All The King’s Men is being written by an incredibly talented and diverse team of writers from around the world. The stories in the anthology are informed by their unique perspective on the world, and their own fascinating experiences.
We here at anthology HQ want to celebrate these writers and their experiences. We not only want to support their other creative endeavours, but we also want to give you some insight into them as people and as creators, and to give you a chance to follow these great writers beyond this anthology.
Today’s featured writer is Andrew Bloom, a writer and critic based in Texas.
Please, tell us about yourself.
First and foremost, I’m a writer who wishes he was better at coming up with pithy blurbs to describe himself. But more than that, I am an incredibly lucky person. I have been fortunate enough to have met the love of my life; I’ve somehow managed to keep a circle of amazing friends despite my varied array of oddball qualities, and I’ve even found the time and the support and the opportunities from great folks like you to write about the things that move me.
How long have you been writing?
Like many of the other contributors to the anthology, I’ve been writing pretty much as far back as I can remember. I tried out a variety of mediums as a kid, whether it was a cheesy and derivative Star Trek pastiche entitled “Space Wolves,” or silly skits and songs for family gatherings, or a poorly-drawn comic called “Dogman” that was about what you’d expect. I can only hope that I’ve improved as a writer since then! I started my website (creatively titled The Andrew Blog) in 2010, which is when I began to get a bit more serious and consistent about my writing.
Who is your favourite writer, and why?
I’m a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut. He had an incredible ability to tap into the unbridled creativity and sideways thinking that science fiction allows for, while always supporting it with incredible thematic depth, cultural commentary, and last but certainly not least, humor. No other author could be so hilarious and clever on the one hand and so observant and even heartbreaking on the other. The combination made his works multifaceted, trenchant, and incredibly funny.
Also, I came to her work embarrassingly late, but I really enjoy Jane Austen’s writing. It’s impressive how a set of works so tied to a particular time and place are still so relevant and relatable today. I chalk it up to Austen being such a keen observer of human nature, which makes her characters ring true in any era. And she, like Vonnegut, has a gift for comedy as well. I would give my right arm to be able to write like either one of them.
What can you tell us about your writing process? Do you approach each project in the same way?
I’ve found that my writing process is remarkably similar whether I’m working on a piece of fiction, a review, or something more in the vein of an editorial. I think most writers have a certain fire when it comes to their ideas, or some specific part of their initial thought that really grabbed them and made them want to write something in the first place. It could be a great scene that pops into their head, or some big insight that dawns on them, or some sentiment that moves them. My first step is almost always to try to embrace that and get it down onto the page, no matter how shaggy it turns out initially, My goal is to try to capture that passion in a way that I hope will come through to the reader.
But the next step is to organize, connect everything, and edit ruthlessly. It’s sometimes tough to take those raw drafts and put the different thoughts together in a way that flows naturally, or to refine the language and the ideas in a way that makes them clean and pleasing to read. But I find that the balance between those two parts of the process — the initial frenzy and the subsequent focus on the craft of it, helps to create pieces that say what I’m trying to say, but which also say it in a way that someone would (hopefully) want to read.
Your story in All The King’s Men is a story entitled Pinpricks of Light, which tells the tale of a facility that conducts experiments upon drug addicts. Where did this story come from, and what does it mean to you?
Tubinj was one of the elements of the universe established in The Lesser Evil that immediately grabbed my attention. I found the idea of a drug that affects so many people, both directly and indirectly, very fascinating, and I wanted to use this anthology as an opportunity to draw back from the larger, galaxy-shaping consequences of tubinj and hone in on the way it impacts individual lives. Setting the story in an isolated facility where the drug is tested, and focusing on the unfortunate souls it’s tested on, felt like the right way to take something difficult and wide-ranging and make it feel real and personal.
To that end, for me, Pinpricks of Light is about making amends and finding peace. The people who are in this facility are not there because things have gone well in their lives, or because they had a lot of good options. Despite that, they find a little moments of comfort, a sense that there is solace and worth in who they are and who they’re with, regardless of where they happen to be right now. And that helps them come to terms with the parts of their pasts that they might otherwise prefer to forget.
Westa, the main character of Pinpricks of Light, is a self-aware tubinj user whose addictions have cost her everything she once had in the outside world. How does the concept of addiction factor into your story?
Addiction lurks in the background of every scene in Pinpricks of Light. It’s the threat looming over everything that happens in the story, and it’s a tragedy that everyone in the facility has experienced to one degree or another. Everyone is grappling with the ways in which this drug has changed them or the people around them, made them something other than what they were or what they hoped to be. That’s scary because it means you’re not just talking about the health risks or the other physical difficulties of chemical dependency. You’re talking about something that can take away parts of who you are, that can lead you to make decisions that feel like they were made by someone else, that you may regret for the rest of your life.
I don’t mean for Pinpricks of Life to be an anti-drug PSA. There’s enough of that in the world already. But I’m interested in the way that tubinj has taken so much away from Westa, from the people in the facility, and how it’s so hard for her to get any of it back. She’s a good person, or at least, I think she is, and that’s why I’m invested in examining what this drug has done to her.
In addition to writing fiction, you are also an accomplished critic. Do you feel that your work analysing other media in depth affects your fiction-writing craft in any interesting ways, or are they completely separate?
The two are inseparable for me. Analyzing great works, whether they’re novels or films or television shows, forces you to dig deeper and really examine what makes a story work, what makes a character feel compelling, or what makes you connect with a theme or a particular facet of it. As a writer, that makes you more cognizant of what you’re aiming for and what pitfalls to avoid when writing your own pieces.
At the same time, trying to tell stories of your own helps you to better understand the challenges that storytellers across any medium face in trying to convey their thoughts and take all their big ideas and make them into something that fits together and is accessible. As a critic, that makes you better able to look at a work and not just answer the binary question of “is this good or bad?” but to instead help answer why something is the way it is, which is, to my mind, the best service a critic can provide.
Are you working on or planning anything else at the moment?
I’m proud to be publishing film and television reviews on The Andrew Blog on a regular basis, in addition to my periodic work for Consequence of Sound, Under Scoop Fire, and Seroword. I love getting to write about all the great work out there, past and present, whether it’s looking at the character motivations in Better Call Saul or unpacking the latest superhero films, or even engaging in my favorite pastime — overanalyzing The Simpsons.
In addition, I’m working on a story entitled The Starving Time set in Jamestown, the first English settlement in America. The story takes place during a bleak period where three-quarters of the colonists in the settlement died in a single winter. There’s a bit of a twist to it, with something of an ahistorical explanation for the sudden increase in the mortality rate, that I’m excited about.
Where would you like to see yourself and your writing career in five or ten years’ time?
I would love to still have the time and the energy to keep telling stories and to explore the best and the worst of the diversity of art out there. I think that whether it’s today or a decade from now, I would want the same thing every writer wants — to have the kind of audience that trusts them to deliver something worth reading and appreciates their work. But at the end of the day, I’m happy just to have the time to do what I love.
We here at ATKM HQ think Andrew is a writer worth following.