I met Vylar in March at FogCon, when we were on a panel together. The subject was “Things I Wish I Knew when I was a Debut Author.” We ran into each other again in the Burbank airport on the way to the Nebula Weekend and shared a cab to the hotel. I asked if I could interview her about her brand-new book. She was kind enough to say yes.
Vylar Kaftan won a Nebula for her alternate history novella “The Weight of the Sunrise.” She’s published about 40 short stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and other places. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Her new book is called Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water:
All Bee has ever known is darkness.
She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth.
Did something in the real world inspire Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water?
I was watching a documentary about solitary confinement and how it completely messes up a person’s ability to relate to the real world again. Anything longer than a few weeks and permanent mental changes can take place; years of solitary confinement are completely inhumane. Not that the US listens to anything Amnesty advises. Anyway, that inspired me to think about long-term solitary confinement as a political tactic to control prisoners who “otherwise couldn’t be controlled.” That plus some stuff specifically on women’s prisons inspired Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
My favorite scene? Probably the one where the giant robot is shooting at them. Why? Because when I wrote the scene originally, it didn’t work. I needed a reason for the first shot to miss them. Thus was born Gregor. Gregor is a stalagmite. He likes sitting around, humming to himself, and thinking about things. Alas, poor Gregor. He gave his life that my protagonist may live. Nay, he was in fact created for the entire purpose of saving my protagonist. Raise a glass to Gregor tonight, who shall hum and think no more.
What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?
Frenzied bursts of writing, sobbing with frustration, numb stupidity as the words fail to come, dancing with delight through the house… I think this is everyone’s process really, perhaps with more dancing.
What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?
All the great reviews coming in! That was amazing. It was so cool to see how many people really got what I was doing here and mentioned how much they want to see a sequel. That felt terrific for me.
What do you have planned next?
As I write this in late June, I’ll be at Readercon in Boston, then reading at SF in SF (San Francisco), both in July. I’m currently deciding what to work on next.
You can follow Vylar’s work at vylarkaftan.net.
Pick up a copy of Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2LMjebZ or from Tor.com https://publishing.tor.com/hersilhouettedrawninwater-vylarkaftan/9781250221148/.