Judith Field was born in Liverpool and lives in London. She is the daughter of writers and learned how to agonize over fiction submissions at her mother’s (and father’s) knee.
She has two daughters, a son, a granddaughter and a grandson (who inspired her first published story when he broke her laptop keyboard. Unlike in the story, a magical creature didn’t come out of the laptop and fix her life). Her fiction, mainly speculative, has appeared in a variety of publications, mainly in the USA. She speaks five languages and can say, “Please publish this story” in all of them. She is also a pharmacist, freelance journalist, editor, medical writer, and indexer.
Has your agonizing over fiction submissions eased since you first learned it at your mother’s knee?
Yes. Things are so much easier now we have the internet. My parents would trudge to the post office and mail their manuscripts off. Now, it can be done with the touch of a key, for short stories at least, so it’s much faster to submit. The time taken to reply doesn’t seem to have changed much. I try to forget about a submission and get on with more writing. I might feel differently when I’ve written a novel, though; there’ll be more riding on it, in terms of time invested at the very least.
You wrote a weekly column for a local paper. What were some of the major struggles you faced with weekly deadlines? – and how does that compare writing something to submit for a magazine?
The main struggle was finding the time to write because I have a day job as well. Also, thinking of ideas each time. Both of these apply equally to submitting for a magazine. The difference is that if I don’t submit to a magazine it’s a missed opportunity, but nobody is going to be chasing me for my work.
There is obviously a good story about your grandson wrecking your laptop keyboard. It became your first published story. Care to give us some of the details?
One day my grandson, aged about a year, was visiting with my daughter, and she wanted to use my laptop. She let him get his little hands on it, and he managed to pull most of the keys right off. She said “it was like that before”, which is probably what he would have said if he could speak. The idea for the story came from one I read by John Wyndham called “A long spoon”, about a man who accidentally summons a demon by playing a reel-to-reel tape recording backward at the wrong speed. I thought it’d be fun to update that.
According to your bio, you speak five languages. What are they and what drove you to learn them?
They’re: English, my birth language. Modern Hebrew: my father taught me when I was a kid: for ethnic and cultural reasons, and so that I could talk to my family in Israel. German: again, my father taught me when I was a kid. French: we learned this in school and I kept it up afterward. Russian: when I was 18 a couple of friends decided to learn Italian at evening classes. I liked the idea of learning another language but thought I’d do something a bit more unusual. Russian classes were available so off I went.
Mad Scientist Journal is going to produce a science fiction anthology for women written by women. What are some of the differences women bring to science fiction writing?
I’m not sure if they bring a difference, but women are under-represented in writing generally. Men are disproportionately represented in major book reviews and they win more literary awards. It seems writers are influenced more by male than by female authors. Increasing the number of works written by women, increasing their visibility, could help re-balance this.
Who is your favorite author and why?
I’ve got several favorites, but when it comes to speculative fiction, it has to be Connie Willis. She’s a great storyteller with a wonderful sense of humor but is capable of writing so much more: from madcap, screwball comedy to tragedy. Her characters, like them or loathe them, are unforgettable.
What is a writing project you’d like to do?
I’m currently in the final year of a creative writing master’s, and I’m writing the beginning of a novel for this – we will have to have written 20,000 words by the end of the course. It’s a Victorian supernatural story, involving one of my recurring characters, Euphemia Thorniwork the mathematics genius. I’d really like to finish the book after the MA is completed.
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