I've got a segment in this month's Broad Pod Episode 2: Women's History Month. You can access the episode here. I'm the last batter up (starting in at around the 16.23 mark), reading a scene from Deviations: Appetite.
I'm preceded by Phoebe Wray, Jean Marie Ward, and Karen A. Romanko. Many thanks to host Trish Wooldridge for all her hard work putting the podcast together!
The Broad Pod is a podcast version of the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading, an event at science fiction/fantasy conventions wherein several of us give quick (5-6 minute) readings of our material. Our audience gets a sample of our work and everyone has fun.
RFR flyer from Anticipation: The 67th World Science Fiction Convention (Montreal, August 2009).
My poem "The Last Dragon Slayer" has been accepted to Mythic Delirium. I'll give a holler when it's out.
Back on March 3, I did a return engagement at Conversations LIVE! You can listen to that interview here. Transcript follows...
Transcript of Conversations LIVE!, March 3, 2010
CW: Welcome back to Conversations LIVE!, where we connect you with the artists and authors you love, who bring you the music and books you can't get enough of. I'm your host Cyrus Webb, and first I'd like to thank those joining us on the radio dial at 92.3 FM. We also welcome our good friends online worldwide through BlogTalkRadio.com. Whether it's through our switchboard, our live chat, or our podcast, we're glad that you can join us. We're still continuing all this month our special series of talking to women making their own history during Women's History Month. Our guest for this evening has been with our program a couple of times before, and we're very glad to have her back. Elissa Malcohn is someone who some of you might remember is someone writing great work that takes you up and out of your own world and into a wonderful fantasy and also mystery. We're glad to have Elissa back with us. Elissa, how are you doing?
EM: Okay. Thanks for having me back on the show.
CW: Well, we're very glad to have you. I mentioned you've been on before, a solo, and then you were part of a great panel discussion that we had just last year. For those that may have missed those previous conversations, why don't you tell them a little bit about yourself?
EM: Well, I started writing at a very young age and started submitting while quite young. Back in the 70s I started enjoying my first publications, mainly in the small press. Those include poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. I was a 1985 John W. Campbell Award finalist for best new science fiction writer of the year. And was away from the field for quite a while, doing other things in life. Came back a few years ago and have started being published again. My most recent longer fiction appearance was in Asimov's in October/November 2009. The reason I'm stumbling on that is I have to remember I just recently had my first micro-fiction published, in a Twitter zine called Thaumatrope.
CW: Oh, cool. Cool. And I've read books in the Deviations series, and we'll talk a little bit about that later. But how would you describe, Elissa, your style of writing today? If you were going to do a comparison with an author that others might think of as contemporary, who would you compare your work to?
EM: Oh gosh, it's tough for me to think of myself in those terms. As I've said before, I consider my writing to be in the New Wave tradition, which looked at taboos, social relevance, and my writing dovetails not only into science fiction and fantasy but nonfiction as well. So it's tough for me to point to people in particular, especially people who I greatly admire. But the general gist is social relevance, kind of a philosophy of asking questions, asking big questions, and then seeing how those apply to individual characters so that the drama comes out.
CW: Exactly. So take us back, then, to when you first discovered your love of words. I know for a lot of writers, their journey began as readers. If I had met you as a child, what would I have found you reading?
EM: As a young child, and I wish I remembered the name of the book, there were children's story books that I just loved reading. Many of those stories were fanciful. I remember one collection of Japanese folk tales. Some of those I found online. [For example, here.] Those really galvanized me because of the sense of wonder in them.
CW: Okay. So here we are in 2010. We're going to talk about later how people can find out more information about you online. But I noticed when I was doing my homework over the weekend that you have some things coming up even in April, during National Poetry Month, that you're going to be involved in. We'll talk about that a little bit later. Does it surprise you, the success that you've had, and how far-reaching your message is getting out there? Not only as an author but someone who has now been invited to be a part of events, where you're able to share your love of words and also to encourage other aspiring writers.
EM: I'm continually amazed. You know, it's always new for me, even though I started being invited to conventions as a professional guest back in the 80s. It never gets old. And I'm just thrilled and thankful that people ask me to come and speak and give presentations, and that people enjoy them.
CW: Right. So let's take, then, this month that we're looking at, Women's History Month, and the history that you're making, because I think it's undeniable that you're setting your own path, and others will look at you as an example when they're talking about what inspired them, either in writing or to pursue a dream. If you had to pinpoint a time when you knew that this is something that you wanted to do, this is something you had to do, when would it have been, and what was that moment like for you, that you made that decision?
EM: Well, my first published poems appeared in 1972, in a little magazine called Scenes, put out by my elementary school, public school, PS99 in Brooklyn. And I was writing before then, but as my first publication that galvanized me, even though it was my grade school, little publication.
"Step Forward," one of two poems appearing in Scenes. More legible here.
I already started writing short stories. And what started me on the writing path was, I was a great Star Trek fan. I was seven years old when the show went on the air in 1966. When it went off the air in '69, I missed it so much that I started writing my own adventures. And really, they were nowhere near publishable. It was just a way for me to get my own story out, using the characters in Trek and a kind of an alter ego as a proxy for myself.
EM: And from that I started branching out into writing more general science fiction. I started subscribing to Galaxy magazine in 1972. And that was the magazine to which I made my very first submission and from which I got my first rejection slip, which far from being discouraging it just thrilled me. Because I had actually made contact with an editor. As I said, I started very young. I didn't know any better. I was naturally thrilled.
Wrote a slushpile reader, "Some parts do show a mature style."
CW: Right. Let's talk about that rejection, because that's something that a lot of people face a stumbling block. I know I've been doing this program now, this summer it'll be seven years, and it amazes me that it's not just of course in the literary world, it's in other fields as well, people are faced with rejection. Someone telling them no, not now, or no, maybe you're not the right one at this particular time. When you're faced with those types of obstacles, Elissa, what keeps you going over them? What is it that makes you say you know what, maybe it's not right for this particular person, but it doesn't mean that it won't be right for someone else?
EM: Part of that is experience. I will look at different markets and make my choices based on what I think might fit. And sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Some stories have been rejected multiple times and have gone on, been published somewhere else, and gotten recognition. And then there are those stories – I've got a couple of them – that I feel I need to work more with. And I'm trying to figure out how. They've been rejected a few times and I look at them and I go, yeah, it's not so much a question of finding a market where this will fit, so much as taking this story aside and tweaking it and figuring out how I can improve it.
CW: Okay. For those that are joining us either on the radio or online, you're listening to Conversations LIVE! And I have one thing that people know by listening to me on this program, is that I have no problem being corrected. And my producer has told me in my ear that I have pronounced your name three different ways in this first segment. [Checks pronunciation] Jeff is telling me we're going to break, Elissa. Stay with us. We're going to continue with you. We're going to talk about the Deviations series when we come back, and I want to talk about the inspiration for that and what you hope readers get from it. Also we're going to let them know, I've mentioned the event you have coming up in April. We're going to let our listeners know how they can find out more information about that and more, okay?
CW: All right. We want to thank our good friends from New York for sponsoring this part of our program: Aqua Notes, which are waterproof note pads specially designed with writers in mind. With Aqua Notes you never have to let those great ideas go down the shower. They're very unique, waterproof note pads. I have them myself and use them. Definitely are great for creative thinkers and especially for writers. We're going to turn it back over to Jeff, and here's Celine Dion with “Taking Chances.” We'll be right back with Elissa Malcohn in Conversations LIVE! Stay with us.
CW: That was Celine Dion with “Taking Chances” here on 92.3 FM and BlogTalkRadio.com. You're listening to Conversations LIVE! My special guest is Elissa Malcohn. She's joining us now to talk a little bit about herself, her writing, and also what's coming up next for her. Elissa, I want to talk about the Deviations series for a moment. Talk to us a little bit about the inspiration from it, and about some of the messages that you're giving us through the books.
EM: Well, my initial inspiration came from a 15-line poem written by Joseph Payne Brennan called “When Tigers Pass.” In the poem he talks about how, far from being seen as predatory beasts, when tigers are on the verge of extinction they will be deified. Statues of them will go up in temples. The last few remaining tigers, whole continents will be closed to protect them. And that fascinated me on the two fronts of deification and extinction. The idea for Deviations arose out of that dual picture, and from there I started by writing a short story, which I tried to shop around, which was rejected. The feedback that I got was that I had a fascinating premise, powerful writing, but I needed to present more information. And at the time I thought, okay, I'll expand it into a novel. About 20 years passed, other things happened in my life. Finally got back to it, and as I was expanding it I realized it was becoming a trilogy. When I finished drafting the trilogy, I had left enough openings to get into more detail in the world I had created, and Deviations ended up topping off at six books. Volume four I have planned for release in mid-2010.
CW: Okay. So, you mentioned earlier, and this is why I want to spend this segment talking about the series, you mentioned earlier that you tried to talk about some of the social issues that are out there, and some of the messages that might be dear to you. What are some of the messages that you hope we pick up on in the series?
EM: That there are gray areas. The characters in the series, some of them are extreme in their views. Some of them are moderate. Each of them has a point of view that I tried to get into, putting myself in their shoes, even the villains. Because villains are not two-dimensional people, any more than heroes and heroines are. They all have their flaws. They all have their noble aspects. And so, if I've done my job right, my readers will even look at the villains and be able to sympathize with them to some degree and see where they're coming from. And as I was writing the series, the series in a way started writing me, because it raised questions in me that I hadn't had until I was going through the writing process, seeing how my characters were reacting. Part of my process is to take copious notes. My notes tend to have these, if A happens, then where does this lead to B, C, D, and E? So there are always multiple possibilities. Part of the writing process was that those possibilities kind of shifted back and forth. So the main message overall in the series is that there are different ways of looking at the same problem, and in some cases many different ways. I try to present the different perspectives in such a way that people can find common ground.
CW: When I think about your books, and I want to get your comment on this, and you I think alluded to in the comment you made that initially it seemed to be a trilogy and then it expanded – have you found that the characters seem to somehow dictate, more so than you, where the story will go? And in what ways they are going to be impacted by each other? Have you found that they've kind of taken on their own life?
EM: Frequently. It's more a collaboration. Sometimes I direct them, sometimes they direct me. There's a wonderful book, I don't know how easy it is to find nowadays, but back in 1986 a psychologist named Mary Watkins published through Analytic Press a book called Invisible Guests: The Development of Imaginal Dialogues. In chapter 7 she talks about authors and their characters. She presents several examples of well-known authors whose characters mainly controlled them. Alice Walker is one example. Flannery O'Connor is another. The poet Marina Tsvetaeva is another. Henry James is one. And what Watkins does is present the comments that these authors and poets have made about their relationships with their characters. [I've posted an excerpt here.] It's fascinating, and it's the kind of process that I go through and that other writers I know – not all of them, because we each work differently – but I know other writers who go through the same thing. One asked me if this meant she was crazy. I said, “Look, if you're crazy, you're in very good company.” So it's a wonderful book, if you can get hold of it.
CW: Okay. Again, we've been speaking with Elissa Malcohn. She's the author of the Deviations series among other work. I mentioned earlier, Elissa, that you were going to be taking part in some events in April, during National Poetry Month. For our listeners that want to find out how they can stay up with everything that you're doing, what is the best way to stay in contact with you online?
EM: Through my website. And because I kind of have a basic account with Earthlink, instead of giving the entire web address, if people just Google my name [spells name] or the phrase “Malcohn's World,” that will take you right to the link to my website. I keep all of my information on there. That has links going to my blogs and some forums and social networking as well.
CW: Okay. You mentioned that we might be getting a new book this year. I know you have the speaking events coming up. What else should we be looking forward to this year from you?
EM: Well, I've been concentrating more on poetry recently, and I have a few pieces coming out there. Recently had poetry published in an online zine called Goblin Fruit, that not only has the text of my poem “Butterfly Woman” but it has a recording of me reading it. At the end of last year poetry came out in an anthology called Vampyr Verse out from Popcorn Press, and in the November/December Star*Line, their special prose poem issue. I've got more poetry forthcoming in Star*Line, I believe the July/August issue. An interview with me is appearing in the science fiction poetry magazine Valent Range. That's a new magazine started by editor Scott Kelly. A poem of mine is being reprinted in Astropoetica; that will be available online as well. And in a magazine called unFold; that's another Twitter zine. It's a three-stanza poem; each stanza is fewer than 140 characters. So that will be appearing in three parts.
[Addendum: Since this interview occurred, I've also received acceptances to Mythic Delirium (see above) and PicFic. Fiction out this year will also include "Judgment at Naioth" in the Dybbuk Press anthology She Nailed A Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror.]
CW: Okay. So there's a great deal we can be looking for, as you mentioned. We can just search under your name, Elissa Malcohn, or under Malcohn's World, to find out more information about you as well. Elissa, as always, it's been incredible to speak with you. I appreciate you taking out this time to be a part of this series with us. And we wish you continued success as you continue your journey.
EM: Thank you very much.
CW: All right. And we hope you have a great week.
EM: Thanks. You, too.
CW: All right. We want to definitely thank Elissa Malcohn for joining us this evening. And for all of our listeners, thank you for joining us for this edition of Conversations LIVE! Now keep in mind, if you missed any part of this interview, you can catch the entire podcast. About five minutes after we go off the air, you can do that by going to our radio website at www.conversationsliveradio.com.
|Go to Manybooks.net to access Covenant, Appetite, and Destiny in even more formats!|
|Participant, Operation E-Book Drop. (Logo credit: K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman.)|