Alycia Barboza is a fiction writer currently living in Knoxville, Tennessee with her partner and their two cats. She is in the process of obtaining degrees in creative writing and cultural studies and spends her weekends playing Dungeons and Dragons. When she’s not busy attempting to finish her first novel, she watches reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and drinks a lot of craft beer.
You can find her website at alyciabarboza.wordpress.com
or follow her on Twitter @AlyciaWrites
or on Instagram @_ronald_raygun_
We’re delighted to be able to ask Alycia some questions, both about her story To Whom Do We Belong? and about her life.
To Whom Do We Belong? is a story many women are familiar with, a story that, at its heart, is about the expectation of women to be mothers. While at a family get-together, the story’s narrator, a woman in her late 20s, has her life choices questioned time and time again. But are her family just pushy? Or is there something else going on?
Before I was old enough to write she would take down the stories I spouted in little notebooks which I would then illustrate with marker scribbles
Firstly, can you tell me a bit about To Whom Do We Belong? Was it based on anything you’ve experienced in your own life?
The story was taken—almost verbatim—from a real conversation I had with my sister-in-law. There are so many conversations happening, especially over the last few years in America, about women’s bodies, their autonomy, and who gets to have a say. I found a certain level of irony in a conversation which casually shamed me for not wanting children and which also condemned doctors for refusing a woman who’d already had children a choice in whether she should have any more. It made me realize that there is sometimes a quiet conflict even in the company of other women and I wanted to express those feelings by giving readers a story that, I hope, is a relatable look into what many of us experience.
In your bio, you mention that you’re studying towards two degrees, can you tell us a bit more about that? How do you manage to juggle studying so much and still having a life?
I’m still early days in my studies and I go to school entirely online which definitely helps me manage my time in a way that suits my needs. I’m also pursuing subjects that I already know a lot about (one of the benefits of returning to school in your late twenties) which cuts down on the amount of time I spend studying. I expect that the workload will ramp up as I enter my third year, but for now, I feel like I have a good balance between school, work, and social life.
There’s loads of interesting things on your website, but the thing that immediately caught my eye is the freelance services you offer – how’ve you found offering your services freelance as a writer?
Freelance (and ghost) writing definitely isn’t glamorous, but it gives me a chance to hone my skills as a writer and allows me to explore genres that I might otherwise have ignored. I’ve had good luck with clients returning for more work and I’m slowly building a little portfolio for myself. I can’t say that it’s something I will want to do forever, but it’s worked out well for me so far.
So much of my own struggle with writing comes from feeling like the words have to be perfect and flow like water out of my fingers right away, but that’s not reality.
What are you currently reading? And which books to your To Read pile are screaming out at you to be read next?
I’m about halfway through Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. It’s the kind of book that draws me in for hours at a time, but because of the overwhelming number of appendixes and footnotes, I end up putting it down for weeks before picking it up again. That said, I’m enjoying the hell out of it and can’t wait to get to the end.
My “to read” pile is . . . where do I even begin? I pick up books constantly and the pile just grows and grows. I’ve been meaning to finish Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series since I read (and adored) the first two last summer. For anyone interested in both fantasy and queer fiction, I highly recommend them. In the same vein, I’ve been slowly making my way through Rassaku’s fantastically curated gay fiction booklist.
Who are the people who’ve inspired you most, both in your life and as a writer?
As a writer, I take no greater inspiration than from Neil Gaiman. I grew up obsessed with Harry Potter; J.K. Rowling definitely made me love books, but Gaiman made me love writing. The worlds and characters he builds are what I aspire to emulate every time I sit down to get words on the page.
In my personal life, my mom encouraged my creativity constantly as I was growing up. As an artist herself, she knows how wonderful and rewarding creative expression can be, and she’s been a constant cheerleader. Before I was old enough to write she would take down the stories I spouted in little notebooks which I would then illustrate with marker scribbles. I keep “Sally at the Park,” one such story, on my bookcase to this day.
You’ve tried a lot of different styles of writing, with samples of them on your website, but is there anything you find yourself particularly drawn to?
Fantasy, fantasy, fantasy! I have a love of many genres but none of them hold the same sway in my life that fantasy does. I play D&D, I run a forum roleplay site based on BioWare’s Dragon Age video games, I own three different versions of the Harry Potter series—I’m a big old fantasy nerd. I love themes of freedom, adventure, and the mystical and bizarre; all of these are tied pretty solidly to speculative fiction and fantasy. I also really enjoy horror and, occasionally, romance.
Finally, and this might be a little cliche to ask, but if you had one piece of advice for writers, what would it be?
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get the words just right. So much of my own struggle with writing comes from feeling like the words have to be perfect and flow like water out of my fingers right away, but that’s not reality. It’s okay to type ten words in a day if that’s all you have in you. It’s okay to take a break and come back later. It’s okay if your first draft looks like garbage. Edit when you can, take your time, and don’t push yourself so hard that you end up resenting the thing you’re supposed to enjoy.
Alycia, thank you very much for letting us ask you a few questions, and don’t wait too long before submitting to us again.