Today I’m excited to continue my #Ownvoices spotlight series with an author who has a fantastic name (if I do say so myself), Diana Pinguicha. By day she works as a video game writer and developer, and by night she’s a speculative fiction author; her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies, including the International Speculative Fiction Anthology of European Speculative Fiction (which can be downloaded completely FREE). Today she’s here to discuss the challenges associated with different types of writing, representation in fiction, and more!
Please give Diana a warm welcome.
Can you tell us a bit about your most recent stories, Rebellion and Heart of Stone?
I’ll have to go back a bit for Rebellion! Around 2011, I decided to get a Certificate of Proficiency in English just in case I needed one for jobs abroad. When we were preparing for the writing section of the exam, our teacher gave us an assignment: write a short story that ended with a line of a Pulp Fiction Western he was reading at the time. I went out of my way to make it non-western, but it still needed horses and sand, so I wrote a story about a bio-engineered soldier telling a girl of her escape from the Government and its control. I also made it second person because it’s a sorely under-used form of narrative. In the end, I ended up submitting it to ISF, and it was accepted!
With Heart of Stone, it came from an invitation to submit. The editor asked me if I wanted to try writing a story for a Steampunk anthology. I LOVE the genre, but sadly, haven’t written a lot in it, so I jumped at the chance. Since one of the things I adore about Steampunk is the gadgets, I decided to go with a heist story that has a little bit of a mind-bending factor. Namely, introducing advanced AIs to a Steampunk universe.
So far you’ve published exclusively short stories. Have you ever thought about writing a novel?
I do write novels, actually! After Rebellion, my CPE teacher encouraged me to try my hand at it, maybe change colleges to focus on writing. I didn’t change colleges, but I started writing more and more in my spare time. When I realized Engineering classes were starting to take a backseat to writing, I realized that writing was what I was meant to do.
So, I wrote a novel. (Spoiler alert: it sucked) I researched how to get published in the US/UK, what those mythical creatures called agents were, how different it was from the Portuguese editorial world. I wrote a query, which, spoiler alert, also sucked. Somehow, I got this wonderful agent to request a full, he rejected it, but complimented me on my English and said it couldn’t possibly be my second language. We kept in touch, and he was a great help when book 2 happened, then book 3, then book 4.
Book 4 is what got me my agent, Natalie. It’s a YA Fantasy about a spy who’s sent to brainwash a country in submission, only to meet a girl who makes her question everything. We’ve got some great feedback on it, and are in the process of undergoing an R&R from a couple of editors from different houses. So… fingers crossed!
What is your favourite thing about writing short stories?
The challenge. Short stories need to tell a complete tale in much less words than novels do, and fitting a narrative within short wordcount constraints is never easy. It forces you to be more succinct, to choose with more care, and I love it about them.
You’re also a game developer and writer by day. How did you first get into writing for games?
Video games are how it all started for me. When I was 12, I played Ocarina of Time, and at the time, I’d had two years of English classes. The entire game was so intriguing to me, I was DESPERATE to understand all of it. I armed myself with a dictionary, and whenever I didn’t know a word (it happened often) I’d jot it down and look it up. Zelda helped me develop my English a lot, and in that summer, I went from “passable foreigner speaking English” to “almost fluent.” OoT was the first game whose story I understood, and until then, I’d had no idea games could have stories that good.
I googled “games with the best stories” and discovered all the Infinity Engine games (mainly, Baldur’s Gate II and Planescape: Torment), and adventure games like Grim Fandango and The Longest Journey. I must’ve been 14 at the time, and I remember thinking “I want to write games.” Much to my parents’ frustration, I shifted my focus from getting into Med School to Engineering. I thought, “I’m good at Math and Physics, I can start as a programmer and move to game writing.”
It seemed like SUCH A GOOD IDEA at the time. But the more I studied computer engineering, the more I found myself drifting away from it to just… write. I stuck to the course, and finished it, but after two years, I realized writing was what made me happy. I wrote some super short game concepts while in college, almost won awards with them.
Long story short: I always wanted to write for games, and writing books and short stories is a compliment to that. It’s my ultimate goal to merge all of those together!
Who are your favourite #ownvoices authors right now?
K. Jemisin writes the most amazing fantasies I’ve ever read and everyone should read her books. Tiffany D. Jackson’s Allegedly is another piece of beautiful writing, and it will RIP YOUR HEART OUT. Sarah Raughley’s Fate of Flames was a super fun book I wholeheartedly recommend. Meredith Russo’s also amazing, and, of course, I don’t think I need to mention Angie Thomas, who had me from the very first page of THUG. Louise Gornall’s Under Rose Tainted Skies really touched me, too, and it’s a very accurate story about living with mental illness. Oh, and Adam Silvera had me crying within the first 30 pages of History is All You Left Me.
How would you like to see representation change in the next 5 years?
I’d love to see more books from international, non-US perspectives, specifically from countries you almost never hear of, and from English non-native speakers. More stories from marginalized groups, because their experiences are important and shouldn’t be overlooked.
I’d also love to have more Fantasy/Science Fiction books that deal with mental illness, and not in a “the villain was disturbed” way, but in a “the protagonist is sick, and still needs to find a way to make it work”.
What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?
Aside from the R&R I mentioned above for my YA Fantasy, I’m working on another Fantasy about a character who’s believed to be the key to the Gods, and whose mind deteriorates the closer she gets to them. In parallel, I’m plotting a re-telling of The Miracle of Roses, a Portuguese legend about Queen Elizabeth of Aragon, who reportedly sneaked out of the castle to deliver bread to the poor—and, upon getting caught, transformed the bread she was carrying into roses. And, last but not least, I have a Middle Grade novel in the works called Cat Dragons. That one came to me when I realized my bearded dragon was acting more and more like my cats: going into boxes, staring at pigeons, climbing the cats’ scratching post… I realized they all deserved a book in their honor, and I came up with an idea about how the dragons of old were eating everything, and so the warlocks of old separated them into cats and bearded dragons—and how a 12-year-old girl inadvertently puts them back together!
<h3>About the Author</h3>
Born and raised in the sunny land of Portugal, Diana lives in Lisbon, where she works as a game developer and writer. In her free time, she can be found writing (obviously), painting, and devouring extraordinary quantities of books and video games—especially anything on the fantasy spectrum. Keeping her company are two awesome kitties, Sushi and Jubas, and her bearded dragon Norbert!