On the verge of a new anthology, we are celebrating IN THE AIR with a behind the scenes view of authors and their stories. Here’s a look at Alisha Costanzo and her story “Yellow Skies.”
ABOUT THE STORY
Tell me a little about your story and the world you’ve created.
“Yellow Skies” is a bit nihilistic, even for me. It’s the end of the world, so far beyond where most would imagine or hope we’d survive through. The atmosphere has dwindled, oxygen is near depletion, the water has dried up, and a small group of people try to survive as my protagonist, Tammy, spends her days drilling into the bed of the Atlantic Ocean for water, yet the group still holds onto the myth that those who could survive these wretched conditions would be taken away to a new, blue planet, where the abundance of life would not be taken for granted.
What came first, the plot or the characters?
An image came first. I actually dreamed of a young girl, drilling in a dry ocean bed as the atmosphere collapsed around her. That’s not exactly how it turned out, but it’s close.
If you had to describe your protagonist in three words, what would they be?
Sarcastic. Hopeless. Human.
What is something about your protagonist that only you know?
She actually cared about the people around her, even if she prepared for the worst every day. It made her come off as cold, but she wanted to be saved, as we all do in the end.
What were you trying to achieve with this story?
I wanted to show how we’re more resilient than most think. We’ll survive some terrible things. That’s what we were made to do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to bake. As an Italian Grandma at heart, I also love to feed people. They work well together.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your stories?
That what my world in “Yellow Skies” was what Mars looked like not so long ago. Makes me wonder if we ever lived there. Maybe The Season of Passage has influenced me too deeply.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become better writers? If so, what are they?
Here’s one that I’ve had to remind myself of recently, don’t hold on too tightly to secrets in a story. Often, what we think of as big reveals and want to save for the end would have done better to create a tense beginning and build to something bigger than we imagined. It’s rather similar to a trick I learned from Rachael Stephen’s five-ideas method: create solutions by creating sucky ideas because the last idea is usually the best.
What do you think makes a good story?
A voice that defies editing, which is rather hard to explain, but occasionally, I find something that I want to hold my red pen to and simply can’t. A voice that can demand the so-called rules be broken has the depth, motivation, and complexity to captivate readers of all preferences.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A lot of things, actually. A writer, certainly. An artist. I was in a girl group in middle school/high school. A teacher. And I wanted to be an editor and publisher as a teen, too. I got to be all those things, except for being the next Spice Girls. But that’s all right. I put screeching cats to shame, anyways.
What is your favorite writing tool or technique?
Alliteration and personification are my favorite tools or techniques, and they litter my writing. I’ve also recently implemented the three-act outlining method to my novels and Harmon’s plot embryo for my shorter ones.
How would you describe your general writing voice and tone?
I’m pretty sure I write like a pompous asshole, but I’m certainly dark and sarcastic as well.
Share something fun or interesting:
Here’s a link to one of the sources I used to help describe my world’s landscape.
Wife of a disabled veteran, Alisha Costanzo writes about PTSD, gender norms, environmentalism, violence, and conformity. With a mutually-fueled passion to change the world one person at a time, she often writes about her husband’s rants, conspiracy theories, and trains of logic that seem absurd until the connections line up, and mixes them into her obsession with cooking, coffee, and pop-culture monsters.
Most of all, Alisha is passionate about satire and how it can be used as a tool for learning and criticism. Her stories are aware of themselves and determined not to give readers what they think they want.
A New York transplant, she lives in Oklahoma, teaches English and rhetoric at a local university, runs and edits at Transmundane Press, LLC, and navigates the crazy that comes with her husband, fourteen-year-old step son, eight cats, six lizards, six mice, three toads, two snakes, and a water turtle in the master bath, all confined under one roof.