Author of “Howl at the Moon” (Contemporary Fiction)
How long have you been writing? Do you write in genres other than speculative fiction? If so, which ones? If not, why do you prefer spec fic?
I’ve been shopping fiction for publication for a little over two years now, though of course I’ve been writing privately for much longer. I’ve always found it difficult to write outside the SF lines, since the weird and fantastic tends to creep in around the edges even when I’m writing non-fiction.
The world is a very strange place, sometimes, and SF is ones of the easiest genres in which to acknowledge that truth. For the odd story that doesn’t fall easily into the speculative box, they’re usually either horror or straight lit, and they tend to still be on the stranger-than-fiction side.
What are some of your literary influences? How did you encounter them?
I tend to be most mindful of authors like Terry Pratchett, Ursula Vernon, and Warren Ellis when I’m writing. Pratchett and Ellis are almost impossible not to encounter, if you like certain types of fantasy or science fiction, but I first discovered Ursula Vernon’s work almost by accident.
Her webcomic, Digger, was nominated for an Eisner award, which led to the subscription-only archives being made available for free, which led to several high-profile genre blogs promoting it as the gem it is. The comic has since won a Hugo, and Vernon has since published many excellent novels and short stories.
All three of them have a deeply humanist streak to their writing, and it adds a depth to their narratives and characters that I appreciate a great deal. It helps when you’re writing to remember that, in even the most fantastic or absurd of situations, your characters are still people who have to deal with the fall-out of what’s happening and will have an emotional reaction as well as an immediate physical one. The plot is the plot, but the people acting it out on your page should never come across as puppets just acting it out. I think we’ve all read (or tried to read) that book, and it’s usually barely worth the time you took to do it.
Are there themes that you find recurring in your work? If so, what are they, and why do you think they recur?
Probably the biggest is accidental significance, or maybe the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I’ve always been fascinated by how so many preventable disasters or personal tragedies or farcical feuds start with something small. Sometimes it’s the sort of thing that you can easily predict mushrooming, but most times nobody expects picking at one little thread to unravel the whole thing.
The emotional response to that is similar to the way there’s always one last—often ludicrously small—thing that can cause system-wide collapse in the right conditions or with enough underlying neglect, and I have a weakness for both scenarios.
Part of it is that you can mine the situations for comedy, tragedy, and most things in between. It’s such a satisfying thing, but so versatile at the same time.
What writing projects are you working on right now?
I’ve always got a few irons in the fire, but right now I’m working on the rare piece of straight fiction—a novella about a pair of dueling fashionistas, which may yet veer into SF if the vampirism turns literal instead of just emotional—and a short story about Medea’s time in Athens. I’m also hoping to place a short story about a fixer whose magic problems just got exponentially worse thanks to everyone overreacting to an eclipse.
For someone who wants to read more of your work, which of your stories would you recommend, and how can people find them?
I keep a running list of everything I’ve managed to get published on the “About” section of my website, northonthegulf.wordpress.com. Anyone looking for more can find it all there, with links directly to the pieces available for free online and a list of anything to watch out for in upcoming months.
I admit to the writer’s sin of loving every piece I’ve submitted for potential publication, but my personal favorites are “Snow Queen,” which was actually published in Metaphorosis last January, and “Mother’s Day,” which is one of the more upbeat tales I’ve found a home for. For the podcast set, “Toward the Banner of the King” was a lot of fun to write, and PseudoPod’s recurring narrator Justine Eyre did an absolutely dynamite job reading it.
You can read T.R. North’s story in Metaphorosis Magazine, “Snow Queen,” for free online.
For more about T.R. North: