Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview: Genevieve Valentine

Every Tuesday, I'll have an interview posted.

Genevieve Valentine’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Journal of Mythic Arts, Fantasy, Farrago’s Wainscot, Sybil’s Garage, Federations, edited by John Joseph Adams, and more. She is a columnist at Tor.com and Fantasy Magazine.

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how did you get acquainted with speculative fiction?

I've been a fan of speculative fiction ever since I could read. Before that, I was a fan of fantasy movies; when I was four, I was THRILLED to find out that The Last Unicorn was a book, too. (Who could have imagined such a wonder!) It was the first book I ever read by myself, and I kept reading from there.

What made you decide to become a writer, and write in the fantasy/science fiction genre at that?

I've always enjoyed writing, so for me it was a natural choice, especially since I lack the aptitude to do anything more practical. I gravitated to speculative fiction because of the way it imagines so much and still leaves some things unexplained; since the world is essentially inexplicable, that works out nicely.

Could you tell us more about Genevieve Valentine as a person?

Night owl, ceaselessly grumpy. I love beautiful clothes, especially historical costume; you would never know this from the way I actually dress.

Looking at your bibliography, you made your fiction debut in 2007 and have a couple of stories lined up this year. Could you explain the sudden productivity? Did you receive a sudden burst of inspiration, or is it more along the lines of only recently getting accepted by the various markets?

The first story I wrote for publication was "29 Union Leaders Can't Be Wrong." It sold to Strange Horizons, which was great! Then I realized I had to learn how to actually write a short story, and that took a while. There's also the usual delay between acceptance and publishing, so I ended up selling some stories long before they appeared.

What's the appeal of short fiction for you? Do you have any trunk novels in hiding?

I love the ways that short fiction can play with form, theme, or image. I also like concentrating on a single event in a character's life, giving it impact while, hopefully, suggesting a lifetime.

I have several trunk novels, dating back to when I was thirteen; they are different levels of dreadful. (One of them butchers medieval France so badly I feel like I should go back in time and apologize.)

My first novel, Mechanique: a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, is coming from Prime Books in 2011.

Looking at some of your earlier stories, there's a certain sparseness and minimalism in your writing. What made you decide to use such a technique?

I really enjoy when writers leave some of the work up to the reader; they present a scene or an idea and letting the reader add everything up or bring something unique out of it. I do it whenever I can, though sometimes I can be too sparse for my own good. Some pieces lend themselves to it better than others.

In your website, you describe yourself as having an insatiable appetite for bad movies. Why the fascination?

Good movies (which I love!) tend to have similar successful elements: writing, acting, direction, cinematography, music. But every horrible movie has a certain failure all its own that makes watching it as much fun, if not more fun, than watching a good film. Plus, a lot of bad movies either think they're amazing without realizing they're awful, or they know they're bad and put as much energy into tanking as possible; both of these situations often end up being more enjoyable than a decent, workmanlike film.

The biggest drawback is that sometimes I can't tell if a movie I love is genuinely well-made, or so awful that it managed to worm its way into my heart. It's why my blog's movie feature is named Questionable Taste, to avoid the discussion of worthiness that seems to bog down a lot of film reviews.

How did you end up being a contributor for Tor.com?

Liz Gorinsky approached me and asked if, as long as I was inhaling terrible movies and TV shows, I would watch a few for Tor.com. It sounded good to me!

Does your experience writing reviews have any impact on your fiction?

Well, Roger Ebert wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, so I've always hoped to get a pass on bringing analytical skills into my fiction, since clearly there are times it just doesn't translate.

Like every writer, I try not to make any really obvious mistakes. On the other hand, you can do any number of things wrong and still manage to come up with a product people love (the inexplicably well-received Star Trek movie, for example). This the inexplicable-universe part again.

As a writer, what was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome before getting published?

I think the biggest hurdle for a lot of writers is that vaguely-Victorian perishing-rose hand-wringing fear that they will be rejected and their beloved muse will die and we'll have to call off the cotillion. Then eventually you get over yourself and rejections just become a note in the story's file. I tell this story from experience.

In your opinion, how has the Internet changed the publishing world?

When I was sixteen, my father bought me a Guide to Literary Agents book. It had information that was only a year old! Today, I know what ten literary agents had for breakfast.

What other projects would you like to pursue in the future?

I guess I wouldn't turn down a chance to write for the screen, though I suspect that actual screenwriters are rolling their eyes at me for thinking the skill sets are remotely similar.

Where can we find more of Genevieve Valentine?

My website is http://genevievevalentine.com, though I tend to neglect my blog there in favor of http://glvalentine.livejournal.com. I also have archives at Fantasy Magazine and Tor.com.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

If your friends cringe and smile feebly when they hand back your stories, take a long, hard look at them before you send them out.

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