Given the number of amazing new writers who have been publishing their work, it’s well past time for Underwords to do another New Writer Spotlight. This Spotlight features writer Rich Larson, who has a talent for writing strong character driven speculative fiction. I first came across his work while reading submissions for Futuredaze and was struck by his ability to build subtle, yet powerful stories that tend to linger in your imagination long past the last word on the page.
It is a pleasure to introduce you to Rich Larson whose new collection, Datafall, is now available on Amazon.
Rich Larson was born in West Africa, has studied in Rhode Island, and at the ripe old age of 20 now lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he recently received the 2012 James Patrick Folinsbee Prize in Creative Writing. His work appears in Word Riot, >kill author, Bartleby Snopes, Monkeybicycle, Prick of the Spindle, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and many others, and his self-published scifi can be found at Amazon.com/author/richlarson.
When did you first know that you wanted to write? What inspires you to tell stories?
There was no single earth-shattering moment when I decided I wanted to write. It’s something I’ve been doing without much conscious attention for my entire life—my sister recently found a few (terrible) stories I had dictated to her around age five. However, I didn’t decide that I wanted to put my writing out into the world until last year, when my book Devolution achieved some surprising success in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.
For someone who hasn’t yet had a chance to read any fiction by Rich Larson, how would you describe the type of fiction that you write? What is it about this type of fiction that you enjoy most?
My first love in fiction writing is definitely cyberpunk. My stories tend toward near-future scenarios and human element; aliens and spaceships are unlikely to appear. Stylistically, I enjoy dark tones and prose that really sings. What really draws me back to speculative fiction every time I branch out into general is the experience of creating a vibrant, believable new world and dropping the reader right in the middle of it.
It is said that learning to write well is like experiencing a series of never ending writing related epiphanies. If you had to pick one, what is the most important lesson you have learned, so far?
Taking critique, absolutely. When I first ventured online, I was blasted for the first time by readers who didn’t have an age-asterisk beside my name to make it “so good for how old you are!” Once I thickened my skin a bit, that anonymity was invaluable for getting no-holds-barred feedback. And even when I initially disagree with that feedback completely, if I smile, thank the reader, and try to see it from their perspective, chances are I’ll understand where they’re coming from a few days later.
Which authors, stories or novels most affected your development as a writer?
This is always a tough one. Inventing Elliot by Graham Gardner helped me fall in love with clean, spare prose. Feed by M.T. Anderson showed me iceberg theory first-hand, creating a massive, frantic, teeming world and focusing in on a comparatively tiny narrative. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner was phenomenal for pacing and characterization. I also love Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and nearly anything by Kenneth Oppel, who, fun fact, I telephoned at the age of seven to pester with questions about bats after I exhausted the local library’s resources.
What do you do for a living beyond writing fiction? How do you fit “writing time” into your schedule?
This summer I’m working at a liquor store and attending weddings, but come fall I’ll be a full-time university student again. When I’m not in class I play soccer, watch basketball, see movies and occasionally get drunker than intended. Writing is something I do when it comes to me, unless I’m working on a novel. In that case, 200 word spurts throughout the day with a goal of 1000 per.
You’ve recently published Datafall, a collection of your short fiction. How would you describe it? What can someone expect when picking up this collection?
Datafall is the result of 1) a lot of hard work and 2) the epiphany that what I write is of genuinely publishable quality and something people will willingly pay to enjoy. All seven stories are firmly in the speculative fiction genre, where I do my best work, and all have been written and polished over a span of two years. Expect fresh twists on old tropes—unruly AIs, time-travelling assassins, intergalactic colonization gone horribly wrong—and a few things you’ve never seen before.
Do you have a favorite piece with the collection? If so, what is it about that story that resonates most with you?
This is another tough one. I have a real soft spot for “Every So Often,” because of its cards-on-the-table simplicity while dealing with a scenario so often subjected to cheap twists. But I think “Back So Soon” stands out to me most, and will to readers as well, because it’s a far lighter and funnier piece than what I normally write.
Was there a theme or special selection process used when choosing what to put into Datafall and what to leave out? What was your favorite part of the building process?
Put simply, Datafall is made up of my strongest unpublished speculative fiction pieces, not including those currently being considered by mags. I did have a few stories that leaned too far into “weird fiction,” a little too surrealist, so those I left out in the interests of cohesion.
One of my absolute favorite parts of the process has been having the artwork, done by ridiculously talented writer / artist / friend Christopher Ruz, appear in my inbox at bizarre hours of the morning. Datafall contains six of his original cover illustrations and each of them is simply phenomenal.
If someone is looking for new fiction by you, where can they find it? What new projects are you working on now? What will be coming out soon?
Well, apart from “Your Own Way Back,” which I’m ecstatic to say is slated to appear in Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, I also have publications upcoming in Daily Science Fiction, The Adroit Journal, and Short, Fast, and Deadly. Links to all of these will no doubt appear on my Facebook page. (www.facebook.com/richwlarson)
Projects currently on the go: editing my YA steampunk novel Clockwork, which is currently floating with a possible publisher, writing two wedding-related general fiction pieces and a futuristic prison-break short story, converting a play about a suicidal hostage into a novella, and, as always, writing mediocre poetry on the side.
…When I list it like that, it really makes me feel like I should get off the internet and open up Word. Thanks so much for having me, and remember to check out Datafall: Collected Speculative Fiction! (http://www.amazon.com/Datafall-Collected-Speculative-Fiction-ebook/dp/B008TXBZ5Y)