In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Tabitha Lord isn’t just a Senior Writer for Book Club Babble, she’s also a published author. Her short story “Keeper of the Light” is a shining star in a collection of stories about the end of the world entitled Holding on by Our Fingertips, published by Grimbold Books. The anthology releases May 31st. Since Tabitha has two published novels – both of them award-winning – and a third on the way, we wondered what draws her to anthologies, and what are the challenges and rewards of writing them. We’re so happy she was able to take time out of her incredibly busy schedule to share her inspirations and insights.
Amy M. Hawes: You’re committed to several projects including finishing the third book in your Horizon series, leaving very little time to devote to writing short stories. So, why do you do it?
Tabitha Lord: I love writing short fiction! The time commitment is actually quite reasonable. I can usually finish a short piece in about three weeks as opposed to the nine months it takes me to complete a novel. And they’re really satisfying to write because even though they’re short, the stories must still have well-developed characters, a complete story arc, and a distinctive voice, but everything has to develop quickly, using far fewer words. With less space to tell the tale, I find I’m more vigilant than ever about tightening my language, using strong imagery, powerful verbs, and essential dialogue. When I return to my novels, I pay more attention to these writing essentials.
Also, while my books are all science fiction, short fiction offers me an opportunity to experiment. I’ve written ghost stories, fantasy, modern horror, and near-future apocalypse tales. I’ve also played with voice, sometimes writing in the first person or even alternating points of view. Some of my short fiction has a more literary style, something far outside my comfort zone. This form allows me to try something new without committing to a full-length novel.
AH: What would you say to inspire someone who only reads full-length fiction to give an anthology a try?
TL: I think it’s really cool to read different writers’ takes on a similar theme. When I wrote “Homecoming” for the anthology Sirens, I thought for sure there would be other classical pieces in the mix, but mine was the only one. The imagination and breadth of storytelling was amazing. I also enjoy reading anthologies for the same reason I enjoy attending a curated art show. There’s a unifying theme to the collection that creates a meaningful experience for me as a viewer or reader. I get to explore something from several angles, either through the vision of multiple artists, or from one artist’s many investigations into one theme.
AH: Is your writing process any different for a short story than it is for a novel?
TL: It takes less time, but no. I still work from a loose outline, write better late in the day, and have a moment during the process where I think the whole thing is shit and I question my career choice!
AH: Having read both your full-length works and your shorter ones, it is clear that you are drawn to a more literary style in the latter. Why is this? Do they take comparatively longer to write?
TL: The literary voice is hard for me to hold onto in the longer fiction, but I love the beauty of it. I love crafting elegant sentences. Certainly, when I’m editing my books, I work to improve the quality of writing with each draft, and hopefully the final copy is much better stylistically than the first draft. At the end of the day though, a literary style isn’t natural for me and literary fiction isn’t what I aspire to write, so I focus on improving my craft as a genre fiction writer. Again, though, it’s fun to experiment.
AH: With anthologies, the theme is already decided. Do you like this more or less than forming a story from scratch?
TL: Well, I spend most of my time writing stories that I’ve imagined start to finish, so when I’m asked to participate in an anthology and told – this is the theme, this is the deadline, and this is the pay – it’s certainly a different way to work! I like the challenge. I like to know that I can come up with an idea and flesh it out. It makes me feel legit as a storyteller.
AH: Holding on by Our Fingertips is a collection of stories about the end of the world. What drew you to this topic?
TL: The editor asked me to write it. Seriously, I’d never considered writing an apocalypse story before, but once I started thinking about it, I got really excited.
AH: “Keeper of the Light” is poignantly heavy-hearted. Did writing this story affect your mood or outlook on life as you were in the process of creating it?
TL: When I figured out how the world was going to end for my story, I kept it pretty believable. Thinking it through in such detail was harrowing. I wanted my readers to buy into the possibility, and to experience the same intense emotions as my character while she was coming to terms with it, so I had to go deep inside her head. With all my writing, I try to do this. It’s similar, I think, to how an actor prepares for a role. But because this theme was so dire, and my character’s life was coming to an imminent end, it definitely had a profound impact on me. This story was hard to shake, but it’s one of my favorites.
AH: If you were sending out a call for a new anthology, what would your theme be?
TL: I’d like to do something with witches and spells! Ancient, modern, whatever, I think it would be fun to explore. Also, time travel or alternate history – how changing just one thing would rewrite the future.
Tabitha Lord lives in Rhode Island and is married with four independent-minded and creative kids, two spoiled cats, and lovable black lab. She holds a degree in Classics from College of the Holy Cross and taught Latin for years at a Waldorf school where she now serves on the Board of Trustees. Tabitha’s HORIZON series has won six independent book awards including the prestigious Writer’s Digest Grand Prize in 2016. She has short fiction published by World Weaver Press, Electric Athenaeum Magazine, Grimbold Books, and more. Tabitha is also a partner and senior writer for Book Club Babble, and a managing editor for the Inkitt Writer’s Blog.