You have not yet heard of C.K. Garner. She is a new author. In the midst of writing her first novel, she decided to start work on a short story and achieved a very rare feat that most new writers can only aspire to....she had her very first submission for publication accepted. Her short story, Stealing Time, will be published in the next few months by Musa Publishing's Urania Division, which is their speculative Science Fiction & Fantasy imprint. I thought it would be fun to pick her brain and see what makes her tick because something tells me we will be hearing a lot from her in the future.
Tell us a bit about your short story, Stealing Time?
Acastu Atenai is a youth living the 1863 of San Atenai Bay, a fictional town the next cove up from San Francisco Bay. His ancestors, the Pieraomati, an ancient caste of pirates and thieves founded the town, becoming its first settlers, and finally its defenders. But Acastu's missing father was the last of those defenders, and now, Acastu is the last heir of the Pieraomati. In the mid-nineteenth century, technology is in its infancy. Steam power is king, Nikola Tesla is testing his Tesla Coil science, lines for cable cars are still being built, and land technology is superseded by experiments with air travel by dirigibles. San Atenai is home to the latest secret experiment; time travel. Acastu takes his little sister, who has a penchant for blood and boxing, to watch a friend box in a match on the wharves. The town is attacked Acastu, normally defended by his friends, must fight to save himself and his sister from impressment. Their efforts to escape land them in a Time Traveler Pod.
What motivated you to write this particular story?
When I was a young girl, I was fascinated with adventure tales. My nose was always in a book, and I read everything from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, to Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Louis Carrol's Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, anything by Madeline L'Engle, horror tales by Edgar Allen Poe, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Vern, H.G. Wells The Time Machine, Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers, The Legends of King Arthur, and so many others. But I was equally obsessed with real life adventurers such as Robert E. Peary's North Pole expedition, the tragedy of the Hindenburg, and the Wright brothers' invention of the airplane, which of course, led to Amelia Earhart as an early heroine, and a collection of material on western outlaw legends such as Jesse James robbing steam locomotives, and even legends from as far away as Australia's famous Ned Kelly, among others. My interest in writing a Steampunk novel is an inner push of all of these ideas and time-frames mixing up in my head. It all had to come out sometime, in some fashion. Pouring it all into a new adventure tale seemed like a good idea.
How long have you considered yourself a writer?
I've been writing since I was little. It's funny, I can't write a poem to save my life, but as early as first grade I was stepping outside the lines of the prescribed lessons; to wit: I was supposed to write a nice Easter story, and instead I wrote a short tale about a giant man-eating rabbit who lived in a cave and came out annually to dine on little children. Ha ha, that one got a letter home to my mother. Stealing Time is my first published story.
What motivated/inspired you to become a writer in the first place?
My friends have been telling me I should be a writer for as long as I can remember. They say I have tales in my head that should visit a page, and one even went as far as to say that if I shut my mouth it flows out from my brain to my hands. Nah, it's not an insult. It came from a person who is a dear friend, and she was making an observation of sorts; moreover it's true. Instead of saying what do you think about this idea I've had floating around in my head, I now write it out. One of my best friends told me to sit down and write a sentence to her. Just one sentence, and if it turned into more, that was okay, so, I tried it. End result? After a week of sentences and paragraphs, my writer's block broke (in the shower, of course) and I wound up sprinting for pen and paper in a towel, and still wet with water, filled ten sheets of paper, both sides, with the beginnings of a fantasy novel...and yes, it's still in the works. Writing for a living-- well that's the goal now. Lofty thing, that last.
Can you talk a little bit about your writing process? Is there any particular thing you do that helps you focus? Any particular rituals? Do you do any sort of research, etc.?
Hmm, well as far as how I do it, I have to say I'm a seat of my pantser. That is, rather than have an outline, I plop myself in front of the computer, pull up screen and blank document, or continuation of a WIP (work in progress) and stay there until I write something. I've been known to write, effity, effing eff! when nothing else comes to mind. Point is, I stay there until I've got something. I play 'what if' in my head, or actually write a what if onto the page, even if it doesn't pertain to my story, it will eventually lead to something juicy, and I can use what I've written that doesn't relate to the WIP in another project later on. I did, however, have to stop on a longer project, that fantasy novel I mentioned earlier, yeah, that one, because I am juggling so many characters, events, religions, and subplots, it got away from me. As a writer, you are in control, and if the plane feels like it's going to crash land, well, bring her in ahead of time. Set it down for a while until you can sort out what isn't jiving. You can even work on something else for a while, which is how I began Stealing Time. The thing is to always be writing something.
What are your major literary influences?
As far as literary and other influences, well, as I mentioned earlier, adventure novels were always around, but I also delved into my father's collection of paperback science fiction novels, names such as Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Marion Zimmer Bradley, JRR Tolkien were pilfered daily from his bookshelves. Later teen years and my adult choices lean toward darker climes. I adore Kim Harrison's Hollows series, anything by Seanan McGuire, Laurel K Hamilton's earlier books, Stephen King, Cherie Priest, speculation about Jack the Ripper, and don't get me started on movies! Hammer Horrors top my list of fun things to watch on a lazy rainy day. And did I mention Harry Potter? How about the entire series of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and Logan's Run. See, I told you not to get me started on movies.
What do you find toughest about the writing process? How do you handle criticism?
Well, I think the hardest part of writing is when you get stuck. That's when Stephen King's "what if" game comes into play. The second hardest for me is the mountain of editing required, and that's where handling criticism well comes into play. Yet another quote from Stephen King, who may have got it from someone else, "Kill your Darlings." That means that however precious a sentence, paragraph, or scene is to you, it might not be so great to your Beta readers, friends, or editors. These early editing folk represent actual readers, i.e. your future audience, so listen to what they have to say, and "kill those darlings," even if it hurts you to see them go. Your story will be tighter for chopping out the unnecessary things, and your editor will thank you for being so cooperative a word slayer.
What advice would you give to other new, aspiring writers out there? Gosh, the best advice I can give to a new writer would be to just do it. No matter what anyone says, you know what you want and who you are. If you are driven to write, whatever it is, let nothing stop you. You can make time for people, but you must designate a time to write. It is a one person prospect getting the ideas from your head to the hand and onto the page. Give yourself the space in which to be alone and do it. Everyone else will still be there ten minutes, thirty minutes, an hour later. Sit your butt down in the chair and don't move until you've got something on that page, even if it's just, "Eff me, I cannot write a sentence!" At least you will have written something. There is also the what if game, ala Stephen King: Just take any situation; say you are looking out the window and you see a lady walking her dog; give the dog wings, have the dog get loose and run after a cat, have an old man meet her at a park bench...they are both cheating on their spouses, you know...everybody says so. See, that's how “what if” mode works. Try it, you'll be spinning tales in no time now, if you want to become a published author, here's a great piece of advice given to me by Batton Lash, the writer of the Comic Book series Supernatural Law, Batton:"Do you know the difference between a Writer an an Author, CK?" CK: "Please!" Batton:"The Author never quits."
Where can readers find you if they want to learn more about your and your writings?
My story is still in the midst of the publishing process, in the works right now at Musa Publishing's Urania Sci-Fi & Spec-Fi imprint. You can read my Author's Blog: ckgarner.wordpress.com and find me on Facebook under CKGarner.
I will update you on C.K.'s progress once her story gets published. In the meantime...happy reading!!