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Interview with Cupán Fae Author Axel Kelly

Axel Kelly got bitten by the writing bug very early in life, though he’d like to think his writing has improved since he started. He also got bitten by the sci-fi and fantasy bugs early in life too, thanks to his family. Originally from West Cork, he now lives in Dublin, working for the Civil Service. Axel has been a member of Cupán Fae for two and a half years and has contributed to Cupán Fae Anthologies: Dublin’s Fierce City, Fierce Mighty, Fierce New World, Fierce & Proud, and Fiercepunk.

What genre do you like to write in most?

Just now, my favourite genres are science-fiction and fantasy. Although I’ve tried a wide variety of others, sci-fi/fantasy are the ones I keep coming back to, mainly because the kind of stories I like to tell seem to fit most comfortably into those genres.

Which author or authors inspired you to write?

That’s a hard question to answer! I read a lot as a child, and still read a lot. I’ve (almost compulsively) liked coming up with stories and telling them ever since I can remember, so it’s hard to say whether any author actually inspired me or if the bug was always there. 

I suppose, if I had to say which authors had the biggest impact on me initially, that would have to be C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien. The Narnia stories, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were read to me when I was a very small child, and I became utterly absorbed in the worlds and characters created by both. When I was older, Isaac Asimov and William Gibson took over the world of my imagination – both the polar opposite in terms of the kind of sci-fi they write, but both absolutely fantastic writers who expanded and enriched the work that Star Trek had started and cemented my love of the genre.

There are so many great authors I love, all of whom I’d say have had some impact on my writing, but those are the four who leap to my mind right away.

Are you a plotter or a pantser, and how does that work for you?

Mainly a plotter – it depends on the story I’m writing though. More serious stories, I’ll plan out. That mostly works out OK. Sometimes I used to find it easy to get lost in world-building, but I’ve managed to beat that habit, I think. Mostly! 

For funny or zany stories, I begin with a general idea and just start writing. I’ve sometimes found that less-planned stories like those can get written faster than the planned ones; on the other hand having no plan can sometimes leave me adrift, so generally I think planning works out better for me.

How long does it take you to write a short story? What’s the easiest thing about writing a short story? What’s the most difficult thing?

Oh boy, but that can change a lot! The last stories I wrote –I took about a month to write two five-thousand word stories. So I suppose, maybe two to three weeks a story – once I get started!

For me, the easiest thing is coming up with characters. With the stories in Fierce & Proud, I had the characters and their relationships worked out from the get-go, it was just a question of coming up with a scenario.

Which, incidentally, brings me to the harder part of writing a short story. All short stories will start with an idea, a character, or an overall plot, or both, but then the same old problem rears its ugly head – how to make that fit within the confines of a short story. 

In these anthologies specifically, I’ve known that my stories are going to be 5,000 words long each, approximately. So first, having had my core idea, I then have to try to make sure my idea is one that’s not too ambitious for the word length. Then I try to cut my cloth to measure. That, to me, makes the writing of a short story far harder than a longer piece.

Which of your short stories did you enjoy writing the most, and why?

Wow, that’s like asking which of my family I prefer! In all seriousness, from these two anthologies, my favourites were ‘Exploring Humanity’ in Fierce & Proud, and ‘The Harrowing of Posnett County’. ‘Exploring Humanity’ I enjoyed because I felt it was a important story to write. One of the things that drew me to sci-fi from the outset was how it could use the future to tell stories that could consider issues in the here and now. So being able to use a sci-fi setting to tell a story about LGBTQ issues, that felt like a good development in what I wanted to do with sci-fi writing.

‘The Harrowing of Posnett County’, on the other hand, I just had a load of fun writing that! The characters in that have been around for a long time.

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