Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thirteen Stigmata of Nicole Cushing

My series of interviews with the 2010-2011 New Bizarro Authors continues with Nicole Cushing, author of How to Eat Fried Furries

How did your becoming one of the New Bizarro Authors come about?
Back in 2009 I was beginning to hang around the Bizarro Central message board and saw the posting of submission guidelines for the NBAS. I had some weird short stories that other publishers liked, but they all thought the stories were a little too weird. I started reading about the sort of fiction the Bizarros were creating, and it seemed like a good fit for this particular project, so I sent the stories to Eraserhead, collected as How To Eat Fried Furries.

Of the 2010-2011 New Bizarro writers, you're the only one with a short story collection. What are your feelings on short stories vs. novels?
I love both, but they really are two different experiences (both as a reader and a writer). The short story is engineered to deliver intensity. The novel is engineered to deliver a more lavish, complex story,
sometimes told at a bit more of a recreational pace. There are some tales better told as a short story, and others better told as a novel. I think, in speculative fiction, the novel is the ideal form to tell stories
set in a particularly intricate secondary world or future world. I think the short story is the ideal form for a “gut punch” sort of tale that delivers a visceral emotional effect. Neither is superior to other.

How much contact to you have with the other New Bizarro authors? I know I picture you all hanging out at the Hall of Justice like the Superfriends.

We all met at last year's BizarroCon, and there's a lot of helpful discussion between authors via the net. I like the Superfriends comparison, though. If I were one of the WonderTwins, then all I'd have to do is say “Shape of...a full-time author!”

Was there a book that made you reallize you wanted to be a writer?
Not one book, in particular. Growing up, I read a fair number of comic books and scary stuff written for kids – but no one book jumps out as “the one” that inspired me. But I think that, from an early age, I so enjoyed books – all books, really – that I knew I wanted to write them. I can remember wanting to be an author since first or second grade.

Who are some of your influences?
I'm probably not the best judge of my own work, but I'll venture to say that as far as literary influences go... Phillip K. Dick, Thomas Ligotti, H.P. Lovecraft, and – especially recently – Gary Braunbeck,

What's your favorite book?
That's an almost-impossible question. There are so many great ones out there that it's very difficult to choose just one, and if you ask me tomorrow I'll give you a different answer. Just for today, I'll say
that it's between PKD's The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Ligotti's Teatro Grottesco.

Who's your favorite author?
Again, an almost-impossible question. There are so many great authors out there. So, again, I'll narrow it down between two. For short stories, my favorite author is Thomas Ligotti. At the novel length, my favorite author is Phillip K. Dick.

What's the best book you've read in the last six months?
I think I just read The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch in the past six months and that's now my favorite book. But just to avoid repetition, I'll also mention this great book, Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts

Which 1980's teen comedy is your favorite?
Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It's all about ditching school in order to get an education. If more kids followed Ferris' example, we'd have a smarter country.

If you were a professional wrestler, what would your stage name be?
The truth is writer-themed wrestling personas have been slim pickings, historically. The only one that comes to mind was “The Genius” Lanny Poffo, who in the late-80s WWF would recite a poem or two upon entering the ring. Continuing, then, on the poetry theme, I would call myself “Lady Lazarus” (after the Sylvia Plath work of the same name). I would take on all comers, male and female, and would humiliate my unconscious foes by stuffing the pages from trade paperback editions of Ariel into
their mouths. My signature move would be a sleeper hold I'd call “the oven”. But my weakness would be that if opponents taunted me too much and lowered my self-esteem, I'd put “the oven” on myself and pass out.

Who was your favorite character on Scooby Doo?
I really didn't care for any of them. All of the mysteries would have been solved much sooner if Scooby had been a talking cat.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
I'm not sure how much my advice is worth, since I'm a newer author, myself. And, of course, I can only share what's worked for me. But since you asked, here goes..

Turn off the television. Unless you plan to be a screenwriter, don't watch movies. Then, read as much fiction as you possibly can. If you plan to be a genre writer then there's a decided advantage to reading genre fiction, but the most important thing is to become well-acquainted with the topography of language. Then write fiction every day. Every day, especially at first. It might only be 250 words a day at first, and that's okay. I started writing 250-500 words a day and now I'm up to writing 1,000 or 2,000 words at a sitting – it just took a couple of years of steady practice to get to that point.

Read every day, write every day. It's one of those things that's simple, but not easy.

What's next for Nicole Cushing?
I'm about half-way through the first draft of a science fiction novel. There's humor here and there, but nothing quite so silly as Fried Furries. I'm really enjoying the process of growing and trying new things.

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