alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


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The Superpower Every Writer Wants: An Interview with Intisar Khanani

Khanani Photo ctuIntisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five.

I met her at the Indiana University Writers’ Conference in the summer of 2012, where she repeatedly showed me how to fix my ham-handed needle work in the book-making class.

She visits today to talk about writing while parenting, when it’s okay not to write, and the importance of having a nice, private shower to escape to.

1. What’s a typical writing day like for you?

My typical day starts around 6 am when our toddler comes into our room to get me to help her in the bathroom (ah, the trials and travails of potty training). By the time we’re done, the baby is awake and so begins our day. While my husband helps out a lot with the kids, the only “quiet” times I really get tend to be if the kids go down for their nap at the same time. If I’m tired out enough, I’ll go down as well and if I don’t sleep, I spend the time lying down thinking of characters, scenes, and dialogue. Cooking is another good opportunity for developing dialogue. The shower is best, but that typically doesn’t happen till the kids are asleep anyhow. So, when I finally sit down with my laptop sometime after 8 pm, I’m ready to pound out what I’ve been thinking about through the day.

2. What’s your favorite thing about your workspace?

The trouble with my workspace is I don’t really have one. When we first moved into our condo, we had grand ideas of turning one of the two spare bedrooms into a writing room (my husband writes academic books). Now that we have two little ones and my mother-in-law staying with us, we’re a little cramped when it comes to dedicating space to anything other than toys. And diapers. I typically end up writing on my bed or on the living room couch (thank God for laptops!). I do miss the days when I had a desk and chair, both facing the wall. It helped reduce distractions—and I am easily distracted. But hey, any space is better than no space.

Any space is better than no space

Any space is better than no space

3. Besides other books/writers, where do you draw inspiration? 

I’ve realized that, when my creative well is drying up, it’s typically because I’m sleep deprived and a little tired of the day-to-day. I give myself a 2-3 day break from writing, read for fun, get out of the house and do something different with the kids, and get myself in bed as early as possible. By the end of the three days, I’m typically waking up with scenes in my head and am ready to go again.

I know some authors who swear you should write every day no matter what (my husband is one of them). I can’t do it. I’ve tried, and I’ve realized that actually empties me out. I need short breaks periodically; I need to pace myself with my story; and I need to pay attention to when I’m not writing because there’s some emotional depth or plot point I’m wary of getting into—that’s the only time I make myself write instead of allowing myself a break.

4. What do you wish you were reading but aren’t? (Because it doesn’t exist.)

Wow. That’s a hard one. I think I want more Jane Austen. And I want more YA fantasy novels about young women where the love interest doesn’t become the be-all and end-all of the heroine’s life. I know, not a request that you might expect from a Jane Austen fan, but we’re talking about YA fiction, and YA fantasy in particular, today. And what I would most want? A bestseller YA fantasy series about a girl without a love interest, or only a minor one who crops up halfway through and doesn’t rule the plot. You know, like Harriet Potter.

5. Superpower you wish you had?

The ability to write in my sleep. ‘Nuff said.

6. What should a reader do after reading this interview?

Support indie authors! With the advent of e-books, indie published novels are booming. There are some awesome new authors out there who don’t have traditional publishing houses backing them and pushing their books. Consider setting yourself a challenge to read three new indie authors in the coming months. GoodReads is a great way to get the scoop on new indie reads and up-and-coming indie authors, so go have fun!

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Intisiar Khanani currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s next projects include a companion trilogy to her debut novel Thorn, following the heroine introduced in her short story The Bone Knife, and a novella series set in a fictional world of eleven kingdoms all controlled by a corrupt Council of Mages. 

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Catherine Krahe Wants Your Sisters (Stories)

C_Krahe

Catherine Krahe lives in Iowa.  She plans to save the world by telling stories and planting trees. She went to Clarion West (2011). Her stories have been published in Realms of Fantasy, Nature, and Ideomancer. She works with the Alpha Young Writer’s Workshop and is a first reader for Strange Horizons.

At least, that’s what she says. I say she is my Clarion West classmate, devastating editor & critiquer, maker of deadly Oreo truffles, and possessor of the bionic nun-field.

Her short story “Walking Home” is featured today in Daily Science Fiction.

She stopped by ye olde blogular to answer important questions about where she writes, how she writes, and the chocolate powdered flavoring mix that makes her world go round.

1. Special pen? Lucky socks? Breakfast of champions? Describe your writing process. (Include necessary rituals, superstitions, or talismans.)

My writing process is stalled these days, but my writerbrain is growing back. I grew up constantly thinking about stories–walking to and from school, going to sleep at night, in the bathroom, all the time. I’ve gotten out of that habit, or at least out of the habit of having my own active stories in my head.  Still, while I’m driving or while I’m walking from one place to another, there’s something going on. Mostly fanfic-ish things or fanfic-ish things of my own. That’s where “Walking Home” came from: it’s a side bit from the novelworld I had in late high school.

At some point, the story things up, and I do a draft. I don’t have a fixed process at this point, but do whatever the story seems to need. I usually write straight into the computer, but some stories happen on paper first. After that, I edit.  That’s the fun part–I like cutting and tightening especially.

Sometimes this happens on a writing date with friends, but not often. I’m more likely to get distracted by socializing than work steadily. I sometimes ping friends to bounce ideas off them or throw a draft at them. I almost always show my roommate Angela, who understands stories from a different direction and has pretty similar taste to mine–she’s wonderful. Of course, this is all subject to change.  I haven’t been writing a lot lately, and who knows what my process will be next?

Good tools: I love my CW notebook.  I require a good fountain pen with Noodler’s ink.  I need my computer, a three-year-old Thinkpad set up so I can use it but no one else can, trackpad turned off, and Dvorak keyboard. I do some tightening on paper, so I like to have a printer.  But what I need is discipline.

Bedroom Workspace. Go to Flickr  to view annotations.

Bedroom Workspace. Go to Flickr to view annotations.

2. Biggest thing that keeps you from writing when you should be writing?

Oh dear. I haven’t written anything really new in a while. I had the stereotypical post-workshop slump and haven’t unpacked my box of stories and critiques yet. Shameful, I know! I’m not sure exactly what’s holding me back besides anxiety and exhaustion. I don’t run my own stories in my head because it’s so much easier and more satisfying to return to someone else’s, like comfort food. I always have a story going, but I’m not someone who is driven relentlessly to put words on the page.

3. What do you wish you were reading but aren’t? (Because it doesn’t exist.)

I want sisters. More sisters. There are so many brothers in fantasy, especially urban fantasy, and what I want is a relationship like that between brothers but between sisters. The typical brother relationship is two brothers against the world, usually with one of them magical or otherwise vulnerable and the other one a vigilant guard. The typical sister relationship is that two sisters against the world are separated because one of them meets a man and leaves the partnership. I hate that. I want more relationships between women that don’t dissolve as part of the plot. –Why yes, I do adore Kate Elliott, why do you ask?

4. What can’t you live without?

Other than the obvious?  Chocolate milk.  Those who knew me at Clarion West know that among my first purchases in Seattle were cups and Quik.  It’s my breakfast on a normal day, and what I drink before going to bed.  I don’t need it on vacations, but it’s one of the things I do to establish ‘normal’.

5. What should a reader do after reading this interview?

Go read some Kate Elliott.  Write me a sister story.  Knit something.

Living Room Workspace. Flickr again for annotations.

Living Room Workspace. Flickr again for annotations.


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Waylines Magazine – An Inside Look

Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo, Japan

Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo, Japan 

When I go for a walk in the evening, I look in the windows of houses that forgot to draw the blinds. I sneak peeks at what you have in your shopping cart when I’m standing in line behind you. And if you’re a writer, I wish I could see where you write.

Writing is something of a secret vocation. Sure, authors today are expected to blog & tweet & Facebook their every thought, but the writing itself takes place behind closed doors. Behind the page, as it were.

There’s something magical about the site of creation. Granted, we writers tend to have slightly less fabulous workspaces than visual artists, but in some ways, that makes it all the more mystical (or do I mean mystifying?). To satisfy this unnatural curiosity of mine, I’ve decided to start a series about the workspaces of literary folk. Look into their spare bedrooms, their basement lairs, their frozen garrets, their comfy couches, and read the secrets of their souls.

The first victim who has volunteered to bare his tender interior spaces for your salaciously inquiring eyes is David Rees-Thomas, Fiction Editor of the brand-new Waylines Magazine. He’s also a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. He used to be the managing editor at Ideomancer magazine. He lives in Japan, and likes to build and collect old synthesizers in his spare time, which is not as much as it used to be. His musical endeavors can be found under the moniker, Phenotypo.

"Bashing the elderly and infirm with my laptop bag usually secures me a seat," says David.

“Bashing the elderly and infirm with my laptop bag usually secures me a seat,” says David.

So, a new spec fic magazine, huh? Why?

Waylines Magazine came about as the logical result of me and Darryl Knickrehm getting together and talking SF/fantasy and all that jazz every week. There are a ton of great writers out there, and there’s always room for another magazine to highlight their wonderful stories.

I worked as the Managing Editor at Ideomancer previously, and I learned so much about how to keep things from getting out of control (slush keeps rolling in even as you sleep) and also about the absolute importance of respect–for our authors and for the process. We aim to turn stories around quickly and make our editorial process as transparent as we can. We’re now on the verge of launching as a pro-rates paying market, which is our ideal. (For more about this, see the Kickstarter info below)

Darryl has a background in film and art, and we are editing the magazine as a team. We trust each other’s opinions, and each of us brings a different take on an individual story. We are both big fans of mags like Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, Lightspeed, Shimmer, F&SF, Apex, Analog, Strange Horizons, and on and on. Oh yeah, and, of course, Ideomancer!! We’ve been inspired by all these guys, and we also want to do something just a little different by including film as well as fiction.

Who is the ideal reader of Waylines?

Well, I want to say everyone! A more fun answer is that we thought we knew what we liked, and part of the enjoyment of this journey has been discovering new stories that made us stop, nod our heads, and go, Yes! Yes!!

Darryl has a soft spot for cyberpunk, the Twilight Zone, and Heavy Metal magazine. I have a soft spot for Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delany, and Jack Womack. Go figure!

What do you wish you were reading, but aren’t (because it doesn’t exist)?

Ooohh, that’s a tricky question.

Alright, here goes: More science fiction by authors from Wales.

I grew up in Caerphilly, near Cardiff, a proper valleys boy. I also lived in Aberystwyth on the coast. We have a rich tradition of storytelling in Wales, so it would be great to see more from my homeland. Of course, this is not to suggest it doesn’t exist, or that we don’t already have great science fiction and fantasy writers–Alastair Reynolds, David Langford, the rather fascinating Rhys Hughes, and not to forget Islwyn Ffowc Elis, who wrote science fiction in the Welsh language.

There must be so much more out there!!

Tell us about your editing process. Or your writing process. Or both. Divulge.

On a typical day, I get up, make coffee, check Waylines’ submissions. Deal with any correspondence, reply to a few submissions, wonder what the strange humming noise is, realize I’ve left the bass amp on again when the cat brushes her tail against the G string.

Take a shower, write my morning 200 words, more coffee, make notes on all the Waylines madness to do during breaks from the day job. Get on the train. Write until I get to work. I am worried that in the future, I will not be able to write unless I’m on a train!! I typically work in the day job from about 11am-7:30pm. I get some writing done and read second round submissions when I have a lunch break.

Then on to the train again. Careful strategic positioning usually bags me a seat one stop after I get on the train. Then, it’s out with the trusted, dying, little netbook, and down to more writing. Once I’m home, dinner, some admin, editing, correspondence, and other bits and pieces until about 10:30. Then I relax. Whew!

Both Darryl and I edit the magazine, so if we think a story has something we like, we bump it to the second round of submissions, and inform the author. Things slow down a bit at this point. We read the story, make notes, and make a decision when we have our weekly meeting. If we like it enough, we move on to the next stage, acceptance and editing.

Darryl and I are in text message contact over our phones all day. We have a weekly meeting every Wednesday evening, in a cheap Italian restaurant in Umeda, Osaka. Note, we do no editing when drinking the wine.

Darryl (l.) and David (r.) get wine stains on your precious manuscripts

Darryl (l.) and David (r.) get wine stains on your precious manuscripts

What’s it like living in Japan? How does that affect your writing/editing?

We’ve both lived here for quite some time now, so the boring answer is that it’s probably much like living anywhere else. I’m originally from Wales in the UK. Darryl is from Orange County, California. Beyond the temples, shrines, and the cyberpunk pachinko assault on the senses, it’s a country where people have the same everyday troubles and celebrations as your own place in the world.

The truth is that we’ve probably been shaped by the experience more than we realize. We’ve probably learned to be a lot more open regarding different cultures, different people, and different ways of doing things. (Some things about Japan will forever mystify me, but the same could easily be said about Wales.)

We live in the Osaka area, which is more down-to-earth and rugged than Tokyo. Good food, straightforward people, and possibly the ugliest, most fabulous skyline in Japan.

Your prediction for the Mayan Apocalypse?

Well, it appears to be a Thursday, so assuming this doesn’t happen, then it will be a day like I outlined above. There shall also be miso soup and red wine consumed, as well as a good chance of some 1956 B movies on the TV at home, and a few parts going missing from the synthesizer I’m building as I attempt to do some soldering at 11:30 at night.

Perhaps that’s enough to herald an apocalypse by itself.

What should a reader do after reading this interview?

Bookmark our page. We really want to make Waylines something that will be enduring, something magnificent, something to make the gods themselves tremble!! Uh, seriously though, please do pop along, it would be lovely to see you.

We have plans for the first year, into year 2, and even a few years on from there.

We’re also running a Kickstarter until Dec 6th. If you cannot suppress the urge to really help us out, please take a look. It’s worth it just for the video.

Our bare bones goals will enable us to pay our authors semi-pro rates, but more will allow us to increase our rates to pro paying level, which would be wonderful.