In Defekt, we return to the terrifying furniture store LitenVärld to find out what happened that made Derek get sick, in advertently causing the events of Finna, and the project afterwards. What unfolds is a darkly humorous adventure of Derek meeting his doppelgängers, sentient, carnivorous furniture, and a whole bunch of self-discovery. Author Nino Cipri stops by the blog on this fine release day to talk about how this sequel came to be, the evolution of the story, and the things they’re enjoying.
In the acknowledgements, you mention that you had no intention to write a sequel. What was it about Derek that you decided to write about him and his team of cloned selves?
We don’t know anything about Derek in FINNA except that Ava doesn’t like him–which is always an interesting place to start with a character. I was doing a lot of traveling in 2019, so had nothing but time and hundreds of miles to think. So I started wondering about him, and what kind of story I would write about the coworker that sets everyone’s nerves on edge. My thought process went something like “capitalism wants workers that are all interchangeable units → wow the uncanny valley possibilities → what if LitenVärld actually manufactured its workers like it did furniture → ooh what if I wrote about solidarity between monstrous furniture and creepy cloned workers.” Then I listened to Ezra Furman’s Twelve Nudes on repeat, and ended up writing a pitch in a truck-stop Panera on the Ohio turnpike.
Was there anything about this LitenVärld misadventure that stayed the same from draft one to the final book?
I have a hard time writing endings, so the last two and a half chapters basically got tossed out and rewritten twice. The earlier chapters, where Derek is tossed into increasingly weird and upsetting revelations about LitenVärld and his role there, were much easier and didn’t change much.
One of my favorite scenes, from early in the book, is virtually unchanged. Derek is shaving in a mirror and has…maybe it’s a hallucination, maybe it’s something else, but he loses control over his reflection, which starts babbling LitenVärld customer service stock phrases at him. It’s surreal and horrifying and goofy, and I realized that was the tone I wanted for this story. That felt like the first scene where I stopped fighting with this story and figured out where it was trying to lead me.
Which did you find more challenging: the initial first draft or the revisions? How did you keep the Dereks similar enough to be the same person but distinct enough to have their own personalities and arcs?
I started writing this in March of 2020, and finished the final revisions in October. Between the two points, I moved, proposed to my partner, worked two different jobs, and staffed a virtual writing workshop for teens. All of it was hard, the whole process. I really didn’t know for a long time if I’d written something good or something that was complete garbage, but I’ve come to love this weird little story.
As for distinguishing the Dereks, it was mostly through revisions. It took me a while to land on their separate personalities, motivations, and voices, how they interact with each other, how they interact with Derek. It was really difficult to do in under 40,000 words, and I’m never going to have this many named characters in a story again unless I make it a full-length novel.
Do you have a favorite of the Dereks?
I love Dex, the pissed-off dirtbag teenage Derek who wants to be a social media star. He’s an absolute dickhead and I love that about him.
What do you consider the best pizza order?
What’s Up Next
Are you expecting to return to LitenVald in the future?
No, but I wasn’t expecting to come back this time either, so…
I love dirtbag influencer Dex so much that it’s tempting to write a story like “The LitenVärld Worker Insurrection As Told Through Viral SnapYap Posts.” Also, something made me start thinking about how I would write a LitenVärld TTRPG, and now I have brain-worms about it.
What are you working on now?
I’m in the midst of revising a YA horror novel called Burned and Buried that’ll be released next year. (I guess it’s technically my novel debut? Which is weird, because it’s also my fourth book.) It’s very loosely based on a short story I wrote in 2017 titled “Which Super Little Dead Girl™ Are You? Take Our Quiz and Find Out!”
How are you refilling the well? Any recommendations for when we leave?
I’ve been trying to carve out time between wedding planning and work to play unholy amounts of video games and work through my leaning tower of TBR books. I spent all day yesterday alternately playing Spiritfarer and devouring A.K. Larkwood’s The Unspoken Name, and highly recommend them both.
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.