Glancing out of the tower window, I noticed a tiny seaworthy craft in the moat. I had my minions roll a boulder from the drain tunnel and emptied the moat, inviting Kiona Smith-Strickland into the tank. With the water level rising, I asked a few questions.
Why writing? What drew you to it? Why do you continue?
Because I can’t draw or sing. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly why I started writing. I had this really amazing teacher in 3rd grade, Mrs. Ledoux, and she worked not-so-minor miracles to develop my creativity and my interest in reading and stories. I kept it up because I enjoyed it and because I was lucky enough to have encouragement from my parents and from a series of awesome teachers and a few great friends to swap stories with. Back in high school, my friend Tracy and I used to spend hours on the phone (typical) reading each other bits of our latest work (less typical). It stayed an on-again, off-again hobby for most of my adult life, but after a few weird turns of events over the last couple of years, I’ve managed to make a career out of the thing I’ve wanted to do since third grade. Yay!
If you were freezing to death and the only thing left to burn were the books in your library, what 5 books would you burn last? (And yes, everything else burnable has been burnt.)
I think maybe I’d rather freeze to death! If I’ve got to pick the five books in my library that I wouldn’t want to endure my last hypothermic moments on Earth without, though, I’ll go with Myths to Live By (Joseph Cambell), FEED (Mira Grant – and if I can sneak the whole Newsflesh trilogy in here as one book, I’ll do it; I’m a conniving little snot like that), Deathstalker (Simon R. Green), Sunshine (Robin McKinley), and Tales from Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffett).
What’s the most challenging thing you’ve done (in life or in writing (your choice))?
Definitely the fire training component at STCW training (it’s a merchant marine certification – yes, I was a card-carrying merchant seaman for a while, though I never actually took a job on a ship. Sometimes I still think about it). I’m five-foot-nothing and have never been exactly the athletic type. It was insanely hot that afternoon, and the bunker gear was all much too big for me because I was the first female student that particular training school had ever had. Ever. At lunch break, I staggered back to the bunkroom and called my dad in tears, but he talked me through it, and I got back out there. The other students were really nice (James, dude, if you’re reading this, thanks for grabbing the Giant Extinguisher of Doom for me). The actual playing-with-fire part made the rest totally worth it, and in retrospect, it’s also one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.
What’s one word or phrase that drives you nuts? Why?
The current pet peeve is “I’m excited for (insert date or event here).” Learn to use prepositions correctly, people! You can be excited for someone if something great just happened to them, as in, “Oh, Cindy! You won the Nobel Prize! I’m so excited for you!” You can only be excited about an upcoming date or event, as in, “I’m so excited about the Nobel Prize ceremony! My friend Cindy is going to win!” I don’t know who Cindy is, but if she wants to give me a share of the check…
Do you have a favorite character you’ve created? If so, who is it and why?
I honestly really like Nicole from “If All Else Perished.” I’m guessing I’m not allowed to pick my fictionalized ghostly version of John Paul Jones, since, you know, I didn’t create the esteemed Capt. Jones.
Creepiest place you’ve ever been? Has it appeared in your fiction? Why or Why not?
It seems like “funeral home, around midnight” should be a shoo-in for this question, but it wasn’t honestly all that creepy. It was just really, really quiet.
What’s the best rejection you’ve ever received?
Do you mean me, personally, or my writing? Because I could tell you some stories… Anyway, I got a very kindly-worded letter recently, though I’m not sure whether it’s considered polite to name the publisher in an anecdote like this even when you’re complimenting them. They were very nice and very professional, and when I asked for more detailed feedback and advice on how to improve, they took the time out of their very busy schedule to give me some very thoughtful comments, and I’m still very grateful for that.
How did you get that scar?
Stupidity. I got the one at the base of the thumb on my left hand on a sharp bit of rock about 60 feet deep in Lake Belton in central Texas. My dive partner must have lectured me a million times about wearing gloves, but I didn’t listen.
What song would precede your entrance into a room if we all had personal soundtracks?
I tried to refer this question to my husband, and he stammered at me a bit, so I guess I’m on my own here. I’m going to go with “Coastal Confessions” by Jimmy Buffett. Some people might think “Fruitcakes” is a better fit, though.
Promote yourself and/or your writing.
Sweet! I’m a General now! I mean, um… My short story “If All Else Perished” appears in the anthology Still Hungry for Your Love from Riverdale Avenue Books, and it made its first appearance ever in the charity anthology FEAR: A Modern Anthology of Horror and Terror from Crooked Cat Books. It’s about a zombie-tracking dog named Cora, her human partner Nicole, and their team’s last mission. My delightfully morbid story “Autopsy Room Three” will be in the anthology Cadavers from Fringeworks, whose release date is yet to come. If you’re into science and technology, I’m also a regular contributor to the online edition of Popular Mechanics – just drop by www.popularmechanics.com and type my name into the search bar.
Final thoughts before you run screaming for your life?
Thanks so much for hosting me for this interview! Your story “Ashes, Ashes” was funny and touching and creepy all at the same time, and I’m honored to be in such talented company!
Thank you, General Smith-Strickland, for the kind words and intriguing answers. I’ve set some fires through the exit tunnel. Take your gear, I’m sure you’ll make it out before anything gets singed. There’ll be a dive suit waiting halfway through (I forgot the gloves though). There’s still a bit of flooding.