1. What inspires your short stories?
Short stories have always been a way for me to test the waters of genres and styles that I’m interested in but may not necessarily be ready to write a full novel in. I’ve used it to release things like pure science fiction or perfect prose-style writing, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. It really lets me stretch my legs.
2. Does writing short stories need a separate kind of skill set than full length manuscripts? What is the difference?
For sure. The biggest and most obvious difference is that you as a writer have very little time to get the entire message of the story across. Whereas a novel will let you build characters and settings, you need to be quick and to the point with what you’re telling in a short story. I started with micro-fiction, and studying things like Twitter for ideas on how to slam a story home in a small number of words. I’m still not an expert, but the experience has been invaluable.
3. Have any of your ‘shorts’ become full length novels?
No, nothing like that. I’ve actually had the opposite problem where I take a story idea I’ve had and convert it to a short story in order to tell the tale I wanted to tell as quickly and succinctly as possible.
The first story in my new book is called ‘A Conversation: Alive Again’, and it tells the origins of Nixon Ash, the imposing Scottish phoenix-man first introduced in my ‘Catching Hell’ duology. Originally I wanted Nixon’s origins to be its own book. I had it plotted out and ready to get started on. However, as I started writing the stories that went into this collection I realized that Alive Again fit so well into the style and structure I had laid out, so I converted it and came up with a way to tell that same story in significantly less pages. Nixon is interesting enough that he can carry that kind of story and tell what needs to be told without a hundred thousand words.
Between Conversations: Tales From the World of Ryuujin is live! Coming September 25th
4. What drew you to fantasy & science fiction writing?
It was the ability to create whatever I wanted. The freedom to tell a story and the only limits were my imagination. I don’t consider myself skilled enough to write the kind of deep, intriguing stories that win Pulitzers, and I’m totally alright with that as well. It’s not who I am. But I can just jump right into an epic fantasy with magic flying around everywhere, or the endless possibilities of technology or the universe, or both combined! I’m not limited, and that is a very satisfying way to write.
5. When writing the Catching Hell series did you plan the two books prior to writing, or did they emerge later?
It came after it was finished. When I pulled my head up from my keyboard and looked at what I had created, it was 225k words long. Impressive, but wholly impractical when it comes to marketing or trying to get picked up by a publisher or agent. Someone early on said I should consider making it a duology. I resisted the idea for a while, but realized they were right. I found a very natural split about half way through, tweaked some of the story, and added the prologue to Part 2, and that’s how it was born. One day I may rejig it again and make it one big book, but that’s the kind of thing we dream about and likely never do.
6. Do you have a favorite character – and why?
Although I think Nixon has the most potential as a character, who can shapeshift and summon fire and have a sense of humor, (not to mention the masochistic joy I get from trying to write a Scottish brogue) my favorite will always be Crystal Kokouo, who is a main character in Catching Hell but who has circulated through my ideas since I was a teenager. She’s an infinitely powerful woman who was one of the first people born into a damaged and destroyed world. Her father was a great man and hero to millions, and she has always tried to achieve the goals he never had the chance to complete and that pressure has molded her into what she is now. There’s a level of complexity with her that the casual reader misses because they only know her from the one story. There’s a depth there that I can’t wait to let the world see, but it will take time.
7. Where is your favorite place to write?
At my desk in my office at work. I write best surrounded by the low thrum of business and work going on all around me. I can’t work at home because there’s a million things I’d rather be doing if I’m there. At lunch, at my desk in my little cubicle there’s nothing to distract me, and I can spend 45 minutes to an hour just off in my own little world.
8. What is your usual writing procedure – planner or panster?
Pants! Pants pants pants, all day long.
I don’t go through the steps I know some authors do, where they lay out pages of plot details and character sheets and all of that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I let a story grow organically. I start with an idea of who everyone is, and I always know where I’m going, but I don’t always know how I’ll get there. It’s worked to my detriment, as shown with my 225k epic that was so large it needed to be cut in half, but its work to my advantage as well. My debut novel Death Dresses Poorly was smashed out very quickly because I had that general idea in my head right away, but when the comedy and heart started popping up unexpectedly I was just as surprised as anyone else. I still like to go back and re-read parts of it just to get that feeling back that I had when I first wrote it. I see a line and I remember coming up with it and the happiness I felt at making something I personally enjoyed so much.
9. Can you tell us about your new release(s)?
I would love to! My newest book is called ‘Between Conversations: Tales From the World of Ryuujin’. It is a collection of nine short stories (though calling some of them ‘short’ is a bit of a stretch. There’s some whoppers in there I admit) that take place in the same world as Catching Hell, however those books are in no way required reading to enjoy this collection. They all stand on their own.
The stories are a wide range of genres, going back to what I was saying about trying new things. There’s a pure-horror story, a YA-style adventure, a bar scene I like to call Tarentino-esque, a historical fantasy. It’s just all over the place, held together by the collective structure of the world. The stories are told chronologically, from the 1600s up to thousands of years into the future. I really want the reader to see the amount of fun I had putting this together.
10. Do you have a message for your readers?
I sure do: this is a crazy time where we are constantly inundated with news and scenes and images that shake our collective mental health. I don’t say this to sell my books or the work of my contemporaries, but when this world has you worse for wear, pick up a book and read. Escape for 5 minutes to someplace, or learn about something that interests you. Escape, and don’t feel bad about doing it.
Or, forget the book and garden, or go for a hike, or find your zen away from the things that are getting to you. Separating ourselves from the cacophony has never been more important than it is today. My motto is “Be a hero”, and that doesn’t just mean to other people. Be a hero to yourself as well.
Marc Watson is an author of genre fiction (primarily Fantasy and Science Fiction of all lengths). He began writing at the age of 15 with a pen and paper, and has never really stopped, even though until recently it was more of a background to him than his defining trait. He has been published on flash fiction site www.101words.org, as well as comedy site www.thecorrectness.com. Marc has been a student of the excellent writing classes at Athabasca University for a number of years.
Marc lives in Calgary, Alberta, and was spawned out of the depths of Southern Ontario. A husband, proud father of two, and can be sometimes found at an actual job. Marc is an avid outdoorsman, martial artist of some high repute, baseball player of very little repute, and lover of all Mexican foods. One day ‘World Famous Poutine Aficionado’ will be on his business cards.
You can also find Marc on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marcwroteabook, and on twitter at @writewatson. For public appearances and interviews, he is proudly represented by Creative Edge Publicity.