Charlie Jane Anders
Charlie Jane Anders’ latest novel is The City in the Middle of the Night. She’s also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which won the Nebula, Crawford and Locus awards, and Choir Boy, which won a Lambda Literary Award. Plus a novella called Rock Manning Goes For Broke and a short story collection called Six Months, Three Days, Five Others. Her story “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo Award, and her story “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue” won a Theodore Sturgeon Award.
Q. Victories Greater Than Death comes out next week (April 13, 2021). This is your YA debut. How did writing it differ from your more usual fare?
Charlie Jane: Writing YA was a huge adjustment for me, even though I’ve been reading YA for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been a huge champion of YA. I had to learn to write much faster-paced action and shorter scenes, with stronger emotion right there on the surface. I went back and re-read bits of my favorite YA books to try and get the flavor, but it was still a big learning curve. The thing that really helped was getting the narrative voice of Tina, the protagonist in my head: snarky, headstrong, kind of anxious, but with a huge heart and an obnoxious sense of humor. As for what’s in store… it’s the story of a girl who leaves home to claim her heritage and help save the universe, and then discovers that being a hero is more complicated than she expected.
Q. Tell us about the Writers With Drinks reading series. What’s the mission?
Charlie Jane: Writers With Drinks is a spoken word “variety show” that combines a bunch of different genres and styles of spoken performance, like poetry, stand-up comedy, literary fiction, science fiction, romance, erotica and other stuff. I usually host, and I make up weird nonsense bios for each performer as I introduce them. It’s a real fun time, and I miss it a lot. It’s been a year since the event last happened.
Q. Is it true you lived in a Buddhist monastery? How does that experience affect your writing?
Charlie Jane: Yes. I was an Asian Studies major in college, and after my first year, a bunch of us went to Taipei to work on our Mandarin. A friend of mine knew someone who was connected to a Buddhist temple just outside Taipei that would let students live there – it was actually a nunnery, since everyone who lived there was a nun. My best friend and I slept on the wooden floor of a classroom where they taught local children during the day. We had to get up pretty early and get out of there before classes started, and we had a shallow pool to wash ourselves and our clothes in. I used a washboard constantly, a skill that I have never needed to use since then. In general, learning other languages and living overseas have been an incalculable benefit to my writing – just the experience of encountering other cultures and different ways of living and understanding the world was really formative to me as an author.
Q. What was your reaction when you won the Nebula award? How about the Hugo?
Charlie Jane: I still can’t quite believe those things happened. They feel like a weird dream I had. I keep my Hugo awards in my sweater drawer where they won’t psyche me out or give me an attack of imposter syndrome. (And also that way, my cat can’t destroy them.) My mom has my Nebula award, because I visited her right after that awards ceremony.
Q. You’re a prolific short story writer, among other accomplishments. Do you have a favorite?
Charlie Jane: I love writing short stories, and I’m sad that I’m too busy to work on them right now, with all the other stuff I’ve taken on. My favorite short story of mine is still “Love Might Be Too Strong a Word,” which appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and is now reprinted at Lightspeed Magazine. Mab is such a fun character, and this complex world (six different genders living in a starship that’s basically a whole city in space) was a total blast to create. Courtly love, bullshit romance, entrenched hierarchies of gender and sexuality, and a doomed mission to colonize a new planet. If people read one story by me, I’d love for it to be that one.
Q. What are you working on now?
Charlie Jane: I’m finishing up revisions on the second book of the Unstoppable trilogy, and doing as many things as I can to promote the first book in the trilogy, Victories Greater Than Death. And I’m also working on putting together another novel project that it’s too early to talk about! 🙂
Charlie Jane Anders's Latest
Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.
And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.