Everyone welcome Julia Rios, fellow Fighting XIII'er and fashionista.
Tamago: When did you discover you wanted to be a writer? How long have you been writing?
Julia; I've always loved making up stories and hearing stories. My brother started learning to read when I was about 2, and I remember watching him and working out that words on the page meant something. I knew right away that I needed to understand how that worked, but it was a few years before I was really reading and writing on my own (I wasn't an amazing child prodigy like some others I know--none of this "I was reading the Wall Street Journal at age 3" stuff for me). As soon as I learned, I started writing stories, though, and even my earliest efforts were clearly speculative. I have some stories I wrote when I was 9, and they're all about ghosts and magic and things like that.
Tamago: How would you characterize the kinds of stories you write?
Julia: Other writers, editors, friends, and family members love to ask this question, and I inevitably respond by gaping and flailing like a fish out of water. I don't really know. I guess I tend toward weird additions to contemporary realism? That sounds mighty pretentious, doesn't it?
Tamago: Tell us about what you're working on now.
Julia: I tend not to talk much about what I'm working on because it kills the energy for me. I guess I can say I'm currently writing one short story, revising another, and researching a longer project. I know that's really vague, but it's about as forthcoming an answer as anyone ever gets from me.
Tamago: Talk about the Outer Alliance Spotlight.
Julia: That I can do! *g*
The Outer Alliance is a group which exists to support and celebrate speculative fiction with LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex) content, as well as people who write it, publish it, and read it. I'm bi, and I really want to see a lot of diversity in speculative fiction, so it seemed like a natural choice to work with that group. I'm a regular contributor to the Outer Alliance blog, and I host the Outer Alliance Podcast. I interview a lot of people for those things, which makes being on the other side of the interview process for Writer Tamago kind of surreal.
Tamago: You seem to work in a variety of styles (poetry, short stories, and flash fiction.) What do you find different about working in each style?
Julia: Hmmm. I think a lot of times shorter things seem easier from a distance, but can be some of the hardest kinds of things to get right. Every word in a short piece has to carry a lot of weight. In poems, that means getting cadence and mouthfeel right as well as images and themes. I actually haven't written any poetry lately because I've been too busy admiring the handiwork of my peers--there are some amazing poets out there in the SFF community.
Flash fiction is about driving the story forward and relaying pertinent information about setting and mood. Usually flash is pure in that it has one driving factor. It's a bite-size piece of literature. The best flash stories leave the reader with a world of possibilities to explore after a fairly short read. There's more to keep track of in short stories. You can introduce more themes and story threads, which is really cool, and difficult in a new way.
And then there are longer works, where the complexity compounds exponentially. I know some people who can't write short. They sit down and epic novels flow from their keyboards whether they want them or not. I am not one of those people. For me, it's all about working my way up to the point where I can keep track of all the different pieces in a longer project. I don't know if I ever will, but I'm working on it. I'm slow, but dogged.
Tamago: You are a self-described cat enthusiast. Do cats figure in any of your work?
Julia: There's actually one in the short story I am currently writing, but that's a first (well, look at that: you've tricked me into talking about one of my current projects! You're a cunning questioner, and tricksy, too). The stories I have out on submission at present feature a squid and a bird, and I did write a story based on the picture book Goodnight Moon, which features a bunny, but usually the way cats feature in my work is by walking over the keyboard. Very helpful.
Tamago: Where would you like to be as a writer in 5 years? 10 years?
Julia: I hope I'll still be writing and working on getting better at it. I try to measure my success in terms of getting work done and submitting it. I'm pretty bad at getting things out there, so my goal for 2011 is to make sure I always have something waiting in line for an editor to read it.
Tamago: I always ask the inevitable Viable Paradise question. Did you find the workshop valuable? In what ways? Would you recommend writing workshops?< ?em>
Julia: Yes, certainly! I think everyone gets something different from workshops because everyone has a different process for creating and learning, but every writer I know who has attended a workshop did get something. For me, the very best thing about attending Viable Paradise was meeting so many other writers and making friends with them. It helps me to know that you and all our other classmates are out there working hard and supporting each other.
Tamago: When we were at Readercon together, you seemed very at ease in the convention scene. Do you have any tips for writers going to conventions about how to present themselves professionally?
Julia: I'm glad my ruse worked! *g*
Actually, I am a rather socially anxious person, and the first time I attended a con (Readercon 2008), I had to leave in the middle to go cry in the car. I didn't know anyone, and I felt completely out of place and anxious and mortified. It was not pretty. After that I determined that I had better build some strategies for surviving cons, so I started brainstorming and trying different approaches. One was online networking, so I'd know some people virtually before I met them in person. Another was volunteering for things. One was getting involved in workshops so I'd meet writer friends in smaller, more structured settings. I attended a local class and met some people in my area, and then I went to VP, and between that and volunteering, I know a lot of people at cons now, and that's helped tremendously.
As for presenting professionally, I think the best advice is to treat conventions as a place to make friends. Tobias Buckell has a really great series of essays about how to be a professional called "Getting Past Being Joe Blow Neopro", which is available free" in audio format here. It's ostensibly targeted at people who have just made a few pro-rate sales, but I found it very helpful even though I'm still only dreaming of that glistening wonderland where neo-pros exchange secret handshakes and swim through piles of ... well, pennies, probably, considering the pay even pro SF writers get....
Tamago: Where can readers find your work?
Julia: My website has links to stuff that's available for public consumption, including poetry, fiction, interviews, and even that piece of post-apocalyptic fanfiction about Goodnight Moon (which turns out to be the most read piece I've ever produced. Who would have guessed?). I've also got a newly functional news page, which is where you can go to find out what I'm up to, which cons I'm attending, etc.
The first piece of Julia's I ever read was about a love-sick squid and I loved the tone. If you are fortunate enough to meet Julia, you will find her quiet demeanor belies a large talent. Thanks, Julia, for the interview!