We interviewed writer Mallory Hill on her route to publishing, what she loves about science fiction, and why we should all be reading her debut novel, Terminal Regression.
You first found success with self-publishing. Why did you choose to go down that route and how did you move into a more traditional publishing arena?
When I decided to self-publish, I had been writing for several years and the book I chose, One Wish, was actually my twenty-ninth. Writing has always been a very personal experience for me, and I was extremely reluctant to share my work with anyone at all, much less to make it publically available. I was a freshman in college when I finally decided to put myself out there. I was going through a tough time trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and I thought it would be a good idea to explore my options.
Maybe this writing thing would take off and be the beginning of a whole new era for me. Initially, I tried to get traditionally published by entering a contest online. I didn’t win that year but placed as a runner up, and that gave me the confidence to keep going. I self-published on a smaller scale, just to sort of keep that story alive and get a feel for what publication was like. The next year, I entered the same contest with Terminal Regression, which was more personal than any other story I’d ever written, and it ended up winning.
Basically, I was very lucky two years in a row, and that led to the publication of both my books.
What is it about speculative fiction, and science fiction more specifically, that intrigues you?
I think what fascinates me most about this genre is how much freedom it allows. With other genres, those based more on reality, I feel like there’s an obligation to do research and stick to hard facts, whereas speculative/science fiction lets you decontextualize things and be as creative as you want.
For me particularly, being able to explore a theme from a more imaginative perspective makes it easier to write about difficult subject matter. Terminal Regression deals with mental illness, and I think being able to create a world that sort of paralleled the emotions of the protagonist really helped me express all the things I wanted to with the book.
Science fiction often deals with extremes, particularly dystopias and utopias. Why do you think this is such fertile grounds for storytelling?
Extremes are more dramatic. I think there’s sort of an idea in dystopia and utopia that this is where we could be if such and such were to happen. I think it’s often a reaction to political or social events happening in the real world that the author would like to see addressed.
With utopia, we see an ideal, something that we can strive for and set as our ultimate goal. Dystopia sort of shakes things up in that it forces us to reflect on ourselves and our world and be very critical. I think dystopia has really become such a big deal because dystopian societies are typically founded with the intention of making things better. You have to understand that there are so many conflicting perspectives out there and that sometimes what has become conventional isn’t necessarily morally correct. Looking at societies this way gives us a better understanding of our own world and teaches us to have a critical eye towards curative measures.
What genre tropes would you like to see retired/what unexplored avenues would you like to see the genre tackle?
The way I do speculative fiction is a little bit unusual. Often times these stories are very action packed and intense, which I think is wonderful and really don’t want to see retired. I tend to focus more on the characters and unpacking their individual reactions to what’s happening in their world. I try to make my work a bit lighter without making a joke of it.
But I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way of telling a story. Part of the beauty of fiction is you get to explore anything imaginable, and personally I’ve been known to enjoy a whole range of genres and tropes both in my own work and in others.
Why should we be reading Terminal Regression? What did you hope to achieve with this novel?
Terminal Regression is a story of overcoming your own obstacles. So many of us have experienced periods of self-doubt and feeling lost and hopeless, and I wanted to present a character who really understands that. Laura isn’t brave or skilled or special in any way. She’s just a person flung into this crazy situation who tries to make things right. I love this book because at the heart of it, behind all the speculation and dystopia, it’s real. I tend to think of it as a thinly veiled metaphor for my life, and I really did have to bare my soul a bit to write it. It would be awesome if it could raise awareness on what mental illness really looks like, but my main goal was just to connect with the reader and make them feel something. If it does that, I’ve done my job.
Mallory Hill is an anthropology major at Indiana University. She began writing books at fourteen and hasn’t stopped since. After a long and trying battle with her social ineptitude, she finally decided to transition from a hobby writer to an actual novelist. In addition to writing, Mallory also enjoys singing and musical theatre. Mallory lives in northern Indiana with her parents and four siblings. Terminal Regression is her first novel.
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