Alexis A. Hunter revels in the endless possibilities of speculative fiction. Over fifty of her short stories have appeared recently in Shimmer, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Apex, and more. To learn more, visit http://www.alexisahunter.com.
Geosi Gyasi: You were raised on a farm in rural Michigan. Could you tell us something about your upbringing?
Alexis A. Hunter: Being homeschooled and living in rural Michigan, I had a pretty quiet childhood. And a good one. We had our adventures, but they were usually adventures at home, trying to wrangle the pigs into the trailer or catch the cow that got out of her pen. We made up stories and played them out–played ‘pretend’–like most kids do. I told myself stories falling asleep at night. I got my fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, but emerged feeling really blessed to have had the childhood I did.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you define speculative fiction?
Alexis A. Hunter: Speculative fiction generally refers to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. These tend to be genres where we can ‘speculate’ about the future, about what could be. I love these genres mostly because they have almost no limits–push your imagination as far as it can go, bring that idea into a story, it’s great fun. It can also be a fantastic tool to examine current problems in our society.
Geosi Gyasi: Is it true that writing a novel is difficult than writing short fiction?
Alexis A. Hunter: I don’t want to say more difficult. I think writing short stories vs. writing novels are just different kinds of difficult. The novel requires a greater capacity to see and wrangle the big picture; short stories require incredible brevity, using fewer words to paint a story, but while giving it the effect of being part of a broader world.
Geosi Gyasi: Why did you decide to become a writer?
Alexis A. Hunter: When I was very young, my mother told me that God gave everyone a special gift. She said her gift was the gift of writing. I thought that was pretty cool and wanted it to be my gift too. I think that’s probably when I first began to write.
Geosi Gyasi: Does your family approve of your writing?
Alexis A. Hunter: My family is wonderfully supportive and encouraging of my writing. ‘Approve’ is a funny word. I know I sometimes veer into content and tackle ideas that they might not necessarily approve of, but I think where it counts most–those elements of support and encouragement–they are absolutely 100% there for me. I’m thankful for that.
Geosi Gyasi: What has been your greatest challenge as a writer?
Alexis A. Hunter: My greatest challenge lies in the area of editing and revising. I still struggle with that element of writing. I tend to dump out mostly complete drafts and do very little revising. The downside is that if a story comes out with a major flaw, I’m likely never to fix it and simply drop an otherwise promising story into the trunk, never to be seen again. I’d be delighted if I could just find a way to make my brain tackle larger scale revisions!
Geosi Gyasi: What sort of preparation goes into the writing of a story?
Alexis A. Hunter: This is of course different for everyone. It’s even different for me! There are some stories I simply sit down and write, with no idea where I’m going. These tend to be prompt-driven stories. They also tend to be shorter. There are other stories that I plot out every detail and create character sketches for–these stories tend to be longer, more complex, and on the whole–probably better than my other stories.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific place where you sit down to write?
Alexis A. Hunter: Not specifically, no. I tend to simply write from the couch, using my laptop and with some good, instrumental music to get me in the right mood.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you read reviews of your own works?
Alexis A. Hunter: I do read reviews of my own stories–and avidly at that! I’m always excited to see what other people think of my work. Sometimes they think very highly of my stories and sometimes they don’t. Everyone reads differently and brings different things to a story; they all see something different, and I love the chance to see my work through someone else’s eyes.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you regard as your best work so far?
Alexis A. Hunter: I would have to say probably “Be Not Unequally Yoked”–published by Shimmer in January of this year. It feels like my most important story, and readers so far have really connected with it in an exciting way. I brought a lot of my past into that story, setting it in the area in which I grew up, and it also gives me a special fondness for the tale.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you regard as the best part of writing?
Alexis A. Hunter: For me, the best part of writing is finishing a first draft. Typing out “the end” on a story gives an incredible thrill, almost a high, that even selling that story doesn’t quite parallel.
Geosi Gyasi: What books are often found on your writing table?
Alexis A. Hunter: I’ve been reading a lot of classic sci-fi authors recently–Philip K. Dick, Asimov, Vonnegut. Asimov is so far my favorite of the lot. Currently, I’m knee-deep in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower. If I had to pick a favorite all-time novel writer, it has to be Octavia.
Geosi Gyasi: Are you working on any new project?
Alexis A. Hunter: I’ve got a few stories brewing at the moment. One is shaping up to be a more hefty story–probably a novella or novelette, so that’s exciting.
Geosi Gyasi: What inspired your piece, “Gold Dress, No Eyes”?
Alexis A. Hunter: I wrote “Gold Dress, No Eyes” for a contest on a neo-pro writing forum called Codex. I was given the title of this story as a writing prompt and it was such a captivating image! I absolutely had no trouble with this story. It sort of unspooled out of me with ease. Not all stories come to me that way, so needless to say I was excited. I really love nontraditional narratives–especially list stories–and I wanted to tell a story through a series of objects. Pulling all the pieces together was a bit of a challenge, but I think it worked out in the end.
Geosi Gyasi: I’m just wondering how you got the idea to write, “Be Not Unequally Yoked”?
Alexis A. Hunter: Every week, I meet up with a local writer or two and we give each other writing prompts. We write up something in about twenty minutes and read it aloud to each other. It’s a fun challenge and keeps me writing. The core idea of “Be Not Unequally Yoked” came about from one of these meetings. I wrote a flash piece about a girl who stumbles across an Amish werehorse in the middle of rural Michigan. I really liked the idea itself and decided to write something a little longer.
Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever been rejected for your works?
Alexis A. Hunter: I’m assuming you mean have I ever had my stories rejected by publishers? Absolutely I have. Every writer has their stories rejected. According to my submission tracker, I’ve had a little over 460 rejections over the course of the past five years. That averages close to a hundred a year, I think. I like to wear those rejections like a badge of honor. To me, how many rejections an author has received is a good indicator of how much they put their work out there, how hard they’ve fought, you know? Some authors sort of takeoff from the get-go, but my writing journey has definitely been a long (and fun!) walk.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you care about the people who read your works?
Alexis A. Hunter: Absolutely. Readers are so, so important. Not just to me as a writer, but to me as a person. When I see someone reading a book on their lunchbreak at work or while waiting in a doctor’s office, I get a rush of happiness. It’s a common bond between us. I’m a reader just as much as I’m a writer. We learn so much from reading, and really stretch our imaginations and our souls. As for the specific people who read my work–they are all amazing and I am so grateful to them. I write because I love to write, but the fact that people take time out of their busy lives to read my stories is just so gratifying.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you often do in your spare time when not writing?
Alexis A. Hunter: Video games. All the time. I’m sort of hooked on Destiny right now, but you can pretty much always find me playing some shooter or RPG or another. When I’m not playing video games, I’m either binge-watching another great TV show on Netflix or have my nose stuck in a good book. I’m hooked on stories, what can I say? No matter how they’re delivered, I love getting into the lives of characters.