Fantasy Scroll a blog for writers

Interview with Author Carrie Cuinn

 

Author Carrie CuinnCarrie Cuinn is an author, editor, bibliophile, modernist, and geek. Her work can be found at Daily Science Fiction, Akashic Books, Chaosium, and in her latest short collection, Women and Other Constructs (June 2013). She founded Dagan Books in 2010, which publishes SF/F anthologies and novellas. Her latest project, Lakeside Circus, is a quarterly magazine of very short fiction. She also writes about indie comics for the Hugo award-winning SF Signal.

Her work has a strong foundation in classic science fiction, and blends hard science with myth, magic, and literature. You can find her online at @CarrieCuinn or at http://carriecuinn.com.

I had the opportunity to get to know Carrie during a Microfiction Workshop she organized in August of 2013 and she was kind enough to agree to an interview.

Q: How and when did you get started as a writer?
A: I’ve always been a writer. I wrote my first story when I was four, and have been writing ever since. Over the years I let other people convince me that fiction writing wasn’t a real career, so I did journalism, editing, wrote academic papers, worked in a library, studied Early American books and prints—anything that let me include books and writing as part of whatever job or college degree I was in at the time. Eventually I got back to writing fiction again, and I’ve been much happier since then.

Q: How do you usually find your ideas? What do you do when you get stuck?
A: I find ideas everywhere. Ideas are easy. They’re like rain, dripping from the sky in greater quantities than you could ever use or even catch up with. Every new thing I do brings new story ideas, and I have to pick which ones I want to write on because I don’t have time to write them all. I think one of the most important transitions a writer makes is when they stop relying on the idea to prop up the story and start thinking about how the story reads as well. In fact, most writers don’t get that far, and you can tell that their fiction is all a lead-up to the reveal of the end, or in support of a strong moment that isn’t actually a whole story. My favorite writers can do both, blending a great idea with beautiful sentences.

I hope to be one of those writers. I’m working on it.

When I get stuck on one idea, I put it away and write on something else. When I don’t feel like writing at all, and haven’t for a while, I go back to the basics and start writing microfiction again. A few tiny stories later, I’m ready to stretch out into something bigger. It always feels like a jump start.


Q: Can you give us your advice on how new writers should handle rejections?
A: There are only two ways to react to a rejection, ever:

1) This story didn’t work for that market. Let me figure out why. (Wrong genre, didn’t read guidelines correctly, market is hard to crack and they had better options, doesn’t fit with the editor’s personal taste, etc.)

2) This story isn’t working in general. Let me restructure/rewrite/trunk it for a while.

That’s it. You don’t get mad, you don’t decide you’re a terrible writer, and you don’t tell yourself that the market just doesn’t appreciate your genius. Writing is personal, rejections aren’t. Focus on the story instead of yourself, and you’ll become a better writer over time.


Q: What do you love the most about the genre in which you write?
A: I love that I have the freedom to write anything I want. (Protip: everyone does. Don’t let an arbitrary label like “genre” tell you otherwise.)

Q: Did you ever self-publish?
A: I self-published my first collection, Women and Other Constructs, because I wanted to experiment, and because I had a pile of previously published work which fit thematically with a couple of new stories, and I thought they should be read all together. Because I have experience with all of the pieces that make up putting a book out, I was able to do the work myself. It gives me something to point out when people want to read a chunk of my work all at once, and the exposure that brings is more important than the money it’s made (though that’s nice, too).

Q: Where do you see the traditional publishing going in today’s world?
A: It’s not going anywhere. Publishing is just expanding to include a lot of different options: self-publishing, small presses, online magazines, and much more. Traditional publishing as we usually think of it—a big business of major houses putting out best-sellers—will remain part of our lives. They’ve changed with the times, to include ebooks and online blogs and Twitter, but the institution of mainstream publishing remains.

Q: Do you advise beginning writers to seek an agent or try to do the leg-work themselves?
A: Beginning writers don’t have anything to show an agent. When you’re starting out, you may have a couple of short stories, or a novel… but they’re not finished. That’s the biggest mistake new writers make—thinking that because they typed “The End” the work is done. You need to write, revise, have your work read, make changes, sit on it for months, go over it again and make more changes. Then you can hire an editor to help you make it better. It takes years to write even a decent first novel, and if your novel isn’t at least decent, why would an agent want to represent it?

An agent doesn’t teach you to be a better writer. They come in when the work is done and you need someone to help you with contracts, or brokering a good price when you’ve got multiple houses who want your work. If you’re still at the point where you consider yourself a beginner, focus on improving first.


Q: How many revisions do you usually go through with your work? Do you find it easy to let a manuscript go to the publisher?
A: It depends on how long I let it sit in my head before I write it. Sometimes I know the story before I type it out, and I only do one revision at the end to clean it up. Other times, I’ll edit every line as it falls onto the page, and then edit the whole thing again a few more times when it’s all written.

Q: How much importance do you put on the online writer’s platform in today’s social media world?
A: The Internet makes it possible for you to connect with readers all over the world, so you’re hurting yourself if you don’t make an effort to do that. You shouldn’t spend so much time on social media that you neglect your own writing, but you should have a place for people to find your work, learn more about you, and a way for them to connect with you on a regular basis (Twitter, a blog, etc). Readers like to think they know a writer as a person, and will read work they never heard of because they have something in common with the writer. Talk about what you’re reading, what you care about, and you’ll find fans who care about those things, too.

Q: What is your final advice for new writers?
A: Read everything. Read every day if you can, even if you have to sacrifice writing time to do it. Find the authors who are inspiring the authors you like, find the authors who are winning awards for style instead of sales numbers, find the authors that your one friend is heralding as a great new discovery. Ignore the bestsellers and the books that are made into movies—they’re usually not great writers, and even if they are, every other new writer will be copying them as soon as someone writes an article declaring there’s some secret to how they got published. Read interviews with writers. Read critiques of books you liked, and read the scholars that are critiquing the genres you love.

Take classes and workshops. Get others to read your work and critique it. Edit, revise, sleep on it, revise again. Read some more.


Author Carrie CuinnCarrie, thank you for answering my questions and for the helpful tips you gave us. Good luck with your next project!

 

Carrie Cuinn StoriesTo check Carrie’s works, use the links below:
http://carriecuinn.com/
Carrie Cuinn’s Amazon Page
Carrie Cuinn on Goodreads
Dagan Books

 
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Iulian Ionescu

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