An Interview With Sarah Pinsker

sarah pinsker

You can tell how much Sarah Pinsker loves science fiction when you read any of her books. She is a Nebula award winner, a Locus nominated author and a Compton Crook Award nominee. She has a long history of loving the written word starting as a young child and she has turned that love into some great novels and short stories.

This month she is releasing her science fiction novel, We Are Satellites which takes on the influence of technology in our lives. I was fortunate to be able to ask Sarah some questions about her love of music, technology, and writing.

GdM: You are an avid songwriter as well as an author. Are there any parallels between song creation and story creation? Do they come from the same creative space in your head?

I do think they come from the same creative space, which in my head is labelled “storytelling.” To me that covers all styles and formats. I’m lucky enough (or I’ve spent enough time training myself) to be able to recognize stories when they arrive, and whether they want to be short fiction, songs, or novels. I’m a more disciplined fiction writer than songwriter, though. I’m better at sitting down and telling myself it’s time to work on a story.

sarah pinskerGdM: Do you craft playlists to go with your stories?

I did for A Song For A New Day, and I’ll sometimes do so for a music-related story, but I can’t actually listen to music while I write. I can psych myself up with music, but I have to turn it off again before I start. I don’t need total silence – I’m a huge fan of writing in coffeeshops, with all the bustle and clamor – but if I’m listening to songs that I know and enjoy, they take up too much of my brain for me to get any writing done.

GdM: You had said that you are one of the rare authors who read “short stories as much as novels” when you were young. Tell me about that. What was it that attracted you to short stories?

They were always around the house! My father got the science fiction magazines, so we had decades of them lying around, and he also collected Year’s Best anthologies. My grade school English teacher introduced us to classic stories as well: “Harrison Bergeron,” “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” “Of Mist, And Grass, And Sand,” “The Ship Who Sang…” As a kid I also loved all of the “Microcosmic Tales” type-flash anthologies. All of those combined to teach me that there was a tremendous amount of power in a well-aimed short. I appreciated the authors’ ability to introduce an entire world, a character, a scenario, in such a small space. It’s a magic trick, conjuring images in someone else’s brain with your fiction, and doing it on a tight word budget is even more impressive.

GdM: What is a short story that highly affected you and why?

I’ll pick from the abovementioned. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin is a story that shouldn’t work. It’s only a couple of thousand words, and most of them are taken up in worldbuilding. But every word is poetry, and the nature of that poem changes as you learn the city’s secret. I particularly love the fact that it leaves so much room for you, the reader, to wrestle with the questions it poses. You can see that in all the wonderful response stories, like N.K. Jemisin’s “The Ones Who Stay and Fight.”

  We are satellites by Sarah PinskerGdM: Do you approach short story and novel writing differently in terms of plotting and pacing?

Haha, um, I probably should. I’m not much of an advance plotter. My theory is usually to think so much about my characters that by the time I start working with them, they tell me where they want to go. With We Are Satellites I wrote an actual outline, after years of protesting the idea of outlines in general, and I discovered it was actually a useful tool that didn’t hinder me at all the way I was afraid it would. I still like to take the time to discover my characters and their situations as I write them, regardless of the length I’m writing.

GdM: You have two books that delve into how technology can change everyday life. The first in your award-winning novel, A Song For a New Day, and now