As part of the tour for The Book of Apex: Volume 4, AC Wise was kind enough to stop by and talk about her short story, “My Body, Her Canvas,” and much more!
Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Let’s see – I was born and raised in Montreal, and my educational background is in Liberal Arts, History, and Religion. In my day job, I work in the non-profit field, specifically, museums. Growing up, I variously wanted to be a veterinarian, a ballerina, a psychiatrist, an actor, a journalist, a photographer, and the King of France. Through it all, I always wanted to be a writer, and that’s the only thing that stuck, though I do still harbor ambitions of one day moving into Versailles…
Your short story, “My Body Her Canvas”, was recently published in The Book of Apex Volume 4. Will you tell us about it and what inspired you to write it?
There were two main sources of inspiration for “My Body, Her Canvas”. First, I’m absolutely fascinated with tattoos, despite having none of my own. I’m not afraid of needles, but I am horribly indecisive, and I have yet to settle on one thing I would want permanently inked on my body. The other source of inspiration was sort of an odd one. My mind was drifting during a meeting at my day job, but it honed in on a bit of conversation about bodies and canvases. At least I think that’s what was being discussed.
Either way, the title sprang fully-formed into my head. Usually I struggle with titles, but this one just clicked, and I knew I had to find a story to go with it. It didn’t take long to combine the title with my tattoo obsession, and the first seeds of the story were planted. As the story developed, I wanted to play with the idea of power dynamics in a relationship, body image, and artistic obsession. I also wanted to flip the more traditional gender roles in the creator/muse relationship – making the woman the generative and powerful one, and the male the passive object.
What do you enjoy most about writing SFF?
It’s what I like to read, and what I grew up consuming across multiple mediums – film, television, graphic novels, and games – so writing it is a natural fit. There’s so much that can be done with SFF, not just gosh-gee-whiz-sensawunda big idea stories, but stories that explore the smallest moments in the human condition through a speculative lens. There’s something liberating in telling stories in a world just one step, or even half a step, removed from our own. You can introduce the slightest speculative detail into an otherwise ordinary situation – for instance, a magic marker that’s really magic – and it opens up whole new ways of holding up a mirror to our world. Or you can go whole hog and throw in ghosts and crashed spaceships and dinosaurs and it’s all permissible – there are no rules other than telling a good story.
What are a few of your favorite authors?
Yikes! There are so many, and I’m always bound to forget someone, but a few off the top of my head are: Ray Bradbury, Catherynne M. Valente, Elizabeth Bear, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Kelly Link, Ysabeau Wilce, and Nalo Hopkinson. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Probably Ray Bradbury’s Death is a Lonely Business. My first exposure to his work, or rather the first of his works to really strike me, was Fahrenheit 451, which we had to read in either seventh or eighth grade. It was at the end of the school year and it was one of the first class reading assignments I remember not resenting (because there were so many other things I wanted to be reading), and which actually made me want to seek out more of the author’s work. The first thing I came upon was a copy of Death is a Lonely Business at my local library. I snapped it up along with a pile of other books to bring on our annual family summer vacation to Cape Cod, and read it sitting on the beach. It set my brain on fire. Bradbury’s use of noir tropes, his imagery, his love of language, his sheer passion for life and for writing was evident in every sentence, every word, and it sparked a life-long love of his works for me.
What are you reading now?
Glitter & Mayhem edited by John Klima, Lynne Thomas, and Michael Damien Thomas.
Have you ever bought a book just for the cover, and if so, which one?
Several! Oddly enough, I was just thinking about that before I sat down to answer these questions, and the book was Lauren Groff’s The Monsters of Templeton. There have been others, but it’s the first one that springs to mind since I was just looking at it.
When you’re not working on your next project, how do you like to spend your free time?
I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but I’m rather fond of cooking and experimenting with new recipes, both found and of my own devising. I also enjoy photography, and once upon a time had my own darkroom, but that sort of fell by the wayside when I moved to an apartment where it was impossible to create an appropriately dark environment. I also enjoy reading, gaming, traveling, and when the weather’s nice, spending time outside with my dog.
What’s next for you in 2014?
I have a story forthcoming in Shimmer, along with stories in a few anthologies, but I’m not sure whether or not I’m allowed to talk about them yet. I’ll also be continuing my guest blogging series at SF Signal, Women to Read: Where to Start. In addition to writing, I also co-edit the online magazine, Unlikely Story. Coming up in 2014, we have three full-length issues – The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography, coming out in February, The Journal of Unlikely Cartography, which will be out in June, and the Journal of Unlikely Entomology, which will be out in November. We’re also doing a mini issue of deliberately terrible flash fiction, The Journal of Unlikely Story Acceptances, which will go live on April Fool’s Day.