It’s time for another post in my Staying Awesome Interview Series! Today I’m thrilled to feature someone I’ve long admired for her many, many talents, as well as for being one of the most passionate geeks I’ve ever known. I met her via Twitter a few years ago, and since then, we’ve been geeking out over tons of things like whoa.
Give it up for the wonderful Alice Fanchiang!
What makes Alice awesome?
She’s a self-described “scribbler of thoughts, plots, and sometimes stories.”
She’s a poet! (and a damn good one). You can check out her poem, “Actaeon,” over at Strange Horizons!
She’s a Ravenclaw. (!!!)
Her history crush is Alexander Hamilton, y’all. Come on. Automatic cool points.
Now let’s get to know Alice better, shall we??
1) Let’s talk writing. Not only are you a writer of novels, you’re also a poet! Your poem “Actaeon” has been published in Strange Horizons (I must confess that I want to scribble verses from that poem and plaster them all over my house). How would you describe your writing process for novels vs. your writing process for poetry?
That is so ridiculously flattering. I don’t even know what to say! Thank you!
Confession, I’m terrible at writing novels. I have a hard time finishing anything, and that is both a mixture of procrastination and perfectionism. I am an unreformed edit-as-you-go person, which makes finishing novels very difficult because they’re long-form story-telling. So with regards to process, I will only say that I’m a pants-er (who is working on outlining) and am someone who tries very hard to keep the story moving forward because otherwise, I will be revising forever.
My poetry process, on the other hand, meshes better with my natural inclinations. Because it’s a much shorter form (at least the poems I write are), I can spend more time agonizing over individual words and lines. I can revise verses to my heart’s content and still make it to the end. The other thing is, when I write poems, I’m not usually focusing on a plot, per se. My intent is always to evoke a mood or a feeling, and I kind of let that guide the rest of the poem. Most of the time, I can’t tell you how a poem is going to end until I get there. I know, it sounds like a vague hand-wavey explanation, but it is what it is. They usually start because I have a distinct image and/or feeling in my head that I want to put on paper or a line or two come to me that I can’t stop thinking about, and it goes from there. For example, a semi-successful attempt to catch a meteor shower late one summer inspired a few lines about star-gazing and the slow tempo of summer nights, which eventually became a poem.
Sometimes, the poems are written very quickly, almost all at once. Other times, it happens over the course of a few days or weeks. Actaeon, for example, took 1.5 weeks to finish. I wrote 2 verses very quickly and continued working a few lines at a time over the next few days until I found the thread of the story and then got to the end. Then I had to give it space, revisit it, and then send it to someone else to look at.
So novel writing versus poetry writing for me is essentially discipline versus indulgence, haha. I feel like I need to exercise so much more control, thought, and planning for novel-writing, but for poetry, I kind of let myself just put lines on the page, be flowery and meandering and sometimes experimental, and see what happens.
2) Like me, you’re an unapologetic geek. You even state that your blog, Girl On The Roam, is about “embracing your geekery and having a sense of adventure.” What do you think is the most rewarding part about being a geek nowadays? On the flip side, what’s the most challenging?
I think it’s an *incredible* time to be a geek these days, partly because being a geek is kind of cool now. As such, there’s so much more being catered to our tastes – we get movies, books, clothes, toys, and the list goes on and on. Like it still kind of weirds me out that there is actual licensed Supernatural merch that you can buy in a physical store, but I remember when I got obsessed with it (I think the 2nd season had just concluded), there was nothing except fan-made stuff (and not much of that). The fandom was always there, but this was before the real rise of Tumblr and the sort of geek renaissance that is happening in the main stream. But I think really the most rewarding part about being a geek right now is the social media aspect of the internet – see, the rise of Tumblr – because it makes it so easy to find people who share your interests. It’s easier now than ever to find other geeks who aren’t afraid to say they’re geeks! For me, personally, Twitter has made it so easy to connect with fellow writers, book nerds, and geeks. I mean, we “met” through Twitter!
But the challenging aspect of being a geek now I think also has to do with its current popularity and the internet. The popularity of geek culture can make it easier to be dismissive of it, and more people want to sell you things. It’s kind of like drowning in riches. I’m not complaining, but I *am* saying that it can be easy to get burned out on something that you love or to fall out of love with it because of the burn out. The challenge when it comes to the internet is that the accessibility that makes it possible to connect with your people also opens you up to more of the uglier stuff that happens online – trolls and haters. I feel like the popularity of geek culture right now also brings out the people who will question how “true” a fan you are and who will want to make you feel unwelcome or inferior.
3) Speaking of adventure, you’re participating in an incredible series of blog posts about “nerd travel.” You’ve even Instagrammed amazing pics of you out and about sporting some spectacular clothes! Confession: I often daydream about going to places that only exist in the pages of a book. If you could road trip to any fictional location, which one would it be and why?
Hogwarts! I feel this is my immediate answer because it is magical and wonderful but generally without the really intense danger of other fictional worlds (as long as you’re not Harry Potter) and it has modern amenities that I’m unwilling to give up – like indoor plumbing and modern medicine, lol. I’m sorry to say, I’m kind of boringly practical about this stuff!
Though speaking of magical worlds within our world, I would love to visit the island of Thisby from Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races (so I can eat November cakes) or the magical forest Cabeswater from her Raven Cycle books. Maggie knows how to write such vivid settings; they feel so real.
Oh my god, and can we talk about V.E. Schwab’s parallel-universe Londons??? Specifically, I’d like to visit Red London because it’s so glamorous and vibrant. Plus magic. The others are scary and I don’t feel I need to visit Grey London, which is our 18th century London.
Also, though this isn’t a book-world, I feel like I’d be down to visit Star Wars’ galaxy far, far away – so long as the planet I’m visiting is not Tattooine or Jakku. Let’s go somewhere more habitable like Naboo or Coruscant maybe?
**Bonus question: which fictional character would you take along for the trip??
I can’t choose! Who would actually be useful/ look out for me on a road trip is probably the best answer to this question. I need to not pick my fictional crushes and pick like actually good trip-people. So let’s say Hermione Granger because Hermione will always know what to do and she’s a good friend. I’m also taking R2-D2 because the galaxy would’ve been doomed without R2’s consistent badassery and BB-8 because cuteness. Magic + tech, what could go wrong?
4) Could you please enlighten me on how your epic crush on Alexander Hamilton came to be??? Because yes.
I…don’t know really what to say. It began in high school AP U.S. History class, and I have kept him close to my heart since then. Obviously, the great love for him renewed itself last year when I saw Hamilton – which basically reaffirmed all the reasons I found him so compelling.
I think he caught my attention because I didn’t realize he had been *so* involved in the founding of the United States. Like most people, everything I knew about him revolved around the $10 and that one “Got Milk?” commercial about how he was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. But when we covered the Revolution up through the Critical Period of the U.S.’s early history, he kept popping up – and everywhere he was there was drama. He fought with practically every major player in the nation’s early history and had something to say about everything. My friends and I joked that Washington was like a long-suffering father trying to keep the children (Jefferson and Hamilton) from fighting all the time.
I think my friends and I joked too much about him (we had long-running inside jokes about his insistence on having a national bank), and I got attached and overly fond of this guy who I imagined to be high-strung and a little harried but who did not ever back down. (His nickname as a soldier was ‘The Little Lion.’)
Alexander Hamilton was so fascinating and endlessly amusing to me because he was kind of larger-than-life but also so very human – ridiculously talented and ambitious but also so flawed and full of contradictions. But I probably didn’t really fall for him until the summer of 2005, and I have this date because I bought the Ron Chernow Hamilton biography and started reading it while I was at a midnight release party at Borders (RIP!) for Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince. (And yes, I embarrassingly blurted this story to Lin-Manuel Miranda when I saw Hamilton at the Public. Luckily, he too is a Harry Potter fan and Sorted the Hamilton gang without prompting because he is ONE OF US! *happy tears*)
My friend and I each bought a copy of the biography, and in the weeks that followed – after we’d binge-read HP6, of course – we would call each other and giggle about the even *more* amazing facts we were learning about our favorite Founder – like how his contemporaries described him as having sparkling violet eyes and shapely legs and how he was more fluent in French than even Francophile Thomas Jefferson and that fluency made him fast and close friends with Lafayette. He was a firebrand, a flirt, a writer, an immigrant, a statesman, a soldier – so many things, and people either loved him or hated him. He was able to write in near-perfect paragraphs (give me this super power!), and he spoke for 6 hours at the Constitutional Convention and sort of misspelled “Pennsylvania” on the actual Constitution. He wrote the states names next to the signers’ signatures, and I say “sort of” because the argument is that spelling was more fluid back then, so maybe Pennsylvania was fine with just one ‘n,’ but I digress.
He and his story are just so compelling, and everyone is seeing that now thanks to LMM’s masterful musical. Obviously, so many other things make the musical the transcendent thing and cultural phenomenon that it is now, but its skeleton is Alexander Hamilton’s life story.
And let’s be real, if you look at American currency, he is definitely the hottest Founder to grace our bills – and the news just came in that the Treasury is officially keeping him on the $10. So huzzah!
I could go on because there’s a whole saga about me trying to visit his house (this sounds creepier than it should), but I think I’ll save the details of that for a blog post. 🙂
A ginormous thank you to Alice for letting me interview her!! Make sure you check her out online at the following links: