Posted on 02/22/2019 at 10:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
When we sent out a quick query to author Charlie Jane Anders about doing an interview, we received an autoresponse that mentioned she was on a book tour and that her ability to answer emails would be very limited.
We understood, of course, but were a little disappointed, since her author biography was so intriguing.
Anders, after all, has won Nebula, Hugo, and Lambda awards (among others); has been published in just about every format you can think of (novels, magazines, anthologies, and websites); co-hosts a podcast called Our Opinions Are Correct; and organizes a monthly reading series in San Francisco called Writers With Drinks.
To our delight and surprise, though, she wrote back within the same day, saying she’d love to be interviewed.
Here are some of Anders’s reflections, sent while she crosses the country to promote her latest novel, The City in the Middle of the Night.
SADYE: Can you give us a quick summary of your creative life?
CHARLIE JANE: I've written before about how I coped with an early learning disability by writing weird stories, and I think I always coped with my flawed reality by making up stories in my head.
When I was in high school, I made up a long, weird collaborative story with a group of other kids, on a private chat site, and I found that I really loved coming up with bizarre plot twists.
In college, I scribbled a bunch of pieces of novels, including a couple of attempts to write for the then-burgeoning line of Doctor Who novels, and then worked in journalism after a slew of terrible office jobs and retail jobs.
But I decided at some point that writing fiction was going to be my Career, and everything else, including journalism, would be my Day Job.
I'm still kind of amazed that it's actually come to pass.
SADYE: Can you identify a proudest moment or best moment in your writing career so far?
CHARLIE JANE: Part of what's great about writing is that it's a marathon, not a sprint, so you have fantastic moments as well as terrible moments, but you kind of have to know that neither of those are going to decide your fate in the long run.
You just keep pushing and pushing, and eventually you're going to have a body of work that you're proud of.
But my happiest/proudest moment as a writer was getting to feature Audrey Niffenegger at Writers With Drinks after how much her work influenced mine.
And then having her read my stuff and give me a blurb, and then show up to my reading in Chicago with deep, interesting questions about The City in the Middle of the Night, was just the most amazing feeling.
She is a genius, and it blows my mind that she's read my work.
SADYE: How did you come up with the idea for Writers With Drinks, and did you expect it to have such longevity?
CHARLIE JANE: Originally it was a fundraiser for a struggling small press magazine, and I wanted to create a spoken word show that didn't just focus on one genre or scene, whether that's literary fiction or speculative fiction or whatever.
I wanted to showcase how amazing each of these genres are in their own way, and also celebrate their differences as well as what they have in common.
And I wanted to bring different groups of writers and audience members together and break down the walls that lead to cliques and in-groups.
And meanwhile, I had been MCing various other people's literary events, doing this thing where I made up fake fictional bios for the writers.
So I decided to do that at Writers With Drinks too, and it became kind of a signature thing at that event.
But I'm amazed it's still going — this event has kind of taken on a life of its own, I guess.
I'm so gratified to have gotten to hang out with so many of my heroes.
SADYE: Your bio says "I’m probably the only person to have become a fictional character in a Star Trek novel and in one of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books.” Want to tell us how those happened?
CHARLIE JANE: Armistead Maupin read at Writers With Drinks, and I used to see him walking his dog in San Francisco.
And at one point, he decided to insert a thing into Mary Ann in Autumn where one of the characters is going to Writers With Drinks and mentions that "her friend Charlie" is hosting.
So I don't know if that counts as being a fictional character or just a real person interacting with fictional characters, I guess.
And then David Mack was kind enough to tuckerize Cyriaque Lamar and me, when we wrote for io9, in one of his Star Trek novels. I became "Lieutenant Anders."
SADYE: What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
CHARLIE JANE: Keep writing, no matter what. Treat the rejections as a badge of honor and collect as many of them as possible!
Get lots of feedback from anyone you can. Hire sensitivity readers and recruit beta readers.
Join a writing group, have writing dates, and do whatever you can to turn writing into a social activity.
And read your work to people as much as you can, too. Go to open mics and start your own reading events. See how people respond to your stuff in real time.
SADYE: What is the toughest part about being a writer, for you?
CHARLIE JANE: Probably, just going from writing the boldest, freest, wackest stuff I can to having to market that work and promote myself.
It's kind of whiplash, going from trying to push my own limits as a writer to trying to communicate about my work in the most accessible fashion.
Self-promotion in the age of social media, with newspapers shrinking their book sections, is a trip.
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Categories: Author Interview