(Originally posted August 9, 2022 by Alicia Cay)
An award-winning author, and a regular to the pages of Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, writer and editor Mica Scotti Kole gave us the chance to peal back the pages and get a glimpse inside the life of a dreamer, artist, and someone who has followed her dreams straight into a reality …
Mica is a published science fiction writer, developmental editor, and Writers of the Future winner. She’s currently pursuing traditional publication with a virtual-reality novel about a kid stuck inside a video game boss—all while making an Actual Living as a fantasy ghostwriter on the side. She grows too many plants, brews her own beer, and makes googly noises over her goofy husband and their one-too-many cats. She once wrote 25,000 words in one day.
Alicia Cay: Hi Mica, welcome!
While I was reading about your many interests, I found out that you: can forge signatures, brew your own beer (I love that you name them after Magic the Gathering cards!), interned for Speilburg Literary Agency, founded #write4life, are a developmental editor, and are now making a living ghostwriting. Wow! What else should we know about you?
Mica Scotti Kole: You should know that my first love was writing; I’ve been doing it since my letters were an inch tall, and my stories were about polar bears riding hoverboards fueled by coconut milk.
But the thing about writing is that it’s not very physical, and to combat that, I’ve picked up some physical hobbies. Right now, I’m learning home renovation one project at a time (I was recently at Home Depot buying so much base molding that a stranger asked if I owned my own business), and I’m doing some heavy duty gardening (while periodically digging up the same toad who is absolutely terrorizing me), and a few years ago I picked up homebrewing to try to get my husband out of his computer chair (beer? yes, please!) … which hasn’t worked (beer someone else made? That I don’t need to help with? Double yes please!).
Sadly, however, I’m currently addicted to the Genshin Impact video game… so I have even more reason to get out of my chair, if only to ensure the blood keeps flowing in my legs.
AC: I think being terrorized by this toad while gardening is an idea begging to be made into a short story—haha!
Speaking of short stories, you have a new one out—“Still City”—in the current issue of Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, July 2022, Issue 57.
“The walls are so bare, they reverberate. She took all the pictures down, but the memories still hang.”
Can I just say, this story is beautiful—futuristic, haunting, and full of longing—it makes the reader feel all the things that are going on in this story, but without telling them to feel it. Really lovely.
What inspired this story?
MSK: I’ve been through a divorce myself, at nineteen of all times. It taught me that people will endure a lot of bullshahonkey that makes them unhappy, clinging endlessly to something that is bad for them because Change Is Hard—until the one moment where some proverbial straw breaks the proverbial camel’s back, and they are just Done. I wanted to explore that point for a character.
At the same time, I also wanted to involve the powerful moment in the movie Shawshank Redemption where a character is released from a lifetime in prison, and the world he returns to is so different that he kills himself because he can’t understand it.
With these ideas, I then formulated a question: what if two people—presently getting a divorce—have to face a futuristic world with no one else but each other to help them deal with it? What would their final-straw moments be?
AC: That’s powerful! And once our readers check out your story “Still City” that explanation will hit home even harder.
You also have a short story — “Grave 657” — in a prior issue of Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, January 2021, Issue 48.
Tell us what that story is about? What inspired it?
MSK: Holy cow, this one has a story. During the Writers of the Future workshop, the mentors challenge the winners to write a short story in a day. We brainstormed these stories in “class”, and mine was about a robot mourning a human loss at a candlelight vigil.
One of the mentors, Orson Scott Card, absolutely destroyed this idea, rightfully saying that “a robot acting human” is too cliché, and to throw this story right out.
So, I twisted the story up, made some changes, and Card ended up looking at a revised copy later. He then said to the whole group, “Look, I don’t know which of you wrote this, but I didn’t think you could do it, and you really, really pulled it off. Well done.” True glory moment, right there.
AC: That gave me goosebumps, what Scott Card said about your story. That is an incredible glory moment!
You mentioned you’re currently working on a virtual-reality novel about a kid stuck inside a video-game boss, and on your website it mentions a saga fantasy you’re writing—tell us about that one.
MSK: Oh, gosh, I’ve had to shelve that saga. I’m hoping I can get it out into the world someday … but it’s an elemental-type magic system (fire, water, earth, air) that spans seven planes of existence (Magic the Gathering actually invented the term “planeswalker”, so I can’t use it … cry).
The novel started off exactly as basic as it sounds, since I worked on it as a preteen; but as I aged, I wrote new stories from different worlds and times within this same invented universe. So, in a way, as I grew and improved as a writer, the story itself grew and improved as well. It was my learning experience, and I may return to rewrite it someday.
As a teaser though, the saga included: a modern-day competition to become God, multiple cities built over pits (of the lava and bottomless variety, respectively), and giant snails that control gravity. A far cry from the “let’s use the elements and defeat the evil guy” story it all began with 🙂
If you haven’t noticed, I like to take people somewhere dark and weird without them knowing they are headed somewhere dark and weird, until it’s too late. The same goes for some of my science fiction.
AC: I think taking your readers somewhere dark and weird is an excellent description of your award-winning short story, “Are You the Life of the Party?” in the Writers of the Future, Vol. 35, anthology.
This was the first piece of yours I read, and dear readers, it will stick with you long after you’ve put the anthology down.
Mica, this one is so dark it almost leans to horror in mood and tone. Was this piece intended to be horror?
MSK: It was supposed to be plain old science fiction … turns out it’s not only dark, but that the staff and other winners at Writers of the Future described it as, “Oh no, girl, this is totally horror.” I wasn’t aware it was even “dark” until I met my illustrator, and he said, “I knew my writer was a woman. I had four of you to guess from, and you were my last guess.”
Another glory moment, thank you and good night.
AC: I myself enter and know many other up-and-coming writers who enter the Writers of the Future contest. Tell us a bit about your win and what’s happened for you since then.
MSK: I’d only entered once and lost without mention, then barely squeaked into third place with my second, completely different entry. The main thing you get as a winner, I think, is encouragement—they really make you believe you can do this for a living, and they give you the advice to make it more possible than ever.
As for my writing career, oh boy did it pay off, but not immediately.
See my timeline:
2019: WotF inspires me to self-publish.
2019: I self-publish a seven-book fantasy erotica series.
2020: The series fails miserably.
2022: One of my fellow winners meets a guy who needs erotic fantasy ghostwriters, he remembers what I published, and refers me.
I now make good money writing fantasy—all because Writers of the Future inspired me to do the exact, specific things I needed to become the exact, specific ghostwriter this guy needed, while also giving me the exact connection I needed to get the job to begin with.
Basically, both connections and failures pay off, and the more you have of both, the better your chances of succeeding. WotF gave me what I needed to fail well, and also to eventually succeed.
AC: It’s so true in the writing world that “both connections and failures pay off.” I think it’s knowing things like that which inspire so many writers to keep at it—to keep climbing that mountain and writing the next story. Who are some writers that have inspired you?
MSK: M. J. Kuhn, who wrote Among Thieves—this woman is superhuman—her book (agented and published by a Simon & Schuster imprint) is incredible. It’s The Lies of Locke Lamora meets Six of Crows, and she wrote, pitched, and edited it while working a full-time job and working toward a master’s degree and working out every day and maintaining an online platform presence and being a friggin’ bridesmaid at my wedding. Oh, and she’s also a great person. Gods know that takes effort too.
I should stress here that a writer need not be superhuman to succeed. I really admire anyone who writes while having kids or a day job (or both), but everyone’s path is different. You don’t have to burn yourself out to succeed, either. Self-care is important (I’m looking at you, too, M. J.).
AC: Any favorite novels that have inspired you?
MSK: Interestingly, it was Maggie Stiefvater’s incredible writing (e.g. The Raven Boys) that anti-inspired me, in a good way. I was reading that novel and realized, this woman writes so beautifully. I can literally never be this good. It was actually quite freeing.
I discovered then that I was a commercial writer, not a prose artist, and that I didn’t have to be a word master to write for a living—I could just be me. And throwing away that yardstick changed my career for the better. After all, Brandon Sanderson writes without frilly words, and he does just fine, amirite?
AC: What moves you to write?
MSK: I’ve been writing since I was four years old and just never stopped. And when I found out—while reading Harry Potter—that I have the same birthday as both Harry and J. K. Rowling, well, that made it clear writing was my destiny. Twelve-year-old logic, but still.
Dreams usually inspire my stories somehow—some random, wacky dream snippet (say, the sole gamer who can speak to a child trapped in a game boss), that I then pair with another concept (let’s involve Roku’s Basilisk somehow!), setting (let’s play this virtual reality game while on board on a spaceship!), or idea (hmm, now there has to also be Dyson spheres) which eventually wrangles itself into a book. Which is an exact example from the book I’m currently revising, running title Armor Like Glass.
As for my inspiration to keep writing… I have to. Quite simply, I would die without it.
AC: Where can we read more of your work?
MSK: I have a (happier) story in the Resurrection Trust anthology.
There’s my WotF win, which is one of the best volumes ever, in more than just my opinion. Seriously, the winners my year were mind-blowing, and to even make third place beside these people is one of the greatest honors of my life.
I’ve also got my winning Reedsy story up, if anyone wants a freebie.
“Still City” – Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, July 2022, Issue 57.
“Three, Two, One”-Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, Sept 2021, Issue 52.
“Grave 657” – Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, Jan 2021, Issue 48.
And, I offer Developmental Editing Services, if anyone’s keen on that.
I’m focused on my novel now, so there’s not many of my short stories out there, except—Galaxy’s Edge Magazine has more coming out soon!
AC: That’s great to hear. I for one can’t wait to read them.
Thank you so much for this, Mica! We wish you all the best going forward.
Find more about Mica at her website ~ micascottikole.com