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Adam Interviews...Zilla Novikov!


Hello again!

We've made it into a new month again - go ahead, celebrate!

Even better, since it's Monday, it's time for you to enjoy an author interview - to start your day, I have Zilla Novikov with me. Zilla Novikov is much taller than you’d expect her to be. Her height is commensurate with her wit: see Tumblr, or read The Sad Bastard Cookbook. While you’re clicking links, you might as well check out her excellent taste in books on Storygraph or Goodreads. She can also be found at https://nightbeatseu.ca/ and/or https://nightbeatseu.ca/newsletter/






A book you’re looking forward to release (by someone else)?

Ryszard Merey’s Read and Then Burn This is coming out winter 2024—if you’re very lucky, it’ll be out by the time this interview is published. Rysz’s books are messy and queer, charming and deadly in equal portions, and they never fail to break my heart in exquisite ways. When I checked my phone from bed one morning and saw he had a new book for pre-order, I bought it before I even made myself a coffee. And coffee time is sacred.


Coffee, tea, or cacao?

Coffee flows through my bloodstream where other people have—blood, I guess. I bleed brown and delicious. Tea and cacao are delightful side characters, but coffee is my codependent toxic love interest.


What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

If you’re good at self-publishing, you’ll only lose small sums of money. Unless you’re independently wealthy or luckier than a rabbit with all four of its feet, this is a hobby that cannot replace bill-paying work. Like most hacks out there, I write because I can’t stop myself. If there’s words rattling around in my head, I write in a fugue state until I’ve gotten them out through my fingertips. If my brain is quiet, I do whatever a normal person does instead of writing.



Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I’m the sort who bleeds on the page—writing is cheaper than therapy, even after you factor in the cost of editing and layout. I’m inspired by the dark humour in things that hurt me. Sometimes that leads to The Sad Bastard Cookbook: Food You Can Make So You Don’t Die, which is a cookbook designed to help depressed people get calories into themselves. Sometimes it leads to Query, a satirical novella about publishing, or my short story in Instant Classic, which also satirizes publishing but this time with a speculative fiction twist. Whatever gets you through the day, right?


Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I do! There turned out to be a huge market for a community-brainstormed cookbook about how to survive depression, chronic pain, and other symptoms of late-stage capitalism. I get messages from people who felt validated by The Sad Bastard Cookbook, who learned a new recipe, who got a laugh out of it on a bad day. Sometimes they send me photos of their pets, too. 


Do you like to create books for adults?

No child should ever read one of my books.



What do you think makes a good story?

I’m a sucker for characters. Give me interiority. Give me messy queers and self-doubting villains and disaster millennials. I adore weird science fiction using unusual formats, but my true love is people. House of Leaves is a treat—but for all the brilliance of the format, Johnny Truant and Pelafina H. Lièvre’s broken relationship is what I cannot forget. 


What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

My favourite stories are in conversation with other works of art, and that’s how I approach writing. I have an amazing network through the artist’s collective Night Beats. We encourage each other. We share ideas. We co-write. The alert reader will notice that characters and concepts are shared between stories in Instant Classic, and that some of the characters in Query have a startling resemblance to those in Rachel A. Rosen’s The Sleep of Reason: Cascade. Writing is like swimming—don’t go in the water alone.



Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?

Both? I have a recurring cast of characters and a set of themes in most of my writing. Marah, who thinks she escaped. Henri, trapped because his cage is made of gold. Gita, who chooses anger over acceptance. The system always wins, but that’s no excuse. Whether I’m writing about activism in Ontario’s Greenbelt or a space-faring cyberpunk dystopia, the dots are there for a reader to connect, or ignore, depending on how they like to approach stories. Imagine mashing up Marvel’s Multiverse with Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” and you get the idea. 


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Nothing is as important as you think it is. It’s not gonna be fine, but worrying about it isn’t gonna help, so make some mistakes you can be proud of.


Are you traditionally or self published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other?

Self published with a side of micropress. I love the concept of self-pub as a way to bypass traditional gatekeepers. And I’m deeply and fundamentally in love with data. Self-pub lets me see every click on every piece of promo, every sale, every juicy last datapoint. tRaum Books is the rare press that combines all the good parts of self-pub with all the support a micropress has to offer, and it suits me perfectly. 



What does literary success look like to you?

It’s so hard to pick. The cash money, the cocaine fountains, the hordes of women throwing lingerie at me in the street…when it comes to glamour, it’s hard to beat the life of a postmodern speculative fiction author with literally dozens of readers. 


What do you have coming next?

I’m in the middle of writing a space-travel cyberpunk dystopia that’s a thinly veiled metaphor for climate change and loss, working title You Wouldn’t Download a Ghost. My writing pace varies wildly and unpredictably, so expect that to be ready for readers before the heat death of the universe, maybe. I’m hoping to finish before actual climate change leads to civilizational collapse and all printers go out of business, but that might be unrealistically aspirational. 

On the non-fiction side, I’m collaborating with the inimitable Ryszard Merey and some other rad authors on Your Family Won't Read Your Book: The Hard Truths Guide to Indie and Self-Pub. If this journey through the mire and muck of publishing has taught us anything, it’s that there’s solidarity in shared misery. Come sob with us! Coming soon, or at least sooner.

 

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