Last (but definitely not least) in our series of interviews with authors from Issue 5 is Priya Sharma. Priya is a fairly regular contributor to Alt Hist, see “Orchid Hunters” and “The Bitterness of Apples”. I would heartily recommend that you also take a look at her latest story for Alt Hist, “After Mary”.
How did you get the idea for “After Mary”?
I’m going to try and answer this without spoilers- I wanted to write my own “mad scientist” story, although I hope that Daniel’s quest is unexpected. The original story was written in a modern day setting but it didn’t work- it needed a historical setting.
I was lucky enough to see Danny Boyle’s production of “Frankenstein” at the National Theatre in London. It made me think a lot about science in that period, as well as the responsibilities of scientists towards their creation.
Your stories for Alt Hist tend to cross boundaries between horror, speculative fiction and historical fiction. How you happy fitting into a genre category and if so, where would you place yourself?
To be honest, I’m greedy. I want to try everything. I don’t place myself anywhere. The core of the story I want to tell dictates which genre it’s going to lean towards.
I like reading stories that are neither literary or genre, or one genre masquerading as another- writers like Kuzuo Ishiguro, Iain Banks, David Mitchell, Sarah Hall, Margaret Atwood, Vonnegut and Jim Crace.
At the time of our last interview you were working on two novels. How are these getting along?
Terribly. I’m trying to work through it to iron out the problems with the first one. The second was as awful to write as it is to read. When I can cope to look at it again, I’ll dismember it and use what I can in other stories. If I’m being completely honest, the whole process has left me with a morbid fear of novel writing. As much as I want to try again, my bowels turn to water and I break out in a sweat at the thought of embarking on a novel.
Can you tell us a bit more about the other short fiction that you have published recently?
I’ve been lucky this year- “Rag and Bone” appeared on the Macmillian speculative website, Tor.com. It’s about a pseudo-Victorian Liverpool, where the poor are fodder for the factories of wealthy merchants, who also find other uses for them.
“Thesea and Astaurius” is my version of the Minotaur myth and is published in Interzone. “The Anatomist’s Mnemonic” is a horror story about hands that’s appeared in Black Static. it was a love story when I started to write it but strayed. “The Beatification of Thomas Small” is an alternative history/horror (subtitled “How to Make a Saint”) and is included in Arcane II, an anthology available from Cold Fusion Media.
What other stories are you working on?
I’ve got a couple of things on the go that I’m hoping to find a home for. “The Rising Tide” is a horror story about guilt. “The Firebrand” is about a sideshow act that goes wrong. The one that I’m wrestling with is “Panopticon”, which is dystopian (hopefully).
Working as a doctor must mean you don’t have a lot of time to write. What’s your strategy for making time for your writing?
Note to self – get a strategy!
There are a lot of writers out there juggling jobs, families and other commitments. I don’t imagine there are many people who have great swathes of time to write. I try and use what I have. If it’s not long enough to get stuck into writing something new, I try and use it for planning and editing. It’s not just about trying to protect time, it’s about using it to write efficiently.