Meg Elison

How did you become a writer?

I knew I was meant to be a writer because I couldn't stop. I wrote stories on a notepad I kept in my apron at my lousy minimum wage job. I wrote stories in my letters to friends and in my diaries. I sometimes catch myself editing my dreams as sleep begins to fade. I became one for real when I began to apply form and discipline to the work, which I did first through journalism. I wrote my first book filled with white-hot rage, and got it published through luck and openness to fate. It all sounds like magic now, but it was mostly grind. That still applies to the work, every day. 

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

I was influenced by the writers who found an angle of stories nobody had looked at before: Margaret Atwood, P.D. James, Octavia Butler. They helped me realize that although there are no new stories to tell, there are sides of stories that are a lot less well-worn than others. 

When and where do you write?

I write in the morning, always. I come to it new and without disappointment that way. I also write when the mood strikes me, because that is not a thing that should be denied. The instinct is strong and direct and I respect it. 

What are you working on now?

I'm working on book three in my Road to Nowhere series, as well as my first horror novel. I am always at work on short stories and essays.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

I don't believe in writer's block. Free people make art. If you're not making art, something in your life is keeping you from being free. Find it, excise it, and you will write again. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

It's a ubiquitous piece of advice, but I took to heart the idea that I must write the books I most want to read. It has served me beautifully. 

What’s your advice to new writers?

Read books you hate. Nothing pushes you more strongly in the direction of your own voice as knowing precisely what you are not. 

Meg Elison is a science fiction author and feminist essayist. Her debut novel, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, won the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award. She has been published in McSweeney’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Catapult, and many other places. Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley. Find her online, where she writes like she’s running out of time. @megelison.