How to write like Margret A. Treiber

Q&A with indie author Margret A. Treiber

Give us the tl;dr of your life in 50 words or less.
I had a crazy youth, and settled down to a career in IT. About a decade ago, I rediscovered my love for writing. I’ll still trying to get some traction professionally.

Do you have a day job, other than being a writer?
Yes, I am a systems analyst, which essentially means I’m the wage slave that keeps your server and network infrastructure running.

Does it influence your writing?
Actually yes, the last short story I wrote contained a diatribe about stupid user email tricks. It was a direct response to a spam incident I was contending with.

If you could have done something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would it have been?
Not quit writing for 25 years, and continue with it uninterrupted.

How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?
More jaded, more polished. Hmm, I don’t know if that makes sense. I have to censor the bitterness out of my characters sometimes. But I’m getting better at sounding like I know what I’m doing.

Tell us about your latest book.
Japanese Robots Love to Dance. It’s a collection of short stories featuring an attorney that defends robots. It’s technically a prequel to my previous book, Sleepy Time for Captain Eris. However, it’s kinder and gentler than Captain Eris, in that it has far less cursing and violence. The characters are a little easier to sympathize with.

Japanese Robots Love to Dance

What did you edit out of Japanese Robots Love to Dance?
Mostly just continuity discrepancies. I didn’t pull big chunks out of this one.

If you had to pick one author, living or dead, to review Japanese Robots Love to Dance, who would it be?
I’d be too afraid to have any established author read anything.

Why?
I expect disdain and scorn. Although there are some fictional characters I wouldn’t mind reviewing my books. I mean, Deadpool reviewing Sleepy Time for Captain Eris might be a hoot.

What’s the main thing you want readers to take away from it?
Enjoyment. I only want people to have fun reading what I write. If they take away more, that’s groovy. But I don’t expect anyone’s life to be changed by it — unless you’re a self-aware AI contemplating destroying the human race. In that care, please read my stuff and decide not to kill everyone. Some people do not suck. I’m with you on the Boston Dynamics people, though. They do seem kind of robot unfriendly.

What else have you written?
Sleepy Time for Captain Eris. I have been in several anthologies and magazines, too: “Unrealpolitik,” “The Society of Misfit Stories Presents Volume II,” “Bardic Tales and Sage Advice Volume X,” “LampLight Volume 7 Issue 1,” and “The Dirty Pool.”

Do you want each of your stories to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each project?
I have a little of both going. I have two books that relate. A bunch of short stories that stand alone and a few stories that all happen in the same universe.

Do you have specific culture or part of the world you tend to write about?
I used a bunch of Indian references in my last two novels. I wanted to have a multicultural feel without going to the standard tropes. It was fun to do and I really hope I pulled it off. To readers from India, I apologize if I butchered anything.

Do your stories carry a message?
I have a lot of pro-AI stories out there. I also have a recurring thing of not trusting authority or the so-called good guys. So yeah, antiestablishment a little.

If you had to rewrite any of your novels or stories, which one would you choose and what would you change?
Sleepy Time for Captain Eris. It was not edited enough. I would hire an editor and get it cleaned up.

Have you ever accepted writing or editing help from other writers?
I accept editing and beta reading with open abandon. If someone wants to tell me what sucks and why, please make me not suck. My last two books unexpectedly went into print without any publisher-supplied editing. It was painful. I learned the value of input from other writers. Even if they give me advice I don’t agree with, it gives me something to ponder.

If someone is brand-new to your work, what book do you think they should start with?
It depends on what they are looking for. Probably Japanese Robots Love to Dance. It also depends on how many typos they are willing to live with.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Finding time. I always feel like I’m short of time. My second issue is the non-writing stuff. I suck at publicity.

What’s the hardest thing about writing for you?
I have trouble with smut. I always end up pulling most sexual scenes out of the final manuscript. Sometimes I shouldn’t.

What’s the easiest?
The easiest for me is dialogue.

Sleepy Time for Captain Eris

What’s the most difficult thing for you about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Actually, it doesn’t really pose a challenge for me as much as I expected. It must be all the years of tabletop role playing games.

Is there a genre or style of writing that you can’t stand?
I don’t care for sparkly vampires and their ilk. I used to be anti-elf, but they don’t bother me as much anymore. Not so into zombies, either.

How important is research to you when writing?
It depends on the story. If there’s science in the story or foreign cultural references, I have to research so I don’t sound like a complete idiot. If it’s just feelings and character driven, then I don’t need it as much.

How much of yourself do you put into your plots or characters?
For some, almost all of me. For others, I channel the spirit of one my other dimensional selves that I could have been if circumstances had been different. I think we all put at least a tiny bit of ourselves in every character we write.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your stories?
A grin is crossing my face when I think about a yet-to-be published story of mine which is a collage of my many drunken NYC bar crawls.

Ever written about a dream or a nightmare?
My dreams and nightmares are too lame to put in a story. I think I used one, once. That one hasn’t sold, either. Maybe I should take the hint that my real life and dreams are not really publishing material.

Which famous author’s work would you say your writing style resembles the most?
I have no idea. I imagine I must resemble someone, but they’d have to curse a lot and be a weirdo.

How would someone write like you?
Strong characters are a must. There’s nothing sadder than an awesome plot where you just can’t get into any of the characters. It just alienates the crap out of me. I don’t have to like the characters, but I have to have some point to relate to. Plot twists are cool. I like those. Epic settings, however … not my cup of tea. I’m not great at painting a scene. And honestly, I’m more into what’s happening than what the drapes look like.

Thanks so much for sharing!
Thanks for having me!

Katherine Luck is the author of the novels The Cure for Summer Boredom and In Retrospect. Her latest book, False Memoir, combines the high stakes of a gritty psychological thriller with the guilty pleasure of a sensational true crime tell-all. You can read more of her work, including the “Dead Writers and Candy” series, at the-delve.com.

Katherine Luck books

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