Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview with Alexis A. Hunter

Alexis A. Hunter is a writer from West Virginia whose short fiction has appeared in Post Mortem Press's The Ghost IS the Machine, Insatiable Magazine, Interstellar Fiction, Kazka Press, and many other publications. I had the pleasure of meeting her briefly at Context earlier this year and am glad that she was interested in doing this interview. I'm also glad that she was patient as I worked to pull this post together in my post-Philcon rushing around.

Alexis A. Hunter

1) Can you describe what your usual writing routine is like?

Usually I start with at least an idea – sometimes that idea is taken from a first-line or photo prompt, a specific submissions call or contest. I like to listen to music as I write, just to tune out everything else, so I've got a set "writing" playlist on Youtube. Headphones are a must as well. I don't usually do a lot of plotting ahead of time unless it's a larger project. I like to just take the idea and run with it, allowing the pieces to come together as they flow from my brain and out of my fingers.

2) Do you find trying to write every day to be a comfortable routine or do you prefer working differently?

Writing every day is a fascinating and extremely helpful challenge in terms of strengthening my writing. However, I have trouble keeping up all year round, so I usually resort to a story a week. Sometimes I write more frequently – for instance I hammered out 5 stories over two weeks not too long ago and felt pretty great after that.

I love working on prompt-based or challenge-based writing, so I often scour submissions calls and contests in search of inspiration. Sometimes I just work better having that focused goal and the limitations that come with it.

3) You did "Story-A-Day May" earlier this year, a feat which I'm truly in awe of. Can you talk about what that experience was like? The good and the bad?

Story-A-Day May is one of the most thrilling challenges I've ever participated in – and much more beneficial to me, a short story writer, than NaNoWriMo. I've participated for the past two years, sitting down every day in May and writing a story. Sometimes that meant taking a notebook to work and scribbling down stories on my fifteen minute and lunch breaks.

The good part is, it really gets your brain in the habit of taking little ideas, words and images and blowing them into something larger, a story you might not have thought of afterward. I usually sit down each night as the prompt is revealed and think out my story ahead of time. I honestly rarely had trouble during the challenge coming up with some idea to write.

The bad part is it can wear you out. By the end of May, I usually begin to feel the toll. Which means, in June, I don't normally write a lot. I'm usually so busy editing the pieces I wrote and taking a break that I just can't manage it. I actually still have pieces from May I haven't touched. It really builds up your story catalogue!

4) Are there some authors that you feel have been especially influential in your development as a writer?

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I don’t read a lot of big name authors. The one author who I know has had a major impact on my writing is Matthew Stover. I've only read one book of his – don't laugh, it's "Revenge of the Sith", the Star Wars novel. He used a lot of sentence fragments to great effect in the book, and I remember reading it and just instantly being rocked by how awesome the fragments punctuated certain lines, emotions and moments. I went overboard for a while with the fragments in my own writing, but I've learned to scale back and only use them when most effective.

5) You attended Context here in Columbus earlier this year. What were you favorite parts of that experience? Do you think you're likely to attend future conventions as time and such allow?

I had quite a few favorite parts of Context. I loved getting to hang out with other writers, especially the ones I'd come to know online quite well. The workshops were amazing, especially Timon Esaias' Self Editing and Rewriting workshop. I learned so much and took so many notes, it'll probably take me eons to soak all that information up. I also really enjoyed the flash fiction contest hosted Friday night of the convention – I made myself participate and really found it a rewarding and fun experience. And yes – I'd definitely love to go back if time and such allow.

6) What comes to you most easily in writing?

I'd have to say either dialogue or communicating backstory through subtle hints and references.

Dialogue has always sort of flowed for me without much work. Maybe that's because I was super shy growing up and did a lot of listening, not just to kids my age, but really mostly to adults.

And the backstory thing – I'm not a huge fan of exposition. I don't like reading stories where I'm told something, I like that little thrill I get when I put together the puzzle pieces about a character's past. Or realize a character is pregnant just by the subtle way that character touches their stomach. I enjoy that thrill, so I like to try to offer that for my readers as well.

7) What do you find most difficult about writing?

My plots tend to wobble a bit, mostly because I don't plan out a lot before writing. Sometimes the endings feel a bit unresolved for the same reason.

I also have a hard time doing major edits or rewrites. If I don't nail it the first time around, the story is somewhat doomed. I'm great with cutting parts out of my writing – just not so great at adding stuff in afterward or rearranging it.

8) Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers about?

Two things.

One, if you get a chance, try out Story-a-Day May. That challenge has done wonders for my writing. I used to face bouts of extreme writer's block, sometimes stretching for weeks or months. After participating in SaDM, I rarely run into such problems. I think it's about getting your mind in the habit of constantly imagining, constantly spawning ideas from the little things.

Two, check out I've been a member of the site for about a year to a year and a half now. In that time, my writing has improved leaps and bounds. I know I would not be anywhere near where I am today if I hadn't joined Scrib. I've developed many great friendships and critiquing relationships with writers on that site from all nationalities and walks of life. That sort of varied feedback, from newbies to pros, really helps me hone my skills.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview--really gave me a lot of food for thought:)