Interview at AuthorStand

AuthorStand

Author of Train to Nowhere, Editor’s Choice winner in AuthorStand’s Second Annual Novel Contest, Gloria Piper tells us how the story came to life, who she is as a writer and what comes next, both in the Train world and in her upcoming stories! Note: Spoilers abound, so read Good Morning, Magpie first if that sort of thing bothers you!

AuthorStand: Train to Nowhere has a musical theme that runs through many aspects of the novel.  What sparked that idea and what does it represent to you?

Gloria Piper: Music has always played an important part in my life.  I’m not good at instruments, although I play the piano and have played the guitar, ukulele, clarinet, accordion, recorder, and harmonica.  My favorite instrument has always been the voice, and I was pretty good at that, being a strong alto and having performed in glee clubs, choirs, chorales, and with chamber singers.  And I’ve written music, mostly for piano or choral groups.  Also I have a background in dance.  What has fascinated me is the potential of the body to be its own instrument, whether through whistling, singing, drumming, or clogging.  The range of sounds is amazing, and I’ve seen only the fringes of this potential used in performance groups.

My stories are based on what if.  I wanted to explore the what ifs of the body as a musical instrument.

AS: Each train in the story has distinct characteristics.  What are the underlying meanings of the different characteristics of each?

GP: Each train represents a caste, with its own world view.  The Orphan Train is a self-contained world without destination or freedom.  It is completely out of touch with nature.  The Landed train carries entertainers on their seasonal route to various cities and towns.  Tradition is the strait jacket that limits this caste.  The Nomad train has freedom but no security.  The Nomad caste relies on spiritual direction instead of computers.

AS: Which character in Train do you most identify with, and why?

GP: The main character, Garland.  Not because I’m like him, but because I wanted to avoid the larger than life character who is above the law.  In some ways, Garland is average.  He is gentle and works within the system.  Nevertheless he can’t neglect his yearning for a better life style.  He’s driven to take risks.  Well, I am like him in that freedom is a big thing for me.  And a spiritual connection.  These are two concepts he struggles toward throughout the novel.

AS: Train has a great mix of high-tech and low-tech elements.  How did the idea to cross the two come about?

GP: Look around you, today, and you see a mix of high-tech and low-tech elements, from the jet airplane to the plow horse.  This mix won’t go away soon.  I put Train to Nowhere in the far future, where we can deal with the wins and losses of technology that have resulted through the eons.  What if war, caused by the stress of overpopulation and plundering of natural resources, brought the losses?  What if the splitting of society into castes enabled access to higher tech for some and excluded others?  What would be the result?  My science fiction becomes science fantasy, a soft science.  I’m not into the high-tech stuff.  I am enthralled with an idea and will thrust it into an emotional boiling pot to see what comes out.  I don’t think high-tech must divorce us from the natural, which can include the spiritual.  I love science and the questions it poses, and I love that it doesn’t have all the answers.

AS: Do you have more stories in mind for the Train world that you’ve created?

GP: I left the question of one character’s survival in doubt, with the idea that I could write another story with him as the focal character.  That’s in the maybe stage.  Other stories are demanding my attention.

AS: Finishing a novel is a great feat, and editing one can be even more difficult.  What advice would you give to fellow AuthorStand members when it comes to motivating yourself to complete and polish a novel?

GP: Pick a story and characters that fascinate you.  You’ll be spending a long time with them.  If you get bored, change something to add interest.  Once you’ve written your story, put it away for a week or longer.  When you get back to it, you’ll see things you never noticed before.

AS: You have stories of many different lengths posted on AuthorStand.  How do you decide how long a story needs to be?

GP: I write until the tale is complete.  If it demands 1,000 words, so be it.  If it demands 100,000, so be it.  If a publisher is looking for a story of so many words, I will craft the story to fit that.

AS: When you’re not writing, who/what are you reading?

GP: I read articles on improving my writing.  And–oh, the joys of being a writer–I read stories and know they can improve my writing; I’m not wasting my time.  My reading is somewhat eclectic, with leanings toward science fiction and fantasy.  I’m enthralled when nature is included or the spiritual.

AS: What’s your next project?

GP: I have several projects, two of which are polishing a fantasy novel, To Die in the Enchanted Wood, and expanding Where the Sky Ends into a novel. I’ve just finished a short story, The Demise of the Wonderful Robot Car Club, for AuthorStand.
For more information on Gloria Piper or to send her a message, please visit her profile page here.
You can also read more about Gloria at gloriapiper.wordpress.com.

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