In the Professional Science Master’s program, our professors are experts in their fields. Many students know Lindy Ryan, Assistant Teaching Professor, as the instructor of the MBS course Business Intelligence with Visual Analytics. She co-founded the business intelligence research and advisory firm Radiant Advisors in 2010, where she led the company’s research and data enablement practice for clients before founding Black Spot Books, an award-winning small press publishing company, in 2017. Professor Ryan’s research focuses on the intersection of data science, visual analysis, and storytelling.
Professor Ryan’s students may not know that she is also an award-winning author, editor, and short-film director. Along with being named one of horror’s most masterful anthologists, she is a published novelist with several projects adapted for the screen. She also directed the award-winning animated short Trick or Treat, Alistair Gray, an adaptation of her children’s picture book of the same name.
Her next novel, Bless Your Heart, will be released on April 9th, 2024 by Minotaur Books, followed by In the Bleak Midwinter, a seasonal anthology featuring some of today’s top horror writers, from Crooked Lane Books in Fall 2024. Visit her website to see all her accolades and projects.
Read our Q&A with Professor Ryan to find out more about her work.
What inspired you to start writing fiction and curating anthologies?
As I always say, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. What began as a hobby eventually became part of my academic writing, and somewhere around my second textbook (on visual data storytelling) I decided to try my hand at fiction. It was a learning curve, for sure! How we are trained to write as academics and the craft of fiction are vastly different animals, and it took time to adapt and develop a voice as a novelist. I think it was that which made me begin editing anthologies; being so steeped in storytelling became the perfect vehicle for building projects that consolidate themes and voices into a whole, which is what book chapters, and individual stories in an anthology, really are.
How do you manage to juggle all your roles—a full-time, traditional novelist, co-chair of the Horror Writers Association Publishers Council, a Rutgers professor, etc.?
All of my roles, whether within a manuscript or inside a classroom, revolve around the human drive to transmit information as stories, to receive information through words and emotion and frameworks of storytelling, and to help people—students, readers, writers, etc.—excel at communicating through narratives, data or fiction or otherwise. Teaching is a form of storytelling, analytics is a form of storytelling, and of course writing stories is “the world’s oldest profession” itself. It’s busy, absolutely, but I’ve always been very good at compartmentalizing and multi-tasking, and looking for opportunities to blur lines a little.
You produced and directed the award-winning short film Trick-or-Treat, Alistair Gray based on the award-winning children’s book you wrote of the same name. Was this the first project that you’ve directed? What made you decide to take on this role?
This one was such a fun project! Alistair itself actually started as a poem I wrote for my son when he was small, then developed into a book, and then became viable for animation. Having written screenplays and had books adapted to film in the past, and with the benefit of knowing many folks in the entertainment industry, taking Alistair from the page to the screen was a uniquely fun and memorable experience. This little story had lived for so long in my head, I already knew exactly how I wanted it to “look,” and so coming in as director gave me the ability to curate that vision for an audience. I was also able to work with dear friend and incredible talent Mister Sam Shearon, who lent his voice to the story, and with Dan Walters, a long-time friend who’s a video game designing whiz.
Have you had a favorite project to work on as an editor, writer, or director?
Such a difficult question, but it’s hard not to play favorites, isn’t it? My upcoming horror-mystery from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, BLESS YOUR HEART (April 2024) is, to date, my favorite project because even though it’s a story about a group of women tasked with keeping the undead in their graves, it’s largely autobiographical as the Evans women in the book are characterizations of the women in my family. The book is set in my hometown, inspired by friends and familiar places, and as such it’s very close to my heart. As an anthologist, I am also extremely excited about a new horror anthology that I’ve recently signed with Crooked Lane Books, called IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, which brings together many of my favorite horror writers all with dark, seasonal stories about the spookiest time of the year—the holidays! While BLESS YOUR HEART is deeply personal, IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER is a dream project: I get to work with friends and colleagues to build something together, and there is absolutely nothing that beats that kind of powerful collaboration with dozens of artists all working toward a shared goal.
What has been your proudest professional achievement in the world of writing and publishing?
In 2022, I was named one of horror's most masterful anthology curators, alongside Ellen Datlow and Christopher Golden (both personal heroes), and later declared a "champion for women's voices in horror" by Shelf Awareness. Both of those moments were particularly proud for me, because they illustrate everything I’ve worked so hard for (and continue to do) and the why. Publishing, like data science, is not always an equitable playground for marginalized and underrepresented authors, and I’m proud that I can contribute meaningfully to making that change.
Does your academic background affect your writing at all? Are there any connections between your fiction writing process and data science? Or conversely, does your experience in fiction inform your role as a professor?
The ability to research, to think critically, and to accept feedback are part and parcel to life in academia and in writing. There’s a lot of thick skin in universities and publishing. But primarily, I’m a heavy researcher and take immense satisfaction about weaving real information inside fictional universes. Much to my editors’ frustration, I can be a stickler for accuracy and have to continually fight the urge to cite my sources—I simply can’t move past the drive to teach something, even when I’m writing stories about monsters. But this kind of attention to detail adds something to fiction; it builds connection between real and imagined, exposes forgotten facts and histories, and solicits opportunities for deeper thought. PLUS, I occasionally get to invite celebrity authors and filmmakers into the classroom, and that’s always a good time.
Do you identify primarily as an author, editor, professor, some combination of these titles, or something else entirely?
I primarily identify as a sleep deprived pigeon, but beyond that it’s hard to say if I am an author first, or a professor. Both are my dream jobs, and I’m extremely lucky—and forever grateful—to get to do both.
Tags: analytics, Data Analytics, Data Science, Life Outside the Classroom