Interviews

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May
10
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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Terry Ervin, a longstanding member of writingforums.org. He's one of the first members I came to know who had been published and I was delighted to get his insights on the world of Fantasy.


WF: What's your take on the conversation concerning what is and isn't Fantasy, High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, etc.?


Terry: I don’t put much stock in the exact ‘labeling’ of a novel or series as very few novels published today fall 100% into one category or another—depending on how each type of fantasy is defined.

That said, labeling or categorizing has value. It helps readers find something similar to what they’ve already enjoyed.​

WF: What's your take on how large, sweeping Fantasy stories like LotR and ASoIaF have affected the general view of Fantasy?


Terry: I’ve read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and enjoyed it, but I haven’t read A Song of Ice and Fire. Maybe that will make some writers scratch their head, as ASoIaF is quite popular and often discussed. It’s just that there is so much out there, meaning an author (or reader) can’t read everything.

One thing I’ve noticed is that fans of the LotR movies often don’t enjoy the novels quite as much. They’re different—the novels contain areas with extensive description and detail, and they have a far different pacing than the movies.

Tolkien’s classics were written and published when television wasn’t as prominent. The internet didn’t exist. Readers experienced places they’d never seen or even imagined through printed words. TV, movies and the internet have changed all of that. Mountains or forest trails or monolithic statues don’t need to be described in such detail, at least many modern readers don’t feel it necessary. I think this affects the content and pacing of successful sweeping fantasy novels published today.​

WF: I find the same to be true with Science Fiction. When you read classics like DUNE, the exhaustive detail in description is evident, and quite different from what one finds today. Do you think this has changed the tone of Fantasy novels as well? If there's less emphasis in detailing a world with rich ornamentation, what other tools does the Fantasy writer rely on to bring the reader into the world he or she is creating?

Terry: I’m not sure if it’s changed the tone too much. For example, many current epic fantasy novels still echo The Lord of the Rings or Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword (one of my favorites). The goal remains for the author to engage the reader’s imagination. No combination of words or descriptions can match the images conjured within a reader’s mind.

My preferred method, one that I’ve observed over the past couple decades, is to provide just enough information—description/details—giving the reader what’s needed, and within the context of the story whenever possible. For example, instead of simply a paragraph of description, insert bits through character observation, and/or interspersed within dialogue, and/or incorporated with character actions.​

WF: What is your take on the role of female characters in fantasy stories? How they are/should be/could be portrayed?


Terry: I think it depends on the world the author has created, the story to be told, and the intended audience.

For me and my First Civilization’s Legacy Series, a female character can be a powerful, intimidating enchantress, or an adored leader. Other times a woman is more along the lines of a worrying wife or a lowly maid. But that’s the world I created, where an individual’s initial social status, opportunities, and choices have impacted what she is or becomes.

Every reader has different views based upon life experiences. When a reader opens a novel those experiences influence how he or she interprets characters, including their status, their actions and motivations. That’s not something I attempt iron-hand control or influence over. It’s not my place as a storyteller to direct or force readers to see my characters in a certain way—like it’d work anyway. My primary purpose isn’t social commentary. It’s to entertain.

I do find it interesting what readers think of my characters (male and female), what ones they like and don’t like, respect and don’t respect, and more. They’ve read the same words, but come away with widely varying opinions.

For example, one reader described Supreme Enchantress Thulease as authoritative and ruthless. Another found her accomplished and powerful, yet lovingly driven, with cracks of vulnerability.

In the end, characters are tools used to relay a story to readers. And if I create and use them properly, the readers enjoy reading and learning about characters, discovering who they are within the context of the story while being entertained.​

WF: With that said, where is your leaning as regards a story being driven by characters vs. characters being shaped by the needs of the story?

Terry: It really depends on the story to be told. My protagonists aren’t powerful individuals—not master swordsmen or highly trained Colonial Marines. They’re not renown spellcasters or unparalleled nuclear physicists. They’re regular folks that find themselves in challenging circumstances. They don’t always have the big picture, with events and choices often beyond their immediate control.

Their responses, learning, relationships, successes and failures, and sometimes a little luck are what pulls them through. Here’s a quote with respect to the protagonist of Relic Tech which should clarify what I’m getting at: "The tech level premise is fascinating, but what really makes the novel special is the spirit of Krakista Keesay. Kra is a hero to root for—often underestimated, adept with brass knuckles, bayonet, shotgun, and all sorts of old style weaponry. He proves that, while technology matters, so do courage, intelligence, and daring."
—Tony Daniel, Hugo-finalist, author of Metaplanetary and Guardian of Night

It’s the balance between plot driven and character driven storytelling where, in my works, neither dominates.​

WF: That's high praise from a Hugo-finalist! One last question: Knowing that there are many forum members who are both avid readers and writers of Fantasy, if there were one thing, one piece of advice you could give them concerning success in their writing careers, what would it be?

Terry: Thanks. I am quite honored to have received Tony Daniel’s positive words.

My advice would be to finish your projects.

Many people talk about writing, and some even start, but very few do what it takes to finish. Hammer out that first draft. Revise and edit, research, and repeat, learning along the way. Get input and weigh it. Go at it again, improving the story through a third and fourth draft, and more. Writing a novel can be fun and interesting, but it’s also hard work and takes a long term commitment in time and energy and a willingness to learn, knowing that, in the end, there is no guarantee of success—however one might measure it. But if you don’t finish that story or novel, there’s absolutely zero chance of success.

Oh, and after you finish that first piece, proceed with crafting a second.

Finally, thank you for your questions and this opportunity to speak to the members here at Writing Forums.
Thank you, Terry, and best of luck in all your future endeavors. :agreed:
Apr
25
The Paris Review
Summer 2011
Samuel R. Delany, The Art of Fiction No. 210


....

INTERVIEWER


You—and, indeed, several other SF writers—have called Bester’s 1956 novel, Tiger! Tiger!, the greatest science-fiction novel from that period. What so excites you about Bester?

DELANY

I picked up Tiger! first when I was fourteen or fifteen, in its Galaxy serial publication, and thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever read. Tiger! Tiger! is an extraordinarily colorful and inventive novel. One whole chapter utilizes bizarre typography that sprawls all over the pages. In the climactic chapter, the hero is in the basement of a burning cathedral—St. Patrick’s, in New York—that’s collapsing all around him, and the man experiences this through synesthesia, where he hears smells and sees sounds and tastes what things feel like. It’s Bester’s version of the end of Gaddis’s Recognitions. Besides the nods to Gaddis—he was Bester’s Greenwich Village neighbor and published The Recognitions the year before Tiger!—and Joyce, it’s also very much an homage to Rimbaud’s “dérèglement de tous les sens.”

Later on, when I was about twenty-four, I read Bester’s book again and realized, while it was very good, it wasn’t the greatest thing I’d ever read. But because of its overall color and energy, Tiger! Tiger! projects a sense that, just over the novel’s horizon, someone is thinking seriously about important modernist questions. What is the relation of the ordinary working man to the privileged man at the pinnacle of culture? What causes modern warfare today? What is the relationship between economics and war? Bester was very definitely a leftist writer, with a sense that economics was behind all wars. For him, wars were the playing out of economic-cum-industrial conflicts.

Still later I found out that Bester himself had been reading and rereading Ulysses for a year and discussing it weekly with two close friends. You could easily say that Tiger! Tiger! was his attempt at a book for bright fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds, with some of Ulysses’s textual playfulness. I wanted to see whether I could write something that would be as interesting for a twenty-five-year-old as this had been for me at fifteen. I’ll never know whether I succeeded.

INTERVIEWER

In Nova, your reimagining of Tiger! Tiger!, Prince Red and Ruby Red have an almost incestuous relationship.

DELANY

Yes, they do. You have to remember the book was written before ’68, the moment when innuendo ceased to be a legally necessary literary technique.

INTERVIEWER

Did you intentionally want to make something the reader could only speculate about, rather than be certain of?

DELANY

Certainly as far as the incest goes. Suggestion is a literary strategy. But when, in 1968, works like Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and Black Spring and Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover were legal to publish and sell in this country, the age of innuendo and the coyly placed line of white space, as the hero envelops the heroine in his arms, ended. Fifteen years later, aids rendered them permanently obsolete.

Today, I watch seminar rooms full of graduate students misread both Bester and Conrad, because they no longer have to wonder about the possibility of such illegal elements occurring in the story and the compensating possibility of suggestion as a writerly strategy for representing both sex and violence. In Tiger! Tiger! the demonic antihero, Gully Foyle, invades Robin’s exploded apartment and stalks across her living room to where she cowers away from him on the couch. There is a line of white space ...

At fifteen I knew perfectly well Gully went on to rape her. Many of my students, however, miss it. As readers who’ve learned to read with texts written largely after 1968, they’re unfamiliar with that order of narrative suggestion. Writers aren’t constrained by law to use it today and many young readers, under thirty-five, have forgotten how to read it.

My students reach the climax of Heart of Darkness, when the pilgrims stand at the steamer’s rail, firing their rifles at the natives on the shore, fifteen or twenty feet away, “for some sport,” while an appalled Marlow blows the boat’s horn to frighten the Africans off. Some of the natives throw themselves on the ground, but among them stands Kurtz’s black mistress, her arms raised toward the boat that carries Kurtz away. From his bed in the wheelhouse, sickly Kurtz watches through the window—which Conrad has made clear has been left open. At the boat rail, the white men go on firing, and with a line of white space, the scene ends ...

Year after year, more than half my students fail to realize that the white men have just killed the black woman Kurtz has been sleeping with for several years. Or that Kurtz, too weak to intervene, has had to lie there and watch them do it.

When you ask, later, the significance of Kurtz’s final words, as he looks out through this same window, “The horror! The horror!,” it never occurs to them that it might refer to the fact that he has watched his fellow Europeans murder in cold blood the woman he has lived with. Suggestion for them is not an option. Earlier generations of readers, however, did not have these interpretive problems.

“If he raped her, why didn’t the writer say so?” “If they shot her, why didn’t Conrad show her fall dead?” my graduate students ask. It makes me wonder what other techniques for conveying the unspoken and the unspeakable we have forgotten how to read over four or five thousand years of “literacy.”

Another canonical work that lists toward the incomprehensible for the modern reader under the weight of modernist criticism is Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.

INTERVIEWER

How do you mean?

DELANY

I’ve read interpretations that see the tale as Kafka’s prediction of World War I or II, and it has to stand up beneath interpretative phrases like “that great portrait of the sickness that was Europe.” I’ve even heard one academic give a rather involuted explanation about how the story depicts the encounter of a family with the inexplicable. Well, that’s true, in the sense that a heart attack, a stroke, a crippling accident is, itself, inexplicable. But that sort of occurrence—schizophrenia or some mentally or physically crippling disease—is still the tenor of Kafka’s metaphor.

Whatever you say about the story’s all but infinite higher meanings, just at the level of plot, The Metamorphosis is an allegorical tale about a family, one of whose members, presumably the one who’s responsible for bringing in most of the money, is suddenly stricken by a catastrophe, a debilitating disease that—overnight—renders him homebound and largely unrecognizable as the person he once was and tells what the experience might be from the point of view of the person to whom it happens.
This was a fairly common experience for families before World War II, and it still is. Kafka himself was such a person. His tuberculosis rendered him such a person in his own family, and it struck me as a chillingly accurate picture of the whole process of the transformation that occurred when my own mother was felled with a major stroke that, in an instant, rendered her wheelchair-bound, paralyzed on one side, and without language for the last eight years of her life.

The way the remaining family both recognizes and does not recognize the new and wholly dependent creature as the person he or she once was, and the way the invalid has to be treated—physically and emotionally—as a kind of insect . . . well, it’s a hugely cruel story, even as it details how love for the person metamorphoses, under pressure of the transformative situation, into annoyance and a feeling of entrapment. The title refers to the family’s transformation as much as it does to Gregor’s. When the invalid finally dies—as my mother did, almost a decade on—Kafka explains how at last there is a feeling of freedom and even rebirth.

When we were coming back from the cemetery after my mother’s funeral, my sister, who truly loved my mother—as, indeed, did I—said to me, “Chip, that is the end of eight awful, awful years,” and a breeze blew momentarily through the trees. I had to answer, “Yes, it is.” And I remembered Gregor’s sister, in the last sentences of Kafka’s tale. It’s a portrait of the human processes which constitute that awfulness.

I’d never argue that the historical resonances that so many analysts see in the tale are not there, but I point out that what I have described as the events of the story and their general significance is how those historical suggestions manifest themselves. How we treat our invalids—our mad, our physically or mentally compromised family members—does tell you something about who we are politically, historically, culturally. But until we can respond to the story as an allegory on that level, those historical suggestions are...​
Apr
24
In Motion Magazine
March 14, 2004
By Joshunda Sanders


....

Joshunda Sanders: People attach a lot of titles to you –

Octavia Butler: Please don't call me the grand dame. Someone said it in Essence and it stuck.

Joshunda Sanders: You're annoyed by it?

Octavia Butler: Well, it's another word for grandmother! I'm certainly old enough to be someone's grandmother, but I'm not.

Joshunda Sanders: What about the science fiction or speculative fiction titles attached to your work?

Octavia Butler: Really, it doesn't matter. A good story is a good story. If what I'm writing reaches you, then it reaches you no matter what title is stuck on it. The titles are mainly so that you'll know where to look in the library, or as a marketing title, know where to put it in the bookstore so booksellers know how to sell it. It has very little to do with actual writing.

Joshunda Sanders: Have you found that it intimidates African Americans, in particular?

Octavia Butler: No. I think people have made up their minds that they don't like science fiction because they've made up their minds that they know what science fiction is. And they have a very limited notion of what it is. I used to say science fiction and black people are judged by their worst elements. And it's sadly enough still true. People think, "Oh, science fiction, Star Wars. I don't like that." And they don't want to read what I've written because they don't like Star Wars. Then again, you get the other kind who do want to read what I've written because they like Star Wars and they think that must be what I'm doing. In both cases they're going to be disappointed. That's the worst thing about verbal shorthand. All too often, it's an excuse not to do something, more often than it's a reason for doing something.

There isn't any subject you can't tackle by way of science fiction. And probably there isn't any subject that somebody hasn't tackled at one time or another. You don't have the formulas that you might have for a mystery, or even a romance. It's completely wide open. If you're going to write science fiction, that means you're using science and you'll need to use it accurately. At least speculate in ways that make sense, you know. If you're not using science, what you're probably writing is fantasy, I mean if it's still odd. Some species of fantasy...people tend to think fantasy, oh Tolkien, but Kindred is fantasy because there's no science. With fantasy, all you have to do is follow the rules that you've created.

....

Joshunda Sanders: Where do you get your ideas?

Octavia Butler: When I got the idea for Patternmaster, I was twelve, but I had no idea how to write a novel. I tried, but it was quite a few years before I was able to write it. When I got the idea for Mind of My Mind, I was 15. When I got the idea for Survivor, I was 19. Finally, when I got the idea for Kindred, I was in college. My ideas generally come from what's going on around me. But sometimes they come from other novels. For instance, when I wrote Patternmaster, I included these people called the Clay Arks and they were just kind of throwaway people, but I didn't like them as throwaway people and I wanted to know more about them. So I wrote Clay's Ark. And learned about them as I went along. Sometimes a book will seem like one book and turn into two or three, which happened with the Xenogenesis books.

Sometimes I hear from people who want to write and [they ask] what should they do? The first thing I want to know from them is, are they writing? Are they writing every day? And a remarkable number of them are not. Do they read omnivorously, because that's not only a source of ideas, but a way to learn to write, to see what other people have been up to. I recommend that they take classes because it's a great way to rent an audience and make sure you're communicating what you think you're communicating, which is not always the case, and I recommend that they forget a couple of things. Forget about talent. I recommend that they go to the bestselling lists and see who else doesn't have talent and it hasn't stopped them, so don't worry. Forget about inspiration, because it's more likely to be a reason not to write, as in, "I can't write today because I'm not inspired." I tell them I used to live next to my landlady and I told everybody she inspired me. And the most valuable characteristic any would-be writer can possibly have is persistence. Just keep at it, keep learning your craft and keep trying.
http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/ac04/obutler.html
Mar
31
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Bayview (who writes as Kate Sherwood) recently entertained an interview I gave her after discovering the successes she has experienced as a published writer. For the purposes of this interview, we kept to her nom de plume.

* * *

WF: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Kate: I'm still not sure I want to be a writer - it seems like an awful lot of work!

But I've always been a reader. An omnivorous, voracious beast of a reader. And about seven years ago I stumbled across a story online, started reading, got sucked in, and only when I was almost done did I realize it was fanfiction, for a show I'd never heard of. (Supernatural). I watched the show and wasn't actually all that impressed (pretty boys, but... not much else), but I read more of that fanfic author's work, spread out from her to some others, and was hooked on the fandom for a show I didn't even enjoy.

Somewhere in there I thought I'd give it a try myself, and I really enjoyed it. I felt like I was contributing, I got lovely feedback, and the characters were fun. A writer was born?​

WF: What was your first success?

Kate: My first commercial success was the first full-length thing I tried to write, a story that started in fandom (as 'Real Person Fiction', a somewhat creepy practise of casting actors from the show as characters in your story, but leaving them with their names intact (and, in some cases, keeping details of their lives, as well. But mine was RPF Alternate Universe, so it was really only using the actors' names and, of course, the image of them in the eyes of their fans)). Anyway, I adapted parts, cut parts, added parts, and massaged it into the Dark Horse series, which is still the series that gets me the most attention in the m/m genre. I've had other books that sell better, but Dark Horse has a bunch of free extras available and seems to be what's really stuck with most readers.

It's actually been a bit discouraging to have my first book be the one that everyone likes the best - it makes my other books feel like failures in comparison!
WF: When you mention that Dark Horse has a bunch of free extras, what does that mean?

Kate: Because Dark Horse was my first book, I really had no idea how long books should be or what 'shape' they should be. I mean, I knew as a reader, but hadn't thought about it as a writer. So there were a lot of scenes that got cut from Dark Horse (critics suggest there should have been even more cut!). And when the main books got such a good reception, I started putting the 'extras' together for free distribution. Well, they're free at All Romance eBooks, because they allow that, and they're on sale for $.99 at Amazon, since they don't want things to be free. And it's an interesting commentary on the 'convenience' factor in book buying that I've made a couple thousand dollars off those books at Amazon, even though I've made no secret about them being available free elsewhere. At .33 per copy? That's a lot of people who care more about convenience than they do about spending a little money.

Anyway, for anyone interested, the whole series is listed in order, partway down the page at http://katesherwoodbooks.com/series/

WF: How do you feel about the growing market and acceptance of erotica?

Kate: I think it's completely entwined with the growth of e-books, and I love e-books, so I'm good with the growth of erotica, as well!

In terms of my own writing, though, I'm moving away from the erotic romance. I mean, m/m seems to be automatically rated one or two notches steamier than a m/f romance with equivalent content, so as long as I'm writing m/m I guess I'm going to be seen as someone who writes erotic romance. Which is fine, but it's not really the part of the process that interests me. My characters have sex and I describe it in as much detail as is needed for the reader to understand why this sex is or is not special, but I think I'm at the tame end of the m/m heat spectrum.

That's just based on my own writing preferences, though - I think it's great if people are reading and writing erotica, and if it's getting more acceptance in the wider world. It's fun!​


WF: Do you have any writers that you think of as influences on your work or on your desire to write?

Kate: Honestly, I've lost track of the fan-fiction authors who inspired me, unfortunately. In terms of "profic" authors? Probably the ones I loved when I was a kid. S.E. Hinton, Anne McCaffrey... oh, maybe a trace of homoeroticism with A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Although that same trace was probably in a lot of S.E. Hinton's work, too. These young men, thrown together and so full of love and anger and inability to really understand their feelings - that's definitely been an influence on what I write now.​

WF: How would you describe your process?

Kate: I'm very practical, very prosaic about it all. I like that quote from some famous author who says (paraphrased): I only write when the muse strikes me. And I make damn sure it strikes me at nine a.m. each and every weekday.

I start at the beginning of the story and type through to the end. For some sub-genres I plan things out a bit more (like, romantic suspense needs more planning b/c I need to be able to plant clues as I go, and SFF romance needs some thought given to world building before I get too far into the story), but mostly I'm a pantser. Then I leave the MS for a good chunk of time so I can get fresh eyes to re-read it. I usually try to have a sort of cycle going - write C, then leave C while I go back and do edits from my publisher for A, and then do my own edits on B, and then write D. Then I come back to do my publisher edits for B, my own edits on C, and write E. It's rarely quite that tidy, but the general idea is to have lots of different projects at lots of different stages all at the same time.

In the last few years I've been committed to 520K new words a year, but this year I'm going to cut that down to 365K new words - at 520K words it was beginning to be a bit of a grind, and this is still my hobby/side-project, not my day job.

And as you may have noticed, I really try to avoid procrastinating on anything. As soon as a project's on my desk, I want to get to it, keep it moving, get it done!​

WF: So you often have many projects "on the stove", so to speak. What advice do you have for the writer who feels in a rut?

Kate: For me, it's important to keep refilling the inspiration jar. When I first started writing I totally blitzed it, and I went probably two years without watching TV or reading any books because I was so busy writing. It was like I had a lifetime of inspiration and it was all just POURING out of me. But eventually that dried up a little. Not completely, for sure - I've never really suffered from writer's block. But it got so I had to work to get the ideas out instead of just having them oozing out from my pores.

And I addressed that by starting to read again. At first I read way too critically, looking at technique and style and trying to analyze everything. And I'm not saying there's not a time for reading like that. But I think it's also important to just let yourself go and get lost in a story sometimes. Live with the characters, whether they're on TV or in a book or a movie, or even a video game. Get sucked in, get inspired, and then when you go back to your own work you don't copy the other characters but you draw on the energy that they gave you. They can remind you how exciting fiction is!​

WF: Knowing there is no magic incantation to make publication of one's work smoother or more realizable, what would you say is an important place to start in the search for a publisher that best fits the given writer?

Kate: I think this really depends on the writer's goals. If publication is the main goal? I'd say stop worrying about finding a publisher to fit your work and start finding ways to fit your work to the publisher. It sounds really mercenary, I guess, but publishing is a business and there are a LOT of writers out there producing a lot of work. If your main goal is publication, you need to make sure your work is EXACTLY what a given publisher is looking for. You can find out what they're looking for by reading what they're publishing, and by reading editor blogs and the "Open Calls" that some publishers put out.

At the other extreme, obviously, are the true artists who see their books as their babies and their chief form of self-expression. I have no problem with writers who think this way, but I do get a bit impatient when they expect publishers to...​
Feb
11
Sean Russell is a Canadian fantasy writer. His most recent books are The Swan's War series; The One Kingdom, The Isle of Battle, and The Shadow's Road.

Spherical Time: To begin with, can you describe where and when you write? Do you write in longhand or directly into a computer? Do you have an office where you do most of your work or is there some other location where you like to write?

SR: I have the traditional book-lined study upstairs in our house. I'm very lucky to have a glorious view out my window. I work directly on the computer but when I was writing my first book (back in the last century, circa 1980s) I wrote long hand and then typed. I started working on the computer because a friend who was going away from the winter insisted I take his computer while he was gone. Although I have a desktop I tend to do a lot of work on my laptop. I can write almost anywhere as long as it's quiet.

Spherical Time: Do you follow a process or method when you write a book? If so, can you give us a general idea what it is?

SR: I don't know if I follow a process. I tend to think about books for a long time before I write them - sometimes for years. I open a file (computer file) and every time I think of something to do with that book I type it in. Sometimes I type in questions about the plot or the characters and then, over time, type in answers. It's a kind of one man brain storming. I try not to judge any idea but just put it in and then weed out the bad stuff later. By the time I'm ready to start a book I often have over a hundred pages of rather random notes. I then start to sort the notes according to subject; some are about themes, others about plot, some are about characters. I often have fragments of scenes, images, and bits of dialogue which I try to order as well. At the same time as I'm trying to bring some order to this I try to weed out the ideas that I don't think I will use. I often highlight the text as I'm doing this and change the font colours. Green are ideas I'll probably use, blue ideas I might use, and red are likely rejections. I then put all the red text into a reject file. I usually delete this when the project is done.

Once I start writing I have a very rough plan - think of it as a holiday where you plan to visit certain places, London, Paris, Rome, etc, but you don't know how long you'll spend in each place or how you will get from one place to another. I know that certain events will likely take place but how I will get from one to the other is often a mystery that reveals itself as I work. A lot of the best ideas I have come when I'm doing the actual writing so for me it's important not to have too rigid a plan.

Spherical Time: Your work takes place in expansive and intricate worlds, such as the Asian themed Wa in The Initiate Brother or the European country of Farrland and presumably Pacific themed island of Varua in World Without End. How do you research a fictional world well enough to write in it? How much background work does each duo of books require before you start writing the manuscript?

SR: The first six books I did were all blends of fantasy and the historical novel - at least that's how I thought of them. I did huge amounts of research but then used that to build a world. The Asian books were inspired by 10th century Japan and T'ang dynasty China and both Japanese and Chinese literature. When I researched this I was looking for unusual things that would make the world seem exotic but also details of day to day life that would make the worlds seem real. The book I just finished is a straight historical novel and I did years of research before I wrote it including visits to places in Europe and a lot of time in museums. I collected a small library of books because even if I could have found the books in a lending library I would never have been able to keep them for the length of time I needed (the book took two years to write). It doesn't matter how much research you do ahead of time, you are always doing more as you write because you are always finding there are things you don't know.

Spherical Time: Would you explain how you develop and form your inspiration or ideas for your novels?

SR: I always have a lot of ideas for books - not all of them good, mind you. When an idea persists I open a file and start adding things as they occur. Some files continue to gain material and some fall fallow, so to speak. I like to think that the best ideas win out in a sort of Darwinian process. At some point I become a bit obsessed with one of these book ideas and that usually becomes my next project.

Spherical Time: In four of your books, the Moontide and Magic Rise and The River into Darkness duos, you explore the relationship of cultural mysticism with the concept of Western Naturalism. Can you talk a little about how these themes influenced your writing? Do you consider yourself to be more of a mystic or a naturalist?

SR: I'm not sure what you mean by Western Naturalism. I think of naturalism as being a movement in literature akin to realism. Do you mean science?

Spherical Time: Sorry, my fault for being unclear. I meant metaphysical naturalism, which was the basis for the sort of scientific inquiry that is part of the conflict in your Moontide and Magic Rise books. Tristam and Erasmus both seem caught between the mystic and the scientific. Would you agree that this clash between traditional religious beliefs and science was the theme of those books?

SR: The idea behind World Without End was this: in the wake of Darwin many people in the west had their world view shift from a religious world view to a scientific world view. Not that everyone suddenly gave up religion, obviously, but in the west there was a big shift in thinking. Before Christianity there was a greater belief in magic - a magical world view (and the Christian's burned the witches). What I wanted to do was write about a world in which a magical world view changed to a scientific world view. But then our hero - a naturalist like Darwin - travels to a place where magic is still operating - partly because there is still belief in it. Belief gives it power. I wanted to make science and magic work in the same book, which had seldom been done successfully.

Spherical Time: Another theme of your book is that of a main character that is controlled or influenced by an outside, often supernatural, force or authority. The Children of Wyrr from The Swan's War are an example of this sort of supernatural puppet masters pulling the strings of mortal characters. Would you talk a little about how you develop characters in relation to this theme?

SR: I've never been aware of this as a theme in my books, but then authors often have repeating motifs in their work that they're not aware of. I actually didn't think of the children of Wyrr and their hosts as being like puppets and puppet masters. I thought of it as the blending of two personalities - the result was someone different altogether. I liked this idea because you could never be sure who this new entity would be.

Spherical Time: Biographically, I know very little about you, except that your Wikipedia page lists you as Canadian. Your first published book was The Initiate Brother, which is set in an Oriental themed fictional world. Why did you choose that setting? Did you find it challenging to write about a world so drastically removed from the one in which you live?

SR: I actually chose the Asian setting to differentiate my work from the Tolkien imitators. So many books were set in a pseudo medieval world that I thought it might be a good idea to go elsewhere. I had always loved Chinese and Japanese poetry and had read a certain amount of history - enough to know that there was an amazingly rich culture and history to draw from. Actually, I didn't find it any more difficult than...
Feb
01
Mercedes Lackey is a well known author of more than fifty fantasy novels. Her works set in the Valdemar universe are particularly well known. For a complete list of her works, please see her website or her wikipedia page.

Spherical Time: Where do you prefer to work, and how do you like to write? Do you write longhand and then type that into a computer, or do you type directly into a computer? What setting do you prefer when you are writing?

ML: I work in my office, in a zero-gravity chair, often with a parrot competing for attention. The office is full of my doll collection, so it doesn't exactly look like an "office." I usually have classical music or soundtracks playing, and often have scented candles going. I type directly into the computer as no one can read my handwriting, including me.

Spherical Time: Can you describe your process when writing a book? How much planning and research does a single work require before you start writing it? Aside from the 40-80 page outline that you've previously mentioned on your website, are there any other patterns that you follow when you write?

ML: The amount of research that is required by a book depends on the book. If it is a period piece I can spend months working up to it, getting the feel for the period I need. If it is made up out of whole cloth, as it were, notably high fantasy or contemporary urban fantasy, very little is usually needed. And occasionally I write a book without an outline just to keep my hand in.

Spherical Time: What differs in your method when you write a collaboration?

ML: I don't have to write the stuff I'm not good at, like cast'o'millions battles. And if for some reason I get stuck, I can pass it back to the other person. If something isn't working, there's another head on it.

Spherical Time: How do you create and develop the inspiration or ideas for a new novel?

ML: Inspiration is overrated. Ideas are all around you. The trick is to find the ones that will interest me and sustain me through a whole book. If they interest me they'll probably interest an audience.

Spherical Time: Characterization is a challenge for many beginning writers. As a master of characterization, do you have any advice for aspiring authors on how to create interesting and believable characters?

ML: Create people that are like the ones around you, like them, love them even, empathize with them, cry when terrible thing happen to them, but don't make life easy on them. And don't make them perfect. Not even perfectly evil. The villain, in his own mind, is always the hero of his own story.

Spherical Time: When you published your first novel did you use a literary agent, or did you submit directly to the publisher? At the time, how extensive were your writing credits?

ML: I submitted directly to the publisher; as a beginning writer any agent you can get, barring astonishing good luck, is not going to be able to do anything you can't, and he'll charge you 15% to do it. And you are far more motivated than he is to get your work out there. You can do the market research to find out which publisher is best for the book, you can submit it, and so forth. And you don't have a desk full of other books and authors demanding your attention. At the time I submitted that first book, I had a handful of short stories published.

Spherical Time: Normally I would ask if you've read any good books recently that you'd like to recommend, but your website makes it clear that you don't read fiction unless you are reading it for research. Have you seen any movies recently that you'd like to recommend?

ML: Well that's not entirely true, I do make time for a few authors I really like, Charles de Lint, or Patricia McKillip for example. As for movies, I recently saw two, both about turn-of-century stage magicians, both marvelous with fantastic scripts and great casts, both with the theme of love and obsession, and very different from each other. The first, The Illusionist, was just marvelous, and I can't say much more than that without pulling a spoiler. The second, The Prestige, is also possibly the creepiest movie I have seen in a very, very long time. Both kept me guessing and both had plot twists I could never have foreseen.

Spherical Time: As one of the most prolific writers in the publishing world, how do you keep yourself from burning out? Have you ever struggled with writer's block?

ML: Writer's block, no. Getting tired of writing a particular subject yes; that was why I took a hiatus from Valdemar, before I started setting up targets in the back yard of blue eyed white horses....

Spherical Time: What do you think the role of a writer in the modern world is? Have you ever experienced disdain or ridicule due to your status as a genre writer?

ML: I don't think the modern world in the US knows what to do with a writer. We don't fit into any neat category. Europe and the Far East give a certain respect to a writer, but people in the US are not sure about anyone that does that sort of thing for a living. I think a writer's job, however, is to be honest with himself and his audience, to set out to entertain them if an entertaining book is what he is purporting to deliver, and to offer a reflection of the real world in his work in such a way that it causes people to think. So much these days is sound-bites and sloganeering that making people think is becoming more and more important.

As for ridicule because I am a genre writer, I haven't actually experienced that first-hand, but I also don't spend a lot of time around non-genre writers.

Spherical Time: What is your favorite word or phrase?

ML: "There will be parrot pot-pie!" My threat when my birds get too loud. They never believe me.

Spherical Time: Do you have any final advice for aspiring writers?

ML: Don't angst about writing, don't talk about it, don't spend endless hours telling all your friends about it. Glue your rump to your chair and write. Writers write. Poseurs talk about writing.
Jan
04
Thomas Archibald Barron is a science fiction and fantasy writer known for his Lost Years of Merlin series and Great Tree of Avalon series.

Spherical Time: Do you have a process when you write, and if so, can you describe a little bit of it? Do you do extensive planning and research before starting a work, for example?

TAB: Normally I need some sort of aerial photograph of the terrain of a quest. So I know the approximate beginning, ending, and the dangerous marshes or inspiring peaks in between. This means writing an outline, which you could call my trail map. Then I intentionally lose the map, so I can find out what the terrain is like on the ground. Often my characters tell me to turn right when the map says turn left. In such cases, I always listen to my characters. Then I rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite, researching whatever is required. In the end, the journey has included several surprises and experiences I would not have predicted.

When I was creating a tribe of Native Americans for the book The Ancient One, I had to spend time researching a dozen real American tribes that once lived in the Pacific Northwest. Learning about their life, their culture, their world. And long before I began writing The Lost Years of Merlin, I buried myself in all the Merlin lore I could find: Celtic myths, ancient ballads, the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth, the writings of T. H. White and others, even Shakespeare's references to Merlin.

Spherical Time: Many of your books, such as The Merlin Effect, The Lost Years of Merlin, and The Great Tree of Avalon are based on the Arthurian Legends. What inspires you so much about the Arthurian Legends, and where else do you find ideas?

TAB: Ever since my days as a student at Oxford, I have loved the character Merlin-his richness, his depth, his appreciation for both the weaknesses and virtues of humanity. And his love for Nature, his greatest teacher. When I was researching Arthurian lore to write Kate's undersea adventure, The Merlin Effect, I was struck by the fact that of all the thousands of stories about Merlin written over the past 1500 years, almost none are about his youth. He is the ancient wizard, the mentor of King Arthur, the co-creator of Camelot. But where did he come from? And what made it possible for him to become the greatest wizard of all times? That mystery got me going-although when I started out trying to fill in the gap of Merlin's lost years, I had no idea what a big project it would be. Here you had this wondrous tapestry of myth about him, woven over fifteen centuries, and it had a big, gaping hole: Merlin's lost youth. But the weaving needed to be delicate as well as bold; honoring tradition as well as original.

To make things even more challenging, I started out with a boy who washes ashore, with no home and no memory-the absolute opposite of a great, exalted wizard. For Merlin to grow in a believable way, from that humble beginning to his glorious destiny, required more than just three books. That's why my original plan of a trilogy swelled to five books. And that's also why it took me almost a full decade to write the five books of The Lost Years of Merlin.

Spherical Time: The character of Kate from Heartlight, The Ancient One and The Merlin Effect is both empathic and brilliantly characterized. Can you talk about the process of her creation, and how you made the choices that led to her existence?

TAB: All of us have an infinite variety of voices down inside of us. It is very difficult to hear those voices, and to respect them. The challenge of making the character of Kate feel true was enormous. To do it I had to find the voice of the young girl within myself-not easy for a man in his late thirties. The reward, however, was equally enormous. It has opened up a new side of life for me. What ever made me do such a thing? The credit goes to our first child, a girl named Denali. When she was born, I was working hard on Heartlight. I didn't know whether the lead character would be a boy or a girl, but I did know that the book would be about the idea that every life matters somehow. It was an idea I hoped that she might enjoy one day. So I made Grandfather's sidekick a girl. That decision was the easy part. Then I had to find the voice of the young girl in myself, and listen. Really listen.

Spherical Time: Can you say a few words about how your care and concern for the environment informs and affects your writing?

TAB: I grew up in places where Nature was always nearby, so I could explore a creek, climb a tree, pick an apple, or just cover myself with mud. The nearness of Nature shaped me profoundly. Not just in the challenging, adventurous ways you might expect -- in deeper, spiritual ways, as well.

For example, I remember a snowy day when I was very young. My mother dressed me in one of those big puffy snowsuits that made me look like a huge, waddling balloon, and took me outside. There was so much snow, the drifts were even taller than me. Then my mother patted the top of an enormous snowdrift, and said, "Guess what? Believe it or not, there are flowers under there. You won't see them until springtime, but it's true." I was astounded. Amazed. Flowers? Under there? She was telling me about the patterns of the seasons, of course -- but also about something more. Something like hope. Transformation. Renewal.

Or … another day, when my brother and I found a slab of petrified wood, over fifty million years old, on the hill behind our Colorado ranch house. Geologic time -- now there's a great way to gain some perspective on human ideas of time and mortality. And then there was another day, as I was walking through a meadow on the ranch, following some fox tracks, when I saw some geese flying overhead. They were so close, I could hear their wings whooshing as they flew. I realized that some of those geese had started their journey way up in the Arctic, in Alaska, and had flown over western Canada and the Rocky Mountains, all the way to our little meadow. And it struck me that their flight tied together some of the most beautiful places on this continent -- that, by the very beating of their wings, they showed how connected those places really are. And how connected I was, too, to those very same places.

So why is wilderness important? Because unspoiled Nature is the last, best place on Earth for people to stand upright and tall, dwarfed by the sweep of the stars or the sweep of time, and yet still part of it all -- connected to the changing seasons, the fox tracks, or the flight of geese. In Nature, we can feel both very small, and very large, at once -- part of the universe, the pattern, the mystery.
Dec
13
Patricia C. Wrede is a fantasy and science fiction writer. Her works include Magic & Malice, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and the Young Adult novelizations of the first three Star Wars Episodes (I, II, III).

Spherical Time: When you write a book, do you follow a pattern or specific method? If so, can you describe was it is?

PCW: Not really. I do some research and maybe make some notes, I write a plot outline, I start writing. Then I throw the plot outline away, because what I've written has nothing to do with it, write another plot outline, and keep on writing. Then I throw that plot outline away, do another one, and continue further.

Spherical Time: How much planning do you do when you write a novel? How much background work do you have accomplished before you start writing a book like Dealing with Dragons or one of it's sequels?

PCW: "Dealing with Dragons" was a prequel, so its plot was pretty much set when I wrote it. "Talking to Dragons" was strictly make-it-up-as-you-go. Every book is different. Sometimes, I do a lot of research and upfront planning; sometimes, I write several chapters and then stop and do some research; sometimes, I just write the whole thing. There are some fairly obvious reasons why something would fall into one category or another -- the Enchanted Forest books are set in a fairy-tale universe, and I've been reading and loving fairy tales all my life. For those books, my "research" had already been done. For something like "Mairelon the Magician" or the Kate and Cecy books, that have a semi-historical setting, I needed to do a lot more research. For the first Mairelon book, I did a lot of the research in advance, because I knew it would be needed; the first Kate and Cecy book was done as a game, where it didn't matter if we got things wrong, so for that one, the research and corrections came later.

Spherical Time: I'm most familiar with your Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and one of the things that struck me deeply about those books were the amazing characters. How do you come up with your characters, and how do you write them with such vivid detail?

PCW: This is another one of those things that everyone does a little differently. For me, they mostly walk into my head. I don't sit down and work out their hopes and fears and motivations and personalities and then start writing. I get to know them as I write, the same way you'd get to know a real person. Which isn't to say that I think they're real; it's more that I'll be writing a scene and get to some point where just about anyone would offer their guests something to drink -- tea or coffee or whatever. And I'll stop for a minute and think, what would *this* character offer? Would it be tea and coffee, or hot chocolate, or Mrs. Chill's Super Phospate, or what? Once I've done that, I know a little bit more about that character, and that affects how I make the next decision that comes up.

Spherical Time: What motivates you to write? Where do you find inspiration?

PCW: Writing is where my income comes from, so asking "what motivates you" is like asking anyone else what motivates them to get up and drive to work every morning. It's my *job*. I have to do it to pay the mortgage and feed my cats. It's exactly the same sort of problem that any self-employed person faces.

Inspiration doesn't have as much to do with writing as most people think. If I waited around to be inspired, I'd never have written as much as I have. A lot of the difference between a professional writer and a would-be writer is that most professionals write *even when they don't feel like it.* Because it's their job. Inspiration is lovely when it happens (and there are certainly one or two curve-wrecking writers out there who are inspired all the time, and who can thus get away with writing "only when they're inspired"), but most of us can't count on it to pay the bills.

Spherical Time: The Enchanted Forest books deal primarily with playing on fairy tales and twisting them to bring out new ideas. How did you come up with the new ideas from the old stories?

PCW: Fairy tales follow a pattern -- it's always the youngest son who succeeds in the quest, for instance. The pattern is the first thing you think of when you think of fairy tales -- "Once upon a time there was a goosegirl..." "Long ago and far away there lived a prince..." All I ever did was look at the pattern and then think about other options that didn't fit the traditional expectations. It's a technique that's recommended in a lot of writing books: come up with ten or twenty alternatives for what could come next. The first three to five are the obvious things that anyone would think of, the things that fit the pattern: Once upon a time, there was a prince, a princess, a woodcutter, a poor widow. But after five or six tries, you start running out of the automatic obvious things, and you have to start reaching for other options: Once upon a time, there was an investment banker, a housewife, a modern dance instructor. It's mostly a matter of how you look at the world; once you get in the habit of reaching past the obvious, automatic, default assumptions about what things are and what's going to happen next, you do it all the time.

Spherical Time: As a beginning writer, what kinds of challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

PCW: Learning to write whether I felt like it or not was the first and biggest, and it's ongoing (though it's a little easier now, because I know from experience that it works). That one was serendipity -- I'd managed to get about half a novel written over the course of four years, fiddling with it only when I felt like it. Then I changed apartments, and had to pack everything up, and when I did, I realized how much I already had finished, and all my Swiss-German ancestors rose up in my head to tell me I simply wasn't allowed to waste all that effort by not finishing it. At about the same time, a good friend found out I was working on a book, and he wanted to read it, but he refused to read it until it was finished. So I just started working on it every day, whether or not I felt like it, in order to get it *done*. I wrote the last half of the book, and did all the revisions and the final re-type (this was before computers) in six months. And by the time I was done, it was so obvious that I got so much more written by working even when I didn't really feel like it that I couldn't kid myself about "being inspired" any more.

Spherical Time: When you published your first novel, did you use a literary agent, or did you submit directly to the publisher? At the time, how extensive were your writing credits?

PCW: I had zero writing credits, and I submitted through the slush pile; I didn't get an agent until I was well into writing my third novel. I'd been *trying* to sell short fiction, because I thought that's what you did, to build your writing credit so you could sell a novel. It was just about the worst writing advice anybody ever gave me.

Writers come in three sorts: natural short story writers, natural novelists, and the rare few who are ambidextrous, who can write at any length with equal facility. Everyone *wants* to believe they're one of the rare few who can do any length with equal easy, but hardly anyone is. People whose natural length is the short story find short stories easy to write well, and often have trouble learning to write novels; people who are natural novelists are the other way around.

I'm a natural novelist. Short stories are very, very difficult for me to do well -- back when I was trying to break in, I kept getting rejections that said things like "This sounds like Chapter 3 of a novel" and "This sounds like the outline for a novel." Short stories are *different* from novels. There's some overlap in technique -- they...
Nov
25
Steven Karl Zoltán Brust is a fantasy writer known for his Vlad Taltos Novels and Khaavren Romances, as well as several stand alone novels including Brokedown Palace and Agyar.

Spherical Time: To begin, can you describe where and when you work? Do you write at a desk or table longhand, or straight into a computer? What time of day do you find you write the best?

SKZB: I seem to live on a 26-hour day--that is, my schedule seems to advance two hours a day. I get up, get coffee, do my email, open up the file of whatever I'm working on, and let it stare at me while I wake up, or browse the web, or play a computer game, or whatever. If it's the beginning of project, I just pick at it while doing other things. If it's near the end, I probably spend the whole day writing. In between, things seem to open up a bit as I'm starting to get tired, which I think accounts for the 2 hour shift; I don't like to quit when things are flowing.

Spherical Time: How do you plan out a book before you write it? Your longest running series, the Vlad Taltos saga, contains numerous connections, references and hints about books that were not or will not be published until later. How much work had you done when you began writing Jhereg and other Vlad Taltos novels?

SKZB: I sometimes plan out a book in great detail--500 Years After and Brokedown Palace both had extensive plot outlines. Other times, I have no clue what will happen in the next paragraph--Teckla and Taltos were both like that. I prefer the latter--it's more fun to tell myself a story. I had bits and pieces of Vlad's career in mind when I wrote Jhereg, and have accumulated more, but I ignore them if I come up with a better idea while writing a scene.

Spherical Time: Do you follow a strict method when writing a novel, and if so, can you describe it?

SKZB: Nope. I have a lot of different approaches. My favorite involves starting out with a cool opening sentence, then a cool sentence to follow, and I keep doing that until I need to figure out what the book is about.

Spherical Time: As a beginning author, what were your largest challenges and how did you overcome them?

SKZB: My biggest challenge was a tendency to write a chapter or two, go back and fix it, and keep doing that until I lost momentum and stopped. I had to force myself to get to the end, no matter how bad it was, and worry about fixing it after I had a first draft. Part of it was convincing myself that I was just writing it for my own pleasure and I had no intention of submitting it. That got me to the end, and through the revisions, after which, of course, I promptly submitted it.

Spherical Time: When you published your first novel, did you use a literary agent, or did you submit directly to the publisher? At the time, how extensive were your writing credits?

SKZB: I submitted it directly to the publisher, then, once I had an offer, had an agent negotiate the deal for me. At the time, I had no writing credits.

Spherical Time: What motivates you to write? Where do you find inspiration?

SKZB: I want to make people feel the way I felt when I first read Zelazny's Lord of Light.

Spherical Time: One of the reasons that I think that your work impresses me so much are the incredibly detailed settings of the Dragaeran empire. Do you have any advice for writers on how to craft their worlds?

SKZB: Start with the food and work out from there.

Spherical Time: The Khaavren Romances are in a distinctly different style than the Vlad Taltos books, and I've noticed that recently you seem to be alternating between a Vlad Taltos novel, and then one or two Khaavren Romances. Why does writing in multiple literary styles appeal to you?

SKZB: While, the whole point of style is that it has to bounce off the story in an interesting way. You can't really separate them. So far, I've been lucky enough to be able to just write the next story I felt like writing. Finding the right style, or voice, to match the story is really the fun the part. Okay, one of the fun parts. To only use one style would be to deprive myself of a lot of the fun.

Spherical Time: I believe that you belong to a writers group or club called the Scribbles. Do you have any suggestions for finding or starting a writing group?

SKZB: First of all, get it out of your head that you need a writers group. You don't. You need to write, and after you've written, you need to be self-critical, and re-write. If you find that the editor who lives in the back of your head isn't good at his job, then /maybe/ a writers group will be useful. I got very, very lucky with the Scribblies--we work together very well, and egos don't get in the way.

I have tons of specific advice on how a writers group should work. I can tell you exactly what to do, and explain why any other way of doing things is nonsense. Unfortunately, I can then name successful writers groups that violate every one of these rules. So I guess, on reflection, that wouldn't be useful.

Spherical Time: Is there any mistake that you've made along the way that you can help new writers avoid?

SKZB: Probably not. It is so different for everyone. As I said above, I had the problem of constantly revising before I'd finished the first draft, and I had to get past that, but there are others who can revise as they go and still make progress. I don't know. If we were sitting down a glass of Laguvullen in a nice, smoky bar, and talking, I could probably come up with a lot of bullshit, but the fact is, anyone who is determined to write well enough to publish will put in the work it takes to do that, and will make his own mistakes along the way, and correct them as he goes.

Spherical Time: What is your favorite word or phrase?

SKZB: This week, it's "I'm your huckleberry."

Spherical Time: Most writers love to read. Previously you've mentioned that you like Dumas, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Trotsky, and Zelazny, as well as long list of contemporary authors, of whom I only recognize a select few. Are there any authors that you've read recently that you enjoyed and would recommend?

SKZB: John M. Ford. Pamela Dean. Emma Bull. Will Shetterly. Jacqueline Carey. John D. MacDonald. Tim Powers. John Scalzi. Elizabeth Bear.

Spherical Time: Any final advice to aspiring writers?

SKZB: 1. Don't tell anyone who doesn't need to know that you're writing a novel. It is so much more fun to see the looks on your friends faces when you tell them you've sold a novel they didn't even know you were writing.

2. For the same reason, once you do sell your novel, when someone asks what you do for a living, do not say "writer." It is so much more fun, when you can finally quit the day job, to be able to say it for the first time. I still smile when I remember that.

3. Read outside the genre.

4. Concentrate on basics, such as grammar, and constructing a good sentence. If you can write a good sentence, you can do any form of writing.

5. Figure out what lies you need to tell yourself in order to produce your best work, then put lots of effort into believing them.

6. Forget "self-publishing." It's a scam. Writers only sign checks on the back.

7. Take a chance. Do something you don't think you're good enough to pull off.

8. Figure out what you're bad at, then write something that forces you to work on it (this is really only for after your first novel; for the first one, it's okay to write around your weaknesses).

9. Remember that getting to the end of your first novel is the most difficult thing you will ever do as a writer, whether it publishes or not. Once you've done that once, you can do it again. Get cocky about it.

10. Have fun. Write cool stuff.

11. Remember what Twain said: "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug."

12. This...
Nov
05
Here is the interview with Tess Gerritsen:

Daniel
: What was the hardest issue for you, as a beginning author, to overcome - and how did you overcome it?


Tess: The hardest issue for me to overcome as a new writer? Just plain finishing the first book. I was new to the process and felt the need to perfect every sentence, every chapter, before I could move on. I've since learned that it's important to write all the way to the end and then to go back and revise and polish. It's the only way I'll ever finish a book -- by allowing that first draft to be imperfect.

Daniel: When you first published a novel, did you use a literary agent or submit directly to the publisher? At that time, how extensive were your writing credits?

Tess: When I sold my first book, I submitted it (CALL AFTER MIDNIGHT) simultaneously to both a literary agent as well as a publisher (Harlequin). They both said yes. But I would advise all new writers to
at least try to get a literary agent to represent them. It's the only way to get a really good contract.

Daniel
: All writers love to read. In your case, what is your favorite genre (to read), and are there any other authors you'd like to recommend?


Tess: My favorite genre to read? History as well as historical novels. While I do read a number of thrillers, I find that I crave books that are not the genre in which I write. Maybe it's because writers need to take a break from their own work! Among my favorite authors are Robert Harris and Philippa Gregory.

Daniel: Are there any writing methods or concepts you'd advise beginning writers to avoid?


Tess: I don't tell beginning writers that there's a right way or a wrong way to write, because we're all different. I'm comfortable with my process of not outlining and not plotting out ahead of time, and it works for me. But it may not work for anyone else. The only thing I would suggest is that they not try to perfect their early chapters before continuing with the story. Too often, beginning authors will polish and polish the first few chapters and never finish the book.

Daniel: One thing I personally struggle with is character development, which is key in writing a novel. Any words of advice in adding "depth" to a character? How can we make the characters "real"?

Tess: When developing characters, I've learned to just relax and let the characters take form all by themselves. I don't do character outlines. Often, I know only the barest details about their lives. Getting to know a character is like getting to know real people -- at first, all you know is their age and sex. But with further conversations and contacts, you learn more and more about them. Their politics, their moods, what their families are like. It's the same with characters. As you spend time with them and watch them react to elements of the story, you understand who they are. By the end of the book, you'll know them very well. So as a writer, I just let them develop on their own and discover who they are through what they say and how they interact with other characters.

Daniel: You tend to writer thriller-style novels. Is that your favorite genre to write? If not, what do you enjoy writing the most? (Could include poetry, short stories, other genres, etc.)

Tess: I tend to write thrillers because it's simply the way my mind thinks. I always seem to veer toward dark and twisted plots. I always think: "What's the worst that can happen?" Maybe it's because I spent my childhood reading Nancy Drew and other mysteries. Even when I was writing romance novels (my first 9 books) I always had a mystery central to the plot.

Daniel: When writing the first draft of a novel, is there any method you follow strictly?


Tess: When writing my first drafts, I have no rules and no particular methods except to keep moving forward. I instinctively introduce conflict in every chapter. It's not something I consciously insert into the story -- I just find that I do it without even thinking. Conflict is important for pacing and drama, and I find that if characters don't get along, or are odds with each other, the story is a lot more interesting. I don't outline ahead of time, so I don't always know what's ahead for my characters. It keeps the story surprising for me.

Daniel: Where do you find your inspiration for writing? In other words, what motivates you?


Tess: Where do I find my inspiration? Well, I write because I feel compelled to. And because my deadlines always loom over my head! I'm under contract to write a book a year, so that's a very good motivator.
But even if I wasn't tied to a book contract, I'd still write simply because I want to see how the story turns out. I love the challenge of spinning a story out of nothing but my own imagination. As for where I
find my inspiration for stories -- I get them everywhere, from news reports to conversations to bad movies. There are story ideas everywhere. You just have to learn to recognize which ideas will turn into a great book, and which ideas are not all that interesting.

Daniel: Lastly, if there were only one idea or concept you could teach a struggling, unpublished author, what would it be?


Tess: What's the one concept I'd teach a new writer? Follow your emotions. Pay attention to what makes you angry, scared, and horrified. Emotions are at the heart of your story. When I'm fishing around for a new idea for a book, I always choose the idea that gives me an emotional punch. For instance, VANISH was based on a news story about a young woman who was declared dead and later woke up in the morgue. That horrified me -- which is exactly why I chose it as the basis for my VANISH plot.

Daniel: Any other comments?

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Tess: My last comment: The longer I've been in the storytelling business, the more convinced I am that storytellers are born, not made. Some people just know instinctively in which direction to take a plot, and they'll almost always veer down the path that offers the most conflict, the most drama. That's hard to teach to writing students. I don't know how to teach a sense of drama -- it's something you have to know all by yourself.



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