Sarah Gailey opened her Reddit AMA by letting people know she was an officiant, so she can’t be totally surprised that someone asked her to officiate their wedding. When a fan of her Women of Harry Potter series asked if she would do the honors in the event that their boyfriend ever proposed, however, Gailey was more than up to the task:
ABSOLUTELY. I’m a stellar wedding officiant and I tear up the dancefloor. I will make all your relatives cry from emotions, and then later, from the power of my Sick Moves.
But that wasn’t all she had to offer. In the midst of dispensing writing wisdom and talking about the D&D alignment for her two pups, she also defused a bomb. With nothing but a pen, some nickels, and a slew of odd animals, no less!
Here are the highlights of Sarah “Not a Jellyfish” Gailey’s AMA:
On Jellyfish and Hippos
ShrikeyShrike: (1) Which of your various careers and hobbies are most compatible with your demonic nature?
(2) If you WERE in fact fifty jellyfish in a trenchcoat, which of your careers/hobbies would be most compatible with THAT?
SG: (1) Being a writer is the most compatible career with my terrifying soul, because it lets me learn new stuff all the time. There’s nothing quite like writing for someone with my voracious brain. Boxing is my best hobby, because it gives me an outlet for the deep well of rage that simmers deep in my gullet.
(2) Oh, you know, stinging people, floating around, being poisonous and mysterious. Nothing like what I do now.
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ErDiCooper: When you set out to write River of Teeth, did you know you’d become The Hippo Lady of genre fiction?
SG: Oh my god, I had no idea. It’s completely amazing. And terrifying. I wrote that thing thinking I’d never be able to send it to anyone, much less SELL it, and then lo, “hippo cowboys” turned out to be a pretty pitchable concept!
How Do Spreadsheets Help with Writing?
TheMadTinker: How do you do the thing where you make a spreadsheet of your book and then actually make your book look something like that spreadsheet? How do you decide on target lengths for your scenes/chapters? How do you make the words go?
- The spreadsheet thing is black magic. But really, I’m just using the spreadsheet to outsource my mental organization, because my brain is made of a soft goat cheese and I can’t store information in it.
- I make the words go by sitting down and hitting myself in the temple with a large quartz crystal until the high tones in my skull quiet down enough for me to hear The Voice, which says ‘if you don’t make wordcount, you’ll miss your deadline’.
- I target lengths by dividing my total target length for the book by the number of chapters I’ve decided on. So, if I want a book to be novel-length and I want it to have 27 chapters because that’s how I’ve outlined the plot, and I assume I’m going to add at least 5k words in each revision, I’ll shoot for like 3300 words per chapter. Scenes just kind of go how they go.
Get in There and Mix Up the Tropes!
superkickbarmitzvah: What’s your favorite SFF trope that you feel never gets used enough?
SG: Look this might be obvious but give me more I AM NO MAN moments in all the stories. Give me a prophecy that is like “no man or woman born can remove the sword from the lake” and then an enby hero shows up like YEAH, I’M THE MONARCH NOW. Give me more people pulling off their helms to reveal that they’re the prince but the prince is a WOMAN. Give me a world where ‘queen’ is the ruling title but that doesn’t mean a female monarch. [pounds fists on podium] M O R E
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FakeSeismologist: Are there any topics you REALLY WANNA explore in a story or book but haven’t figured out how to yet?
SG: I really want to write about this thing, okay, bear with me here. You know how there’s the trope where romance between classes is forbidden? Like, YOU CAN’T MARRY HIM, HE’S A CHIMBLEYSWEEP AND YOU’RE A DUCHESS kind of thing? Well, I really want to write about the ways in which that in some ways represents a responsible approach to power. Like, if a prince gets into a Thing with a street urchin, part of why that’s not okay is because the street urchin doesn’t have the institutional ability to say NO to the prince, which instills their relationship with a massive and harmful power imbalance. But like, you know, How Write Words??
Shower Singing is For Everyone
FerrettHimself: What is the song you rock the hardest when you are singing your heart out in the shower? For I know you do. I know you do.
Bonus question: Have you ever made hippo noises in the bathtub as part of your authorial research?
Bonus answer: I have never made hippo noises in the tub because I don’t want to accidentally call the hippos of Portland to my location. OBVIOUSLY.
Doggo D&D Alignment
leftoverbrine: Do you have any pets? If so what is their alignment (Lawful/chaotic/neutral/good/evil)?
SG: I have two doggerinos named Pepper Jack and Hank. Hank is chaotic neutral — as long as there is The Ball, he doesn’t give a single damn about anything else in this world. Pepper Jack is lawful neutral — he knows how to work the system to his benefit, and ‘good’ or ‘bad’ are not related to ‘give him the peanut budders GIVE HIM PEANUT. BUDDERS GIVE HIM. PEANUTBUDDERS’.
How to Defuse A Bomb: A Short Summary
MRMaresca: OK, Sarah. You’re locked in a closet in the penthouse of JW Marriot in downtown St. Louis with an ocelot, an opossum and an oriole. The only thing in your pockets are three nickels and a mint condition 1905 Parker 62 Vintage pen with a teardrop-vent #2 Lucky Curve nib. In fourteen minutes, a bomb will explode two floors down, killing the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, and you’re the only one who knows that. WHAT DO YOU DO, SARAH?
SG: I gently squeeze the opossum round the belly to harvest some of the extremely caustic acid possums emit. I fill the barrel of the pen with said acid and use it to inscribe a series of runes on the rear wall of the closet. Said runes activate the oriole’s natural fear of demons, and the bird smashes through the closet door, setting me free. I run downstairs and feed the bomb to the ocelot, whose natural lead lining and plexiglass exterior will shield us all from the blast. I throw the nickels at the bartender and ask for his finest fifteen-cent whiskey.
MRMaresca: I had a feeling you knew the great runecasting powers of a teardrop-vent #2 Lucky Curve nib.
mynameisntdick: Can we expect more hippo stories in the future?
SG: YES! In AMERICAN HIPPO, the River of Teeth omnibus, there are two brand-new short stories. The first explains how Ruby got her teeth; the second is about the nine and a half times Archie saved Houndstooth’s life, and also how she met Gran Carter.
Hugo and Campbell finalist Sarah Gailey is the author of River of Teeth and its sequel, Taste of Marrow—both available now from Tor.com Publishing. Look for the omnibus edition, American Hippo, in May 2018!
In the rest of her AMA, Gailey weighs in on everything from Kesha to Jurassic Park, and the war between Sarahs and Saras. Check it out here!