The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Tiphanie Yanique

Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!

Today we’re joined by Tiphanie Yanique, author of the short story collection How to Escape from a Leper Colony, and the picture book I Am the Virgin Islands. Her first novel, Land of Love and Drowning, is available now from Riverhead. Her writing has won the 2011 BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Fiction, Boston Review Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, and an Academy of American Poet’s Prize. Tiphanie was born in the Virgin Islands and today splits her time between Brooklyn and St. Thomas.

Join us to learn what personal quirk Tiphanie shares with one of her characters!

Describe your favorite place to read/write?

On the beach in St. Thomas. I love reading there. I love writing there.

Do you have a favorite unknown author?

I really like this sci-fi book I’m reading now by the new writer, Daniel Jose Older. It’s called Salsa Nocturna. That’s some strange bad stuff.

What’s your favorite sandwich?

The cheese sandwich from the Cuban deli around the corner from where I live. They add plantain and melt it all. Sounds crazy but it is the definition of delicious.

Tiphanie Yanique Land of Love and DrowningPlease relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.

One thing that I’ve never admitted in print or online before is that I have a love of earlobes. This affection for earlobes is so strange that it seems a little creepy, so I generally keep it to myself. People’s earlobes can be soft or floppy and so nice to touch. Only social graces keeps me from touching the earlobes of strangers. But I gave this quirk to one of my characters in Land of Love and Drowning… and then made it more extreme. My character, Captain Owen Bradshaw, loves stroking earlobes, especially his own. For him this is a symptom of a very dark and creepy sensory need.

What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?

I’m from the Caribbean. Our real lives are fantasy filled. Goat footed women. Spiders that talk and steal stuff. Men peal away from the skin on their body at night. My grandparents were the fantasy storytellers. The first truly fantasy writer I was into as a young adult was Nalo Hopinkson.

What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)

I love everything superhero. Everything. Even the most awful movies. If there’s a superhero, then I’m down with spending too much money on a movie ticket and buying a bucket of popcorn. I generally think I’m an indie movie snob…but if there’s a dude who can fly or a chick who can turn your eyelids into burning dust, I’m all over that.

Heroes vs. Villains—which are more fun to write?

Everyone always says that villains are more fun to write. Not for me. Villains suck. And writers sometimes really suck at writing villains. Too often you have to create some kind of fake reason in the family history for why this guy is so pissed off. Don’t get me wrong. I know an abusive childhood…personally. I know how that stuff can make you, well, mean. But it’s just too simplistic for me. X leads to Z. Blah. I prefer the complexity of the reluctant hero. That’s all of us. So you can really do a lot, whatever you want really, with a reluctant hero. That person can be a real human being transformed by an unusual circumstance.

What kind of apocalypse (zombie, robot, environmental, etc.) is most compatible with your survival skills? And what kind of apocalypse would you like to avoid at all costs?

I would totally rock a zombie apocalypse. I would convince those dummies to make me their zombie queen. But I would die within days of an environmental apocalypse. I just do not want to be fighting with other humans over natural resources. It would make me so sad that I’d probably throw myself into the first tidal wave.

If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be? Why?

I want part two to A House in the Country by Jose Donosco. That book is surreal and creepy and I want to know what becomes of those weird children.

What’s your favorite fairy tale?

I love “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.” Someday, I’m going to write a modern update of that. Even as a very little girl I remember being really impressed that the princesses go out dancing, have their fun, despite their overprotective father actually locking them in. And they dance so much they ruin their shoes. Every single night they do this! Together! I love their bonding. I love their badass rebellion.

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