Here's the fourth contributor interview, with Christie Yant:
1. What drives you to write?
Stories are how I make sense of the world. The fact is, I get a little crazy when I don't write. My fiction writing time is typically in the evening, after dinner and after the kids have gone to bed; when other obligations cut into that time, or other life stresses leave me too drained to create, I get really unhappy. My husband has learned to enforce writing time for everyone's sake.
2. What are your favorite kinds of stories to read?
The kind that show the world and humans in a light I haven't considered before — stories that help me to understand experiences and motivations of people who are not me, or help to understand and appreciate something about the world and society that I didn't know about before.
3. Are those the same kind of stories you like to write? If not, what do you like to write?
They're certainly the kinds of stories that I aspire to writing; whether or not I've done so yet is debatable. I am partial to using fantasy as metaphor, where some fantastical element acts as a stand-in for something we deal with in real life. So an abusive partner is a troll; love is actually magic. I don't think I've come anywhere near writing the kind of eye-opening story that I most like to read yet, but I'm going to keep trying.
4. What are you reading now?
I'm reading a lot of non-fiction right now as research for a novel. Currently I'm reading Bonds of the Dead, which is about the changing Japanese Buddhist funereal customs. Next I'll tackle some local history, Buddhism as practiced by first, second, and third-generation Japanese-Americans, and the WW2 internments of Japanese-Americans.
5. Who are your favorite writers?
Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman. Adams because he instilled a real sense of absurdity in me. Anything he wrote could put a smile on my face instantly, and make me see at least my little part of the world as delightfully silly instead of hostile. And Gaiman — well, he once said in an interview (I think it's on the Neverwhere DVDs) something about "what the inside of my head looks like all the time." That's how I've always felt about his work — his stories resonate with me because they reflect what the inside of my head looks like all the time: a little creepy, a lot magical, full of things and people that are much more interesting than they first appear.
Here's a silly story about how my two favorite writers connected in my life: I was a tremendous fan of the Hitchhiker's Guide series when I was a teenager, and there was this neat new companion book that had come out, called Don't Panic. It was filled with interviews and trivia related to Adams and the series. I bought it at my local genre shop (the sadly long-gone Andromeda Books) and read it cover-to-cover several times over, soaking up every bit of information I could about this brilliant, funny, impossibly inventive man.
A few years later I was in the comics store — DC had just launched the Vertigo line, and I picked up something interesting with a female protagonist who wasn't in spandex: Black Orchid. I loved it. Naturally I had to read the next thing the author put out, which happened to be the Sandman.
I'm absolutely terrible with names of creators, whether they're actors or authors or artists — the name just never sticks unless I'm pretty well blown away and want to know more about the person who created whatever it is I'm enjoying. I was pretty deeply invested in Sandman before it occurred to me to note the writer's name — once I did, I realized I'd been seeing the name on my bookshelf for years: Neil Gaiman was the author of Don't Panic, the companion to the Hitchhiker's Series!
6. You are an editor for Lightspeed Magazine. How does working on that end of publishing feed into your writing?
Actually I'm about to become a former editor — I'll be stepping down at the end of January. Working for Lightspeed I think really pushed me off a plateau in my writing. What reading slush does for a writer is it exposes us to cliches that we don't know are cliches until we see them over and over again in the slush pile; it exposes us to a ton of mediocrity, so that when we find a truly great story we're able think about what it was that set it apart from the two dozen stories we just read that didn't make the cut. I've learned a lot about structure, tension, and voice from working at Lightspeed. I've also had the privilege of working on the editorial side with some amazing writers, including Ken Liu. I am really going to miss all aspects of working on the magazine, but predictably I do need the time to focus on my writing. However I am in pretty tight with the editor/publisher (given that he's my husband!) so who knows? Maybe some day I'll go back. Meanwhile I'm just so grateful to have had two great years learning from the best.
7. You also write for the blog Inkpunks. What can you tell us about that?
Inkpunks was the brainchild of my friend Sandra Wickham. We started as just a loose group of writers, editors, and artists just starting to publish for the first time. We had met at conventions and on Twitter, and formed a kind of support group, really — writing can be such a lonely, frustrating business, and we need all the support we can get! Sandra pointed out to us how lucky we were to have each other to cheer each other on and to learn from, and suggested that we share that spirit with other freshman creators in the form of a group blog. We've had a lot of support from people like Charles Tan (who was nominated for the World Fantasy Award this year for his work in the community). It's been very successful — we've had guest posts from notable professionals and even some award winners: Robert Jackson Bennett, Diana Rowland, Nick Mamatas, Jennifer Brozek and James L. Sutter have all guest-blogged for us. That part is very cool, but the best part for me is being able to collaborate on something creative with my friends, who are all absolutely wonderful, generous, good-hearted people.
Christie Yant is a science fiction and fantasy writer, Assistant Editor for Lightspeed Magazine, occasional narrator for StarShipSofa, and co-blogger at Inkpunks.com, a website for aspiring and newly-pro writers. Her fiction can be found in the magazine Crossed Genres and the anthologies The Way of the Wizard, Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011, and Armored. She lives on the central coast of California with her two amazing daughters, her husband, and assorted four-legged nuisances. Twitter: @inkhaven. Website: inkhaven.net