Welcome to the latest installment 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 chance to interview a student, a humanitarian, an advocate for human rights, and a poet. Yeah, also, that impressive list of interests and achievements all refers to one person: writer Buzz Lanthier-Rogers.
As noted in his online bio, Buzz “…is the NATO Association of Canada’s Program Editor for NATO Operations. An undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, he is currently pursuing a double major in International Relations and Peace, Conflict, and Justice at the Trudeau Centre at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Buzz is interested in researching forms of human rights violations, such as human trafficking. In his free time, he volunteers as the treasurer for NMC-CESI—the Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations Cultural Exchange and Support Initiative—which assists Syrian newcomers to Canada.”
Buzz’s poem, ‘On Reading to the End’ appears in the forthcoming Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-One).
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.
This is one of my Breaking In posts focusing on a fellow contributor to Nevertheless. So, per my usual disclaimer, I’m Not Entirely Unbiased here.
[SGM] Welcome to the blog, Buzz! To begin, when did you feel like you’d broken in as a writer?
[BLR] This is my first published work and my first interview—so now, I guess? What’s odd is that my piece is a poem, and I’m really more of a fiction writer, so I won’t see myself as truly “broken in” until I’ve published a novel. Whether I become a writer in the way that I hope looks possible—the discipline is there, it just needs practice and luck.
What was your path to breaking in? Did you have a strategy? Did it work, or did you end up getting there another way?
I started to write in earnest when I was nine, when I began a children’s story. The story spawned a 110 000-word novel that I wrote between the ages of twelve and fourteen. That one was incredibly flawed, obviously, but because of it I know that I can write something of that length. Years (and a lot of other creative writing later) I submitted to the anthology series three times—to Tesseracts 19, Tesseracts 20, and Tesseracts 21. My work was finally accepted in 21, when I was nineteen (I’m twenty now). That sounds like it all happened pretty quickly, but much of what I submitted was originally written for other contests, so this success only came after repeated failures.
And following up on that, knowing what you do now, what would you do differently?
I think starting at ten would have been better than nine. More time to play soccer or pursue other hobbies, you know? But in all seriousness, if I could go back I would diversify my reading habits earlier on. I truly believe that reading helps a person improve: this means not only reading a wide range of books and voices, but reading literature that is critically good or innovative. Writing has techniques to it, and it also has flow and rhythm. Just like music, you won’t learn much unless you expose yourself to work pioneered by others—like a guitarist who’s never heard Jimi Hendrix, for example.
Now that you’ve broken in, is it like or unlike what you expected? How?
Honestly, when I was a kid I thought I’d be published by fifteen. That didn’t happen. This is as exciting as I thought it would be, although I anticipate it will also be pretty exciting to hold the physical book in my hands, as well.
What are you working on now?
I’m a full-time student, so unfortunately I don’t have much time to write creatively. I will always be committed to fiction, and there are a few things I’m slowly chipping away at, but I’m focusing on my studies for the time being. A paper I wrote is going to be published in the undergraduate journal, the Yale Review of International Studies, so I’m happy about that right now. Whatever it is that I write next, it should either be beautiful in some way, or it should make someone happy. That’s my goal when writing.
How can people keep up with you online?
I have a Twitter account, @BuzzLanthier, that I created recently for work. Aside from that, I don’t really have much of a social media presence as a writer—I’d probably spend too much time on it.
And now, we pause as I once again put on my Shilling Pants.
This is another gentle reminder that Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-One), which features both Buzz and me among its contributors, is now available for pre-order.
Ok, that’s enough of that. Thank you to Buzz for the interview! Nevertheless marks my fiction debut, and so I’m delighted to be sharing a table of contents and the whole debut experience with him.
Coming up next on the blog: More Breaking In stories from my fellow Nevertheless contributors!