Today we’re pleased to welcome a friend of ours, author Connor Wright. Connor has gamely tackled a Random Interview, and provided an excerpt from the brand new Dreamspinner Press novella, First Flight.
Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to write? What’s your latest release about? What have you read recently that knocked your socks off? (Note: Feel free to talk about your body of work, not just your most recent release. Don’t feel limited by genre lines when talking about what you like to write and/or read.)
I enjoy sleeping, looking at pretty people, and walking on the beach—Oh. Right. My name is Connor Wright and I like to write all kinds of things. I tend to stay on the light-and-fluffy end of the shelves, though; while I can appreciate a good thriller, I’m so not good with blood and gore. Mostly what I write is best classed as either Alternate Reality or Magical Realism, because I tend to have characters who essentially wake up in a normal day, but by the end of it, there’s something decidedly other happening. Someday, I really really want to write an actual mystery, with a detective (amateur or pro, I don’t care) and everything.
In my latest release—First Flight—for instance, Jesse Swanson’s day starts out like any other day in the last year: he gets up, goes to work, has an argument with his boyfriend (which is getting to be an annoyingly regular occurance), and instead of going straight home, he heads for his usual spot for sitting and thinking. Once he gets there, he finds what seems to be a dead raven on the side of the road, so he stops to pick it up… And ten minutes later, there’s this naked guy in the back of his car.
It goes on from there and involves stalking, more ravens, more eggs than any doctor wants you to eat, shiny things, and transformations.
As for my other titles… I have three contemporaries, an Alternate Universe Quasi-Historical (in a 1920s that never was), and a sci-fi/speculative fiction piece, links to which (and excerpts of) can be found <a href=”http://www.connorwrites.com/?page_id=171″>here on my site</a>.
I like to read a little bit of everything, too, with the caveat that again I’m not a huge fan of gore. The last book I read was Mike Carey’s Thicker Than Water. It’s the fourth book in a series that starts with The Devil You Know, and features Felix Castor, an exorcist who lives in a very ghost-and-zombie-riddled London. It’s one of the few books that involves zombies that I actually want to read, to be honest.
What is your ideal writing environment? – Submitted by Carl
My ideal writing environment is, basically, propped up against a pile of pillows in bed. I seem to work best when my feet are up, for some reason. Music or a familiar TV show/movie is nice for background noise, though I’ve managed to get a fair amount done with nothing more than an steady ambient hum of fans and/or goats and a rooster. (The goat(s) and the rooster belong to someone up the hill from where I’m currently staying.)
What deep-seated psychological issue are you trying to work out with all of this obsessive scribbling?
One of the biggest recurring themes in my writing is fairness. All your life you get the same litany: “The world’s not fair.” “The universe isn’t fair.” “Life’s not fair.” It may be true, but let’s face it. The truth sucks.
In my writing, there is often a gap—class/social status, financial, education levels, etc—between the protagonists, and there is just as often at least one attempt made on the part of one to reassure the other that that gap just doesn’t matter. So what if, in ‘real life’, Benny would never ever have had anything to do with Phil? In Benny and Phil’s world, it doesn’t matter a jot that Phil’s speech patterns are enough to make any editor worth their salt weep tears of bitter defeat, Benny loves Phil. It’s fair, because Phil earned his place in Benny’s heart and home on his own merits, not by being exactly like Benny. And Benny won Phil’s heart forever by simply treating Phil like everyone else they know, right down to reflexively mumbling “anyone” or “anything” when they use “nobody” or “nothing” incorrectly. (He apologizes, too. He can’t help it! Phil actually likes it, now.)
Another recurring theme in my writing is that of reaching out to someone else and having them reach back. The connection of I see you and you see me and we like each other anyway. I don’t know about anyone else, but that moment that usually happens in high school? Yeah, it didn’t, for me. Moving right along from there…
The last thing about my writing isn’t really a psychological issue, per se. No one really tells me stories, anymore—generally citing my advancing years (30+) as a reason not to—so I have to tell them myself. Of course, being old enough, it’s now my turn to tell them. I’m the next generation, so it’s up to me to pass the stories along to the one that comes after me.
I like telling stories. I especially like knowing that I can take a bunch of words, put them into a particular order, and they will make people smile or grimace or laugh or even get turned on. That’s power, and it’s pretty damn spiffy power too.
Do you remember the first time you told a story and knew it was something you wanted to keep doing?
Mm… Not the exact second, but I’m pretty sure it was somewhere in either ’97 or ’98. I can remember the moment I decided that I was going to pursue becoming a published author, which was in 2009.
In the first instance, I got an email from someone I didn’t know, telling me she really liked reading the transcripts of the role-playing sessions I’d been putting up. She wanted to see more! It only took the once—I was hooked. Now, almost fifteen years later, Michelle is still asking me when I’m going to have more for her. (Soon. Promise.)
In the second, it was after someone—Michelle or Reesa, I can’t remember who—said something about submitting a short story to an anthology. I’d kind of given up on ever being published, because every time I’d tried to write A Novel, I’d gotten bogged down in the fact that I could never come up with a plot. Fortunately, the offhand remark was more or less a wet fish to the back of the head: novels aren’t the only form of writing out there. I started writing, researching, polishing, revising, and finally, nervously, submitting. I’ve had seven accepted, and I’m still working on getting more done and out there.
Do you prefer tv or movies? What’s your favourite?
It depends on what I’m in the mood for. Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched nearly all of NCIS (seasons 1-8; I didn’t finish a few episodes for various reasons) and nearly all of A&E’s movie adaptations of C. S. Foresters’ Horatio Hornblower books. Ioan Gruffudd is my new celebrity crush, sigh.
Generally, I put the TV on for background noise or to help distract the two under-fives that currently share my home. I have a profoundly greater appreciation for both series writers and voice-actors than I ever had before, thanks to TV aimed at pre-schoolers. Wow Wow Wubbzy is pretty good; Ni-Hao Kai-Lan would be better if it was just Kai-Lan, Hoho (the monkey), and Yeye; Pocoyo is fun; The Upside Down Show is great.
What misconception of adulthood did you have as a kid that you secretly wish had been true?
That a day job is always fun and awesome and filled with fun and awesome people. That was a disappointing discovery, and it’s one of the big reasons that I’m not traditionally employed at the moment. At least dogs appreciate you, even when you’re talking to them about people who don’t exist doing things that aren’t necessarily legal.
Connor has been kind enough to give us a peek at First Flight. Enjoy the excerpt below. -R
First Flight is typical of my stories: I set out to write one thing, but by the time I’m done, I find I’ve written something else entirely. In this case, I was inspired by a call for submissions centering on Trickster characters (like Coyote, Kitsune, or my favorite, Raven). I got sidetracked thinking about urban ravens, and how one might find itself interested in a human being… And from there, I was further distracted thinking about how the interested bird’s family might react. Eventually, I realized that whatever idea I’d originally had was now completely uninteresting.
The following is the first part of the first chapter of First Flight, where Jesse meets Chris — and contains one of my favorite metaphors ever, even if I do say so myself.
The music really couldn’t go any louder, mostly because the crappy little speakers in the doors would start cutting out. Jesse Swanson flicked the knob anyhow, just a bit, pushing the sound system to its limit and reveling in the angry clashing-thrashing sound of the music. What the hell was Kevin’s problem, anyhow? Edie and Lucas had invited both of them to go to the movies, and Kevin had said no. And then he’d gotten pissed off because Jesse had gone without him.
Jesse shouted along to the song, as loud as he could, keeping an eye on his speed as he steered his car down the unplowed length of Collins Road. It was mostly wet and sloppy, but slush turned to ice on the edges, and he didn’t want to go into the ditch. The music trailed off into something that sounded like metal garbage cans being thrown down concrete stairs, and his hand flashed out to skip to the next screamy track. A quarter of a mile ahead, an old oak tree stood at the side of the road, its dark branches wide against the sky. Jesse decided to just drive, now; to yell along with his music and get his annoyance out of his system before he went home. If it had been warmer, or if the sky had been less threatening, he would have stopped to bask in the isolation of the area while his music poured over him.
Something dark lay on the side of the road, just the other side of the tree. As he got closer, Jesse realized that it wasn’t the garbage bag he’d assumed it was. No, it was a dead bird, lying on the shoulder. The sight of it pulled him out of his little bubble of indignation; feeling strangely sorry for it, he turned the music off as he pulled over.
He picked his way through the slush to the bird. It was a raven, lying on its back with its eyes closed and its feet curled tightly on nothing. Maybe someone had hit it—a half-dozen pigeons usually met the same fate every summer. Jesse returned to his car and dug around in the space under the hatchback, finally finding his gloves under an old towel burned through in places by spilled bleach.
He gingerly put his hands on either side of the slightly outspread wings and scooped it up, frowning as its head lolled. It seemed both strangely heavy and strangely light at once, and he wondered briefly if it was the fact that it was dead that made it heavy. Then he shook his head and dismissed the thought, gently placing the bird on the towel. It was impulse, really—probably something left over from when the raven’s ancestors used to eat his own—but Jesse folded the towel over the dark form before dropping his gloves and closing the hatch.
Ten minutes later, squinting through late-spring sleet and wondering what he was going to do with the bird once he got home, Jesse heard an odd sound. Kind of a shuffling noise, and then a kind of patting, like someone feeling around in the back. As he came to a stop at a red light, he glanced into his rearview mirror, just to see what he could see—
He was… cold. Warm and cold, both at once, but mostly cold. And moving, without wanting to move. He opened his eyes. The world was stranger than he’d expected it to be; the colors were different and the scents were all wrong. Something inside him got his body moving; he shoved himself upright, his head turning this way and that. The cold, boxy metal things were all around him, and he was inside one! Had he been eaten? He recognized the sound of a man, ahead of him, and tried to speak.
“Keh,” he said.
“What the hell?” Jesse turned around in his seat, staring at the head and shoulders he could see. Dark hair, wet and sticking to his forehead, skin so pale it was almost blue, dark eyes. “Who the hell are you and how did you get into my car?”
The words didn’t mean anything to him, but he tried to respond anyhow. Some little thing inside him, voice or sensation or a combination of the two, told him that it was important. Very important. “Uh.” The young man blinked, opening and closing his mouth a few times as if he wasn’t sure how it worked.
“Who are you? What’s your name? Do you—Damn.” Jesse settled back into the driver’s seat as people honked at him. He turned in at the first parking lot he came to, pulled across two spots, and nearly fell out of his car in his haste to get around to the back.
When the cover over him rose, he got his first close look at the man. The voice (it had a whispery quality to it) said: Yes. This is the right one. Maybe the man could explain, could tell him the right what. With this hope in mind, he looked up into the man’s face.
Jesse was ready for a lot of things: apologies, lies, even laughter and an explanation of some kind of weird prank. He was not at all ready for the look the guy gave him, a look that clearly said I am possibly more helpless than a newborn opossum. Once he was past that, however, the guy was naked, wet, and shivering, the old towel draped across his lap. The towel reminded him that there had been a dead bird in the back; was the guy sitting on it?
“What happened to”—to hell with the stupid bird—“you? Are you all right? What’s your name? Why are you wet and naked and more importantly why are you wet and naked and in my car?” Not that Jesse objected, generally speaking, to guys being naked around him. Or wet. Or wet and naked; however, he preferred to get to know them beforehand. Besides, the guy was in his car without so much as an “excuse me”, which was the pimento olive on top of a very weird sundae.
He remained silent, just absorbing the sound of the man’s voice.
“Okay. Uh…. ¿Usted habla español? And that’s about all the Spanish I know, sorry.” After another minute of being stared at like there was nothing else to see, Jesse sighed. “Here,” he said, taking off his jacket and offering it to the guy, “at least you’ll be a little warmer.”
The thing that was offered to him was warm. It smelled good, too, and he pressed it to his face, trying to sort out and memorize the notes that made up its scent. The smell made him want something, but he didn’t know what it was.
“Uh, don’t—Well, I guess it would have gotten wet anyhow, but….” Jesse tugged at his jacket, mildly surprised when the guy let go of it. “Here, like this.” He draped it around the other young man’s shoulders, carefully keeping his eyes on the fabric as he fastened the middle three snaps. “There. That’s better, right?” No answer but that same constant gaze.
“Okay, you know what? I think we should go see a doctor or something, make sure you’re really okay. So, um, you just stay right there and we’ll do that,” Jesse said, then sighed as the guy tilted his head. “Watch your head.”