Friday Feature: Interview with Star Spider
Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Star Spider, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine and 3rd place winner of Issue 8 Speculative Fiction Contest.
Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?
My first publication was in a ‘zine for women when I was something like eighteen or nineteen. I don’t remember what the piece was about…probably travel though. I had this whole series of short stories I wrote about my journey to Europe, Egypt, and Peru. I was such an idealistic, self-centered hippie at the time, I’m sure it was just dripping with good vibes and deep, spiritual revelations. I would sit on the bus when I was rolling around in the desert and watch the sunset and write by hand. I didn’t take pictures, instead I just wrote everything. I guess I decided I was a writer at that point and I was so excited when I got my story published. I was like: this is it, I’ve made it. It was great. I was so easy to please back then. I gave up writing shortly after for too long and now I’m a little more demanding of myself.
What inspired your piece in the Jenny?
The story I wrote was called “Space” and it was sort of a sci-fi piece about the future of Japan. I don’t write much sci-fi, but I couldn’t help myself when I read this article about how many young people in Japan are giving up sex. The women especially because they want to buck social norms and have careers and do their own thing. So people are turning to technology there and it’s getting pretty extreme, causing shrinking birth rates and being so much of an issue that they’re calling it “celibacy syndrome.” I wanted to take a look at how that might progress into the future when we have other things to contend with like global warming and all insanity that goes along with that. I loved this feeling of isolation that the story took on (loved as in I found it depressing, but thought it worked for the story), and I definitely thought the piece captured the chill I got from reading about what’s going on, what this article described as a “looming national catastrophe.”
What got you into writing?
Cheesy poetry about grade seven love. Oh the angst! That and my dad was a writer, so even though it’s completely unscientific I like to say that it’s in my blood.
What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?
Oooh…tough one. I have a couple of styles I love to work with. I have a fairytale thing I like to do, which is pretty flowery, but not to the point of ridiculous. Then I have a very simple, super philosophical style where I don’t name my characters, but use pronouns instead. In that style I like to think of my characters as gods (like the Greek gods or ascended beings or something), and they have these really meaningful conversations in really ordinary situations. And then there’s the super heavy character stuff where I pick a voice and just go for it. I love that the best I think, because I really get into it. My first novel is super voice driven and it was really fun to write. Hopefully it will be fun to read too (when I eventually get it published).
What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?
I’m not much of a name dropper about writers I like, because I tend to like books more than particular authors. However I do love and admire Aimee Bender’s work. I identify with her offbeat style and subtle magic realism. But aside from that, some of my favorite books (and books I admire) include: Sophie’s World, Charlotte’s Web, Star Maker, House of Leaves, Room, White Oleander, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and Among Others. So a pretty diverse list.
What’s your proudest moment as an author?
I was pretty proud when I finished my first novel. It’s kind of a piece of crap, but I did it. I was just getting out of a tough life situation, and I got back into writing after many years — it was nice to be able to get a novel out and know I could do it. But really probably my actual proudest moment came recently when I won runner up in this novel contest over in England run by Conville & Walsh called The Word of Mouth Prize. Better still they offered me representation and I took it! Bam, agented! I’d like to say the first one was the biggest achievement, but I guess I’m just a sucker for external validation. It’s nice that someone likes my book enough to want to be its champion. And my new agent is awesome!
How has your writing developed over time?
Well…it got better. I don’t want to be too egotistical about it or anything, but it really did. I wrote like five books and a bunch of short stories in the last three years or so (since I decided I want to be a writer) and each one was better than the last. Actually, I was just talking to my husband after my biweekly writing group the other day. It’s a cool group that I’ve been going to since I decided I officially wanted to be a writer. So I told my husband that it used to be that when I went there, sometimes when people would read their stuff I would think: shit I wish I could write like that! But now when I go, I don’t think that at all anymore. I’m happy with what I write: it’s weird, kind of scary sometimes and really emotional, and I like it. I guess it’s a sign of how far I’ve come that I don’t want to write like other people anymore — I just want to keep writing like me.
Are you currently working on anything?
Yup! A novel. It’s a bit of a tough one, because it has more than one main character and it’s a world-building, plot-heavy sort of thing. Usually my books are very small, personal, and simple. So it’s a good challenge and I’m excited about it!
What’s your writing process?
I’m a binge writer. I come up with an idea (usually only one at a time) and think about it for as long as I need to, then I sit down and write it. Usually I can write a decent first draft of a book in two weeks and a short story in no more than two hours. But I think a lot first. I take big breaks with writing, in between inspiration, and don’t force myself to write every day. I don’t like editing, so I try to nail it in the first go if I can. Mostly that works with short stories, not as much with novels. Especially the one I’m working on now because there’s so much plotting going on. Once I was in this writing group, really early on in my decision to be a professional writer, and this guy was critiquing one of my stories and he told me to sit with it, be with it for a few months and work on it slowly, carefully. It was all I could do not to laugh in his face. I am way too impatient to sit with short stories for months and luxuriate in them. I want it done and submitted as quick as possible, because life is short. My approach may not work for everyone, but it’s awesome for me.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading nothing because I just finished The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. I won an advanced copy on Twitter. It was the first time I ever won anything on Twitter, and I was pretty hyped about it.
Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?
I feel like I might have written one of those poems with someone once where you trade back and forth writing lines. But that doesn’t count.
I guess I sometimes co-write with my husband, but it’s more like co-creating. We go on these really long walks and talk about my stories, and he helps me out because he’s a good big picture guy having been a GM for D&D for like his whole life. He also edits my work for me. But that doesn’t count either does it?
I guess that was just a really long way of saying no.
Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?
I wrote a 100 word story inspired by a painting a little while back. That was cool. Other than that I have to say I’m embarrassingly shitty at drawing, but I did use to love to sculpt when I was a kid. I wasn’t amazing at it, but it was fun. Also, I do a lot of video stuff as my husband is a video editor and we work together on that, and sometimes I also DM with him in our D&D games. I vlog a lot as well for a project I have called Cosmorphosis where I’m going back to high school to try to become an astrophysicist because I want to understand the mysteries of the universe. Shit…maybe I still am that idealistic self-centered hippie.
Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.