Q&A with A.P. Hawkins

A.P. Hawkins’ background in climate and ecology shines through in the environmental focus of “Winter’s Spring” [in our current issue, on sale now]. She stopped by to discuss the story’s origins, her own origins as a scientist and writer, and her desire for instantaneous travel from Houston to Inverness (and beyond)!

Analog Editor: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?

APH: “Winter’s Spring” started with an image: a gray sky over an unbroken field of snow. And in the midst of that desolate landscape, a single small flower, thriving to spite the odds. Obviously, that’s not quite the image I ended up writing, but it stuck with me as I wrote the story. In the time leading up to when I wrote “Winter’s Spring,” I’d been thinking a lot about environments on other worlds and how they might differ from ours, and how humanity might find some way to thrive in particularly hostile environments, so this story grew from that.

AE: Do you particularly relate to any of the characters in this story?

APH: I don’t write many stories with “ensemble casts” like this, where we spend at least a little bit of time inside each of their heads, and I had a lot of fun working with these characters. I feel like I relate to each of them in their own way; they’re all little chips of my own personality, broken off and exaggerated in a (sometimes unflattering) way.

But if I had to choose one of them to relate to the most, I would probably say Alder. I, too, am eternally grouchy about the cold.

AE: This is Analog’s 90th year—what does that mean to you?

APH: The fact that this is Analog’s 90th year is incredibly exciting. To me, it means that there is enduring interest in the potential futures of science and technology, in alien worlds, and in what it might be like to explore the vastness of the universe. And for 90 years (so far!), Analog has given authors and readers alike a place to imagine and explore all that potential for the future. I think that’s amazing, and I’m honored to have my work included in the November/December issue.

AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?

APH: Elements of events in my personal life and in the world at large tend to creep into my writing quite a bit, even if I don’t necessarily mean for them to. Science fiction may be a genre of stories about possible futures, but all of those stories are told while looking through the lens of the present. Readers are better able to center themselves in the narrative when they can just see the threads connecting a story about humanity’s future to things that are happening in their real lives.

AE: How do you deal with writers’ block?

APH: Writers’ block is something I’m still learning how to deal with as an early-career writer. In my experience, though, writers’ block often arises from not having a clear idea of how to get from one big event in the story to the next. Something I’ve found most effective is to set a story aside for a while. I’ll take the time to work on another story, or maybe work on something entirely unrelated to writing, and just let my mind wander. Sometimes ideas will float up, and I’ll write them down. Getting through writers’ block can be a matter of hours, sometimes days (or weeks), but I find that some of my best ideas come when I’m not consciously thinking about the story at all. After I’ve written several of these ideas down, I can come back to the story later feeling refreshed with a much clearer idea of how to connect the big events in my stories.

Science fiction may be a genre of stories about possible futures, but all of those stories are told while looking through the lens of the present. Readers are better able to center themselves in the narrative when they can just see the threads connecting a story about humanity’s future to things that are happening in their real lives.

AE: What inspired you to start writing?

APH: The short answer? Reading. When I was younger, I would read great books and then come up with my own stories set in the fictional worlds I loved so much. Now, reading inspires and energizes me to continue creating my own stories and worlds. I generally have the most ideas for new stories in the first few days after finishing a great book.

AE: What SFnal prediction would you like to see come true?

APH: Instantaneous travel. I love traveling to and exploring new places, but, often, the logistics of getting somewhere in the first place make a trip too burdensome to even attempt. No one is going to fly from Houston to Inverness for a weekend getaway; you’d be getting on the plane to fly back as soon as you touched down. But if you could pick up your foot in Houston one moment, and put it down in Inverness the next, you wouldn’t have to pick and choose faraway places to visit in your lifetime. You could visit everywhere you’d ever dreamed of going. I would love that.

AE: What other projects are you currently working on?

APH: Currently I have five or six short stories that are in the final rounds of polishing before I send them out into the world, and twice as many short stories on the backburner. I’m also in the early stages of drafting my first novel, and hope to have that ready for queries next year. Sometimes it feels like my list of writing projects is never ending; it definitely keeps me busy!

AE: What are you reading right now?

APH: I just finished reading The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin and have just picked up Gideon the Ninth by Tasmyn Muir. Next on the list is The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. I didn’t have a lot of time to read for fun when I was in graduate school, but I’ve been making up for it in the last few years.

AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?

APH: Yes, and yes! I studied marine biology as an undergraduate and went on to complete a Masters’ thesis in plant community ecology. My graduate work focused on how aspects of climate change can affect plant communities, and I spend a lot of time in graduate school thinking about how plant communities might look in the future. In my fiction, particularly when I’m writing about alien worlds or far-future societies, I spend a lot of time considering how climate and ecology might affect the story and the characters. My general interest in nature I find also creeps into my fiction. I want the places and environments I set my stories in to feel very real to readers and do my best to make alien worlds feel as alive as my characters.

AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?

APH: For updates about my writing and my life in general (and pictures of my cat), readers can follow me on Twitter or Instagram (@ahawkwrites) or visit my website (aphawkinsauthor.com), which I try to update regularly with news about my work.

A.P. Hawkins lives in Houston, TX with her husband, their cat, and an ever-growing collection of houseplants. After studying ecology in college and graduate school, she decided to change tracks and pursue her longtime enjoyment of writing fiction as a career. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, painting, hiking, playing video games, and running tabletop role-playing games for her friends. Check her out on social media to keep up with her writing and other various endeavors.

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