So, it’s been a while since I last did an interview. Mostly because my reading speed couldn’t catch up with new stories while finishing up old ones.
Aden: Hello everybody! It is I, the walking disappointment of mankind, Aden Ng! We’re back with another author interview. It’s a little special, though not too much so. Like how we started, I’m doing one this month in occurrence with the Summer Writing Project, a yearly writing competition hosted by JukePop Serials and 1888 Center! I have my own personal pick this year for winner, and she is kind enough to come talk about her story, ‘Come Back to the Swamp‘. Laura Morrison is here with Bernice, and the aptly named, Miss Swamp! Hello ladies and Swamp. How are you? Care for an introduction?
Laura: Hi Aden! Thank you so much for having us. We’re excited to be here—
Swamp: Speak for yourself. I’m here under duress. I need to get back to the swamp.
Bernice: Shut up, Swamp.
Swamp: *gives Bernice a cold stare
Bernice: What? Geez. Be nice to Aden. Take this as an opportunity, as the ambassador of the swamp, to spread the message of the swamp.
Laura: Guys, I was trying to introduce myself.
Bernice and Swamp: Sorry.
Laura: Anyway! Thanks, Aden. I’m Laura. I have a few serials on Jukepop, one of which is my Summer Writing Project entry, Come Back to the Swamp. I also have a short story published in issue 2 of Farstrider Magazine.
Bernice: My name’s Bernice. I’m a masters candidate studying environmental science. My emphasis is in invasive species. I’m doing my research in Cleary Swamp, where I, unfortunately, made the acquaintance of this old hag. *waves a hand at Swamp
Swamp: I really need to get back to the swamp. When can I get back to the swamp?
Laura: The quicker you answer your questions, the quicker you can get back.
Swamp: Fine. I’m the swamp’s ambassador. I help the swamp. Happy? Next question, please.
Aden: Okay. You’re really grumpy, you know that? There’s this king I know that’s kind of like that too. Anyway, Laura, what’s ‘Come Back to the Swamp’ about? Any summary? Spoiler free, of course.
Laura: Hmm… How to explain in a spoiler-free way… Uh, the main character is Bernice. She’s trying to do some research in Cleary Swamp, but things go crazy. An old lady — Bernice nicknames her Swamp — shows up and starts making all kind of trouble for Bernice and her acquaintance, Kevin. There’s some insanity, ecology, a space opera, and a good amount of snarkiness. My goal is for it to be a nice balance of creepy and humorous, and so far comments from readers seem to be indicating my goal is working out alright.
Bernice: Humorous!? I gotta say, it doesn’t seem too funny to me. What sort of sadistic freaks would find humour in this story?
Laura: Umm… *Clears throat
Bernice: I mean, really.
Laura: I see what you’re saying. See, Aden, Bernice doesn’t have an easy time of it in this book.
Swamp: It’s a matter of perspective. If Bernice would just stop fighting the inevitable, things would go easier for her.
Bernice: Hey! Who asked you?
Laura: Ladies! Please! Stop fighting! Aden doesn’t want to hear all this! I’m really sorry, Aden. If I’d known Swamp would be behaving like this, I’d have brought Kevin along instead.
Aden: No, no. I’m used to it now. Everyone fights, so I’ve now installed an off switch in my brain to turn off the fear of arguments. Anyway, let’s get down to the interesting stuff. You know what’s my favourite part about the story? Your side-tracking space opera about Captain Joe and the crew of the Space Mantis. Can you ladies tell me more about that? Also, Laura, do you have plans for a Space Mantis spin-off?
Bernice: Ooh! Ooh! I’ll take this question! Space Mantis is amazing. It’s the best show ever. Captain Joe’s the main character. The Mantis is his ship. He and his crew are sorta semi-criminal types, but totally for good reasons like Robin Hood or something. Most of the government people hate them, and most of the bad guys hate them, but all the underdog types think they’re awesome heroes and they’re always having super cool adventures. There’s Dr. Angela who’s a really tough, no-nonsense lady and she’s also really good with a gun when she’s not doctoring. And there’s Infiniti—she’s a cyborg who totally has a thing for Captain Joe. He likes her too, but he’s all creeped out about it because she’s a robot. And then there’s Marcus—he’s the mechanic and he’s totally dreamy and I adore him. There’s a few other crew members too but I know we gotta keep this short–
Swamp: Wow. No wonder the swamp wanted you. It saw that the most exciting thing you have in your life is some pathetic television show. It knew you wouldn’t be leaving much behind.
Bernice: Whatever. You’ve never seen it. What do you know?
Bernice: I’d like to hear about that spin-off idea, too, Laura. I’d totally read that.
Laura: I would absolutely love to do a Space Mantis spin-off. I had no idea readers would be so into the idea, but now that I see how much people like it, I think it would be super fun. As long as I can balance the cheesiness factor well enough and keep the joke going long enough. Because, if I did write it, it would definitely be predominantly a joke. Very over-the-top and poking fun at the genre which is already pretty over-the-top already.
Aden: I’m personally stoked for a spin-off. Swamp, question. Bernice mentions you’re the ambassador for the swamp. What’s the job scope? Do you have meetings? Like, an ambassadors of the environment meet-up or something? Oh, oh! Is there an ambassador of the underground tunnels?
Swamp: No underground tunnels or meetings to speak of. It’s just me and the swamp, so any information that needs conveying just goes straight from the swamp to my brain. My main job is to confront humans in the swamp who are making trouble in the swamp. Also, training my replacement will be my duty once the replacement owns up to her responsibilities. *narrows eyes at Bernice
Aden: Oh, that’s such a boring answer. Disappointing, Swamp. Disappointing. Laura! In an age of action packed stories of seriousness and brooding, how do you find yourself writing comedy? And not just comedy, but one of mixed seriousness. I mean, in this novella of yours, you’ve managed to keep both the hahas and the ahs! That takes some serious skills.
Laura: Well, thank you very much! That’s mighty nice of you to say. But I don’t think it really takes any particular skill, except perhaps the skill of being able to go with my gut and stop trying to write a thing the “right” way or in the same way that current books are generally written. Writing funny is just what I do. When I started writing, I felt like I had to be all serious and heavy because that’s just how books generally are, but it didn’t work for me. My sense of humor just kept wanting to insert itself into my stories. It was when I decided to stop fighting the silly stuff that writing really started working for me. I think Come Back to the Swamp manages to be both serious and funny because I myself am that way. I have a tendency to get all broody and dark about the state of the world, but I also have a pretty strong sense of humor which is probably at least in part a defense mechanism. So when I’m writing something that’s getting too heavy, I do feel this need to cut it with humor, just like in real life if things are getting too intense I feel the need to make a joke to cut the tension.
Aden: Well, it takes some sort of talent to find humour in the serious. Next! Standard question. What are all three of your thoughts on each other? Stink? Stench? Smell? I don’t know why I picked olfactory as my sense of choice, but thoughts?
Bernice: Ooh, fun question. I’ll start. As for Laura, I haven’t really known her too long, but so far I think she’s doing a good job of telling my story. She’s got a degree in environmental science like me, so we have a lot in common and I think she gets me in a way that other people might not. We’re really shockingly similar in a lot of ways, I’ve found. As for Swamp, I gotta say she’s a bit of a jerk how she’s trying to ruin my life and all. I try to remind myself it’s probably not technically her fault and that she’s sorta a slave to a power that has control of her, but pfft… whatever… she’s a jerk.
Swamp: The feeling’s mutual, Bernice. I don’t appreciate how much you’re fighting the inevitable. It makes my job hard. Aden, Bernice is a nightmare. Plain and simple. That’s all I have to say about her. Laura would have been a much better candidate to fill the position. I wish I’d crossed paths with her before Bernice.
Laura: Uhh…thanks? Yikes. Um, what do I think of Bernice and Swamp… Well, Bernice is pretty cool. I’m always fond of people who are into helping the environment. And I’m always fond of fans of space operas. So she’s two for two. As for Swamp, uh, I should probably keep my thoughts to myself. If you can’t say anything nice…
Aden: Oh, that’s interesting. Laura, so Swamp here says you’d make a good candidate. Does that mean you have an interest in the planty planty grass grass section of life? Is there where you got the inspiration to write this story from? And do all of you concur that Laura would be a good ambassador for the swamp?
Laura: Yes indeed, I have much interest in planty planty grass grass stuff. Back when I worked in my field, I did stuff with invasive plants. I spent a lot of time wading around in swamps getting rid of bad plants and putting good plants in. But I must disagree with Swamp; I would make a horrible ambassador for the swamp. For one thing, I have a family that needs me, and for another thing, I’m not a fan of confrontations, and being the swamp ambassador seems to consist pretty much of getting in people’s faces and yelling at them and drugging them so the swamp can get in their minds and see if they’re worth possessing. It doesn’t sound like one of the most meaningful of career choices to me.
Swamp: I disagree. There is no more noble calling than that of ambassador of the swamp. Laura’s family would get along fine without her after a period of adjustment. And Laura would adjust to being the swamp just fine.
Bernice: Better her than me!
Aden: Oof. Bernice is so heartless now.
Bernice: Sorry if I’m being a jerk, Aden. I’ve been through a lot lately. Lots of drama, I tell ya.
Aden: You know, Swamp reminds me a couple of my previous guests. And I posed this same question to them and I’m intrigue at the answer. Is Swamp capable of cracking jokes? I mean, Bernice here doesn’t do jokes either, but she’s just plain silly at times so that’s funny, *to Bernice* no offence. But Swamp? Can she do stand-up at comedy mic night?
Bernice: I think a lot of my humor is mostly confined to my thoughts.
Swamp: No, I do not crack jokes. Not unless a joke came into the swamp and tried to cut apart a tree. Then I’d crack it’s skull.
Bernice: See, Swamp, that sounded like a joke to me.
Aden: Well, that was disappointing. Did sound like a joke though. But I expected that. Swamp doesn’t look like someone who I’d play Mario Kart with. Well, here we go. Last question, and everyone can feel free to chime in. It’s gonna be deep. Like, Inception deep. *Clears throat* In a time where most stories have an overtly serious undertone, comedy is a rare gem amongst them. How do you think your story affects your life, and what do you hope your stories do for others? Also, in not a completely unrelated not, is there a place for comedy in today’s society?
Bernice: Ya know, I think the only thing about this story that’s funny is my thoughts and comments. Everything else in it is pretty serious. So, go me! I’m hilarious! I made this thing a comedy by virtue of my personality.
Swamp: *Rolls eyes
Bernice: But what I hope people get out of this story is just that they read it, because it would be nice for people to learn about what happened to me. It’s pretty crazy stuff.
Swamp: I don’t have much of a sense of humor. All this comedy talk doesn’t resonate.
Laura: Yeah, you’re not going to get many deep thoughts from Swamp, Aden. OK, how does my story affect my life… hmm… well I know how my life affects my story, which is maybe sorta the same thing. I joke about serious stuff, probably as a way of dealing with it and processing it. Because that’s how I deal with seriousness. When I write a thing it sorta just turns into a comedy, I guess. I never set out with the intentional idea of writing comedies. I just set out to write, and funny is the kind of writing that happens. As for what I hope my stories do for others, I just hope they enjoy them as a whole, and connect with the characters, and that they laugh at all the right parts. I think there is definitely a place in today’s society for comedy. So much of the world is so, so, so dark—or that’s just what the media’s focusing on, and thus what people hear about, but that’s another issue. Anyway, with all that darkness so much in the forefront, if there’s never anything that makes us laugh at ourselves we run the risk of becoming these super serious, bleak, mopey dorks who have lost all perspective. Who wants that? Plus, I think in this insanely defensive culture where so many people seem to feel so personally attacked by anything that happens that they disagree with, one of the best ways to make a point is by making a joke instead of making an attack.
Aden: Honestly, that is the outlook I’m getting when I read ‘Come Back to the Swamp’. There’s this constant reminder that in all the bad, there’s a little good and funny in everything, and that’s what really caught my attention, outside from the obviously fun absurdity of it all.
Laura: I’m so glad the story connected with you in that way, Aden. If I’d had a coherent, intentional goal when writing this, I feel like that might have been it.
Aden: With that though, we’ve come to the end of the interview. Thank you ladies and Swamp-woman-thing for coming to this little sit-down. Are there any parting words you’d like to tell our audience?
Laura: Thank you so much for the interview. It was fun, even though Swamp was a bit of a jerk. And many thanks to whoever has read Come Back to the Swamp, and whoever might read it! Also, Aden, I’ve really been enjoying The 19th Hour, and it’s sad you couldn’t get more chapters up before the contest cutoff! I’m excited to see how it ends. I just adore stories that play with time in the way that you’re doing.
Bernice: Yeah, thank you Aden. I wish I could read The 19th Hour too, but life being what it is I don’t see that happening. *Glares at Swamp*. Please, everyone, read Come Back to the Swamp. My story needs to be told. It’ll make me feel so much better about the outcome if I know my experiences weren’t for nothing. I hope that’s not too spoilery.
*Silence while everyone looks at Swamp, waiting for her to take her turn*
Swamp: Oh hey, I totally zoned out while you all were blathering. Are we done? Can we go now?
Laura: *Sighs* Yes. We can go now. Thanks again, Aden. I gotta drop these ladies off. They don’t have cars.