I've long been a fan of Alex Bledsoe's novels, so when I was offered an opportunity to work with Alex on a short story, I jumped at the chance. We bounced around some story ideas, and the one thing that seemed to click with both of us was that Alex's Tufa used music in their magic, and I have a series, Los Nefilim, whose magic is also based in music.Read More
I know I haven't been around, but I have a very good reason: Alex Bledsoe and I have been working on a short story together, and if all collaborations were this much fun, I'd be emailing every author I know to work on one. As it stands, different writing styles can sometimes suck the fun out of such a collaboration, but not in this case. Alex and I have been rolling the story back and forth between us for the last few weeks and I read over my final edits this morning and sent them back to him.I know I haven't been around, but I have a very good reason: Alex Bledsoe and I have been working on a short story together, and if all collaborations were this much fun, I'd be emailing every author I know to work on one. As it stands, different writing styles can sometimes suck the fun out of such a collaboration, but not in this case. Alex and I have been rolling the story back and forth between us for the last few weeks and I read over my final edits this morning and sent them back to him.Read More
ML Brennan had a really cool idea to have an online author chat and I was lucky enough to get invited to the party! She talks about the author chats in round one on her blog. Essentially, for those of you who are just tuning in, there are four authors involved with these little chats and we each came up with two questions for each round. We answer the questions in a group email, then each of us will post a chat to one of our blogs.
So if you're here now, you're reading Author Chat, Round Three. The fun part of this is that you don't have to read the chats in order, and you can bounce around at your leisure.
Author Chat, Round One: Unicorns, Highlanders, and the Characters We Kill is with ML Brennan.
Author Chat, Round Two: Worldbuilding and Things We Put in Our Books Just Because They’re Cool is at Django Wexler's blog.
Author Chat, Round Four: ALL THE LIES! is over at Leigh Bardugo's blog.
Check them all out when you can.
And now ... Author Chat, Round Three:
Tell us about one novel that you wish you had written.
Teresa: All the good ones. No, really, I do have several novels that I wish I'd written, but for the sake of discussion here I'll narrow it down to just two:
In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip. I just love the entire story of a prince who is so sad that he is willing to give his heart to a witch. His wife and son have died and he believes that he will never love again. He no longer needs a heart. There is a princess who is forced to marry the prince. Yet she stands up and says that she will not marry a prince without a heart, so she sets out to restore the prince to his heart. Of course, this is McKillip, so there is a wizard and a witch and a haunted forest. I think this is one of my favorite McKillip stories. The beauty of the tale lies in its simplicity and McKillip’s elegant prose. It’s just perfect.
The other story I wish I’d written isn't a novel, but a short story "Bite-Me-Not or, Fleur De Feu" by Tanith Lee. I read this story and immediately wished I'd written it. It's about a woman who falls in love with a vampire, but nothing is quite as it seems. Lee's prose is absolutely lyrical and the ending is so very sweet. If I ever taught a class on how to write a perfect story, this would be mandatory reading.
Leigh: Lawd, I never know what to make of this question, but I'm going with Glen David Gold's Carter Beats the Devil. It's one of the most perfectly plotted books I've read, and it also strikes this tone of possibility that I haven't encountered many other places. It's an intimate story, but it has grand scale. It's historical fiction, but there's an element of magical realism. It's whimsical and improbable, but grounded in something sinister, and heartbreaking, and absurdist. After I read it, I started trying to write a literary novel set in early 1900s Los Angeles. I never got past chapter two. At the same time, I'd hate to have written Carter because then I'd be deprived of the pleasure of simply reading it.
ML: This is a really interesting question, because I think how we respond says something about our own writing styles, or what we see ourselves as potentially capable of. For example, I’m a huge fan of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and its utterly dreamy, beautifully rendered prose, but every time I read it I’m impressed again at her tight cross-cutting between the times, and the way Morgenstern was able to really build up the mystery of certain events that are eluded to as in the past (or sometimes the future), before later pacing out the scene. But I’m a pretty methodical A to B plotter (at least at this point in my writing career), and while I admire that book greatly, I’m just not sure that that style of writing is in my wheelhouse. That leads to me admiring it, but not being jealous of it. I think the “I wish I’d written that” emerges from that little itching of where admiration meets jealousy.
So with that rather long-winded caveat – Wrapt In Crystal by Sharon Shinn. On the surface it’s a sci-fi mystery, but it has so many layers pondering that nature of religion, of guilt, of survival, and how people interact with each other. It’s not a book that would make my Top 50 books of all time, but it’s a book that every time I go back and re-read it, I feel like I learn something new from it.
Django: When I was in college, I wrote (or started writing) a novel about gods in the modern day. It was something about the old god-archetypes had been forgotten and neglected, and the new god-archetypes had been created by TV, movies, and popular culture. It wasn’t very good, and I eventually gave up on it in frustration. Some years later, I read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and I had this moment of, “Oh, that’s what I was trying to do! I’m glad someone who could actually do it gave it a shot!”
The novel that I wish I had the skill to write is probably Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, not coincidentally one of my all-time favorites. It’s not a perfect book – it wanders, plot-wise, and the ending is a bit anti-climactic – but there’s so much wonderful prose in there that every time I read I find myself constantly wanting to bookmark bits to show other people how amazingly clever they are. So maybe not that specific book, but I would love to write something that gives the reader that feeling.
How do you maintain your audience/reader connection between novels? With Blog posts? Short stories? What is your favorite way to interact with fans?
Teresa: I love cons, but due to my inability to hear, cons can be more stressful than helpful for me sometimes. Also, cons are expensive. Very expensive. So I've been sticking to the local scene these last two years.
Twitter is my favorite way to interact. Blog posts can take more time than I like sometimes, because I want the post to be entertaining and factual. Writing whatever comes straight out of my head is never good. It's very easy to forget that when I'm online, people can't hear the tone of my voice or see if I'm smiling, and my writing style can be somewhat sharp from time to time. When in doubt about my own tone, I usually don't air the post. I can't tell you how many opinion pieces I've written only to delete them.
So I've shifted course a little this year and put my writing focus on short stories. I've really enjoyed writing them and have even sold a couple. I enjoy the short stories, because I can experiment with different characters and techniques without the time investment of a novel.
Leigh: I used to be a really sporadic blogger. It just doesn't come naturally to me and I had to drop out of a group blog that I loved because I would get so stressed out over posting. Then I discovered tumblr (cue trumpets) and everything changed. I think I'm at ease there because I don't just have to be an author, I can also be a fan. I can get excited or irate over the things I love. I can wax shamelessly about my favorite ships and shows.
As far as connecting with readers between books, I honestly feel like it's the readers themselves who do the heavy lifting—through fanart and graphics, fanmixes, fic. I love seeing it and reblogging it. I do my best to answer asks as frequently as I can. I try to keep up with my twitter feed. But it's the readers who are really generating content and connection. They're the ones who speak up when someone says, "Should I give this book a try?" They're the ones who bring the characters to life beyond the pages of the series. And I happen to have lucked into a particularly generous and talented group of readers.
The best thing is when I'm on tour and I get to meet people I know from twitter and tumblr. It makes me feel like I have friends in every city, and as a secretly shy person, that's really comforting.
ML: I feel like everything that’s happened since May, which was when Generation V (cheap plug! everyone drink!) debuted, has been a crash course into how to build a readership in the first place. I’m kind of in a bit of a head-scratching phase right now, because everything was so focused on the first book, but Iron Night comes out next month and it feels like a completely different setup. Can I get an extension on this question until next August? I feel like I’ll have a better answer then. :)
I find blogging to be a special kind of painful. It can be really useful, but at the same time I always feel weirdly resentful when I post a 500-word blog post – it’s like, that could’ve been 500 words in a book! Which is funny, because I love reading other people’s blogs, and I see a lot of people who are extremely good in that format. I think I just don’t quite have the right skillset. Cons, however, I love (though Teresa is right – expensive! plus there are only a few a year within easy traveling distance), but I have actually had the most fun with Twitter. I feel like it’s really easy for someone who has just picked up one of the books to tweet at me, and a conversation can start. Plus comments can go back and forth at a pace that is much more like a regular conversation, which can be lost on other platforms or email. The only challenge has been learning how to hone down my responses to 150 characters. So many of my best jokes are wordy!
Django: I’m sort of in the same position that ML is, since my first book came out this year. My first con as an author was San Diego Comic-Con, a week after the release – talk about in at the deep end. I did a few more over the summer, at that was a lot of fun, but I’m not sure it was terribly useful in connecting with readers. (It was great in terms of connecting and making friends with other authors and industry people though!)
I used to do a fair bit of blogging, but it dried up when I acquired a public persona, because it was mostly on politics and other contentious subjects. I just recently started writing a column on “anime for SFF fans” over at SF Signal, and also doing some podcasts there, which has been a lot of fun. Project like this Q&A are helpful too!
My next experiment is an urban fantasy novella I’m going to release for Kindle, hopefully sometime this month. It’s not something I’ve ever done before, so we’ll see if people dig it!
* * *
If you enjoyed reading our conversation, you can check out more about each author right here:
Leigh Bardugo: The bestselling Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm can be bought now. The conclusion of the Grisha trilogy, Ruin and Rising will be published June 3, 2014. Learn more at http://www.leighbardugo.com.
Django Wexler: The Thousand Names is in stores now. The second in The Shadow Campaign series, The Shadow Throne will be published July 1, 2014, and Wexler’s middle-grade fantasyThe Forbidden Library will be published April 15, 2014. Learn more at http://djangowexler.com/.
And, of course, you always know where to find me.
When Marty emailed everyone and pitched the new anthology Winter in the City, I jumped at the chance to be involved. I wanted a good excuse to write another story with Alejandro ("Love, Crystal and Stone") and Adriana ("Naked the Night Sings").
The theme of the city in winter appealed to me. Even though I was raised in a rural area, I've always been in love with New York City, which held an almost mystical status to me. My parents thought of it as a city of sin, The Warriors showed me a haunting landscape of danger and forbidden love, and Escape from New York made the city the most badass place around.
When I finally had the opportunity to visit New York, the beauty of the city took my breath away. I found every street had a different story to tell. Rather than become disillusioned with the reality, my visits merely deepened my love for the city. Early mornings are my favorite time when a hush seems to hold the streets. Shadows linger and it's easy to imagine a place where the sidewalk ends and magic begins.
New York is where dreams are born and sometimes stillborn. It's a city with multiple faces like my Adriana and Alejandro. I can think of no better place to set the third story of my Nightsongs series.
If the Kickstarter for Winter in the City is successful, I will tell you the story of Monica Ness, a once famous singer, known to the world as Nyx. For a price, the mysterious Adriana offered Monica the ability to sing with duende. Like Nicolai before her, Monica found a thread and won the power to move audiences with her voice. She took the stage name Nyx and soared to fame before she fell into alcoholism and disappeared from the music scene.
At fifty-two, her life is over. She lives in the subways and drinks to wash the dark sounds from her mind. Near death and destitute, Monica contemplates stepping on the third rail when a strange man emerges from the tunnel. He says his name is Alejandro and, for a price, he offers to save her soul.
If you have a minute, go and check out the Winter in the City Kickstarter for details on how you can participate.
This week I am hanging out at Bastard Books with a guest post on the inclusiveness of badassery in urban fantasy. I talk about my misconceptions about the genre and how "Naked the Night Sings" found its way into the anthology, Manifesto: UF. The post is all about rethinking our misconceptions about urban fantasy.
You need to head over there, because the Bastard is also giving away not one, not two, not three, but five--that's right, I said FIVE--e-copies of Manifesto: UF, which features my short story "Naked the Night Sings" along with a host of other fine stories by authors you know.
Now get out of here and check out the Bastard's blog to see how to win.
Go on, you want it, you know you do ...
What is the razor's edge that divides urban fantasy from horror?
I give a few thoughts on the subject of riding that razor’s edge between horror and urban fantasy and talk about my short story "Naked the Night Sings," which appears in the Manifesto: UF anthology. I have a guest post this week with urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson. If you don't know Suzanne, she is the urban fantasy author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. You can read all about Suzanne's books here.
Suzanne is giving away a copy of Miserere too and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment. Come on over and join the discussion!
Last week, I wrote a guest post for Suzanne Johnson and she offered up a copy of my debut novel, Miserere, to one lucky commenter. Today, Suzanne is back from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show in NOLA, and she's got some great pictures from her trip.
She also has announced the winner of a copy of Miserere.
Check out Weekly Winners and One Tired Writer to see who won.
And thanks to everyone who commented!
While I'm letting a short story percolate, I've returned to work on Cygnet Moon. I don't have any taglines or blurbs for this novel yet, but I am thoroughly enjoying the story. The protagonist has finally begun to show me a few moments of subtle psychological imbalance. That trait has prevented the story from slipping into the tired old frame "young person goes into the world to mature."
Makar is twisted around the edges--his madness is embedded in his DNA and comes from both his mother and his father. I'm still discovering all of his quirks, but this one surprised me as I completed a scene the other day:
“Swear your loyalty to me, Makar.”
With the suffocating whiteness of her ar’nel gone, I could breathe freely once more. My eyes still burned and refused to focus properly, but I glimpsed the shadowy image of Balian as she stepped close to Mother’s side.
I disengaged myself from Tatiana’s grip and knelt before Mother. “I swear on the names of my ancestors and on the blessed name of my grandmother Queen of Heaven Norayn ib Jebid that I will fulfill my duties to our people and protect them from harm.”
“With your life.”
“With my life,” I whispered to the floor, then kissed the hem of her robe and made sure to smear my blood on the underside of her gown. She wouldn’t notice until this evening that she had carried a part of me with her all the day. The very thought of my blood on her person would horrify her. “I will not dishonor this house.”
I've also been working on some guest posts that will be showing up online over the next few days and weeks. I'll keep you notified of when those go live.
I'm over at the Ranting Dragon, making a case for Marion Zimmer Bradley's novel The Mists of Avalon as my choice for their Great Fantasy Novel series.
Tomorrow, my big post of the week will be at BookSworn.
I'm really excited about the Manifesto: UF anthology that is coming September 1. I've had a chance to read several of the stories and I love the way that Tim and Tyson have segued from one story to the next. There is a definite flow to the anthology that makes reading the stories in order very smooth.
One thing I've loved about the various stories that I've read so far is the scope of urban fantasy. Manifesto: UF has a little something for everyone.
I'll be talking more about my story, "Naked the Night Sings," over at Suzanne Johnson's blog later in September. Suzanne is an agent-mate of mine, we're both represented by Marlene Stringer. You can read about Suzanne's urban fantasy novels right here.
While I worked on "Naked the Night Sings," I thought a lot about the fine line between urban fantasy and horror. Of course, we all know what happens when I start to think--either nothing good comes of it, or I end up writing an ungodly long blog post about it.
So that is what has been going on behind the scenes. I hope you've been busy too.
Check out SF Signal's Mind Meld where I join a host of other authors to talk about the intersection between Gothic novels and Urban Fantasy.
Is Urban Fantasy the new Gothic?
I say no ... go see why ...