Please welcome Wendy N. Wagner to The Qwillery. “Scab Land” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.
This is the seventeenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!
I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Wendy: Thanks for having me! I like working in both forms quite a bit. The wonderful thing about writing short fiction is that I can keep the entire story arc in my mind, which makes it easier to see how all the details build up to make a piece work. When I'm writing a novel, I have to keep very careful notes so I don't forget anything.
I guess you could call me a pants-plotter hybrid (is that a “plantser”?). For my two work-for-hire novels, I really had to get good at working to an outline, and I really enjoy having a framework constructed before I start digging into the real writing. But when I write on my own, I enjoy having a lot of flexibility, too. I tend to start with a very loose outline; I'll write a bit, and draw up an outline for the next section, write a bit, and then stop and do a detailed outline of something that's bothering me ... I go back and forth throughout.
TQ: You are also a poet. How does writing poetry affect (or not) your prose writing?
Wendy: I find that when I'm working on poetry, I'm much more conscious of the images I'm using and the rhythms that occur in my prose. The rhythms and shapes of words really change the reader's experience, I think.
I've been on a poetry break for the last year, but I'm hoping to get back to it this summer!
TQ: Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Wendy: I can't think of any! I'm a pretty boring writer. I just sit down and work!
TQ: Describe “Scab Land”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.
Wendy: It's about the secret stories families and landscapes keep beneath their surfaces.
TQ: Tell us something about “Scab Land” that will not give away the story.
Wendy: The title comes from the name of a real geographical feature—the channeled scablands—of Eastern Washington. It's a very gray landscape with a lot of agriculture, and the story is about a farming family.
TQ: What was your inspiration for “Scab Land”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?
Wendy: My parents live in Eastern Washington on a property that's been in our family for generations, and my grandmother actually came out to this dry, gray place on the train. She'd never seen the town or the farm, but she had met my grandfather and fallen in love with him, so she left everything to be with him. She was from Maine. She would tell me stories about Maine, and I could tell, even though I was just a very, very little girl, that she missed it desperately. So I always knew there were things that haunted her, and that idea of a haunted grandmother stayed with me.
I think every place has a genius loci. Some places slap you with their ambiance, and some you have to listen a little harder to, but yes, every place is full of stories that are just bleeding out into the air and waiting to inspire us.
TQ: Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Scab Land”.
Wendy: All my favorite lines don't make any sense if you don't read the story!
TQ: In which genre or genres does “Scab Land” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?
Wendy: “Scab Land” is definitely a fantasy story. It started out as a literary piece, but I wasn't quite happy with it, and when the call for Genius Loci went out, I revised the piece to make it speculative.
Sure, they're useful. They help you find things you enjoy. I go to the library and browse through the mystery shelf because I like who-dunnits. I dig through the gardening section because I want to find books about gardening.
I know I should have a more serious answer than that, and I know there are a lot of discussions about the different ways to define the different genres. What's fantasy? What's science fiction? What do you call a piece with some magic but also space ships? At what point do subgenre classifications become so specific they're no longer of any use?
There are over a million books published every year and we need tools to help us find what we're interested in. Genre may not be the greatest tool, but it is one.
TQ: What's next?
Wendy: I have a lot of short stories coming out this year—I have a story in Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places, an anthology about Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger; She Walks in Shadows, an all-women-written anthology about women characters in Lovecraft's stories; and Cthulhu Fhtagn!, a new Lovecraftian anthology from Ross Lockhart.
I'm also serving as the guest editor for Nightmare Magazine's Queers Destroy Horror! special issue (due out in October), which I'm really excited about. And I have a second novel coming out in the Pathfinder Tales line, but I'm not sure when it will be released.
It's a busy year!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
About Wendy N. Wagner
Wendy N. Wagner grew up in a remote town on the Oregon coast, a place so small it had no grocery store and no television reception. When the bookmobile came every two weeks, the whole town gathered to explore its latest offerings. Books were her lifeline, her window into the outside world, and soon, an obsession.
Her short fiction has appeared in magazines like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and The Lovecraft eZine, as well as many anthologies, including Armored, Heiresses of Russ 2013, and The Way of the Wizard. She is the Managing/Associate Editor of Lightspeed and Nightmare magazines, and is the former Assistant Editor of Fantasy Magazine. Skinwalkers is her first novel.
Wendy lives in Portland, Oregon, with her very understanding family. You can keep up her at winniewoohoo.com or find her on Twitter, where she’s @wnwagner.