Author Spotlight – Ada Hoffmann
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Ada Hoffmann!
ADA HOFFMANN is a Canadian graduate student trying to teach computers to write poetry. Her acclaimed speculative short stories and poems have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, Uncanny, and two year’s best anthologies. Ada was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at 13, and is passionate about autistic self-advocacy. She is a former semi-professional soprano, a tabletop gamer and an active LARPer, and lives in southern Ontario with a very polite black cat.
Welcome to the Hive, Ada. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Hi, glad to be here! The book I most recently gave 5 stars to on Goodreads was “Hoshi and the Red City Circuit” by Dora M. Raymaker. It’s a blend of cyberpunk and urban-fantasy-in-space. Neurodivergent people are the only ones who can fully interface with the computer systems that run Red City, but they’re being targeted by a serial killer with a mysterious magical goal. I love the vivid detail of the city and the complicated way assistive technology works for the protagonist, who’s also neurodivergent.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’m a bard. I’m just gonna sing real loud and hope it helps.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit?) Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
I’ve got a desk in a quiet little room in my house where I can work or play undisturbed. I need silence so I can really zone in. I write on the computer and edit compulsively as I go. I need an outline before I can get started, but I keep it loose and flexible, because I usually don’t have a feel for what a story truly needs until I can see it, messy and breathing, on the page.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
I wish that I had the astonishing imagination of Catherynne M. Valente and could grab readers in the feels as hard as she does. I wish I could tap into dream-and-myth-archetypes with the ease of Neil Gaiman or develop characters like Lois McMaster Bujold. I wish I had Yoon Ha Lee’s gift for sheer brilliant strange details everywhere. I also imprinted on Star Wars at a very young age; I will always and forever be a sucker for genre-bending space wizards.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Lately I’ve been catching up on “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.” This show is so good and pure and queer. I’m fascinated how it packs such sophisticated emotional arcs into what seems on the surface like simple language and plotting. I love the different princesses and their contrasting personalities. I can’t decide if Catra or Entrapta is my favorite; everyone is SO GREAT.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
I’d spend it trying to get ahead on my teaching job, so I have more time to write on all the other days. That’s called strategy!
Smart! Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I’ve got a new novel partway drafted which is still super rough, and I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day. Two words, though: Dragon paleontology.
Dragon paleontology? Shut up and take our money!
Ada, what’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t self-reject.” That goes for sending stories to markets that you aren’t sure will want them, but it goes for other things, too. Some of your best drafts will be the ones you’re a little afraid to write down, the ideas that you think might be too weird or unmarketable or too personal. Some of your best rounds of revisions will be the ones that scare you with their size and depth. Don’t stop the work before it happens. Believe in yourself. Do the thing.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I believe in figuring out the problem’s cause and tailoring the solution accordingly. Sometimes I’m burned out and need to pause and recharge. Sometimes, when a particular scene feels like pulling teeth, that scene shouldn’t be there; sometimes it needs to be approached in a different way. Sometimes the emotions into the text are inherently hard and I have to find some way of rewarding myself so I can push through. Sometimes I’m just scared to get started, and once my hands are back in the typing rhythm I’ll be fine. The trick is to figure out which of those it is. It sounds cheesy, but if I’m really stuck, I like to lie down and meditate about it, or journal with an actual pencil and paper.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Honestly, right now I just want to go to “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.” Other vacations need not apply.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
One of my specialties is reviewing science fiction and fantasy books with autistic characters, and my favorite one ever is Kaia Sønderby’s “Failure to Communicate.” It’s a space opera about an autistic woman whose job it is to puzzle out the details of alien communication, the same way she’s painstakingly taught herself to puzzle out humans. There are wonderful aliens, found family, deep feels, and betrayal, and I found the main character relatable in so many ways. A lot of people haven’t heard of this book because it’s self-published, but those who have read it swear by it. It’s the best.
It sounds fantastic!
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
THE OUTSIDE is a wild space opera with ruthless cyborg angels, AI gods, and cosmic horror monstrosities – and a complex, brilliant, queer autistic woman who’s caught between them with nothing but her own moral courage to rely on.
Brilliant! Thanks again for joining us, Ada, and good luck with your latest release!
Ada Hoffmann is the acclaimed author of over 60 speculative short stories and poems. Her space opera novel THE OUTSIDE will be released tomorrow (11th June 2019) by Angry Robot Books!