23 June 2010

My first interview!

I like these little perks of winning The Writer’s of the Future Contest: I got interviewed for the Contest’s newsletter. It is sent out as an email to subscribers, so I hope you don’t mind if I post it here. (I mean, I don’t really talk much about myself on my blog . . . I don’t, do I? Nah, don’t answer that.)

Anyway, here’s the full text of the interview. And that picture is the one I sent in to be used. Yep, I picked a photo where I’m wearing a blue hat.

Meet our Writers of the Future winner Ryan Harvey of California. He was the third place winner in the 1st quarter of the 27th year for his story, “An Acolyte of Black Spires.”

The Writers of the Future Herald Editor did a short interview with Harvey, which is being published here for you.

WOTF: Tell us a bit about you and your background.

HARVEY: I’ve lived most of my life in Los Angeles, although I attended college in Minnesota, where I was a history major. History was my first love, even when I was a child, and it gave me an appreciation for storytelling. After college, I worked in the film business for a stretch, first as an apprentice editor and then in the story department for a production company. But I was never really designed for the film world, despite loving the medium, and soon moved through a series of jobs: speed-reading instructor, reading development teacher, commodities broker and now warehouse manager. All along, I was writing, because becoming a professional writer was my main goal since college. The rest of my family went into medicine—somebody had to be the artist!

Outside of writing, I’m a fan of pulp literature and its history. I’m also a swing dancer and like to wear period clothing of the 1930s.

WOTF: How did you find out about the Contest?

HARVEY: I’ve haunted bookstores most of my life, so I knew of the Contest’s existence since I was old enough to browse the “Fantasy and Science Fiction” shelves, where I saw the Contest anthologies for sale with their amazing covers. I wasn’t certain what it was about for years because I was mostly writing novels and not working in short stories. I finally heard about the details from critique groups. Writers in my groups would remark about how they needed their critiques soon so they could revise their stories and “get in under the deadline for the Writers of the Future Contest.” That’s when I found out how it worked—but I didn’t think of submitting at first because I was still working on novels. Then a period passed when I wrote, but wasn’t submitting anywhere. When I finally got serious about sending off stories for publication, it was only a matter of time before the Contest “bubbled up” as a regular place to submit. It didn’t turn out to be regular, however, since the first story I sent in won. Oh well, I can live with that.

WOTF: What tips or advice would you give to other writers to win the Contest?

HARVEY: Finish your story and send it in. This may sound like silly advice—I mean, you can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket, right?—but it’s amazing how much time I spent not submitting because I was afraid to really finish anything. I toyed with my work, let it lay around, and wondered if I had the audacity to send it someplace. And, of course, not submitting meant not getting published. So finish that story, get advice from a few trusted readers (not your mother or father—I can’t emphasize this enough), revise it once, give it a quick spit n’ polish, and then stop looking at it and put it an an envelope and send it to the Contest. Then do that again and again and again each quarter. Don’t let the media’s stories about people who were magically discovered out of nowhere the first time they picked up a pen make you think that’s how it always works. The vast majority of the great writers spent years fumbling through rejections. Yes, my first entry into the Contest managed to win, but I’d spent two years getting rejection slips from magazines, and my winning entry had already gotten standard form-rejections from a number of publications. So reject rejection.

WOTF: What inspired you to write the story that won this year’s Contest?

HARVEY: I had developed a science-fantasy setting that I really adored, and had written a number of stories set in it. In each story, a villainous race lurked around the fringes, pulling the strings in some strange, inhuman agenda. I decided I wanted to really know who these people called “The Shapers” were, to pull back the curtain and see the villains as they might see themselves. I thought about how I could write a tale where one of the Shapers was the main character. That was where it started, although I was surprised at the turns it took as it developed. The main authorial inspiration was fantasy writer Clark Ashton Smith, whose “dying earth” setting of Zothique influenced the tone. His feelings of regret and bittersweet memory painted in dark and lustrous words was something I wanted to achieve using my own style.