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Betsy Dornbusch

answers the Usual Questions

Writer Betsy Dornbusch, photograph courtesy of the author; 220x229

Betsy Dornbusch

Betsy Dornbusch is the author of a dozen short stories, three novellas, and two novels, the latest of which is Exile. She also is an editor with the speculative fiction magazine Electric Spec and the longtime proprietress of Sex Scenes at Starbucks. Emissary is due out from Night Shade Books in 2015.

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

Hellayeah. Being on the con circuit has helped me a lot with the just plain enjoyment of what I do, what I like to write. I cut my reading teeth on fantasy but as an adult I moved to mysteries. I read a lot of English crime fiction in the 90s. Crime fiction is so very adult, right? Fantasy was for kids, at least it was back then, and I still think some muggles think fantasy lovers are immature or whatever in our reading tastes. So seeing how others love the genre has helped me own my love for it.

It's also made me more comfortable with my own characters. I've naturally leaned toward characters of color, toward writing women with agency, characters with sliding sexuality. That's sort of a thing in SFF right now and so for once my timing is good. Mostly that has encouraged me to do more of that and do it as well as I can, as well as develop my personal philosophy about writing fantasy about people other than the 14-year-old Caucasian lost prince.

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out?

So, so many. Okay, we'll go with heartwarmingly cool instead of people gushing over my books. I was just at a con in Omaha and I'd made friends with the hotel bartender, as usual. I went to get a couple of beers late one evening and some drunk guy was berating the bartender for being rude, which he wasn't at all; I'd been around the guy for two days at this point. I left, but I felt bad because the bartender was alone and this bully had totally settled in. Six or seven male con attendees were hanging out talking in the hallway outside the bar. I asked them if they would go in and surround that bully and ask the bartender for a coke or beer or even water. Everybody knows bullies don't do well with an audience. They did it! They didn't confront him at all, they just went in and filled up the bar and ordered cokes. I guess he ran off pretty quickly. The bartender and his manager thanked me later, but I hope they thanked those guys.

Oh, and one time someone serenaded me with his harmonica at another con. For an hour. I guess I have one of those faces.

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

A few, and some of it is lowbrow. Star Wars is a staple for me when I'm writing SF; I saw it 17 times in the theater as a kid and I've never tired of it. I like to watch Kingdom of Heaven, too (I know, a lot of folks don't like that film but parts of it speak to me and I write a lot about the religious experience, Christianity and otherwise. Plus, because hot guys in armor). I've studied certain scenes of the new Robin Hood film, too. The book that probably most affected my writing in general was The Outsiders. S.E. Hinton came to our school when I was in fourth grade, the year my best friend and I started writing stories. My first book was an Outsiders riff, written at 13. I still have it. And the best friend? A fiction writer, too.

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

My husband. So boring, I know.

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

It has to be somebody dead, right? I mean I can list off fifteen people right now and piss them all off or I can just pick someone who is dead. So I pick Christ because I think he'd have that gentle, quiet quality that makes me nervous. Social awkwardness is a Bad Thing when stuck in an elevator. And I can't really imagine peeing in my Big Gulp cup in front of Him either. So yeah, definitely Jesus Christ.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

My iPad mini. It has my current TBR (to be read) books on it! Tea. A big ole bottle of Bushmills. My best, awful sweatshirt stolen from my husband in 1991.

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

This is a tough question because I avoid metacognition. It distances me too much from what I'm working on (or hell, maybe it does the opposite) and I really think my exploration could be completely different from the reader's takeaway. I hope readers get that invested, actually, to find their own meaning. To me that's one of the grand things of writing and reading, that the same words strung along could mean different things to different people.

But all writers have their personal themes: I guess right now I'm trying to normalize the abnormal. I'm interested in prejudice, religion, combat as communication, social exclusion, cultural differences, aging. I think if I can expand characterization within the genre, we're good.

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

I've always been a creator so that's it, really. Putting my craft to work every day and watching the stories unfold. I imagine it's the same satisfaction anyone gets from work they really like to do. It sounds a lot more exotic than it is. :-)

submitted by Betsy Dornbusch

16 October 2013

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Web site: @betsydornbusch


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