"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Thursday, April 9, 2009

An Afternoon at the Fox & Ginko Leaf, Part 2 (Kit Zheng & Mallory Path)

Part One of Kit & Mal's conversational interview is here.


MAL:
Can we go back to what you said earlier about watching movies in your head?

KIT:
Sure!

MAL:
I heard another writer make a similar comment recently. My first thought was that I also see stories as movies in my head, in that I watch the scenes over and over, letting images transform into words before I start writing them down and finding the words myself. But it's not exactly like watching movies, in that I jump all around. So maybe a better analogy for me is that I put on the DVD and make frequent use of the remote control.

Then it occured to me, as we were talking just now, that this is the way I consume a lot of fictional texts. Not the jumping around, but the not starting in the middle.

KIT:
Not starting in the middle? How do you mean?

MAL:
Usually when someone recommends a TV show to me, I ask them what their favorite episode is and--regardless of any back story I might need--I start there. If it grabs me, I'll go back to earlier episodes for what I need.

Or there's a very famous author I won't name. I wasn't going to read the last book in her series, but almost everyone I knew was obsessed with it and so if I wanted to talk to my friends that summer, I knew I had to read it. I tried the first chapter and couldn't get into it. So I looked at the table of contents, found a chapter with the same name as the title of the book about half-way through, and started there. I loved it so much I went back and read the first half of the book after I finished.

KIT:
Oh, that's so cool. I totally couldn't do that.

MAL:
I think that might make some authors cry, because they start where they start for a reason. Anyhow, I guess the way I write comes from the way I read/watch/consume texts. Or maybe the other way around.

KIT:
*nodnodnod* I could imagine doing that with a TV show more easily than with a book.

MAL:
Now I want to do a survey of authors to find out where they start when they start writing a story!

KIT:
That would be cool. *_*

Now I'm fascinated by the idea of reading a book non-linearly. I don't know why. That's super cool.

MAL:
That's the only time I've ever done that with an individual book. I've done it with series, though--not on purpose, but I started with a book in the middle of the series and I couldn't figure out which order the books came in, so I just read in the order of whichever ones were at the library when I went.

KIT:
I've done that with series, too, though I always have mixed feelings about it.

MAL:
So, non-sequitur time: what are you working on right now?

KIT:
Hm, actively or active + derailed by deadlines?

MAL:
*laughs* ...Both, maybe? Or whichever is less painful?

KIT:
Actively for a deadline, I'm working on revising a collaborative story with Jamie Booth which will hopefully be included in an anthology about cat-shape shifters. Our story is about a pair of misfits, who stumble into each other and realize they have a common goal, which they can achieve faster by working together--or should I say, exploiting each other? I'm not sure they know. And how that working relationship evolves into something else.

MAL:
Intriguing! It sounds like there are a lot of blurred lines in that: physically with the shifting, and psychologically--maybe even emotionally--with the distinction between collaboration and mutual exploitation.

Any other pokers in the fire?

KIT:
I was also sneaking in bits of a sci-fi novel(la?) which is working-titled "The Red Box," but right now deadlines have pushed that completely off the radar. I'm really in love with that story though, and am still actively researching for it—e.g. I just picked up The Dao of Pooh (as in Winnie) because there's an element of Daoism in the way these, I guess you could call them hackers, work.

How about you? You said you've got several ideas going. What are you writing on?

MAL:
Well, I'm trying to do that slave world story for a May 1st deadline, which I suspect I won't make--but I'll write the story anyhow.

I have another story called "The Playground," which is about an Amish boy during rumspringa (the period when Amish youths get to experience the English world before committing to the Church) who meets the devil...but that one has been sidelined by research and realities. First, rumspringa takes place when you're 16, which makes it problematic in terms of finding a publisher. So I've found a workaround, an excuse as to why Jonathan hasn't started until he's 18, but I'm not sure I'm on solid ground. Researching Amish communities is not easy!

KIT:
Oh, that is bummer about the age thing. I mean, in terms of a coming-of-age story.

MAL:
Yeah. I'm considering my options, which are (1) age up the human character, (2) don't make it sexual, or (3) write it for a non-romance market. I'm leaning toward that first option.

KIT:
People come of age at all sorts of ages, but I guess when you bring sex into the picture things get skewed.

MAL:
Jonathan is a very innocent character in a lot of ways, and I think I can get away with making him 18 in terms of characterization. I'm not sure he would be allowed to delay rumspringa for two years, but the excuse I've come up with is that his twin sister was in a terrible accident and her rehabilitation has just finished. He got permission from the community to delay so that he could do it with her.

KIT:
Good excuse.

MAL:
Yeah? Hurrah!

Another of my ideas is for a post-apocalyptic novel, and it goes right back to security vs. freedom, which we were talking about earlier. I'm kind of obsessed with this concept of a "velvet apocalypse," where great transformations occur but instead of leaving devastation in its wake, the apocalypse leaves the world a better place.

So in this story the world, which is secretly being run by a group I'm calling The Faction (I'm terrible with names; everything has a placeholder when I'm writing), seems to be a nice place to live, post-apocalypse. There's a group of people who feel that too many freedoms have been sacrificed for the maintenance of this nice world; they're secretly working against The Faction.

Most of the population is unaware of all this. my characters get caught up in it, and it's about the choices they make.

I'm firmly anti-Faction, but I "met" the head of The Faction in another story I wrote recently. It was an epiphanous moment when I realized who he was, and that I was seeing this much younger version of him than the one I've come to know. So now I'm a little tiny bit in love with him. *wry grin*

KIT:
Aww. That is so cute!

MAL:
Does that ever happen to you? You start to flesh out the bad guy, and you realize he isn't such a bad guy?

KIT:
Hmm, I don't really think of people as bad guys in my stories.

MAL:
That's one of the things I adore about your stories, you know.

KIT:
*laughs* Thanks.

I'm one of those assholes who doesn't think people are anything but assholes anyway, so yeah, you just get a range of assholes.

MAL:
The antagonist, then, as opposed to the "bad guy"?

KIT:
Hmm, yes... I think? Yet Another Unfinished Novel, The King of Salem, came from--well, it came from a lot of things...

I'd been reading a novel that shall not be named and the handling of the interaction between the protagonist and the anti-hero (not the antagonist) annoyed me so much it sparked me into writing a short story, about a priest being taunted/seduced by a demon-summoner/witch; which I then turned around and spun off into a high fantasy story that asked who really was the bad guy, this priest or the witch; which got canned and became a sorta-steampunk story about the same characters but less "who's the bad guy" so much as--actually, ideals vs. "right."

All of that happened because I grew so awfully fond of the demon-summoner/witch way back in that little short story, and the more I thought about him, the more the story grew and changed and became something else.

LOL, sorry, I'm babbling--I'm terrible about talking about my WIPs.

MAL:
No, that's fascinating! I had mentioned to you before we started this that I thought we had shared thematic interests but our ways of illustrating those themes was very different. At the time, I had thought of it as different paths to the same destination, but now I feel like we have different maps of the same country. Please forgive the terrible metaphors. ;p

KIT:
Not terrible at all--that's a great way to put it. I'd agree.

MAL:
I guess it's time to stop writing about our WIPs and get to the actual writing of them...


Thanks to those of you who came along for the conversation! If you enjoyed yourself here, you can visit
Kit @ http://kitzheng.thatdamncat.com
and Mal @ http://mallorypath.com.

We hope you'll come back tomorrow for Mal's review of Kit's "Deconstruction," and Kit's review of Mal's "Handle With Care."

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