This is the first in what I hope will become a great database of what makes a writer tick, advice, thoughts, creative techniques and inspiration. So, without further ado, the first author to raise his hand is Atom Yang, one of MLR Presses newest authors. His short story, Red Envelope, will be published later this year as part of a winter holiday series, The Spirit of Giving, on December 4, 2015
Atom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it’d be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too–so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He’s named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character his father loved, in case you were wondering. He is currently working on three stories: one involves food, another involves a meteor, and the last one involves witches.
CC: What gets you in the mood to write?
AY: Although I have a daily writing practice and work at it like the job it is (while having fun), there are times that I am more in the mood to write—usually, when there’s an idea that won’t stop asking me to come out and play, deadlines that I need to meet, and bills that I’ve got to pay.
CC: How do you write?
AY: I create 3-4 documents: Outline, Cast, and Story (if I’m writing in a subgenre such as paranormal, I’ll create a fourth document for Powers). The outline (which contains a one-sentence premise at the top for focus) helps me work out the plot so that I know when things are going to happen, and what needs to happen, and if there are any holes that need patching; it’s roughly based on a three-act, Aristotelean structure, which is what I learned when I studied screenwriting. For the cast, I write brief character sketches that detail their physical and cultural features, as well as their motivations and obstacles. The story is the story, and uses the outline and cast as guides, with any deviation requiring me to alter the other two documents (actually, any change in any one document necessitates changing the other two) so that I always have an accurate map of what’s going on. The extra document, for describing paranormal powers or sci-fi rules, maintains consistency and reasonability for believable world building.
CC: Where do you write?
AY: Anywhere that’s cool or air conditioned! In order of preference: sofa, bed, desk, dining table, café. Sofa and bed are really tied since I’m in the same position on both (I can see why Mark Twain wrote in bed, it’s so comfortable!). I used to write standing up, after reading that Ernest Hemingway did that, and really enjoyed doing that (you’ll live longer, too, according to research), but then over the years, my knees and back started to hurt, so that was the end of that.
CC: Why do you write?
AY: There was a time when I quit writing, because I didn’t see the value in it, and every time I wrote it was painful. That I’m writing now, I owe to feeling safe and supported enough that I can recognize its value and experience it differently than the first half of my life.
I write because it’s fun, because it helps me empathize with people and understand events, because it shares my philosophy of life and creates emotional experiences that might be transformative, and because what I want to read isn’t readily available. I write so that others feel like they have permission to imagine and create, too. I also write for those that might need a little guidance: how to come out, maintain a relationship, or have (better) sex. Writing is my contribution to the world, to paraphrase Keith Haring, and I write because I find it personally meaningful. Socially, I may not be curing cancer, but that scientist, doctor, and patient might need some entertainment to help them get through their lives, and that’s important.
CC: If you could meet one author to have dinner with, living or dead, who would it be?
AY: Alan Moore, although he’s more of a comic book writer than an author (novelist); he’s the reason I became a writer! However, if it has to be an author, I think for alive I would choose Haruki Murakami, whose Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is one of my favorite novels; or for dead I’d pick Madeline L’Engle, for A Wrinkle in Time, and because she seemed like such a warm, sweet, wise woman—I’d love to discuss religion and her faith with her over a great meal.
Thank you Atom, for being my first guinea pig, I think it went great and I’ve learned an interesting way to approach writing. I think I might try this method out on one of my future works. You can get in touch with Atom at his social media locations.
Be sure to check back next week and learn how Saxon Hawke does things.