Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Interview with Susan McDonough-Wachtman, author of Lizzie in the Land Beyond

Today on the Speculative Fiction Showcase we have great pleasure in asking Susan McDonough Wachtman our crucial interview questions. Susan's novel Lizzie in the Land Beyond was recently featured on here as a new release.

Apple or PC?
I’m using a Chromebook right now. It’s borrowed from the school district where I work. I started out years ago with paper and pencil, and I still revert to that sometimes. Eventually I bought an  iMac with the prize money I won when Matriarchs: Eliza’s Revenge won the genre novel contest from the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association in 2000. I thought I had it made then. I created a homepage on Netscape and I was part of an online women’s writing group. I was cutting edge. I don’t know what happened to all that momentum.

Do you use Scrivener or Word? Or another word-processing program? Or even pen and paper?
I use Google docs. I used to love Appleworks.

Do you have any pets? Do they influence your writing?
If my cat influenced my writing, she would make me stop. She is jealous of the laptop.

Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?

Are you hooked on any of the shows on the sci-fi channel? If so, which one(s)?
We rarely watch live TV and we don’t get the sci-fi channel. I get dvds from the library. We watch Dr. Who, X-Files, Chuck, Firefly, Castle, Warehouse 13, Primeval (until it got too stupid), Eureka...

What is your view of Star Wars, and the latest episode (if seen)?
I haven’t seen the latest Star Wars. I’m old and I like the classic first three best.

What is your favourite Science Fiction (or Fantasy) film?
I love low-key, fantasy-in-the-real-world movies like Joe vs. the Volcano and American Dreamer. I also love Neverwhere, book and movie. And Matilda, book and movie.

Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?
I like knowing about the bleeding edge and I enjoy reading about the latest tech developments, but I am at the point where learning a new way to do things is too brain-intensive (and buying new stuff is too expensive!), so I’m inclined to stick with what I have.

Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?
I’m not a gamer. I have occasionally gotten hooked on a puzzle game like Nancy Drew or something from Big Fish, but my son tells me that does NOT constitute gaming. The book I’m working on now is a paranormal thriller set in Alaska and is partly inspired by the scenes in an adventure game I played where the player got clues from frozen people. 

Do you cook? What is your best/favorite/most popular recipe?
I crock pot. I make veggie spaghetti sauce in the crock pot and serve it with whole wheat noodles and homemade bread (from a bread machine).

Do you have a garden? Have you ever grown your own food?
I love to garden, but I’ve never been able to grow much -- slugs and deer have been my biggest enemies, plus lack of time and energy. I ate some of my beans and peas yesterday, but my plants have never produced enough for a meal. I really, really love fresh tomatoes, but I am not good at growing tomatoes at all.

Have you ever been to Starbucks?
Yes, but not often. Too expensive. Sometimes really nice parents/ students give me gift cards. I like French vanilla mochas.

Would you prefer an independent bookshop, or a big chain?
Any bookshop is a good bookshop, but independents are usually more fun.

Do you have your own office, study or writing space, or can you write in a cafe or the library?
I read in cafes and libraries. I write at home at the kitchen table or sitting on the couch. However, when I sit on the couch, my cat (Sky) assumes that it’s laptime, so if I put the Chromebook on my lap she gets angry and she’ll rip up any papers I have nearby. 

Who do you consider are your major influences in writing?
They are legion: Elizabeth Peters, Connie Willis, R.A. McAvoy, Mary Stewart, Mary Norton, Edith Nesbit, Louisa May Alcott, and Zola Helen Ross (My first writing teacher who was an author. She was one of the founders of PNWA).

What writer, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz) - She did it all -- a professional degree, kids, loads of different kinds of books, and the best heroine ever, Amelia Peabody.  I’d also like to see Zola Helen Ross  again and tell her thank you.

If you could have any director to shoot the film of your book(s), who would you choose?
Julie Taymor

How would you define Speculative Fiction?
Speculative Fiction is where the writer says, “I wonder what would happen if...” and then takes off. Matriarchs started as my angry woman book after my first husband left in 1997. I was angry at him and I was angry at what I saw happening to the environment -- which I saw then as being primarily the responsibility of men (who were running all the major corporations and most countries). I thought, “What would if the only adults settling a new planet were women?” I took an environmental science class and read Healing Gaia: Practical Medicine for the Planet by James Lovelock, and my planet, Gaia, was born. As I got further into it (and less angry), I began thinking about the problems with my idea, and imagining what a really radical feminist might do if she had the technology to mess with the gene pool. Women don’t always make better decisions than men, they just make different kinds of mistakes. And now that genetic engineering tech has advanced exponentially with CRISPR, I think my scenario is even more likely than it was fifteen years ago.

On a scale of 1-10, how eccentric are you?
I had to ask my husband this one. I’m sorry to say he answered, “You’re not very eccentric.” I’d have to say a three. I would like to be more eccentric than I am (like Amelia Peabody), but I’m pretty introverted and not very daring. However, my son says when you look around my house you “get an eccentric vibe.” I’m not sure what he means by that.

Do you consider yourself a slave to the muse?
Not at all. I’m not a slave. I am addicted. I get high when I have a good writing session. 

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 About Susan McDonough Wachtman:

Susan McDonough-Wachtman is a writer, mother, wife, gardener, teacher, cat lover and book addict. She self-published her books Snail’s Pace and Arabella’s Gift after both were accepted for publication by companies which subsequently went out of business. Matriarchs:Eliza’s Revenge won best genre novel from the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. Lizzie in the Land Beyond is her newest offering. Ferry Findings, an anthology of short stories, will be published by Kitsap Publishing in 2016. “Well written,” “quirky sense of humor,” and “doesn’t fit the genre” are the comments she hears most about her books and stories.

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