IKEA can be a scary, overwhelming place. Between too many customers and all that modular furniture, it feels like a different dimension. Now add wormholes and having to work with your ex. FINNA dropped on February 25th and author Nino Cipri returns to the blog to tell us more about how they weaved together this tale of multiverses, queer love, and retail hell.
On Crafting FINNA
What inspired you to place this story in not!IKEA?
I’m fascinated with the idea that labyrinthine places can somehow erode the boundaries of reality. It’s a premise I’ve tried unsuccessfully to work into a series of failed stories, starting in 2013 or 2014. I tend to get lost easily, and every time I’ve walked into an IKEA, I’ve gotten quickly overwhelmed by how big and disorienting it is. Time becomes meaningless, your budget becomes meaningless. You find yourself asking previously unthinkable questions, like how much modular shelving is too much, and if burnt orange is the appropriate color for couch upholstery. Something vaguely sinister is going on there.
How did you come up with the name FINNA?
The title of the book comes from a tool that the main characters use to navigate between the worlds. The tool was originally called a Fïndr, but for the final version, I decided to use actual Swedish instead of a pseudo-Scandinavian language. The Swedish author Karin Tidbeck was kind enough to help me come up with an IKEA-esque name for the device, and checking the rest of the Swedish names I came up with. I’d probably use a different name in retrospect; a couple of people have pointed out that “finna” has a very specific meaning in AAVE, and I don’t want to mislead potential readers about the story, or about who wrote it.
How did you ultimately decide which multiverses made it into the story? Were there other multiverses that didn’t make it into the final version of the story?
All of the worlds are pretty close to what they were in my earliest outline, with a few differences; one world, which looks very similar to our own, was originally an icy tundra with ice zombies. Some other scenes that take place on a submarine are on an airship. The main things that changed from the earliest drafts were Jules and Ava’s relationship (which went from a more straightforward-but-awkward queer romance to the early days after a bad break up) and the third act. The final draft got a lot twistier at the end. I can definitely see where I was learning how to plot longer fiction while writing this.
Did FINNA start off as a short story or did it start with the intention of becoming a novella?
Neither! It was originally written as a screenplay. I loved the screenplay, but have no filmmaker contacts, and would have either had to expand it to be a feature-length script, or shrink it to work as a short or pilot episode. There were a couple of open submission periods for novellas coming up, so I adapted the screenplay into prose and sent it off.
How does the experience of working on and publishing FINNA differ from your work on Homesick? Are there any similarities?
FINNA was originally included in Homesick. I submitted it to Tor.com’s open submission period a few weeks before sending in Homesick as a collection to Dzanc’s short story collection contest, with FINNA as the original novella anchoring the book. When Dzanc made an offer, I withdrew FINNA, only to have my agent call me a day later to tell me that Tor.com had been about to make an offer. I had another novella that needed some substantial revisions, but was honestly a better fit with Homesick’s tone and theme, and Dzanc’s editor was gracious about swapping them. I’m happy with how both books turned out; FINNA stands better on its own, and “Before We Disperse Like Star Stuff” fits in well with Homesick’s overall vibe.
The process for writing each of the books was very different. Like I said, I first wrote Finna as a screenplay in a film writing class, which functioned like a writer’s room. It had feedback at every stage, which immeasurably improved it. Putting Homesick together was a little more like collage; besides the final novella, all of the pieces of it had already been drafted, and some of them had been written seven years earlier. I just had to figure out how to arrange them, and then write a synopsis.
Works to Read Next
Aside from Homesick: Stories, is there anything you recommend for our reading hype while these tears dry?
I recently finished Song For a New Day by Sarah Pinsker, and it’s amazing. All the hype about K.M. Szpara’s Docile is true. I loved Rivers Solomon’s novella The Deep — it’s incredibly thoughtful while pulling zero punches. R.B. Lemberg’s forthcoming Four Profound Weaves is brutal and tender and lovely. And if you want to cry more, Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House will fuck you up and you will be grateful.
Nino Cipri is a queer and trans/nonbinary writer, editor, and educator. They are a graduate of the 2014 Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and earned their MFA in fiction from the University of Kansas in 2019. Nino’s story collection Homesick won the Dzanc Short Fiction Collection Prize, and their novella Finna — about queer heartbreak, working retail, and wormholes — will be published by Tor.com in 2020. A multidisciplinary artist, Nino has also written plays, screenplays, and radio features; performed as a dancer, actor, and puppeteer; and worked as a stagehand, bookseller, bike mechanic, and labor organizer.
One time, an angry person on the internet called Nino a verbal terrorist, which was pretty funny.