Niteblade Contributor Interview with Megan Arkenberg

Megan Arkenberg’s stories and poems have appeared in multiple publications. She’s a magazine editor too. I can’t help but think she’s somehow managed to add an extra ten hours into the day. You can visit her on the web at

When did you first recognize yourself as a writer?

I was in first grade. We were writing stories about superhero potatoes. My teacher was hard-core impressed by the phrase “as a tear rolled down her cheek,” which I must have
picked up from a book somewhere. That was the day I declared myself “good at writing.”

I didn’t become serious about being a writer until junior high, when we were required to take keyboarding classes. Suddenly, drafting stories stopped being a frustrating rush to record my ideas before I forgot them completely; for the first time, I could get words on “paper” as quickly as they sprung into my head. I’m sure I annoyed everyone around me with my insistence that I was an “author” and my lengthy descriptions of my novels-in-progress until my sophomore year of high school, when my stories finally started getting published.

Ironically, though learning to type was what made me confident about writing in the first place, I’ve recently returned to drafting with pen and paper—it forces me to slow down and pay attention to my sentences!


What draws you to speculative fiction?

Something’s a little screwy in my brain’s wiring, I think. It never comes up with ideas like “high school athlete loses scholarship after drunken party results in manslaughter charge.” No, it suggests things like “girl trains ravens to attack zombies,” or “woman is murdered on page 217 of an obscure poet’s biography.”

I also like the way secondary worlds can reject the historical second-class place of women, people of color, and people who live outside of accepted gender norms. Real Victorian women may have been encouraged to stay in the home, but there’s no reason my female steampunk hero has to put up with that kind of nonsense! Sometimes, I just want to enter a safe space, where I can play dress-up with historical settings without dealing with depressing historical mind-sets. Secondary world speculative fiction lets me do that.


Is there a piece of writing advice you’ve never followed?

I’ve never understood the general animosity towards adverbs. Some writers claim that all adverbs can be replaced by stronger verbs, but I think that’s nonsense. There’s a world of difference between “whispering” and “speaking quietly.” “Running” and “walking briskly” are two different actions. There is no good verb for “fiercely unhooking her necklace.” Of course, it is possible to use too many adverbs, just as it’s possible to use too many adjectives, or too many nouns. But stripping a story to the bare minimum of
adverbs isn’t always necessary or desirable.


In the September 2010 issue of Niteblade, Rhonda chose to publish your story, “Rosewinter“.  Is there a story behind how it came about?

I read a story in an anthology—I don’t remember which, and to be honest, I’d prefer not to remember—about a girl who received a magical rose from her magical
adventuring lover every winter. This irked me incredibly. He’s off having marvelous adventures, and she (and the reader) is stuck at home, waiting for a silly rose! If they missed each other so much, why couldn’t she go adventuring with him?

That became the core idea of “Rosewinter”—why might one lover hide her adventurous life from the other? What dark secrets could that innocent gift, a winter rose, be hiding?

I wish I could remember where I got the idea for the braided chronology, past-present-past-present-future-present-future. I’ve always enjoyed playing with the way I tell my stories; this is most obvious in “Rosewinter” and in one of my other favorite short stories, “The Copperroof War.”


What have you been working on lately?

The combined influence of John Milton and the Book of Enoch has resulted in a lot of angel-and-demon stories recently. For some reason (I blame my screwy brain-wiring), these same stories also include a lot of heavy machinery: trains, wind turbines, warships and dirigibles. I also find myself writing more present-day stories, populated by people in jeans and tee-shirts instead of corsets and waistcoats, though most of these stories still have otherworldly settings—places ruled by tribes of zombies or metal angels, trains that run by themselves or hoard treasure like dragons.


Is there anything else you’d like to share with Niteblade’s readers?

I love getting feedback—I think most beginning writers do. Even if it’s just “funny story” or “I liked the part where the guy choked on a fishbone” or “I still don’t understand why Susan married the goldfish,” it tells me someone actually read and paid attention to the story. My e-mail address is –I promise I don’t bite!

I’d also like to plug my two e-zines, Mirror Dance (fantasy of all flavors!) and Lacuna (historical fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction with a historical setting).

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Unless otherwise stated all books reviewed here were received free of charge from their author or publisher. This, of course, does not affect the content of our reviews.