If you’re in need of an eerie tale but short on time, Ren Warom‘s THE LONELY DARK will be a perfect fix. This sixty-eight page novella leaves you questioning the darkness surrounding you at night and pulling the blanket over your head. You can follow the story of Ingmar’s journey as a Cerenaut aboard the Irenon where she must cope with isolation and a “danger that cannot be seen, quantified, or understood” here (US) or here (UK).
1) Will you share with us when you first realized writing was your thing?
I’ve written for as long as I could form words. I used to write actual stories when I was a little girl. I wrote quite a few about a character called Jennifer (I think it was) and the Mugwumps, which were these white, fluffy, forest dwelling creatures. My sister mocked it horribly. I learned to read very early and read widely from an early age, so I think that was the real driver behind my interest, not to mention the fact that I was perpetually in my own little dreamworld. But the moment I realised writing was my thing? Gosh. I don’t think there ever was a moment, not a single one. I first loved to read, then to write, then gradually, over the years, writing became breathing. That’s it. If I don’t write, I don’t breathe.
2) Have you had a smooth ride to publishing or a bumpy road? (Us writerly folk love hearing other’s journeys.)
This one’s complicated. I found the publisher for my novella myself. Fox Spirit had already published some stories of mine, and the market I had written the novella for sort of vanished (it’s more complicated than that but I won’t go into it), so when I needed a publisher I thought of them. To my delight they wanted The Lonely Dark and so that was that. Some edits, proofreading and one gorgeous cover later and I have a book baby out. It’s scary but exhilarating!
With regards to trad deals, via my agent, that’s still an ongoing battle. I had a book out on sub (COIL–you might remember it from litopia, as it did the rounds in the Houses) and that generated a lot of interest but no offers, though it got to a couple of seconds reads, which is a living nightmare of hellish waiting. I think that’s all but dead in the water now, but it’s a book I want out there and it’s the first of a trilogy, so if all else fails I will self publish at some point.
I have another book going out on submission rounds soon. Equally hard to define. I’m hoping that, if it doesn’t find a home, keeps editors interested in me. That’s the important thing, keeping yourself and your work on the radar of editors and hoping, eventually, you produce a work they can throw their enthusiasm behind. Editors want to love books, just like agents do, it’s just a case of writing the book they can love or, in my case, finding the editor who loves the weird book you’ve written.
2) Can you tell us about how you found your agent?
I started looking for an agent in mid-2011. I subbed to about five agents in my first round, collecting a few rejections pretty swiftly. In late November, I happened to be on twitter and noticed that Stacia Decker at Donald Maass, one of the agents on my list but as yet un-subbed to, was closing to subs at the end of that month. So basically I went into a panic and sent off my submission package, which I always personalised because it’s rude not to. Don’t send mass form subs.
Anyway, Stacia requested a partial, then within days of that being sent I received a request for the full. At this point you’re hoping and trying not to hope, but in late Jan 2012 I received an email from Jennifer Udden, also at Donald Maass and more interested in repping sci-fi, who’d been passed my MS and loved it and wanted to talk exclusive revisions. We had a phone-call to discuss said revisions, and came to an understanding about what Jen wanted and what I could do. I then revised over a couple of months and sent the revised MS back. To my utter astonishment Jen was pleased with the revisions and basically offered representation in a phone-call cramped in between her office hours in New York and me needing to rush off out to meet friends for the afternoon. Very, very exciting, surreal, and strange, so much so it took me all evening to tell one of said friends that I’d just got myself an agent, because it really did not feel real. I expect every first step is like that. I know getting The Lonely Dark published felt like that, so I fully expect any luck with the trads to be the same. It’s your dreams, you know? When they come true it’s kinda bonkers.
4) Do you have a creative process/ritual you do on a daily/weekly basis?
No. I sit my bum at my desk or at a desk somewhere, and I write. It’s taken me a long time to just get disciplined about it. It wasn’t that I believed in a muse or any of that, I don’t, but I lacked discipline. Not in the laziness sense but with regards to levels of seriousness–I imagined myself to be way more serious about writing than I in fact was. In truth I was terrified of being serious, even with the fact of representation meaning that I was, perhaps, capable of doing this. It’s that whole don’t try, can’t fail thing. Now I know it’s all about the work, so I do it. Simple as. There’s no trick to it.
5) You open THE LONELY DARK with a paragraph of Ingmar packing, leaving the reader intrigued to know where she is going and why. Do you find the opening of books the most difficult to write, since so much emphasis is put on this paragraph being the “attention grabber”?
Beginnings are nightmares. I loathe them. Finding my way into a story is always the most painful part. I quite literally agonise over it. I fumble, stumble, write and rewrite and generally get my brain in a right old pretzel over it all. I don’t imagine that part of it will ever become easy for me, because it remains the same whether I plan or not. The only thing changing is the length of time it takes to stumble upon the right beginning for each story. Thankfully that is shrinking. I think I’d go crazy if it weren’t. Needing months to find ingress to a story is taking the Michael just a touch!
6) Your main character, Ingmar, has an unusual and unique talent of “perceiving the remnants of the dead”. (BTW, I love that phrase!) How did you come up with the idea to not have her see actual ghosts?
When I began writing The Lonely Dark I had been inspired by ghost stories set in that region with very real, tangible entities. But when I got to talking of the entities in Ingmar’s life, they came as remnants. It made perfect sense to me to do that, because of how Ingmar would be in the Irenon: there, but invisible. I felt it was perfectly appropriate to have her understand that state and yet fail initially to apply that knowledge to her own state. I like repeating patterns and parallels. It’s basically metaphor 101 to me, an easy way to create depth. They pop up on purpose and by happy accident. I think my brain is wired to look for them and seed them throughout whether I’m paying attention or not. Luckily though, this was one I did purposefully. I don’t think you can take credit for the happy brain accidents.
7) Perhaps everyone at some point in their life has a moment they’re afraid of the dark and then gets over it. But THE LONELY DARK is a story of Ingmar’s decline from embracing the darkness to fearing it. Any personal experiences that you used to twist into Ingmar’s life for this experience, or was this a product of your brilliantly creepy mind?
I’ve always been afraid of the dark. I’ve always felt it had presence. Weight. It’s not a huge step from that to a Lonely Dark, though it was very much more inspired by the picture of the map of the universe side by side with a map of the brain. That got me thinking about space being alive in a very real way. Not in a human way, but entirely aware, capable of abstract thought, of philosophy, and tortured by a longing for company.
8) After Ingmar boards the Irenon, she realizes Cerenaut training didn’t prepare her for the truth that unravels about darkness. And her copilotnaut (yeah, I made that up) shares similar experiences. Did your characters ever battle with you about taking away the good parts of their memories, or if they’d share more than dark occurrences? (Because every writer understands characters sometimes guide the story for the writer.)
I love the made-up word! No, my characters never battled with me about losing their good memories. My characters never argue, finished. They behave exactly as I expect they will, whether they follow the rules or break them unreservedly. That doesn’t mean I drag them along in the wake of the plot, it just means I make sure I’m true to their approach. It’s not always easy, sometimes you have to stop and listen hard, but I have yet to encounter a full-scale character revolt in anything I’ve written. They seem happy to leave the reins in my hands. J
*And that’s it! Thanks for having me on your blog, Pam; I really enjoyed answering your excellent questions!*
Ren’s a writer of weird things, not known for an ability to fit into boxes of any description. Published in various places, including anthologies by the fabulous FoxSpirit and Anachron presses, and THIS IS HOW YOU DIE, from Grand Central publishing. Her dark sci-fi novella THE LONELY DARK is out now on Amazon, both in the UK and the US! Represented by the fabulous Jennifer Udden of Donald Maass Literary Agency, Ren’s looking to invade book shops near you very soon. Find her on twitter, facebook, instagram and youtube, and on the web at http://renwaromsumwelt.wordpress.com.
Thank you Ren Warom! May you continue to write disturbing tales for twisted readers! (Me included.) To go directly to the webpage that has links to all her published stories, go here.
Writer and blogger of MG/YA