As she mentions below, Carrie Vaughn’s novelette “The Huntsman and the Beast” is her fifth appearance in our magazine [on sale now], making her a regular contributor—and our readers are grateful for it! In this blog post, she gives us an insight into her writing process and her recent forays into new genres.
Asimov’s Editor: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?
CV: To be completely honest, the idea for “The Huntsman and the Beast” came from watching the live-action Disney Beauty and the Beast film last year. This is a story that’s had dozens of retellings, novel, and film versions. One of my favorite writers, Robin McKinley, has written several novel-length retellings. They’re all great and all have something interesting about them, but I suddenly wanted to see something really different. It’s traditionally such a feminine story, with women at the center of them dealing with women’s perspectives on relationships, I wanted to put a man in the center of the story and see how that changed things. How does he deal with being a prisoner, the monstrousness of his captor, etc.
AE: Do you particularly relate to any of the characters in this story?
CV: I relate to both Jack and the Beast, who are both doing the best they can in an unusual situation. They’re both quite practical and down to earth, and I like that. The fun in writing the story was seeing how I could get them to realize that they’re well suited for each other, despite their trust issues. The story really has more in common with a modern romance than a traditional fairy tale.
AE: What is your history with Asimov’s?
CV: I started sending stories to Asimov’s when I was something like 16 years old. I was a very energetic aspiring writer back then. But I wasn’t a very good writer, so it took me until about 2006, after over a decade of trying, to actually sell a story to the magazine. It was always a huge goal of mine, and it’s great to think that I’m now almost a “regular” contributor. This is my fifth appearance in the magazine.
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
CV: This is something of a tough question, because on the one hand, I don’t consciously set out to write about current events. I feel like a lot of my writing is based in fairy tales and mythology or conventional genre tropes, and I’m in conversation more with other literature and entertainment than politics or current events. But then when I really look at my work—particularly the novels and stories in my Bannerless series, that extrapolates what a civilization-ending collapse would look like based on current events—of course all the current issues are there. It seeps in whether I want it to or not. I can’t talk about people, politics, or how they all work together without incorporating what I see happening around me.
AE: What is your process?
CV: I write a little bit every day, usually on a couple of different projects—a novel and a couple of short stories. I do some outlining but never enough—it’s hard to predict where a story’s going to go until I’m working on it. I try to know the end before I start so I know where I’m aiming. I almost always get stuck and have to walk away to clear my head. I also do a lot of revising—almost everything I write goes through at least a couple major drafts.
AE: How do you deal with writers’ block?
CV: Writers’ block is usually a sign that the story has gone awry and I have to figure out why it isn’t working—the plot took a wrong turn, the characters aren’t active or engaged, whatever. I try to take a break and work on something else so my subconscious can noodle with the problem. I also try to step away from the computer, write long hand, brainstorm ridiculous solutions to the problem, and so on. Doing something different can usually break through the block.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
CV: My most recent novel, The Wild Dead, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery, was just released over the summer. I’ve got a number of short stories in the hopper, and I’m starting to dive into the world of novellas—I haven’t really written at that length before and I’m finding it’s perfect for certain stories. I have one, “Gremlin,” that will be out in Asimov’s in the near future, I think. I’m also working on a big fat (for me) fantasy novel, which is very different from a lot of my other work, so that’s fun.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
CV: That’s a tough one, though I find myself going back and forth between either Star Trek or Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan universe. The real question with each of those is where would I actually fit in those universes? They both have some pretty nasty corners to them. Of course I would like to live in one of the nice corners, with all of the great parts of living in a highly-technological space-faring society, and not the more violent and oppressive corners.
AE: What are you reading right now?
CV: I’ve really been bouncing around between lots of different things. I just read Witchmark by C.L. Polk, which is a lovely steampunkish fantasy with a sweet romance, and Naomi Novik’s new fantasy Spinning Silver. I also dug into my long-running TBR stack and read An Exchange of Hostages by Susan R. Matthews.
AE: What other careers have you had, and how have they affected your writing?
CV: I spent eight years as an administrative assistant in an accounting office. The most direct result of this is I have a shockingly high number of main characters who are accountants or office managers (most notably Celia West in my Golden Age superhero novels), mostly because that’s such an ordinary mundane thing that it’s surprising to see stories written about it, and I like to surprise readers.
I also spent a few years out of college working in an independent bookstore and that taught me so much about the book business and what readers are looking for and what they’ll put up with that I’m still grateful for that time.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing? (IE: Social media handles, website URL . . .)
CV: My website is www.carrievaughn.com
I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carrie.vaughn
I have a blog at https://carriev.wordpress.com/