LSQ has a group of wonderful editors reading and preparing stories for every issue. They’ve graciously agreed to answer some questions so we can all get to know them a bit better. Today we get to learn more about Dana Mele.
Hi Dana! First off, please tell us a bit about yourself. Have any super powers or secret talents?
I have no super powers. I have bouts of anxiety and mild mania. So let’s say I could fly. I get really freaked out by heights, and in my hyper productive states I’d spend all night flying around the house bumping into things because that way I wouldn’t have to confront my fear of heights, but would still feel like I wasn’t wasting my productivity. On the other hand, you could flip it and say anxiety and mild mania are kind of like underrated superpowers because the first makes me an extremely good planner and the second makes me extremely productive.
What’s your favorite indulgence?
Homemade chocolate cake, Hershey’s box recipe, with olive oil.
What random objects do you use to bookmark your books?
I don’t. I am an exclusively electronic reader. And I don’t even click on the bookmark tabs. I’m a place marker renegade.
What are your thoughts on fanfiction?
If it’s good fiction, it’s good fiction. But it should bring something new to the table, even within the established world. In college I re-imagined Lord of the Rings with a parallel set of female characters who continually cleared barriers for Tolkien’s characters, unbeknownst to them, and crossed paths a few times. I think it was like Sam’s sister, Boromir’s sister, Aragorn’s secret half-sister, and an unrelated wizard, elf, half-elf, and a fairy. It wasn’t great literature, but it made a fun play for my friends and I to read aloud. The Sisterhood of the Ring. It still exists somewhere in paper form.
What do you think about YA literature and its popularity with adults?
It’s fantastic. I read it, I write it, I’m always looking for more. YA is so widely relatable, I think, because that is such an important and momentous time in our lives that we never stop being able to relate to it. YA tends to touch on core and fundamental human concepts of truth, fairness, love, loss, even violence and death in a way that doesn’t sentimentalize too much. Well, good YA does. Compare The Fault in Our Stars to Me Before You. Two very different portrayals of love, sickness/injury, and loss. The Fault in Our Stars is beautiful, sad, and truthful, and the other tries really hard to be that, and in the process dehumanizes disabled people for the sake of wringing tears out of readers. I think teens are too cynical (in the very best way) to be taken in by that kind of blatant manipulation and that’s why YA doesn’t get away with that sort of thing. I could be wrong. But I hope not.
Do you think much about whether the stories in LSQ or your own stories are respected as literature?
I do think about it. I read an opinion piece by Jennifer Weiner just the other day touching on the subject of how women’s lit isn’t reviewed the same way as other forms of literature. The same could be said of spec-lit, but it’s of course particularly true of woman authors. So there’s an intersection there too. I do think there’s a value to being “respected as literature” or at least “regarded as literature.” Unless you’re aiming to write pulp, you have every right to have your work regarded as literature. LSQ publishes beautifully crafted work, tightly wrought stories with richly imagined worlds and precisely chosen language. These stories deserve no title less than literature.
Do you think things are getting better for women in speculative fiction? How about in other areas?
I couldn’t honestly answer that question. I know that technically things are getting better for women in speculative fiction, but I don’t see anything like what I imagine to be equitable representation, and men still dominate the mass consumption franchises—the work that makes its way into pop culture, because people like David Benioff and D.B. Weiss or Frank Darabont think it will resonate with the masses. It does, of course. But I don’t buy that only men are writing super special mega stories that are capable of capturing hearts and minds en masse.
Most writers are lifelong readers and books tend to be important to them. What books or stories have most influenced your life (genre stories or otherwise)?
Peter Pan: terrifying story about children who are are heartless and don’t understand the concepts of life and death. Little Women: baffling story of a girl who somehow forgives her evil sister for burning the manuscript she’s been working on for the past few years. Lord of the Rings: story about how men go really, really bad when they’re given a bit of power, and the other races of the world suffer trying to clean that mess up. I Want to Go Home: story about a boy who’s best at everything but hates winning, is sent to a sports camp and repeatedly trying to escape. The more the counselors try to force him to have planned, organized fun, the more he wreaks anarchic chaos on the place, eventually taking over and redefining the word. It’s one of my favorite books to this day and the reason I decided, at age 8, that I wanted to be a writer.
I’m always fascinated by where and how people work. What is your writing setup like? Any tools you enjoy using?
I mostly write and work on my couch. My office/guest room is overflowing with all kinds of things that don’t belong in an office. Hopefully I’ll be moving into a new living space soon, with an office that is just an office.
What got you excited about being an editor for LSQ?
I submitted a story. It got rejected. I read some of the other stories and got very into it. I was a screener for another magazine and it’s interesting to see how different magazines attract different styles and types of submissions. Even controlling for the type that there are no men in the submission pile here. The fact that LSQ only publishes stories by women is what continually makes me excited to be about LSQ. It makes me proud.
What gets you excited about an LSQ submission?
I like being grabbed from the first sentence. That doesn’t mean a story has to start in the middle of a fistfight or something. It could be just the voice that grabs me, or the atmosphere. And actually, voice is huge for me. A strong voice distinguishes a perfectly fine story from a perfectly fantastic one. My favorite LSQ submission that I’ve read recently was a story called “The Garden.” It began “The air in the garden was green.” That’s enough to pull me in. I love a first line that plants a question in my mind.
What have you been up to lately? Do you have any books out right now? Are you working on anything new?
I am working on a book, mired in revisions. It’s a YA dystopian thing I’ve been writing on and off for a while. In the meantime it’s short stories and news articles. I edit Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, a Catskills-based arts and lit journal on the side.
Where can we learn more about you and your writing?