Andrea Judy's work appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of The Battered Suitcase. You can read it online here.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In the third grade. We were going over colors and my teacher talked about ‘Storms as dark as ebony.’ It was like an entire new world of creation was created inside of me as soon she uttered that word. From that day forward I was fascinated with words, and how they fit together and naturally fell into writing.
Why do you write?
I write because people and what we do to each other and ourselves fascinate me. I write because words need to be strung together and hung out for the world to see. These fascinating images and ideas pop into my head and they have to escape by any means necessary. Honestly, I don’t know if I can put a rational reason behind it. It’s just like breathing for me, even if I’m not writing actively I’m still thinking of ideas and things to write.
Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
It’s nothing like I imagined! I always imagined that it would involve going out with exciting people, being paid ridiculous amounts of money for my ideas and that it would always be easy to write. It’s hard work! No muse magically floats to my shoulder and whispers all the right words. I sometimes have to pin the muse down and pull the words out one by one. Sometimes, nothing comes at all and I stare at a blank screen on my laptop. One of my favorite quotes about writing is from Gene Fowler, "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." That describes the writing process perfectly for me! Every so often an idea will spring out, fully formed and ready to go but those are rare and even those ‘fully-formed ideas’ need editing and work. It takes dedication, it’s just like being dedicated to going to gym and putting in an hour of hard work everyday. You have to do it to get any results.
What do you think makes a good story?
For me it’s all about the characters, the words and the images. If I can recall a sentence or a character from a story years later it’s a great story to me. It has to give me something I know in a way that I’ve never seen before. I want to read something that will make me think and want more.
What's your favorite genre to read?
I don’t read as much as I should, but I do enjoy a wide variety of genres. I really like speculative fiction and works of magical realism but I also love fantasy, sci-fi, horror, ‘literary’, non-fiction and poetry. I read a little bit of a lot and have a bookshelf filled with interesting books of indiscriminate genres.
Who is your favorite author or poet?
Oh, I hate this question. it’s so hard to pick one favorite out of the millions of writers out there. Neil Gaiman is among my favorites but I also love Matt Bell, Claudia Rankine (her collection of poetry Don’t Let me Be Lonely is probably the most invigorating collection of work I have ever read and I highly recommend it), Margaret Atwood and Christina Rossetti. Oh dear, that’s more than one, isn’t it?
What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
Matt Bell’s chapbook, The Collectors, has been one of the most influential books on my writing ever. It’s absolutely breath-taking and gorgeous in its tragedy. If you haven’t read it you should go to Cake Train right now and view it online for free. It’s short and a super quick read—you won’t want to put it down. The variety of narrative voices and the tragedy of the character’s lives leave a lasting impression, I probably go to re-read it at least once a month, or whenever I am feeling low on inspiration just a few chapters and am reignited with a desire to write.
What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
As a person, Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty. It’s an incredibly interesting discussion of what can be done across the globe to help out and nowhere near as dull as it sounds. It’s inspired me to start donating part of my income to a charity every month and to try to actively volunteer and be aware of what I really need. It isn’t at all my usual type of book, and I was forced to read it for a class but it really changed my perception of the world and what I can do.
Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
I find the most inspiration by listening to what is going on around me and taking constant notes. I find inspiration everywhere, TV shows, video games, movies, news articles, other writer’s work, e-mails, phone calls, a stranger walking by or even a dream. I have notebooks filled with inspiration and ideas just waiting for me to write. Always write it down when an idea strikes you because you don’t know if you’ll remember it in another few hours.
What does your family think of your writing?
My family supported me while I got my BA in Creative Writing so I would have to say they’re very supportive. However, I don’t actually share a lot of my writing with my family or friends too much. I have a small group of people I trust to help me workshop and I go to occasional writing conferences but otherwise I am a solitary creature.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
That’s a challenge right now. I just graduated from college where my ‘job’ was to be a student by reading and writing. Now I have a full-time job that keeps me very busy and I come home exhausted. I’m even more impressed by all the writers out there working 9-5 jobs and still coming home to write. I recently purchased a copy of ‘The Nighttime Novelist’ and it is helping keep me focused on my writing. I’m trying to devote an hour to writing everyday but I’ll be honest, that doesn’t always happen!
Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
I keep a pocket-sized notebook with me at all times and jot down words, ideas, things that strike me. I think every writer should have a notebook on them at all times. I have to have music of some kind playing (most of my characters, or poems, have a ‘theme song’ that I will listen to over and over while writing) and I try to just lock myself in my room from the moment I get home from work to when I have dinner. I usually warm up by posting on a blog, or twitter or something just to get my writing muscles twitching. Another fun thing to combat the ‘dreaded white page’ stare is to actually make the background of my document something funky. Writing a dark poem? Why not a blood-spatter background to set the mood?
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I always struggle with knowing when, where and how to end a piece—whether it’s a poem or a short story. The ending is always something I have a really hard time with and I will go through dozens of endings before I will just leave it alone. I will rewrite endings countless times and never really know when I’m done or where the story should stop. It’s something I have continuously struggled with and that I usually only resolve through workshops.
What are your current projects?
My notebook right now has: Thanos, pregnant by murky waters, and obsidian written in it at the moment, as well as a link to an article about a man who beheaded his wife. I’m working on a novel at the moment (though I think every writer is working on a novel at all times) but I enjoy delving into short stories and poetry still. I do participate in National Novel Writing Month every November so that’s something that is always on my mind. I think every writer should give it a shot. It’s a great way to test yourself as a writer by writing 50,000 words in 30 days.
What are you planning for future projects?
I would love to get a chapbook of poetry together in the near future for publication. I’m really interested in poetry inspired by current events, and horrors that are happening everyday. I also am working on a few fairy tale re-tellings that I hope to get into an upcoming anthology.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
One of my dear friends gave me the best advice I’ve ever received and I’ll share it. “You can’t be a writer, if you don’t write.” I think that is sometimes the hardest part, is to get it all written down and worked out. Don’t give up when, if you get your rejection letters, take them with a grain of salt and move on. If you are writing solely to get published and get famous, there are easier ways to find fame.
Where can we find your work?
I work on a blog: http://judyblackcloud.blogspot.com/ where I talk about my writing. And at the moment I have a portfolio available at: http://www.behance.net/ajudy13 where I post my published work. And you can always follow me on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/judyblackcloud