K.C. Norton is a young graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts who has had two fantastic stories printed in Flash Fiction Online: “Rumplestiltskin in Love” and now, “The Kiss” (listen to the podcast here). Her story, “Canth,” was also featured in Lightspeed Magazine’s, “Women Destroy Science Fiction” anthology. We often laughed during our interview, sharing a deep love for geek culture and the absurd. Here’s our interview.
Stanley Lee: How would you describe yourself for readers who may not be familiar with you or your work?
K.C. Norton: I guess I’d say I’m someone who is doing stuff that other writers don’t do. That’s a bit vague, but it encompasses a lot. I love writing with female narrators or main characters. I know others do that as well, but hopefully, I can add my own contributions.
SL: How has graduate school helped you with your writing?
KC: I started by writing short stories in my graduate program. I loved it. Just to work on writing at the story level. It’s such a fantastic medium for sci-fi. Science fiction has become static, but there’s been a big push for a change in the last two years.
SL: Is it something that you would recommend to everyone who’s looking to start writing?
KC: It was really good for me, I can say that much. I think it’s different for everybody. If you’re the person who does well with deadlines and feedback, then grad school may be the place for you. It’s how I needed to be motivated, personally. Grad school, an MFA program, really helps you if you’re at a place where you’re writing and you want your work to be better, but you don’t know what that means. You don’t know what your weaknesses even are. It helped me in that respect. At first, I struggled with plotting. I would have this emotion, this idea, or this scene, but I wouldn’t have a story to go with it. Grad school helped me to work through those issues.
But whether grad school is for you or not, one thing that all writers need to do is read. In grad school, it can be difficult to keep up a healthy reading schedule with the writing demands that a program places on you.
SL: You also slush read as well, don’t you?
KC: Yes. I’ve read for my college magazine and Hunger Mountain as well. I come across a lot of stories that just don’t work, and most of them fall into one of two categories: either they have no plot or it’s an open-ended plot. Both are disappointing to read. Maybe it’s a beautifully written scene or an emotional moment, but without a plot to pull it all together and give it meaning, it’s not going to work.
SL: Who are your favorites to read?
KC: Neil Gaiman, of course. Of course! I began with Steampunk and Philip Reeve, who was my gateway into science fiction.
SL: So, you had beginnings in fantasy even before Steampunk?
KC: Yes. Spec-fic (speculative fiction), slipstream, sci-fi, that’s been the last three or four years. At first, science fiction just seemed to be about guys floating around in space, spaceships, and it just did not appeal to me for a long time. Then I began to read more widely and found that some writers had engaging ideas. Philip Reeve with his Hungry City Chronicles got me. There were really big ideas with Darwinian theories, but it wasn’t overly technical and didn’t get bogged down in the unnecessary details.
SL: What’s your earliest memory of falling in love with a book?
KC: The Hobbit. No question about it. I read the Hobbit at 6, and it was actually because my mom was reading the Lord of the Rings to me at the time, but she did it in this slow “reading time” voice, and being 6, I was too impatient and picked up the book and read it through myself. I don’t know how much I understood at six but I loved it and could not put it down.
SL: What’s your process like for writing?
KC: I usually start off with a specific image and write around that. Sometimes I get stuck and may have to put it away for months. Other times, I’ve written, edited, and submitted stories in a 24 hour period.
SL: Regarding your story in the latest issue of Flash Fiction Online – “The Kiss” – how did that story come about?
KC: It came out of a personal experience. I wrote it right before my boyfriend, and I broke up, and I was in this place where I was rationalizing poor decisions I had made. With relationships, everything seems so obvious in retrospect. I wanted to make that truth a little more tangible.
SL: OK, so completely tangential question – if you had to chase down a writer, artist, or otherwise public figure and consume their brain, who would you go after?
KC: So I get to absorb their thoughts and abilities? Wow, I’m going to need a minute.
SL: What? No! That’s cheating. I meant to ask just for taste and flavor reasons. It’d be patently unfair if you could be a better writer just by eating a better writer.
KC: I’d probably choose Cathrynne Valente. She writes these unusual lovely stories. Her brain would probably have a unique and tasty flavor.
SL: So you’re going to make a habit out of this, I see. Last question, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
KC: My advice would be to stop self-rejecting. There’s so much rejection out there waiting for you that there’s no reason to reject yourself by either not writing or writing it and then not submitting. A publication rejection is not a personal rejection. We’re not our work.
Stanley Lee is a fantasy and science fiction writer living in New York City. In 2011, this Stanley Lee received his M.A. from New York University and graduated Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp. Often known to be “out of his damn mind,” Stan has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked Machu Picchu, and competed in Ironman triathlons.