Tag Archives: Speculative Fiction Interviews

Interview with M.H. Thaung

Say hello to M.H.! She responded to my call for speculative fiction interview participants last week, and I’m excited to share her answers with you today. 

What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?

The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge. I’m really showing my age here – must have been about six at the time. A year or two after that, my parents took me somewhere on the train without a ticket (in those days, under-5s travelled for free), but the ticket inspector caught me reading Alice in Wonderland.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

Oof, that’s a tough decision. I’d say Terry Pratchett overall since he wrote so many books, and I can pick one that matches my reading mood. I enjoy him not so much for his humour, but because of his insight into how people behave. All his people are believable people, as well as being vampires, trolls and so on. Roger Zelazny is also high on my fantasy author list. In contrast to Pratchett, it’s because his larger than life characters appeal to me.

What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?

I dip into various speculative genres – SF (on the soft side), alternate history, urban fantasy, low fantasy. There are common aspects to all of them. I like seeing the knock-on effects of whatever is different in that world taken to some logical conclusion. That is, “the different thing” isn’t just cosmetic – it affects the story.

More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?

It’s not always easy to place a book into a genre (I have this problem with my own writing). I like the idea of experimenting – a bit like fusion restaurants – but you’d need to try a specific combination before deciding if you liked it or not. Something to save for when you’re feeling adventurous, maybe. Given how many books are available, there’s scope for all tastes to be catered to, whether meat and two veg or a combination of eclectic ingredients from five continents. Ok, I’ll stop with the food comparisons now!

If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?

If I had a pet, I might call it Esme (Weatherwax). Why? So I could talk to it and imagine it giving me pithy, unsentimental advice on life in return.

What fictional world would you never want to visit?

Arrakis. Doesn’t seem like a friendly place at all!

What fictional world would you want to visit?

Assuming personal safety wasn’t an issue, I’d like to explore the world of Alan Dean Foster’s Journeys of the Catechist series. It wasn’t the most interesting story I’ve ever read (and I’m sure it’s horribly dated by now), but my curiosity was sparked by the different locations the adventurers pass through.

Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?

I don’t share spoilers since 1. it annoys some people, 2. it feels like there’s little point in talking about a book if your conversation partner hasn’t read it already and 3. I know very few people in real life with similar reading interests to mine. However, I’m not bothered by overhearing spoilers. This might be partly because I only read: I don’t watch TV or films, and it feels like books prompt less discussion in general.

Bonus Questions

What is the most unusual or interesting way you’ve come up with an idea for one of your creative works?

I don’t think any of my story ideas have had unusual sources of inspiration. Random generators are pretty helpful – cards and lists that you might use in RPGs or collaborative storytelling.

Sometimes characters don’t do what their creators want them to do. If this has ever happened to you, how did you deal with it?

I love it when my characters start wanting to do their own thing, but I still tell them I’m in charge. It’s not always that easy! There was one specific incident when I was writing A Quiet Rebellion: Posterity. It’s the final book in my trilogy, so I knew the characters pretty well by that point. One character woke me up and told me she was going to kidnap another character. It complicated the plot wonderfully, and (I hope) got me out of a mid-story slump.

What is your favourite trope?

Not exactly a trope, but I love dramatic irony and my characters (most of whom are supposed to be on the same side) getting in each other’s way, with the best of intentions.

What tropes do you try to avoid in your stories?

I’m not terribly keen on grand, pre-ordained fates or saving the world. My characters might want to save their little part of the world, but their concerns are largely personal.

About M.H.: M. H. Thaung is a pathologist working in a laboratory in London, UK. It’s been over ten years since she cut up a dead body. She started writing for fun about four years ago, and since then it’s turned into an obsession—er, major hobby. She recently released A Quiet Rebellion: Posterity, the final book in her SF adventure/mannerpunk trilogy.

Website.

Twitter

Terry Pratchett fans may be particularly interested in M.H.’s interview with Stephen Briggs. 

Interview with Chris Chelser

Say hello to Chris! she’s someone I’ve known on Twitter for ages, so it was wonderful to receive her submission for my speculative fiction interview series. 

What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?

Tetful by Eric

A graphic novel about a werewolf: Tetfol, by the Belgian artist Eric. I was six years old and marked as a paranormal horror fan for life. 

Who is your favourite author? Why?

I don’t really have one. When a story strikes a chord with me, it doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of that author’s work does, too. If ‘favourite’ means ‘most read’, it would be Terry Pratchett, but Michael Crichton, M.N. Seeley, R.H. Hale and Laura Purcell are other authors I greatly admire and whose work I love to read.

What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?

The darkness within ourselves. I’m not interested in monsters roaming the forest/sea/house when they only exist to scare the main characters. I much prefer the ambiguity of psychological horror and the surrealistic imagery when that is mixed with supernatural elements.

More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?

I’m a fan, both as a reader and as a writer. Genre conventions exist, but in and of themselves, there is only so much you can do with them. Cross-genre stories can mix those conventions to create fresh twists and tweaks that keep the audience captivated.

If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Captain Flint. The pirate, not the parrot! In Treasure Island, Flint is a terrifying shadow whose reach extends beyond the grave, never seen but always present. As a kid, I found that influence more fascinating than Jim Hawkins’ treasure hunt. Then Starz’ TV series Black Sails, which tells the story behind that famed treasure, made Captain Flint one of the most complex, well-rounded and realistic characters ever to appear on screen. 

What fictional world would you never want to visit?

I’d say the future as Orwell’s 1984 describes it, but we’re already in the middle of that…

What fictional world would you want to visit?

Discworld! I feel I’d fit in better there than I do in our society.

Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?

Personally, I don’t mind spoilers. I try not to share any because I know many people hate them, but to me, a spoiler can convince me to give that story a go. The premise alone may not interest me, but when I already know the plot twist (or even the ending), I get curious to learn how the writer(s) structured the plot and the characters towards that end.

Which series do you think should be made into a TV show or film next?

Several people have told me my Kalbrandt Institute Archives series would make a good TV show, haha! But in all seriousness, the first story that immediately came to mind as great TV series is the graphic novel Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Luckily, more people thought so, and it is currently in production. 

Which TV show or film do you think should be turned into a book?

I’d love to read the novelization of Black Sails! That would be a Game of Thrones-sized series, given that the show has the same intricacy and complexity as an epic novel. Few series have that, so for the most part I’m not a fan of adapting written-for-screen stories to page.

Bonus Questions

What is the most unusual or interesting way you’ve come up with an idea for one of your creative works?

When I create a story, I collect elements that this story needs to tell itself (events, setting, characters, style) and slot them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Most of those jigsaw pieces result from serendipity or plain old research, but some of the more surreal ideas were inspired by psychotic episodes.

Sometimes characters don’t do what their creators want them to do. If this has ever happened to you, how did you deal with it?

When it does, it means you’ve done a good job with this character and gave them a unique personality that develops as the story does. A side-effect of this is that you may find that the character’s most likely response to a given situation no longer fits the original plot you devised. So, improvise! 

I hold consistency in high regard, so when a character wants to go left instead of right, I adapt the plot accordingly. This often only requires a brief sidestep before they naturally get back with the program, but sometimes their choices influence the entire main plot. That is why I only set the beginning and the end of a book before I start writing: to make room for the unforeseen developments that spice up a story.

What is your favourite trope?

Brooding, tormented male characters searching for redemption. Not for the purpose of redeeming them, but because recreating the blood, hallucinations and anguish that come with drowning in your own nightmares is a big part of the reason I started writing in the first place. 

What tropes do you try to avoid in your stories?

Romantic subplots. I often find those distracting. My characters aren’t virgins and they do have crushes or longterm relationships, but don’t expect them to fall madly in love with each other. They’ve got bigger fish to fry!

About Chris:

Inspired by first-hand experiences, Chris H. Chelser writes supernatural horror about ghosts, history, and the human soul. She lives in the Netherlands with her family, where the demons under the bed keep her company while she works. Her books include Kalbrandt Institute Archives series, her novel The Devourer, various short stories and the upcoming surrealistic novel The Ship That Tried To Sink Itself.

You can find her on www.chchelser.com and on Twitter: @chrischelser. 

Interview with Leah Wong

Say hello to Leah!  She responded to my call for speculative fiction interview participants a few weeks ago. I hope you all enjoy reading her answers to these questions as much as I did. 

What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?

I clearly remember going to my elementary school library and checking out Stephen Cosgrove’s story books. They were standalone stories featuring talking animals like cats, birds, and rabbits, but Cosgrove also wrote about dragons, unicorns, and winged horses.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

Can I cheat and mention more than one? Neil Gaiman, because of his worlds and his championing of writing of all sorts. Laini Taylor for her skill with words and her imagination. Peter S. Beagle, because he wrote the story that turned into a movie that made me fall in love with fantasy.

What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?

The possibility. There is so much possibility to be found in speculative fiction it makes my head spin. A friend of mine told me he has no patience for fiction because it’s all made up, and while that is true, there’s much more that goes into it: world building, creating the characters, research, For me, it’s like reading someone’s dream.

More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?

I think it’s great! When an author can successfully blend genres together, creating something you never considered before, that’s an admirable skill. It’s also a good way to find new readers.

If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?

I’ve grown up with cats so I have cat names. Bagheera from The Jungle Book is one I want to use one day. I heard about a cat called Mister Kindly in a popular series. I’m keeping that name in mind as well. Growing up, sister and I had a cat called Dinah, inspired from Alice in Wonderland. I named my parents’ cat Pouncequick, after a character from Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams.

What fictional world would you never want to visit?

Panem from The Hunger Games series. I wouldn’t last one day.

What fictional world would you want to visit?

There are so many! I was reading through one of the past interviews and the person said they would not want to go to any high-fantasy worlds, and I want to visit those ones the most. Narnia. Middle-Earth. The Night Bazaar from The Star-Touched Queen.

Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?

I love spoilers, but I do understand that announcing a major plot point ruins the fun of finding it out for yourself. I don’t reveal unless someone asks.

Which series do you think should be made into a TV show or film next?

Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales would be a feast for the eyes if it were ever to be adapted for the screen. Libba Bray’s The Diviners series would be atmospheric, and it with its large cast of characters, would make an excellent TV show.

Which TV show or film do you think should be turned into a book?

I’d like to see Penny Dreadful as a series of books. That was a dark, engaging show.

Bonus Questions

What is the most unusual or interesting way you’ve come up with an idea for one of your creative works?

I’d say the novel I’m working on now. It’s a retelling of a children’s story and a central event that happens to several characters. The idea came to me from a comment someone made on a blog post I wrote. That got me thinking, and it brought back the feelings I had about it as a kid. I started writing it in November of last year and finished the first draft this past April. I’m working on the second draft right now.

Sometimes characters don’t do what their creators want them to do. If this has ever happened to you, how did you deal with it?

I let it happen. I’m a combination planner/panster in my writing. I have the bones for the idea, and if other things reveal themselves while I’m writing, including a character doing something I didn’t think they would, I write it out.

What is your favourite trope?

Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorites. The characters have to be fleshed out for it to work for me, and if there’s snappy banter involved as well, I’m sold.

What tropes do you try to avoid in your stories?

Instalove, since I’m on the subject of romance. I don’t like reading it, so I’m not going to write it. Also, fridging. That’s when a character the protagonist is connected to is killed off to motivate them into action. I think it’s a little lazy.

About Leah:

Leah has always been a bibliophile. An avid fantasy fan, she has been countless hours dreaming of magical worlds. An aspiring author of standalone fantasies, she enjoys traveling, photography, movies, and good chocolate. She lives in California. 

Leah is one of the bloggers at Quite the Novel Idea, She can also be found on Goodreads

Interview with Richard L Pastore

Welcome, Richard! He was the most recent person to my speculative fiction interview post, and I’m looking forward to sharing his answers with all of you today. 

What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?

H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. It was one of the first ‘real’ books I read as a child. Even at that age, I could tell at that point, H.G. didn’t think much of mankind. Even today as I read the news, who could blame him.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

This is the kind of question that will get you a different answer every time you ask me. I have favorite authors for different reasons. So it’s difficult for me to rank one above another. I’ve often mentioned Christopher Moore and Ray Bradbury, but today I think I’ll give a vote for Richard Russo. Whenever I read his books, I experience that common mixture of awe and envy.

He manages to squeeze humor out of everyday people in both subtle and slapstick aspects. That isn’t easy. His books are definitely worth reading for any author looking for examples where character drives humor. And, now that I think of it – I guess they’re not quite under the heading of speculative fiction. Sorry about that.

What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?

I tend to read fantasy, SciFi, humor, and mystery, especially where the last two are mixed with the first two. I like it when my brain is stimulated, whether it be by challenging my imagination and preconceived notions, or by a clever plot with plausible twists and turns. My selection in entertainment always leans towards escapism. I can be strongly moved by real-life stories, but escapist fare allows me to relax and let down my guards. My mind is more apt to wander along the possibilities of what if?

More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?

Love it! As I mentioned, mix humor and/or mystery into a SciFi or Fantasy, then lead me to the cash register. I think it’s apt to call it a trend, or better yet a growing trend, since cross-genre stories have been around for quite some time. I immediately think of Isaac Asimov’s Robot Trilogy which featured a human detective learning to work with a robot partner – classic SciFi reflecting on human societal structures. I mentioned Christopher Moore earlier. He can take a mythology, shake it upside down and have you laughing all the way through.

If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?

I had a cat I named Merlin when I live in Brooklyn. I wasn’t allowed to have pets in our tiny apartment, and I found him when he was a little less than one month old (his mother was hit by a car). So I fed him and gave him a safe place in our small yard. As he grew, he’d have this habit of vanishing for a day or two only to suddenly show up right behind me, much to my surprise and my friends. One of them remarked, I see he’s done his disappearing act again, and so I started calling him Merlin. Two years after, we moved to a house New Jersey and I was allowed to add him to our family. He still did the vanishing thing, and I had to reassure my parents he’d quietly be back in a couple of days.

What fictional world would you never want to visit?

Definitely not Westeros, (Easteros or any of the os’s). Way too violent, filthy and oppressive, which is to say, a legitimately and lovingly crafted Medieval world.

What fictional world would you want to visit?

Tough one, but I think I’ll go with Perelandra. CS Lewis’ version of Eden on Venus. If not there, Asimov’s Solaria (The Naked Sun), as I do enjoy solitude and unpopulated spaces.

Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?

I’m not a fan of sharing spoilers (at the very least don’t make it the headline). However, there is an unknown point when you wonder, is it okay for me to discuss details now? I personally avoid writing them whenever possible, which means I have to spend more time constructing a review that can provide enough information without giving away key elements.

Which series do you think should be made into a TV show or film next?

I wouldn’t want to restrict it to series. One substantial book could make a decent season or even two (e.g. The Handmaid’s Tale). Although in the opposite direction, they squeezed the Earthsea books down into one animation. A good animation, but I wasn’t happy. I would have voted for that. It goes without saying “if done correctly”, but I would love to see Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, or even better, Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber. By the way, I heard rumor that his Lord of Light has been optioned.

Which TV show or film do you think should be turned into a book?

Ooh. The problem with good series is that they don’t often age well during their run. My mind first jumped to Lost, but then I thought, “Well, maybe the first season.”  So then, let’s go with Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, but with an ending that isn’t rushed by sideswiping notice of cancellation.

Bonus Questions

What is the most unusual or interesting way you’ve come up with an idea for one of your creative works?

There are two predominant ways ideas come to mind. The first is, I start with a broad concept which will bounce around in my brain for days without details. If enough bits of ideas (notably, plot elements) attach to it, I start to think about it more carefully. For instance, the other day I was thinking, “The most popular superhero stories are in an illustrated format: comic books, graphic novels. I wonder what it would be like to write a straight-up superhero novel.” I know there are quite a number out there, so if I also think of an interesting hook for it, I’m going to put it on my “to write” list. The currently book I’m writing falls into this category. I was thinking about one of my favorite Greek Myths and realized it hasn’t, to my knowledge, been done true to the original tale. I then considered if I could write it as a comedy as well, and off I went.

The second way ideas come about, strangely enough, is a bit of dialog pops into my head. Sometimes it’s a few humorous lines, others a discussion on a deep topic (My Dinner with Atilla the Hun?). I then start to think about the characters and circumstances surrounding this, which leads me to explore those characters more. If I like the complexity of characters (a.k.a. dolls, action-figures) I’m developing, I begin to consider setting and potential plots. It’s definitely a bottom-up process, and is the way I wrote my first book.

Gif description: black and white image of a lightbulb turning on. Black lines appear around it to symbolize the light.

 

Sometimes characters don’t do what their creators want them to do. If this has ever happened to you, how did you deal with it?

They know better. It’s their story, so who am I to argue.  Kidding aside, I feel when this happens, it’s your subconscious mind making connections and play-acting on a nonverbal (right-brain?) level, that percolates up to your conscious mind where you realize it does make more sense to go that route.

What is your favourite trope?

The anti-hero. More specifically, the Trickster archetype. Give me a golden-age Bugs Bunny cartoon any day. I’m drawn to Tricksters and love writing their dialog. The best thing, plot-wise, is that they can cause change like the gentle puff of air on a house of cards, or with all the subtlety of a boulder dropped into a koi pond.

What tropes do you try to avoid in your stories?

The twist for the sake of a twist. If I’m going to kill off a main character, or a beloved side character, it had better be for a good reason from a storytelling point of view; not as a cheap ploy to shock (yank) the reader. I think Ned Stark in Game of Thrones is a good example of the former. He’s put in the foreground as a main character, but his death both causes a chain of critical events and moves other characters to the foreground.

About Richard

Richard L Pastore is the author of the comedy-fantasy, The Devil and the Wolf (available on Amazon). His newest project is tentatively titled: Perseus Kills His Grandfather.

Born in Brooklyn New York on a sweltering summer’s day. Richard studied Cognitive Psychology in grad school, which led to a career in User Interface Design. He later switched careers to become a Business Analyst. Although having traveled across the U.S. quite a bit, he feels most at home along the eastern shore of these United States, currently residing in New Jersey.

Be forewarned, should you choose to engage him in a conversation regarding anything food-related – whether it be the history of, growing of, or cooking of – he won’t shut up.

Interview with Tammy Schoch

My mother has decided she wants to be interviewed, so say hello to Tammy Schoch! This is so cool. If you’d like to join in on the fun as well, go check out all of the details on my speculative fiction interview post. 

What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?

Back in the 70s when I was in elementary school, I read “A Wrinkle in Time.”  I was mesmerized and smitten from that day forward. I was a little fearful of being discovered to have read it. I felt like I broke a rule or something – and I don’t know why. It was so enticing that it felt like it was too tempting to be good for me.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

It’s a tie between Neal Stephenson and Isaac Asimov. Both are brilliant, verbose, original in their ideas, obsessed with detail, broad in their approach, and can cover thousands of years in one novel.

What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?

I like the hope that I find in utopian science fiction. I enjoy the surprises that I find in fantasy, like in “Wool,” by Hugh Howey. I like the psychological and sociological aspects that I find in dystopian writings, such as “Earth Abides,” by George R. Stewart. I enjoy the sense of being grounded in millions of years of humanity from reading fictional pre-history, like what I find in “The Clan of the Cave Bear,”  by Jean M. Auel.

More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?

I don’t think much about genres when I’m enjoying media. My favorite movie ever is “Avatar,”  my favorite TV series ever is “Star Trek,” and my favorite books include “Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart and “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson. Are those mixed genres?

[Lydia’s response: Yes, I could see how those books count as mixed genres!]

If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?

I would need to name a pet “Data.” He is the first non-human character that really caught my interest as I consumed science fiction.

Gif description: The character Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation is sitting in a chair and petting his cat, Spot.

What fictional world would you never want to visit?

I would not want to visit the planet in “Red Mars,” by Kim Stanley Robinson. Way too much confinement in claustrophobic spaces when the planet was first colonized.

What fictional world would you want to visit?

I would want to visit the planet in “Blue Mars,” by Kim Stanley Robinson. Much more hospitable to humans. I’d also enjoy the Mars depicted in “Out of the Silent Planet,” by C. S. Lewis. I’ve always liked the two very different worlds between the civilizations who inhabited the valleys and the mountains. Going any farther from Earth than Mars is just too much for me to consider.

Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?

I’ve never been sensitive to spoilers. But I’ve certainly learned, in this age of social media to not be that dreaded person who shares the spoiler.

Which series do you think should be made into a TV show or film next?

I would love to see Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation Series” made into a movie. “Mara and Dann” by Doris Lessing would also be a great movie.

Which TV show or film do you think should be turned into a book?

The Netflix series “Glitch” would be interesting as a book. I’m waiting for more storylines from that one.

About: Tammy Schoch is a psychiatric nurse who lives in the United States with her husband. She taught her children to love science fiction, and they taught her the importance of avoiding spoilers on social media.

Other than science fiction, her interests include cycling, astronomy, and the occasionally retweet of interesting archeology articles. Her Twitter username is TammySchoch

Interview with Berthold Gambrel

Welcome, Berthold! He was the third person to respond to my speculative fiction interview post, and I’m thrilled to share his answers with you today.  What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading? A children’s adaptation of a science fiction story called “The Legion of Space.” The original story (which I’ve never read) is… Read More