Today, we’re kicking off introducing y’all to the contributors to Aether Beyond the Binary, our currently crowdfunding awesome anthology of 17 stories set in aetherpunk settings starring genderqueer and non-binary characters, with an interview with writer Mikki Madison and excerpt from her contribution!
About Mikki Madison: Mikki Madison has been writing stories since she was seven years old. While she is most prolific in fanfiction and has works scattered among more than a dozen fandoms, she has been making strides into original fiction. Her favorite genres to read are romance, fantasy, and cozy mysteries. When she isn’t reading, writing, or falling headfirst into a new fandom, she can be found baking, doing puzzles, walking her foster dog, doting on her niblings, or playing Pokemon Go. She has also written under the name M. K. Mads. Link: Tumblr
Mikki Madison has been involved with Duck Prints Press since our first project, and has contributed to two previous anthologies: And Seek (Not) to Alter Me: Queer Fanworks Inspired by Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and He Bears the Cape of Stars. She’s also written two short stories with the Press, one – The Fated Prince published on our webpage (and included in the contributor short-story bundle campaign add-on!) and It Happened on Maple Street, which is Patreon-backer exclusive.
Q&A with Mikki Madison
Are you a pantser, a planner, or a planster? What’s your process look like?
I’m a planner. I virtually always have an outline for any project I’m working on, whether it’s a quick scribbled bullet list or more involved note cards. The note cards are typically for novels, while short stories I can get away with something less involved. It helps to keep me on track and if the story veers while I’m writing, I can adjust either the outline or the story as I need to.
Do you like having background noise when you create? What do you listen to? Does it vary depending on the project, and if so, how?
It varies depending on project and also where I am. I have a bunch of story- or genre-specific iTunes playlists that I would listen to whenever I was at in-person write-ins, which usually contained movie and video game scores because I write most easily with instrumental music playing. So if I was writing a fantasy story, I’d have a playlist with the score from the LOTR movies or Final Fantasy games, and if it was a sci-fi story, I’d have Star Wars, and steampunk would be the movie scores from the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies. Recently someone in the DPP server shared a link to a YouTube channel with immersive writing sessions that are about 2 hours long, with 25-minute sprints interspersed with 5-minute breaks. I’ve been putting that channel on the TV while I’m writing at home and it’s really helped me focus!
What are your favorite snacks and/or drinks to consume while creating?
As you can probably tell from a glance at my Tumblr, I love tea. I’m virtually always drinking tea, especially when it’s cold outside.
What are your favorite tropes?
Found family is one of my absolute favorite tropes. I love seeing a disparate group of people come together to care about each other. I’m also a huge fan of rivals to lovers and second-chance romances. Plus, the grumpy one is soft for the sunshine one!! I love it when the grumpy one is soft for the sunshine one.
Tell us about your pet(s).
Right now, I don’t have any full-time pets – I foster dogs for a local rescue. I’ve had 9 dogs over the course of the past year, from 80-pound coonhounds to 3-pound chihuahua puppies. It’s been extremely rewarding and I’ve had so much fun getting to know all the different dogs. It’s hard when I have to let them go, but I know that they’re not “my” dogs and I’m happy that they’re getting to go to a forever family.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
This quote from E.L. Konigsburg: “Finish. The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don’t talk about doing it. Do it. Finish.”
Novels in particular are marathons, and finishing a story of that length is a skill you’ve got to build. It’s fine if it gets trunked, it’s fine if you never edit it, but I think especially as a younger writer, you really need to learn to at least finish that first draft. It helped me tremendously early on to focus on finishing my stories, instead of just editing the beginnings over and over and over.
What are your favorite resources and tools for your craft?
A friend of mine has gifted me a couple of writing-related card decks – one is a prompt deck called Writer’s XL Emergency Pack, another is a card game called Once Upon a Time. I’ve recently been using both to come up with short story ideas and it’s been really fun!
I draw anywhere from 3-9 cards, depending on the length of what I’m doing, and then start brainstorming how to use the different cards within a story. If I’m not feeling one of the cards, I discard it and draw another one.
For example, I was recently working on a story where I knew one of the MCs didn’t want to work with the other one, but I didn’t know why. I knew that was going to be a big plot point, but none of the ideas I’d come up with seemed to fit. So I started drawing some cards out of the Once Upon a Time deck to see if that might spark something. Three of the first cards I drew were “secret,” “wolf,” and “cure.” Bam! A secret werewolf looking for a cure. That gave me my motivation and helped me outline the back half of the story.
When you’re writing short stories for NaNoWriMo and you’re desperately trying to come up with something else for your word count, these are lifesavers. And I like the physicality of shuffling and drawing them.
Share five of your favorite books.
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett – if you enjoy fantasy and comedy and you haven’t yet read the Discworld series, this is a fantastic place to start. The Night Watch books are probably my favorites and this one is excellent.
The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan – Honestly I love all of Courtney Milan’s romance novels, but The Brothers Sinister series (of which The Heiress Effect is the second book) is really, really great. I love Jane, the heroine of this story, SO MUCH, and the secondary romance between her sister and a lawyer is so, so sweet. I’ve read it three or four times at this point.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune – I love found families and fantasy and romance, so this book was right up my alley and I read the entire thing in one go. The kids particularly were wonderful.
The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi – Another book I read in one go, and it was SO much fun that I couldn’t put it down. Scalzi’s sci-fi is both funny and accessible, and another thing I liked about this book was that the first-person POV and the unisex name (Jamie) meant that you can read the main character as any gender you’d like.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – I really loved the structure of this book: essentially several episodes of this ship’s crew becoming closer as they make their way across the galaxy on a yearlong journey to help create a new wormhole. It was both fascinating and heart-wrenching.
And my +1 (because we do 5+1 in fandom, yeah?): A Clash of Steel by C. B. Lee – This is a queer YA retelling of Treasure Island set in 1820s China, and it’s an absolute delight. Lee’s descriptions are so vivid that it feels like you’re actually there, and the romance is so, so good.
About Mikki Madison’s Aether Beyond the Binary Contribution
Title: Mixed Dough
Tags: bakery, bed and breakfast, character injury (permanent), character injury (serious), cults, death of a sibling (past), emotional hurt/comfort, food (graphic descriptions), gender exploration, gender non-conforming character, getting together, hurt/comfort, m/nb, non-binary, past tense, plane crash, tattooed, third person limited pov
“Your plane crashed,” Jules explained. “You’re badly injured. Help is on the way. I’ll—”
The pilot’s eyes grew wide, and they struggled to speak. Jules leaned in closer, putting his ear as close to the pilot’s mouth as he dared.
It was the only word Jules could make out. “You’re in New Blanchard. Or, well, just outside of it.”
The pilot’s eyes closed and their whole body sagged. “Thank fuck.”
They were still breathing, albeit barely, so Jules didn’t panic. He glanced back toward the bed-and-breakfast and the road; the ambulance lights were pulling into the driveway. “The ambulance is here. I’ll…”
His eyes fell on a tattoo peeking over the collar of the pilot’s shirt. In and of itself, that wasn’t a cause for concern, but given the shape and that the pilot had been in a gas-powered plane…
Jules pulled the shirt down to reveal a tattoo of three interlocking rings, about the size of a half-dollar.