Tabatha Wood’s new collection, SEEDS, is about to sprout. I thoroughly enjoyed it (Goodreads review here, and please follow Tabatha and myself on Goodreads) and decided I’d invite her to answer a few questions to share with you, my dear readers.
First things first, Tabatha—do you have a favourite type of seed, whether for eating, planting, or feeding birds?
Kia Ora, Cameron, and thank you so much for inviting me to your blog.
Since you’ve read the story “Bloom” in SEEDS, I expect you can guess which real ones are my favourite–sunflower seeds. Which, funnily enough, you can do all three with. But you must be careful, because if you eat the wrong kind, well, you might have to make some tough choices…
Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.
1. I was born in Whitby, as featured in Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, on the Northeast coast of England and I’ve always been drawn to anything gothic. I moved to Aotearoa, New Zealand in 2017.
2. I’ve been deaf since childhood and wear two hearing aids, which also means I can lipread accents with a good degree of accuracy.
3. I genuinely believe in the power of manifestation, which is a technique I learned about from Octavia Butler. Whenever I start a new project, I spend some time thinking about and writing down what I want to achieve from it and reminding myself how much I believe in its success. It helps shut up the imposter syndrome gremlins a bit and gives me hope on the days when the words don’t flow as easily.
A number of tales in SEEDS explore the issue of not fitting in or feeling at home in one’s skin. Why does this theme speak to you?
I’ve definitely always felt like an outsider, and it took a long time for me to find a peer group I felt like I really belonged in. Some of that is down to my deafness and the sense of isolation that a sensory disability can bring. Some of it is linked to being an immigrant, displaced 12,000 miles away from where I grew up. I also, within the past few years, discovered I have ADHD. I’ve tried on many “hats” over my lifetime trying to figure out which one fits me the best, but I think gaining a greater understanding of why my brain works the way it does has also leeched into my storytelling. The theme of not fitting in is such a powerful and personal one, and it’s so important to us as human beings to feel needed and secure, to find where we belong. Removing that safety net can feel quite terrifying.
There’s a distinct Kiwi flavour to several of the stories in this collection which we see in setting and dialogue. Why should people read fiction from New Zealand?
Funnily enough, I wrote about this recently for The Spinoff, New Zealand’s biggest pop culture website. (Find it here https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/19-08-2021/what-you-need-right-now-is-a-nice-soothing-horror-story/) In this article I say that, “New Zealand horror offers a unique perspective that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.” Our landscape, culture and history are entirely unique to our islands, and our geographical location brings with it both a sense of safety and separation. A lot of New Zealand horror focuses on themes of resilience and community in the face of disaster. It explores how the rugged landscape can be thrillingly beautiful yet also deadly and threatening. I think New Zealand horror can sometimes be a little quieter, more gothic, than its American or European counterparts, but it is also extremely human, and I think it punches much harder emotionally because of that.
What do you do outside of writing that helps the creative process?
To beat any writer’s block, I always find it best to get away from my desk and move my body. I like sea swimming, indoor rock climbing, long walks in the bush or by the sea. In my debut collection, DARK WINDS OVER WELLINGTON, I found a lot of my stories were intrinsically linked to the ocean in some way, a reflection of the way I was feeling in my life at that time. SEEDS is more about putting down roots and growing. So yeah, my biggest inspiration is being in nature. It helps me turn off the part of my brain that’s being too loud so I can focus better on what’s important.
What does your editing process look like?
CUT TO /me, slumped over my desk into the wee small hours, swearing profusely at my laptop, mashing the delete button and drinking copious cups of coffee, hoping… just hoping… something good might come out of it all.
But seriously, my most helpful editing tools have been the Read Aloud function in Word and ProWritingAid. Both help get me to a baseline where my work is basically *good* but I can also go over and improve even further. Also, letting a story sit awhile before editing is essential. I can easily get bogged down in tiny details and miss the bigger picture, so working on a piece with fresh eyes is always a good idea.
What are you working on now?
At the end of this year, I will be self-publishing my third poetry collection TO WISH ON IMPOSSIBLE THINGS, so I’m still tinkering with that a little. One of my favourite bands, The Cure, inspired the title, and the collection is about moving to Aotearoa, New Zealand, my experiences as an immigrant, finding myself and making a new home. I’m also working on a couple of nonfiction pieces about aspects of the horror genre while planning a dystopian hope-punk SFF novel.
Where can we find you online?
Grab your copy of SEEDS here from the 16th of October.