Fearsome Lullaby: Interview with A.C. Wise

Welcome back! This week, I’m thrilled to spotlight the absolutely awesome A.C. Wise! A.C. is the author of the forthcoming novella, Catfish Lullaby, from Broken Eye Books as well as the collections, The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories and The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, from Lethe Press, along with many incredible short stories.

Recently, A.C. and I discussed Catfish Lullaby as well as her work as a reviewer and her writing plans for the future.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Writing is something I’ve always been interested in, and something I’ve always loved doing. Somewhere around 3rd or 4th grade, it finally clicked in my head that writing was a thing people could do professionally in such a way that people could read their work. That’s when I decided I wanted to be an author someday.

Some of my favorites authors… I swear I’ll try to stick to just a few and not go rambling on and on. Ray Bradbury, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Elizabeth Bear, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, E. Catherine Tobler, John Langan, and N.K. Jemisin. I should probably stop there, right? I could keep going…

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of Catfish Lullaby! Could you share a little about your process in developing this story?

Thank you! The novella began life as a short story, and when Scott Gable approached and asked if I had anything novella-length for Broken Eye Books, I realized there was more to the story that I wanted to tell, so I went back and expanded it. The original inspiration came from a song I sort of half heard at a county fair. The sound system wasn’t great, so I couldn’t tell what the singer was actually saying, but my writer-brain decided he was singing about a tall tale type figure like Paul Bunyan either walking into or out of a swamp, and from that, Catfish John was born. So thank you, singer whose name I don’t know, for your song that I probably woefully misheard!

The cover art for Catfish Lullaby is just incredible! Can you tell me about the artist, and how the cover evolved?

The artist is Sishir Bommakanti, who does generally gorgeous work. Seriously, check it out! (https://sishir.com/) All the credit for how the cover came together goes to Scott and Sishir. Scott found Sishir, sent over my novella, and all I had to do was sit back and wait. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way the cover turned out! I’ve been very lucky with covers in general, between Catfish Lullaby, and my two Lethe Press collections, which had covers done by Staven Andersen and Reiko Murikami – two more incredible artists!

Everything about Catfish Lullaby, from the blurb to that beautiful aforementioned cover art, seems to have a very strong sense of place. I feel like I can hear and smell the swamp just from reading the description of the book. What drew you to this particular setting?

The fictional town of Lewis, where the novella is set, is very loosely based on the town in Louisiana where my husband grew up. Very loosely. I cheated on the geography, made the land much swampier, and rearranged things to suit the story. I can’t imagine setting Catfish Lullaby anywhere else though. There’s a kind of quiet you get there that you don’t get anywhere else, and a sense of isolation that can be both comforting and eerie. It’s definitely the kind of place where a living myth could hide away, and where bits of otherness could easily leak through to our world.

You’re a highly prolific short story writer. At this point, do you have a specific approach to crafting a short story (i.e. specific outlining strategies, a certain rhythm to how long it takes you to finish a story, etc.), or does the process still vary greatly each time?

The process varies greatly each time. Some stories flow, to the point where it feels like they arrive fully formed, and it’s a wonderful thing. Other times, it feels like banging my head against a wall. I rarely outline my short stories, at least not in a formal sense. I do occasionally leave myself notes and waypoints so I have a rough idea of where I was going next time I sit down to work on it, but other than that, I mostly figure it out as I go along.

In addition to your fiction writing, you’re also a very busy interviewer and reviewer. What draws you to interviewing and reviewing, and what do you feel, if anything, they’ve taught you about writing fiction?

Interviewing is a fun way to connect with other writers, and reviewing is an excuse to yell about stories I love. Really, they’re both selfish activities. Short fiction in particular can often get overlooked when it comes to reviews, so that was the other impetus behind the Words for Thought column at Apex Magazine. That said, I feel like short fiction is starting to get more of the attention it deserves thanks to fantastic and dedicated reviewers like Maria Haskins, Charles Payseur, Bogi Tak√°cs, Vanessa Fogg, Adri Joy, forestofglory, and the various reviewers at Locus Magazine, among others.

I think one of the main things reviewing has taught me about writing, or fiction generally, is that different people connect with different stories. A story may leave one person cold, and it may blow another person away, and sometimes it can be a matter of that story finding the right person at the right time on the right day, or vice versa, a person just being in the wrong frame of mind for a certain story when they come across it. Which I guess is a roundabout way of saying write the story you want to tell, rather than trying to guess at what you think your potential audience might want.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on edits to a novel so my agent can start shopping it around (eep!), and I have a handful of short stories in various stages of completion sitting open on my laptop.

Where can we find you online?

I blog somewhat sporadically at www.acwise.net. On Twitter, I’m @ac_wise, and there I mostly shout about short fiction I love, and post pictures of my corgis. My regular review columns appear at Apex Magazine (monthly) and The Book Smugglers (roughly quarterly).

Tremendous thanks to A.C. Wise for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!