M.M. MacLeod presents a Q&A with writer and editor Ed Ahern.
Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He has had over three hundred stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of six review editors.
Find Ed on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
M.M.: Welcome, Ed. Let us start off with a couple of questions that spring to mind from reading your bio. You mention a return to writing after four decades.
– Going back to those early years, did you aspire to be a writer then, and if so, what changed your course?
E.A.: A high school English teacher thought I wasn’t illiterate and moved me into AP English courses, which in turn got me working part-time and slightly illegally for weekly newspapers doing exciting work like writing obits. On entering university I knew that if I wanted to both write and eat I needed to get a day job, and majored in print journalism.
– The career path you did take sounds intriguing. Can you tell us a bit about that? Do those experiences sometimes show up in your writing?
E.A.: I think most writers have a process of unconscious osmosis, where experiences and emotions seep out onto the page, often in forms we don’t recognize as memory. There was a very long detour absorbing life before I started writing creatively. I was in chronological order: student, Naval officer (specialties diving and bomb disarming), reporter(Providence Journal), intelligence agent (Germany and Japan) paper sales executive (eventually marketing director), retired for one day, paper sales executive, different company, retired again, now writing fiction, poetry, and the very occasional essay.
M.M.: You write horror stories, and sometimes retellings of fairy tales. Is there a connection? Do you think fairy tales were some of the earliest horror stories?
E.A.: To my enjoyment but probable detriment I’m a buffet writer—picking whatever writing theme looks tasty in the moment. I do fantasy, original fairy tales, retold fairy tales, occasional science fiction, literary and commercial stories, and lots of accessibly literate poetry. Oh, and horror. I think the scariest horror doesn’t use fantasy elements, but the shocking things we can do to one another all on our own.
M.M.: Do you prefer writing fiction or poetry? Is there an area of writing you haven’t yet explored but would like to?
E.A.: Kind of like asking if I prefer breakfast or dinner. Fiction for me involves putting characters into conflict. Poetry is sound and emotion, expressing a mood in words. I hope that by going back and forth I enrich both, the fiction gets more memorable language, the poetry stays accessible. My major goal over the past two years was to write a full-length thriller novel, just completed. I’m now whining and begging for an agent.
M.M.: Many people are required to be at home these days and perhaps have more time for writing. Working on the review board at Bewildering Stories, have you noticed an increase in submissions over the past year?
E.A.: Not really. Many of the writers I know, of both fiction and poetry, went into funks over a blend of politics and COVID. They’re slowly reemerging. I have noticed that the writing we get seems a bit better, so maybe all that time in solitary helped the writers.
M.M.: Many new literary publications have also started during the past year. Do you have a preference for online, digital, or print publications when it comes to submitting your own work?
E.A.: Including our own new start-up the Fairfield Scribes Micro Fiction journal- nothing longer than 100 words. In a fit of bad judgment, they made me lead editor. I’ve noticed that more and more short fiction and poetry is being read aloud on podcasts and blogs, and think this will take off in the near future. There’s something narcotic about hearing myself read a piece I wrote. I’m indifferent about the platform the words appear on and indifferently submit to them all. My criterium for submission are: speed of response, money, difficulty of placement, and prior experience with the editors. But I’m fickle. Despite having quicker acceptance from pubs that already know me, I’m often chasing down that tart in the corner of the bar.
M.M.: Having worked both sides of the desk, what is one tip you would give to writers, and one tip for editors?
E.A.: It’s a mirror image. For writers, remember that editors have literary preconditions and biases that may make your piece less appealing—not any less good, just not to their taste. And for editors, please, please, judge it on what it is and not what you think it should be.
M.M.: Do you have any new or upcoming publications or projects you would like to mention?
E.A.: The novel is titled The Will of the Wisp. Assuming it gets published I think it’s worth the read.
M.M.: Ed, thank you for your time and insightful answers.