Author Interview – Curtis C. Chen

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Deadlines are a thing now, and I appreciate the motivation and focus they provide. Also, my process has become much more collaborative–not just with publishing professionals like my agent and various editors, but also with fellow writers and even readers. (I don’t look at any reviews unless someone has pre-screened the content for me, but having a sense of how people are responding to my stories does inform my future work.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A lot! I’ve been doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) since the early 2000’s, and because the goal is to produce 50,000 words in 30 days, I’ve accumulated several partial or unpolished first drafts. Most of those will never see the light of day, but each one has helped me work through different challenges and become a better writer.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice? Why or why not?

Absolutely. I subscribe to Elizabeth Gilbert’s philosophy (as detailed in her book Big Magic) that a creative endeavor should be rewarding in itself, ars-gratia-artis style. Any subsequent “success”–fortune, fame, or even just getting published–may be a result of doing the work, but those things should not be the goal of the creative act. If you’re not enjoying the journey, maybe seek a different path.

How many hours a day do you write?

It varies, but when I sit down to write I aim for a solid block of at least two or three hours. It always takes a little while for me to get into the flow of the work, and once I’m there I want to preserve it for a good length of time so I can dig deeper into the project.

What are your favorite literary journals?

In no particular order…

What is the most difficult part of your creative process?

Finding the time to schedule writing into the rest of my life. I don’t have a day job at the moment, but I do a lot of freelance and volunteer work. It can sometimes feel selfish to schedule uninterrupted writing time when people are waiting on me to complete other tasks. It’s all about being disciplined, and I’m still working on improving my time management.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Why or why not?

I don’t experience it myself, but I recognize that different people encounter different obstacles when trying to channel creative energies. Ultimately every writer has a different process, and it’s taken me many years to figure out what works for me. I would encourage trying out different tools, environments, and communities to find what really energizes you to create.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

I’ve written complete first drafts (~100,000 words) in less than two months, but the revision time after that varies a lot. I’m largely a discovery writer, which means I don’t plan or outline much before diving into that first draft, and I have to go back and clean things up later. My debut novel took ten years from first draft to publication; my second took ten months; and the third one in progress has been going for about a year and a half so far. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? 

I am fortunate to live in an area with many awesome independent creators, and I’ve met and befriended a lot of writers in and around Portland, Oregon. I’ve also made connections through conventions, workshops, and online forums over the years. Please check the acknowledgments section in each of my novels to see some of those names. 😉

What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?

As a speculative fiction writer, I live and die by my Locus subscription ( ). There are many ways to get information online these days–including following your favorite authors on Twitter–but two in particular that I recommend are author Jason Sanford’s Patreon ( ), where he posts a weekly “Genre Gossip” column, and the free SFWA Blog ( ), which covers a wide range of writing, publishing, and community topics. (Full disclosure: I am the current Secretary of SFWA and a former contributor to the blog.)

Once a Silicon Valley software engineer, CURTIS C. CHEN (陳致宇) now writes fiction and runs puzzle games near Portland, Oregon. His debut novel WAYPOINT KANGAROO is a science fiction thriller about a superpowered spy facing his toughest mission yet: vacation. The sequel, KANGAROO TOO, sends our hero to the Moon.

Curtis’ stories have appeared in Playboy Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and OREGON READS ALOUD. He is a graduate of Clarion West and Viable Paradise.

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