Carrie Vaughn hasn’t explored novella-length stories until recently, and we were lucky enough to publish one of her first experiments with them, “Gremlin,” in our May/June issue [on sale now]. Below, she discusses how the story developed, what projects she’s working on, and more.
Asimov’s Editor: What is the story behind “Gremlin”?
CV: I’ve been writing about women aviators, particularly in World War II, for quite a while. I love their stories and that history and bringing it to light, since not a lot of people know about it. Somewhere along the line, I’m not exactly sure when, I got the idea of a helpful gremlin partnering with a WWII fighter pilot. The idea turned into a story when I made it a generational saga—a whole family of women pilots, passing along the legacy from mother to daughter, on into the future.
AE: Is this story part of a larger universe, or is it stand-alone?
CV: It stands alone. The possibilities for exploring this world and the gremlins in more detail seem obvious, but I don’t have plans for more stories right at the moment. Too many other projects are battling for my attention right now.
AE: What is your history with Asimov’s?
CV: I made my first short story sale to Asimov’s in about 2006 and “Gremlin” will be my sixth story and first novella in the magazine. Before that, I’d been submitting stories since about 1989. Of course I wanted my stories to appear in one of the premier science fiction magazines out there! It took a while to break in, but I’m here now!
AE: How do you deal with writers’ block?
CV: When I get writers’ block it’s usually because something in the story I’m working on isn’t right. I’ve made a wrong turn, or I haven’t thought things out well enough. I’ll usually take a break and work on something else for a while, to let my subconscious noodle with the problem. Or I’ll back up, try to find the spot in the manuscript where the story went off track, and then outline and brainstorm until I figure out what the right track is.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
CV: I’ve always written. I was lucky to have teachers who assigned a lot of creative writing lessons and I always loved them, and was good at them when I wasn’t very good at a lot of other things. I kept on with it throughout school until there wasn’t really anything else I wanted to do.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
VG: My most recent novels are a set of post-apocalyptic murder mysteries, Bannerless and The Wild Dead. Currently, I’m bouncing around between a lot of other projects. As you can see with “Gremlin,” I’ve been dabbling a lot with novellas, which is a length I haven’t done very much with until recently but I’m now having a good time exploring what I can do with them.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
CV: I think I usually answer this with Bujold’s Vorkosigan universe, but specifically the nice parts, because it’s got everything I love about space opera and the people generally seem nice. On the fantasy side, I’d like to live in Robin McKinley’s Damar, because of the horses.
AE: What are you reading right now?
CV: I’m on a Robin Hood kick, and I’m basically binge-reading a bunch of Robin Hood novels from the last 25 years or so. It’s interesting to see what parts of the mythology make it into all the stories, and what parts authors take liberties with.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
CV: The usual: write a lot, read a lot. But more than that, work on improving. When you read, analyze what you read—why do you like something, why do you not like something? Apply that to your own work. Always be learning.
AE: What other careers have you had, and how have they affected your writing?
CV: I did the usual round of office jobs, and if a higher-than-average number of my main characters are accountants it’s probably due to the eight years I spent as an administrative assistant at a small CPA firm. That stuff just stays with you. But my favorite day job, and the one I sometimes miss, is a bookseller at an independent bookstore, which I did for three years right out of college. There’s just something wonderful about spending every day surrounded by books and getting the right books into people’s hands. Plus, I learned a ton about the publishing and bookselling business, which helped immensely when I started writing and publishing my own novels.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?