Interviewer: In the beginning of “Naves Autem Vacuo,” Lauren loves silence, but by the end, she grows to hate it. Usually ‘dislike’ is directed toward a person or thing, not a lack thereof. How did your unique construction of the meaning of ‘dislike’ in this story contribute to your other assigned emotion, ‘misery’?
Thom Connors: I had a very specific idea for this story when I started it. I had maybe four versions with different characters and different points in the journey. It all revolved around Lauren. I noticed in the second version that Lauren was a lot happier throughout the story because she was fighting with a specific character; it gave her something to fight towards. I removed that character in the next version and she just tried aiming it at someone else. It was good, but it never worked because the person never fought back. In the final version, I removed people all together, so she had no one to bounce off. Her entire theme of dislike is that she needed to be challenged and here she was with only herself to blame. It turns out that it wasn’t that she enjoyed silence, it was that she liked escaping from other people.
Interviewer: How difficult or easy was it to write to an emotional prompt versus the typical setting or plot prompt?
Thom Connors: A lot more difficult than I expected. I am used to writing flash fiction and novellas/novels. The other story I’ve had published Metaphorosis was “The Forest of New People”, which clocked in at around 10,000 words, so it was very tough to keep it to the level and still get the effect that I hope came through.
Interviewer: After finishing your story, what was the single most valuable take-away from the experience?
Thom Connors: I’ve always been a planner and while I had a lot of ideas on how this story would go originally, I pantsed the final version. It was a lot of fun, but I always feel out of control when I write that way. I have a lot of respect for people who write entire novels that way, and this really solidified it. The most valuable though was trusting myself to make any required changes in the editing process.
Interviewer: Given that this is a “score” anthology, what representative piece of music would you connect to “Naves Autem Vacuo”?
Thom Connors: I always write to music. I had a whole playlist that I listened to on repeat the whole time I was writing and I think my partner now hates all of the songs on the list. There is a band called The Lonely Forest, whom I love. They recorded an album called Nuclear Winter, which is an amazing concept album. Five of the songs from that album made it on to this playlist. Specifically, “Idiocy” was the mood I wanted for Lauren. It’s erratic, slow and then chaotic and then controlled and irrationally emotional. In one of the drafts, we learn that Lauren was nicknamed The Cyclone by her commanding officer, and that was the idea I went with for her character in this emotional state.
If you want to support The Lonely Forest, who really are amazing, my favorite song of theirs is Turn Off This Song and Go Outside – The Lonely Forest.
Follow Thom Connors on Twitter @thomsconnors.
Buy the Score anthology, which includes Thom Connors’ story “Naves Autem Vacuo”, focused on Misery and Dislike.