Friday, 4 May 2012

Author Interview: A. M. Dellamonica

Indigo Springs
Blue Magic

Short Stories: Lots, listed here.


> What is Indigo Springs about?

Indigo Springs is about three friends who discover a wellspring of magic in their home. By the time they figure out what it is, how it works, and that it's actually quite dangerous, they've set off a chain of events that leads to a Chernobyl-scale mystical disaster. They turn a huge portion of Oregon into an enchanted forest and barely escape with their lives and sanity. 

> You call Indigo Springs an ecofantasy.  What do you mean by that and is there a message you want readers to take away from your books?

Indigo Springs and Blue Magic are books in which a limited magical resource, vitagua, has been transformed into an environmental pollutant. People are struggling to understand, control, and possibly use up the resource, even as it radically alters the landscape of Oregon. It makes trees grow incredibly tall and turns animals into monsters, and it turns out to be much easier to spill it into the ecosystem than it does to return life to normal. I suspect the metaphor's pretty obvious.

And this is what ecofantasy is: it's set in the here and now of our world, and there's magic, but there's also an awareness of the environment and the affect we humans are having on it.

> How did it feel, winning the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic for Indigo Springs and where have you put your medallion?

I was floored when I won. The short list was packed with incredible authors that year, and I had already brought myself around to thinking about how fantastic it was to be nominated. When I got the e-mail my first thought was "Ah well, it was nice while it lasted." The sound I made when I read the e-mail and saw I'd won was a strangled surprise-noise. It sounded terrible! My partner thought something was grievously wrong!

The medallion lives in an antique cabinet that is full of our most special possessions: things like a string of my grandmother's pearls and our most beloved books (Michael Bishop's Brittle Innings is in there, as is the Jane Austen collection and a lot of Connie Willis and James Tiptree Jr.). I take it to conventions to show people and there are some photos of me cavorting with it when it first arrived.

> What made you want to be a writer?

I have felt compelled to write from the moment Ernie and Bert and all their buddies at the Children's Television Workshop started teaching me to read. I was attempting Dr. Seuss-inspired poetry before I entered grade school. Writing has always been a central part of my identity. I cannot tell you why.

The first time I ever attempted a novel was when I was in grade four and I read Gordon Korman's This Can't be Happening at MacDonald Hall. The fact that another kid was publishing novels made me assume that I could write and sell one, too. That turned out to be not quite true, but I was sending short work to markets like Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine by the time I was fifteen.

> You've written a number of short stories in different genres (mystery, science fiction, fantasy and alternate history).  Which is your favourite genre to write and why?

In terms of sheer wordage, I think I've written the most fantasy. It's a genre that works well for me because I feel very connected, somehow, to the idea of the impossible or the miraculous. When I think about achieving something magically, amazing, bizarre and sometimes beautiful ways to do it seem to pour out of my backbrain. It's also easier for me as someone whose training is in theater and dramatic arts. The rules of magic are more fluid and the author sets them. I can write science fiction, but I always have to check my research with people who've taken advanced physics, chemistry, and biology courses.

The first chapter books I read as a kid were a series of my mother's childhood books; they were biographies of famous U.S. women like Jane Adams, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sacagawea and Louisa May Alcott. (I'm sure the writers in the mix made good role models--I read those books to tatters.) I've always been pulled to history and one of my favorite pieces of mine is an alternate history of Joan of Arc that combines that fondness for the miraculous with Joan, who has always intrigued me.

Finally, to be honest, I sneak mystery plots into almost everything I write.

> Beyond the matter of length, do you find it easier writing short stories or novels?

I find very short stories quite hard: I can't seem to write my name without spilling 7,500 words. Aside from being longwinded, though, I love both forms and would be heartbroken if I had to give up one or the other.

I do find mystery and romance storylines easier to pace in the novel format--there's just more time to let things develop. Short stories are compressed and it takes more work to make them seem like they can span a big shift in a character's circumstances.

> If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

Oh, the lot of the folks in Indigo Springs and Blue Magic isn't enviable... I'm not sure there's many of them I'd want to be. But I'm writing a bunch of pieces now set on a world called Stormwrack--the first is called "Among the Silvering Herd", and there's a lot of adventure to be had there. I'd happily take a ride on the sailing vessel *Nightjar*, either as Garland Parrish or Gale Feliachild.

> When and where do you write?

I try to be someone who can write in almost any place, at any time... I've seen people who get so caught up in their rituals that they can only work in one space, and if conditions are perfect. That said, I get up every morning and go, at six a.m., to Cafe Calabria on Commercial Drive. There's no internet and few distractions, and I write fiction there seven days a week. And I'm not alone--quite a few writers end up there over the course of their very long day.

> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

It's the same thing: you do it alone. It's the best thing because you have total control over your work, your worlds, your characters and what happens to them. You can craft everything down to the hatpins. It's the worst thing because you can never *ever* delude yourself that you don't own what's on the page. If there's a typo, a bad sentence, a plotting misstep, what have you, you're the one that put it there.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

I have a ton, and a lot of it's up on my web site.  In fact, I teach writing courses online through the UCLA ExtensionWriters' Program, and sometimes I mentor new writers face-to-face through VancouverManuscript Intensive. I'm constantly telling new writers what I think they should do!

But in terms of some quick advice a person can use right now? Make the time to write regularly. Find critics or coaches you trust. Take their advice most of the time but know, too, that the important decisions are always absolutely yours.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

The upside of being compelled to write is that you have to discipline yourself to stop. If I go a week without writing, I get cranky. If I go two weeks, I become very unhappy indeed. But, when I am confronted with some task I don't particularly wish to get down to, what I will often do is set an electronic timer for an hour. I'll make a cup of tea, start the timer, and promise myself that as long as I give it a sixty-minute try, I'm off the hook for the day.

I love writing, and even when it's hard--when I'm struggling to pull off a particular story--I'm almost always having fun doing it. In this, I know, I am blessed. I'm grateful for that combination of personality traits that makes buckling down to writing easy for me. All I can do is enjoy it while it lasts, hope it doesn't change, and promise myself that if it does I'll seek the strength and the support I need to deal.

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