Monday, November 16, 2020

Naomi Kritzer Interview - Catfishing on CatNet


Photo Credit: Sean M. Murphy/SMM Photography

NAOMI KRITZER has been making friends online since her teens, when she had to use a modem to dial up at 2400 baud. She is a writer and blogger who has published a number of short stories and novels for adults, including the Eliana's Song duology and the Dead Rivers Trilogy. Her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” won the Hugo Award and Locus Award and was a finalist for the Nebula. Naomi lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her family and four cats. The number of cats is subject to change without notice.

Edgar Allan Poe Award Winner
        
  


What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
When I was in middle school, we had to write a certain number of pages per week of anything we wanted. (I wrote fiction, of course.) We were also allowed to read our writing out loud to the class, if we wanted. I learned that having an enthusiastic audience is delightful.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
When I was a teenager, I had a neighbor, Nancy Vedder-Shults, who was this effusive, kind, lovely person. (Still is. She’s not my neighbor anymore, though.) I used to babysit her daughter. When she found out I was interested in submitting stories for publication, she offered to read my stories for me and comment on them. I only took her up on this one time – but her comments were incredibly insightful, and guided me towards a much stronger understanding of how to edit my own stories to shape them the way I wanted them instead of just writing in kind of a stream-of-consciousness kind of way. She was also a fan of science fiction and fantasy – my mother was very willing to comment on my writing, but she kind of didn’t get SF/F, and Nancy did.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
When I was at WorldCon in 2019, I did a reading (and screwed up the timing, the next writer had to kind of politely shove me out the door, I still feel guilty about that!) There was a woman who wanted me to sign her book, so I found a spot out in the hallway. Out of her bag came a creased, ragged, incredibly worn copy of my first novel, which was published back in 2002. “This book got me through my teenage years,” she said. I still tear up thinking about this.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Basically anything that’s not “I really should put this down and go do the laundry” is great, as far as I’m concerned.

In your new book; CATFISHING ON CATNET, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
There are two viewpoint characters – Steph, who’s a teenage girl whose mother moves her constantly from one remote small town to the next, trying to hide from her dangerous father, and CheshireCat, who is an artificial intelligence. CheshireCat confides their secret in Steph, and then tries to help Steph when various plans go awry and her father shows up. This gets CheshireCat into trouble of their own – and Steph enlists the friends from CatNet, the social network CheshireCat runs, to mount a rescue.

It's a story about friendship – both online and in-person – and the ways that teenagers find to be there for one another.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Definitely the Trump presidency! I started writing this book early in 2017, and it was hard not to stay glued to Twitter all day because it felt like if I took my eyes off the world, something new would blow up. I wrote a lot of this book after midnight because the world quieted down enough that I could think.

What part of Steph did you enjoy writing the most?
I really enjoy the fact that Steph is very smart, a little bit na├»ve about the world (because she’s never stayed anywhere long enough to build relationships), and a little bit snarky.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I am a big fan of Sarah Dessen’s books – partly because I really love her portrayals of friendships between girls – and I would love for either Emaline (from The Moon and More) or Sydney (from Saint Anything) to log on to CatNet and meet CheshireCat.

TEN RANDOM THINGS ABOUT YOUR COLLEGE YEARS
  • 1. I lived in an official, college-sponsored Science Fiction Interest House my senior year and one of my housemates from that year also went on to become a professional SF/F writer now (Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni.) (Carleton’s official, college-sponsored Science Fiction Interest House still exists.)
  • 2. I got a D in Calculus 3. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I took Calculus 3.
  • 3. My freshman year roommate both talked in her sleep and walked in her sleep.
  • 4. I majored in Religion. My favorite class was on New Religious Movements.
  • 5. I got a VAX account (which was our e-mail and our Internet access back in 1991) during orientation week my freshman year. I was the first freshman to show up to get one, and shortly after setting up my account, they hired me to work there. My key skill was not being completely freaked out by computers.
  • 6. I met my husband, Ed, because we shared a work shift at the VAXlab. We also both came to the weekly group viewing of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • 7. Here’s how I bonded with my first really close friend in college: Curtis and I were in the dorm kitchen having a snack, and someone we knew wound up getting dumped by his girlfriend directly outside the door. Rather than deal with the awkwardness of saying “hey, excuse us, coming through,” we just stayed in the kitchen. For hours. By the time the now-broken-up-couple left, we were too involved in our own conversation to care. We wound up talking all night.
  • 8. I spent a semester abroad my junior year in Nepal.
  • 9. My freshman year, we had a blizzard on Halloween so impressive it has its own Wikipedia page. But no one I know has any pictures of it, because in 1991, taking pictures required film, and money to get it developed – photography was reserved for special occasions.
  • 10. I tried a number of entirely new-to-me things in college, including folk dancing and violin. I guess calculus is also on this list. The violin and folk dancing both went a lot better.
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
The relationship between humans and dogs gets a lot of attention because arguably, dogs made us human as much as we made them dogs. But the relationship between humans and cats is also incredibly interesting. They think we initially partnered up because humans had started storing grain, and mice were eating it, and cats eat mice while mostly not eating grain, which was a total win/win. But humans also really love to touch fur – this is probably because we’re descended from apes that had fur, and would socially groom one another, and we lost the fur but not the tactile desire. And cats really love being stroked by people with gentle hands who can follow cues about precisely where the cat most likes to be scritched. It really is a partnership almost too perfect to be believed.

Best date you've ever had?
The one that makes the best story is probably the one where my first boyfriend and I linked arms and skipped down State Street (in Madison, Wisconsin, where I grew up) singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” and somehow it was still a surprise years later when I found out he was gay. (To be fair, we were 14 and 15 at the time and I don’t think he’d figured it out yet, either.)

In one sentence, how would you sum up the internet?
Picture a gif: it’s the gif of Marie Kondo, a broad smile on her face, her hands clasped, saying “I love mess!”

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
Back when I was in grade school, my family went on this epic road trip, from our home in Madison, Wisconsin down to Houston, Texas (where we’d lived for several years), along the Gulf Coast (visiting family in Alabama), up the eastern seaboard (buying pottery in North Carolina and visiting relatives in Virginia and Maryland), eventually making our way home through Pennsylvania (more friends of my parents) and Ohio (where my grandparents lived).

Anyway, here’s the hilarious family story that came out of this road trip. Houston has enormous cockroaches. We had told our friends in the Midwest about these absolutely monstrous insects and no one believed us. So we captured one while in Houston to bring home. Only – I’m not sure why my parents thought this would work – they didn’t put it in a jar with a screw-on lid with a couple of air holes. They put plastic wrap over the top of a jar with a rubber band. No surprise, the cockroach escaped and was loose in the trunk.

We were in a sedan – I had two siblings, and we always fought over who got stuck in the middle seat. Somewhere in Louisiana, we’d gone through a drive-through for French fries for a snack, and presumably the cockroach smelled food and came crawling out into the back seat, at which point my brother, my sister and I all started screaming. My father had to pull over and brush the cockroach out of the car and onto the asphalt. Our new insect pet did not make it back to Madison, after all. (And I still don’t know why my parents thought plastic wrap was going to keep it contained! You need a jar with a solid lid!)

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
When I was 13, my family moved to the UK for a year. My father is a university professor and had a sabbatical to do research (and my mother did her dissertation research that year). They rented us a house in London and my siblings and I were enrolled in school. I was a socially awkward kid who was not very good at figuring out unwritten rules – and one of the fascinating things about being an actual foreigner is that people cut you a lot more slack for that, and will also help you figure out the rules, and also just the fact that you know you’re a foreigner means that you pay attention to stuff you otherwise wouldn’t. It was a year that changed the way I think forever.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
Car washes! I don’t know why they freak me out so much, but I really hate taking my car through them and tend to just not.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
In late October of 1999, I had a car accident on my way to work. No one was hurt, but the car was very badly damaged. I drove it the rest of the way in, but it was making weird noises and my original plan, to pick up something for dinner on the way home, was right out. I called my husband, who got home earlier than me, to let him know. “You know what,” he said, very sympathetically, “you’ve had a really hard day. Let’s just go out. I’ll drive.” “Okay,” I said. “Today was terrible.” “I really hope it gets better from here,” he said.

What he knew – and I didn’t – was that there was a message on the answering machine from the editorial assistant at Realms of Fantasy saying they wanted to buy my story. This was my very first big short story sale, and the real reason he wanted to eat out that night was so that we could celebrate! (I got home, and he said “you should listen to the message on the machine” with this barely suppressed grin, and then he watched me listen. And then we did in fact go out for a lovely meal.)


How much does the internet know about YOU?

Because her mom is always on the move, Steph hasn’t lived anyplace longer than six months. Her only constant is an online community called CatNet—a social media site where users upload cat pictures—a place she knows she is welcome. What Steph doesn’t know is that the admin of the site, CheshireCat, is a sentient A.I.

When a threat from Steph’s past catches up to her and ChesireCat’s existence is discovered by outsiders, it’s up to Steph and her friends, both online and IRL, to save her.


You can purchase Catfishing on CatNet at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you NAOMI KRITZER for making this giveaway possible.
5 Winners will receive a Copy of CATFISHING ON CATNET by Naomi Kritzer .
WEEK ONE - REVIEW AND EXCERPTS
NOVEMBER 16th MONDAY JeanBookNerd INTERVIEW
NOVEMBER 17th TUESDAY Movies, Shows, & Books EXCERPT 
NOVEMBER 18th WEDNESDAY Books and Zebras REVIEW 
NOVEMBER 19th THURSDAY BookHounds YA REVIEW 
NOVEMBER 19th THURSDAY TTC Books and More EXCERPT 
NOVEMBER 20th FRIDAY Kait Plus Books REVIEW & EXCERPT 

WEEK TWO - REVIEWS
NOVEMBER 23rd MONDAY Ya It's Lit REVIEW
NOVEMBER 24th TUESDAY A Court of Coffee and Books REVIEW 
NOVEMBER 25th WEDNESDAY Two Pints of Interest REVIEW
NOVEMBER 26th THURSDAY Metaphors and Miscellanea REVIEW
NOVEMBER 26th THURSDAY Belle's Archive REVIEW 
NOVEMBER 27th FRIDAY Nay's Pink Bookshelf REVIEW

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