Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Introducing a Young Writer - Mary Innes

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Mary Innes is a girl who is just, just starting her life as a writer. She is still in high school and has a long road ahead of her. But talent! Man, this girl's got it. Her writing is stunning and disturbing. She can weave words like someone twice her age. And she's clever. Frighteningly clever. So let me introduce you to her:

Presenting young writer - Mary Innes.

KF: How old are you?

MI: Physically or mentally? Physically I am sixteen, but mentally I can be anywhere from about four to thirty depending on the situation.

KF: When did you start writing?

MI: I started writing when I was twelve or so because I didn’t really have anything better to do. I have always made up stories, but it had never really occurred to me that writing them down was actually a possibility. After I started writing it took me a long time to become comfortable with sharing my work with other people. It took me even longer to actually work up the courage to publish anything on the internet. It still amazes me that people read my writing and enjoy it.

KF: Who or what influenced your writing?

MI: There are not really many things that don’t influence my writing. Even just walking down the street there are so many things to see and think about, and by extension write about. My friends influence my writing a lot as well. They are all brilliant people and they help me think about problems in a different way, or even notice problems I’d never even thought about before. I’m influenced (probably a bit too much) by the weird and wacky Tumblr-verse, i.e. the website of Tumblr and everything on there. Sometimes a post on Tumblr inspires a great idea; I actually have a separate book where I write all these down. I watch a lot to TV and read a lot of fiction, so both these sources have influenced me, and they are probably the reason that I have started writing fan fiction in my spare time (and writing fan fiction is definitely the reason I have no spare time any more).

KF: What kind of things do you like to write?

MI: I write all kinds of things; I actually make a point to try any different writing style or genre or whatever that I encounter. I have the most fun writing fiction, specifically fantasy, sci-fi, or any type of alternate universe story. Inventing the setting is the part I enjoy the most, and I quickly get bored writing plots based around more realistic settings or locations that I know a lot about. I personally write to take myself to a different world so writing about the place I already live in is not something I set myself up to do. I have a special fondness for steampunk, a genre I got into after reading Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy. It has become my favourite genre to write in. I write lots of fan fiction.

KF: What kinds of fan fiction do you do?

MI: I prefer to write alternate universe fan fictions (AUs) mostly because I can do pretty much anything with the setting. I like to write really different and fanciful AUs because a lot of them are relatively unexplored. More generic AUs (high school or regular life for example) have a lot of material and a lot of people write about them and I find it hard to come up with an original idea, those two settings bore me a bit too. I am actually pretty useless at almost all kinds of romance writing, fan fiction or otherwise, so I tend to steer away from those kinds of plots in favour of action and adventure story lines.

KF: What does fan fiction do for you as a writer?

MI: It helps me practice and get in touch with a setting or a plot. Sometimes if I make up a setting I really like for a bigger project or something, I’ll write a whole load of fan fictions using the same setting. For the story I’m working on now, I’ve written ten or so fan fics since I started it in July; I now know way more about it than I otherwise would have, and I’ve done way more writing than I otherwise would have. Even before I knew fan fiction was a thing, I would make up new plot line or sequels to the books and shows I read or watched, so for me fan fiction is just another kind of writing (I’m also lazy with characters and have trouble making them up, so fan fics are a quick and easy way around this).

KF: Do you think fan fiction, as a genre, is as creative as completely new writing?

MI: Absolutely! I’ve read amazing fan fiction that was better than some published novels or movies and TV shows I’ve seen (Dungeons and Dragons the Movie I’m looking at you). Fan fiction is also a great way to start writing or to start writing more. Some people will start writing fan fics, then make up their own characters, and then start writing completely from their imaginations. It’s also a great head start on the creative process; when I have writer’s block, it’s usually because I can’t nail down one aspect of the story, especially characters. Fan fiction gives me a way to get around this. I’ve seen people do some truly original things with fan fics, and to my mind fan fiction is just another type of fan art, and I’ve never heard anyone argue that fan art is uncreative so I don’t see why fan fiction should be any different.

Funny story: I was once really pressed for inspiration for a personal response for my English class, so I started writing a fan fiction and got a 95%. My teacher commented that is was extremely creative.

KF: When you do write stuff that is purely from your imagination, what kind of things do you write about?

MI: I write about anything, but I especially like writing about adventures. Most of my plots usually centre around getting to know people and learning to trust people, which is something I have a lot of trouble with. Even after I make friends with someone, I find it hard to share my feelings with them and I think this comes out a lot in my writing. I find it somewhat ironic that the thing I have the most trouble with is the thing I like to write about the most.

KF: Where do you see yourself going with your writing?

MI: I’m not about to stop writing so I think I’ll go a long way with it. I hope to do an English degree in university and then publish full-length novels. In the shorter term I just need to motivate myself to sit down and write more and then share more of my work.

KF: Do you have any advice for young writers?

MI: Always say yes. Whenever you get the opportunity to meet other writers and to go to camps or join clubs or do a chat room, say yes. Surround yourself with people who enjoy the same things as you and talk about those things with them. My friends regularly dare me to write a story about an idea they come up with and I will always take them up on that dare, no matter how much I dislike the idea or genre or whatever. This helps. Trust me, the more things you try the better you get.

Oh yes, and never ever let anyone tell you your ideas are bad or useless or stupid, because no matter how strange or weird your idea is, it could still be gold. As evidence I present: the man who invented the pool noodle.

KF: Where can people see your work?

MI: At the epically awesome RIO writing club website and E-Zine where you can also find links to my other writing accounts.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Kim Firmston

Kim Firmston is a writer and creative writing instructor in Calgary. Her teen novels Schizo and Hook Up were Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Bet Selections. Her short story "Life Before War" was shortlisted for the 2008 CBC Literary Awards. Her most recent novel for teens is Touch, about a teenage hacker with a troubled family life.

Go to Kim Firmston’s Author Page