Chloe Smith's new novella, Virgin Land, was released on February 7, 2023, as part of the Luna Novella series. You can order it through our site, or through all the usual retailers, in print and digital.
The launch for the 2023 novellas, is on YouTube, and you can watch it here.
Let’s start from the beginning. Who were the writers who inspired you to become an author?
That’s a hard question to answer! My writerly ambitions came on so gradually, and I’ve been a passionate reader for such a long time, that it’s really hard to pinpoint times when “I want to live inside this story,” became “I want to create something that will make others feel this way!” I’m going to answer a slightly different version of this question, if that’s okay, and highlight some authors I’ve come to love in more recent times, whose work makes me think, “If only I could do something like that!” Elizabeth Bear, Katherine Addison, N.K. Jemisin, and Martha Wells are all names that come of mind when I think of personal inspirations.
What is the very first piece of fiction you ever wrote?
I wrote a handful of short stories in high school, and then life intervened and my early career ambitions pulled me in other directions. It took many years to come back to the idea that I had stories inside of me. I started trying to pull some of them out about twelve years ago. I’ve learned a lot since then… My early efforts were certainly valuable practice, but I didn’t know anything about how to plot. Those first stories aren’t ever getting out of the trunk.
What is the hardest part of writing, in your experience?
Being consistent! I really want to write every day, but writing pulls from the same creative pool as a lot of what I do in my day job (lesson planning, giving feedback on student work), and time is always an issue. Teaching will take all the time that you are willing to give it! I’m always trying to make my own writing more of a “practice,” something that I can just dip into a little bit every day. It’s hard to switch into and out of that headspace, though.
Tell me about your book. What was the inspiration behind it?
A lot of my story ideas come from combining various bits and pieces that have been rattling around in my head and end up resonating in strange ways. The first piece of what became Virgin Land was an *insane* story that my sister repeated to me, that she had heard from a co-worker who used to live in the Australian outback, where the run-ins with wildlife were pretty intense. Apparently one time they tried to clear a bunch of land around the house, which resulted in a massive number of snakes migrating into the house itself and lurking in all kinds of surprising and horrifying places… I heard that story, and I was like, “I have to use this!” More broadly, I wanted to write about the ways that introducing any one factor into a complex ecosystem can upset it in unpredictable ways, and (as a descendent of a settler culture) I wanted to push back on the idea that any landscape could be simply a producer of bounty that the “right people” can harvest. Shayla’s story grew up in response to some of those feelings—and then I gave her the giant Victorian house that I walk past in my neighbourhood, because wanted to use it in a story as well.
Think back at your debut book. How did you approach the ‘getting published’ process? Any tips, resources that you can share with our readers?
Virgin Land is my debut book, so I don’t have to think back very far! (I’m still so giddy that it’s actually happening…) Two things have helped me the most—both in terms of strengthening my craft and in terms of finding publication. The first is having community, friends who are also writers and editors, who are farther along in their careers than I am, who have been so generous with commiseration, insights, and advice. The second is practice, both writing more and sending out more work. Persistence is important!
What is your take on social media, when it comes to being an author? Do you think that an author should have at least one channel of communication with the readers?
Social media can be very useful, but it’s not for everyone, and it certainly has its downsides. It’s such a great procrastination tool, for one thing! I don’t think writers have to communicate with their readers, although it’s certainly nice that those channels are in place and a lot of people benefit from them. I try to use my online presence to make connections with other writers and fans, to learn about new markets and other opportunities, and to share my work with others. Those the are goals, at least, even if the reality is sometimes… less positive. Currently, you can find me on Mastodon (@email@example.com) and Twitter (@chloehsmith), although I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be on the latter.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have a finished draft of a novel that I’m hoping to find representation for in the next few months. It’s a YA science fiction adventure story about trying to survive on a damaged space station. It’s got augmented reality, class conflict, and lots of teenage awkwardness. I hope that it finds a home!
Do you have other work coming out in 2023?
I have a handful of short stories scheduled for 2023. Two will be in anthologies, Museum Piece from Metaphorosis Books and From the Depths from Wyldblood. I also have a story in an upcoming issue of weird fiction magazine Bourbon Penn, about the horrors of waiting in line at the DMV, and one later in the year in Kaleidotrope magazine. All in all, 2023 is going to be a big year for me. I hope these pieces find audiences, because I’m very proud of each of them.
If you had to recommend an author and/or a book, who would it be?
I’m a few years late to this, but I finally read Rosewood, the first book in Tade Thompson’s eponymous trilogy, a couple months ago, and I thought it was amazing. He does really cool, clever things with non-chronological narrative. I’m also a huge fan of aliens that feel truly unfamiliar, and the invasive species in that book definitely do that! It was an intense, engrossing read that made me think—what more can you ask of a book?
You can order Virgin Land and the Luna Novella books, here.