This week I was lucky enough to interview fellow science fiction author Emma Larkins. Check out the interview below!
David Kristoph: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Emma Larkins: I loved reading at a young age, and avidly consumed anything I could get my hands on. I wasn’t content to simply read stories - my mind naturally turned to storytelling. I started engaging my siblings in my own, invented choose-your-own-adventure stories during long car rides, and the rest is history.
DK: What's your writing process like? Is there a specific time and place you prefer to write?
EL: My writing process is pretty chaotic. I have a lot of work to get through, so I often find myself writing at weird times and/or in weird places. You can find me pounding away at my desktop keyboard at two in the morning, or sitting on the couch with my laptop and a cat (or two) in the afternoon. I’ve been known to write on the subway, outside of laundromats, and on the shores of hidden forest lakes.
DK: Which writer type are you: an Architect or Gardener?
EL: I like that distinction - never heard it before! I’ll actually have to look that one up… I certainly started out as a gardener. When I wrote the first draft of Mechalarum, I had no idea what direction it was going in, no outline. It evolved completely from scratch. As a result, I spent a ton of time during rewrites, basically rebuilding the story from scratch. So, for the sequel I’m writing now (Witherwelt), I’ve outlined what I want to have happen so I have a base to work from. I’m still open to things evolving - I listen closely to my characters to know where the story goes next. I’m happy to throw out some or all of the outline if it doesn’t end up working.
DK: From where do you draw inspiration and creativity?
EL: Many of my story ideas started off as dreams. I have some crazy dreams, which works out when you’re writing speculative fiction.
In general ideas come to me pretty easily. I tend to have the opposite problem - too many ideas, and not enough time. Many ideas grab me and won’t let go until I deal with them, and sometimes they’re outside of the realm of what I normally work on, so I have to drop everything and explore this new niche because I trust that my brain will lead me in interesting directions if I do so.
DK: Growing up, what are some of the books that influenced you most as a writer?
EL: I read a lot of really meaty novels at a young age - Lord of the Rings, David Copperfield, Wuthering Heights. I was the kid who actually enjoyed English reading assignments. They developed a love of words in my young brain (although I would later learn that the flowery language in literature isn’t a great fit for most modern audiences). The Chronicles of Narnia series was a big influence, for sure. In a sea of wordy epic fantasies, it told fascinating adventure stories with engaging characters that didn’t take a month and a dictionary to get through. And everything by Tamora Pierce put me on track to create strong heroines.
DK: Okay, give us your elevator pitch. Mechalarum. Go!
EL: Strong heroine Kiellen risks slow death for the power of biomechanical flight in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s Fury Road meets Iron Man (with aliens).
DK: How long did Mechalarum take to write, from start to finish?
EL: I used the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) method to get the first bunch of words on paper. The first draft, about 80,000 words, was done in a month. It took a lot of work to get from there to the finished draft, though - I finally released the digital copy four years and 300 hours later. Another fun statistic: the published version of Mechalarum stands at about 80,000 words, but I ended up writing (and deleting) an additional 100,000 words as I drafted.
DK: What other works do you have planned in the near future?
EL: I’m writing the sequel to Mechalarum this month for NaNoWriMo! It’s going to be called Witherwelt, and it’s going to turn the world I established in the first novel on its head.
DK: Any advice for beginning authors out there?
EL: Write bad stuff. Just a ton of really awful junk. I think too many aspiring writers approach the craft excited to produce some amazing, high-quality work, and the truth is it takes a long time to get to that point (as described beautifully in this video based on a speech by Ira Glass). I wrote four and a half novels before I even began to get close to something I felt comfortable publishing, in addition to years spent working professionally writing software manuals and marketing materials.
Ideally during a long and fruitful career, you’ll keep improving. Which means whatever you’ll do in the future will always be better than what came before. But you’ll never get to that “better” place unless you pass through where you are right now. So never be afraid, even if what you’re doing isn’t as great right now as you’d hoped.
On the flip side of that, I’d say start sharing your work as early as possible if you really want to be successful in getting known (and eventually paid) for writing. The sooner you start sharing and getting feedback and having people engaged with your work, the faster you’ll start improving.
Bio and Blurb
Emma Larkins is a science fiction author and card game designer who loves puns. She writes accessible stories that tease the edges of your imagination without making you feel like your brain has gone through a blender.
Her Mechalarum ebook (“Strong heroine Kiellen risks slow death for the power of biomechanical flight; Iron Man meets Fury Road, with aliens.”) will be available for free November 21 through 25 on Amazon - during which time Emma will be raffling five signed paperback copies of the book. And she’s going on a book tour! Join her as she shares stories, excerpts, interviews, and more. Click here for a complete list of tour stops.