The beauty that is Twitter never ceases to amaze us, here at Literative. In fact, if you haven’t already, we suggest reaching out to people you admire, authors you read, and people who could potentially guest star in one of your endeavors. We say this, because we recently found Madeline Ashby, writer of The Machine Dynasty series, on Twitter. We expected her to be another talented writer, but as it turns out, she’s much, much more, hence all her hats and witty responses.
Check it out:
1) You describe yourself as a sci-fi writer, a futurist, speaker, and writer for the Ottawa Citizen. Could you tell us a bit about how you manage all these different titles? Excellent time management skills, perhaps?
Hah! I wish. The secret is blind panic and Catholic guilt. And bourbon.
2) Your series, The Machine Dynasty, has gotten rave reviews by critics and readers. Could you tell us more about it, and the last book in the series, Rev, which you’re currently working on?
The Machine Dynasty is about self-replicating humanoid robots who occasionally eat each other. It’s a trilogy in the CanLit tradition: it’s about three generations of women in one family solving a problem together, only the problem just happens to be humanity. The third novel in the series, reV, is told from the point of view of the villain of the trilogy, Portia. At this point she’s a disembodied intelligence that lives in ambient surveillance and smart city systems. So that’s a challenge.
3) Let’s ask the obvious: why science fiction?
It’s the genre that is most concerned with the future: how to envision it, how to change it, and how to create it. Also, I grew up in a household that was interested in science fiction. I grew up watching Star Trek with my dad, and became an X-Files fan early, and became an anime fan in high school. I really decided I wanted to be a science fiction writer after attending a reading by Ursula K. LeGuin in Seattle. She’s an incredibly powerful presence. She really changed how I thought about the potential of science fiction as a force for good.
4) You write narrative for organizations like The Atlantic Council, and SciFutures. What does writing narrative for them really entail, and how does the work get utilized?
Sometimes the work is used to spur conversation at a workshop or an event, and sometimes it’s used as part of material to help an organization (or a group within an organization, like a board of trustees) envision a particular future. And sometimes it’s part of an anthology of possible visions of one very specific issue, like urban warfare or smart cities or programmable matter.
5) Do you enjoy your nonfiction work as a sort of escape from the fictional, or is it more about dissecting reality through both the fictional, and your nonfiction column?
I write non-fiction for my column, and I enjoy doing it. I like being able to shoot straight from the hip in terms of my columns, but I also like the rigour of finding facts and fitting them into a short, snappy set of column inches. I enjoy the challenge. And I enjoy making pitches that my editors like. That’s a skill I feel in need of developing, so having a regular exercise in it is good for me.
6) As someone who balances many hats, and clients, what advice can you give to other writers looking for work, or more clients of their own?
Hmm. I know other freelancers have covered this issue extensively and probably have better advice than I do. I mean, Neil Gaiman said it best: be nice, and be on time with your work. Those are the basics. Treat clients the way you wished contractors would treat you. But beyond that, I would say: say yes. When someone offers you something, even if it’s small, say yes. Help your client out. Later, when you’re established, you can say no to stuff. But at the start, just say yes to everything and see where it takes you. Also, and this is weird, but send cards. Seriously, send Thank You or holiday cards. One, it’s a nice gesture — everybody loves getting a nice note — and two, it really helps make you memorable in a client’s mind. Big-time operations and firms send a holiday gift basket or whatever, but even a beginner can send a Paperless card with a nice note.
7) We have a large aspiring following. Do you have any advice for writers who are just starting out?
Read outside your genre. Watch more documentaries. Invest in periodicals, like The New Yorker, or The Walrus, or Vanity Fair, or The Economist, or Nylon, or even Playboy under its new editorial programme. The truth is almost always stranger than fiction. The best place for weird ideas is the newspaper.
8) Where can readers get your books?
Bookstores. Amazon. Your mom.
9) Do you have links you can provide for readers looking to follow you on social media, or learn more about you?
Did we mention her witty responses? Although, our moms probably would enjoy her boundary-pushing books. We would too! In fact, we might be searching Amazon at this very moment, and you probably should too: her upcoming book, Company Town, is out next week!
If you’d like to know more about Madeline Ashby, please follow the links she provided. Her site is pretty impressive, especially her extensive, goal-inducing bio!