Author interview with Anna Klapdor

In this interview, I speak to Anna Klapdor, author of queer post-climate change fiction The Hand That Feeds, the first in the Nefarious series.

The Amazon links used here are affiliate links — I will receive a small commission from Amazon for any purchases you make. Thank you for supporting my website!

I first came across Anna Klapdor when I read her short story in the fantastic anthology Heads and Tales. Her story, written collaboratively with Danai Christopoulou, was one of my favourites from the collection, a sci-fi take on the myth of Perseus and Medusa. (You can read my review of Heads and Tales here!)

In April, Anna released her debut novel, The Hand That Feeds. It’s a post-climate change sci-fi with queer and neuro-divergent characters. It immediately caught my eye with a gorgeous cover, designed by Max Neumann, and I had to buy a copy!

I was delighted to catch up with Anna and find out more about her life, her writing process, and her journey as an author so far. Watch the The Hand That Feeds book trailer below then scroll down for our interview!

Anna KlapdorTell me about yourself — where do you live, your home life, your career, and your writing.

I live in the Ruhr region of Germany. I studied literature and theater science and started a PhD about contemporary German choir theater, but broke it off when I realized that a career in academia was not what I wanted. I worked as an independent artist in theater and performance arts, and cofounded the collective Anna Kpok, which devises performances at the intersection of theater and game. This way I also dabbled in game design a little bit. For a while, I tried to do everything at the same time. Day job, artist, writer. But it was too much for my health.

In a little experiment, I translated an old scene I’d written into English when I was on vacation. Unexpectedly, my writing exploded, and I realized that for some unknown reason, I can tell stories more freely in English than in my native tongue, German, so I stuck with it.

In early 2020, I received the diagnosis that I am autistic. That has been a turning point for me. I realized that I had been masking my autism all my life, that I was exhausting myself to an unhealthy degree and experiencing autistic burnout regularly as a result. So, I quit my day job, took a break from everything except writing, and writing actually helped me get back on my feet. I decided that now was as good a time as any to start going about this seriously.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

Yes, I did, but for the longest time, I didn’t dare to actually try. I thought I wasn’t good enough. But I had stories that needed out, and not getting them out was making me sick inside. I wrote my first story in elementary school, it was about a little girl finding a talking star that fell from the sky. I kept writing as a hobby for most of my life, but I had to admit at some point that it wasn’t enough, that I wanted to publish my stories and for them to be read by people.

Did you write many books/stories before The Hand That Feeds was published?

I wrote myriads of stories, finished almost none of them and published not any of them. I finished the first draft of THTF and showed it to my best friend, a very critical academic whom I can trust to be brutally honest with me, and they said that it was the best piece of fiction they’d read in years. That motivated me to stick with this story and invest in the services of an editor to develop it further.

Where did your ideas and inspiration come from?

THTF originally came from a scene that I wrote when I was a teenager. I translated it more than ten years later, more out of curiosity, and the story took its own course. The music of Nine Inch Nails has always been a big inspiration for me, so I named my book after one of their songs. Another big inspiration was the movie Mad Max: Fury Road, which I love for its structure, themes and the characters. I guess I viewed THTF as the attempt to write a story akin to Fury Road, but in a rainy, overflown world instead of a desert.

Another inspiration is the real world, or more precisely, the fucked-upness of everything. As a white, dis/abled, queer demiwoman and intersectional feminist, anti-fascist and anti-capitalist, I have a lot of critique and anger for the world we live in. But when I stop at my anger and my desire for all of this to just be over, I lose hope. What gives me hope is imagining a world after. How could life be like in a future where the climate catastrophe has unfolded, where systems and ideologies like capitalism, patriarchy and racism have been overcome? What would the world look like, what would societies look like? How would we live if racism and misogyny were not the axes that hacked those rifts into our communities?

Imagining such a future, drawing from the many ideas and practices that already exist in this world, and writing my way through the stories that unfold there, helps me keep up hope and brings me joy. I can only hope it does the same for my readers.

The Hand That Feeds prominently features neurodiverse characters – did you find this challenging to write?

Well, the thing is: I didn’t even realize what I was writing! THTF was already very far along when I got my diagnosis, and it was only after I had become familiar with my autistic traits that I realized I had written some of them into my characters. So, no, I don’t find it challenging…I’m sure I’d find it more challenging to write a neurotypical character 😀

What is your writing desk like?

Anna Klapdor's writing desk
Anna Klapdor’s writing desk

It’s a wooden desk that my sister gave to me a while ago. It’s rather minimalist with three plants, and it faces out the window into the communal garden and some very high, beautiful trees. I love it here, but sometimes I write in my bed.

Do you have a writing routine?

It depends and is subject to change. I still work in projects in game design and performance as a freelancer. Usually I will start early in the morning, then take a long afternoon break, then have another shorter shift in the evening. But I don’t fret with this routine. My mental health is still recovering from long years of undiagnosed autistic burnout, and if there’s a day, a week or even more where I can’t write or work, then that’s that. I consider myself very fortunate and privileged to be able to take care of myself this way.

THTF was mostly pantsing. I started writing at a time where I still had a day job, so I had to write in the margins of my days and didn’t really have the capability to plan a lot. But since then I acquired the taste for outlining, and I’m taking the time to meticulously plan book 2.

Have COVID and lockdowns changed your writing goals?

I think the lockdowns actually helped me, because everybody was just more online than before, and people sought out more online contact and collaboration, which works better for me in general. I got some great opportunities in this time, for example the Heads & Tales anthology, which indirectly led to another collaboration, and so on.

Why did you decide to go self-published?

I did a lot of research beforehand and agonized about the question for more than a year. I did some querying in the beginning, but realized quickly that this process was negatively affecting my already fragile mental health, so I stopped and looked for other options. I weighed the pros and cons of trad and self-publishing, and came to the conclusion that I value artistic control and autonomy (and my health!) more than the approval of an agent and/or publisher. Also, I am used to being an indie artist, I had worked like that rather successfully for more than a decade at that point, so it wasn’t like it was new to me. It was a business decision including the consideration of my mental health and what would be best for me in the long run. For me personally, self-publishing was the best way forward. But I also know that it’s not a one-way street. I can still, and maybe will in the future, query again and look for an agent and/or publisher.

I want to add that I’m not implying that someone else with mental health problems should not try to get trad published, or that this is bound to fail. It absolutely isn’t, I’ve seen proof of that. But for me, at that particular time, self-publishing was more attractive and more fitting to my living situation and development as a writer.

What have people’s reactions been when you tell them that you are an author?

I usually get good reactions. Friends, family and acquaintances congratulate me because most of them know that this has been a dream of mine for a long time. Most then want to know what genre I write in, and when I say science fiction, they are mostly impressed. I don’t know if I’m particularly lucky in this regard, but most people I know also write in some capacity, and they have a deep respect for writing something as complex as a novel.

The most negative reactions I get are not about my writing, but my political views. It usually comes from TERFs or similar bigots and conspiracy believers online, and I couldn’t care less about what they think.

What is your favourite thing about being an author? What have been your favourite or more proud moments?

My favorite thing about writing is the work itself. I love writing, I love thinking about writing, I love editing, I love doing research. I love crafting stories and characters and worlds. I love to have an out for all the creative energy and all the stories that I have inside me. I love to share my visions with others.

My most recent proud moment was a review I received form a neurodivergent reader. They absolutely loved THTF and they completely understood what it’s about and whom it’s for. That made me cry a lot of happy tears because that is essentially what I’m doing this for.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? (Either about writing or just life in general!)

The best advice I got from a friend was to not view other authors as competition. I try hard not to compare myself to others, and to analyze my occasional feelings of envy instead of acting on them. I learned a great deal about myself by adhering to this advice, and since I started interacting with other authors online, only good things have happened. I found a great friend in my partner from the Heads and Tales anthology, Danai Christopoulou (@danaiwrites), and generally just met the coolest, cutest people.

Another very good, more practical piece of advice is to read your text out loud during editing. Reading it out loud will help you hear filler words and crooked sentences that you wouldn’t necessarily see while reading in your head. It might be awkward at first, but as soon as you get used to your own voice and inflection, it won’t distract you anymore. Some authors use text-to-speech software for the same reason. Also, after a while I found it’s fun to give it a little “feeling”, because this way, you will hear the flow of your text better and hear instantly if a word or a sentence disturbs that flow.

Who are some of your favourite indie authors and bloggers?

Everyone from the Heads and Tales anthology was great, including (but not limited to) the editor and author, Chapel Orahamm (@chapelorahamm), and authors Ark Horton (@ArkHorton), Nikkie Diekemper (@TheBookDrag0n), Perseus Greenman (@futharkvillage) and Sparks (@isparkit).

Some of my favorite bookish bloggers are Jess Owens, ReadWithAnsu and Ellen Brock, Anniek (@anniekslibrary), and of course, you Claire!

Can you share one of your favourite quotes from The Hand That Feeds?

“She needed a judiciary system not controlled by the very people she was trying to prosecute, a system where her uncle could not step in at any time and render all her efforts mute by having one friendly conversation with council members behind closed doors. Four lists. Enough to crumble an empire?”

And finally, when is the next book in the Nefarious series due to be published? Anything you can reveal?

Well, book 2 is in outlining/drafting stage and I would like to publish in late 2022/early 2023. It looks like this is going to be a trilogy, and I have two prequels in mind as well. I’ll definitely be spending more time in this universe.

About Anna Klapdor

Anna Klapdor is an independent artist, playwright, lyricist and novelist hailing from the sprawling, multi-centric Ruhr district of Western Germany. Enthralled with the art of storytelling from an early age, she has spent more than a decade working as a dramatist and director on various performing arts/theatre productions. She co-founded the performance collective Anna Kpok, who have become a well-established stable of independent German theater. She initiated the feminist writing project Horror Vacui, a collective of nine women of diverse backgrounds writing a dramatic text, set to premiere/publish in fall of 2022.

In 2018 she (partly) retreated from the stage and has since released a string of short stories, essays and poems as well as working as a storyworld designer, freelance editor and creative consultant all the while finishing her debut novel. She lives with her cyborgian family and, when not plotting her sophomore novel, likes to watch the wind in the trees.

Find out more about Anna on her website, buy her a coffee on Ko-Fi, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates. She also has a YouTube channel (short stories, poems, readings of THTF, autism vlog) and writes on non-fiction on Medium.

You can find The Hand that Feeds and the Heads and Tales anthology on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback (these are affiliate links).

The Amazon links used here are affiliate links — I will receive a small commission from Amazon for any purchases you make. Thank you for supporting my website!