Interview: Graduate Mars Hawthorne

Mars Hawthorne is a writer of dark fiction based in Portland, Oregon, as well as a 2021 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, for which she was the recipient of the Miskatonic Scholarship. Her passion for storytelling began in kindergarten when she informed a teacher that, during nap-time, she’d witnessed a monster eat the little girl next to her and then spit out her bones. She’s a member of the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers. In her free time, Mars likes to patronize her favorite art-house movie theaters, take meandering walks, and watch her beloved local soccer clubs.


Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep? 

Before Odyssey, my writing process was a mixed bag. I became serious about improving my writing in 2017, but I mostly worked in highly caffeinated sprints where I’d get excited about a project and work on it for 1-2 hours a day for 3-5 days a week for a couple months, followed by weeks or months-long lulls in between. I was lucky to have an active, supportive writing group to meet up with and submit work to (hi, Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers!), where I also critiqued the work of other members, which helped me assess my own work better. However, I didn’t have a varied toolbox of techniques to draw upon when problems arose, except for whatever I gleaned from the craft books I read in my free time. My process was mostly 1) draft, 2) receive critique, 3) reflect on critique, then 4) revise until a piece “felt” done. But, spoiler alert, I usually wasn’t done! Instead, I’d often put a story on indefinite hold in frustration when I got stuck on a problem that I couldn’t identify or address.

Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Mars Hawthorne”

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn-5 - croppedBestselling author Carrie Vaughn will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop. Her latest novels include the post-apocalyptic murder mystery, Bannerless, winner of the Philip K. Dick Award, and its sequel, The Wild Dead. She wrote the New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, along with several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, and upwards of 80 short stories, two of which have been finalists for the Hugo Award. She’s a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin, and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado. Visit her at www.carrievaughn.com.


You’re one of several authors who provide in-depth critiques for the Odyssey Critique Service. What are some of the common weaknesses you see in submissions?

Characters and plot that don’t hold together. How this plays out: What the story says about the characters is different from how they’re actually portrayed. Or they’re passive characters who don’t drive the action, who are merely observers or are acted upon. Plots where actions and scenes don’t follow logically and don’t build on one another—they don’t have that domino effect we’re looking for. In all these cases, the motivation and drive for the story are fuzzy, there’s no tension, and the reader isn’t engaged. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Carrie Vaughn”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Gemma Files

gemma-filesFormer film critic, teacher, and screenwriter turned award-winning horror author Gemma Files will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey workshop. Her most recent book, Experimental Film (ChiZine Publications), won both y 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel and the 2016 Sunburst Award for Best Adult Novel. Her other works include the Weird Western Hexslinger series (A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones), a dark fantasy story-cycle (We Will All Go Down Together: Stories of the Five-Family Coven), two short fiction collections (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart), and two chapbooks of speculative poetry, along with over eighty short stories, novellas, and novelettes. Five of her stories were adapted into episodes of the dark erotica anthology series The Hunger (1997-1999 on Showtime, produced by Tony and Ridley Scott), two by herself.


As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

Don’t censor yourself—all writing is useful writing, even if you don’t think it is at the time. Basically, it’s far easier to fix bad writing than it is to generate writing from the ground up, however good, especially under pressure. My own process tends to start with notes that slowly grow into sections of prose, develop a spine and blend together like fungus. I write maybe three unnecessary words for each necessary one, but unless you do your due diligence, you won’t have anything to cut down to. Letting go of the impulse to edit before you can proceed is the single most important lesson I’ve learned as a professional writer. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Gemma Files”

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