Quite often we snack while we read, our choice of snack varies with our personal taste, but it may also reflect the genre we are reading. Here is a list of suggested comparable foods for several genres.
Romance – Red wine & dark chocolate covered strawberries or cherries. Chocolate or vanilla flavored foods are also popular. Hot chocolate for an alternative to alcohol. Smooth, rich or decandent foods are best.
Thriller – This snack is right up there and is a real mixture – popcorn with cinnamon, olive oil and pesto or mixed with M&M. You can imagine popping each morsel into your mouth in quick succession as the tension grows within the narrative.
Fantasy – Linking back to a childhood fantasy – Snow White, this pick is the ‘bad’ apple choice. Apples covered in cinnamon, honey, or caramel. Red velvet cookies. Hummus and pita chips or french fries with ketchup.
Comedy – Animal Crackers. Tea and biscuits/cookies.
Historical Fiction – Tea and crumpets (or scones or crackers). Charcuterie. Coffee
The novel originated as a short story that I wrote in a creative writing class my senior year of college. The character of Lazer was loosely based on a friend of mine who played in a heavy metal band in the 80’s and never quite moved beyond his rock n roll heydey. Lazer isn’t just a carbon copy of him though, but rather an amalgamation of several people, a list that seemed to grow the more I worked on the book. But ultimately, at the start of the book he represents the downside of staying too firmly in your dream for rock stardom. When we meet Lazer he has hit rock bottom and is stuck in a loop of meaningless flings and surface level friendships, all while playing the same songs over and over and over again. He’s something of a prisoner of his own failed ambitions. I would meet a lot of people who suffered from this sort of stunted personal growth when I played in bands and was heavy into gigging. The folks who never said die even though they should have moved on decades ago. I’m all about living the life you want and staying true to your passions, but its always good to make sure you don’t lose yourself in the process.
2. Did you have fun creating Lazer and Streek?
Giving dimension to Lazer and Streek was a lot of fun, because you’re not just -, but building the relationship between them. A lot of times when they are bantering back and forth it’s almost like different aspects of my personality are having a conversation with each other. Lazer, as he developed really kind of took on parts of my own history of being in a band and how I approached that lifestyle. Streek meanwhile has more in common with my wife; this sort of introverted, second-guessing nature that acts as a counter balance to Lazer’s shoot from the hip and hope for the best ethos. Having them play off each other is one of my favorite parts of writing these stories. I really want the growth of their friendship to feel organic as the story unfolds, not in just this novel, but in the rest of the books in the series to follow. Friendship dynamics shape-shift over time and it’s a really interesting topic to explore. Even though its a story set in space with all sorts of fantastical elements, at the end of the day its a story of finding out who you really are once the comfort of routine is stripped away from you, and how your friends can help you get there.
3. Have you always had an interest in sci-fi stories?
I absolutely love science fiction. I feel like you can go anywhere or do anything with it. As long as you stay consistent within the rules you set up, its an excellent vehicle to give commentary on everything from politics to personal relationships. I grew up with things like the twilight zone, outer limits, tales from the crypt and the x files. I’ve always loved stories about aliens and monsters and the unknown. My wife is wonderful, she’ll watch the most ridiculous B movie nonsense with me just because she loves me. Though lately its mostly been kids programming. I’ve got a one year old and a four year old. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen Encanto.
4. What or who influenced your writing?
Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite writer of all time and really kind of opened me up to new concepts of narrative, like how slaughter house 5 is both fiction and memoir, or Galapagos is told out of order from the perspective of a ghost. Absolutely brilliant.
5. Do you see a sequel to the novel or are you happy for it to stay a standalone?
The Sunset Distortion series will be 5 parts. Part one is “The Pyramid at the End of the World.” Part two will be titled “Live! From Valhalla” and is maybe 3/4’s finished. Though that being said, I put that one on pause while I work on a collection of short stories. I sort of follow where my creativity takes me, and right now, its horror and sci fi short stories with a few novellas thrown in the mix. I’m currently finishing up a 10k word story about a piece of recycling equipment that becomes self-aware and decides that the best way to sort non-compliant materials from recycled bottles is to murder the entirety of the human race. Fun stuff!
6. What is your writing process? Plotter or panster?
Both. It depends on what I’m writing. I like to plot out the sandbox first if you will. The world, the characters, and the broad strokes of the plot. From there I’ll sort of freewheel it from point A to point B and see what comes out.
7. Are you part of a writing group? If so, how has this helped your writing?
I’m a part of several writing groups online but I don’t check in nearly as often as I should. I do have a half dozen friends who are writers themselves and we’ll share works in progress with each other and give feedback. It’s absolutely vital to have other eyes browse through what you’re doing. We all have blind spots and our work only gets better from sharing with others. You need to have people willing to tell you that your ideas are garbage.
8. Do you have a favorite place to write?
I write short stories on my phone, usually while putting my daughter to bed. She’s doing this thing right now where she will only fall asleep if I’m in the room with her, longer form stuff is on my laptop. I will honestly write whenever I get the chance. Between running my business and having two small children, personal time is at a premium. I used to have a specific chair I would sit in, but it was so old and natty that I threw it away after book 1 was finished. Now I’m something of a nomad, moving from couch to bed to rocking chair of office desk when time permits.
9. Are you working on another manuscript? Can you tell us a little about it?
I currently have maybe 4 short stories in the can and 10 more in development. My goal is to have at least 60k words worth of short stories assembled before I release them as an anthology. Book 2 in the Sunset Distortion series will probably follow within a year after that. The second book in the series will see Lazer and Streek get drafted by a private security company to stop a terrorist plot onboard a space station that hosts the Galaxy’s collective entertainment complex apparatus, all while helping their new friend escape the clutches of her jerk of an ex-boyfriend who also happens to be the galaxy’s biggest rock star. Like the first book, expect lots of jokes, weird aliens and music references.
PAUL BAHOU is the author of Sunset Distortion: The Pyramid at the End of the World. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Cal State University Long Beach with a minor in music. He began his career writing grants while playing in his rock band, eventually moving out of music and into the sustainability sector. He lives in Southern California with his wife Melissa, daughter Sophie and son, Harrison. He writes fiction, music and the occasional dad joke in his spare time.
Not until I was a teenager when I wrote my first complete novel (“Caged-In World”—which later served as a very rough draft for my first published novel, “Darwin’s Paradox”). My first published work was my non-fiction article “Environmental Citizenship” which appeared in Shared Vision Magazine in 1995. My first fiction work was a short story entitled “Arc of Time”, which was published in Armchair Aesthete in 2002. However, I told stories long before I wrote them and long before any of them was published. I told stories in the form of cartoons. Since I was a small child, I wanted to be a cartoonist and write graphic novels (back then I knew them as comics). I created several strips with crazy characters that I drew, blending my love for drawing with my love for storytelling.
What made you decide on science fiction as a genre?
That goes back to my love for comics. I wasn’t much of a reader as a kid. While my older brother and sister devoured The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, I secreted myself in the back corner of Williams General store and read Superman and Superboy, Supergirl, Batman, The Fantastic Four, Flash, Magnus Robot Fighter and Green Lantern. I was obviously enamoured with the fantastic. When I earnestly started to read things other than comics, I came across the SF classics: Huxley, Orwell, Heinlein, Clarke, Silverberg and Asimov to name a few. Bradbury sent me over the moon and his “Martian Chronicles” made me cry. I wanted to write like him and move readers like he’d done with me.
The reason I continue to write in this genre is because of its ability to encompass the creative imagination and application of metaphor to story. Given its wide range of possibilities in creating a believable reality of the fantastic, science fiction provides a compelling platform for metaphoric storytelling. Possibilities for powerful archetypes abound. Where else can you make water an actual character?
Was the ecological aspect of your stories a gradual realization or your primary objective?
My primary objective was always to tell a compelling and meaningful story and hopefully to move readers. The ecological aspects slid in unannounced like a shadow character. It made sense: the environment and how we treat it (and ourselves by extension) has always been something important to me since I was a child. So, while I was writing science fiction, it was also eco-fiction. When the brand became more known, I realised that this was the kind of science fiction I was writing most of the time.
Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?
I love writing both forms. Each form challenges in a different way and each lends itself to a different kind of story. Since I was a child, I had wanted to write novels. But as I got older and became familiar with the publishing industry, I learned that one of the best ways to get exposure and credentials to successfully publish a first novel was to get known as a published short story writer. So, I started writing short stories. I didn’t write them very well at first; they read like novel-wannabies. And that’s exactly the feedback I got from the magazines I submitted to. Then I figured it all out and I started to sell my short stories. Lots of them. And reprints too. They’ve even won some awards! When I published my first novel in 2007, I didn’t stop writing short. While my love for the novel drives my writing (I have published nine novels so far), I love the short form for its challenges and need for discipline and its powerful platform of “short.” I am particularly proud of my two latest shorts: “Alien Landscape” in The Group of Seven Reimagined (2019); and “Out of the Silence” in subTerrain Magazine, Issue 85 (2020).
Does your teaching aid your writing or the other way around?
Both. I teach writing skills to scientists, medical students and engineers. I also teach creatives who are learning to write long and short fiction. What I find is that my writing and publishing experiences—both the successes and the failures—help me share more practical lessons with my students. Experiences with my students also help my writing. In fact, my latest non-fiction book—the third book of my Alien Guidebook Series on place as character (“The Ecology of Story: World as Character”)—came largely from my experiences with my students.
Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?
I love both forms for different reasons. If I had to pick one from passion, I’d pick fiction and its expression of my imagination; if I had to pick one from utility and general satisfaction, I’d pick non-fiction for how it responds to and communicates reality. Having said that, they are more like each other than many readers realize. Both tell stories. Both use compelling narrative with a tease or hook and final conclusion. Both require research. Both must create a believable “reality” and both dispense truth—in non-fiction truth is literal and in fiction it is metaphoric. But then there are hybrids out there such as creative non-fiction and diaries or journals. And finally my latest piece of fiction—“A Diary in the Age of Water”—that reports on real events and real people.
Can you tell us about your newest book “A Diary in the Age of Water”?
The book is essentially a journey of four generations of women, who have a unique relationship with water, during climate change and water shortage. The book spans over forty years (from the 2020s to the 2060s) and into the far future, mostly through the diary of a limnologist (someone who studies freshwater), which is found by a future water-being. During the diarist’s lifetime, all things to do with water are overseen and controlled by the international giant water utility CanadaCorp—with powers to arrest and detain anyone. This is a world in which China owns America and America, in turn, owns Canada. The limnologist witnesses and suffers through severe water taxes and imposed restrictions, dark intrigue through neighbourhood water betrayals, corporate spying and espionage, and repression of her scientific freedoms. Some people die. Others disappear…
How did you come up with the concept for the book?
It started with a short story I was invited to write in 2015 about water and politics in Canada. I had long been thinking of potential ironies in Canada’s water-rich heritage. The premise I wanted to explore was the irony of people in a water-rich nation experiencing water scarcity: living under a government-imposed daily water quota of 5 litres as water bottling and utility companies took it all. I named the story “The Way of Water.” It was about a young woman (Hilda) in near-future Toronto who has run out of water credits for the public wTap; by this time houses no longer have potable water and their water taps have been cemented shut; the only way to get water is through the public wTaps—at great cost. She’s standing two metres from water—in a line of people waiting to use the tap—and dying of thirst.
“The Way of Water” captures a vision that explores the nuances of corporate and government corruption and deceit together with global resource warfare. In this near-future, Canada is mined of all its water by thirsty Chinese and US multinationals—leaving nothing for the Canadians. Rain has not fallen on Canadian soil in years due to advances in geoengineering and weather manipulation that prevent rain clouds from going anywhere north of the Canada-US border. If you’re wondering if this is possible, it’s already happening in China and surrounding countries.
Is there anything else you would like to mention or advise your readers?
I’m often also asked why I chose to write the fiction book as mostly a diary. I was writing about both the far and the near future and much of it was based—like Margaret Atwood and her books—on real events and even real people. I wanted personal relevance to what was going on, particularly with climate change. I also wanted to achieve a gritty realism of “the mundane” and a diary felt right. Lynna—the diarist—is also a reclusive inexpressive character, so I thought a personal diary would help bring out her thoughts and feelings more. There’s nothing like eves-dropping to make the mundane exciting. The diary-aspect of the book characterizes it as “mundane science fiction” by presenting an “ordinary” setting for characters to play out. The tension arises more from insidious cumulative events and circumstances that slowly grow into something incendiary.
Where can readers find your work?
In the usual places: in the local libraries or book stores, on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and through the publisher. You can also go to my writing / coaching website www.ninamunteanu.me where I keep an updated publication list and a bookstore window to other bookselling outlets. Most of my books are available in several formats: print, ebook, audiobook.
Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and award-winning novelist and short story writer. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Nina’s non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. “A Diary in the Age of Water” is her thirteenth book.
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.
1. Please tell us about your new YA novel – Virtual Age
A- Virtual Age takes place in a distant future. Our world is no longer able to support life so, in preparation for this, indoor cities were built where air and water is purified. The technology of virtual reality was adapted so people can work, play, travel, and enjoy a version of the outside world within the system. When you live your lives within a computer, you become susceptible to hacking – which could drain you of all your money as all money is accessed through computers – and your whole world could be altered and flipped upside down.
My main character is a thirteen year-old boy by the name of Aiden Murphy. He enjoyed the simple life of a teen – going to birthday parties, occasionally standing up to the school bully, and going with his family on vacations or trips to the beach. It was on one of these outings where Aiden finds himself trapped in the system, lost and all alone; unable to get home. He doesn’t know who to trust. He doesn’t know where to go. He doesn’t know what he is going to encounter within someone else’s program. He will be tested every step of the way.
2. How did you come up with the idea?
A- I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of virtual reality and wanted to come up with a story centres around that concept. Actually, I remember when I came up with the idea and some points within the plot while at work. I was working for a commercial insulating company a few years ago. One day I was sent to a job and there was no material there for me to do any work so I spent 3 hours waiting around for the material and while I did, I came up with the concept and title of my book.
Did you decide on writing a YA from the start?
A- I have had ideas for YA novels that I still want to write, however, this wasn’t one of them. I started it off as any of my other novels but then realized as I was writing that it was better suited as a YA.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
A- There are so many but one that stands out is Dimlyn – an inhabitant of the planet Seledania – she is strong, determined, stubbourn, kind, and generous. Her loyalty to her society is put to the test when she encounters a visitor from beyond the stars –a human – who is feared and hated by the whole of the society besides Dimlyn. She is willing to overlook his outer appearance despite the backlash she receives from the rest of the society. She was probably the most fun to write because she isn’t human.
When did you write the manuscript?
A- I wrote the manuscript in November of 2018. I participate in NaNoWriMo every year. November is National Novel Writing Month and authors who sign up are challenged with writing 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.
How many books have you written?
A- I have published 8 books so far. Book #9 is in editing and book #10 is ready to be edited.
Which genre interests you the most?
A- I mostly write in the sci-fi/supernatural genres.
Have you written more than one genre?
A- Aside from sci-fi/supernatural I have also written a psychological thriller, a superhero story and a collection of Christmas stories.
Do your books have a specific message for your readers?
A- I don’t often think in terms of messages within the story but when I thought about my stories I began to realize most of them did carry a similar message- that being of tolerance. We need to treat each other with the love and compassion we want for ourselves. And don’t be too quick to judge.
How many other writing projects do you have in progress?
A- Like I said I have two books in various stages of the editing process as well I have a prequel for my first novel – Time’s Hostage – I’m working on.
Where can readers connect with you?
A- They can connect with me on my Facebook page: J E McKnight – author
And they can check out all my books on my website: jemcknight.com
E-books available on all sites.
Joe McKnight was born in Fort Saskatchewan and raised in the small Alberta farming community of Partridge Hill. He started his schooling in Ardrossan, where he developed a love of story-telling. His love of writing continued to grow throughout his school years. In 2004, while upgrading his English 30, Joe’s passion increased. It was during that same year he stumbled upon a writer’s circle (offered by the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County) that provided the support and encouragement he needed. He continues to grow in his writing and looks forward to many future literary ventures.
Joe has published several books: Time’s Hostage, Fly on the Wall, The Arrival, Powerless, The Other Secret, Stocking Stuffers, Unnatural Selection, and Virtual Age. He is currently working on a new manuscript.
Joe is also an accomplished artist and his artwork also appears on the cover of From a Solitary Drop – he was commissioned to design the illustration featured on the cover.