Beth Dawkins has gone from seven-year-old writing a story about getting a surprise birthday party to adult writing about grief for Analog in her powerful “War Lily” [in our March/April issue, on sale now]. Below, she tells us about her origins as that seven-year-old, the origin of “War Lily”, and her relationship to writing.
Analog Editor: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?
BD: Sometimes when I set out to write a short story I try to challenge myself. “War Lily” came about when I decided to write a story with just conversations. Halfway through the first draft, I realized that it was more than an exercise. It became harder to write as it went on, choking me up a couple times.
AE: Do you particularly relate to any of the characters in this story?
BD: Yes and no. I think the majority of characters in almost all my stories are braver than I will ever be. But I feel like the characters in “War Lily” are all different viewpoints of grief. The protagonist’s mother is bitter about the loss of her child and is given the opportunity to show that bitterness. I would like to be similar to the son.
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
BD: In the past couple years it has hindered my writing. I only look up the news once a week. This is a policy I had to make for myself. I’d read headlines in the morning and get so angry nothing would get done. That’s not to say that my fiction doesn’t include these topics; sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I hoard tiny facts and then research them with wild abandon.
AE: How did you break into writing?
BD: Like a cartoon robber, smoking a fat cigar and saying, “Seeeee, you’ll never catch me copper!” Or like an action hero who slides down a rope to save someone when the bomb is about to go off. Like a seven-year-old who writes a wish fulfillment story about getting a surprise birthday party.
I hoard tiny facts and then research them with wild abandon.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
BD: The seven-year-old, who is still waiting for that birthday party, inspired me to write. Other things that helped along the way include: Led Zeppelin, my dad’s love for SF television shows, mythology, and my parents just being glad I liked reading so much that they never monitored what I picked up.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
BD: I wouldn’t. I would not last a week in any SF universe. Maybe Star Trek. It seems less dangerous. I doubt I’d be on one of the Federation ships, though, too dangerous.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
BD: I’m still wondering when the up part happens. But I would like to say that if you’re reading this and sending out stories as fast as you write them with little luck, keep it up! I was stuck in those trenches for years. Keep sending, keep writing, and keep reading. I want to read your stories.
AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?
BD: I don’t have a scientific background, but I enjoy it. I’m an enthusiast. I like pondering what could be possible and I LOVE learning about new discoveries.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
BD: They can find me on twitter @BethDawkins, I also set up my first website—BethDawkins.com.