An Interview with ML Larson

R. M. Webb: Tell me about yourself.

This is always the hardest question for me for some reason.  Which may say more about me than I intend it to.  I live in Vegan Hipster Mecca, aka Portland, and like many Portlanders, I kind of live to the beat of my own drum.  I collect a massive amount of comics, play too much Minecraft, and am frequently buried in needle and yarn crafts.

R. M. Webb: You say you live in Portland, yet you use the British spelling for words. Were you born overseas? If so, when did you arrive in the States? How was the transition? If not, do you, like me, read a lot of British literature and just naturally go to those spellings?

I’ve been in Portland almost my entire life, except for the first few years of my life, and the six years I spent in Vegas. The spelling is an artefact from when I spent several years writing Sherlock Holmes pastiche, which never got published because I couldn’t figure out the legality of doing so and couldn’t afford any real legal help.  It’s still all on my hard drive though, so maybe one day it’ll see the light of day.

R. M. Webb: I read a lot of British authors when I was young and despite having lived in the States for all my life, find myself going to the British spellings first time and time again. Funny how the mind works! For the record, I fell in love with the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Just sayin’.  Now, onto my next question. Why do you create?

I could go with the usual answer and say it’s for the love of the craft.  Which is true; I love writing, and I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t.  But mostly, I write because the things I want to read aren’t out there.  Or occasionally, it is out there, but it’s not done how I would have liked to see it done.  I write Norse and Viking fiction, and the tendency these days seems to be to infuse that with a modern element.  There are a lot of high schooler heroes in this tiny genre right now, and my interest in high schoolers and what they get up to is in the negative numbers.  I want to read about the gods being assholes to one another, the way gods do, so that’s what I write.

R. M. Webb: Quick! Chocolate or chips?

Chips.  Either the sort that come out of a crinkly plastic bag, or that come out of the fryer/oven.  Occasionally, I’ll get a few bars of Cadbury Dark, and then take several months to eat them.  I’ve always preferred salty or savoury snacks.

R. M. Webb: Is your art your business? Do you make money (or try to!) for the things you create? Do you have a day job?

I do not have a day job, because they’ve only recently started to exist again and I’ve been too long without one to even get a call back on my applications.  I’m lucky enough that my husband has a good job that lets me focus on selling my fiction, which has only recently begun to “work” for me.  He’s been amazingly supportive, and now that we’ve finally started to see some return on investment, it’s become something he’s even trying to actively participate in, as much as one can.

R. M. Webb: What caused you to want to market your art?

Money.  I made some big mistakes with my first book though, but I expect it to finally pay for itself next month.

R. M. Webb: Where/when does inspiration strike?

Everywhere.  I have an iPad I keep with me in bed, and take with me everywhere in case I get an idea at an awkward moment.  The ideas I get when I’m trying to sleep are always the ones I’ll forget by morning, so I tap them out as soon as I have that eureka moment.

R. M. Webb: How do you react to negative feedback?

Mostly, I ignore it.  Unless it’s something that legitimately needs to be fixed or addressed, like a formatting issue or a massive continuity error or something that is actually my fault and not a matter of taste.  I did a lot of writing and posting it online for years, where flames and troll comments were expected.  I got to a point where I just didn’t have the energy to care about someone spending six hours to read something they hated, just so they could leave multiple paragraphs of hate in my comments.

R. M. Webb: What’s your greatest obstacle as an artist?

Keeping my deadlines.  I’m currently focusing on a short story series, and I’ve set a hard deadline for myself of a new release on the 1st of every month.  Ideally, I want to have a pre-release for all of them as well, but that’s not going to happen with the April release.  It’s going to come in just under the deadline.  I can feel it in my bones.

R. M. Webb: Who’s your biggest champion?

I’m not sure.  When I was younger, I probably would have said Stephen King, but that was before I realised he’s only written four stories with the same three characters.  I mean, they’re good stories, but how many writers and dead wives does he need?

I think right now, the answer to this question would be anybody who can keep a deadline.

R. M. Webb: Quick! Red or Blue?

Red.

R. M. Webb: Do you have kids? If not, do you want to have kids?

I don’t have children of my own, but it’s getting to that point in life where my siblings and cousins are all starting to have kids.  And since I am the “least employed” person in my family, I frequently find myself watching after young kids. But while I’m perfectly happy to watch their kids for a few hours a day, I have no intention of having any of my own.

R. M. Webb: If your child showed talent in an artistic endeavor, would you help her pursue a career in that field after having worked in a creative field yourself? Why or why not?

I’ve already told my brother that as soon as his daughter’s old enough to not just stick it in her mouth, I’m going to teach her how to smear paint on things.  He told me I was never watching her again, and then of course phoned the very next day to ask if I was available.  I also like to give big art kits to the older kids for Christmas/birthdays.  Not like, those cheap RoseArt kits with crayons that are like colouring with a candle, but kits I’ve built for them, with quality supplies.

R. M. Webb: How do you structure your day as an artist/entrepreneur/person/parent? How do you get it all done?

It depends on the kids I have.  The older ones can be trusted to watch TV or play with their phones (the fact that ten year olds have phones still blows my mind) while I’m upstairs, and they’re mostly over here just to make sure they get fed without burning the house down.  When it’s the younger ones, I don’t work.  Those days are a total write-off, even during nap time, because my work room is a tiny attic far away from where the babies sleep.

R. M. Webb: Describe yourself as a parent.

I’m the annoying uncle, actually.  The one who sees a toy bow and arrow and decides that would be a perfect gift for a five year old girl.

R. M. Webb: What’s the best thing about raising kids?

That I can give them back at the end of the day!

R. M. Webb: What advice would you give someone dreaming of making it in your field?

I don’t know.  I’m still trying to figure that one out myself.

R. M. Webb: If you could pass one thing on to the next generation in general, what would it be?

Don’t be so hard on yourself.  Even if you’re joking.  I’ve been seeing a lot of young people lately calling themselves “trash,” like it’s meant to be funny.  But the thing about that is at some point, it stops being a joke, and becomes more damaging to your sense of self-worth than just about anything else.

R. M. Webb: What’s the best thing about your life?

My husband.  While everyone else is busy resenting me for making money “having fun,” or convincing themselves that it’s not real money, he’s been supporting me in this since day one.

R. M. Webb: Quick! Eat out or cook at home?

Cook at home.  I’ll order something in from time to time, but I have so many food allergies that eating out becomes a chore.

R. M. Webb: What’s the hardest thing about your craft?

The deadlines.  And ideas.  Even if I do decide to do a myth retelling, I don’t want to just retell the myth.  Coming up with a way to make it new sometimes feels impossible.  It’s part of what prompted me to get away from taking the literal approach, and treat everything like 1000-year-old rumours.  Every time they get told, something has become changed and exaggerated, when in “reality”, it was just a couple of people hitting one another with sticks.

R. M. Webb: What’s the best thing about your craft?

I love working with the world I’ve created, and taking characters from the myths and turning them into their own, brand new people.  Even though I’m working in the fantasy genre, there are some things even I can’t buy.  Loki didn’t father a snake and a wolf.  But he did father two extremely powerful shapeshifters.

R. M. Webb: What’s the hardest thing about the business side of your craft?

Getting seen.  I’m writing in a tiny niche, within an overall genre that’s completely saturated.  It’s tough, and there are definitely easier genres I could be writing in, but this is where I want to be.  There’s a readership out there, and I see them every day on my Tumblr feed.  The tricky part is just convincing them to give my stories a try.

R. M. Webb: What’s the best thing about the business side of your craft?

I love watching my sales tick up.  It’s just such a sense of accomplishment.  Look, I did this.  I wrote words, and people want to read them so badly, they’re paying money to do so.

R. M. Webb: Do you get more satisfaction from finishing a novel or selling that novel, or do those two things satisfy you equally but in different ways?

The accomplishment from seeing sales and the accomplishment from finishing something are two totally different things for me.  Finishing something is exhausting, and I’m often glad to see the end of it because of how many drafts and revisions everything goes through. But seeing that people like what I write well enough to spend money on it, even if just a few dollars, makes those last few weeks of agony worth it.  And there’s also the element of having heard the word “can’t” so many times that the ten year old inside me just wants to stick my tongue out at everyone and prove that I don’t have to work a part time job I hate to make enough money to pay a few bills.

R. M. Webb: Quick! Your peanut butter’s on your banana. What do you do?

Run away.  The smell of peanut butter makes me vomit.

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**Standard disclaimer: The views expressed in this interview don’t necessarily reflect the views of R. M. Webb.

 

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