Keira Sun, LISP 2nd Half 2019 Longlisted Writer
- Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life?
I was born and raised in western Romania, and spent the last five years in Dublin before moving to Brighton, UK earlier this year.
I write technical documentation for a living, but I’m hoping to sell my first sci-fi novel by the end of 2020. Other than writing, I keep fancy rats, play video games, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the British countryside.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I was making up stories long before I learned how to write. My first “novel” was an X-Men fanfic I wrote when I was around ten, because I was a huge fan of the 90s cartoon. I tried to get an original novel published when I was in high school, but getting published as a small-town fry in mid-2000s Romania turned out to be impossible without knowing the right people, and I didn’t know any people in the industry. I stuck to posting short satire/slice-of-life pieces on local gaming boards, and eventually got a short story in print in the country’s one and only gaming magazine, LEVEL. I was eighteen and over the moon.
Aside from that, I used to write a lot of fan fiction (and I mean, a lot). I wrote a couple of World of Warcraft fan novels and, later, the first part of a trilogy based on the original League of Legends lore. Come to think of it, reading and writing fan fiction is what got me into writing in the first place, because fandoms have such vibrant and creative communities. I still have fond memories of reading Beast Wars fanfics by authors like Divatron and Lady Dementia, because they’re the main reason I started writing in English.
I spent most of my twenties working on my debut novel (a Matrix/Stargate-inspired sci-fi story) before it dawned on me that I’d been going about it all wrong. I’m self-taught, and for a while I thought that a good story was enough to carry a book (spoiler alert: nope). When thirty-four rejection slips proved me wrong, I got so bummed out I gave up on the whole thing for a couple years. Finally, I picked it up again, after I’d read a few how-to-write books, and I was shocked at how bad it was. And I'd sent that to a bunch of literary agents overseas? Big yikes.
That was one of my most valuable experiences as a writer. Since then, I've kept learning and hired an editor. With his help this book will be the best it can be. At least, I hope so.
- How did you feel when you learned that you won The London Independent Story Prize? How does it feel to have your work recognised?
I didn’t even expect to make the list! This is the first short story I’ve submitted anywhere in about a decade, so I was certainly surprised. I also panicked a little, because My Name Is Alex is based on a facet of myself I haven’t really shared outside a close circle of friends. I guess that’s about to change.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
The best and hardest thing is that there’s no structure to guide you, no three-part story act, no hero’s journey. It’s just you and this idea that you want to share with the world, and the only way to do that is to put it into words. It’s hard to capture its essence in a way that makes your readers understand it, too.
- How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And how long have you been working on it?
All the beats in My Name Is Alex are based on things that happened either to myself or to people I know who identify as trans*. Something as simple as living your own truth can feel like death by a thousand cuts sometimes. Each of the things the story touches on - dead-naming, misgendering, dysphoria, suicidal thoughts… - each one of them is a cut, and each cut leaves a mark. It stays with you long after you’re not supposed to care anymore. I wanted to show people what that feels like.
The idea came to me as I was listening to one of those nostalgia playlists on YouTube. The song Sk8r Boi by Avril Lavigne came on, the one that starts with, “He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?” And I thought to myself, no, it’s really not that obvious, because there’s so much more to people than the binary-affirming, heteronormative stuff we’ve all grown up with. I wrote the story all at once, then spent another day or so revising and making sure every word felt right.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
Write your truth! You’re the only one who can do that.
Also, make sure every word has a purpose. This is particularly important when you’re writing a 100- or 300-word piece. If a word serves no purpose, cut it. It’ll make your prose that much stronger.
- What's the best thing about writing competitions?
I used to enter every contest I could find back in the day, and I even won a few. The best thing about it was feeling validated. Like “Hey, I’m not terrible at this writing thing! Yay.” I’m much older and I still get giddy when I see my name (or penance) up there.
- Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
Absolutely. Do it! It’s fun.