Leah Cypess believes in giving herself time, allowing a story to unravel through several drafts and necessary breaks. The end result is always worth the wait, and this time, for Asimov’s, it’s a “ghost” story—”A Sideways Slant of Light” [in our current issue, on sale now]. Below, Leah took the time to talk to us about writing, reading, and waiting.
Asimov’s Editor: How did this story germinate?
LC: The basic idea for the story came to me in a spark of inspiration. But the themes and details of the story—minor things like what was going to happen, who the “ghost” really was, and what the story was really about—came very slowly, over the course of several drafts.
AE: How did the title for this piece come to you?
LC: Also very slowly and after several drafts! For the longest time, I was calling it “Deathbed” as a working title. As I went along, I kept trying out new titles and discarding them. (Do you want to know what some of those possibilities were? Okay, but don’t mock me: “The Ghost of a Possibility,” “Sideways Motion,” “A Moment in a Slant of Light.”)
Finally, after probably the third revision, I added a line into the body of the story itself— and a *ping* went off in my head: This is the title! And so it was.
AE: How do you deal with writers’ block?
LC: By giving myself time. Sometimes, that actually means putting a story aside for several months (in one case that I can think of, several years), and then coming back to it. Obviously, that is not ideal, especially once deadlines come into play. Fortunately, in most cases, I find that just taking a couple of hours or weeks away can do it.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
LC: Mostly I’m working on middle grade books that are under contract. I have a trilogy of fairy-tale retellings that will be published by Random House starting in April 2021. (The first one is going to be called Thornwood, and it’s the story of Sleeping Beauty’s forgotten little sister.) But I am still trying to squeeze out the occasional short story/novelette!
“The basic idea for the story came to me in a spark of inspiration. But the themes and details of the story—minor things like what was going to happen, who the ‘ghost’ really was, and what the story was really about—came very slowly, over the course of several drafts.”
AE: What are you reading right now?
LC: At the beginning of the shutdown, I found that all I wanted to do was re-read, and embarked on a project to re-read most of David Eddings and Connie Willis. I’m still at the tail end of that! But my interest in new books is re-awakening (fortuitously, in time for the library to reopen for hold pickups), and next on my list are Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez and A Ceiling Made of Eggshells by Gail Carson Levine.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
LC: I’m on Twitter (@leahcypess); I’m not very active there socially, but I always announce new releases. I’m also on Instagram, where I mostly post pictures of nature and books, but also of my new releases. And there’s a lot more information about me (including the sign-up for my new-releases-only mailing list!) at my website, www.leahcypess.com.
Leah Cypess is the author of four young adult fantasy novels, starting with Mistwood (HarperCollins 2010), and of an upcoming middle grade fantasy novel, Thornwood, scheduled to be published by Random House in April 2021. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her family.