You’ve written so many stories across so many genres; how do you balance the light and dark in your work? Is it an intuitive flow or a meticulous architecture?
One of my favorite words is chiaroscuro. I adore black and white films and the specific structure and design that goes into filming for that style, especially noir—and on the other hand, I also love super-rich-color-palette visual eye-feasts that are also abundant. So when it comes to my writing, I think I have a mix of intuitive flow and very specific, controlled architecture. (Great descriptors, by the way! I really like those.)
I often think of stories in word clusters that evoke a style, or mood, or texture: so like, for “Mr. Try Again,” the words were vicious, teeth-filled, frigid. It began with the opening scene, which was all intuitive flow, as was the ending, and then I focused on building the plot and structure to connect the two points and evoke the sensation and mood from my word-cluster.
With every story, at some point—whether it be in the middle of drafting, before I start plotting, or when I’m in the revision stage—I pause and consider what I want from it. Is this intended to be dark, or light, or a mix of light and shadow? Sometimes I know right away (as with this story—I knew it was dark and bitey from the start), and sometimes it takes a while for the mood and tone and intent to gel so I can refine the raw material into the final product I’m happy with.
You’ve done art, film, code, what else? Do you find that you can tell different kinds of stories more effectively in different mediums? What’s your dream project?
Yeah, I do feel like each medium has its own unique voice and style that best fits telling specific kinds of stories. I love interactive fiction for how it engages the reader in a specific way, and film is one of my favorite mediums for horror, because of how much you can do with visuals.
My dream project at the moment would be to write a major video game, and then be able to play it. We had an amazing number of awesome video games in 2017 (some of my favorites being Prey, Shadow of War, and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider), and I would be beyond excited to work with other artists and designers and programmers on something massive and exciting. Plus, I just love playing games in general. So it’d be win-win!
Also, WB Games, if you need an author to write the tie-in novel Middle-earth: Shadow of War: The Continuing Adventures of Ranger and Ratbag, I am totally your bot.
I loved that every shade of “try again” showed through in this story. It’s such a loaded phrase, and the danger seemed to be in a failure to understand what kind of instruction it was. Encouragement, discipline and honing—or a Sisyphean hell in which the correct answer will always be out of reach. Are Mr. Try Again and Judith’s father agents of the same force, or two sides of the same coin? Is “try again” a catalyst for growth, or solely a means of manipulation?
It depends a lot on who’s using the phrase—there is the context inherent in whose speech is being displayed. When it comes around to Judith claiming it for herself and for Knife, absolutely a reclaiming of something used to abuse them.
“You aren’t going to be a voyeur to their pain” was such a striking line. It was like the first glimmer of possible victory—followed by the way girls are made to be complicit in their own suffering. What was the most challenging idea you were exploring through this story? What do you want your readers to take away from it?
I honestly think every reader will take away something different, but I hope it encourages people to think about the way narrative treats girls, especially in horror. In this one, I wanted to explore the idea that there’s never just one Final Girl. It’s that in narratives, the audience is shown a specific character and told “this is who matters.” The ones left behind are just as important, and we shouldn’t forget them.
What can we look forward to from you in 2018?
I will have short stories in several very cool anthologies, including Sword and Sonnet (battle poets! apex raptors!), and excellent publications (look for stuff in Lightspeed, Uncanny, and Fireside!). I’m also hoping that 2018 is both the year of Novel Revision and Finish This Game. Oh! And stay tuned, because I am aiming to run a project about robot dinosaurs over the summer. It should be an exciting year!
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