It is sometimes said that every person has at least one book in them, but until we learn to read in the dark, that book inside them is absolutely useless. This series of posts is about the authors who’ve transcribed those words out on to a screen for our reading pleasure.
Last week we had a chat with Isa, author of Split-Self and supreme overlord of the website fluffy-seme.
Tea? Yes. Cookies? Yes. It’s interview time!
AMH: You have two stories online: The Lighthouse Chronicles and Tales of Pneuma. I know it’s like asking a mother to pick one of her children, but do you have a favourite out of the two?
FG: I love Tales of Pneuma for the storytelling freedom and the creative muscle I get to exercise, but Lighthouse has an easygoing touch that stresses me out a lot less. Lighthouse helped me relearn to write after I’d given it up for a time; Tales of Pneuma is a challenge to improve my writing. Tales also taps into a wider audience, so it’s planned to (hopefully) be a much different project than Lighthouse‘s traditional 3 book structure. That’s as much as I’m willing to admit, favorite-wise!
AMH: Fair enough! So tell me a little more about Lighthouse. You say it helped you relearn how to write: how so?
FG: I studied writing and worked in television for a short time; those are two settings where my creative output became a bit tortured. Writing became less fun and more nerve-wrecking; I wanted to be successful so badly I stopped writing things I believed in and started trying to write what other people might want. Eventually I stopped writing altogether.
Lighthouse is written in the vein of the stories I read when I was growing up, the stories that made me love books and want to write in the first place. It reminded me that I started writing because it was a joy, rather than as a gauge of worth. More pragmatically: my skills deteriorated pathetically after I stopped writing, so having weekly Lighthouse deadlines (and now monthly Pneuma deadlines) forced me to improve when I might otherwise have given up. You can see bits of that shakiness in the first book, I think.
AMH: What about Pneuma? The style is quite different to that of Lighthouse: while there is an overarching plot in Pneuma, the stories are also self-contained. Why did you choose to write it this way?
FG: Most of my writing experience is in the short story format, it’s what I feel most comfortable writing. Keeping each story episodic in Pneuma allows me to explore different points of view and different stories without sacrificing the drama of escalating events. This way I can’t get bored or overwhelmed, and the readers can jump in wherever they like.
AMH: Running two ongoing stories simultaneously must be quite difficult to juggle. How do you manage your time? Any tips to share?
FG: I’m always working on a story, though not necessarily writing one. I’ll be working out details in my head while I’m doing menial things like laundry. When I do write I don’t necessarily stop when I’ve completed the next update, I just stop when I’m out of steam. The tip: Don’t force yourself to write if you’re stuck. Take a break, a day or two away from it, and you’ll likely work out what you were struggling with. You waste less time/effort taking a break than you would sitting at your computer, getting frustrated trying to force the words.
AMH: Time for a reader-submitted question. Janoda asks: “Have you ever taken revenge on someone by basing a character on them and making horrible stuff happen to them?”
FG: My characters and stories are sometimes inspired by real people, usually people I like or know well. It never lasts; the characters turn into different people entirely by the end of the first draft. They change partly for the story’s sake and partly because writing too much with real people in mind creeps me out. Liam Wheelwright definitely is a mishmash of people I know, more so than other characters, but nothing is done with any malicious intent or a sense of settling a real-life score. Not judging anyone who has done that, it’s just not for me.
AMH: On to your website itself. You’ve started posting in depth webfiction reviews on your own website. Why did you make this choice, instead of using an already existing directory?
FG: I don’t work for or am affiliated with any directory, though I may be listed on them. I crosspost my reviews to existing directories, but writing them on my own site lets me write reviews in my own way, without worrying about meeting other people’s rating criteria. It’s a mental thing. I’m not knocking other directories, I enjoy your reviews on the Web Fiction Guide in particular, I just like the independence of it.
AMH: Thanks! I’m glad you like them. I also noticed on your website that you’ve made both your stories available for download via Smashwords. Would you recommend that other authors follow in your footsteps?
FG: I actually got the idea from Naomi Kramer, author of Deadish, among many other things. She recommended Smashwords to me, a very intuitive ebook-creation site. People asked specifically for downloadable copies that they could keep rather than something they can only read online, and the more options readers have the better.
I’m not swimming in a bank vault of cash a la Scrooge McDuck, but the revenue from downloads helps to keep both sites afloat. (Very subtle hint, eh.)
AMH: Last question: what do you love most about being a webfiction author?
FG: There’s a great sense of community in webfiction, a community with a lot of encouragement, generosity and ambition. Writing can be such a solitary thing, but everyone looks out for each other and helps out when they can. That’s the power of the internet!
AMH: That’s it from me. Anything else you’d like to say?
FG: Thanks for asking me to be a part of your interview series, it was fun and I got to pretend I was important! For anyone reading this, feel free to check out my work or drop me a line just to say hi — I’m a fan of How I Met Your Mother, puns, penguins, and long walks on the beach.
And if you’d like to ask Frances a question, just leave a comment.
Don’t forget to come back next Wednesday for another interview!