I'm thrilled to be presenting another mini-interview on my blog, this time with poet and fiction writer Shannon Connor Winward. Her first chapbook of poetry is out, Undoing Winter, and it's a treasure. (There is a link below to the publisher's site.) She's had short stories and poetry published in various magazines (check out her bio.) I've read her new chapbook and it's just beautiful, with phrases I found myself lingering on. I've also read two of her short stories and I loved them. Her ideas and themes tend toward genre but not always, and I like writers who write outside forms and labels and not just to genre. Ray Bradbury comes to mind when I think of that kind of writer, and though he was lumped into "genre," some of my favorites by him are literary mainstream. Those are my favorite authors to follow because I always know they are delivering works from the heart, the moment, the true inspiration.
And on that note, without further delay, I give you Shannon Connor Winward.
Why do you write what you do?
I'm trying to answer this question without falling down a rabbit hole of self-analysis. How and what we write is a reflection of our psychology, don't you think? It reveals our obsessions, what we've been through or where we want to go, our unique languages and landscapes. So.
If you were to survey my stuff, you could make some educated guesses about my personal neuroses. UNDOING WINTER [http://www.shannonconnorwinward.com/?page_id=610]is pretty representative. My inner world is a broody, sensual place. It's Jungian and witchy. I'm preoccupied with spiritual questions, mythology, symbols. Womanhood, family, love and loss. The mind. Oh, and I'm a sucker for ghosts. I write in poetry and metaphors, even in my prose, because I honestly think that way. I like to provoke an emotional response. I worry the flow of language.
How does your writing process work?
Sometimes the creative spark catches just right and the piece seems to birth itself. My short story, "Ghost-Writer", recently published in Scigentasy: Gender Stories in Science Fiction [http://www.scigentasy.com/ghost-writer/], was one of those. I started the idea as a mini NANOWRIMO project and wrote it in a day and a half with very little later editing. The characters sprang like Athena, fully formed from my brain. Gotta love that.
But that's rare for me. I call myself a Turtle writer in a world of Bunnies. That is to say, a lot of my colleagues are rich with ideas and they write all.the.time. But that's not me. I can only write when something moves me to. I try to set aside time to write regularly, give myself goals and prompts - I try to hide from my husband and kids in a dark cave somewhere - but if I'm not feeling it, then I can't force it. I physically can't write unless I'm emotionally engaged. So I might nurture a single idea for months, even years.
My first novel took eight years before I was satisfied. I've got pieces even older that I tweak now and then, or plan to someday come back to when I've gained some distance or when the idea has had a chance to fully mature. Slow and steady is maybe not the best business model, but since so much spit and polish goes into my writing, when I'm finally finished with a project, I feel like it's in pretty good shape.
What are you working on now?
Well, I just had a baby this summer – the release date for UNDOING WINTER and my due date were a week apart - so I haven't been as productive as I'd like. Been, you know, otherwise occupied. That said, I have a lot of work coming out in various journals – fiction in Stupefying Stories and Spinetingler Magazine, poetry in Scheherazade’s Bequest and Kaleidoscope Magazine (a journal put out by United Disability Services that explores the experiences of disability through the arts). Locally I've been promoting the chapbook as well as an anthology that I'm close to, SOMEONE WICKED: A WRITTEN REMAINS ANTHOLOGY [http://www.smartrhino.com/books/someonewicked.html]. And I'm shopping around a novel [http://www.shannonconnorwinward.com/?page_id=613].
But as for new work, I'm enjoying a sense of newness, reading a lot, and experimenting. I just got back from a writing retreat sponsored by the Delaware Division of the Arts. I went with nothing in my creative queue and came back with a few pieces and renewed motivation. Somewhere in between washing cloth diapers and attending IEP meetings, I'll get right on that!
How does your work differ from others in the genre?
I call myself a lit-spec writer because my work straddles both realms but doesn't fit squarely in either. My writing is broody and character-centric, which is a hard sell in genre circles, but in the genre tropes that traditional lit journals tend to be wary of.
I also favor less overtly-genre themes; I play more with folklore, mythpunk, weird fiction-ish stuff than with straight-up sci-fi or fantasy (though I write that, too).
What's most distinctive, though, is that I'm compulsive about holding things back (which is funny, because in person I'm pretty straight-forward; especially if you get some rum in me). I hate literature that over-tells; as a reader I like to think and dig and chew and make discoveries, so I tend to write that way. There are a lot of layers in what I do. Symbolism, unreliable narrators, subtlety to the point of opaqueness. I absolutely require beta readers to tell me what just isn't making sense, where I need to expound. My most common response is "yeah, I'm not really… sure… what's going on here?" In an era when quick is king, my kind of writing can challenging to place, but I'm okay with that. I write what I love, and I know there are people out there who love the same things. Eventually my work finds good homes, and that makes me very happy.
Shannon Connor Winward is an American author of literary and speculative writing. Her stories have been published or are forthcoming in Stupefying Stories, Spinetingler Magazine, Scigentasy, Flash Fiction Online, Plasma Frequency Magazine, PANK, and The Vestal Review, as well as in genre anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic. Her poetry appears widely in such venues as Pedestal Magazine, Strange Horizons, Fairy Tale Magazine, Literary Mama, Hip Mama, Star*Line, Illumen, Ideomancer, and Dreamstreets, and in the SFPA’s 2012 Rhysling Anthology of Rhysling Award nominees.
Shannon recently earned Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest for short fiction, and as an emerging artist in literature by the Delaware Division of the Arts. Her debut poetry chapbook, UNDOING WINTER (Finishing Line Press), was released in 2014. Shannon is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and the Written Remains Writers Guild. She lives and writes in Newark, Delaware.
I would like to add that I really enjoyed doing this interview from Shannon. Her use of the term "unreliable narrator" most especially hit home with me. I realize not only do I love that kind of story/novel, it is a recurring theme in my own writing: the amnesia victim, the stranger, the alien, etc. And the fact that she went out of her way to say she writes "character-centric" means I will be peering at her now and again through the future to see what new and wonderful things she's doing.
Thank you, Shannon, for this wonderful interview!