Silk Road Assistant Editor: Bruno Gegenhuber

Bruno Gegenhuber Picture (color)

Major: Biology, Creative Writing Minor

Graduation Year: 2016

Hometown: Roseburg, OR

What do you look for in a Silk Road piece (or any writing)?

When I read a short story, the first thing I look for is conflict and how the conflict serves to deepen the reader’s understanding of society and human experience. If the story fails to establish a problem within the first page, whether it be something as subtle as a disagreement between two characters or as clear as a single gunshot in a crowded room, then it can no longer be classified as a story for nothing is brought into light. I think a lot of the stories I read establish this too late and, in doing so, sacrifice both the reader’s interest and a tight narrative structure. The second thing I look for is character development, which can only happen once the conflict is established – the fuel for the fire of change. Without development, characters often fall flat, and the reader is robbed of forming any sort of emotional connection to that story. Oddly enough, the last thing I read for is the actual writing, which can present itself in infinite styles or quirks depending on the structure and topic of the narrative. As it usually is with art, the method of conveying meaning can vary widely and still make a strong impact. However, the deeper meaning of a story will always be more important to me than the vessel it’s carried in.

If you could have ANY job once you graduate, what would you love to do?

If I could have any job once I graduate, I would love to work as a national park ranger or an archaeologist or a marine biologist – anything that would keep me outdoors and surrounded by places of magic. The outside world is the breeding ground for creativity and story, in my opinion.

Do you have any authors (or pieces of literature) that inspire you?

The last novel I read that honestly inspired me was On Writing by Stephen King. I went through a phase in my life where I read five or six instructional books on writing, and this is the only one I’ve found that offers an honest look into the craft and structure of the art. Indeed, King reveals in his forward that “this is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit”, and I have to say I agree with him. On Writing was instrumental in my development as a writer. It taught me most of the key grammar rules and how to set up a scene, write dialog, etc. Before this one, I was inspired by Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, and before that, it was Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Both of these books instilled such a strong sense of wonder and jealousy in me that I wanted to write something equally imaginative. These books tell very human stories in unreal settings – stories of passion, betrayal, loyalty, courage, and deceit – and this ability to use a human story to ground something which would otherwise be considered too fantastical or too niche is something I love about these works.

What does Silk Road embody to you? What words would you use to describe Silk Road to someone who knows nothing about it?

To me, the Silk Road embodies the intersection of place and writing. It’s a magazine committed to giving a voice to those we, as readers, have not heard from, to people from different countries and cultures and people with unique and new perspectives on human experience. This magazine is for anyone who harbors a desire to expand and grow through listening to others. Every story in the Silk Road has something to say – an original message on the way of the world or the way of the heart. It’s dramatic, and it’s real. It’s unflinching and compelling. It’s diverse, different, and creative. The Silk Road explores the deepest corners of the human self throughout the deepest corners of the living world.

Showcased Writer: Terry Madden

terry_madden_photoInterviewed by: Bre Hall

Three Wells of the Sea from Issue 12

Terry Madden Maulhardt is a novelist and award-winning screenwriter, has wandered the lands of historical and mainstream fiction, returning recently to her first love, speculative fiction.  With a degree in biology, Terry has worked in molecular biology and genetic research labs and currently teaches high school chemistry and astronomy at a California boarding school.

As a novelist and award-winning screenwriter, Terry Madden has written historical and mainstream fiction, returning recently to her first love, speculative fiction. With a degree in biology, Terry has worked in molecular biology and genetic research labs and currently teaches high school chemistry and astronomy at a California boarding school. She enjoys sharing the night sky with young people, encouraging them to look beyond what Carl Sagan called our pale blue dot. She is equally immersed in ancient history and mythology, as she is in terraforming and space exploration.

Terry’s science fiction appears in volume 30 of the Writers of the Future Anthology. She is currently at work on the second novel in her fantasy series, Three Wells of the Sea.

How and when did you come to writing?

I started writing in high school, mostly poetry, but set it aside when I went to college. I had a professor for a poetry class who urged me to take his creative writing class, but alas, as a pre-med major, I had no room in my schedule. I have often thought I would have come to writing fiction much earlier had I taken that class. As it was, I didn’t start writing until I quit my day job as a research lab technician to stay home with my first child. I started writing when she napped every day. I had no idea what I was doing, so I just wrote scenes. This started me on a ten year quest to learn how to put a story together. It led me to dabble in screenwriting where I had a small degree of success before I set writing aside to teach full time. Thirteen years went by before the muse came knocking again.

What was the inspiration for Three Wells of the Sea?

My inspiration for Three Wells of the Sea was a conversation with a student. At the time, I was teaching astronomy and we had been discussing parallel universes in class. Somehow we got on the topic of online games as being a kind of parallel universe. We posed the question, what if the people you interact with in a game are really the dead? After many iterations, the idea developed into its current form, a heroic/contemporary fantasy novel, but the gaming element has been dropped entirely. I am so grateful to my student for pestering me to start an outline of the story. I had sworn off writing years before, and if he hadn’t kept after me, kept the “what-if” present in my mind, I’m not sure I would have come back to the craft at all.

Since Silk Road has received Three Wells of the Sea as a first chapter submission, have you continued the story of Connor and Dish or do you have plans to? If so, can you share a glimpse of what those plans include?

Three Wells of the Sea is complete and I am in the process of finding a publishing home for it. I am hard at work on book two, The Crooked Path, continuing the adventures of Connor and Dish in the land they know as the Five Quarters, a land where a murdered king is raised from the dead to take back his throne and repair the mistakes of another lifetime. The story will culminate in book three, The Salamander’s Smile, still in the preliminary sketch phase.  I am currently uploading installments of a “historical” prequel to Three Wells of the Sea on the writers’ website, Wattpad. The Wood is an ongoing novella based on the early people of the Five Quarters and is something akin to tales found in the Irish epic known as the Book of Invasions.

In between, I write short stories, mostly science fiction, and have recently won the highly competitive speculative fiction contest known as the Writers of the Future Award.  My winning story appears in the Writers of the Future Anthology, Volume 30, which came out in May.

Do you think writing has helped you grow in other areas of your life? If so, how? In what areas?

Stephen King once said, “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.” Writers are the archeologists of the soul, uncovering these stories and presenting them to readers who recognize them as part of the collective unconscious, clues to who we are as human beings. My writing has been exactly that for me, an exploration of my place in the universe, and by extension, our collective place in the universe. I am an introvert by nature and I’ve always felt that writing allows me to explore the ties that bind people on a level I don’t usually experience. It allows me to live dangerously in the safety of my own head.  Writing is, like all art, a mirror of the soul for writer and reader alike.

As a teacher, you work closely with youth. Do you have any advice to give young writers, or young people in general, who are trying to pursue their goals and passions?

I am currently the moderator of a feisty group of teen writers who have formed a creative writing club on my campus. The advice I give them is to listen to criticism, but don’t take every bit of it to heart. Use what rings true and discard the rest, but don’t close your mind to input, it’s the only way to grow as a writer, and I would venture to say, as a person. Also, write many stories, don’t slave away on one pet project believing it is your opus magnum. Writing is an ongoing exploration and getting stuck on one project will prevent the evolution of craft. But don’t ever stop, don’t ever give up, it’s too important to your soul.