An interview with author Francesca Forrest.
Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?
Thank you very much! It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve been enjoying checking out this blog and your website. As for my background, I’m a pretty low-key writer, by which I mean, I’m not hugely prolific and I’m not widely known, but I’ve been fortunate in that the people who *have* discovered me have been very supportive. I’ve had short stories in science fiction and fantasy zines like Strange Horizons, GigaNotoSaurus, and The Future Fire, and I self-published a novel, Pen Pal.
What got you into writing?
My father is a writer, so I knew it was a thing that people can be. And I always had stories in my head. I used to tell myself stories as I walked to school—it was a mile walk; I loved that time.
What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?
This I remember very clearly: I was inspired by a 2013 blog post by Sonya Taaffe in which she talked about the Roman term exauguratio, for the removal of a god from its temple or other sacred ground. She wrote, “Legendarily, when Tarquin the fifth king of Rome built the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline, the ancient gods Terminus and Juventas refused to be displaced by exauguratio and were incorporated into the new site.”
I was enchanted by that idea, but it was several years before I took it up in a story—and I’m not sure I’m done yet. One day I may write more.
Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?
That’s hard! I guess I love Ohin, the titular inconvenient god, a lot, because he’s so many things—provocative, dangerous, and bereft. But I also like Mr. Haksola, the university administrator, a lot too. He’s so nervous! He has so much to hide! And he keeps on having to reveal more and more.
What's your favorite scene from your novelette? Could you please describe it?
I like all the scene that have deities in them—I hope readers enjoy those too. The novelette’s so short I don’t want to give anything away, but I hope readers will find some of them funny and some of them moving. I’m hoping readers feel the presence of the gods and goddesses very intensely.
What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?
I like the part where I’m inventing it in my head! The writing part is hard work—trying to make what’s in there come alive on the page in a way that will conjure up similar sights and sounds and feelings in readers’ minds. It’s satisfying work, though.
I like revision, too—the feeling of “phew, much better,” that you get when you’ve fixed something.
How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?
It takes me a **long** time. I’m the opposite of a well-oiled machine—I’m a squeaky, rusty machine. I write mostly on computer, but if I wrote with a pen and paper, you’d see me mostly with the pen poised a few millimeters above the paper, running through different ways of saying something in my mind without actually committing to any of them. But I get there eventually!
So far, I’ve always started at the beginning of a story and then worked straight through to the end, rather than jumping around and writing a scene here and a scene there—though of course sometimes what you originally think will be the beginning doesn’t end up being the beginning by the time you finish writing. I have an overall sense of where the story’s going but not a detailed sense—that gives the story room to breathe and evolve as I write.
What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?
The sorts of ideas I get just happen to be fantasy and science fiction—I don’t know why that is. What makes me love a book is some mind-exploding quality about it—maybe it’s the insights, maybe it’s the vividness of the characters, maybe it’s gorgeous writing, maybe the flights of imagination. For me, it’s just easier to strive for that via fantasy and science fiction—at least, so far.
Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?
Well, there are writers who made me the person I am today—they definitely influenced me. Those would be people like CS Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle and Lloyd Alexander. I feel like they were co-parents with my real parents. Then there are writers or novels that influenced me in the sense of broadening my horizons or my understanding of the human condition—The Grapes of Wrath did that, for example. And then there are writers or novels that teach me stuff about the craft of writing—about characterization, or pacing, or storytelling techniques. In genre fiction, a sci-fi YA novel that I both really enjoyed as a story and that I learned from was Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker. Both his characters and his post-apocalyptic landscape really came alive for me in a way I want my own writing to come alive for other people, so I paid attention to how he did it, the sorts of sensory details he put in, the types of scenes he had.
Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your novelette? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?
Yes! I had no idea what Ohin’s ultimate fate was going to be when the story started—I felt like that was gradually revealed to me as the characters and the situation took on depth.
Thanks for stopping by!
Thank *you* very much for the opportunity!
ABOUT THE BOOK
What happens when you try to retire a god who is not ready to leave?
An official from the Ministry of Divinity arrives at a university to decommission a local god. She is expecting an easy decommissioning of a waning god of mischief but finds instead an active god not interested in retiring and university administrators who have not told her the full story about the god. Can the Decommisioner discover the true story of this god in time to prevent his most destructive round of mischief yet?
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Francesca Forrest is the author of Pen Pal (2013), a hard-to-classify novel from the margins, as well as short stories that have appeared in Not One of Us, Strange Horizons, and other online and print venues. She’s currently working on a post-apocalypse novel that focuses on the hope rather than the horror.
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