I’m so excited to have the ridiculously talented Helen Stubbs as a very special guest on my blog this week.
Helen is a Gold Coast-based writer and a real name to watch in Speculative Fiction. I’ve had the privilege of reading much of her work and I am continually amazed at her unique and individual style. She has a rare ability to make the most unfamiliar scenarios and surroundings believable; grounded by strong characters, topical themes and exotic imagery.
Look out for her stories: you will find where to read them in her Bio below.
Recently I put Helen in the hot seat with ten questions about her work. So without further ado, I introduce Helen Stubbs, the only other girl I know that thought she may have been carrying an alien too:
Congratulations, Helen. You’ve recently had another short story accepted. Tell us a bit about ‘Winds of Change’.
When we had that big cyclone up north (Queensland, 2011), I was inspired by the idea that a baby born in a storm might have a relationship to the weather. At the same time, I felt a longing for a hero who could save us from all the natural disasters happening everywhere, because you just can’t reason with nature. My story The Stormchilds explores these ideas. ‘Winds of Change,’ is a great title. Remember that song? I could wave a lighter to that one!
I’ve noticed that birthing processes, lifecycles and maternal instincts are recurrent themes in your work. What is it that fascinates you about these subjects?
It’s fertile ground. (Pun intended.) I’ve always found lifecycles, and the cycles of nature, amazing. As a kid I loved to see eggs hatching, cats having slimy squirmy kittens and the things animals do for their young, like wasps putting anaesthetised spiders in their larvae’s nests.
When I was pregnant, while being slightly bothered that I was carrying an Alien, I also found it the most creative and spiritual time of my life. I’m not usually spiritual at all. I couldn’t find any literature that dealt with the major changes I experienced. So I explore those themes in my writing.
Birth is not something you come across a lot in fiction, perhaps because people find it frightening, traumatic or distasteful. I also reject the typical birth scene in movies — you know, the screaming woman in stirrups. But I find that birth is a rich material for writing, with so many inherent conflicts and emotions.
I think birth is a unique female experience through which characters can show amazing strength. If it helps other women move toward birth with a more positive outlook, that would be awesome, too. I’m not sure if I’ll always write about it, but it has featured prominently in the last few years.
You also incorporate strong female characters into much of your writing. Is there an underlying statement that is being made, or is it simply that you find they resonate better with your plots and themes?
I love plots that make characters rise to the occasion! But my women do tend to be strong. In fact I have to be careful I don’t make my heroines unrealistically tough. I believe girls can do anything, and I love to see them do everything, but it’s more my world view rather than a statement. I think strong characters inspire emotion, and emotion is my goal.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received as a writer?
Enjoy the writing process, the journey and the friends you make on the way.
You seem to be equally comfortable writing short stories, novellas or novel-length manuscripts. Which do you find the most challenging?
Novels are certainly the hardest. Keeping momentum for that length and then rewriting and polishing it all up is tricky, for me.
Which writers do you admire, enjoy the most, or derive inspiration from?
My Prana Writer friends, and Australian writers like Kate Grenville and Marion Halligan, and also sci-fi heroes Sheri Tepper, Isaac Asimov and Authur C Clarke.
Helen, you are a prolific writer. What is your advice to writers on getting those words down?
Take the time (and I mean rip it out of your otherwise allocated hours) and get those words down. In those pesky hours of the day when you can’t be writing, daydream about what you will write when you can, so that when you get to sit down you can just go for it!
Are you working on any special projects at the moment?
Yes! I’m editing my steampunk novella called The Cupcake Girl of Winding Street, and writing the sequel, Sisters of the Sands. They’re set locally, but the world is very different. Natural hot springs and gravity drive the civilisation.
I’m giving a friend a hand with his vampire screenplay. Also, I recently submitted my novel Black Earth to Angry Robot, on their request. I also submitted a short story to the anthology Machine Of Death.
What are you currently reading?
William Goldman’s abridged version of The Princess Bride. It’s great.
What is one thing that people may be surprised to know about you?
I have trouble spelling receipt, which is really embarrassing.
ABOUT HELEN: Gold Coast-based writer HELEN STUBBS loves the beautiful weird, especially fiction about the future and alternate realities.
Her unpublished novel Black Earth was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Award. Helen’s short stories appear in Dead Red Heart, Winds of Change, Midnight Echo 6 and the Aussiecon Four Souvenir Booklet.
Her interests include chatting to strangers, fretting about the environment and marveling over art and innovation.
She’s a member of Prana Writers, Vision Writers, QWC and The Splinter Group.
Contact Helen at twitter.com/#!/superleni and helenstubbs.wordpress.com.
I hope you enjoyed spending time with Helen. I do.
Happy writing, happy reading and, of course, happy days 🙂