1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?
My most recently published anthropomorphic project is the short story “Prospero” for Tarl “Voice” Hoch’s horror anthology, Abandoned Places. I’m really fond of taking genre tropes and subverting them. In this case, I started with the common trope of “furries through genetic engineering” and went further than humanity. It’s a cautionary tale about the consequences of humanity trying to use science to distance itself from nature, and how you can’t out-think instinct.
The story is presented as a letter home from a pygmy marmoset, the titular Prospero. He’s genetically engineered to be hyper-intelligent, and was sent out into space to function more or less as a biological component of a larger computer system. Just a piece of the machinery that’s more efficient and economical to launch and operate than silicon for the tasks anticipated. So humanity casts a hyper-intelligent social primate out into the void, alone, and neglects to ask him if he even wanted to go, or for that matter, if he’d want some company along the way. And humanity pays the price for this.
With a theme being “Abandoned Places”, I can’t think of anywhere more lonely and abandoned than the silence of deep space.
2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?
I’m a “seeder”. Stories tend to come to me with a climactic scene popping into my head fully formed. From there, I have to outline, plot, and write forward and backward from that point, to understand both the circumstances that led to the dramatic scenario I envisioned, and its consequences.
I’m trying to get better about starting my stories from the beginning, once I have the climactic scene in mind. In fact the project I just finished for SofaWolf’s Hot Dish anthology is the first I set out to to rigorously write from the beginning.
Before writing, I’ll play music I consider relevant to the pieces I’m working on, as I envision scenes. Once the writing starts, though, I work in silence and solitude as much as possible. My typical writing window is ninety minutes to two hours. Chemically, one to two standard drinks of alcohol, three to five of caffeine, in that time period, keeps the words flowing. On a good day I can turn out five thousand words in those two hours.
3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?
Pornography for the heart. In a past life I’m pretty sure I wrote soap operas and melodramas. I delight in making my beta readers bawl their eyes out in a reading, and then laugh out loud, or otherwise react unconsciously. A room full of beta readers being silent? That’s a story without punch.
My goal is to move my readers emotionally. I write stories about flawed protagonists who earn their scars, and not all of them are worn with pride. Some are just worn because they were wounded. I like my villains to be the protagonists of their own stories; everyone brings their own stakes and reasons to the table.
I also love taking cliches and common tropes and twisting them in on themselves, subverting them, taking the reader on uncomfortable journeys they’re glad to have taken.
4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?
I think all of my characters are drawn from a combination of ideals and internalized experiences. I don’t think I identify with any of my characters, but some I’d want to call role models. I believe in a genre where so many Mary Sue-esque ‘fursonas’ abound, the more you can distance yourself from that kind of vanity, the better you’ll write and the more you’re going to learn about yourself in doing so.
5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?
Peter Watts. When I was a blushing young author, I met him not long after I’d read Blindsight, gushed about it, and indicated I was a writer myself. He was kind enough to take the time to shatter me, with one simple question: “Oh yeah? How many hours a day do you write?”
I was poleaxed. I’d felt really proud about a few hours a week here and there, when the mood struck. He made me realize that if I was going to be a professional writer, I had to treat it like a profession. Treat writing like bricklaying: A bricklayer doesn’t get paid to think about laying bricks. He doesn’t get paid to talk about laying bricks. He gets paid for laying bricks. So be a brick-laying motherfucker. I write one to two hours a day now, four or more on weekends.
For books that influenced my work, in the anthropomorphic genres, I’ll give a shout-out to three:
The Cold Moons, by Aeron Clement. Anthropomorphic fiction at its finest and most heartbreaking, exploring the lives of badgers enduring a holocaust during the larger badger culls conducted by the UK government in the 1970’s. Anthropomorphic tales where almost everyone dies tragically? Powerful stuff, it was probably my first exposure as a kid to the idea of anthropomorphic characters where their animal natures mattered.
The Color of Distance, by Amy Thompson. (That’s Edd Vick’s wife!) I confess, this book has ruined me utterly on 99% of the alien world contact sci-fi stories out there, because hers was the first (of very, very few) stories I’ve read that acknowledged stark scientific realities like anaphylaxis when a body encounters unknown proteins. She wrote a believable, spectacular story series about encountering aliens who have high biotechnology and next to no ‘regular’ technology, who communicate using their skin via chromatophores in a combination of visual and gestural patterns. Anthropomorphic skin-colour changing tree frogs with a profound culture and high biotechnology at their disposal innately? Awesome.
Mouseguard, by David Petersen. I love everything about this concept. Scaling up the adventure by scaling down the heroes. Who needs dragons when you’re a mouse facing down a crab, or a snake, or a fox? It’s a world where the arrival of a moose is a wonder on a genuinely titanic scale. For my money, Mouseguard is the best thing happening in anthropomorphic fiction right now. We need more work that celebrates anthropomorphic characters at their scale, and at their nature.
6. What’s the last book you read that you really loved?
Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty, by Shane Koyczan. I’m enamored with spoken word poetry, and I can only hope and pray that one day I’ll have the lyrical command of words that Koyczan does. He’s got the power to make me laugh and then make me sob uncontrollably in less words than I’d use to order a meal in a restaurant, and I love him dearly for it.
7. Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Parent with three kids and a full time job, I don’t have much free time to spend! But I do spend a lot more time than I should writing on role-playing MUCKs. I consume a lot of media, music in particular. I drink and rate a lot of beer on Ratebeer.com, play a lot of video games. For exercise I swim, lift weights, ride my bike, and shoot my bow at the archery lanes.
8. Advice for other writers?
Borrowing once more from Peter Watts: “Anyone who can be discouraged from writing, should be.”
Become someone who cannot be discouraged from writing. Embrace every bad review, every critic’s opinion, every editor’s rejection. Treat every rejection letter that includes tips on improving your story as the solid gold it is. Someone out there cared enough about your story to want to help you make it better. The very least you can do is honor that.
Accept that unless you are extraordinarily hardworking and lucky, you will probably never make your primary living off of writing. But the harder you work, the more prodigiously you write and submit, the more chances you have to get lucky. Remember that you are surrounded at all times by competition that is hungrier than you. Write better than them, write more than them, and submit it.
Don’t marry a genre. Furry writing alone will never pay your bills. You might love your fantasy epic only to find that crappy romance or cookbook you did ghostwriting for paid your bills five times over. You might discover to your horror, as I did, that you enjoy writing for a genre that you hate reading. Technical writing pays my bills, and it is wholly soulless work, but it funds my ability to write stories with soul.
9. Where can readers find your work?
Sofawolf’s Heat issue #3, various conbooks (most recently Camp Feral! featuring “All The Future’s Stars”) and the forthcoming Abandoned Places anthology by Tarl “Voice” Hoch. I’ve also submitted to Sofawolf’s latest Hot Dish anthology, so we’ll see if that gets accepted.
10. What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom?
For all that the base of the fandom is a rather juvenile sea of tropes and pop culture, there’s always people ready to rise to the challenge, and elevate the rest of us through it. Furry fandom has much deeper roots than it remembers, but there’s always a cycle of rediscovery going on, and modern classics being made today that will be fondly remembered fifty years from now.
Check out Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort’s member bio here!