Guest Interview: Emma Larkins

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.

You can also stop by her Twitter or blog to say hi!

Interview with Hectorlyne Wuor Jarmon

Earlier this week I stumbled upon the Kickstarter page for a new sci-fi film titled Keep,Leave. The synopsis:

In 2096, technology exists giving people the power to erase memories from their minds, but at a cost substantially higher than money.

I had the great fortune of interviewing Hectorlyne Wuor Jarmon, the Producer for the project. Here's how it went!

DK: So, starting off: telling me a bit about your kickstarter project.

HWJ: Keep,Leave takes place in the year 2096, when the power of choice is at an all time high. Technology exists that allows people to choose which memories they would like to keep, and which they would like to erase. This is made possible by our company, Retentia Neurologic Therapeutics. 

DK: That's a really interesting concept, one most people can relate to. Who came up with the original idea, and what was the inspiration?

HWJ: This concept was created by our Uber talented Writer-Director Kryzz Gautier. I enjoy working with her because she has brilliant ideas that everyone can relate to no matter who you are, and she really understands the art of storytelling. We've all had experiences in our lives, or moments we wish we could erase from our memories.This story was rooted out if heart break. Imagine keeping the beautiful beginnings of the relationship, and tossing the messy moments that end up in heart break. Thats what this story is about. 

DK: I can definitely think of some memories I'd like erased. Now, the description also says, "...but at a cost substantially higher than money." Without spoiling too much, can you elaborate on this cost? Aren't our bad experiences part of what make us who we are, as much as the good? 

HWJ: Exactly that's part of the costs one may not anticipate with the memory extraction process. Ultimately some of the horrible experiences we go through significantly shape who we are positively and negatively. The choice ultimately lies with the customer.

DK: The entertainment industry often overlooks women and minorities when it comes to lead roles. The Science Fiction genre is especially guilty of this. What are your thoughts on this, and how does Keep,Leave deal with this kind of problem? 

HWJ: I think this all comes to who is telling the story. A much larger percentage of films made are written by men, and directed/produced by men. It's only natural that they would write a story with male leads because that's what they connect to.

Keep, Leave is written and Directed by a Dominican woman, Produced by a Liberian woman so it's natural that we will have a female in the lead. What I love is that the crew driving this film is all women, of all nationalities. It's bringing a diverse voice to the forefront, one that is very needed in Sci-Fi genre.

DK: Diversity is always a positive thing in art; different people bring different viewpoints and ideas to the table, and it creates a far more balanced product in the end as a result. In this vein, what existing works in TV/Film/Literature have been an inspiration to you?

HWJ: In terms of literature, I'm a great fan if Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and playwright Lynn Nottage.  In Film, one of my favorite films is Bend It Like Beckham and I saw Samba last night which was remarkable. I'm excited about television right now and the diverse voices that VOD bring into play. Shows such as Transparent, Empire, Orange is the New Black, Fresh Off the Boat, And Jane the Virgin. I think we're moving in the right direction, but I know we have a long way to go.

DK: So, aside from Producing Keep,Leave, what else are you working on? Are there any future projects to have mulling around in your head?

HWJ: I am also producing a feature film called PAPA. It's about a teenager, Pepe Fadiga, who thought growing up with an abusive African father was hard enough, but that paled in comparison with surviving the inescapable violence of the south Bronx ghetto. We are going to be starting principle photography in fall of 2015.

DK: Well thanks for taking the time to tell us about your Kickstarter. Is there anything else you'd like to say?

HWJ: I would like to thank everyone who has donated to our campaign so far and shared our project, we are so grateful. I ask that others please partner with us and donate so that this film can come to fruition. Thanks for taking the time to interview me David.

You can take a look at the Kickstarter for Keep,Leave here