We speak with speculative fiction writers, new and established, to tease out what inspired them, how they work, what kind of beverage keeps them going, how they think about their work and their relationship to it, and much more.
J. Dianne Dotson: Tackling Structure, Psychological Horror, & Appalachian Wonder
Diving between the worlds of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, J. Dianne Dotson reflects on what inspires her writing, how she maintains confidence in her craft, and how loneliness grew into her passion for world-building. With degrees in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Dianne is currently a science writer. In this episode, she explains how she weaves scientific research into her books and how her childhood in Appalachia sparked her passion for ecology, astronomy, and writing. She also has helpful advice for writers struggling to commit to structure or stay consistent enough to finish their books.
(00:48-05:37) Love of Horror: After revealing that she is currently working on a horror fiction, Dianne tells us how she got introduced to the genre through movies at a young age.
(05:40-09:13) Psychological vs. Physical Horror: How do both psychological & physical elements intertwine in horror writing? Dianne gives examples of both subtypes that she appreciates embodied in the genre.
(11:16-14:18) Dianne’s Diverse Writing Style: Dianne’s writing stands out for its versatility- she explains how she’s able to change styles, genres & storylines ranging from fantasy and sci-fi to horror.
(14:20-15:10) Juggling Multiple Worlds: From her day-job as a science writer to her passion for art- she’s still managing to juggle multiple written projects in the background. Dianne tells us how she takes inspiration from one world into the next.
(15:10- 16:50) Confidence in Storytelling: Confidence to finish & share a book can be difficult for some writers. Dianne explains how she embraces her writing, taking us through her early start in writing comics and how that influenced her creation of The Questrison Saga.
(16:50-20:36) From Isolation to Inspiration: Dianne explains how loneliness led her to develop her own universe through writing. She recalls how she found her writing community later on and the impact collaboration has had.
(20:40-24:53) Heliopause & the Saga: The origin of the first book in Dianne’s saga is told...from rejections to what kept her on track. It’s also discussed how the books can be read independently but enlighten each other.
(24:55-29:14) Tackling Structure Head on: Laying out her book before putting pen to paper, Dianne shocks us with the way she commands her writing structure all at once, before writing, to meet tight publishing deadlines.
(29:15-36:18) Tales from Appalachia: The childhood inspiration behind Shadow Galaxy’s “Tales from Appalachia” are explained from outdoor adventures to the strange mix of wonder & horror that Appalachia evokes.
(36:19-38:33) Background in Natural Science: Dianne explains her fascination with astronomy growing up and how passion for nature evolved and grew into adulthood, leading her to pursue degrees in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. How the subjects she learned inspired her writing including how Greek gods & goddesses inspired some characters in her books.
(38:34-45:59) Research Heavy or Research Light(?): Using her knowledge and research of ecology is part of Dianne’s process in world-building a realistic world in her books— but she explains how it's not always necessary. She tells writers what they can ask themselves when they’re trying to decide: research heavy or research light?
(46:00-46:48) Workshops: Dianne provides mentorship for other aspiring authors & writers through some videos she posts on her social media pages. She also has upcoming panels on Ecology and world-building that she is hosting soon.
(46:49-48:48) Advice for Aspiring Writers: Dianne tells us the harsh reality writers must accept to get where they want to go.
(48:49-50:38) Upcoming Book: The Inn at the Amethyst Lantern is a utopia cli-fi book being released this October by Dianne, we’ve linked where you can pre-order the book, under the list of publications below!
Follow Dianne Dotson
Greta Hayer: The Auger’s Real World, Retellings, & Finding Community
Greta Hayer takes us inside her process of weaving short stories from history, her studies and her travels to South Korea. Taking from history can get tricky; she explains the hardships and struggles of fantasy writing and the solutions she’s found along the way.
P.A. Cornell: Transforming Inspiration into Stories, Pantsing vs. Plotting, & the Value of Writing in a Community
Like many writers, P.A. Cornell discovered her passion for writing at a young age, but without a strong network of writers around her to teach her the ropes, it wouldn’t be until much later when she would devote herself to writing full-time. Currently, she specializes in character driven science-fiction and has dozens of short stories published as well as multiple others about to be published. Her debut novella, Lost Cargo, is set to be released this September 12th; listen to this latest episode to find out what it’s about, what the writing experience was like, and the lessons she’s learned from her journey.
Kelly Robson: Speculative Fiction, Character Building, and Advice for Consistent Writing
Update: High Time in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson is due to come out August 9th, her latest book which we talk about in the episode.
Kelly Robson has written several short stories and award-winning science fiction novellas. We talk about how she got started, what drew her to the speculative market and what informs her writing. One of the the unique things we like about her work are the deeply-designed systems that exist in her worlds through which characters must move. Please enjoy our conversation and hope it provides you writers with further encouragement!
Shingai Njeri Kagunda: Questioning Boundaries, Colonization, and the Healing Benefits of Exploring Grief
Born in Kenya and recently immigrated to the U.S., author and Brown MFA graduate Shingai Njeri Kagunda believes fiction was never meant to be boxed into neat and tame compartments. Just as the real world is messy, so too should fiction. Well, authentic fiction at least. As a writer, Shingai’s approach has always been an eclectic one, aiming to reconcile the magical with the realist, the past with the present and while simultaneously affirming her own, unique identity in a world that for too long has ignored the presence of those like her. She is the author of & This is How to Stay Alive, her debut novel that tackles grief and healing through the vehicles of fantasy and time-travel, as well as multiple short stories. Join her in this very first episode of the Frivolous Comma Podcast as she dissects Western versus Non-Western storytelling, demonstrates the power of fiction in dismantling the effects of colonization, and shares her insights on how to persevere as an aspiring writer.