Thank you so much for sitting down with us for PRIDE month!
So, tell us a little bit about you. How did you get into writing?
I got bitten by the writing bug as a kid. Or, more accurately, I got bitten by the storytelling bug. Before I knew how to write, I was telling people stories. I don't really remember it, but my mom used to tell me about picking me up from the babysitter's on her way home from work, and from the time the car door closed until she got out of the car to bring me in the house, I would be off. I would tell her stories about my day, a mishmash of things that happened and things I imagined. Once I learned how to write, the part of class at school I always looked forward to the most was the writing. Even when we were just making sentences from our vocabulary words, I would work out a way to tell a story using those words in the limited number of sentences we were assigned. After the success of Star Wars and the first introduction of the action figures, I was gifted a few, and while I started to play with them like you'd expect from a kid with action figures, I put them down after only a short time and went and wrote a script of the story I'd begun to play out with them instead. Even when I put writing aside to pursue artwork as I got older, I dreamed stories that I told myself about whatever I was drawing or painting. Storytelling, in one form or another, is just a part of who I am. I don't think I could choose to stop any more than I could choose to stop breathing.
As an author do you intentionally try to represent LGBTQIA2S characters in your stories?
I have never set out to specifically represent any orientation or identity in a story. It's always been about what I think is necessary for the plot. Sometimes, it's been because the story "told" me that it needed someone specific. That's what happened with my story "Moths to a Flame" in Eerie River's anthology It Calls from the Forest v2. I didn't plan for the protagonist to be lesbian, and she could have been almost any gender and orientation. But something in me said in a nearly irresistible way that the main character had to be lesbian, so I listened to that powerful voice.
What books did you read as a child that inspired you to become an Author?
The biggest influences on me were J. R. R. Tolkien, Andre Norton, and Tanith Lee. I fell hard for their work, and I wanted to do that, too. It was Tolkien's worldbuilding really got me. I was madly in love with Middle Earth, and some of the earliest stories I told myself were set in it. I also loved Norton's Witch World, but even more so I loved the use of language with both Norton and Lee. They both use language in a way that's almost lyrical. While I moved away from fantasy and into horror in my own writing, I still have a world I've been building in detail that a couple of my stories have been set in, with plans for many more, inspired by Tolkien's detailed building of Middle Earth. The influence of Norton and Lee sometimes shows through in my writing also, with the use of language and the way I describe things, I think.
What are your favorite genres to read and write?
I love to read fantasy, sci-fi, horror, mythology, historical fiction, mysteries, biography and autobiography, and Americana (especially the Midwest or Southern American stories, like the Ya-Ya Sisterhood series or Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe). I especially love reading Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Fannie Flagg, Tanith Lee, Philippa Gregory, T. Kingfisher, Elizabeth Peters, and Joseph Campbell.
When it comes to writing, I tend primarily to write horror specifically, or dark speculative fiction in general. Very little that I write has no darkness to it. Even when I don't set out to do it, horror and darkness seem to work their way in.
Do you feel an obligation to speak for or represent the LGBTQIA2S+ community through your writing?
I did not feel any before, but as I keep writing, a feeling that I should and want to write things that do keeps getting stronger. I especially find I want to write things that give representation to my own orientation within the community. Those of us on the Asexual spectrum often feel underrepresented, forgotten, or entirely erased. But I also don't want to just shoehorn that in there any old way. I want it to feel a part of the story.
Writing in a pandemic. Has it changed the way you write? Has it made an impact on your voice?
The pandemic made it difficult for me to write. I had a pretty bad case of block for most of a year. Granted there were other things, not pandemic-related, that also affected that. I find now that I'm starting to access my writing again that I am questioning things. There is a lot of "But why?" going on when I try to plot a story. Why would they do that? Why does it matter? It's made writing hard. But I think it's also leading toward a more solid, logical foundation behind the story. There's less "Because I said so!" to my plots, which I think makes them much more real, and thus potentially more horrific.
Fun question: If you could live in any ‘book world’ what one would it be and why?
The book world that calls to me and that I would love to live in has changed many times. Currently the one that calls to me is The Fugue from Clive Barker's Weaveworld. The one thing that it shares with the highest number of other book worlds that have spoken to me is that it is written as imminent - it is a world that could be encountered within our own, everyday world. The feeling that a magic world could potentially lie just around the next corner is immensely appealing to the dreamer in me. The Fugue, with its magic spells called "Raptures" and its strange denizens, is like myth walking our modern streets.
O. Sander is a writer, artist, composer, photographer, and crafter. She is originally from California but has bounced from place to place for most of her life. She finally landed in “25 square miles surrounded by reality” in Michigan, where she spends her time inventing worlds and exploring them through her drawings as well as writing their stories and music. She claims to be a combination of Morticia Addams and Glinda the Good Witch, and tends to embarrass her long-suffering spouse into trying to pretend he doesn’t know her.