For the third installment of Things I Wish People Would Ask Me At Parties, we have Laura DeHaan. Laura currently has a novella out with Grace & Victory, a creepy retelling of Beauty and the Beast which can be found here .
‘Sup party people, this is Laura DeHaan guestposting for Victoria’s Things I Wish People Would Ask Me At Parties. Short introduction to break the ice: I write mostly horror, with a smattering of weird Western and fantasy to mix things up a bit. I’ve got a novella (with Victoria’s very own Grace&Victory!) coming out in October 2016, but otherwise I stick to short stories. I also do massage therapy full-time, so while I have less flexibility in terms of how much time I can devote to writing, I also have more flexibility in terms of how much effort I want to put in. It’s a hobby job, rather than a ‘welp, this is my only paycheck!’ job.
I’m also not an enthusiastic party-goer, but for the sake of argument we’ll say I’ve got a few drinks in me and ohmigod you still play Morrowind? I still play Morrowind, too!!
Question 1: What inspired X story?
Not ‘where do you get your ideas?’, which is very broad and fairly useless and mostly lends itself to snarky comebacks the writer thinks of ten minutes later (or already has prepared. Mine is, “Anywhere I can get them, baby.”) The inspiration of the story is the fun part. The old saw “Success is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration”? Neither of us wants my sweat all over you, so let’s stick to the wacky how-we-met process of story ideation. If you don’t know anything I’ve written, just ask what inspired the latest thing I’m working on, or just finished working on. Even if I’m sick of rewrites and edits and the story itself, the first thing that inspired me to write the story is still interesting to me, because of how that initial idea grew. A ghost story started with a new study on the treatment of PTSD. A weird Western started with the running gag in RPG video games of making your low-level character kill rats. (Told you I still play Morrowind.) Sometimes it might just be an image, but again it’s how it grew that gives me lots of talk about. And it’s just not possible in a story to tell your audience all these cool things that came to you during the writing process, at least not without your main character standing there with a constipated look on their face for fifteen minutes while pondering, If X is my choice, can I rely on Z? I could do A, but then B would occur, and surely C would follow. Meanwhile the villain sneaks up and gives them a crack on the coconut. At least, they would in my stories.
Question 2: What sales are you most proud of?
Again, not ‘what story are you proudest of?’ or ‘what’s your favourite story that you’ve written?’. I remember learning that Theodore Sturgeon really liked his own “To Here and the Easel” and while the pay-off was, you know, fine, I found getting to it to be a complete slog. It’s nice to think that everyone judges my work the same way I do, but I also like thinking about this amazing lobster poutine at Petit Bill’s, but oh how it had changed since the first time I went, and thus does reality fart in our faces. It was very good poutine.
But sales! You can always be proud of a sale. Maybe it was your first sale? It was your first pro payment, or to a publisher you’d long admired? For me, my proudest achievements to date have been selling a zombie story to a place that explicitly stated they did not want zombie stories, and selling a story told in second-person. These are very good accomplishments! They might not mean as much to someone who is looking for higher pay, a wider audience, or an award to tack onto their writing credits, but for a part-timer like me it’s pretty darn satisfying.
(Though I guess if the person hasn’t made any sales yet this would be a pretty crappy question to ask. That’s why you start with inspiration! Presuming their story was not just torn from the thigh of Zeus or something. Yeah, maybe test those sales waters first. haha. “sales.” “waters.” “sales/sails.” hahahah. OH WOULD YOU LOOK AT THE TIME I’LL JUST SEE MYSELF OUT BYEE~)