Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Interview with Caroline Ratajski - April 1, 2015

Please welcome Caroline Ratajski to The Qwillery. “The Forgetting Field” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.

This is the twenty-fourth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!

I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and reached the Deluxe format printed edition stretch goal! There are additional stretch goals!

TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Caroline:  Thank you!

I feel like one of the biggest challenges in writing shorter stories is leaving the reader feeling satisfied. It's like the difference between a light lunch and an appetizer: one is complete in itself, one leaves you waiting for more. You want to make sure the reader doesn't walk away feeling cheated, or like you as the author have wasted their time.

I'm definitely a pantser. I've tried plotting in advance, but once I've finished the outline my brain thinks its done writing the story and it makes drafting really boring for me. I wish I were a plotter. It seems so much more organized than stumbling through a story, trying to figure out what's going on.

TQ: You're a codemonkey (software engineer). How does this affect (or not) your writing?

Caroline:  Because I write software for a living, I feel like I wind up taking a very methodical approach to my writing and editing. I set realistic, attainable goals with firm deadlines, and work to meet them. I also analyze the structure of my books the same way I analyze software systems, looking for ways that seemingly separate things can influence one another.

TQ: Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Caroline:  I can't really think of a specific question, but lately I've been thinking a lot about figuring out your identity as a writer. What kind of stories do you want to tell? How do you want to tell them? How do you begin to figure that out? It's hard when you're so close to your own work, to pull out common themes and images. It might be tempting to think of this as your "brand," but I feel like it's a deeper question than that. I feel like a lot of my stories have themes of hurting and healing in them, especially "The Forgetting Field." So that's my answer for now. I hope in the future someone asks me this question. It would be interesting to see if my answer has changed!

TQ: Describe “The Forgetting Field”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.

Caroline:  Hidden deep in the mountains is a field of flowers. If you eat the flowers you will forget the things that haunt you. But there is a cost.

TQ: Tell us something about “The Forgetting Field” that will not give away the story.

Caroline:  I really enjoyed writing this story from the perspective of a field of flowers. That was a fun challenge!

TQ: What was your inspiration for “The Forgetting Field”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?

Caroline:  It's such a cliche, but the inspiration for this story actually came from a dream. The first time I tried to write it, I focused more on the person rather than the field, and it wasn't working at all. When I saw the call for this anthology, I thought of this story almost immediately. When I rewrote it focusing more on the place and less on the people, it finally came together.

The closest I feel I've come to a Genius Loci was when I was in Pompeii some years ago. I remembered learning that the people who lived there knew of the threat of the volcano, and yet they built their city anyway. I didn't understand why until I went there and stood on the green hills and walked among the ruins. Something about that place was so heartachingly tranquil that I felt like I wanted to stay there forever. It felt like the air was alive and smiling peacefully at me. I wonder if the ancient citizens of Pompeii must have felt the same.

TQ: Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “The Forgetting Field”.


"Once we had eaten our fill, that one’s pain was gone. All that remained was a memory of pain, like a knotted scar in treeflesh, growing over what had been clawed away."

TQ: In which genre or genres does “The Forgetting Field” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?

Caroline:  I would say it's fantasy, but a bit dark. I don't believe it quite crosses over into horror. I think genre classifications are still useful in describing something, but I feel like they should be looked at less like rules and more like guidelines. Sometimes they can be used so rigidly, and that can be to the detriment to great works that don't necessarily fit neatly into any one genre.

TQ: What's next?

Caroline:  I'm currently editing a horror novel that I hope to have to go on submission when it's completed.

TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Caroline:  Thank you so much for having me!

About Caroline Ratajski

Caroline Ratajski is a writer and software engineer currently living in Silicon Valley, California, USA. Previously published as Morgan Dempsey, her short fiction is currently available in Broken Time Blues and Danse Macabre, as well as at Redstone Science Fiction, and is forthcoming in Genius Loci. She is represented by Barry Goldblatt of Barry Goldblatt Literary, LLC.

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