Welcome to the latest instalment of Breaking In, where I interview authors about their experiences breaking in as writers — how they did it, what it felt like to get there, and how it differed from what they were expecting.
Today I’m delighted to have the opportunity to interview a speculative fiction author who is also an actual freaking rock star, writer and musician Natalia Yanchak.
As she notes on her website, Natalia was born and raised in Toronto, and moved to Montreal, QC in 1994 to attend Concordia University’s Creative Writing program. After graduation, she immediately began touring and performing internationally as a musician. An unofficial delegate for Canadian culture, she worked with her band, The Dears, to help shine the spotlight on the Montreal music scene through the 00s.
She has written and produced content for VICE, CBC, Huffington Post Canada, and Cult Montreal. Her fiction has appeared in Matrix Magazine, Tesseracts 21 and Selected Poems by Indie Rock Stars and she has self-published a number of speculative short stories and flash fiction pieces, which are available online.
Natalia lives in Montreal with her husband, two children, and two cats.
This is a Breaking In post that focuses on a fellow contributor to the forthcoming anthology Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-One). Please therefore accept my now-standard disclaimer of having some slight degree of bias.
Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-One) is a collection of optimistic speculative fiction stories, each optimistic in a slightly different way. These stories explore the optimism that drives us to seek out new worlds, that inspires us to sacrifice for others or fuels us to just keep going when everything seems lost and in so doing turn the idea upside down and inside out.
One of the best reasons for doing an anthology of optimistic futures this year was because no matter which side of the political or social spectrum you land on, it’s been a tough year. Nevertheless we try to remain optimistic. Nevertheless, we don’t give up. Nevertheless, yes, we persist. The stories in this anthology of optimistic SF are some of the darkest optimistic stories you’ll ever read but, nevertheless, they are optimistic. And powerful.
Featuring stories and poems by: James Bambury, Meghan Bell, Gavin Bradley, Ryan Henson Creighton, Darrel Duckworth, Dorianne Emmerton, Pat Flewwelling, Stephen Geigen-Miller, Jason M. Harley, Kate Heartfield, R. W. Hodgson, Jerri Jerreat, Jason Lane, Buzz Lanthier-Rogers, Alison McBain, Michael Milne, Fiona Moore, Ursula Pflug, Michael Reid, S. L. Saboviec, Lisa Timpf, Leslie Van Zwol, Natalia Yanchak.
[SGM] Welcome to the blog, Natalia! To begin, when did you feel like you’d broken in as a writer? How did that contrast with when and how you felt like you’d broken in as a musician?
[NY] As a writer, I feel I have a long way to go. It’s a true honour to be published in Nevertheless, but I know it is just one step forward, the first of many. I get the impression that the phenomenon of “breaking in” is a long, slow never-ending process. I haven’t met a single author (or musician) who is so satisfied with what they’ve accomplished that they feel good about resting on their laurels. There are no laurels, it seems, in the art-making world!
What was your path to breaking in? Did you have a strategy? Did it work, or did you end up getting there another way?
[NY] The first part was challenging myself to the work — seeing if I could return to fiction. I’d been blogging, doing some journalism and writing press releases for the past decade, putting my bachelor’s degree into some use, but I hadn’t written any fiction since I graduated. I started small, some flash fiction and fairly short stories (that I self-published), then practiced listening to the work I was creating, letting go of scenes I may have been emotionally attached to and replacing those with something more meaningful — which is a skill acquired from making music for so long. The rest is just hustling: perseverance, confidence and the belief that my perspective and voice matters. I also take some inspiration from The Lonely Island quote: “Never stop never stopping,” but, also, knowing when to stop.
And following up on that, knowing what you do now, what would you do differently?
[NY] I wouldn’t do much differently: so much of our path in life (including striking a chord with an editor, publisher or agent) is circumstantial, a right place right time vibe. I try to stay positive and have fun with my work.
Now that you’ve broken in, is it like or unlike what you expected? How?
[NY] I’ll feel good about it when I publish my first book! But this question did make me think of a song by my art-rock band. A track that starts with a nerve-racking Doors-esque military march before falling into a bubbily orchestral Steve Miller Band mist. It kind of sums up my expectations.
What are you working on now?
My second novel, a post-climate change spy-fi thriller, possibly with dragons and a main character loosely based on Canada’s current Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau.
How can people keep up with you online?
I have all the internets, though I’m most likely to update my Facebook page with news:
Thank you so much to Natalia for the interview! And can I just say how down I am with a post-climate-change spy-fi thriller, with or without dragons and/or the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau? Seriously: Sold!
And just as a reminder – because I am going to be unstinting in reminding you of this – Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-One) is available for pre-order now.
Coming up next on the blog: Nevertheless contributor Ryan Henson Creighton shares his Breaking In story.