Getting into writing – an interview with G. V. Anderson

G. V. Anderson

‘G. V. Anderson is a British fantasy writer whose first professional short story, ‘Das Steingeschöpf‘, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2017. She’s fond of old books, German, and small dogs. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, StarShipSofa, Syntax & Salt, and F&SF.’

What got you interested in writing?

Writing and reading have been life-long hobbies for me. Many of my early stories were facsimiles of my favourite books — Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials — but the urge to write has always been there.

I began to take it more seriously around five years ago, when I joined Scribophile. I think I’d always aspired to be published, in a vague, wishy-washy sort of way, but had never known where to start. The short fiction writers I connected with on the forums pulled back the veil on the whole process and made it look easy.

So, I started sending off my work.

Tell us a little about your chosen genre.

I write a blend of fantasy, soft science fiction, and horror. Writing non-speculative fiction doesn’t come naturally to me, though I try to read lots of different genres: thrillers, literary, historical fiction, romance… I like to think my stories can touch on all these genres, albeit with some strange stuff sprinkled in.

What are your happiest memories in your writing career?

My very first acceptance from Freeze Frame Fiction in 2015. Suddenly, I had my foot in the door, and everything beyond it felt achievable. My first professional sale in Strange Horizons — and then my second in F&SF, hot on its heels — opened further doors for me, and led me to new people, many of whom I hope to call friends and colleagues for years to come.

How do you handle success and failure?

Failure, I find easy. Rejection is easy.

When I finish a new story, I draw up a list of markets based on various criteria (the Submissions Grinder is good for this, or Duotrope if you have some spare change) and send the story out, working my way down the list, expecting them to come back. When they do come back, as surely as a squash ball, I tick that market off my list and send it on to the next one. And the next. If a story racks up a number of rejections, I end up with a nice little list of places to try again later, marked off with cheerful, satisfying ticks.

Success is harder, especially when it comes out of left field. My World Fantasy Award nomination is literally a dream come true, but imposter syndrome is a hard thing to shake, especially when you see other fantastic writers striving for less — or your name next to seasoned professionals on a ballot.

This last month or so has been a crash course in coping with sudden, unexpected success, and I haven’t coped all that well, truth be told. I have, however, learned to be kinder to myself, and more patient with my process.

What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?

Well, if I was that exhausted, I’d take a break! We must stop glorifying work at the expense of our health; no story’s worth that. But what keeps me coming back to writing is the fact that I can’t get rid of the ideas until they’re written; and, of course, the chance that it will be a good writing day, and the words will flow. That’s a wonderful feeling, when it happens.

What is your advice to young and new writers?

If you write for fun: read widely, experiment, and write whatever it is that fulfils you.

If you’re writing to publish: find a writing group, online or in person, and be willing to listen to their feedback. In my experience, if you think your writing’s the cat’s pyjamas, or you push back against fair critique, you won’t improve.

When you think you’re ready to send work out to markets, familiarise yourself with what they publish — every magazine has its own style, and many of them are free. And always submit to the top markets first, even if you don’t think you’re ready. Don’t self-reject. Let the editors do that for you.

Engage in social media to whatever extent is comfortable for you. Don’t feel pressured to build a ‘platform’ or write short fiction to get credits if you hate the form. At the same time, if you aspire to be part of this industry one day, support it: buy books, make use of your library card, leave reviews, attend readings or cons if you’re able. Publishing will be the healthier for it.

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)

I like both for different reasons. Print copies make good gifts and are fun to collect for special covers and editions. There’s something really comforting about paper, about the transference of weight as you progress through the book. However, e-books are often cheaper and much more convenient when it comes to space, and there are some amazing stories that are only available digitally, so by dismissing the format, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

As long as stories are being told and distributed, I’m quite open-minded about the delivery.

If you have a publication or promotion – tell us.

Most recently, my grotesque novelette ‘I Am Not I‘ came out in the July/August 2017 issue of F&SF. It’s probably my favourite thing I’ve written so far, and it’s rubbing shoulders with stories by William Ledbetter, Auston Habershaw, Marissa Lingen, and David Erik Nelson. If you have a strong stomach and a taste for weird fiction, give it a try!

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