An Interview with Willem Myra

Your story feels very familiar in terms of the tech age with which we're faced... is it based on an actual experience of mistaken identity?
As a matter of fact, it is, although the real occurrence has little to do with porn stars or websites. Around late 2016, I was delivered this envelope with a detailed explanation as to why my request for joining the Italian Army had been denied. Now bear in mind that I can be both lazy and understandably unpatriotic, and that guns were never successful in working their mojo on me, other than in movies. It was obvious there had been a disconnect along the way. So I looked online for the appropriate numbers and dialed the Relationships Office of the Defense Ministry in Rome. Upon explaining my conundrum, I was told that it pertained personal information which couldn't be discussed on the phone. Furthermore, even if I were to inquire about it in person after proper identification, it was possible I would not receive an answer as the letter enclosed in the envelope was the sole and undisputed position the Ministry would argue. Therefore I gave up in my search for the truth. Have I mentioned yet that I can be lazy? To this day I still don't know if someone tried to pull a prank on me (by enlisting me through a secondary channel that's not even recognized?), or if someone homonymous aspired to become a private himself and screwed up the procedure. Either way, that envelope left a mark on my subconscious, coupled with my at-the-time recent learning about cybersquatting, made for an interesting mix. The last piece of the puzzle was a draft for a literary flash fiction featuring a female depressed NEET (not in education, employment, or training), who ended up becoming the protagonist of "Naughty You Dot Com".  

How much has technology shaped your writing and/or writing identity (i.e. social media)? 
I began seriously writing–as in, "I'm a writer now"; as in, "BIC is my motto"; as in, "I might publish something, either through a press or a police blotter"–in 2009, when Facebook was a novel reality and Italian users were scarce. For the first year or so, it had no impact on my writing, but then by the end of 2011 something gave way and although never explicitly stating that I was a writer, through Facebook I found both my first beta reader (a kind Tunisian girl I still wonder about) and the first venue to publish in both digital and print a (terrible, terrible) story of mine. What followed were years in which, again, social media had no direct influence on my work. I seldom feature it or more modern tech in my stories, me being seduced by a less digitalized world the likes of which I experienced in Eastern Europe in the latter half of the nineties. However, while not being a focal point of my exploratory process, social media, and in particular Twitter, forever altered my writing when in 2016 I came across a link to a DailyScienceFiction story. I read it, enjoyed it, and found its execution to lay within my capabilities. At the time I was still primarily writing in Italian, therefore it came as a surprise to think I could flex my mental muscles in another language. There's no harm in trying, I told myself. A few days later I sat down with my pad, penned two stories, typed them on the computer, sent them out, received an acceptance for both. Whoa, I went. Here I hit jackpot. Riding this high, I translated an old work, created two new ones. I submitted the first to DSF: rejected. The second: rejected. Third: rejected. Two years later, I still regularly send stories to that venue and with clockwork precision in less than 14 days it'll be back in my inbox with a "maybe next time" sort of message. I'm addicted to it. DSF: the first crush I can't get over, and all because of a tweet that night I was tired of browsing cat pictures. More so, Twitter influenced what I once-upon-a-time wanted to write or how I expected to do it after getting to connect with other writers, reading their work, and realizing that 1) I can improve so much more and there's no reason waiting for next week or next year where there's plenty of material to learn from online; and 2) writing truly is about taste. I'm not talking syntax or misspellings, but subject. The premise of a story can be trite or plain uninteresting for an editor, while at the same time being everything another editor has always wanted to publish. It surely helped me digest the rejection letters to the point where for those that do not mention some structural or plot-related issue, I can look at a story and say, "Okay. It went badly this time, but I have faith in it and believe it can go back out there with close to no re-writing." And it's this part I believe social media had more of an influence over me–in making me understand that it's an industry, there's no room for personal grudges in it, and perseverance plus finding the right set of eyes at the right time is what matters most.

You can read Willem's short story "Naughty You Dot Com" in our current issue.