Bewildering Stories Interviews
Bewildering Stories is a big operation, as our Information page shows. Our Associate Editors are an elite group. Their critiques of submissions not only make Bewildering Stories possible, they are essential to making it the best it can be. The Associate Editors necessarily work anonymously, “behind the scenes.” Now we express our appreciation to them with a series of personal interviews.
How did you come in contact with Bewildering Stories?
Years ago, a friend sent me a link to Don Webb’s “Santa Claus Died in Lisbon.” I read the commentary and then went on to read the entire issue. Since then, I’ve been a constant reader.
What is your occupation? What do you do in real life?
IRL, eh? I work in digital and social marketing which basically means I’m a matchmaker for people and brands. My job is not just to make you buy a product but to help connect people with products that they will love for a lifetime. I don’t want you to just throw one of my brands in your cart — I want you to get the tattoo and name your firstborn after it.
What advice would you give to a young person going into your line of work?
Marketing or writing in general? In both cases, I’d say it’s important to have a clear sense of self. Both professions involve connecting with other people so I think one of the tendencies is to be a mirror and give people what they say they want. But to excel at either craft, you need to understand what people truly want in their secret hearts, things that even they don’t admit to wanting, and you need to love people.
I find people fascinating — their flaws most of all. Writing and marketing are both about psychology and empathy. If you aren’t interested in humanity, you probably aren’t going to write very well and you certainly won’t make a good marketer.
I think Augusten Burroughs was very right when he wrote: “I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” Even the best of us are deeply flawed, and even the worst of us was once a faultless child. Writing is about seeing the flaws and the child beneath whatever exteriors we’ve created over the years.
How has your occupation influenced your writing?
I think my writing has more influenced my marketing than vice-versa. Good marketing is about story-telling and I’ve been telling stories since I could talk and writing them since I could wrap my hand around a crayon.
* * *
What would you like readers to learn or gain from what you write?
It’s not something I think about when I write a story. The reader brings his or her own story with them to the table — so they may see something different in a character or a situation than what I intended. That’s not good or bad, it’s just how we connect as humans. Whether you like or hate my stories, I hope you feel something and that they make you think about yourself and the world around you.
How long have you been writing?
I drew my first story when I was three. No words, just images — sort of like a cave drawing. It was about a talking tree that granted wishes. In the story, it gave the little girl (brown-haired, green-eyed and remarkably looking like a stick figure version of me) a ballerina Barbie. Although real-life trees have given me many gifts over the years, not once have they produced a Barbie. So maybe this story was my first experience with advertising that didn’t live up to the hype too.
What made you want to start writing?
I have to agree with Stephen King and a number of other writers that you don’t necessarily “want” to start writing. Writers write, just like painters paint, and singers sing. It’s part of who you are and not really a conscious decision. It’s more the way you view and relate to the world. I connect with the world around me through words. Someone else may connect using dance or song or by running.
Do you have a favourite among your works?
Picking a favorite story is like choosing your favorite child. Everyone claims they don’t have a favorite, but they do in their secret heart. For me, it would probably be “Bred in the Bone,” “Fine Print” or “More than Molasses.”
Do you have a favourite character in your own stories? In some other writer’s?
Too many to name them all, but I love Shadow in American Gods, the witches in Terry Prachett’s Discworld books, Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing, and Pearl in The Scarlet Letter.
Almost every writer is inspired by someone or something else. What inspirations have you found?
Again, there are too many to name them all, but I love Neil Gaiman, Terry Prachett, Alice Hoffman, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Joseph Conrad, Hermann Hesse, Mark Twain, and C.S. Lewis. I love stories of all kinds, myths and folk lore, and half-remembered legends. There’s nothing better than hearing a story read aloud or told from memory. That’s how stories grow.
What’s the last book that you read and really enjoyed?
I just finished Alice Hoffman’s The Dove Keepers and I highly recommend it. It’s simply a good story well told with amazing characters and a dramatic historical setting. Some of my favorite stories are based in history.
Do you have any favourite authors at Bewildering Stories? Have you found there any works you’d recommend to a friend?
I’m a shameless promoter of the site. I love that there’s such an eclectic mix of stories and that you never know from month to month just what you might find or where a story might lead.
If you could be any character (other than one of your own) from a book or movie who would it be? Why?
I think anyone who knows me well would already say I was a ‘character.’ For all my many, many flaws, I wouldn’t be anyone else. Ever.
* * *
In composing a story, which do you think of first: the plot or the characters?
It varies. Sometimes a story just pops into your head, nearly full-blown, with a full cast and characters and a plot that rolls from start to finish like you were taking down notes on something that really happened. Other times, you get an idea or maybe a character sketch that scratches at you like a mouse behind the wall. You hear it and it just won’t relent until you get it out into the open.
Where do you get your ideas?
I feel more like my ideas get me. The sneak up on me and then end up as a short story or a novella. I don’t go looking for them and some of them seem like they came from someone else’s head. It’s a weird feeling going back and reading something from a few years ago and thinking “I don’t really remember writing this story.” I think that’s why a lot of writers, artists, and what have you refer to Muses. Sometimes it does seem like a story popped out of your head like Athena and you’re left with a headache and confusion over how it got in there in the first place like poor, ole Zeus.
Where do you write?
Everywhere. My house and workplace are littered with little Post-it notes with half-written stories on them. My Notes on my phone have ideas mixed with grocery lists, and I’m likely to start jotting down notes on a napkin or a stolen bit of paper if the inspiration strikes me.
Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block?
Not really. I don’t plan to write short stories. They come to me. I don’t come looking for them. In marketing, you can’t really afford to have ‘writer’s block.’ It’s your job to come up with a list of ideas at a moment’s notice. They may not all be prize-winning, but it’s the process of creation. Some ideas stick and others are the catalyst for something better.
Some writers say that they have to write a certain amount every day. Do you do set a quota?
I don’t force myself to write short stories. At work, you have assignments and you write copy. You try to make it the best you can every day, but some days you do better work than others.
When I write for fun, it’s generally an idea that I have to ‘get out of me.’ I don’t set out to write something — it demands to be written.
Most writers have a particular audience in mind, although it may change from one work to the next. Who are your audiences? For whom do you write?
I write for myself. If other people enjoy reading my stories, that’s great. I hope they make them think more about themselves and about the world around them. But I don’t expect my stories to mean what they do to me to others. We can only see our own version of reality — so every reader brings a new element to the story they read.
Do you use the Internet or the library to check facts?
I don’t write about things I don’t know, so generally no. I may check an odd date from time to time. But I’ve always thought it was strange that someone would choose to write about someone or something that isn’t in some way a part of them. Human beings are layered. We all have our darkness and light. So I think it’s easy to imagine different perspectives. But you need to have some connection to your characters or to the time and space they occupy.
What do you consider the strangest thing you’ve ever written?
I don’t think anything I’ve written is strange, but depending on where you stand, you may. Strangeness, like many other things, depends on your perspective.
What do you consider the most revealing thing you’ve ever written?
I think you’d probably have to know me personally to see anything revealing in my stories. Twain once wrote that a novel is a confession to everything an author had never done. I think there is some ‘wish fulfillment’ in writing — it’s a window into the things the author admires and hates — but it’s hard to know which is which from the reader’s point of view. It isn’t always clear where the writer’s empathy lies. For me, I’d say that I empathize with all my characters, but that doesn’t mean I like them all.
Does anyone else proofread or critique your work?
Lots of people read my work and sometimes they make comments. I have changed stories after hearing what my friends have to say. Other times, I haven’t.
* * *
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
Read, hike, paint, listen to music, spend time with my friends (in person and online,) dance, drink (responsibly, of course,) garden, cuddle my cats, volunteer, and sit in my yard and meditate. It really is the little things in life that matter and make you happiest. Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses.
Where do you live, if you don’t mind saying? Is there any place else you’d like to live, either in reality or in your imagination?
I live in Tennessee and I’ve lived in the South all of my life. I always enjoy visiting other places, but I’m glad to come home.
Is there anything BwS does particularly well? Of course there’s always room for improvement: is there anything in particular you’d like to see added or changed?
BwS has a great mix of stories and authors. You never know what a new issue will hold or what roads it will take you down as a reader. I would love to see graphic stories considered. They aren’t excluded in the submission guidelines, but no one seems to send them in for review.
Copyright © 2014 by Beverly Forehand