Today, I’d like to welcome Magda Knight, one of my co-authors in the YA Historical Romance Anthology, Timeless. Leave a comment for Magda and be eligible to receive a pdf. copy of Timeless. You do not need an e-reader to download this version of the book. So let’s start, shall we?
Q: Since you live in Great Britain, you truly make The Timeless Anthology “international.” How did you discover Pugalicious Press? And do you typically write for the YA market?
I'm delighted (or, as we say, well chuffed) to be the token Limey! A friend introduced me to Duotrope, a marvellous round-up of publications currently accepting submissions, and it happened to mention what Pugalicious was up to.
For the last few years, I've divided my writing time equally between children/YA and shockingly eerie horror/speculative writing, which is, ahem, in no way weird at all. In no way. Nuh-uh. When I saw Pugalicious Press I fell a little bit in love, the same way you would if you saw a pug dressed as an actual pug. They seemed like such an endearing and happy publisher and the cuteness just sort of imploded in on itself and melted my brain and cold, cold heart a little bit.
Q. How did you come up with the main idea It Lies Beneath? Were you already familiar with mines or did you research to get the right feel for the setting?
I’m absolutely flattered you should assume I know anything at all about mines! As a great fan of Weirdstone of Brisinghamen, the seminal children's book by Alan Garner which is partially set underground, I only know that mines are dark, and that you don't want to get stuck in them. Especially if something lurking below proves the lie to the old adage that the only thing you need fear is people.
I love to write Steampunk, and I love to look at the darkness behind Steampunk's pretty frocks and fancies. The Victorians were much like us - terribly complicated people, but with better hats. Their children suffered. I wanted the Steampunk young adults Ellie and Vin to suffer, because suffering - and knowing when to bend and when to fight - makes you strong. Hope and redemption are truly important, because endless darkness is dull, but Ellie and Vin weren't going to get an easy ride. And I couldn't face writing about airships on that particular day, so a neat way of avoiding all mention of dirigibles seemed to be to set the entire thing underground...
Q. Could you elaborate on how the lodestones ran the power above ground in It Lies Beneath?
And I'd have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you pesky kids! I'll be honest. I love writing about people and conversations and "what happens next?" While I love READING about technology, I can't and won't write about it in a way that works. Lodestones, right, they're... they're lodestones. Yeah. They, um, totally work. Really well and everything. I think the factories above ground have a sort of... slot? And you sort of... pop the lodestone into it?
Ahem. Yep. Something very much like that. Very much like that indeed. But, um, you know... better.
"The city runs on oil and lode and steam" is one of my favourite lines in the story. I feel so ashamed to have to expose it as the snake oil salesman it really is!
Q. I love your ending. I’ve had many discussions with the anthology readers. Did you leave it open-ended on purpose to spark these discussions? One thing - Could you please explain the “Passing?”
Thank you so much! I'm glad it has had people chatting about it as well as the other very fine stories in the anthology. Ooh, will you tell me what they said, or where to look so I can spy on what they're saying like a giant benevolent Eye of Sauron?
I'm fascinated by the cusp between childhood, young adulthood and the final deal of 'adulthood', whatever that might be. The 'coming of age' years we tend to associate with (you know... sweet 16, 18, 21) are just social constructs, there for convenience. The way we treat age is weird the world over.
Science teaches us the brain stops developing at the age of 25. It suggests there is a genuine physical coming of age, and makes some sense when I consider the way I've spent my life. I'm also interested in the idea of the "little death". Not the cheeky euphemism but the concept that every time something really big happens to us we die a little inside and become a new person.
If you met your 6 year old self, or your early teen self, would you recognise each other? When you're an old woman, will it frustrate you that everyone walks around on egg-shells and fails to realise that beneath the faded skin you're a vibrant young girl?
In this story, young adults experience a terminal Passing at the age of 18 because the entity has plans for them and adults are not conducive to its plans, so if the young adults it's surrounded by become fully-fledged adults, they need to be done away with. Again, the age of 18 - it's a convenience. A social construct. I chose it as a number just because. But the ideas behind it may be worth a discussion or two.
I left the story open-ended because YOU decide. Boy gets girl. Girl gets boy. That's a given. But are you the sort of person that will dream them to safety and the conventional known, or will you command them to go deeper into the tunnels? Who are you as a person? Who are they? They find out who they are. The rest of us will have to inch closer to the tunnels... or the surface... one day at a time.
Q: Besides your feminist blog, what are your current projects?
After I wrote this story, I found myself inspired and turned it into an unpublished book called Jabberwack. I booked a holiday cottage for a week (all I could afford) and wrote the full first draft in a week. It was tough work, soldier. But that's the only way I can write - in huge bursts, then lots of dabbling and editing later. Jabberwack is the short story... but it is also not the short story. It's a YA dystopian Steampunk novel with no corsets and plenty of shovels and, as I never tire of gleefully reminding people, an amputation in chapter 3. Oh, I do hope an agent takes a fancy to it!
I've also written an unpublished children's novel, a comic fantasy adventure called Gateway Boy about a boy who discovers that the kingdoms of Above, Below, Between, Beyond, Before and After wear England like a second skin and are involved in a plot to steal England's children. A potential agent is looking at it. I am trying very hard not to hit the refresh button on my email a million times a day. Trying hard. Not succeeding.
Q: Describe a typical day in your writing life. Are you a morning writer? An afternoon writer? A late night writer?
Writing at night is lovely, because all the other minds are asleep and you can spread out, but I always find work down at 3AM turns out to have more spelling mistakes than words. I like to write hard and fast with an early morning start, and I like it best when there is no internet or email or Facetime to get in my way. However, real life and boyfriends and Mookychick and Facebook mean that I tend to write piecemeal. Oh, woe! Why did Facebook ever happen? If I fail to do any writing today I will totally blame Mark Zuckerberg. He's a bad man.
Q. Any advice for aspiring writers?
If you're looking to get published, take heed of all those wonderful articles online about editing, tweaking and pitching. This twiddling with your pride and joy stuff makes a difference. If you want to write, write. If you're scared of writing, do small things like flash stories and short stories and look to get published where you can, and join online writing communities because they're tough/friendly and awesome and will really LOOK at your stuff, and you'll learn heaps just from looking at other people's work.
If you've written a novel, there's a good chance that whatever stage it's in, it needs editing and so does your synopsis and query letter. Don't be afraid to mull it over and tweak. Never be afraid. But be disciplined with it.
And keep writing short stories. Short stories are treasures. A joy to read. The world needs more of them. And every time you pop an entire world into the tiny locket of a short story and clasp it shut, you've become a better writer. Novels are good. But writing four novels will not, I think, improve your skills at writing as much as writing two novels and twenty short stories. I could be wrong. What do I know? Ask me again in twenty years. Then ask me again another twenty years after that.
But keep writing those short stories. After all, you never know when a short story might become a book...
QUICK QUESTIONS: CHOOSE ONE
Chocolate or cheese? I could never, ever give up cheese. The Steampunks say: FOR SCIENCE! And I agree. But I also say: FOR CHEESE!
Margarita or wine? I'm of Polish descent and prefer spirits to wine. Margarita is a lovely, bitter little drink that makes me feel like Frida Kahlo whenever I'm fortunate enough to have a glass of it in my hand, which is rare.
Cookies (Biscuits, right?) or cake? Haha, I'm so much about the biscuits! Although I did bake a lovely Jamaican ginger cake the other day with lashings of treacle. Do you get Jaffa Cakes in America? There's constant debate as to whether they constitute a cake or a biscuit. Something to do with tax evasion, I believe. I go with cake. I mean, the name, right?
A good book or a good movie? Ooh, you MEANIE. I'm so utterly saturated with both. I'll sacrifice a foot before I sacrifice a book or a film. A toe, maybe. But... then again... it's hard to sort out a home cinema on a desert island. Films, to the bin you go...
Winter or summer? Again, I'm of Polish descent. We're all about the snow and the forest. And the wolves. Winter is coming...
Thank you for letting us get to know you.
Please leave a comment for Magda to be eligible to win a pdf. copy of Timeless.