December 3, 2014

Earlier Apocalypses: an interview with Jennifer Brozek, author of "Apocalypse Girl Dreaming"

Jennifer Brozek is an award winning editor, game designer, and author.

Winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication, Jennifer has edited ten anthologies with more on the way. Author of In a Gilded Light, The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting, Industry Talk,and the Karen Wilson Chronicles, she has more than fifty published short stories, and is the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions.

Jennifer also is a freelance author for numerous RPG companies. Winner of both the Origins and the ENnie award, her contributions to RPG sourcebooks include Dragonlance,Colonial Gothic, Shadowrun,Serenity, Savage Worlds, and White Wolf SAS. Jennifer is also the author of the YA Battletech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident.

When she is not writing her heart out, she is gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest in its wonderfully mercurial weather. Jennifer is an active member of SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. (source:

Gef: What prompted the formation of this collection, Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, and what kind of process did you go through in picking out which stories to include?

Jennifer: A lot of my early stories were published in smaller venues. As I grew in skill and sold my stories to larger publications, more and more people wanted to read my earlier work. This was the best way I could think of it getting my work out there to old and new fans alike.

A number of my short stories all live in the same fictional universe. My weird west fiction is mostly in my Mowry universe. My urban fantasy is in my Kendrick universe. My sci-fi and space opera is in my Kember Empire series. I chose stories from all of those universes so the reader could see the progression of the characters and the universe itself. Then there are the stories I wrote for other worlds: Lovecraft, Valdemar, and Elemental Masters. I wanted to share my bit of those worlds as well.

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it when writing a short story as opposed to long fiction?

Jennifer: Writing a short story is a very different animal than a novel. You don’t have time to lovingly describe the details of the world or to sprinkle hints of things to come. You need to start in the middle of a scene and trust that your reader will pick up what you write down. You must give just enough away about the world that the reader understands where the story is taking place and in what context. You need to limit your point of view to one main character and that character needs to change by the end of the short story. In a novel, you have time to let characters make mistakes that don’t show consequences for chapters or books to come. In a short story, the action’s consequence must be clear and present. A short story must have a beginning, middle, and end so that when the reader walks away, they have the sense that the story was told but can wonder what happens next… or what came before.

Gef: How intensive does the research get for you when approaching the fantastical? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Jennifer: It really depends on the genre I’m writing in. For science fiction, I usually base the technology around a technology that is already present in today’s society but extrapolate it for the future. In urban fantasy, I look to the cultures, legends, and happenings of the day. In weird west, I take inspiration from old westerns. Mostly, I read a lot and very broadly. I read to know, to dream, to be inspired. When I research, I hone in on what I’m basing the story about. I have no real tricks. I start with one foot in reality and then ask “what if?” and go from there.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of speculative fiction?

Jennifer: Speculative fiction usually heralds changes in the mainstream. Whether it be about social norms, politics, or technological advances, a speculative fiction author probably posited the concept behind it before it happened and then wrote about it enough that other spec fic writers picked it up and used it as well. Speculative fiction writers get to dream up a better world and help it come to pass by presenting an idea to people who may never have been exposed to such thoughts. From there, those people may be inspired to go on and do great things.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Jennifer: The worst piece of writing advice I’ve received is “don’t.” Don’t have preludes. Don’t have your character waking up. Don’t have your character looking in the mirror. Don’t ever use adverbs. Don’t use long sentences. Don’t give the reader too much information. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. What I wish people would say is “Learn the foundation rules to writing so you understand what you are doing when you break them. Then break them on purpose, with specific intent, if it suits your story and your story’s genre.”

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Jennifer: I try not to have “guilty” pleasures. I try to just have pleasures. I have no shame in loving apocalyptic B movies or watching everything that Julian Sands or Christopher Walken has ever been in. (And I mean everything.) I have no shame in loving the Destroyer or Mack Bolan books. I have no shame in loving supernatural TV like Grimm, Sleepy Hollow, Haven, or Hannibal (you can’t tell me Hannibal isn’t supernatural at this point).

What makes me smile and hesitate to tell you that I adore it? Well, that would be my love of reality TV where the contestants create something. Face Off. Project Runway, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge. Though, I don’t really watch them the normal way. I find out about the challenge, then I fast forward to the reveal. I like looking at what talented people make and I don’t care about the manufactured drama or cast conflicts.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Jennifer: Videogame: Shadowrun Returns and not just because I wrote on it. Because it’s old school turn-based Shadowrun goodness.

Books (I don’t promise they came out in 2014): American Elsewhere by Robert J. Bennett. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield. Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire. A Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe. Rogues edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martian.

TV: Hannibal is at the top of my list because of how smart the characters are and how amazing the body language acting is on the show. You can’t look away. You miss too much subtext.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Jennifer: I am a busy-busy woman. Lots of things coming out in 2015. This is just what I know about. I’m not sure on all the anthologies I will be contributing to. To keep up with those, follow me on twitter: @JenniferBrozek or on my blog at

  • 16 January – Apocalypse Girl Dreaming – My short story collection from Evil Girlfriend Media.
  • 15 February – Colonial Gothic: Roanoke Island – A Colonial Gothic RPG supplement that gives another reason why the Roanoke colony disappeared. Hint: it involves elder gods. From Rogue Games.
  • 15 March – Chimera Incarnate – The fourth and last book in my urban fantasy series, the Karen Wilson Chronicles from Apocalypse Ink Productions
  • 9 June – Never Let Me Sleep – The first in my YA sf-thriller Melissa Allen series via Permuted Press.
  • 1 November (tentative) – Naughty or Nice: A Christmas Anthology that I will be editing with Jon Del Arroz from Evil Girlfriend Media.


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  2. " The worst piece of writing advice I’ve received is “don’t.” "

    Thank you! I *hate* the years of enduring this in critique groups, workshops, how-to books, etc. No wonder writers struggle so much with that inner critic that just won't shut up--it's probably from years of hearing "don't"! I liked Jennifer's quote on what she wishes people would say instead. Great interview, Gef!

  3. Thanks. I quite liked the anti-don't message, too.