For my second entry in my Writers and Bloggers interview series, I got to interview a local sci-fi writer named Anna Mittower. Anna and I met during one of the many NaNoWriMo “Write-Ins,” in which NaNers drop in to do some writing, support one another, and basically shoot the breeze. Anna volunteered as the community leader of the South Charlotte region, and did a fantastic job organizing several write-ins and other events. Most importantly, Anna is quietly hilarious, possessing that dry, cutting wit that a lot of writers are known for. She runs her blog, Writer’s Nook, on that other blogging site, where she also interviews fellow writers (I was her first interview a few weeks back), posts reviews, and chats about her works-in-progress. I recommend you start following this site.
Bio: Anna Mittower currently pretends she is employed by writing while searching for a paying job on the side. She has one offically published work, the short story “The Old Has Passed Away and the New Has Come to Stay” (2005). She also has several unofficial published works in her Alma Mater’s creative writing magazine. She would like nothing better than to officially publish a novel and is working toward that end.
I know you by your pen name, Menelve. What’s the meaning of the name? I have my ideas, but I’ll let you answer…
I wouldn’t define Menelve as my pen name, never having published under it. It’s my online name used when and where I refrain from using my real one. But you are absolutely correct that it has a specific meaning. Its creation dates back to the days when I lived and breathed Lord of the Rings. A friend, at my request, translated my whole name into Quenyan. However, only Menelve, the translation of my middle name, struck my fancy. Hence why I adopted it. (I mean, who doesn’t like going by a name which means “heavenly”?)
Who are you, and how does who you are apply to you being a writer?
I’m a young twenty something fresh enough out of college and my English degree to be torn between heading back to school for an MFA or trying to establish myself in the working force. However, I’ve chosen the latter path and am currently hunting for English teaching opportunities in South Korea while still trying to write on the side. This means as a writer I’m short on life experience and long on imagination and day dreams though I hope to rectify the former and turn it into a story somehow.
How has your experiences during NaNoWriMo helped your writing? What’s the best thing for you about NaNoWriMo? The worst?
NaNoWriMo is really the sole reason I even write one novel draft a year. I’m a burst writer who prefers the pantser method and sometimes I need the kick in the pants to get the momentum going. I’ve learned how fast I can write and that I still haven’t hit my limit as of yet and I learned I write sci-fi faster than fantasy. I’ve also learned that I write best when I completely isolate myself from “input” aka reading. During November I do not touch a single book and instead focus on writing. I’m terribly inefficient at output/writing when I currently engaged in reading/input. The best thing for me about NaNo is either the comradery with fellow writers or the simple fact that I finish the month with a novel done or mostly written. Now if I could only use Camp NaNoWriMo to edit one or two drafts a year I’d be set. But that kick in the pants isn’t quite as effective for some reason.
Do you find you work best with an imposed deadline? Do you write best knowing you have 30 days to complete a 50k manuscript, or any and all edits associated?
The short answer? YES. I always work better with a deadline preferably imposed from without and not by myself. Now, there is a certain limit to which deadlines can push me, and editing, I think, won’t conform to any deadline as of yet (since I am very much a newbie to editing a full length draft of a novel). But the 50k goal for NaNoWriMo certainly pushes me hard. In fact, this past November, I imposed a secondary deadline of finishing on the 25th at a 2k per day pace. I’m very happy to say that I actually made myself complete it, but I found that I had no motivation to continue writing past the validation point of 50k. This is something I hope to tackle next year because I’d love to write 60k in a month instead of just 50k.
What’s your chosen genre?
Science fiction is my forte. I’d describe most of what I write as being soft sci-fi. Though I’d love to do military sci-fi and I think I have a few books planned which would fall into that category. Hard sci-fi, as much as I would wish to attain it, I believe is too different from what I’m able to write though I do try to lean that way when I can.
Forgive my ignorance, but what’s te difference between hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi? (I probably should know this…my nerd card might need to be revoked)
I should say your nerd card should be revoked! Tsk tsk. Hard sci-fi features stories which are closely based on actual science and they tend to throw around a good deal of technolingo (both real and made up). Soft sci-fi leans more towards plot rather than the science behind it. Think more like Star Wars. Stargate would be considered more in the hard sci-fi territory while Star Trek (my main influence) would probably land somewhere in between those two. The duology idea I mentioned as a future project would be in the gray area between sci-fi and fantasy which is not normally what I write.
I’m still keeping my nerd card. I’d always thought of “hard” sci-fi as “science fact. But I tend to lean towards sci-fi that blends fact and plot together, like, say, “Battlestar Galactica” or “Star Trek,” and, yes, even “Star Wars.” But enough of me rambling. Other than “Star Trek,” what are some of your sci-fi influences? Are you more influenced by sci-fi writing or other media, like TV or film?
Whew, I’m glad you’re at least that much of a nerd to know the basic differences. Just kidding! My sci-fi influences are mostly from movies and tv series. It’s only in the past 8 or so years that I actually began to delve into sci-fi writing (Anne McCaffrey being my favorite author and one of the first ones I read). This tends to result in my basing a lot of my visuals in my head on sci-fi media that I’ve seen (especially from ST: Voyager which is what I grew up on). But I am working on steering away from relying so heavily on my beginning influences and creating my own worlds, visuals, etc. However, I think I will always remain in awe of Anne McCaffrey’s ability to weave worlds together in a believable fashion while still mixing hard and soft sci-fi elements.
What are you currently working on? Any other projects you’ll be tackling soon?
I’m the type of person who likes to have many different projects going at once. I won’t list the ones sitting on the back burner waiting to see whether or not I ever come back to them, but here are the ones I’m currently working on.
My 2012 NaNo novel is still on the first draft. I need to finish up the first draft so that I can write the sequel for NaNo 2013. Another NaNo novel (this time from 2008) is currently partially through a rewrite/revision of the first draft. I started working on it last year and intend to get back to working on it during the first camp session for NaNo in April. But the project which I’m currently writing words for is related to an RPG game I play with a few friends. I’m in charge of the journal and I’m attempting to catch up and finish it in the next month or so. Also it is going to appear on my blog as a fiction serial (so check out my blog starting sometime next month for when the next episode goes live).
I have many ideas which wish to be turned into projects, but alas I don’t have the time for them all. Though, one idea, a duology, is doing its level best to pound down the door keeping it contained. It’s unfortunate that the idea isn’t exactly suited to be written during NaNoWriMo.
Would you consider collaborating with other writers on some of the projects you have in the back burner?
Probably not. I’ve collaborated with two different writers on two different projects before and while it was fun, it’s not something I would do all the time. Also, I’m rather possessive about my own ideas so I wouldn’t allow other writers to write them with me. However, if I was brainstorming with a fellow writer and we came up with a brilliant idea that we both loved, I’d probably be up for collaborating. I’d especially love to complete a full story via the Letter Game method. I started one once with a friend but we never finished.
By the way, if you’re interested in participating in this interview series, feel free to drop me an e-mail at email@example.com, and I’ll send you some questions to get the interview started!