New Author Spotlight: Malcolm A. Schmitz
What drew you to writing stories that move across genres? Is this a new direction for your writing?
No, in fact, it’s one of the directions I love to explore most. The novel I independently published, The Court of Stars, can best be described as “a medieval knight fends off an alien invasion.” Most of my stories have a genre-crossing element or two; it’s one of the best things about writing speculative fiction.
The theme for this issue is “Pronouns and Genders.” Did you write “The Captain’s Sphere” for the theme, or was it something that you’d already completed that seemed to fit?
I more or less wrote it for the theme. I have a longer novel planned in this universe. As I was reading over the description of this issue, it occurred to me that I had no idea how the gender system in this world worked. I knew that trans people existed (because that’s how Ava showed up), but considering that it’s a pseudo-Victorian setting, I knew I’d have to do some extra worldbuilding to figure out how society functioned around gender. So I decided to sit down and write that out, and that’s where this story came from. I discovered some things about my world along the way.
There’s so much to love about your story; but in this question, since the issue is called “Pronouns and Genders,” let’s focus on the pronouns in your story – specifically, how your main character, Ava, uses (different) pronouns as a source of power, and draws power from them; much as her society draws power from the angels Ava hunts, in fact. Was that a deliberate metaphorical choice?
I wish I could say that it was, but Ava’s gender-related power is a very different thing from her society’s. Ava’s society is built on exploitation of angels; Ava’s gender isn’t exploitative (though she benefits from the labours of the lower classes, her being a woman isn’t really a bad thing and it doesn’t hurt anyone else). I’m going to explore some of the themes in the longer work I’m writing about her.
And in this question, let’s focus on gender. This is another part of the story we loved – the “messiness” of the plot, which went so well with Ava’s character. Your story refuses to resolve its plot. Is that a deliberate choice, to coincide with Ava’s gender?
Any semblance of plot is purely coincidental. 🙂 Jokes aside, yes, it was. For some people, gender and pronouns can definitely be a story with a plot arc and a defined conclusion. But for a lot of people – even a lot of trans and gender-non-conforming people – gender and pronouns are more of a series of vignettes than anything else. There are large portions of my life in which my gender doesn’t affect me at all, and even when it does affect me, it changes from person to person and place to place. I thought anything I’d write about gender and pronouns would have to reflect that.
Tell us something about your future writing projects. Are you developing more short stories? Do you have a novel in the works?
Dear lord, where to begin.
I have a good number of works in progress. I’m currently editing The Sun King, which is the sequel to my published novel. I’m also working on a novel about Ava and her further adventures, a heist story involving vampires, and a dieselpunk retelling of Sleeping Beauty.
Where is your favorite writing place? Can you draw us a visual picture of the kind of space you create for yourself when you write?
I write wherever I can, to be honest. Anywhere where there’s a minimum of distractions and a large amount of tea (or, in a pinch, very sugary coffee). The start of The Sun King was written when I was stranded overnight in an airport and I had to keep myself occupied. Usually, though, I write at home, or on the way to work. The most important thing is to make sure your inner space is clear. Meditate or drink tea, something like that to clear your mind, so that you don’t have a million other thoughts buzzing around your brain.
What’s a question that you wish someone would ask, but no one ever has?
“Where do your characters come from?” Not “where do you get your ideas,” but “where do your characters come from?”
What’s the answer to that question?
Most of them just walk in, haha. When I start to write a story, it’s usually because a character has grabbed me by the collar and said “my world is important, you’re going to write about it now.”
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think is important or that readers might want to know?
I mentioned earlier that I wrote a book in which a medieval knight fends off an alien invasion. It’s called The Court of Stars and it’s currently for sale on Amazon. And if you keep your eye on it, sometime in the next couple months, it’s going to be free for a little while, because the second book in the series is coming out!