Issue 043 Author Interview: Victoria Zelvin and “Dead Katherine”

How are you liking Issue 043 so far? If you just can’t get enough of those stellar stories, then join us as we delve deeper with our author interviews! Victoria Zelvin sits with us today to discuss her story “Dead Katherine.”

LSQ: This story is a unique blend of post-apocalyptic, Western, and sci-fi. Were these elements difficult to meld? What was your writing process like?

Victoria: One of my favorite parts of the term speculative fiction is how much can fit under the umbrella. Personally, I do not find that blending genres is too terribly difficult, and enjoy the challenge that comes with fitting the pieces together, with genre and character. My writing process for this story started with the idea for the characters, two people sharing one body, and I started to circle out from there. The lone gunslinger type of character naturally evokes a Western, and with things like Westworld in popular culture I have seen more of an understanding that these archetypes can be used across genres. Then that couples with the fact that some of my favorite stories recently have taken an expected genre and set it so far after the “apocalypse” that this is the new normal. While I am starting to grow more and more tired of apocalypse, world ending stories, I’m very fond of stories that take place after the dust has settled and human beings continue on like we always do, for better or for worse.

LSQ: I had a hunch that the characters sporting “sunburn” were actually suffering from radiation poisoning, and was quite pleased when I was right. What advice do you have for effectively using foreshadowing like you did in this story?

Victoria: Good catch! The idea of radiation poisoning has always been terrifying to me, and something so slow acting works very well to communicate that something is wrong, something is off, before it is actually revealed what — and that is in this case a damaged alien spaceship. I like to start at the end of my stories, and then work backward from there. I am a very piecemeal drafter, starting in different spots, writing a couple paragraphs or pages, and then going back to connect the dots. I think that doing that helps me figure out what I want to foreshadow, because I have written the end already and can write it into the beginning next. If you’re a person who drafts from beginning to end, I’d definitely recommend going back and figuring out what you can pepper in to tease the reader. In my own work, I’ve liked to try to tell the reader something about how it ends in the first couple pages, if not in the first paragraph.

LSQ: Who and what are your major sources of inspiration?

Victoria: I try to read and watch a bit of everything, though I am clearly a lot more into speculative fiction than anything else. Some of my formative inspiration comes from authors such as Tamora Pierce and Octavia Butler. I also think there’s a lot that we can learn about storytelling from movies and video games, and I’ve been very interested in how the latter casts the player as a protagonist, and how the shape of the story changes depending on gameplay choices.

LSQ: Are there any other projects you’re currently working on? If so, could you tell us a bit about them?

Victoria: I am currently working on my first novel, a murder mystery set in a world where everyone knows how they’re going to die from the day they’re born. I also have a few other short stories out in the world, making the rounds, and if you’re interested you can check out for updates as I have them.