How did “So, You Married Your Arch Nemesis . . . Again” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
It started with a snippet of dialogue, I think it was one of the opening conversations between Sol and Teo (though I don’t recall exactly which bit), that popped into my head one night before bed. This seems to be a common means of inspiration for me. Initially, I was thinking the story would just be the interview, but that felt incomplete when there was nothing for Sol to change by the end.
Around the same time, I’d been thinking about a space opera project I have been dabbling on for ages, and I was playing Skyrim again and having fun reading all the books. It sort of clicked in my head that maybe what this story was lacking was the “in world” texts . . . so I started with one, and then it just expanded wildly from there and the connected narratives of identity and representation and connection all gelled in my head. Also, I have always wanted an excuse to write a video game cut scene.
What is your writing process like? Did this story fit the pattern?
So, in general, I am almost incapable of writing in order, in a chronological sense. I may start at the beginning, but then immediately I tend to jump around until I have assembled a bunch of pieces and I can see how they fit together. For short stories, it tends to be easier—and there are, in fact, times I’ve probably written something start to finish in chronological order, I just can’t think of examples, haha—because something <7.5k words is more manageable when juggling the different scenes and figuring out the narrative flow. (Longer fiction is . . . challenging at times.)
For this story, it totally fit my internal patterns, because I wrote everything out of order and then in revisions, went back and arranged things. For example, I believe I wrote the opening scene, the “unaired” conversation, and then the ending as one “chunk” and then went through to add the interconnected scenes that would lead up to the climax. I also wrote all the book excerpts separately and then planted them throughout; that was tricky because it was like writing five different stories with dual endings and then weaving them into the podcast narrative.
It was a blast, but it was hard.
That does sound complicated! Did you get stuck at any point while writing? How did you get past that?
Oh, for sure—when I had the initial “podcast” parts of the narrative figured out, I kept getting stuck with where to place the different excerpts. I juggled them around so much! Because I was playing with multiple genres (space opera, DOOM-esque video game cutscenes, noir, high fantasy, zombies) and the framing story is an interview podcast, it was a lot of trying different combinations of where things “felt right” in relation to the interview segments.
Eventually, I just made multiple copies of the document, placed the textual pieces in different orders, and then read through the story to see which felt the most natural and flowed the best. This was important to get right because I wanted the final ending sequence—when we see how the stories have been changed—to flow and build to a triumphant conclusion, while also staying more or less in the same order as the snippets appear in the narrative.
I think the drafting itself took a couple weeks, and then the refining/revision stage took me months to get it right. I’m super happy with the ending result though.
What were your favorite elements to write in this story?
Oh man, I loved writing the interview segments but I think my heart goes out to the DOOM homage cutscenes and the noir sections. Those were so much fun. (I also now want to write a full-length story in the noir ‘verse . . .)
What are you reading lately? What writers inspire you?
Recently I’ve been devouring (heh) a lot of the horror story collections published by Velox Books, from various authors. I’ve long admired—and been inspired by!—John Wiswell, and it gives me such joy to see continually more and more stories from him out in the wild. If you haven’t read “The Coward Who Stole God’s Name” then I recommend rectifying that immediately, because it’s awesome.
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
I’m participating in the Inkfort Press’s 2022 Publishing Derby which means the Secret Project I’m writing won’t be revealed until October, and I can’t tell you anything about it. But I am hella enjoying the process of writing something based on a cover/pen name and maintaining a secret identity.
I’m also working on finishing up a new short story collection that I hope will be out the end of August (titled These Imperfect Reflections: Short Stories) and a December release, Monster Girls Don’t Cry: Short Stories.
(I have . . . a lot of short fiction. I never realized how much until I started assembling collections!)
The best place to find my stuff is my website: mercfennwolfmoor.com or my newsletter (linked on the site) for updates.
Spread the word!