Author Interview: Natalia Theodoridou
2016-12-08 · by Kerstin
Natalia Theodoridou is the author of this week’s story, “The Tunnel.” She is a Media & Cultural Studies scholar based in the United Kingdom. Her strange stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex, Shimmer, and elsewhere. Occasionally, she tweets as @natalia_theodor.
This interview was conducted in November 2016 via email.
Kerstin Hall: “The Tunnel” is your second story to be published by sub-Q, the first being “Sleepless.” How did the creative process differ?
Natalia Theodoridou: “Sleepless” happened in response to Tory’s invitation to write something for sub-Q. It was the first time I attempted anything interactive, so the process was rather exploratory and guided by the possibilities offered up by the technology. Both stories benefited from great editorial feedback, and I am grateful to sub-Q‘s editors for the time they take to refine the fiction they make available to the world. However, when I started writing “The Tunnel,” I was much more conscious of what I wanted to achieve, so the writing was more deliberate and controlled. Fortunately the tools available have also evolved since “Sleepless,” so there was still some fun to be had with the code.
Kerstin: Your academic background is in Media and Cultural Studies. Two questions: Should we call you Dr. Theodoridou, and how have your studies influenced your fiction?
Natalia: I have undergone the slow and rewarding torture that is the doctoral process, so you are free to call me Dr. Theodoridou if you must, but I’d much rather you called me Natalia (pronounced Na-ta-LEE-ah). Just don’t call me Mrs.
Joking aside, I’ve studied for a long time, and I’ve studied several things (I started with theatre and religion before moving on to Media and Cultural Studies), so my studies do regularly pop up in my fiction. That said, I think it’s not so much the subjects that have influenced my writing (although the occasional religious or theatrical theme does crop up), but the principles and critical approaches of cultural studies that have shaped my take on fiction. My studies have definitely determined the way I approach language, history, truth, or the fluidity of personhood, for example.
Kerstin: You are extensively published, with recent credits including Apex, Shimmer, Escape Pod and many, many others. How are you able to consistently make sales, and can you provide any tips for writers just starting out?
Natalia: I am not the kind of person that would presume to give advice, but here’s what I tend to do: I spend a lot of time researching and mulling over ideas. This includes reading and studying the publications I want my work to appear in. I have a network of writers I talk to and trust and ask for feedback from. I believe that writing, like thinking, is largely dialogic. I also submit a lot, and I get a lot of rejections. OK, so here’s one piece of advice (learned the hard way): don’t let the rejections get to you.
Kerstin: Given your success thus far, what is the next goal in your writing career?
Natalia: I intend to try my hand at longer things—a novella, a short story collection, that sort of thing. Probably not a novel, though, unless it’s a fix-up. I love fragmentation, and neat narratives make me suspicious. Perhaps that’s my shortcoming.
Kerstin: Which story are you most proud of?
Natalia: I try to do better with each new story (the meaning of “better” being totally arbitrary here), so my favourite thing tends to be the last thing I wrote. I have a bunch of forthcoming stories that I am particularly fond of. I do have soft spots for older stories as well, though: “The Ravens’ Sister” in KROnline, for example, is one I still love a lot. “The Singing Soldier” in Shimmer is another.
Kerstin: You write in both English and Greek. How do you choose which stories are written in which language?
Natalia: Unfortunately, the truth is that I rarely write in Greek anymore. I do have a few stories forthcoming in Greek, but these are translations done by some wonderful Greek writers rather than myself. I still get the occasional urge to write something in Greek; when that happens, it’s usually a turn of phrase that can only exist in Greek that dictates the choice, or the texture of the language itself.
Kerstin: “The Tunnel” might be described as a journey through depression, but it does not allow for the happy—or even hopeful—ending that a reader might expect. Could you discuss why you wrote the piece this way?
Natalia: This story is semi-autobiographical in the sense that it carries a lot of elements that are true for me; for instance, my partner and I did make that journey by train across Europe around the time we started trying to have a child. This is when the idea for this story came about. Not being able to have a baby can be heavy stuff for some people, and from where I am right now it felt dishonest to pretend that there is a happy ending to this story, or even a resolution, at least from Katrina’s point of view. There probably is; I just haven’t found it yet.
Kerstin: Why did you choose to make interactive fiction out of this particular narrative?
Natalia: My initial desire was to give the reader the opportunity to read the same story from multiple points of view, partly so that they could find that release from the bleakness of Katrina’s tunnel. I quickly found out that I couldn’t tell the story from other POVs though; Katrina’s darkness sucked everyone in. My take on the narrative was too personal, and I was too entangled in it to empathize with anyone other than Katrina. This is how the metatext came about, and how the interactivity became more about exploring one point of view from multiple, including self-reflexive, angles, rather than delving into other characters.
Kerstin: What is the best thing you have read recently?
Natalia: I’ll start sounding like a broken record, because I’m sure I’ve said this elsewhere already, but everyone should go read Vajra Chandrasekera’s “Applied Cenotaphics in the Long, Long Longitudes” in Strange Horizons. It’s just excellent.
Kerstin: Pizza or curry?
Natalia: Curry, always.