The multi-talented Chia Evers was my roommate at Viable Paradise XIII. This Renaissance woman not only writes, but also knits, belly dances, and practices law.
Tamago: Do you see yourself as a short story writer or a novel writer? Why?
Chia: Both. I actually envy writers who know when they start a project how long it’s going to want to be – I’ve got stories that want to spiral out to tens of thousands of words, and stories that I thought were much longer that decide they’re very compact. (And I have trouble finishing both kinds of stories, but that’s an entirely different issue.)
Tamago: What kind of genre do you like to write in best? Why does that work for you?
Chia: One way or another, I’m a fantasy writer. Even when I try to write “mainstream” fiction, it ends up with a magical edge, even if it’s only implied.
Tamago: Who are your creative influences?
Chia: My very earliest influences were fairy tales and myths. I didn’t make a distinction – for years I thought that Greece was a fantasy realm, like Narnia or Oz. I read a lot of fantasy, and a little sci-fi, and I’ve got a weakness for historical romance and trashy thrillers, especially if they’re well-written. I read quite a bit of non-fiction, too, and stow away bits and pieces of biography and history to thread into stories later. I’m a bit of a magpie that way.
Tamago: All of the writing I’ve read from you has a dark, or gothic edge. Is that typical of your work? Would you call yourself a horror writer? Gothic? Steampunk?
Chia: That is typical of my work, and I don’t quite know where it comes from. I’ve always wanted to be an epic fantasy writer – someone who writes “books with maps in the front,” to quote on of my husband’s college professors. But somehow, just like the supernatural creeps into my fiction, so does the dark and disturbing.
I recently unearthed a (thankfully unfinished) novel I started in high school, when I’d been reading a lot of novels in which someone from Earth finds themselves in an alternate world that only they can save. The poor heroine is nearly killed three times in 30-some pages, once by slithering, eyeless monsters that erupt out of a fountain. (I might actually keep the slithering monsters, and dump the rest.)
Still, I don’t know that I’d call myself a horror writer. When people ask, I usually say dark fantasy or weird fiction, but I don’t really like putting labels on myself. It stings when I have to peel them off.
Tamago: Tell us about your dream writing project. What would it be like?
Chia: There would be lots of research. I really enjoy research, though I’m bad about knowing when to stop. It would be easy, of course – the words would just pour out, and they’d all be right the first time. And someone would give me lots and lots of money for it.
Tamago: Besides writing, you have other creative gifts. Tell us about your knitting.
Chia: I just started knitting last year – not long before Viable Paradise. It was something I’d tried to teach myself as a child, and not gotten very far with, but I think I’ve got a decent handle on it now. My very first project was a Doctor Who scarf for my husband (right now, I’m using the leftover yarn to make him a matching hat). I’ve found there are a remarkable number of knitters who are also fantasy/sci-fi fans. In fact, I just started a group on Ravelry, which is a knitting and crochet website, for Viable Paradise alumni and “the VP curious.”
Tamago: What about Arabic dance? How did you get involved?
Chia: When I was very small, my mother had a record with a belly dancer on the cover – one of those great 60s-era belly dancer photos that was all flowing chiffon and bare legs – and I thought, “I want to do that.” But there wasn’t anywhere to take classes in Laramie, Wyoming in the mid-to-late 70s. I did find a teacher there when I was in my early 20s, and I loved it, but for one reason or another, I didn’t stick with it very long. When I moved to LA, though, I decided it was time, and stumbled across a wonderful teacher in Topanga Canyon. I’ve been with her, off and on, for about seven years. My other teacher recently moved to Austin – they’re lucky to have her.
Tamago: Your website, Art of the Odd, is offbeat and original. How do you decide what to post at Art of the Odd?
Chia: Art of the Odd is a repository for whatever I feel like talking about, so it’s got posts on movies, writing, recipes, animals… I keep signing up for NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), but I find that trying to make myself post every day leads to a lot of posts about trying to post every day, in various states of undress.
Tamago: Where would you like to be in 10 years as a writer?
Chia: Financially, I’d like to be able to make at least part of my living from writing. (I’d love to make all of my living from writing, but I try to be realistic.) Creatively, I hope to have found more reliable methods of writing myself out of blind corners and narrative backwaters. Sometimes writing is a slog, and I’m not always great at pushing through the mire and getting back on the path, instead of just sitting down in the mud.
And now that I’ve drowned that metaphor in the great dismal swamp…
Tamago: Here’s the inevitable Viable Paradise question. What would you tell a writer about the workshop? Would you recommend it?
Chia: Absolutely I’d recommend it – in fact, I have. It’s very intense, and chances are that you’ll hear things about your writing that you’d rather not have heard. Even if you don’t, you’ll likely hear things that you knew were true, but needed someone else to articulate. (John Scalzi did that for me when he waved my manuscript at me and said, “This isn’t a story. It’s a scene.” He was right, and he made me realize that that can be said about a lot of my work.) You’re also going to meet a small horde of marvelous people, and many/most/all of them are going to be your friends.
One thing I wish I’d done was to have specific questions for the instructors in the one-on-one sessions. I didn’t realize how much time there’d be to talk about something other than my story (or my scene), so I was kind of at a loss when they said, “Do you have any questions?”
Tamago: What advice would you give to new writers in general?
Chia: The same piece of advice I keep giving myself, even though I don’t always listen – just write. Even when it’s awful, even when the words won’t come, even when you hate the story and you hate your characters and you hate your dialogue and you can’t imagine that anyone would want to read this… Keep writing. Write something else if you have to, just keep writing.
Thanks, Chia for giving us some insight into your work. Chia has a story coming out soon in Swill number 5.