Meet 1811 is a new blog series in which we interview our members. Today’s Q&A is with the brilliant and hilarious Alicia Haniford, writer of fantasy and mother of cats.
Describe “romance” in one word.
It’s less a word and more the incoherent sound you make to express that jittery, joyful, overly carbonated feeling emanating outward from your solar plexus when you’re highly invested in the characters and their relationship and the story and they’re having a Moment. Unintelligible keyboard smashing is probably the closest written equivalent.
Tell me about the first story you remember writing.
It was a graphic novella thematically reminiscent of Cloud Atlas, in which Pikachu lived out a variety of reincarnations/alternate lives (superhero, ballerina, mowing the lawn, etc.). It had no words because I was in kindergarten and couldn’t spell.
What is your favourite romance story?
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Yes, yes, I know, it’s not romance, it’s YA fantasy. But I just love everything about Sophie and Howl and their turbulent relationship.
How does a story begin?
With a someone.
Does being part of a writing collective affect the way you approach writing?
Not really, although it sometimes makes me more motivated/accountable, which is awesome. And writing is such a solitary activity that it is nice to feel like you’ve got a bit of a support network who understands and empathizes the despair of being up at 3:00 a.m. having an existential crisis fueled by a brutal case of self-doubt and writerly despair.
What’s your method for overcoming the challenges of being a writer, like writer’s block or imposter syndrome?
Writer’s block and imposter syndrome are like evil twins who go everywhere together and lurk ominously in the background even when I’m feeling pretty good about my work. I try to deal with them by setting a timer and forcing myself to write for half an hour, even if it feels like pulling teeth and all of it turns out hilariously awful. If that doesn’t work, sometimes I try making point-form notes to block out the rest of a scene or section, jumping ahead to a scene I’ve been thinking about for a while, working on a different writing project, or just switching gears entirely and doing something else that’s creative or invigorating – playing piano, doing embroidery, practicing my solo jazz, getting my bike out, etc.
When none of those things are working, I visualize myself verbalizing my problems while Tan France listens, nodding and smiling sympathetically. It’s very soothing.
How do you balance writing with the rest of your life (working, being a student)?
In your opinion, what fictional couple should be together but isn’t?
Naruto and Sasuke from Naruto. I’m not ashamed. Well. Only slightly ashamed.
How do you fit writing into your life right now?
I found it most difficult when I was working because I’d come home too tired to write. I started getting up early so I could guarantee I’d get in at least 30-40 minutes of writing before work every day and that habit has stuck with me. I also like having Google Docs on my phone so I can just whip out my novel manuscript at random when I’m waiting for the bus, taking a break in the middle of a bike ride, etc. and get a little bit down.
Tell me about a piece of writing you’re currently working on.
I’ve been working on a YA fantasy novel for about the last year now. It has romance and lots of queer characters and creepy monsters and political tensions and all the other things I love most in fantasy. The (extensive) first draft is nearly done and I’m planning on making it into a trilogy, once school stops kicking my butt so hard. If that ever happens.
Are you a wine person or a cheese person?
CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE
Is there anything else you want to add?
Just a quick shout-out to my wonderful cats, who are so dedicated to sprawling across my keyboard every time I sit down to write. It’s a tough job, but I guess someone has to do it.