May 27, 2014

Water, Earth, Wind, and Sci-Fi: an interview with Suzanne Church, author of "Elements"

About ELEMENTSCanadian SF author Suzanne Church's cast of unique characters ask "What if?" in this whimsical collection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction.
Androids, aliens, zombies, and humans - Church's unforgettable characters ponder upon such concepts as "Can humanity survive an ice age? Will the storm man steal Wanda's baby? When will Bob and Sebbee escape the relentless march of the Lost Circle? What is the cause of the taint in Faya's courted ice? If you can't escape hell, can you at least afford a trip on a teleporting couch?"
These are but a few of the mind-twisting tales found in ELEMENTS, Suzanne Church's first collection of science fiction, mythic fantasy, and festering horror short fiction and features a suitable tale for every temperament.
This collection includes 21 stories and an introduction by award winning author, editor, and poet, Sandra Kasturi.
(Info courtesy of Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing)

How would you classify ELEMENTS? Horror, SF, Fantasy, Other? A mix?

ELEMENTS is definitely a mix of Horror, SF, and Fantasy. From the first story, "Coolies" which is an SF story with horrific aspects, the stories blend the genres together.

I suppose I'm more of a casserole writer than a meat-and-potatoes author. At heart I'm a horror writer but I enjoy exploring dark ideas with a broad speculative fiction lens.

Plus I throw in some humour to provide the reader with lighthearted breaks. The Couch Teleportation stories are a few examples of my twisted idea of what it would be like to visit the armpits of the galaxy.

Why did you choose a short fiction collection as your first book-length project?

My fiction has been published in some higher-profile locations as well as some obscure anthologies and magazines that have passed into the ether of publication. A collection of my short fiction allowed me the opportunity to reach a broader audience of readers.

Tell us about your 52 Writing Tips project in 2012

Every year I set Writing Goals during the first week of January, and one of my recurring goals is to submit 52 times each year (either short fiction, novel queries, poetry, etc).

For the 2012 goals I decided to incorporate blogging as a way to increase my online footprint. I used to be a high school teacher, so the writing tips became a way to blend my writing skills with my teaching skills.

To appease the teacher in me, I included a bit of homework. That's why at the end of each post I include the "Do It Now" exercises. Thus the reader can immediately use what they've learned in a practical way.

The majority of the tips touch on the usual writing suspects like beginnings, endings, dialogue, characters, editing, critiquing, etc. However, I wanted to touch on EVERY topic for aspiring writers so I also included posts on tax preparation, attending conventions, using tracking spreadsheets and the like.

What exactly do you mean when you call yourself "fiercely Canadian?"

Ha! That's complicated.

First, I've been known to apologize for a variety of missteps, some of which don't actually require an apology. In other words, yes, I've actually apologized to a parking meter for bumping into it. I am THAT Canadian.
Second, I love all the quintessentially Canadian clichés. I follow the Toronto Maple Leafs (even though I know better) and I love hockey with an irrationally intense passion. Even though I write at Starbucks, I do plenty of writing (and eating and drinking) at Tim Hortons. I can paddle a canoe, ice skate with hockey or figure skates, and complain about the weather during any of the four seasons.

Third, I've spent much of my career attending workshops and conventions outside of my home country (in the USA and Australia) and have represented Canada to the best of my abilities. For that reason, my internet name has been CanadianSuzanne since 2004, hence my twitter handle @canadiansuzanne.

You've appeared at Chiaroscuro Reading Series (also known as ChiSeries) in Toronto and are scheduled to appear again soon. What is ChiSeries like? 

I love the ChiSeries reading nights. The atmosphere is so laid back, and the readings are always entertaining. ChiZine Publications certainly knows how to rock an event.

At the Toronto readings, Kari Maaren usually keeps us entertained between readings, playing her ukulele and singing songs so funny, you might spit your drink out your nose.

Many of those in attendance are local authors, so the ChiSeries readings also provide a chance to catch up with colleagues and hear about the latest writing news.

The ChiSeries readings have expanded to Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Ottawa. Although I've never been able to attend one of them, I've added the events to my must-do list.

You're blogging about the evolution of each story in ELEMENTS. Should readers be wary of spoilers? Or can they read the posts before they read the collection?

I'm very careful about spoilers so readers can read the posts before they read the collection.

Even though I reference the characters and settings, the content is mostly about story evolution; an answer to "Where do you get your ideas?"

Any reader could peruse the posts safely without worry of spoiler-trouble. On the other hand, the backstories that I tell would certainly resonate more with the reader after they've digested the story. Either way, it's a great place to learn more about the fiction in ELEMENTS.

I will continue to add more content over the next few months. Watch for interviews with some of the characters in the stories, or brief teaser-excerpts from the collection.

What's next for you?
I'm always writing short fiction. I've got a fantasy short story on the go right now, and I'm plotting out a novel that takes place in the universe that I developed for "Destiny Lives in the Tattoo's Needle."

Recently I began a short story with hockey theme. Then I realised I'd need to build a full roster for the team including coaching staff, a GM, dedicated press, etc. So I have a feeling that the story will blossom into a novel.

Thanks for the interview opportunity!

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Suzanne Church juggles her time between throwing her characters to the lions and chillin’ like a villain with her two sons. She writes Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror because she enjoys them all and hates to play favorites. Her award-winning fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Cicada and On Spec, and in several anthologies including Urban Green Man and When the Hero Comes Home 2. Her book ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction is available at bookstores (April 1 in Canada and April 30 in the US) and Amazon from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.


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