Happy release day to All The Hometowns You Can’t Stay Away From, a collection of speculative fiction short stories from Izzy Wasserstein. There are multiverses, quests, terrifying boarding schools, haunted museums that need to be emptied, people resisting, people trying their best, and more. I’ve found many treats within these pages, and I can’t wait for other people to discover them as well.
In today’s interview, the author tells us about how she finds inspiration, the spawn points of stories, putting this specific collection together, and what she’s working on now.
Where do you seek inspiration?
Typically, my biggest inspirations have been reading and talking about writing. When I’m reading a book I’m excited about (or one I’m yelling at, or both!) or talking craft with friends, that’s when my ideas emerge. Sometimes long walks help, too.
Recently, I’ve not had to look hard for inspiration. Since my work tends to be about people responding to hard times, everywhere I look there’s inspiration to be had, though I wish there wasn’t. “Everything the Sea Takes, it Returns,” for example, is based on my constant worrying at the question of what survival and community look like in a world ravaged by climate change and fascists. If only that question felt less urgent!
When you sit down to write a story, what do you need? Be it something abstract like a character shape or more tangible, like coffee.
I need to have music available. I don’t always end up playing music, but I need that option if the silence and the glow of the screen get to be too much. I don’t drink coffee, much to the chagrin of pretty much every writer I know, but I do like to have a can of some terrible-for-me zero sugar soda on hand.
I also need something to grab onto: a character, or a premise, or sometimes just an image. Once I’ve got a hold of one of those things, or once they’ve got ahold of me, I’m good to go.
Of the stories in this collection, which is your favorite in terms of your writing experience?
My favorite writing experience was probably “The Good Mothers’ Home for Wayward Girls,” for two reasons. First, because I wrote the first draft at Clarion West, so I associate it with that wonderful experience and with my beloved classmates. (I see you, Team Eclipse!). And second, because it’s an extreme rarity for me: a story that emerged in roughly its completed form.
Often I need to sit with a story for ages, or even abandon it and come back months or years later, to get it right, but “Good Mothers” came together quickly, and really only took some minor editing before it was ready to submit.
I just wish I knew how to make that happen every time!
Which story are you excited for readers to read?
I get emotionally attached to my stories, so this is a hard question to answer! But I think the novelette that concludes the collection, “Shadows of the Hungry, the Broken, the Transformed,” is one of my favorites, and it (along with “Everything the Sea Takes, it Returns”) emerged from my thinking about trauma and the ways we might be able to survive despite the horrors of the last few years. It also explores the failures of higher education and the ways that community can sustain us. I hope it will resonate with people.
How did you decide which stories went into All the Hometowns You Can’t Stay Away From?
In nerd-with-a-spreadsheet fashion, I made a list of every story I’d published, and started playing around with possible inclusions. Some stories, like “Unplaces: an Atlas of Non-Existence,” were always going to be included, because they are particularly close to my heart. I added others that I felt were in conversation with each other. Pretty soon I had a draft Table of Contents.
But it wasn’t a particularly good TOC. I don’t mean that I didn’t believe in the stories. They just didn’t fit together particularly well, and it included a lot of flash fiction. I write quite a bit of flash, and someday I hope to put out a book with those included, but in this one they felt like they didn’t fit and broke up the rhythm of the book. Reluctantly, I pared them back.
I don’t remember exactly when I hit upon it, but the key to shaping the collection for me was realizing I could loosely order its three sections around themes: grief, radicalization, and community, respectively.
After Neon Hemlock bought the collection, my amazing editor dave ring and I added a couple unpublished stories that we both believed in (I hope readers enjoy “The Case of the Soane Museum Thefts” half as much as I enjoyed writing it), keeping the collection’s structure in mind.
While this process meant I had to cut some beloved stories, I’m very pleased with the collection’s final form.
What made you choose the title of this collection?
I’d tried on a few possible titles, and in the end this was one of two that I really liked. I submitted it with the other title, but after discussing it with dave, we decided this one really gets at the collection both in terms of theme and approach, and I’m delighted we went with it.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a novel, the elevator pitch for which is Gideon the Ninth x The Unbroken x Alien. I’m too early in the process to say much more, except that I’m having a lot of fun with it!
Are there any books, new releases or otherwise, that you are excited to read?
R. B. Lemberg’s The Four Profound Weaves was the book that got me through the first year of the pandemic, and the ARC of their upcoming Birdverse book, The Unbalancing, is at the top of my to-read pile. I’m planning to start reading it as soon as I finish typing these answers.
Maria Haskins is an amazing writer and community member, and I’m eager to dive into her collection Six Dreams about the Train and Other Stories. Jordan Kurella’s I Never Liked You Anyway comes out next month and I’m so excited to read it.
Izzy Wasserstein is a queer and trans radical and a writer of fiction and poetry. Her most recent poetry collection is When Creation Falls (Meadowlark Books, 2018). She teaches writing, literature, and film at a public university in the American Midwest and shares a home with the writer Nora E. Derrington and their animal companions.