Mary has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy. In her spare time (when she has any), she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she’ll try almost anything once.
Mary graduated Magna cum Laude from Princeton University in 2010 with a Bachelor of the Arts in Music, specializing in composition. Although she is currently focusing on writing, music is still her first love, and so in her spare time she composes songs and soundtracks.
I was able to talk to her and ask her a few questions in order to share with you guys! Let’s get started.
Q: What are your go-to snacks when writing?
I don’t snack a lot when writing, but I have to have a beverage nearby. Have to… otherwise I feel incomplete. Depending on my mood, the season, and the time of day, this might be tea, wine, beer, or coffee. Or the occasional juice. I get super antsy when I don’t have something to drink within reach!
Q: Care to share your favorite playlist?
Sure! I don’t listen to music when writing because it distracts me (I just wind up listening to the music instead!), but here’s a playlist of songs I listen to while out and about:
Renegades – X Ambassadors
Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea – Missio
The Fall – Imagine Dragons
Laura Palmer – Bastille
Loudspeaker – MUNA
Uprising – Muse
Heathens – Twenty One Pilots
KDV – Missio
Not Your Fault – AWOL Nation
Centuries – Fallout Boy
Warriors – Imagine Dragons
Critical Mistakes – 888
Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon
I have no idea what any of this says about me… it’s just what I listen to!
Q: When creating a new story do you start with the plot or the characters? You do you start with the ending, the beginning or just somewhere in the middle.
The world, actually! Usually that’s the first thing that occurs to me. What the world looks like, how it might feel to live in it… and then from there, characters start to form. I automatically go for the person in this world who thinks they’re nothing special — a “nobody.” How would that person feel, and what might they want? How would they get it, and what would stand in their way? From there, a plot begins to take shape.
Q: Most of your books are science fiction — what got you into the genre?
Wishbone, actually! It’s funny — I can trace my love of sci-fi back to a single book: the Wishbone adaptation of Legion of Space, Unleashed in Space. It was a fun space adventure, written in the era of old-school sci-fi, and I liked it so much I tracked down the original Jack Williamson novel. It. Was. Awesome. I was maybe 10 or 11, and I quickly became obsessed with old-school sci-fi. I borrowed every Jack Williamson book my library had, and then I moved on to his contemporaries, and then I discovered more and more of the genre. And then Galaxy Quest hit theaters. I’d never watched classic Star Trek (only a bit of Next Generation with mom), so I didn’t get any of the references, but I just thought it was a fantastic romp through the stars.
I wanted more space books and space movies… and that’s when I discovered a little thing called Star Wars (I hadn’t grown up on it — didn’t discover it till middle school). I actually found the novelizations of the original trilogy first, and I liked them so much, I hunted down the originals… in a seedy pirated DVD shop in Hong Kong, where I was living at the time (I was 12 and I had no money, okay?). Accidentally binge-watched the entire trilogy in one night (a school night!) and went to class starry-eyed the next day. From there, there was no turning back. Sci-fi was my THING.
Q: What is your earliest memory of art?
Hmm… probably playing violin as a toddler. I started playing when I was three, and I have very vague memories of finger tapes, fun little tricks to remember how to hold the bow (make a fox, and the fox is eating a carrot!), using sponges as shoulder rests…
Q: If there is a person (dead or alive) you’d like to meet and get advice from — about writing, life, etc?
Ursula Le Guin (may she rest in peace). I would have loved to learned from her anything she was willing to share.
Q: You specialized in composition while at Princeton University, who is your favorite composer? How did that influence your writing?
I don’t think I have a single favorite — there are too many great ones out there! And I tend to like most music… it takes a special kind of horrible for me to dislike a song. Though a piece that’s been special to me is Verdi’s Requiem. I was so obsessed with it in college, I wrote my junior paper on it, and then took inspiration from it for my senior composition thesis.
Most of my characters tend to be performing artists of some kind, and I think that’s because I’ve studied music since I was so little (pretty sure I learned to read music before I could read words). Music also tends to weave its way into my writing unintentionally through the descriptions. I think it’s just how I perceive sound now.
Q: What are you currently reading?
I’m currently on something of a horror kick. I just finished For Emmy, a creepy little novella by Mary San Giovanni, and I’m about to start Brian Keene’s The Rising. Also have Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation on deck after that.
Q: Why is a raven like a writing desk?
Because they’re both solid objects on Earth. Considering the size of the universe — not to mention the multiverse — and how much of it is made up of dark matter, that’s actually very specific.
Q: Tea or coffee?
You can learn more about Mary Fan books when you visit her website: www.maryfan.com