Author of “Tongue of the Chimera” (High Fantasy)
How long have you been writing? Do you write genres other than speculative fiction?
I’ve been writing since I was a little kid—I wrote my own picture book about bunnies and squirrels in pink pencil when I was in first grade. I’ve been writing seriously and consistently since about 1995. In addition to speculative fiction, I write speculative poetry and children’s poetry, which is usually non-speculative, often about nature; my kids’ poems are widely published in places like Cricket, Highlights and elsewhere. Other than that, I seldom write non-speculative fiction or poetry anymore.
What are some of your literary influences and aspirations?
My aspirations are to have several fantasy novels written and published before I’m old and senile—hopefully one or two soon! I also wish to have a few volumes of poetry published. There are many writers I admire but I don’t necessarily know if they’ve influenced my style. I gave up having a list of favorites since I was in 7th grade, but the two tops from that list haven’t toppled off—Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Other fantasy writers I admire: Laini Taylor, Susanna Clark, N.K. Jemsin, George R. R. Martin, Lois McMaster Bujold, R.A. McAvoy, Patrick Rothfuss, Delia Sherman, Helene Wecker, Lloyd Alexander, Margo Lanagan, Gregory Frost, Catherynne Valente, and Naomi Novik.
What is your typical writing process? Outline or seat-of-the-pants? A quiet room or a lively café? Music and coffee or tea and silence?
I need to write at home in my den, preferably with a cup of coffee, in silence. I’m really uncomfortable and unproductive writing in public or in unfamiliar spaces. I write directly onto my computer because I type almost as fast as I speak, and I can’t hand-write anywhere near that fast—and if I’m writing fast, I have trouble reading my handwriting afterwards! I never use a full outline but I also don’t usually completely write by the seat of my pants. I always know where my story starts—and often have a basic idea of where it ends. As I write, characters and situations come to me, and suddenly the story requires, or seems to want to take, a certain road, and I follow. Other times I reach a certain point and I’m stuck. I stop and try to see my way to the next bend in the road. Then I proceed—till I’m stuck again. I pretty much struggle through this way, loving best those moments that don’t require “unsticking” but where the story has a mind and a voice of its own. The writing is always best in those places, too—too bad I can’t do a summoning spell and make sure they’re always there!
What keeps you going when the writing gets hard? How do you recharge?
If it’s that hard, I put it away and just go do something else—read, watch TV, go online, talk to a friend. I might put it away for quite a while. When I’m working at my best (this is not one of those periods), I might switch from prose to poetry; it’s like I’m tricking myself into thinking I’m slacking off but I’m actually being productive in another way. Or I might switch to a different prose project, like a novel or short story. Sometimes I even go between projects—and finally find my way back to the original one. Most of the time I get unstuck. Right now I have one novel that needs seriously rehauling and I can’t bring myself to do it; and another novel that had been nearing the finish line but somehow it doesn’t feel right to me so I’m metaphorically sticking my fingers in my ears and saying “I can’t hear you.” Right now I’m really busy, including with physical therapy twice a week, so it’s very difficult to feel unstressed enough to dive in to any project and immerse myself.
What are you working on right now? And is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I am trying to drift my way back to either of the novels. It’s not working.
However, that procrastination has enabled me to do some thinking about and developing of a few projects I’ve wanted to do for a long time—here is the unveiling! Since there are so few presses that publish speculative poetry, most of which are closed to submissions—I’ve decided to self-publish a volume of poems, The Bone-Joiner. It should be out in 2018. I am planning to make this the launch of Sycorax Press. Other Sycorax Press ventures will require fundraising; I’m hoping to publish print volumes of themed speculative poetry anthologies (and therefore there will be costs involved in paying the poets), perhaps one every year or two. I have the first theme in mind, and plan to have this closed to unsolicited submissions. There are so many poets whose works I would personally pick for “Best Of” anthologies and awards—many of whom are passed up—that I’ve been aching to try my hand at being an editor.
You can read Sandi Leibowitz’s story in Metaphorosis Magazine, “The Nature of Glass” for free online.
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