Eleven Questions with Eugen [You-gin] Bacon
1). How did your writing journey begin?
I was in London, a teeny tot on my breast. I was never one to twiddle my fingers, so I enrolled in a creative writing course with The Writers Bureau. One day I won a short story competition. It was a restorative story on the melancholy of an undiscovered writer. Toward the end, she studies her boyfriend, the way he holds the chipped cup, warming both hands. The corners of his mouth tugged down in a kind of frown. Something clutches her chest. She looks from his deadpan gaze, and knows he’ll be there, as she rips her manuscript—a story that’s going nowhere—and starts a new book.
2). Who are your writing inspirations?
Who or what? I used to think I aspired to go full-time as writer. Now I think I’d miss the day job. Everyday interactions with people, snatching their conversations, stealing their stories. Now I just want to write ‘real’, to write ‘different’. Be the best version of me, and I know it gets better. The final rendition would be a blend of Toni Morrison (the beauty of her language), Peter Temple (his killer dialogue), Anthony Doerr (his flowery prose)—a critic in The Guardian once wrote of him:
Doerr’s prose style is high-pitched, operatic, relentless … Eyes are wounded, nights are luminous and starlit, seagulls are alabaster. ‘Fields enwombed with hedges’ is almost the last straw.
3). Are you an outliner or a panster?
So panster. But novels and non-fiction draw out the outliner. I hate that bit.
4). What are your favorite books?
I’ll tell you what I hate: big books. I adore speculative short story collections, anthologies. I’m a hopeless romantic, falling in love with an author’s style, more than their work. Top of mind: Toni Morrison. Kathe Koja. I’m adding Namwali Serpell to this list, even though her book The Old Drift is a beast.
5). Describe your writing process.
My writing is a search, a question, a curiosity. It works on triggers—a word, an image, and a prose is born. I often start with a skeleton, a general idea, and the writing shapes itself. I never know how something will end, until it ends.
6). Why did you choose to write speculative fiction?
Speculative fiction allows me such scope. I don’t have to question: What colour are my characters? What language do they speak? What I love most is the ability to cross genre—sometimes problematic in placing a work in competitions.
7). Tell us a bit about your story.
Which story? (laughter) I’ve just finished a short story of vignettes, black speculative fiction on climate change—what happens when the water runs dry. Before that was a short story about a water runner, also on climate change, a futuristic fiction about the price of water. I’ve just submitted an essay on worldbuilding in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi – where he uses literary devices of worldbuilding through creation mythology, culture, nature and the otherworldly. I’ve just written an article on black lives, and they matter.
8). What inspired you to write this story?
More and more I’m writing black people in fiction and creative nonfiction, and it’s immensely fulfilling. It’s like I’ve discovered myself. Each project is a passion, a focus—I start it and get obsessed.
9). Will there be more stories about this character?
About black people in real and speculative worlds? Yes.
10). How do we keep up with all things Eugen?
On Twitter: @EugenBacon
My website: www.eugenbacon.com
11). What advice would you give to new writers?
Edit, edit, edit. Please resist the urge to publish prematurely. Find the right editor who’s the best one for you—a trusted advisor who’ll help you bring out the best form of your work.
Check out Eugen's amazing novel, Claiming T-Mo, a whimsical blend of science fiction and fantasy.