We’re back this week with some author interviews. Megan Arkenberg wrote “House of Shells” published in our second issue.
What current/classic authors inspire you?
This changes weekly, as I keep discovering new favorites, but some long-time favorites are Cathrynne Valente, Sarah Monette, Oscar Wilde, and Jorge Luis Borges. My newest favorite is Gemma Files, whose short fiction is imaginative, chilling, and strangely believable.
What was the inspiration for your story?
The idea behind “House of Shells” is three or four years old, but it took me a while to write the story and find a home for it. The idea of witch-finders has always fascinated me, whether as heroes or villains, and I was wondering one day what could give a witch-finder a personal interest in such a strange occupation. The opening scene came very easily, and I followed Miriam’s character to see where she would lead.
What’s your writing schedule/process?
Not too regular, unfortunately, since college and my e-zines are eating away at my free time. I try to get an hour or two of solid work in every day.
I’m always finding new models to explain my writing process. My most recent one is stolen and modified from Russian formalism: the fabula and sujet. The fabula is the plot of the story, and this is generally what I come up with first: soldiers show up in a teacher’s apartment looking for her former student, or a castle suddenly declares war on its inhabitants, or a man sees his ex-girlfriend in an old video left on his doorstep. The sujet is how the story is told, and this can take me days to figure out. Is it part of a journal, or the transcript of a video tape (Gemma Files is a master of this form, btw), or a history, or told through first-person-present-tense-stream-of-conscious? For me, the how of a short story is every bit as important as the what.
Is our magazine your first fiction sale? If so how did that feel? If not what other stories of yours have been published and where?
I’ve had something like forty-five short stories and forty-five poems published in various places in print and on the internet. My biggest sales are “All the King’s Monsters” in the January 2010 issue of Clarkesworld, “Four Lies from the Mouth of God” in Strange Horizons, “Cesare” in Fantasy Magazine, “Winterblood” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and “The Copperroof War” in the June 2010 issue of Ideomancer. These pieces are also the most representative of my style.
How do you handle rejection?
Cry myself to sleep and eat a few gallons of ice cream. No, not really. To be honest, rejections happen so often that they really don’t bother me anymore; I look over the piece once more, fix anything that needs to be fixed, look for another market and resubmit. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t smart sometimes when a market has held onto a story forever and then rejects it with a form letter, but that’s the nature of the business. I shake it off and move on.
How are you finding paying markets?
Duotrope and Ralan are lifesavers. I learn about newer markets—or unusual anthologies—through online forums and writers’ or editors’ blogs.
What are your thoughts about how we’re approaching getting fiction out (e-pubs/mp3)?
Ooh, listening to a story on audio is something of a guilty pleasure for me, since it takes longer than reading it in print and I technically don’t have time to be reading for fun in the first place, what with all the school assignments…but I love the convenience of e-pubs and mp3s. No waiting for an issue to arrive in the mail, and it can be read/listened to wherever you get internet access. And it’s also very affordable, which is important when readers have a limited amount to budget for books and magazines.
Did you recieve editorial feedback and how was that for you?
Not on this story, but feedback is always good. It’s very important for writers to know what works and what doesn’t.
If you chose to subscribe to Flagship, what sorts of things would you like to see in future issues?
I’ve gotta work that into this year’s magazine budget, I think.
Thanks Megan! It was a pleasure publishing your work.