Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Magical Pen of P.E. Cunningham

Greetings all, today we have a special treat. Pat Cunningham, American Title IV finalist for her manuscript, A Touch of Heaven, has graciously consented to allow her interview with Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine ~ sfsite.com ~ to be presented on Title Magic (actually, she spell-twisted my arm ~ and I had to sage the place).
And, thus *with the wave of my all-powerful blogger wand* it is so. And, truthfully, I’m thrilled.

Interview: P.E. Cunningham on "Monkey See…"
John Joseph Adams June 1, 2008
P.E. Cunningham, author of "Monkey See…," which appears in our June 2008 issue–said in an interview that the story was originally written for an anthology with a tight deadline. "Normally it takes me forever to write something — I’ve got book and story fragments and chapters in the closet that go back 10 years or longer — but because of the deadline I had to go to work," she said. "I came up with the basic idea literally overnight, and went from first draft to final sub in two weeks, a land-speed record for me. I sent it out with time to spare … and it got rejected. In truth, I didn’t think F&SF would be interested in a pure sword-and-sorcery story, but then I figured, what the heck. And you guys surprised me and bought it. I didn’t think [F&SF would] like ‘Car 17' either. Shows what I know. If I could just figure out what editors like, I’d sell a lot more. Hey, wouldn’t we all."
Part of Cunningham’s success in the speed department comes from pre-existing characters. "One of those story fragments in the closet is the tale of the thief Shakaru and his stolen soul sword, which has picked him as its new wielder and now won’t leave him alone," She said. "Ji at this time is an eight-year-old war orphan who leads a gang of homeless children. When Shakaru first meets her, she’s robbing a corpse. The story didn’t really go very far, but I knew right off the bat Ji was the more interesting character. I started wondering what kind of a story I could put her in. Then the anthology came up, and things came together."
The relationship between Shakaru and Ji is a long and complex one. "He’s still human when he meets her, and becomes her mentor, protector and friend," Cunningham said. "He might have been more, except he got killed before she came of legal age, and his spirit was forged into a soul sword. So he still protects and nags her, and she still ignores him because she thinks she knows it all. She’s remarkably unfazable. Talking to swords, getting changed into a monkey, nothing bothers her. She was robbing dead bodies at eight years old. She’s seen it all before, or at least most of it. Shakaru’s invested in seeing she reaches mature adulthood without getting killed, but it’s an uphill struggle."
But none of that made it into the story, because it wasn’t relevant. "I was looking to write a quick, humorous tale, no deep meaning but maybe some smiles," Cunningham said. "I like putting humor into my work. Knowing their background certainly helped with the dialogue. She’s known this guy/sword most of her life, he’s her closest friend, probably the only being she trusts, and she still ignores his advice. She never admitted she was wrong. He’s got his work cut out for him. I said there was no deep, hidden meaning. However, if anyone wants to draw parallels between our current political situation and monkeys who start wars, well, be my guest."
Cunningham is currently working on some projects in the paranormal romance sub-genre. "[That] market is like a gift from above to me because I get to combine all my interests: romance, action, myths and the supernatural, all tied up with a funny twist," she said. "I was a finalist in Romantic Times Magazine’s latest American Title contest with a story involving angels, demons, and a Latino werewolf street gang. I’m trying my darnedest to sell a novel, so maybe I’d better write a few more. I may haul some of those fantasy fragments out of the closet. Maybe it won’t take me another 18 years to send [F&SF] a story again."

P.E. Cunningham ~ A Touch of Heaven
ATIV First Line: The imp came at me out of nowhere.
Good readers all, what's your favorite type of fantasy or sci fi story. Or, perhaps, your favorite imp???


Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Great interview, Pat! And thanks Sav for posting it. :)

My favorite type of sci-fi is when they find an alien object--I love the discovery process of figuring out what it is or how it works.

My favorite imp would be me! ;)

Savanna Kougar said...

Hey Anitra, that is a cool sci fi story. I kinda like just using whatever it is. Gee, where'd I put that light saber and that crystal viewer?
Okay, now I know, your true inner imp revealed! Finally.
Ya know, I wouldn't mind having a talking sword buddy...I think???

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

I read a funny sci-fi/fantasy story where the guy had a talking sword. His sword would berate him for being cowardly and force him to be a better hero. At times it talked too much and he had to shove it in the sheath to shut it up! I wish I could remember the name or author but I *think* it was in the Chicks in Chainmail anthology. (the sword was female)


Savanna Kougar said...

Anitra, now that would be funny. Especially the shoving in the sheath, ahem...
I may to steal that idea. Give one of my heroes a talking sword or weapon, female, of course. Talk about potential jealousy issues for the heroine...

Trish Milburn said...

Sounds like really interesting characters, Pat. I've never written straight sci-fi and haven't read much (though I love paranormals), but I really like to watch sci-fi TV and movies. I like when the typical sci-fi is shaken up and made new, like with Joss Whedon's Firefly/Serenity.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Also in The Challenge by Susan Kearney, one of the characters had a computer link. The computer was called Dora and she often pipped up at the most inopportune times! :) Later she wrote a book called The Dare where Dora the computer got a body. It was a lot of fun. :)

And lol on the shoving/sheath thing because the author used that in a funny way. If I can find the tale I'll let you know.

Trish--I haven't written hard sci-fi but I've written futuristic romances that use the technology without all the science behind them. I'm in awe of authors like Orson Scott Card who blends hard sci-fi with stunning characters and plots.

Savanna Kougar said...

Anitra, makes me think of Kevin Sorbo in that sci fi. Of course, I can't think of it now. Anyway, the computer had a real attitude and a body.
In Tangerine Carnal Dreams, my AMP novella, the hero's onboard ship voice is modeled after the heroine's voice. She doesn't know it, of course, until she hears it. He's been chasing her around the galaxy.
In another story I wrote, the Hero's computer Brain is female and has real attitude. Plus she's in love with Spock.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Great interview, Pat. I'm more of a fantasy person than a sci-fi person, but your story sounds like a cross between the two, which is interesting.

Mel Hiers said...

Woot! Both the hubs and I enjoyed your story, Pat. Great interview!

Anitra, we need to quit reading the same stuff. I LOVED Dora. More than the H/H in that book, actually. And was thrilled that she got her own story. And that short was in the first Chicks antho, I think. I'll have to dig around and find it. :-P

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Well, Mel, GMTA--great minds think alike!

Susan Kearney has some great stuff out with TOR--I love her creativeness and her humor.

And ALL the Chicks in Chainmail anthologies rock! Great short stories with humor, creativity, and surprises! I love strong female leads and those works really deliver. BTW are you a fan of Larry Niven's Ringworld?

I love that series. I've re-read it 20 times so far.

Mel Hiers said...

They sure do, Anitra! I'm a huge Esther Friesner fangirl. (I mean, she's got a shorts collection called Death and the Librarian. How could I not?)

I haven't read a Niven yet! But the Ringworld series is now on my Wanna Read list. Thanks!

I've just discovered Christopher Moore. Well, just meaning "in the last year." I'm in the middle of Fluke. I will never again hear the phrase "Bite Me" without thinking of whales.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the good words, everybody! I've got that CinC anthology stashed somewhere in the Book Room ... gonna have to look for it now. As for the sheathing, Ji does it to Shakaru near the end of the story. How else do you get a talking sword to shut up?

Death and the Librarian ... my two favorite characters from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Don't get the reference? Check out one of the Discworld novels and prepare to laugh your arse off. It's sort of what Lord of the Rings would be like if Monty Python had written it.


Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

OOOOoooo Mel, LOL on Esther Friesner--she edits all the Chicks-n-chainmail so I know she's great. But Christopher Moore is AWESOME! "Island of the Sequined Love Nun" is fantastic and so is "Bloodsucking Fiends" and "Coyote Blue"--what a great writer!

I rank him right up there with Carl Hiaasen! Just funny, provocative, creative--wonderful!

Dude! We so gotta meet so we can exchange books! ;0

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Pat--I've never read Diskworld but now I will--sounds like it's right up my alley! Thanks for the suggestion. :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Pat! Yay! You're here. Luv the Monty Python. Discworld sounds fun and funny.