Laura Wenham is one of the authors in the soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m very happy to have her featured on my blog for an interview.
Your story, Coexistence, is about dragons who live under NYC. What prompted you to write this story?
The idea for my story began when I got my first job in Manhattan and walked every day past manhole covers that were constantly emitting streams of steam and smoke. At first I largely thought how inefficient the steam heating systems were to be losing so much heat. Then, as I kept walking past them, I thought all of that smoke would make a good cover for dragons hiding underground. Then I began to wonder how much evidence you would need to support the idea of underground dragons and what the likely reaction of the rest of society would be if a scientist claimed to have discovered dragons under Manhattan. I couldn’t figure out what might cause a scientist to seriously research this until the various steam pipe explosions began happening in Manhattan. Like the character in my story, I walked right past the hole left by the explosion in front of NYU’s library, which made quite an impression on me.
What other things have you written/are you writing?
I have folders full of stories and poems and songs on my computer. I am very good at coming up with interesting ideas and very bad at figuring out where the plot and characters want to go. I am currently working on two different short stories. One of them is based on the idea that we become able to communicate with our dark-matter doppelgangers and the new rich tourist activity is not traveling into space, but instead meeting their doppelgangers in a room sealed by plasma to keep the universe from exploding – until one of the dark-matter doppelgangers is murdered after the meeting and the detectives on our side of the universe have to figure out the motive without access to any physical evidence. The other story is about these tiny kangaroo-like robots that are built to be used for surveillance of enemy terrain (http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/tiny-jumping-robot-finds-room-for-a-tail
). When the military figures out a way to also have them radiate to increase the enemy’s feelings of fear, an anti-war group decides to make them broadcast feelings of peace, make them self-replicating, and releases them in the US, with wide-ranging results. I am also trying to write down the amusing anecdotes of my 2.5 year old son’s daily adventures.
Do you have a writing mentor or inspiration?
I am extremely grateful to the members of the Mom’s Writer’s Group at the Midshore Mothers’ Center (http://midshoremotherscenter.org/
) who, when I described my story idea to them, patiently encouraged me to actually finish and submit it. I would also like to thank my various friends who read the final draft for mistakes, particularly Preston Ray, whose edits were extremely helpful in decreasing my word count without losing content.
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
With a 2.5 year old, my writing time is limited – which is why I value the free write time we have as part of the Mothers’ Center group as well as late nights in bed typing (sometimes incoherent) story ideas on my iPad.
Our Writer’s Group starts up again in early October, so I intend to keep working on the two stories I mentioned above (as well as the several ideas I will probably come up with between now and then).
Anything else you’d like to add?
I love the idea of writing anthologies and donating the profits to charities, particularly when they are local, meaningful charities such as City Harvest. Not only am I now a published author, but as I encourage my friends and family to buy the anthology on Sunday because I want them to read what I wrote, I also do so knowing that they are helping out a great cause! (And I have to confess I am terribly curious about and anxiously waiting to read the other stories in the anthology!)
The following is a short excerpt from Laura’s story in Urban Harvest.
I knew I had to have an excess of proof in order to not be seen as another Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster hunter. I spent months, and then years, creating the most thorough maps of the NYC underground. During this time, I became increasingly oblivious to events on the surface. The friend whose apartment I had been using moved during one of my long periods underground. When I resurfaced to shower and pick up my unemployment checks, I was very surprised to knock on his door and meet a nice Asian couple who had no idea who I was. My belongings, and one of my few remaining connections to the surface world, were gone without a forwarding address.
I can’t explain the patterns I saw without my data, which the FBI confiscated when they arrested me. It’s probably collecting dust in an FBI basement now, but back in the spring of 2014 with everything right in front of me, I thought I had developed enough of an understanding of the markings that I was considering altering them to attempt communication with my theoretical life forms. Before I could do anything, however, the decision was taken away from me.
I was camping in a small open area formed by the intersection of two of the marked tunnels when I saw it. This was not a small tube worm or hydrogen-sulfide breathing scorpion. Emerging from the smaller tunnel was what I would best describe as an earth dragon. Not a winged creature like Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon, but instead similar to a large worm-snake with a scaly covering of rock in every earth-tone imaginable.
As the dragon stretched to pull itself out of the tunnel, I could do nothing but stare in awe. The tangled asbestos fibers were clearly from a pelt that covered the dragon’s ventral side. As it emerged fully into the room, I realized it had a “head” end which had circular shiny, almost polished areas, and a “mouth” area which had shiny white crystals inside, while its “tail” end came to a sharp point. It was, I would find out later, on the smaller side for a dragon—but at the time the fact that it was probably three feet around and six feet long was impressive enough.
To read the rest of Laura’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon this Sunday!