Bewildering Stories Interviews
Lewayne L. White
Bewildering Stories was first conceived as a way to break the bottleneck of print publishing in science fiction. It soon expanded its scope to include all “speculative” writing, however loosely it may be defined. It has long had a kind of educational mission, to encourage new and aspiring writers. Our Associate Editors’ work for our regular issues is mirrored by that of the Review Board for our Quarterly and Annual Reviews. The Review Editors are our flag-bearers; they ensure that Bewildering Stories holds its own with the best current literature on line and in print. This interview expresses our appreciation to one of our Review Editors.
How did you become involved with Bewildering Stories and when?
I submitted a short story called “Hail the Bob” to Bewildering Stories waaaaaay back in issue 86. I slouched around the magazine for a while, submitting the odd thing now and again, entering a few of Bewildering Stories’ contests just under the wire.
Perhaps my ability to manage to get just enough done just before the deadline was enough to impress Don. Eventually he asked, since I’m just hanging around anyway, if I’d join the Review Board. I couldn’t tell you when that actually happened. Like a lot of major events in one’s life, it seems like it happened “just yesterday” and “forever ago” simultaneously.
Is there anything you’d like to tell Bewildering Stories authors to do or not do?
Please, read other fiction and non-fiction — and Bewildering Stories — before submitting. Know what exists, so you can avoid repeating it, or so you can figure out a new way to say it.
Pay attention to the minutiae of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Errors in these areas may not rate immediate rejection, though I suspect a few editors would prefer it, but they do not endear you to the Review Board readers.
Whether you are submitting to a weekly online e-zine or taking a shot at Asimov’s or the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, please, please, be a professional.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of working as an Editor for Bewildering Stories?
I love having an excuse to say, “Look, I’ll get to that other thing in a minute. I’ve got to review the newest Bewildering Stories first.” I like being part of a writing community that isn’t just about sitting around patting each other on the back. And I enjoy being involved with a group that has life experiences vastly different from my own.
I dislike that I often come to any discussions of the current issue too late to really contribute as much as I’d like. Mostly, I like being able to answer, “So, what do you do?” with “I’m a Review Board Member, Editor, and Submissions Auditor for a speculative fiction magazine.”
What do you do in real life?
I’m a stay-at-home parent during the day, a writer of prose fiction and screenplays, a beginning filmmaker, and I look for ways to make a living doing things I actually like to do.
What is your occupation?
I work at night for the physical plant of a local community college. Without getting into the boring details of the job, I’m one of the guys in a uniform shirt with my name over the pocket, one who keeps the workings of the college going.
What do you like most and least about it?
I like that I’m mostly left alone to work. I dislike that I miss out on a lot of events that are scheduled for people with free time in the evenings.
What advice would you give to a young person going into your line of work?
If you mean writing, I recommend two things: read and write. If you mean the campus job, I recommend getting a good education so you can avoid what I do.
What do you do in your spare time aside from Bewildering Stories?
Spare time? I listen to audiobooks while working to compensate for the lack of time to sit and actually read. I write. And I watch movies and occasionally play a video game or two (for research purpose, I swear). If I’m really ambitious, I fiddle with a short film I’m producing. I also try to spend as much of that time as I can with my family.
Where do you live, if you don’t mind saying?
Near Des Moines, Iowa. The middle of the Midwest of the United States.
Where do you think you might like to live, either in reality or in your imagination?
I’m usually okay with living about where I am.
What’s your favorite book?
Oh... I should be prepared for this sort of thing, but I never am... Often, it’s the one I’m currently reading or listening to...
Who are your favorite authors, and what about their works appeals to you most?
This question always makes me self-conscious, because I feel obligated to come up with “real” authors, a subject Don and I have discussed before. While I respect and enjoy Orwell, Vonnegut, Twain, and the like, I’m mostly likely to be reading Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Robert B. Parker, Lawrence Block, Ed McBain, Elmore Leonard, and Carl Hiassen. I often claim that’s because they translate better as audiobooks because of the dialogue and the narrative style. But, I really just like them.
If you could invite any other writer to dinner who would ask and why?
Mark Twain. I’d love to know if his quick wit exists outside of the written page, and I’d enjoy spending time with a master storyteller.
Also Stephen King, even though I’ve read or heard a million interviews and listened to “On Writing,” which is more a memoir than writing manual, I’d still just like to hang out with King for an evening to see what he’s like when he’s “just Steve,” instead of that “writer fella.”
What’s the last book that you read and really enjoyed?
Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment. I love the language and the satire of almost any of the Discworld books, but as a fan of well-done female characters, I particularly loved this one. Not only for taking the “girl disguised as a boy” trope and beating it to death, but for breathing new life into it again afterward.
If you could be any character — other than one of your own — from a book or movie, who would it be? Why?
Robert B. Parker’s private investigator and modern knight, Spenser. He’s tough, cool, skilled, quick with a retort or his fists, and lives in a Raymond Chandler world.
How do you think literature might be used in education, especially in the age of the Internet?
The same way it is now, but, given the world of distractions available, it will likely require more creativity from the educator. Stories have always been and hopefully always will be with us.
Do you write yourself? What kind of stuff?
Yes. Whatever I’m driven to write at the time. Usually I write genre fiction, because it’s usually what I read.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been telling stories since I was a child, and “writing” them for nearly as long as I’ve known how to write. I first began seriously submitting for publication around 1998.
What made you want to start writing?
Seemed like easy money. No, I’ve just always told stories, and admired people who could make a living doing it. I wanted to be one of those people.
Some authors have said that their parents were supportive of their efforts when young, and some have said they had to sneak around and hide. What was the case with you?
My parents never told me I couldn’t do it. It was just one of those things I did, and if I could do something special with it, great. If I didn’t do anything special with it, that was okay, too. This probably suggests that they were uninterested, which I don’t think was accurate. I just don’t know that it would ever be something “real” to them.
My mother was a nurse, and my father has served in various roles in national defense, and later law enforcement. Their jobs had a concreteness that I think makes it hard for them to perceive writing or film making as a “career.”
Where do you get your ideas?
This guy down the street sells them to me. Used to be a quarter apiece, but now it’s up to almost a buck. If I catch him on Tuesdays he does BOGO.
Seriously, they just arrive. I see something, and something else, there’s a connection between them, and a story starts to grow. Once in a while it’s a lightning bolt of a fully formed story, but that happens rarely.
Where do you write?
Wherever I can set my laptop down long enough to disgorge the stuff banging around in my head. I have an “office,” but I rarely get writing done there.
When do you write: at set times or as the mood moves you?
Mostly when I can jam it in to the schedule. I try to write to a schedule, but the world rarely cooperates. Usually when my daughter is napping, or in the few quiet moments at work.
Some writers say that they have to write a certain amount of words every day. Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block?
I mostly write as much as I can. I rarely have writer’s block, because I usually have stuff that I haven’t had a chance to get written yet. I’m also usually working on more than one project at a time. If one stalls, I switch to another and come back later.
Who proofreads and critiques your work?
Depends on the medium and subject matter. Scripts usually go to a handful of people I respect from the Iowa Scriptwriters Alliance, and eventually get a staged reading. Prose usually goes to my wife and a couple of teachers I’ve known forever, all of whom will tell me if something I wrote doesn’t work.
Do you have a favorite among your works?
There are several I enjoy, but “Family Farm” is especially personal, as are “Payback” and “Snowfall.” They are also examples of the “connections” I mentioned earlier. A couple of people or events came together and grew new fictional stories.
Do you have a favorite character? If so, who is it, and what makes it your favorite?
Among my own writing? Not a specific character. I usually like the protagonist of whatever I’m working on, though sometimes I become attached to a supporting character or, on a happy day, the antagonist. I love it when the villain can be one I can really like.
Who drives a story: you or your characters?
Usually me, though once in a while, I catch a character doing something unexpected.
What do you consider the strangest thing you’ve ever written?
Ooooo. My Bewildering Stories bibliography alone is loaded with strange. I don’t know that any are “strangest.”
Almost every writer is inspired by someone or something else. What inspirations have you found?
I don’t know that I’m directly inspired by anyone in particular. Mostly I’m inspired by the raw desire to make a living doing something I want to do. I’m certainly influenced by most of the writers I’ve mentioned above. In fact, recently, I realized how much of an influence Rod Serling’s work had been on the way I look at writing, both prose and script.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
By this point, anyone still reading my rambling responses is begging me to stop. Thanks a lot for putting up with it all. I really appreciate it.
Copyright © 2012 by
Lewayne L. White
and Bewildering Stories