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 very pleased to have the opportunity to interview a fellow writer of both prose science fiction and webcomics, author James Bambury.
On his Twitter bio, James succinctly describes himself as “Writer. Teacher. Other.” His blog adds that his stories have been featured at Daily Science Fiction, AE Science Fiction Review, Ray Gun Revival, and in a number of other publications and anthologies. He’s also the creator of the webcomic SpaceBox. He writes and teaches in Brampton, Ontario.
Tad Bardeaux is lost somewhere in space.
Luckily, his escape pod is equipped with near-perpetual life support, although that doesn’t necessarily compensate for the lack of engines or propulsion. Then there’s the minor design flaw that caused the hull to permanently fuse upon its launch–it can withstand all kinds of space perils at the small cost of sealing passengers inside.
Trapped inside the escape pod, Bardeaux finds himself travelling through vast stretches of space and time–while looking for a way out of a box that is definitely not bigger on the inside.
SpaceBox is updated sporadically.
It is made using Inkscape for the illustrations and layout.
The Crimefighter BB font is used courtesy of Blambot‘s continuing support of indie comics.
It is written and illustrated by James.
This is one of my Breaking In posts focusing on a fellow contributor to the forthcoming anthology Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-One). So, Sinister Plan disclosed!
[SGM] Welcome to the blog, James! To begin, when did you feel like you’d broken in as a writer?
[JB] Thank you for having me! Now, have I broken in as a writer? While it’s easily argued I haven’t, I’d like to think that any moment I’ve had where my work has been read and understood is one in which I feel like I’ve broken in and the rest of the time I’m on the outside of things. The only thing that matters in writing is being read, it is how solipsism is transformed into communication. At the risk of understating the sense of affirmation that comes with selling stories, it was the first batch of rejection letters that made me feel like a participant in writing. I wrote down words, someone else bothered to read them (or at least start reading them,) and some kind of communication took place.
What was your path to breaking in? Did you have a strategy? Did it work, or did you end up getting there another way?
Dealing with rejection can be frustrating, but in hindsight I think many editors were saving me from myself. Just being persistent and patient to until there’s a match with a story and a market was the key. Also, accepting that what I may be writing and exploring is just different from what particular markets are looking for has been a lesson that’s taken me a long time to learn, but trying to extract ego and confidence from the process of writing for different markets has been difficult.
Now, specifically relating to the Tesseracts anthologies, I will confess to a bit of gamesmanship with my submissions. I’ve never edited an anthology, so this next bit is some guesswork on my part, but I see putting a story collection together as something similar to designing a house where the rooms are the different stories. The stories need to be connected to one another and complement a reader’s “walk” through the house but need to be distinct from one another. No collection needs to be made up of a dozen nearly-identical stories just as no one wants to have a house that’s comprised of a dozen kitchens. With that in mind, I tried to think ahead to what sorts of submissions would be the major stories addressing the theme, the kitchens and living rooms of these anthologies if you will, then I tried to think about a spare-attic-bedroom type story that would complement the collection. To put it more simply: When an editor is calling for submissions on a particular theme, there’s likely a few really obvious types of stories that fit the bill, unless you have the best version of a particular trope or theme, it can be to your advantage to stray a little bit and find your own niche. When it comes to the theme of optimism in “Nevertheless,” my story is hardly a summative take on the theme, and not the kind of work you’d want to build an anthology around, but it does reflect a particular strain of optimism that should round out the collection nicely.
And following up on that, knowing what you do now, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t bother with any rewrite requests. There’s a few times that opportunity was extended to me and while I am confident the editors meant well, they seemed to have something more specific in mind when asking for revisions and I think we were all a little let down by the process.
Now that you’ve broken in, is it like or unlike what you expected? How?
I continue to work in obscurity and that’s okay.
What are you working on now?
There’s a lot more I’d like to add to the webcomic, SpaceBox, that I’ve been working on. The story is just kind of a yarn that keeps going on. I’ve got an ending that I’m working towards for that series, but it’s going to take a while to get there. I’d like to try out some other forms for storytelling, like games and other interactive works. I am always on the lookout for interesting calls for submission.
How can people keep up with you online?
Thank you to James for the interview! I too continue to work in obscurity — and that’s okay.
However, if you so choose, you can do your part to make both of us just a bit less obscure, because the ebook of Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-One) is available now for purchase from Amazon!
Coming up next on the blog: My final Tesseracts-focused Breaking In interview, with author S. L. Saboviec.