Welcome back to Monday, your favorite day of the week!
Why are you looking at me like that?
I'm serious! Monday should be your favorite day of the week.
First, for most people, it's a fresh start, an unsullied beginning to their work week. Everything is possible on a Monday.
If you work a non-traditional week? Then you're partway to your weekend!
And of course, the most important thing is you have an interview with a fascinating author to read!
Today's guest is XM Moon. XM Moon is an author living in the middle of nowhere with their spouse and a 1:1 ratio of pets to computers. They write queer speculative fiction with an intimate focus on relationships, identity, and trauma, set against the backdrop of worlds that are fantastical and fascinating. A capacity for serious, thoughtful works and stories imaginative or monstrous keeps their portfolio diversified. When they’re not “writing” - opening and closing documents, outlining endlessly - the bulk of their time is spent keeping up with their business, Moon Enterprise, which provides design and web services to authors and other artists. Find them online at moonography.com
“Jackal” – The World of Juno (published 2022, Space Wizard Science Fantasy)
Purrfect Match (paranormal fantasy novella with strong romance undertones, published 2022) - books2read.com/purrfect-match
Dog Won’t Hunt (gay contemporary, published June 2023) - books2read.com/dog-wont-hunt
Short stories + direct purchase options: moonography.com/writing
Star Trek or Star Wars?
For all that I think I could’ve been a big Star Trek fan – and from what I’ve heard from a number of friends, I could/would be – I grew up on Star Wars. Some of my earliest memories are watching the original trilogy on VHS at my grandparents’ house, so that nostalgia factor will always be there.
A book that pleasantly surprised you?
I’ve actually only read one book strictly for fun this year, and I loved it so much: Reforged by Seth Haddon.
Coffee, tea, or cacao?
I’m a big fan of both coffee and tea (and sometimes both in the same mug).
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
In much the same way Neil Gaiman recently described in a Tumblr post, I swear my story ideas breed in the background while I’m looking the other direction. Ideas are never the issue for me; information and time, on the other hand… Well, I never feel like I have enough of either, even though I largely write speculative fiction which is a little less research-dependent. I still find myself down plenty of research rabbit holes, though. The internet is a dangerous thing.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
So being both self-employed and self-published, I feel like my answer here is maybe a bit outside the norm. I’m almost never not writing. May and June were a weird deviation for me because I barely wrote at all, but I was on a couple of tight deadlines and in the process of publishing my own book. Ordinarily, I write just about every day. That said, since writing isn’t my main source of income (or a substantial source at all), I struggle with allowing myself to write during what my brain still perceives as the workday, so I usually fill that time with more administrative type things if I’m not working on client projects, then write in the evenings.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write on my phone a lot, which I’ve been told is weird. I like the portability, though – there’s nothing worse than finally having the words and the time and not having anywhere to put them.
Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid?
I’m a sucker for enemies to lovers, apparently.
As far as things I avoid… I’ve got very mixed feelings on a few big ones, especially in queer fiction, but I don’t want to name names or anything. Just because they don’t work for me doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with them.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written three books and a novella, although two of those are currently in a digital drawer, their futures uncertain. Two of them are actually contemporary which was unexpected for me, but I love them both. I released one of those contemporary stories – Dog Won’t Hunt – at the end of June, and I definitely wrote that one for myself. It’s hard to pick a favorite, though, especially when I’m very much enjoying my current projects.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
There’s a lot of common advice that I think has merit. Read, read widely, take the time to think about why you do and don’t like things. Make friends with people who read and write different genres and talk to them about their writing. Learn to accept feedback, and how to give it – both will improve your writing in ways you don’t expect.
Write the stories you want to tell, not the stories other people tell you to write. That’s easy for me to say since I’m self-published and have no plans for traditional publishing, but I’ve seen so many people write stories based on what they think will sell or because they feel like it’s a safe option and they’re miserable the entire time. A good story that you care about can always be cleaned up, but an empty, soulless story can only be improved so much.
What do you think makes a good story?
I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer for this in terms of specific criteria. A good story is one that speaks to the reader in a way that stays with them, and what that looks like for me is going to be different from what it looks like for you, or anyone else. I think there’s also a key difference in a good story and something that’s well-written or well-edited; there are a lot of really good stories that I enjoyed greatly that would have benefitted tremendously from more editorial support so that the quality of the story could shine, and unfortunately, I think that access gap sinks a lot of potentially incredible authors and stories.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It’s a little bit of both, but largely I’d say it’s somewhere between energizing and almost relaxing. Definitely like an itch I have to scratch, but also sort of like defragmenting my brain. I can honestly say that I love writing. Even when I’m stuck on a plot point or frustrated with it, writing is a net positive, enjoyable activity for me. I genuinely don’t understand the people who say it’s miserable or that they hate it.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I have very strong feelings about pandering to readers and sacrificing stories for the market. I’ve got a few close friends who know the core themes and overarching stories of my planned works and they have clear instructions to take me down if I ever start to do that because it goes fully against what I believe in and want for myself. If the things I write find a wider audience and get popular, great, but I’m not interested in sacrificing the authenticity of the stories I want to tell or abandoning the people who supported me before that point.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
I do a bit of both. I can’t help but drop easter eggs in a lot of things that are intended to be independent stories, so at this point, I would say I’ve got a solid amount of overlap between stories both written and planned. Most of it is very much loose ties, though – except for the stories that are explicitly connected like the duology I’m currently writing, they’re all meant to stand on their own, in their own universes.
Do you write novels, novellas, short stories, episodic fiction, poems, screenplays, or something else? What is your preferred format?
A mix of a few of those. I write a fair number of short stories in my downtime, then I seem to have fallen into a pattern of having a novel and a novella in the works at the same time. I’m a terrible project hopper, so the variety of options helps keep me moving.
Are you traditionally or self published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other?
I’m self-published and don’t anticipate ever going another route. I’ve published a short story with Space Wizard Science Fantasy and that was a fantastic experience; I would consider publishing with them again, but I don’t think traditional publishing is for me. There are aspects of all of my stories that probably make them “less marketable” that I’m not willing to compromise on, and the core appeal of self-publishing for me is that I don’t have to. I have the freedom and flexibility to tell the stories I want on the timeline that works for me. Traditional publishing can’t get a book out in a couple of months.
That said, I know traditional publishing is great for a lot of people and it definitely has its perks! No one is paying me advances on anything I write, and my marketing department is a department of one.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters, if anything?
Privacy. I think anyone who says their characters are all entirely fictional is lying, either to their audience, themself, or both. I also don’t think there’s inherently anything wrong with that, as long as the boundaries and privacy of the real people in question are fiercely respected and safeguarded.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Oh, so many. Most of them I intend to come back to, but my first book (which is actually the first book of a fully-outlined trilogy) might not ever see the light of day, and I have another one that I’m not sure I’ll ever return to because it feels… cursed, almost? I also have it fully outlined, and I’ve tried to draft it several times now, but I can never make it past the first couple of chapters and something always goes horribly awry when I touch it.
What does literary success look like to you?
If I could pay my bills just from what I earn from writing, that would I think constitute a “successful writing career” for me. I don’t really expect that to happen, but it would be cool. My other answer is to write things that actually make a difference to someone – that make people feel seen or understood in a way they maybe haven’t otherwise. Bonus points if they tell their friends about it.
What do you have coming next?
I’m currently working on the first part of a sort of post-apocalyptic/not-so-distant future SFF duology that I joke is an Apollo’s dodgeball sort of situation. I started outlining back in early 2019 and initially began drafting at the end of the same year, and then 2020 happened and it moved to the back burner for a bit. I’m still not sure it’s exactly the right time, but I’m also not sure what the right time for a story like this would look like and the itch to write something a bit grittier is definitely strong after the past few years. The current goal is to have those out by late 2024.
I’m also toying with a shorter standalone on the side that isn’t necessarily lighter, but it’s more detached from the real world. If I’m correct about the length and progress continues as it has been, I’ll hopefully have that out later this year.
Updates on both can be found on my website and social media!