Welcome to Tuesday, when we interview authors from our latest issue about their stories, writing processes, and inspirations! Today we’re talking with Dianna M. Williams about her story “Accidental Kaiju.”
LSQ: What were the challenges in writing from the perspective of a lava monster who is also a precocious 13-year-old girl?
Dianne: Great question. How exactly does a teenage lava monster work a cellphone? I don’t know. Very carefully, I suppose. She must poke the screen with her claws and I bet she scratches the glass all the time. I don’t know how she sets up her science experiment, either, or who makes enormous red wagons for kaiju children. But I think that’s part of the fun in writing a world like this. Readers will populate the world with thoughts and images based on their own interests. One person might wonder about how big a kaiju cellphone has to be and another might think about insurance rates in a kaiju world, but there’s room for all of that. I like to leave room in stories for the world to grow its own roots in the minds of each reader.
I think that, for me, writing from the perspective of a 13-year-old was harder than writing from the perspective of a lava monster! It’s been a long time since I was a teenager. I was an awkward kid and I have no wish to revisit those early years all over again. I never felt like I fit into the world quite right. My thoughts and feelings were so big at 13, like they couldn’t fit into the world around me, and they were still growing. It was easy to believe that there might be lava monsters out there who feel the same way. I had to change the details (I passionately wanted to be a marine biologist at Grendela’s age, which is definitely NOT suited to a lava monster) but that same awkward, out of place feeling was easy enough to find.
LSQ: Grendela’s livestream made me very curious: how do you think humans would react to a livestream from a kaiju?
Dianne: I think that humans have an enormous capacity to adapt to the strange and abnormal around us. There are all kinds of unusual things going on that I accept as part of my daily life. Whether it’s living through a historic lockdown right now, astronauts launched into space, or a viral video of a skydiving cat, life goes on for most of us. We take it all in and then we get back to our day-to-day living. I think Grendela would be equal parts fascination and vexation for the world. Some people would love her, some would hate her, but for the most part I think she’d be one more oddity on the internet that people mention at parties and then forget about. I do hope that she’d connect with some kids her own age who also care about the sciences so that she doesn’t have to feel so out of place.
LSQ: Even though Grendela and her family are monsters, they read just like a normal human family. What advice would you give on effectively writing nonhuman characters with human attributes?
Dianne: That’s such an interesting question because Grendela and her family were always just people to me. Giant people with odd rituals, yes, but Grendela still has wants and needs like any human child. The story exists because she has a need for acceptance, both within her family and within her larger community. Without that, she could do whatever she wants without looking for anyone’s approval. Families come in lots of shapes and sizes. Any sort of family you can imagine is out there somewhere. Put the right types of personalities together, the right pressure points, and you have a story. Here you have parents who want to accept Grendela, but they don’t understand her. You have a human community that doesn’t want to accept her, but they have the greatest chance to understand her. And you have one terribly awkward teenager in the middle. Grendela could just as easily be a human kid who doesn’t want to become a doctor like her parents. The biggest difference that I considered when writing her family wasn’t that they’re emotionally different than humans but that they have a different physicality. Claws instead of fingers, giant red wagons, tentacle hugs. Those things are just fun for me to write. But Grendela herself was always just a complex being trapped in a complex situation.
LSQ: Do you have any other projects you’re working on? If so, could you tell us about them?
Dianne: I always have a few projects going, but nothing is set in stone just yet. I hope that by the end of the fall you’ll be able to read a story of mine about a much smaller type of creature who wants his own type of acceptance in the world.