An Interview with Sunny Moraine

Sunny Moraine was kind enough to drop by today to talk about their book, Line and Orbit, co-authored with Lisa Soem, which was just released in paperback from Samhaim Publishing. For those unfamiliar with Sunny, clearly you have been living under a rock, because their work has been everywhere lately, but nonetheless, allow me to introduce you…

Sunny Moraine is a resident of the Washington D.C. area, a Ph.D. candidate, and the author of the novels Line and Orbit (with Lisa Soem) and Crowflight. They are also the author of several dozen pieces of short fiction, earning them the honor of being named 2013 New Author of Promise by reviewer Lois Tilton of Locus Magazine Online. They maintain a blog at sunnymoraine.com and can be found on twitter as @dynamicsymmetry.

Line and Orbit

ACW: Welcome! Let’s start off with Line and Orbit. It was released as an ebook first, and just came out in paperback. Care to give readers a taste of what it’s about?

It started out as me and my co-author basically writing the book we’d want to read, an epic-y space opera/science fantasy with a diverse cast and queer characters. The plot itself concerns a man from a future human civilization that’s come to regard genetic perfection as the absolute ideal—which of course creates problems when he shows symptoms of a congenital illness. Exiled and struggling to survive, he falls in with the Bideshi, nomadic human users of space!magic who have been at odds with his society for a long time. They appear to be able to heal him for a time, but before long complications ensue regarding a horrific secret, a brewing war, and a cocky and irritatingly attractive Bideshi fighter pilot.

ACW: You had another novel come out in 2013 as well, Crowflight, published by Masque Books. Would you like to say a few words about that one?

Crowflight concerns a young woman from a society of Psychopomps (guides of the souls of the dead) who—seemingly by accident—uncovers a conspiracy that threatens not only her people but her entire world. Framed and betrayed, she’s cast into the wastelands outside her city, where she makes some unlikely friends and begins to learn that you can only run from your past for so long before you have to turn and face it.

ACW: The two books came fairly close together, and on the surface, they’re very different– Space Opera and Dark Fantasy (to apply simple categories). Were they written around the same time? If so, was it a challenge to work in such different worlds, or was it kind of like getting to eat a delicious pie and a delicious cake simultaneously?

The two books were actually written about three years apart, and both came at very different points in my graduate education; Line and Orbit was written in the first year and was a refuge, while Crowflight was written in the fall of my fourth year and was really more therapy, a repository for a lot of the emotional difficulties I was going through at the time. That said, I think there are a lot of similar aspects to both—both feature secrets, both contain “wastelands” and other spaces that fall far outside of what the protagonists are comfortable with, that they nevertheless find themselves thrust into. Both are also focused around night and darkness, which I think is interesting but haven’t entirely untangled the meaning of, if there is any. I do seem to have specific story elements that I keep coming back to.

Crowflight

ACW: On a semi-related note, you worked with Lisa Soem on Line and Orbit. What was the collaborative writing process like versus working solo on Crowflight?

The collaborative process took longer and was logistically more difficult, but also rewarding in a way that nothing I’ve done since in terms of solo work really has been. Writing can be so lonely at times, and it can really be a motivator to work with someone who is as excited about your world and your characters as you are. It can also be hugely beneficial to have another perspective to go to, especially when you hit a block of some kind. So in some ways writing alone was more difficult. That said, by the time I wrote Crowflight I had already written two other solo novels (which will almost certainly never be published, for excellent reasons) so I was familiar with what kinds of self-motivation it required. In some ways, it’s also easier: You’re not on anyone’s schedule but your own, and no creative decisions require mutual agreement. There are trade-offs either way.

ACW: Both Line and Orbit and Crowflight have sequels in the works, correct? You’ve hinted on twitter and elsewhere that the Line and Orbit sequel is a very different book from the first one, and that it also involved a major re-write. Do you attribute that to being in a different place as a writer than when you wrote the first novel, or was it just what this particular story needed in order to work? Did that process impact your work on the Crowflight sequel at all?

The Crowflight sequel, Ravenfall, is done and will hopefully see a release sometime this year. The Line and Orbit sequel, Fall and Rising, is also done with the major part of its rewrite, and I hope to find a home for it soon. In terms of what prompted the rewrite, a lot of it was practical (the book as it stood was having problems finding a home), but I also do attribute the decision to having gained a better understanding of what a good novel—especially a good sequel—requires. Fall and Rising as it first existed was much, much darker than it is now, and while I think that’s a story I’ll tell someday, it wasn’t a good match for the mood of Line and Orbit, which was fun and ultimately uplifting (though it definitely has its dark points) and very slightly goofy. The spiritual thread running between the two books had to match. So it really did have to be a different book in the end, and now it’s much more similar to Line and Orbit itself.

The Fall and Rising rewrite was completed a couple of months after I completed Ravenfall, so I actually think the writing of that book influenced the rewrite, rather than the other way around. Ravenfall is, in almost every respect, a match for the mood and themes of Crowflight, and I think the process of creating that match helped me to understand what you’re really doing when you write a sequel. It’s not just a different book with a bunch of the same general characters and place names. That seems like it should be self-evident, but sometimes it takes a while to internalize self-evident things, I think.

ACW: Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about short stories. As if releasing two novels in one year wasn’t enough, you’ve also had an incredible year short fiction-wise in 2013, including being named the most promising author of 2013 by Locus Online (congrats, by the way!). Is your writing process different for short fiction? Did you sneak in short stories while working on novels, or do you focus on one at a time? Do you have a favorite among your recently published short stories?

Thanks! 2013 was awesome enough that I can’t believe that 2014 could possibly match it, though of course I’m hoping. Gonna keep working, regardless.

I didn’t really appreciate how different my process for short fiction was until I tried to approach it recently after months working almost exclusively on novels and found it incredibly difficult. I’m not sure exactly why, I just know that it was like I was trying to switch gears in my brain and couldn’t quite make it happen, at least not quickly. My process tends to be very instinctive—I feel my way through the general shape of the story and then as I write it emerges. With long things I outline at least a bit, but the overall process is still very organic. That process is essentially the same for short stuff as for long stuff, but I think that the shape and the way of feeling it out is different. And I think using one and not using the other made it harder to switch back. Though I think I’m finding my feet again—I’d like to give novels a break for a bit and focus on short things.

Among my recent stuff, I think one of my stories that’s gotten the most attention, “A Heap of Broken Images” (published in the anthology We See a Different Frontier), is probably my favorite. It’s a story I wrote during one of the most mentally and emotionally difficult months of my life, and I think it was a bit cathartic; it came very quickly and of a piece, though it took some rewriting to get it exactly the way I wanted. Aside from that, I’m very proud of “I Tell Thee All, I Can No More” which came out this past July in Clarkesworld. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever written, I think, and it feels to me like one of those rare stories where you actually accomplish almost everything you set out to do.

ACW: Given the amount of fiction you regularly produce, it’s hard to imagine you have much spare time, but on the theory that you do find a moment here and there, what occupies your time when you’re not slogging through the word mines?

I’m a PhD candidate in sociology, so I’m currently working on a dissertation that I aim (hope) to have completed in the next couple of years. I also teach intro-level college courses, which I enjoy a whole bunch – it’s probably the most rewarding academic thing that I do. Otherwise, I bake and knit and get generally domestic. I also enjoy really terrible TV and questionable horror films. And video games. I play a ton of video games – recent favorites include The Last of Us, Gone Home, and Outlast.

ACW: Now that you’re well on your way to conquering the world through fiction, what’s next for you? What else are you working on that you want people to know about? (If it’s a top secret death ray, you don’t have to tell me.)

I have a story coming out in May in the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, which I am so excited about – the whole project looks incredible and I’m honored to be part of it. I have another novel, Labyrinthian, that’s currently sitting on an editor’s desk and I hope it’ll see a release in 2014, though nothing is set in stone. Soon I plan to embark on an extensive rewrite of yet another novel I wrote last year – I love it but it’s not ready to go out into the great big world just yet. And of course, Fall and Rising is heading out to a publisher soon, so I’m hopeful that before long there will be news there as well.

And there’s also the death ray. Though its development is stalled because it’s warm so the cats keep sleeping on it.

ACW: Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks so much for having me!

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