Friday, November 04, 2005

Susan S. McCrackin: Transfiguration

Since one of the reviews of Strange New Worlds v8 specifically states that Susan's story, Transfiguration, is superior to my story in the same volume ("[Egg Drop Soup] nearly ties with "Transfigurations" for most emotional... but not quite"), I thought I better catch up with her and learn how she pulled it off.

Robert: Beleena goes on quite an emotional journey in your story: it's almost like a little novel, with all the emotional twists and turns. Was Beleena's emotional growth something you had mapped out from the beginning, or something that evolved during the writing?

Susan: LOL! All I had in my head was the first line of the story -- "I'm afraid of fire." I woke up the Sunday morning before the contest deadline with that line in my head and nothing else. I figured it out as I went along. I didn't know Beleena's name or what the story was. I think I must have dreamed the concept and only remembered that first line when I woke up. I started writing late morning or early afternoon and had most of the story done by that night. I came home from work the next day and finished it.

Thanks to some wonderful friends, I had the story edited by Tuesday night, printed and ready to go. It was over-nighted on Wednesday and that was that.

I knew it was something special when I wrote it. It just had that feel, but I didn't know if it was good enough to make the cut. I had never written a story that fast. As a matter of fact, there had been a lot of chatter on the message boards the Friday before the deadline about people just writing, spell-checking, and mailing a story. I remember thinking that I would never be able to do that! But I did and it turned out to be a winner.

It was fun watching this story unfold. When I wrote "but that was before she came on board," I didn't know who "she" was. It wasn't long before B'Elanna's name appeared on the paper and I realized that she was the right one to be there. Thank goodness she did because everything else just fit.

I've always liked B'Elanna and felt that she was never realized as a character. It was fun to explore this side of her -- to find the part of her that would allow her to connect with a child in such a special way.

So, next question?

Robert: Are there stories you wrote in the past that you think prepared you to write this one, or helped you develop the kinds of skills one needs to pull off a tale like this? Life experiences?

Susan: No, I think it's more like only being about 8 years old at heart that helped me write this! LOL!

Actually, that's an interesting question. I don't think there is any one experience that helped me write this. You have expectations of what will happen; sometimes your expectations are met, but often your expectations were too high and they get you in trouble. And isn't that life?

As far as Beleena was concerned, I think it was the gift of the dream and then I just tried to put myself in her place and tried to feel what she felt, tried to think the way she thought. Once I got there, it just sort of happened.

What was fascinating was experiencing the world through Beleena's eyes -- or the lack of them. Since she couldn't see, everything had to be touch, sound, smell. It was really different, especially not being able to describe how people looked or what colors were around her. Without her sight, everything was much more internal with Beleena. That was a totally different experience and harder to write at first, but it got easier.

Robert: What are you writing now, and what would you like to be writing in the future?

Susan: What am I writing now? Not much of anything, unfortunately. I'm slowly editing a novel I wrote (non-sci-fi). I truly appreciate anyone who is good at editing. I'm terrible at it.

What would I like to be writing in the future? I have this wonderful (my idea so of course its wonderful) sci-fi story I would love to really get into. I've written about five chapters and know that it would really capture me if I could give it some time. But I think the best I can hope for right now is to try writing some short stories and not try to stay in any one genre. I'm more comfortable in sci-fi, but I would like to try other things.

Bottom line, though, is that I would just love to be writing anything and I'm not doing that. I need to get back to it and stop letting other stuff (like remodeling the bathroom and kitchen) get in the way.

Dean does so much by waving this wonderful carrot in front of us and begging us to come after it. There are so few opportunities like the one he offers. That man is truly someone special.

Note: For those thinking of entering, there's a copy of the rules circa volume 8 at psiphi.org. SNW 10 should open for submissions sometime after spring 2006.

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