different characters from different worlds. Then, I wrote a “what if” piece dedicated to my mother about her relationship with her father which, I thought, would be a contemporary piece.

This piece did not materialize as a contemporary piece, which is what made the story so enjoyable to write. My mother’s father died in 1971, so the story would have to take place before the present. I believe if I fell into writing then I most certainly stumbled into historical fiction with guidance from my professors at West Chester University and Spalidng’s Low Residency MFA program.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

The what is easy: pencil, journal, planner, eraser, and school.

The who? My parents and mentors. My mother reads everything. My work, newspapers, dictionaries, romance novels, she devours books (except Dubliners). My Dad is more of an action man and likes to be in the midst of everything. We watch live videos together of publishers speaking about the industry, research conferences, retreats and make writing supply runs together.

My mentors have also played a large role in my pursuit as a writer. Without their assistance, I would not be working on my current project nor would I have taken the steps to earn my MFA. I have learned so much from each of my mentors, the various schools I have been fortunate enough to attend including their gentle nudges (I am a very stubborn person) in the right direction, proper terms to use in workshop or butchering my long, agonizing sentences (like this one). My mentors have provided critical analysis regarding what works and what should be revised, recommend books which I am slowly beginning to devour, taking after my mother, that will assist with developing my writing style. They also know how to bring me back from a panic and focus on the now when I have launched myself too far into the future. Without my parents and my mentors I would not be the writer I am today and doubt I would even have the opportunity to pursue writing.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

Sporadic. They say writers should write every day, which I tried to do for a while but that process depends on what you consider to be writing. I think sitting at my desk for hours, thinking about a story idea and organizing the scenes counts as writing even though I am not putting words on the page. Of course, I have days when nothing seems to come together and I often just stare into space for hours or make list of things I would like to happen in hopes that those notes will spark an idea for the first line of a story.

When that doesn’t work, I go to sleep.

Sleep forces me to relax and when that moment happens, the story ideas transform into scenes and then I tell myself (stand in front of the mirror and talk) the first line of my story. Once that sentence is written, everything else falls into place.

5. What are you writing now?

Currently, I am working on a novel-in-stories, some of which will appear in my MFA thesis. The story takes place in the 1940s and depicts the beginnings of a romance between a Japanese man and an African American woman before and after Pearl Harbor. Or course, this event separates the couple from being together since the Japanese man is taken away to the internment camps.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

You can find my work on pennyshorts.com or sicklitmagazine.com. I also have a blog: foxwithquill.wordpress.com where I talk about my quirks as a writer or things that draw my attention in workshops, critiques or conferences. You can also find me on Twitter: @kbcarle or Instagram: k.b.carle.

Mackenzie Jervis

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1. What made you want to become a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember. In Elementary School my friends and I would sit huddled together thinking up stories about heroic girls and then reenact them. We loved the idea of creating a world of our own and escaping the monotony of a small town.

Books like Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia continued to be an escape from my boring life and I longed to create fictional words of my own. I wanted to be able to create a world that not only I, but also someone else would get lost in. That goal continues today.

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

My main genre is fiction. When I was younger I would write novels and I was adamant that that was all I could or would write. While I still write novels, and love them above any other form, I’ve grown to write nonfiction essays, travel articles, and a wide variety of editorial content. This transition has made me look at writing, especially writing fiction, in a completely different light. It’s broadened my outlook on the written word, and in the end made me a better writer by not being so closed-minded.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

Going to school for writing has definitely helped me the most. Getting my MFA in creative writing from Spalding University has helped launch my career. I was able to hone my craft, meet with so many amazing writers to motivate and push me to be better, and create opportunities for my future.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

My writing practice is a mix of strict structure and sporadic. As an editor, freelance writer, and, newly, the founder of a start-up, I need to have a structure in order to get anything done. But I build plenty of time in the schedule for reflection or writing that comes more from within. I make sure not to put too much stress on how much I’m writing every day, especially for a novel, because those daily deadlines can soon feel overwhelming and counterproductive to creativity.

Instead of focusing on numbers, I focus on the acts. If I’m actively engaging in my novel (or article or post), thinking, researching, writing, that’s a positive. The only time I feel I’ve lost is when I completely skip things I need to do and do not even try. It’s surprising how focusing on “doing” instead of “getting it done” has increased the amount of work I do.

5. What are you writing now?

Right now I’m working on a novel. It’s a speculative fiction piece set in the near future, dealing with an America that has continued down a dangerous path that we presently seem to be set on. I’m also writing for my website A Wandering Scribbler, as well as for the Spalding MFA Alumni Magazine.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

You can find me at my website mackenziejervis.com, my blog awanderingscribbler.com, or Facebook MackenziedJervis, and Instagram, awanderingscribbler.

Noah Smith

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1. What made you want to become a writer?

I was always really taken with the arts while I was growing up. I did community theater, visual arts, and played music. I ended up pursuing fine art at conservatory and then studied illustration briefly at college. Then I did the band thing and traveled and wrote and performed songs. I started to blend the visual art with music and I think I started to realize that the link between all these things was actually just a love of storytelling. I was using all these separate mediums to approach the same thing from different angles. So writing really seemed like a more stripped down way to get at something I’d always been interested in doing.

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

I don’t know that I really have a specific genre. I’ve mostly written odd character dramas, but I’m not opposed to putting them in fantastic or even science fiction settings. I think I’m always looking to make something new, which is challenging with the breadth of fiction that already exists. So I tend to tinker with different juxtapositions and put familiar ideas together in unfamiliar ways until something feels right. I want it to be surprising but not in a cheap way. Even the surprising moments need to feel earned.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

I think I’ve benefited most from relationships with other writers whether they are peers or mentors. I owe a lot to the different professors who’ve been both patient and supportive. It’s great to have people who can be critical and encouraging at the same time. It’s a balance that can be hard to find. So if you do discover that in another artist it’s important to return the favor and culture that relationship.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

I usually try to block out a good amount of time, drink a lot of coffee, and binge write. It’s better if I have a clear idea of what I want to accomplish so having an outline helps. I tend to go to other places to work. It’s difficult in my apartment, so I go to coffee shops or dark and mostly empty bars. I like to have a little noise and movement around me but I’ll take headphones if I need to shut out the world.

5. What are you writing now?

I always juggle several projects. I’m getting ready to take a stab at a second draft of a feature, turning a pilot I wrote into a feature, working on an animated pilot, filming a web series, and wrestling with a couple novel and graphic novel ideas. Some of these involve talking animals, 24/7 masquerade parties, post apocalyptic black market vendors, and rednecks who steal the semen from a prize racehorse in the hopes of selling it to a competing breeder for big money.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

For silly jokes and observations, I’m on Twitter at: @begandchoose.

For some odd short stories: www.thelandofpoint.tumblr.com.

And for pictures of my weird drawings and bizarre stuff I find at thrifts and estate sale: Noahmodern on Instagram.

Alicia Anthony

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1. What made you want to become a writer?

I have always been a writer. Not professionally, of course. But I was the kid in grade school with her nose in a book and the one in college that would rather write the essay than take the exam. And to this day I’d choose email or text over talking to someone in person or over the phone. I think I’m the epitome of an introvert when it comes to that. Written words tend not to betray me as much as spoken words, I guess.

I didn’t start thinking of writing as a potential career until after my grandmother passed away. Looking back on it now, I think I wrote as a way of processing the grief I felt during that time. But the more I wrote, the more I realized that becoming a fiction author was more than a far-fetched whim. It was something that I had to do, that I might excel at, even. I’m pretty sure my grandmother had a hand in that. She always believed in me, in my potential, so I like to think she gave me the push I needed.

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

I write suspense with a twist. Whether it’s a psychological twist or maybe a romantic one, there’s always an element that defies what might be considered genre expectations. I like to read books that surprise me, with twists I don’t see coming, so that’s what I work to create in my own stories.

I’m an elementary school teacher by day, so I’ve tried my hand at some children’s stories, but they tend to veer off down dark alleys, so I’ve decided to stick with adult fiction for now. My first couple manuscripts have some sixth sense elements mixed in. But my current project is a more straightforward suspense novel.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

I hope this doesn’t sound like a commercial, but I just finished my MFA through Spalding University’s Low-Residency program and have learned so much from the people I’ve met along the way. Not only the mentors and teachers, but the community of writers that exist within that program and beyond. They are there with kind words when I start questioning myself and my work and they are always willing to read when I need a beta reader. I would not have made it this far without that network of support.

But more importantly, my family has been a backbone of support for me. My husband and daughter have given up countless hours of family time so I can write and they’ve never once made me feel guilty about it. That has been, and continues to be, priceless.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

I’m fairly disciplined when it comes to my practice. As a wife and mother with a full time career, I have to be. The summer months are more relaxed, of course, but through the school year I get up early, usually around 3:00 A.M. to write. The house is quiet. The coffee is hot. We have two Miniature Australian Shepherds that lay at my feet and snore while I type. It’s relaxing. I don’t necessarily enjoy getting up that early, but I’ve learned that if I don’t get the words on the page in the morning, it doesn’t happen.

Like most writers, I do always carry a notebook and am always thinking about the next scene or the character development or how to reveal the next plot twist. Even if I’m not sitting at my computer my brain is constantly working on the project. It’s not really something that ever stops.

5. What are you writing now?

Right now I’m working on my third novel, tentatively titled Fractals. It’s the story of a teenager forced to take on the system that is supposed to protect her after the death of her father. It’s still new to me, and I’m a pantser, not a plotter, so I can’t tell you much more than that right now. I can promise there’ll be some great twists and turns along the way, though.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

My manuscript, Inherent Lies, has been named a finalist for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award, which will be announced on August 20th, but you can find out a little more about that novel and my previous manuscript on my website at www.AliciaAnthonyAuthor.com.

You can also find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AliciaAnthonyWrites and on Twitter @AliciaAAnthony where I’m happy to strike up a conversation.

Veronica McDonald

Veronica McDonald

1. What made you want to become a writer?

I think like most writers I’ve always had a special relationship with books. I loved them even before I could read. I have photos of my three-year-old self sitting at a tray table with a pile of Golden books, looking at the illustrations and making up my own stories. I would “read” them to my little brother, inventing stories to go with the pictures. I was especially drawn to horror, and when I was in elementary school I would read anything that looked like it would be frightening and had monsters, ghosts, witches, or vampires. I would read Stephen King and thriller, suspense novels like “Jurassic Park” when I was in 4th and 5th grade. I didn’t understand a lot of the “grown-up” stuff in those novels, but I loved the thrill of the intense scenes, and I would re-tell them to friends and family.

In college, I fell in love with critical analysis of literature and that just fueled my desire for writing. I wrote a lot in my spare time, even as a kid; mostly poems and suspenseful scenes from novels that I wanted to write. But it wasn’t until last year, now that I’m in my thirties, that I decided to learn how to take it seriously and start writing for real audiences.

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

I have a hard time determining my genre. Like I said, I used to love reading horror and I think that’s influenced me a lot. I love mysteries, old Gothic novels, and some Sci-Fi and Fantasy if they’re well written, and they all inspire me, but mostly I love reading and writing pieces that are dark in a way that really hits home with the reader, and touches them somewhere slightly disturbing or uncomfortable. I want it to be a familiar feeling, but I don’t want that familiarity to be identified or specified. Basically I want to evoke the uncanny. I strive for that darkness in everything that I write, no matter what genre I’m trying out, whether it’s a love poem or an adventure novel. When I was a kid, my writing was all about thrillers and messy love-triangles, but the darkness was always there.

If I had to choose a genre, I love magical realism, especially in short stories. That is relatively new for me. I took a magical realism class in graduate school, and it was my favorite literature course. It has such potential for darkness and psychological mind-bending, and disturbing uncertainty. I like it best when the antagonists are most likely in the characters’ heads or hidden within the people they thought they knew, but no one, not even the reader, knows for sure. The more I write, the more I try to capture that.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

There is this one e-book I read on a whim that changed the way I viewed everything about what it takes to be a writer. It’s Noah Lukeman’s “How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent.” I’ve always wanted to be a traditionally-published novelist (still do, someday), but I’ve never had anyone lay it out for me in black-and-white the process to become one. It always seemed like some unattainable dream, but now I can visualize it and all the steps to get there. I needed someone to show me the checklist of what to do and map out the road and all its bumps, so that I knew where to focus my hard work to get where I want to be. Of course, following the checklist doesn’t equal success – as of right now, I’m no novelist — but at least I know how to get there when my writing is ready. Before reading Lukeman’s book, I had no direction. I had the passion and consistently worked on the craft, but I didn’t know where to go from there. Not to be too dramatic, but it changed my life. It’s only led me down more and more rewarding avenues.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

It’s constantly evolving. I obviously love to write, but if I don’t give myself new goals I can’t stay motivated. I search for writing challenges online, or create my own. Being apart of a group makes me feel accountable, even if it doesn’t always work. I’m a mom, and I take care of my two and three year old all day, so it’s hard to have a consistent writing schedule. I keep a book or writing journal with me, so I can write or read whenever I have time. If I had to describe my writing practice in a phrase, it would be: whatever works for the moment.

5. What are you writing now?

I’m currently working on several short stories, experimenting with different literary techniques. To motivate myself a couple months ago, I began a short story reading/writing challenge where I force myself to read two stories from “The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction” and then take a technique used by the authors to try out in my own short story. The techniques can be anything from point-of-view to building a story around a philosophical question, for example. Examining the “masters” gives me inspiration and gets me to try new things with my writing. The goal is to write 25 short stories then choose at least five to polish and perfect. I’m putting all of my progress in my blog, laid out like a writing course for other writers who want to join me.

One of the stories I’m working on right now from the challenge: two women meet and have a conversation at a boring, dinner party. One woman is describing to the other the memory of a moment in her life when she’d been the most terrified. The woman listening to the story becomes so absorbed as the first woman talks that she actually becomes part of the memory and, by the end, she is the catalyst in the moment where woman telling the story was the most afraid. It’s one of my attempts at magical realism, but it’s not really where I want it to be right now.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

My website is VeronicaMcDonaldAuthor.com. I’m not exactly an “author” yet, but that’s the plan down the road. On the site you’ll find my short-story-challenge progress, excerpts and poems, and links to my published work. Twitter is also a good place to spy on me: @VeeMcD123.