We have Daniel Ausema here today – author of ‘A Map Is Not a World’ – and we talk about serial fiction, game-writing and… drugged-out jellyfish. I have always been a fan of Dan’s work. He is the master of world-building and crafty imagery. Make sure you pick up and read one of his stories (they’re everywhere!). You’ll be impressed as I always am – guaranteed!
Dan, it’s so cool to have you here today. Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Well, I’m a stay-at-home dad of three children, which has been my primary job for almost a decade. Before that, I’d always worked with children, in schools and in alternative, outside-the-school-system education. So I didn’t have much experience with babies at the time our oldest was born, but in many ways it just made sense for me to be the one to slide into that at-home role for a few years.
I really adore the concept of mapwalkers in A Map is Not a World. Can you tell me how it all came about?
I… don’t completely remember. I know the story itself came from an art prompt a member of my writing group found online and used as a writing exercise. And certainly the phrase that gives the story its title was an idea I’d learned in classes years before. How those two things came together to inspire the mapwalkers is one of those mysteries of creativity. But I do recall part of the story’s back-and-forth structure and the way the team of mapwalkers work together were both inspired in a nonlinear way by Paul Witcover’s strange and fascinating novel Tumbling After.
You have published many short fiction in highly respectable magazines. Can you share with us the ins and outs of short fiction publishing?
I don’t know if there’s any one narrative that tells the ins and outs. You write short stories. You read short stories. Many and in many different venues. You revise and polish and agonize over them. Then you get over your self-doubting uncertainties and press send.
Yes, the last part is usually the hardest, isn’t it? Maybe that’s the trick 🙂 So how many stories do you submit per year? What are your favourite magazines? What do you do with rejection letters? Where can we read some of your work?
I’ve sent out well over a hundred submissions each year in recent years. That sounds like a lot, but some markets are so fast that you can quickly send it back out several times in a short span, so it isn’t as if I have a hundred stories out at once. Rejection letters usually get sent into an email folder where I never look at them again, unless there’s something useful in the editors’ response that I want to address in revising the story.
Favorite magazines include everything I’ve had a story in, of course! I don’t want to insult any of them by leaving one out, but I was very proud to have a story in Electric Velocipede in its final issue. That was a market I’d subscribed to and had long hoped to crack. Daily Science Fiction remains my one SFWA pro sale. And Penumbra certainly deserves mention, as they’ve taken three of my stories and have been a joy to work with.
A mostly up-to-date bibliography is at my blog.
Tell us about your awesome series Spire City. And where can we go to read it?
Spire City is about a group of people who are unfairly targeted by those in power and who choose to band together to fight back. It’s a steampunk story of people who’ve been infected by a mad science disease that is turning them into animals. When you’ve got no power, fighting back can look like many different things, and many parts of their fight will change over the course of the series.
The series is available from many online bookstores, including Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, etc. Some of them put the new episodes up immediately when they’re released, while others can take a little while. But you can also get it directly from the publisher, Musa as soon as it’s released.
A new episode comes out every three weeks. Episode 11 will be next, on June 27. That puts the season finale, episode 13, in the first week of August. Then we’ll be taking a few months off before season 2 begins, probably in November.
Excellent. Now why serial fiction?
Why serial fiction… The short answer is that I love experimenting with form, and this gave me a chance to explore how it would affect the story. For readers what I think it gives is a very different rhythm to the reading. Certainly someone can wait for the last episode of the season and then binge read through them all. Some readers will certainly prefer that, and I encourage them to do so if that’s what works for them.
But for other readers, the sense of waiting is built into the story, the sense of knowing these characters for an extended time. It creates a different level of engagement for those readers who enjoy that.
Yes, I do love the idea. I think it’s a great way to interact with your readers. Now, you recently joined the scriptwriters of Clash! Dawn of Steam. Tell us how you landed this job? What’s it like writing for a game? Where can we go to read more about it?
It’s been a fun experience to be part of. I’m not at all involved in the game play or even writing the copy for the cards and rule book and all that. But Mad Ape Games had this cool game they’d developed, and they wanted some stories to flesh out the imaginary world it’s set in. So they approached me to write eight different stories. It’s a fantasy world very much in the mold of the fantasy you’ll find in other games, but with some fun twists, most notably the steampunk trappings as things like elves and dwarves and beast-men and -women begin to navigate in this strange new world of airships and other new technology.
The Kickstarter campaign in April raised over $10k in pledges. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite enough for the full, multi-deck, many-options launch. So they spent the past few weeks tinkering with the plans for a scaled-back launch that will still include a full two-player deck of cards. That campaign launched this morning (as I’m writing this)! June 16. It will last one month. That link is here.
If you choose a level that includes the World Book, it has all eight of my stories as well as concept art and other cool things about the world.
That is so cool! All you gamers and steampunk lovers, you need to check this out. Dan’s stories are awesome, seriously, often with bizarre details. In fact, Dan, what’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever written?
Cool, the title sounds bizarre enough. What’s it about?
A drugged-out jellyfish drives a sports car around (underwater) until he’s duped into a plot to overthrow the ocean’s whale rulers… and ends up transformed into an underwater superhero. Of sorts. I’m not sure even I’m likely to top that for bizarreness.
Haha, crazy! I just listened to it and the warning in the beginning is quite funny. Ha! Thanks for that. So Dan, last question, what are you writing now? What are your current projects?
I’m working on another novella set there, not a sequel but one with a similar vibe and aesthetic. I’m also getting ready to go through a round of self-directed edits on season three of Spire City (the final season).
Beyond that, I always try to make room for new short stories and poems.
Sounds like a lot of cool projects in the works. Best of luck with that, Dan. Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us today!
Thanks for the excellent questions, Lydia!
For more about the amazing Daniel Ausema, visit his Twigs and Brambles blog.