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Dreampunk Profile: Sonya Deulina Williams
From an online interview on March 13 through 20, 2021
First off, tell us a little about yourself. How do you see yourself as a writer?
I’m a 32-year-old social worker, writer/artist, new mom, bird owner, and wife! In no particular order! I see writing as a way to process my influx of ideas about the world, or one of my preferred mediums to do that. I started off in poetry and then moved into short stories and novels. I have always enjoy genres where the line between reality and non-reality blurs, so magical realism, science fiction, and oh yes, dreampunk!
Where did you first encounter the term “dreampunk,” and what does it mean to you personally?
My first encounter with the term dreampunk was on Twitter! It wasn’t too long ago actually. Somebody came across my book description and said, “Hey that sounds like Dreampunk,” and I said, “Huh?” They then directed me to a website that explained what it was. My understanding of dreampunk is that it’s a trippy, psychological, dream-oriented work that deals with non-conventional ideas.
Both are trippy and unconventional because they deal with lot of altered conscious/dream states. I create purposeful confusion when a realistic situation takes an unexpected turn. A hypnosis session turns into a lucid dreaming state, which turns into an altered reality. What is real and what is not? I try to blur the line there as much as possible.
I love that kind of thing. Reminds me of the first short story I really fleshed out, “Angel in the Cave.” Who would you say are your biggest influences and inspirations? I know we have at least one in common.
PKD! He’s my number one because when I discovered his books they just blew my mind. His writing style has really influenced my own. Madeleine L’Engle. The Wrinkle in Time series was just fantastic to me. On the more fantasy side, Ursula Le Guin’s books really inspired me. I feel like all these authors have such deep, layered multi-subject pieces. Just genius.
Good choices! If Mirrors were adapted for the screen, do you have any ideas for casting or the director? What would a movie look like?
That is a good one! That is the dream for me with my books. 😊 I would cast Daisy Ridley as the lead. Lisa Edelstein as the antagonist. Matthew Gubler as the costar. And to play Chip, the mad scientist type, I would cast Gene Wilder, if he were alive and a bit younger. 🙁
But I will have to think more about that one. As far as the director, I think I would have to go with the Wachowskis. Love their work! It would definitely have a Sense8 vibe: complicated storyline, a bit worldly, moving between different perspectives, with lots of cutaways to far out dream sequences.
Nice. I’d say Sense8 gets into dreampunk territory, and The Matrix for sure. What do you think? Can an immersive computer simulation be considered a “dream,” or is that the exclusive domain of cyberpunk?
Well like you said on Wattpad when you described dreampunk… dreampunk makes you ask, “Is this real?” and “What is real anyway?” I’m pretty sure that Sense8 and The Matrix both do that. There is this boundary that the reader or viewer hovers on where they are not quite sure of what reality is… that feeling is the essence of what dreampunk tries to create. And I think with The Matrix and Sense8, there is this altered consciousness/dreamlike/otherworldy quality that creates that effect. So yes, I would argue that both are dreampunk or can fall into that category easily.
What role would you say dreaming plays in your creative process? Have you ever taken anything from a dream and pulled it into a story?
That’s a good question! I never thought of that. I mean dreams are a big theme in my books, but in terms of using my own dreams for the creative process… yes. You know, I don’t always remember my dreams, but I used to have these recurring dreams. I think I put elements of some of them into my books, i.e. standing on the precipice of a cliff, falling in slow motion, breathing underwater. My dreams always alluded to something that was going on in my life at the time, metaphorically, or fears I had. I try to have the dreams tie to the characters’ inner experiences too, however loosely at times.
Also, I lied, because I lucid dream sometimes, and I included lucid dreaming in my book and my own experiences with it.
Haha, that’s cool. Do you have any tips for lucid dreaming?
Hmm… well, it’s all about setting the intention and repetition with lucid dreaming. There’s this hand trick… if you look at your hands and turn them over and say, “Am I dreaming?” throughout the day and before sleeping, then you are likely to repeat that action inside your dream, and that will let your subconscious know that you are dreaming! Then BAM! Lucid.
Once you are conscious inside the dream, that’s step one. Controlling the dream can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes it’s easier just to go with the flow and try to gently steer the dream rather than force major things to happen, in my experience.
I feel like that process has something in common with composing fiction. You can steer the plot, for sure, but you also have to go with the flow and let things develop on their own. Does that sound about right to you? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?
I’m both. I’ve only ever written two books, and in my first, I was a complete pantser, which was really fun, but that made it incoherent in some ways and an editing nightmare! The second time around, I plotted, but then pantsed around within the chapters themselves, and that seemed to make for a much better time editing, though it was a lot more work up front. I wish I could just be a panster and pull it off. I really think it takes a lot of skill, talent, and honing your craft to be able to do that effectively.
How can we support you in your work?
Mirrors: The Shadow Conspiracy (2019) by Sonya Deulina Williams
Sarah and Sam have never met, yet both women begin to have dreams and visions of each other’s lives. As these experiences increase in intensity and frequency, they struggle to keep a grip on reality. Fearing for their sanity, Sarah and Sam embark on a quest for answers.
Update: Sonya contributed to the dreampunk short story collection Somniscope (2023)!