Writers on Writing: Nina Kiriki Hoffman

images of author book covers

NINA KIRIKI HOFFMAN is an award-winning author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. She has been nominated for every major award for her short fiction in the fantasy and science fiction genre.

ANGELA: Where do your ideas come from?

NINA: Ideas are all around. I always have at least a pen and a piece of paper, more usually a notebook, for jotting down title ideas, snatches of interesting conversations, strange thoughts I get from situations I observe. Sometimes I prod my muse by rolling dice or coming up with writing prompts. Sometimes I get ideas from dreams. I also read voraciously and watch TV, and those things feed into the idea bank.

ANGELA: Why do you write in the science fiction/fantasy and/or horror genre and/or for teens?

NINA: When I try to write realistic/mimetic fiction, I get bored. I like to write stories that include magic or things so far unknown; I like wider possibilities than the ones I know from real life.

Many of the things I’m drawn to write have a teen mindset, because I think that’s my own mindset. I’ve always resisted growing up. I think I’m in some sort of twilight zone at this point, because being a teenager has changed so much since I was one. It’s a bit confusing.

ANGELA: What are you currently reading?

NINA: I’m reading the Rizzoli & Isles books by Tess Gerritsen. I just finished reading Julie Smith’s two New Orleans mystery series about Skip Langdon and Talba Wallis, and her Rebecca Schwartz San Francisco mysteries. Been on a female detective kick for a while. God bless the library.

ANGELA: What is one of your all-time favorite books and why?

NINA: GRIMBOLD’S OTHER WORLD by Nicholas Stuart Gray. I read this when I was thirteen, and it totally invaded my mind. I’m sure I’m still stealing ideas and scenarios from it. Gray used tropes from English myth and legend. He did beautiful things with cats, second worlds, trolls, wizards, lost princes, magic spells, and even Faery, though he didn’t call it that. All in beautiful language.

ANGELA: What is your favorite literary technique/device/element to use in your writing?

NINA: Um, I don’t think I have a favorite. It’s all woven together, whatever it is. I just want to get from here to there in the story.

ANGELA: What is your writing process?

NINA: For the past seven years, I’ve written almost exclusively in food courts and coffee shops and bookstores. I had cancer, surgery, radiation, and chemo in 2007, and two deadlines, so I was very sick and writing under pressure at home, and it left me with an allergy to my own office. I hope I can get over this, because coffee shops and bookstores don’t stay open late enough for me. I write on a MacBook Air. I am sure I am not ergonomically correct.

ANGELA: How frequently (and for how long/how much) do you write?

NINA: I write four days out of seven, or sometimes more, for stretches of three or four hours.

ANGELA: Do you already have ideas lined up so that you could immediately start the next story?

NINA: Nope. I let my fingers do the walking when the time comes to start again. Open a new file and see what appears, though, as I said above, I’m constantly collecting scraps and fragments I could use.

ANGELA: Do you always start the next work immediately after completing one?

NINA: No. I’m lazy.

ANGELA: What do you do about writer’s block?

NINA: Use naps and journaling upon first waking up to kickstart the flow again.

Connecting and keeping up with Nina Kiriki Hoffman:

Interview conducted in 2014.

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