Part 1 can be read here.
Part 2 can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: What do you do to keep a balance between writing and the rest of your life?
Tina Connolly: At the moment I have a 3yo and a baby, so there hasn’t been a lot of balance in the last few years! But kid #1 has just started preschool, and the baby is almost 1, so things are getting calmer. I was very glad that when I sold books #3 and #4 to Tor that #4 was one I had already written (Seriously Wicked, which is completely unrelated to the Ironskin universe.) That’s given me a bit of a breather this year while raising the baby!
AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?
TC: I am so glad to be living in Portland – there are so many writers and artists living here! Even with the little ones, I get a fair amount of opportunities to get out and exercise my writer brain.
AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?
TC: Heh. One very obvious way is that when I started out, I was only able to write 1500-3000 word stories, and that with very great effort. It took a LONG time to write a 4 or 5K story, and EVEN LONGER to figure out how to write whole novels. And now I love novels. My two favorite forms are novels and flash.
AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?
TC: The last few years I’ve been on deadline, and had to get everything done during naps and after bedtime. So it’s been pretty easy to stay motivated. (Maybe one of these days I can catch up on my Netflix queue.) Pre-kids I often did a daily wordcount goal. I had two rules for this. One, set the wordcount goal small enough (given your other commitments) so you always feel like you can reach it. Pre-kids, mine was 500, but if I were to do it now, it would probably be 50. Even 50 words a day will get you down the track—and of course, once you get started, you usually end up doing more than your goal. Rule two is that you declare amnesty at the end of every day. Otherwise you get into a situation where it’s “oh, today I have to do double/triple/quadruple to make up” and then you despair and do nothing.
AA: How is Oregon for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc
TC: You know, this is definitely different for everybody. The internet is a huge leveler in terms of ease of looking up anything you need to know—and then being able to interact with both writers and readers online, no matter where you live. But me, personally, I go stir-crazy if I can’t get out and actually TALK with writers from time to time. So for that reason (and more!) I love Portland.
AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Silverblind? What kind of reactions have you received?
TC: I work seasonally as a face painter, so sometimes when people contact me to face paint they will simultaneously discover the books. And when I show up to do a birthday party or festival they’ll let me know they’ve already read them or ordered them. So that’s been fun!
AA: If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?
TC: Well, the face painting thing is great fun and gets me out of the house in the summer and away from desk. And before I got into writing, my main focus was theatre and I was auditioning/performing 24/7. Probably if I were actually going to do a full-time day job again, I would go back to software, which pays the bills really well. But if I went back in time and forked onto a different creative career path, I think I would also enjoy working as a book editor or TV writer.
AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?
TC: Well, a month after I finally sold Ironskin + a then-unwritten sequel (Copperhead), I had my first baby. So the current day job has been full-time mom, and the writer job has been stuffed into all the other times that people usually do other things, like watch TV and shower. Luckily my husband works from home with his job, and he’s also incredibly supportive and a great father. There’s a quote from Ursula K. LeGuin about her family/work balance that says something to the effect of ‘1 person can’t do 2 jobs, but 2 people can do 3 jobs.’ Meaning 2 people, with 2 jobs, can split parenting equally between them and make it work.
AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?
TC: Basically I like theatre, art, and books. I was a reader—now I’m also a writer. I used to do a lot of acting—now I’m podcasting (and writing a play!) And even though I haven’t had time to go outside and sketch for ages, I fill that obsession with face painting.
AA: How do those interests influence your work?
TC: Oh! That’s a fun question. Well, I put a whole bunch of theatre people into Copperhead! I loved that. Helen meets up with a flamboyant theatre actress named Frye, and meets her whole set. Frye was just supposed to be a walk-on part, but then she took over. And then, Jack in Silverblind is an artist, so I enjoyed writing about her frustrations and doodling habits.
AA: There’s only so much time in a day – what interests don’t you have time for?
TC: HAHAHA oh what a long list. There’s a bunch, but some that are near the top, jostling to be let in when I finally have time, are learning Spanish, learning the fiddle, and getting back to the piano. Not to mention that I would actually like to be in a show again sometime, and of course it would be nice to go do some life drawing again.
AA: What other fandoms are you part of?
TC: I’m not sure if I qualify for any fandoms—I tend to get obsessed with certain authors more than a particular world/story. If there’s a Diana Wynne Jones fandom (actually there probably is) or Noel Streatfeild, sign me up.
AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?
TC: I’d probably say my grandmother (to whom I dedicated Copperhead) for this question. She was pretty amazing—self-educated, witty, feminist, determined to learn and see everything.
AA: What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?
TC: The Clarion West workshop was invaluable to me for figuring out what I was doing and how to do more of it. Before that I was kind of floundering. I think there’s a stage where you’re doing some reasonably good things but you have no idea what you did or how to repeat them. CW gave me a start on figuring out what was going on. And for greatest challenge, I’d probably say the fact that I applied to CW the year before and didn’t get in—I was waitlisted that year. I was kind of at a crossroads where I was doing both theatre and writing and determining that I could only choose one to focus on. And I decided the rejection wasn’t going to stop me, and I was going to buckle down and go the following year. And I did. (And going a year later was FAR better for me, too, so it was completely win-win.)
AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite non-US TV show, cheese, and autumn outfit?
TC: Blackadder, I’m currently obssessed with Queso Cabra al Vino aka Drunken Goat Cheese, and boots.
AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers
TC: Thanks for having me on the interview!
Thanks, Tina, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts. We look forward to hearing about your next projects!
Keep up to date with Tina Connolly’s latest news on her website.