While we haven’t finalised all the stories that will be included in Rebuilding Tomorrow (that will depend a little bit on how well our Kickstarter goes), we have locked in some early authors. One of those is Tansy Rayner Roberts, who also had a story in Defying Doomsday. Her story, “Kids These Days” is a sequel to her Defying Doomsday story, “Did We Break the End of the World?”. If you haven’t read Defying Doomsday (or even if you have) you can listen to “Did We Break the End of the World?” for free on Tansy’s podcast: Sheep Might Fly.
Now, without further ado, we have questions in bold and Tansy’s answers in plain text below.
What was the hardest thing about writing “Kids These Days”?
From an emotional point of view, writing a character with such intense anxiety was difficult for me — I do experience anxiety but mine has never quite been as intense or long term as it is for my protagonist, and I wanted to convey that in a way that was respectful. It really put me through the wringer, though.
From a creative point of view, the structure of the story just kicked me in the butt, I had to rewrite it from scratch two or three times to really get the story I wanted on the page.
Also I did a bunch of research about mental health treatments, and what one smart person with a garden might be able to cobble together once the supplies of official medication ran out. A lot of it didn’t make its way into the story (it’s short, after all) but it was still eye-opening. And really makes me appreciate having a chemist around the corner! Once the pandemic started looming this year, you can bet I made sure we were ahead on our family’s prescriptions…
If a reader only takes one thing away from your story, what do you hope it will be?
Learn how to grow your own veggies!
Seirously, though, my first story was about kids finding their place in a black market economy that sprang up after they were all abandoned by the ‘adults’ who had raised them. This one is about those kids as adults, parents and mentors, trying to help their own kids find a place in a world that’s still very new. It hits all my buttons about what kind of advice to offer my own children as they grow older, about how to figure out what they want to DO with their lives in a world that’s changing so fast.
So I guess, the one thing to take from my story is that, no matter how much we think we have to offer the next generation, we have to listen to them more than we talk. And figure out how to support them while also moving out of their way.
Can you recommend some other fiction — long or short — that you think captures the experience of disability and/or chronic illness well?
I’m really impressed with how some of my favourite romance writers have been writing stories of disability. Cat Sebastian’s recent Two Rogues Make A Right is a m/m Regency romance about two men who were best friends since childhood, and are now coming to grips with much larger feelings — one hero has a chronic illness and a short life expectancy, while the other is recovering from opium addiction as a result of his PTSD from a horrific experience in the navy. It’s a sweet hurt/comfort story with very intense challenges.
I also really enjoyed Alyssa Cole’s novella Can’t Escape Love about two neurodivergent characters — one a wheelchair user, one a designer of escape rooms — which never shied away from the relevant aspects of disability, but also didn’t centre that as the main ‘issue’ of the book, which was mostly about how to explain a beloved fandom to someone who has to learn about it for his job.
Two children’s titles I recommend over and over are memoir rather than fiction: the graphic novel El Deafo by Cece Bell which is about a young girl’s relationship with the tech that helps her to hear at school in a limited way (the tech is now outdated but the story is still compelling and important) and Robert Hoge’s book Ugly which has a child-friendly edition and is a powerful story from an Australian writer about his disabilities and how they affected himself growing up as well as his family.
You have written many other stories featuring characters with various marginalisations. Have you ever received any pushback from editors or readers?
Not really? I’ve certainly never had editors say ‘you can’t write this’. I’ve definitely had editors say ‘we need to make sure we get this right’ and recommend further research, or sensitivity readers, etc., or maybe look particularly carefully at how some characters are portrayed. Maybe I just have the best editors — I’ve learned a lot from every editor I have worked with. I believe strongly in being respectful of other people’s experiences and identities, and I do try (especially with protagonists) to not put myself into a corner where I’m telling a story that is too far beyond my experience or capabilities as a writer. It’s a difficult line to tread. I don’t think anyone pushes back more against me as a writer than I do myself — which is crucial now because I’m self-publishing a lot of work.
Writing worlds of diverse characters is important to me, and I think it’s the responsibility of every writer to figure out how to do that with respect. And of course, to be prepared to listen when someone tells you that you’ve stuffed up. Take it on the chin, fix it if you can, do better next time.
Finally, would you like to tell us about any other new or upcoming releases you have?
So many! This is the year of Tansy books. I recently released the first collection of my Belladonna U stories (Australian magical college friendship dramas with witches and a geeky rock band): Book 1 is Unreal Alchemy, and Book 2 (coming out before Halloween) is Holiday Brew. I have two Regency magic novellas coming out in ebook and paperback later this year, Tea & Sympathetic Magic and the sequel The Frost Fair Affair — right now, you can listen to them on my podcast Sheep Might Fly, and my Patreon supporters have first access. But they’ll be on general release before Christmas.
My fairy tale comedy Castle Charming will be coming to general release this year, after I finish mailing all my post-Kickstarter reward parcels out into the world.
I also have the re-release of my superhero novella Girl Reporter coming out from Twelfth Planet Press, I have a writing chapbook coming out from another publisher that has not been announced yet (so exciting!) and I have a story in the upcoming CSFG anthology Unnatural Order.
The best way to keep up with me is to follow my newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/tansyrr