by JW Stebner
Anna Madden, author of “Wings of Light,” answered a few of editor in chief JW Stebner’s questions about her writing process, her inspirations, and her short story appearing in Issue 4 of Hexagon. Anna has been published elsewhere in Apparition Lit, DreamForge Magazine, Zooscape, Dark Matter Magazine, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and others! Beware of potential spoilers for her story “Wings of Light.”
If you wish to learn more about Anna Madden and the other authors of Issue 4, you can find their bios by clicking HERE.
JW: What inspires you to write speculative fiction?
Anna: Other writers inspire me. As a reader, I want to be immersed into a different world, so I try to rework that spell in my own writing.
JW: Do you read the same types of stories that you write?
Anna: I’m drawn to stories similar to what I write, but I also read outside that net. There’s so many voices and styles out there, and they’ve all got a magic of their own.
JW: Prior to “Wings of Light,” you submitted to Hexagon a number of times. There are many discussions to be had on perseverance as a new writer. What kind of advice might you give to other new writers or aspiring writers who are just beginning their own careers?
Anna: Keep at it. Try and find peers you trust who will read your work and offer feedback. Read the markets you’d like to see your name in one day. My other advice is self-care. Take a break when it’s necessary. Go dig in the garden if you have one and like battling the earth. Eat some chocolate, or reread a favorite author to escape for a bit.
JW: What inspired you to write about the wonderful world of insects? Is this the type of story you usually write, or a departure from the normal?
Anna: I enjoy a YouTube channel called AntsCanada. It features different ant species living in their own terrarium worlds. I had considered trying to write an ant-inspired story after stumbling upon it, and then Hexagon suggested ants for the Issue 4 call. It is certainly the type of story I write, at least in how I’ll build a world. For example, after receiving orchids as gifts, I wrote about a forest of vast orchids called home-plants. Since I managed to give my orchids root rot, that was also the conflict in the world: the home-plants were dying, and no one knew why. Once I settled on a character with her own inner conflict, I had a story to tell.
JW: One of the things I love about your stories is the way that you infuse emotion and humanity into your characters. Do you see this as a priority in your writing?
Anna: I do think it’s a priority in my writing. They’re rudiments any reader can relate to, and the types of conflicts and emotions I write about are seeded from my own personal experiences as well.
JW: What was it like to have your story represented visually on the cover by Matt Emmons?
Anna: It was magical. When I look at the cover art, I see the story come to life. During the writing process, I debated on how many ant characteristics to stay true to, and which to bend. I wanted the story to remain relatable to the human experience. There’s ambiguity within the details, which allows the reader to add or detract those ant-like elements. Matt balanced it so well, while still staying true to the descriptions. Thanks again, Matt!
JW: Do you prefer writing short fiction or longer narratives?
Anna: Short fiction is my focus at the moment. I’d like to branch out into longer narratives eventually, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing short stories.
JW: Many authors and editors say that to write well, an author must read a lot. Do you have any particular authors that inspire you?
Anna: Recent inspirators are Alix E. Harrow, Naomi Novik, and A. G. Slatter. I’ve long adored Ursula K. Le Guin and Robin McKinley.
JW: “Wings of Light” has several intense battle scenes. Are they something that you enjoy writing or do you dread them?
Anna: I’ve dreaded them in the past. I tend to worry they’ll read like kids fighting each other with foam noodles. Playing with the language helped me on “Wings of Light,” hopefully making the battle scenes gripping and visceral.
JW: How does being a reader for DreamForge and Dark Matter magazines help you in your own writing?
Anna: I’d like to think it’s made my writing stronger, but mostly, it’s helped me to understand the process and not be so afraid of submitting in the first place.
JW: 2021 is already shaping up to be a fantastic year for your work. I think you’ve had a new piece published every month! What has that been like?
Anna: It’s been a dream and wholly unexpected. I started submitting fiction in 2019. I was lucky to have a story published that year, followed by another in 2020. Comparably, I’ve currently got seven short stories either already published or forthcoming for 2021. It’s been my breakout year, to some extent, and I’m really proud of myself for not giving into my voice of failure.
JW: I always like to ask about writing process because each writer is different in the way that they create. Can you describe your personal writing process?
Anna: Prompts are my friends, and so are deadlines. For “Wings of Light,” I paired ants with the three-word prompt: skull, oil, and light. I read about ants, letting what I learned influence the rules of my world. Since Hexagon had a submission deadline for Issue 4, I couldn’t drag my feet. That’s my basic process, though it sounds a lot smoother going than it actually is.
JW: Can you speak about a larger project that you might be working on? A passion project or slowly developing epic that might be something to look for in the future? Even a current work in progress that you care to share a few details about?
Anna: I’m currently working on a headless horseman story, set in a cyberpunk world. I’ve got a couple larger narrative ideas I want to get working on this summer, and some mythical horse stories that need finishing up or redrafted. I seem to be in a horse phase at the moment. If I manage all of that, “Wings of Light” will eventually have a sequel. I’d like to see what happens next.
JW: How might interested readers keep up with your future work?
Anna: Follow me on Twitter @anna_madden_, where I post regularly about writing things. My website is annamadden.com. I keep it updated with links to any stories I’ve sold, and information on where to find them.
Anna’s work with also be featured in Issue 5, with a brand new short story titled “A Daughter’s Aim.” If you would like to read the issue which includes Anna’s short story in Issue 4, you can find it HERE.