How did “If We Do Not Fly at Sunset” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
This is one of those stories that’s been through so many iterations it’s an entirely different story to the one I started with. It very boringly started with me reading local news debates about infill housing—building new houses in the gardens of existing ones—and me idly thinking: but do any fae live there? What’s the impact on them? It’s morphed entirely from that, but I wanted to capture the day to day of someone who is both part of the mundanities of our world and also apart from them, and connect that to the experience of a lot of my generation in our twenties and thirties when we haven’t found it easy to achieve the same kind of adulthood our parents had. I wanted to capture the sense of disconnect as you try to figure out your place in the world.
So far as inspirations go, I was fascinated by the Cottingley Fairies hoax as a child, and it’s always in the back of my mind when writing stories like this. I keep up with some classic urban fantasy series—like Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London and Seanan McGuire’s Incryptid, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what elements do and don’t translate to a city that is undoubtedly an urban environment, but smaller and less connected on a global scale.
What is your writing space like? What do you like to have around for optimal creativity?
I’m lucky to have a personal office at home—even before the current situation I’ve mostly worked from home and it’s set up for that. I painted it bright green as soon as we moved into this house, and it has most of my books and a nice big desk. Most of the actual fingers-to-keyboard writing happens there—though I do like to take my laptop to the local library or a cafe when I get the chance. A lot of the wider process—the generation of ideas, or figuring out the shape of the story, doesn’t need to be at my desk and I’m often going through it before I go to sleep, over meals, anywhere really.
I don’t really need anything around except a good chair and a keyboard, but my desk clutter includes a stack of tins of Thinking Putty—which is basically slime for grown-ups with jobs—and a jar of aniseed balls. I’m not sure if they help the creative process, but they certainly don’t hurt.
Is there anything you want to make sure readers noticed?
This is a story that’s very much about its setting—and also about being a certain age in a certain place—and I know readers will read it differently based on how they relate to that experience. As a reader, I’ve been finding myself increasingly enjoying stories where authors don’t over-explain, and just let elements of the setting or characters’ experience be—providing enough context that the story works for everyone, but not assuming everyone needs to understand or relate to the same elements. That’s what I’ve tried to do here—so while there are of course references some readers can look up if they choose to, I hope it’s not a story that relies on them noticing any specific thing. And, of course, some readers will notice things I did not.
What would be your advice for other writers?
When I was starting out I was burned by a lot of writing advice—especially as a disabled person, I spent a lot of time fretting that maybe I couldn’t be a real writer if I couldn’t write at the same time each day/write my first draft with pen and paper/make a comprehensive plan before starting and so on. Maybe the people who suggested them did not intend them to come across that way but I think they can often have that impact.
So I have some meta advice: treat most writing advice as an idea of something that might work. Try and give different things a try, unless you already know what works for you. But very little is an actual requirement.
And that said, here are some of those ideas—advice I’ve been given, or that I wish I’d had: Track your expenses as they come up, rather than try and assemble them all on tax filing day. Give gamification a go (I love 4thewords and Habitica). Find a good critique group. When you’re submitting or publishing one piece of work, try and start on the next. Read widely. Keep reading.
What are you reading lately? What writers inspire you?
I’m currently reading Whiti Hereaka’s Kurangaituku. It’s based on a traditional Māori story about a creature that is half-bird, half-woman, and Hereaka brings so many dimensions to it. It may be hard for international readers but if you can get a paperback I strongly recommend doing so—the book flips with two covers, starting the story in two places and merging in the middle, it’s an artwork in itself.
I’ve recently really enjoyed (among others) Shelley Parker Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a queer reimagining of fourteenth century China, & This is How To Stay Alive, a time travel novella based around a bereavement by suicide from Kenyan writer Shingai Njeri Kagunda, and Gina Cole’s amazing slipstream collection Black Ice Matter.
I feel my inspirations are different from project to project. For my novel Sanctuary, for example the work of other autistic writers including Ada Hoffmann, RB Lemberg, Kaia Sønderby, and Bogi Takács, was a huge influence.
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
My debut novel, Sanctuary, is out from Robot Dinosaur Press on 12 April. It’s about a queer, neurodivergent found-family who live in a haunted house, and I’m very excited to be launching it into the world. I also have a few novellas published including “From a Shadow Grave” (Paper Road Press, 2019) which is a genre blend centred on a historical ghost story. All my publications, including short fiction, are listed on my website at andicbuchanan.org.
I’m working on a few projects right now, but the main one is the first in a series of contemporary fantasy novellas set on the coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
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