Sunday, June 1, 2008

Charles Tan Interviews Carrie Laben

Where did the idea for "Something in the Mermaid Way" originate?

It's based on a true story - in a sense. I was reading Jan Bondeson's The Feejee Mermaid and Other Essays in Natural and Unnatural History (an excellent book, by the way) and found an illustration of a mermaid in a German museum that according to the caption was made from a human fetus and a fish tail. There was no explanation in the text, so of course I started wondering how the heck that could happen. What circumstances could possibly exist in which it would be preferable to use a fetus rather than a monkey?

Is "Something in the Mermaid Way" your first professional story sale? What does it feel like to get published--and have your story nominated for the Shirley Jackson Awards?

It is my first pro sale - I had a couple of pieces show up in small zines along the way, but this feels very different. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm enjoying the attention immensely. Working with Nick Mamatas and the other folks at Clarkesworld has also been wonderful - they run a tight ship there.

I've been a bit surprised by the praise that the story has gotten - before I started submitting it, I was worried that people would find it gratuitous, or think it was all about the shock value. Of course I fantasized about being nominated for awards, but I assumed that would come much later. Now I just have to move on to fantasizing about winning awards, I guess.

What is your writing process like and what was the biggest challenge?

"Something in the Mermaid Way" was actually written fairly atypically for me, in that I wrote the first draft in one sitting, edited it in one sitting, and submitted it right away. Usually I have to let stories steep for some time before I'm happy with them (although given the results, maybe I should try the lightening-fast approach more often!) The biggest problem for me is letting stories go. I don't mind rejections, but I'm a huge perfectionist and if I let a story go out and notice even a tiny flaw later I'm very embarrassed. This is good up to a point, but it slows me down when I take it to extremes, especially when I'm working on longer projects. I'm trying to finish a novel right now and it's taking far too long, because there's always something that I could go over one more time.

Our fundraising anthology, Jack Haringa Must Die! is now available. Price: $10.

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