Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Interview with Tina Connolly

Earlier in the month I read and greatly enjoyed Ironskin, a gothic-y fantasy with Jane Eyre elements twisted in a fun and novel way. I'm delighted to share my interview with Tina Connolly, who shares her writing rituals, tidbits about Ironskin, and what she does when she's not writing. Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Ironskin!

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

Well, I wrote a couple (extremely short) plays when I was a kid. The very first one was about a leprechaun and it didn't have any dialogue.

I realized this was problematic when I handed the parts around to my friends to act out. In junior high I wrote a whodunit called "Who Stole the Cookies From the Cookie Jar" that parodied me and my three friends performing it. As I recall, two of the caricatured parts went over well, but the third friend was not so happy, alas. (This was the beginning of realizing I was too tenderhearted to be a comedian.)

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

Not so much, though I do like to write on my itty-bitty laptop with the weird trackpad, because pretty much all I can do on it is write.

Back before there was a baby—now toddler—I liked to have a nice space of time to write in, like three hours. And since then I've learned you have to write when you have any time at all, even fifteen minutes during a last bit of nap.

Was Ironskin the original title of your book?

Yes! I knew it had to be the title from very early on, and luckily no one suggested it be changed. That said, Ironskin actually grew out of a novella, and the name of that story was Skin and Tar. And THAT'S because originally Jane wasn't wearing an iron mask, but a version of the tar paste she gives to Dorie, smeared over her cheek. This was one of the first things to go when I set about turning the story into a novel. (I mean really, can you imagine *that* cover? ) Bad enough to stick poor Jane in a mask, but a mask can at least have a certain amount of badassery to it.

Did you intend to write a kind of homage to Jane Eyre? How did that connection develop?

The original story was written for a call for gothic romance novellas, so although I was certainly borrowing elements from the gothic tradition by sending a governess to a ruined house, I was not specifically thinking Jane Eyre. I in fact started from an image of a girl walking into a darkened studio and finding a mask that looks like her...but beautiful. At some point someone mentioned the similarities in the novella, and when I started to turn it into a novel, I began working with those elements more overtly. I like retellings, but Ironskin is not a point by point retelling—maybe homage is a good way to put it!

As you were writing Ironskin, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

You know, I'm trying to remember and it seems so long ago. There are always moments when my subconscious fits two previously unrelated things together, and it turns out to be a central part of the world.
Learning about Poule's history was a surprise. There's a character in book 2—a rather strong-willed theatre actress—that was just supposed to come on for a bit, and she ended up being central to the book.

You've written a play and are a reader for online podcasts -- how has your experience with the performance side of fiction impacted your writing of fiction?

I think my past as an actor gives me a certain familiarity with dialogue (or at least I like to think so!) I've always liked writing dialogue. That said, it was actually a very interesting experience writing my first full-length play a couple years ago. Suddenly I could *only* rely on dialogue to get things across to the audience! I mean, there's stuff you can do with staging and set and so on...but when it comes to explaining large chunks of worldbuilding, suddenly there was nowhere to put it but in dialogue. I spent a lot of time trying to disguise my "As you know, Bobs".

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

Books, theatre, and art. I feel very lucky to get to spend so much time writing—I work as a face painter in the summers—and then I've got my podcasts for the theatre bit right now. The percentages of these three change, but that's pretty much where all my time has always gone.

Read any good books recently?

Yes! Thanks for asking! I just finished Emma Bull's War for the Oaks (yes, a little behind the times here) and I loved it. (It's considered one of the first urban fantasies, I think.) Last year my two favorite books were Jo Walton's Among Others (a brilliant melding of fiction and fantasy, and an ode to reading F/SF), and Pamela Dean's Tam Lin (a lovely college fantasy, and another older one I had missed.) It's been an insanely busy year, so my TBR pile is a bit out of control – I'm dying to read followup books in a couple friends' series – EC Myers' Quantum Coin (a cool twisty YA SF) just came out and MK Hobson's The Warlock Curse (totally awesome wild west fantasy) is about to.

Thanks so much for having me!

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I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Ironskin to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 10/19.


  1. It sure sounds cool, I am so intrigued by it

    1. This really strikes me as a book you'd love -- I really enjoyed the world building and I am so excited for the next book!

  2. Great interview! Ironskin sounds like a good read.

  3. This book sounds so fascinating, and I love the idea that it all grew from a short story. That gives me some hope for my endeavors! I also admire her for carving out any writing time she can with little ones in the house. I really enjoyed this interview today, Audra and Tina. Thanks!

  4. Great interview. Don't count me in for the giveaway though!

  5. Ooh, I'm glad I read through this, because I was really curious about the process you mentioned, wherein she didn't realize how many Jane Eyre elements it had. This makes way more sense than what I was envisioning.