the day, I was told that the best way to get a book deal was to have some short stories published. For a while, I tried write a few. I sucked at it. I’ve only been able to think of two short stories over the past few years, and both of those have turned into novels. I’ve finally accepted the obvious: I am novelist, not a short story writer. And since traditional publishing is no longer the only option, I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not. But short
stories still intrigue me. Especially
when I see authors like +Malon Edwards who has had over 20 short stories published. Out of curiosity, I begged for an interview and he agreed.
Where do you get your story ideas?
That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?
That’s a very hard question to answer because most of my story ideas just hit me. Yeah, I know; that sounds so writer cliché, but it’s true. Sometimes, out of nowhere, I’ll be minding my own business, and a nice, hearty seed of a story hits me.
Now, I should say, I’m a ‘long thinker’. Not necessarily a deep thinker, but a long thinker. I’ve been pondering story seeds and characters and ideas for years. Some since middle school. Some of those ideas and characters have gone into stories I’ve written. Most haven’t. But I still ruminate over them from time to time.
Why do you write short stories instead of novels?
Because I’m impatient. That’s the short answer.
The long answer is I truly love the short story form – both when writing and reading.
When I first started writing, way back in middle school, I wrote longhand on yellow legal pads my mom would bring home from work. I would fill up legal pad after legal pad, but I never considered them novels, even though they contained the same characters and setting.
I suppose, when I really think about it, those stories could have been considered chapters of a novel since I was developing a story arc with the same characters and setting, but I just never thought of them like that.
In the meantime, a lot of what I was reading back then were anthologies and short story collections. I know this may sound cheesy, but I was seduced by well-constructed stories. I still am. I can’t get enough of them. For a long time, when it came to the written form, there was nothing better.
And then, as I got older, I started seeking out short story collections that were interconnected, where the characters (or settings) showed up in most, if not all, the stories. Two story collections with interconnected stories still stand out to me: Junot Diaz’s Drown, and Ellen Gilchrist’s Rhoda.
I should probably also say that back then I was writing YA and literary fiction, but I tend to have interconnected stories with my spec fic stories today. The influence of Diaz and Gilchrist is still strong.
Have you ever been tempted to write a novel?
As I said before, I’m an impatient writer. There was a time when all I wrote was flash fiction because I wanted to get the story over with and move on to the next one. Needless to say, most of that writing wasn’t good.
My stories tend to be between 2,000 and 3,500 words, so I don’t tend to think in extended story arcs. I’m not really sure why that is. I blame it on impatience.
Churning out anything over 3500 words – and yeah, I know that’s the wrong word choice for writing, ‘churning’ – is difficult for me. Last year, I wrote Half Dark, a novella just over 10,000 words, and for me, that was my most difficult writing exercise to date.
But back to your question: I haven’t been tempted to write a novel, but I’ve considered it, especially after writing Half Dark. Will I do it any time soon? Probably not.
I know novels are where the industry is now, especially when it comes to speculative fiction, but I’m just not there yet. I will be one day, though.
How many short stories do you keep in circulation?
Funny you ask that.
Recently, I’ve been the most “prolific” I’ve ever been since I started writing – I had three short stories accepted in a span of three weeks, and I just got another short story accepted. Before this year, I considered it a success if I had three short stories published all year.
I always try to have at least one short story out there under consideration somewhere. Usually, when I get a rejection for a story, I note that in my spreadsheet, make any tweaks the story needs (often, editors give me good, solid feedback), and then submit the story out to the next strategically targeted market. Sometimes, within hours.
I know that doesn’t work for some people. And I know some people say you should sit on a story for a while, even after it’s been tweaked. I do my story sitting long before the first time it’s submitted, though. Once it’s tweaked, it’s ready to go back out into the world.
I see rejection, acceptance and publication as a personal challenge. I realize my story is not right for some markets, but I know it’s right for, at least, one. My challenge, which I’ve accepted with serious glee (if there can be such a thing), is to place my story in not just the best market possible, but the market that fits it best.
How many short stories have you had published?
I’ve published about 20, if you include my literary fiction. I haven’t really kept count until recently. To be honest, there was a time where I wasn’t getting anything published, so there was no reason to count.
Have you ever considered compiling all of your stories in one book?
All the time. Like I was saying before, I was very much influenced by what Junot Diaz and Ellen Gilchrist did with their collections. I even pitched a literary short story collection I called Blackbirds and Lightning Storms. I came across that pitch letter the other day.
Blackbirds and Lightning Storms wasn’t a very good idea, mainly because the stories were really nothing more than character sketches. That was when I was writing my impatient flash fiction. I’d tried to write the stories as slice-of-life, but, in truth, they were nothing more than a bit of insight into the main character’s life.
I’ve been thinking about a short story collection for a while now, though. I have the word count to fill out a collection, if I decided to use all my spec fic, but the collection wouldn’t really be cohesive. That’s the key.
Even if all of the stories aren’t interconnected, the collection has to have some cohesive flow. A purpose. Each story has to fit well next to the story it’s beside. So, I’ll think a little bit longer on that, and write some more in the meantime.
You are in a few anthologies, which one would you recommend?
Wow, that’s a hard question to answer. It’s really hard to say.
I’m truly honored to be in the Corrupts Absolutely anthology with Cat Rambo – edited by Lincoln Crisler – and my story “G-Child” was so fun to write for it.
And then there’s the truly unique Steamfunk anthology, edited by Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade. There’s really nothing out there like it right now, and I stepped out of my comfort zone for the story I have in it, “Mud Holes and Mississippi Mules”. The main characters are very different from what I’d written before.
But if I had to pick just one, I’d say the Four in the Morning anthology. I’m in it with a friend from high school, Ed Erdelac, along with Lincoln Crisler – who edited it – and Tim Marquitz. All three are damn good horror writers, and Lincoln and Tim have put together some solid anthologies.
I’d recommend Four in the Morning because it’s a unique anthology through and through. It contains four novellas, and each of us wrote ours from a different perspective in life: childhood (me), teenage years (Ed), middle-age (Tim) and old age (Lincoln).
It’s a bit disappointing that the anthology didn’t sell as well as we’d liked, but I’m still proud of it and my novella, Half Dark. I took chances with the language, story and characters, and I’m quite pleased with the outcome. To date, it’s still the most challenging story I’ve ever written.
You have stories written from a male POV and some from female POVs.
Is it ever hard to write from a female POV? When I write from a male POV I’m always scared that I sound like a girl.
I must say it’s a bit tripped out; these days, I almost prefer writing from a female POV. I seem to get a bit more characterization and character development from a female POV than a male POV.
It’s funny (and a tad embarrassing), but I became comfortable writing from a female POV by playing text-based fantasy role-playing MUDs in college. I played a MUD where role-playing was strictly enforced, which meant you had to be in character all the time. After playing hours and hours on end, every day, it was quite easy to get into my characters’ heads when I logged on.
I’m not sure why I decided to play female characters, but one day I did and I found it a very different experience. And I don’t just mean how other players treated me. I was able to explore more about my characters’ goals, motivations and personality. Again, I’m not sure why that is. Maybe because I was stepping out of male stereotypes.
Now, I’m not saying that I portray female characters and a female POV 100 percent accurate, because I’m sure I don’t. And I’m not saying I understand women, because, if you ask my wife, I’m sure she’ll say I don’t. But I am more comfortable in my skin writing female characters.
I will say that I do my best to portray female characters as accurately as possible, and not as stereotypes. I try to choose the appropriate word choice and language in general, since women and men use language differently. My wife and I talk about this often; there is male language and female language.
And whenever I’m in doubt, I consult my wife. She’s always given me good feedback and she’s never wrong.
I think it will always be hard for me to write from a female POV, but I think I’m getting a bit better at it.
What inspired you to start writing stories?
That’s such a good question. My inspiration to write stories came from two places: my love of astronomy, and my sister.
When I was little, for the longest time I wanted to be an astronomer. I loved astronomy. I couldn’t get enough of star charts and books about the universe and planets.
It’s funny, when I look back, you’d probably think I would have wanted to be an astronaut, but I didn’t. I wanted to study the stars and planets from afar. I was fascinated by the fact that you could look through a telescope and see back in time.
Remember those yellow legal pads I was telling you about? Well, I used to copy, word-for-word, facts about the stars and planets in them. I would even draw pictures of the planets. I truly loved astronomy.
And then, one day, I found out astrophysics was even a cooler science of the stars and planets. But then, I also found out that you had to know a lot of math, too, so that nixed it for me. Math and me didn’t get along. We never did.
So my love of astronomy and stars and planets waned, but only a bit. I found new interest in science fiction because of it, and my sister had a far amount of sci fi books. She’s ten years older than me, so when she was away at college, I read all of her sci fi. That was how I first came across Dune.
During the summer, my sister would come home from college and encourage me to write short stories. It made sense to her, since she was doing the same at college.
Interestingly enough, it never really occured to me to write fiction at that time. I just wanted to write every single fact about Mercury known to man in a yellow legal pad.
To this day, I still talk to my sister about my writing, and writing in general. We go on for hours and hours about it. She is still a major inspiration in my life, and it pleases me to no end when she reads my stories and gets excited about them.
Do you experience writer’s block?
No. Remember, I’m a long thinker, so by the time I’m ready to write, I’m very impatient to get some words down.
There are times when I don’t quite know exactly the sentence I want to start a story with, or the scene to end a story, but after a bit long thinking I’m ready to go.
Do you have anything specific you want to share?
I love to write, I love to read, and I love talking about both. Also, and this goes with the territory, I love talking about my own writing, both the good and the bad. I welcome criticism. I mean, how else am I going to get better?
So, feel free to drop me a line on Google Plus at +Malon Edwards
or on my website at http://eastofmars.blogspot.com/
so we can talk about books, my writing, your writing, someone else’s writing, sci fi, fantasy, or whatever else that interests you.
So there you have it. A glimpse into the mind of a short story writer.
BTW, most of the links to his stories can be found on his blog, but he also has a Goodreads page, which can be found here.