Stefan Milicevic: Congratulations on getting “Comet Man” republished with Flash Fiction Online! Tell us how you came to write it.
Marina Lostetter: Thank you! I’m a member of the Codex writing community, and every year there’s a five-week-long contest in which the participants all produce a new flash-length story every weekend. I’d had this image of a guy riding a comet bouncing around in my head for quite some time, and when we were given our week five prompts, everything clicked for me. I dashed off the first draft in no time at all.
SM: In theory, “Comet Man” would work if it was just a guy picking up a hitchhiker. However, the story becomes much grander and awe-inspiring with the setting you’ve chosen. Not to mention the humorous lines become funnier. How important is strong imagery in your writing?
ML: It depends on what kind of a story I’m trying to tell. In this case, the setting frames the story in an unexpected way, I think. We have a background of family conflict–which is something most of us have experienced in some way–, “,but because extreme body modification is possible, familiar quarrels play out in new ways.
SM: “Comet M,” to me at least, reads like a wonderful pulp yarn, before the Golden Age or the New Wave. A story where Venus and the Moon are uncharted and exciting territories. Do you think the pulps of yore have influenced the story?
ML: Insofar as I’ve been influenced by everything I’ve read, yes. I think the pulps were great at engaging the reader by honing in on their desire for adventure and sense-o-wonder. The feeling of awe I get when contemplating the universe, and its potentials are something I treasure and actively seek out, so if I can ignite similar feelings in others with my work, I’m pleased.
SM: The story is funny, yet poignant. How did you balance the mood?
ML: Humor is tough (or, at least, I find it a challenge)–funny means different things to different people, and that’s part of why I love it. I think the important thing to remember when writing in any genre is to give your story a heart–a meaningful theme and relatable problem on which to hang everything else. The key then, with humor, is not to let your funny-bone run away with the tale. I have to resist the urge to cram every ridiculous idea into a story. So the key to balance, for me, is restraint.
SM: You are also an artist and from what I have seen mostly draw humorous pop culture pieces. How does drawing inform your writing, if at all?
ML: It’s kind of the other way around–my writing has informed my artwork. I do a range, from full-color digital paintings to balsa wood carvings, to line drawings. But, though I love art, I’ve always been more comfortable with words. I used to think it was easier to hide the imperfections in my witting than the imperfections in my drawing. This made me bolder with my prose, even though it was a false assessment (it might take longer to find the weak spots in written work, but that doesn’t make them any less obvious in the end). Seeing the mistakes in my artwork has often led me to abandon a piece instead of finishing–which is not the best way to improve. The pop-culture cartoons are a way for me to produce art while not letting deficiencies halt my progress continuously. It’s ok that they’re imperfect, what matters is their capacity to convey the mood or message I’m after. I’ve always felt that way about writing, so I’m glad I’m developing the same attitude towards my other art.
SM: Your publishing history is rich with professional credentials and award nominations. Would you give our readers some advice on how to become successful?
ML: I think success = skill + opportunity, and you can ‘level up’ your success by increasing your skill and broadening your chances for new opportunities.
Continuously learning new things about your craft and the business of your craft help to increase your skill level. No one is born a professional; we all need to keep growing. There’s always a new technique to discover or a weak spot to improve.
Never giving up and playing nice with others creates opportunities. Any success I’ve had is in large part owed to the people around me. Be supportive of others, and you’ll get support back.
SM: Recommend us a writer or novel that needs more exposure!
ML: Adam-Troy Castro wrote my favorite short story from last year, “The Thing About Shapes to Come,” and I think that story in particular deserves more exposure.
SM: Where can people find you on the internet?
ML: My official website can be found at www.lostetter.net, and I tweet as @MarinaLostetter.
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