Furry Book Month Author Q&A: Madison Scott-Clary

Madison provided several informative panels last weekend at Oxfurred Comma. This interview provides a more in-depth look at her thoughts on furry writing in general, as well as a discussion about her upcoming works, which is to be released at the start of next month. Have a read and learn a bit more about how Madison approaches her craft.

Tell us a little bit about your most recent project (written or published). Was there a particular inspiration for it?

It’s a little funny how inspiration works! Many of my contemporary furry fiction stories take place in a broader universe which parallel to ours, in that they all live in a town in Idaho, in the US. Beyond that, many historical people from our universe exist in theirs such as Rainer Maria Rilke and, now, Meister Eckhart.

As I was thinking about this, I realised that a lot of history would have to take place in order for the US to exist, which means that large institutions would also have to exist, such as governments and religions. Small things differ (Telegram is called PostFast, Uber is called GetThere, etc.), but a lot of the big ones have to exist.

To explore that, I started toying with the idea of a Catholic coyote trying to process some failings in his life through the lens of his faith. I don’t share that faith, so it required a lot of really fun research, and has been very rewarding to write. It also includes a few other things that are very interesting to me, such as a focus on a therapist character and the idea of limerence – those crushes that are so strong they almost hurt. This is the origin of the novella Limerent Object, which will be published on November first, in a collection with a few other short stories. I’m really excited about it, but also quite nervous, given the areligious leanings of furry as a whole. I hope that folks will see it as an interesting story all the same!

What is your favourite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry fiction?

I love furry. Not only does it provide a great social scene, but it also provides a very fulfilling creative space. The very idea of furry characters automatically implies a lot of questions: how does grooming work? How about scent? How about tails? This is the inspiration for a lot of writing and art out there, and even if the core plot of the story isn’t about answering one of those questions, that you get to address them as part of worldbuilding to make for a more fully fleshed-out world.

In addition to this, having different species in the world provides a means for investigating interpersonal dynamics on a much deeper level. Is there speciesism? Is there competition between the species? How do predator-prey dynamics work? How are interspecies relationships treated? Is there hybridization? It gives you so many stories right out of the gate!

Beyond that, having spent so long in the fandom, especially in roleplay-heavy spaces, I struggle to write non-furry fiction at times. I miss the snouts and paws and fur!

What is your writing process like? Do you outline and plot, or are you a “pantser”?

It’s a bit of a hybrid, I’d say. I begin by pantsing a portion of the story, and then if I feel it has legs, I’ll start coming up with an outline. For instance, my last book, Qoheleth, started with two somewhat related ideas, so I just started writing a few chapters of each, and once they were starting to really catch for me, I sat down and outlined loosely. The more I wrote, the more I refined my outline.

Not all stories work this way, however. A recent short, “Jump” followed the outline provided by the lyrics of a song I love from the get go. It helps to be flexible when ideas come at you!

What do you consider your biggest strength as a writer?

My biggest strength is probably language usage? I really, really love words and all the myriad ways you can put them together. Sometimes I worry that my prose purples, but I just can’t help it. Writing and playing with language just feels so satisfying. A well-written sentence is like a delicious bite of food, and a story full of them like a satisfying meal.

What is your favourite kind of story to write? Does it align well with what you like to read?

I love love love writing contemporary fiction with a focus on the characters’ inner worlds. The concept of what makes a ‘self’ is fascinating, after all. Because of that, I write a lot of contemporary stuff surrounding difficult internal – mental and emotional – problems rather than necessarily external situations.

It’s weird, though. While I do enjoy reading that sort of stuff, I wouldn’t call it my favorite genre. I really enjoy science fiction and that certain brand of horror/fantasy that is New Weird, but I have a much harder time writing it than the other stuff. I keep promising myself I’ll practice sci-fi more, then go and just write more contemporary lit instead.

Which character of yours do you most identify with, and why?

Because of the genre I write in most often, this is a surprisingly difficult question. I write about characters interrogating their concepts of self, and so I wind up putting a lot of myself into them. I guess that means I intentionally create characters that I identify with. I identify with the main character of “Disappearance” for her overwhelming desire to get out of her current life without being able to put her finger on why. I identify with Dani from “Overclassification” because there are ways in which one’s personality completely and totally pervade one’s life, and that informs almost everything about me. I can’t come up with just one, alas!

Which authors or specific books have most influenced your work?

This is difficult to answer! I really love a lot of authors and works for different reasons. I would say that Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar’s This Is How You Lose the Time War, Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, and Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin really influenced my use of language and the way in which talking around an ineffable thing to describe its boundaries can be of use. I credit Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, Neil Stephenson’s Anathem, and Dan Simmons’s Hyperion Cantos for a lot of ideas on how to structure longer plots.

Above all else, though, I think I’d say that William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition kicked me into writing. The writing style all the way from the macro structure of the plot to the micro sentence structures and word choice, the reliance on emotion and the complexities of the self, the slow reveals of information important to both the reader and the characters, all of these have influenced the way that I write and approach writing.

What is the last book you read that you really love?

Oh gosh, interesting question. I am re-reading Dune in preparation for the Villeneuve movie’s premiere, but I have read that book probably dozens of times, so I’m not sure that it really counts. The best fiction book I read recently that really grabbed me was Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi. I am always a sucker for epistolary works – in this case, a published diary – but if you add in unique character voices and place names and a strange sense of the numinous, something much larger than what is actually at stake, and you’ve got me sold.

The best nonfiction book was one I read ages ago and recently reread while researching “Limerent Object”, Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates, which is about, on the small scale, the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but on a grander scale, the religious roots of the founding of America which even today, even in the most secular of spaces, remain.

Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

Lots of things! I love cooking, I love tea, I love video essays, I used to love programming and occasionally that happens now and again. I even enjoy just sitting and thinking or meditating or whatever you want to call it. It’s a great time to just pet the dogs or the cat and let go of structured thinking. I guess I’m a little boring, but I’ll talk your ear off about absolutely any of these.

Do you have any advice to give other writers?

I have a stable of advice that I like to give, but I’ll keep it to two items:

1: Never delete any of your work. Instead, if you start a story or project and decide that you don’t actually like it, move it to a scraps folder and then move on with your writing. A decent chunk of my book Qoheleth was written back in 2016 and abandoned as wandery and undirected, but a bolt-out-of-the-blue idea struck me one day, and I was able to dust it off, rewrite a lot of it, and then spin that out into a novel. Many projects that I started however long ago and abandoned are still on the table for revisiting. To help with this, I keep all of my writing well organized in a wiki (which essentially boils down to a set of well-named folders), so I can browse and start writing whenever.

2: If you are blocked, you still have options. If you are stuck on a story in progress, I strongly recommend taking a walk, painting a picture, drinking a cup of tea while staring morosely out a window, just anything to break context, preferably away from your computer or notebook. As much as writing feels like it takes place on the page or screen, the vast majority of it takes place up in your head, and even when you are not sitting at the keyboard or with pen in hand, you are still writing. If you are blocked on everything, I find flash fiction to be super helpful. Write 200-300 words of nothing. Just a snipped of conversation or a description of a place or how you feel about your ridiculously ugly drapes that the previous owners of the house left up. You may never do anything with it, but you’re building the habit of writing, and hey, you can toss it in your scraps folder!

Is there anything you would like to see more of within furry fiction?

I would love to see more works that play with form and format. We are good at writing scifi epics and romances that tug on the heartstrings, but, as I mentioned, I’m a sucker for epistolary works. I want to read a collection of letters between two people in the early stages of a romance. I want to read an extensive. nonlinear, and perhaps slightly deranged notebook of someone planning a revolution. I want sprawling hypertextual worlds! I want metafurry works about furries-qua-furries rather than just anthro animals! The fandom is full of boundless creativity, and we can do so much with it.

Where can readers find your work?

You can find all of my work at https://makyo.ink! I release all of my stuff for free, one way or another, though I obviously appreciate when folks purchase paperbacks or ebooks! I have five books out now, with the sixth coming out November 1, so there’s plenty to choose from, from contemporary furry lit to poetry to scifi to fictive memoir. If you would like to support my writing as well as get early access to everything, plus early drafts, notes, and outlines, I release much of that on https://patreon.com/makyo . If you just plain want to get ahold of me and talk writing, my contact info is all up at https://makyo.is

We’re coming towards the end of Furry Book Month now, but we still have a few more great people to talk to. Tomorrow we’re back with another author, so be sure to check back then!

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