Neo-pro Interview: Steve Stewart

Interview with Steve Stewart

 

Who are you?  What’s your genre/history/etc?

Steve: I was a weird kid; the worst part was, I didn’t know I was weird. It took me a long time to realize that when a teacher holds up a picture of a one-humped camel in a kindergarten class, you’re not supposed to say “dromedary.” When the school asks students for their input designing the new playground, they want you to draw a tornado slide, tire swings, a seesaw; basically anything but an interconnected network of cloud-shaped tree houses with foam harpoon guns.

I was scared of the dark. It was like a chalkboard where I could sketch my primal fears as big as my suffocating imagination could make them. I was the kid asking for doors to be left open a crack, for closets to be checked. I was the kid running up the stairs with the basement darkness nipping at my heels, clutching the jar of canned peaches my mom had asked for to my chest. I was also the kid begging my dad to tell me just one more scary story. The more something scared me, the more I wanted to tell stories about it, draw it, dig down deep and figure it out.

Maybe I’m still doing this.

These days, I have a wife and two little girls who blow my mind every single day, and I spend five nights a week away from them chasing this writing thing. It’s a life that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, but I’ve found incredible fulfillment in it. Searching for true things and lying about them creatively is a hell of a job. It’s the only one I want.

I write speculative fiction of all kinds, but it tends to be visual and character-driven. Love stories creep into almost everything I write, and I’m starting to wonder if I might be, at least in part, a closeted romance writer. (I never went through the I-don’t-like-girls stage.) Most of what I’ve sold has been sci-fi, but I would like to write and sell more horror. I have soft spot for mysteries as well, and I’d love to sell a novel to Hard Case Crime someday. We’ll see what happens.

What’s your Race score? (1 pt for every short story out to market, 3 points for every novel query (1 per novel only), 8 points for every full (once per novel only also) )

Steve: Shit. You’ve got me. I’m at that weird place where I’m just beginning to sell, so I have a pile of stories in my writing folder, and I would be embarrassed to attach my name to most of them. Henlein’s fifth rule—keep a story on the market until it has sold—is a tough one for me once I realize a story is not pro quality. (Heinlein can talk big, but he was already an effing genius by the time he coined these rules.) I’ve only been producing publishable work for maybe two years, and many of those stories have either sold or continue to look for homes because they’re just so damn long.

I’m proud to say, as I write this, I’m about 5k from the end of my first novel. I’m really pleased with it, and I can’t wait to dig into revisions and send it out. Writing a novel is weird, because you’re working, but you feel strangely disconnected from everything. I’m looking forward to getting back in “the mix.”

So what is my score? Excuse-free answer: A pitiful 3 or 4, but it’s been much better in the past.

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?

Steve: March 2009. I was working security at a university, and I would spend all night walking around in the dark, through the nursing department’s creepy lab full of blank-eyed dummies or down into the depths of the old mansion that served as the campus library. (The kid version of myself would have had an aneurysm.) I had lots of time to think about my life and the direction it was going. I had been writing since I was a kid, but working as a professional had always felt sort of distant and hypothetical. For the first time, it felt like something I could do, not some future me, but me.

I bought a little $300 netbook and starting writing every chance I got. Six months later, I was accepted into Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp where I got to work closely with one of my heroes, Orson Scott Card. I sat across from the man at dinner. We split a pizza. It was surreal. I think it was John Brown (the author and Codexian) who said that Boot Camp was “a barn burner, a great blaze of insight.” He’s right. There was no turning back after that.

What are your goals with your writing?

Steve: I want to create disposable entertainment with thematic substance. I want to be one of those hard-working, skillful, genre authors who tells great stories and gets paid for it. I want to sell books the old-fashioned way, to a good publisher who will put them in the hands of the most possible readers. I want my books to save people during a long wait at the airport or the bus stop or the doctor’s office. I want people to stay up all night worrying about my characters. I want people to argue about them, geek out about them, enjoy them, and miss them when the book or series is finally over.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Steve: I have my goals mapped out for the year, five years, and ten years. My goals will change, of course, but it’s still important to have targets to aim at. I’ll spare you my ten-year, world-domination plans, but here are some of my five-year goals:

1. Sell a novel or series to a major publisher

2. Appear in both Asimov’s and F&SF (as well as other magazines—Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock are bonus points!)

3. Finish at least one novel per year

4. Win a major award (Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, etc.)

5. Establish a strong online “platform” (Still thinking about how to accomplish this one.)

*There are others, but they mostly deal with comics.

These are some pretty lofty goals for a relative newcomer like me, but I’m not in this game to dick around. I’m here to make the most of my time and talent. To do that, you have to aim high and work hard. I’m doing both.

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

Steve: If I had to settle on the one idea I’m most stoked about right now, it would probably be the book I’m planning to write next, “Early Birds.” It’s a zombie novel about a teenage girl who “wakes up” months after the last humans have succumbed to [whatever I end up calling the damn infection]. She discovers a group of other girls her age who have also recovered from being zombies, and ends up at a school led by the only adult anywhere (as far as they know), a brilliant, dangerous woman with a plan to rebuild the world—but first, they have to find a living male.

It’s a whole thing. School drama, cannibalism, “bunker people,” love, pregnancy, post-apocalyptic politics, violence. It’s going to be effing insane. I can’t wait to start.

What are your hobbies outside writing?

Steve: I’m a geek. I like to read comics and play video games and watch anime and play D&D, although this last almost never happens anymore. If I’m going to work that hard on something, it should be something I can sell. Lately, I’m pretty boring. I watch a documentary every night after the wife and kids are in bed, and oddly I find nonfiction more relaxing that fiction. I listen to NPR in the car instead of music. When did I get so old?

I sing and write songs and play a little guitar. I’m not disciplined at it (probably because my older brother Jay was), but I have a lot of fun. Jay s and I are in a band called “Hills and Downs” [link: http://listn.to/HillsandDowns] with our two younger brothers. My wife is always bugging me to sing, but for some reason, it’s the one thing I’m shy about.

I like to fight. I think it’s a guy-with-lots-of-brothers thing. My college experience was like Jackass with boxing gloves. I have a friend who trained at Throwdown San Diego (alongside guys like Tyson Griffin, Jeremy Stephens, Diego Sanchez, and Brandon Vera); he moved back to town and began training me in Muay Thai kickboxing a couple years ago. I like bad food too much to ever fight professionally, but I love to stand across from a guy who wants to kick my ass and go to town. Best stress reliever ever.

What’s your writing process like?

Steve: I get an idea, put in it a blender with a few others, and look for the story in the tension between the ingredients. Then I list. Lists are my friend. When the lists start to look like outlines, I start writing. If I get stuck, I drive and listen to music. A road trip is as good as a month of indoor brainstorming. I also talk things out with friends. Sometimes they can see what you mean better than you can.

When I write, I try to make every section fun. Every night, I know my wife is at home waiting to read what I wrote, and I never want to hand her something boring. My theory is this: if every damn page is fun to read (and you haven’t neglected the basics), you’ll have something good. With good editing, it might even end up great.

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself going?

Steve: Any time you decide to do something risky or unusual, the people around you worry. (Thankfully, my wife is not one of these people.) Sometimes they try to fix you. Sometimes that fixing goes beyond a healthy, helpful level and becomes almost discriminatory. I have failed at a lot of things in my life by kidding myself about myself, mostly in an effort to meet expectations. Writers (or the kind of people who become writers) aren’t normal. When they’re trying to do things they weren’t “made for,” they look broken—like a pair of handlebars trying to function as a wheel. You can’t get anywhere like that. Once you figure out, “Hey, I’m not a wheel; I’m a pair of handlebars” things get a lot better.

Shit happens. When in doubt, get stupid. Get single-minded. Get mad, and just write.

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

Steve: First, be a person. Live. Fight. Fall in love. Make mistakes. There’s no substitute for this.

Second, read. Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Read in your genre and outside it. Read comics. Read scripts. (Hell, watch movies.) Get so familiar with words and stories that your dreams start to make sense.

Third, write. Do it as often as possible, every day if you can. (Five days a week is pretty good.) Make plans for a project, then finish it. Start another one right away. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Fourth, become a student of writing. Read every writing book you can get your hands on. Talk to other writers. Get involved in the writing community. It may be hard to get out in the world and realize you’re not a unique flower, but it will be good for you. Stay humble and teachable. Get excited about learning new things. If you find a gap in your game, plug it with knowledge and practice. You have to do the writing, no one else, so learn all you can.

Finally, never stop.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp? 

Steve: My story “She Who Lies in Secret” is slotted as the June 2012 cover story for Red Penny Papers. It’s a story about a college boy who finds a psychic mermaid in the basement of an old mansion. Things go bad in a big way. It’s one of my favorites. Check it out when it goes up. (You should check out Red Penny Papers anyway. They’re cool people doing cool things in a cool way, and I’m convinced they’re not afraid of anything.)

Neo-Pro Interview: Kat Otis

Who are you?  What’s your genre/history/etc?

Kat: I’m Kat Otis and my genre is speculative fiction –  everything from historical fantasy to urban fantasy, with the occasional bit of science fiction thrown in for good measure.

What’s your Race score? (1 pt for every short story out to market, 3 points for every novel query (1 per novel only), 8 points for every full (once per novel only also) )

Kat: Alas, only 2!  I’m currently revising a novel, so I haven’t had as much time to devote to short stories, recently.  I expect that number to shoot up again once I’ve started querying and have time to revise a few shorts that are almost-there-but-not-quite.

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?

Kat: I started submitting to Writers of the Future on a semi-regular basis in 2005, but I think I really “got serious” in 2009.  That’s when I decided to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, and attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp.  In an usual-but-awesome series of events, that’s also where I sold my first story.

What are your goals with your writing?

Kat: Get as many stories as possible out of my head and onto paper.  Or e-ink.

I’m one of those people for whom the ideas never stop flowing, and if I don’t write them down then my characters follow me around and whine.  There are a lot of those characters who really do deserve a novel of their own (but don’t tell them I admitted it!) so my long-term writing goal is to someday have published a whole bookshelf’s worth of my novels.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Kat: I would love to have a novel (or three, hey, a gal can dream) out within the next five years.

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

Kat: I really want to write an historical fantasy about Juana La Loca.  I’ve got most of the plot figured out, I just need to do scads and scads of research on the milieu.  Now if only I could figure out how to survive on no sleep….

What are your hobbies outside writing?

Kat: And outside of reading, too, right?  :-)  Singing, hiking, photography, Girl Scouts and whatever else happens to catch my fancy.

What’s your writing process like?

Kat: I’m definitely a “pantster.”  My process generally goes along these lines:

1) Something sparks my interest

2) so I jot down a note and generally forget about it

3) except for when I start daydreaming about a character and all the trouble they could get into

4) so I open up a Microsoft Word file and start writing

5) until I get stuck

6) so I wander off and sometimes forget about it

7) but more often I daydream some more and eventually figure out what happens next

8) so I repeat steps 4-7 until I finish

Then, of course, we get to the editing process, in which I analyze the story to discover what I was *really* writing about and just didn’t realize until afterwards.

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself  going? 

Kat: Balancing my writing and my day job, both of which draw on the same mental circuits.  Though a close runner-up is Shiny New Project Syndrome. :-)  I cope by making myself to-do lists and schedules, most of which I promptly ignore but at least the process of making them helps me figure out where my current priorities need to be.  Also, it’s so much easier to feel like I’m making progress, especially on a big project, if there’s lots of tiny “to-do” steps I can cross off a list.

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

Kat: Retro-outlining!  Because I’m a pantster, I don’t outline before I write, but I do outline after I’ve got my first draft written.  I find it extremely helpful to go through the manuscript and find all the key plot developments, character arcs, etc.  Once I’ve retrospectively figured out my structure, then I can revise to bring out the strengths in the story.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp?

Kat: I’ve got a story in Sword & Sorceress 26, which is coming out in November.  You can see the list of contributors and the cover art at http://www.mzbworks.com/S26.htm

Neo-pro Interview: Rick Novy

Interview with Rick Novy

 

It’s Thursday, so here’s an interview!

Who are you?  What’s your genre/history/etc?

Rick: Rick Novy, I write mostly science fiction but stray into other spec fic areas from time to time.  I have something like 40 short stories published, but I’m still missing that third SFWA-eligible sale, though I do have a third pro sale to a non-eligible market.  I also occasionally write non-fiction, usually science or technology aimed at the non-scientist.

I have also edited two anthologies, Ergosphere and 2020 Visions,both from M-Brane Press.

What’s your Race score?

Rick: Very low at the moment, though my high-watermark is around 55.  I had an extremely difficult life situation for about 3 years that sharply curtailed my productivity, and it took about an additional 2 years to recover from it.  I have been coasting on all those stories for half a decade without refilling the tank.  While I have a few new short stories in circulation right now, most of my recent efforts have been long fiction.  I made the decision to become an indie author, so in many ways the Race is no longer a relevant benchmark for me.

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?
Rick: The day I decided I would finish my novel no matter what.  that would be around October 2004.
What are your goals with your writing?

Rick: Foremost, I want to entertain.  I’d also like to make a living at it, and assuming the indie model I have in mind holds true, I think that is a real possibility.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Rick: My goal at the moment is focused on long fiction, and I believe I can produce 3 to 4 novels per year. That included all the publishing aspects also.  If I can sustain that pace, I would have 23 novels out (including the three I am trying to finish this year and starting the clock on Jan 1)

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

Rick: Two very different questions.  I have a lot of ideas that are in the queue for novels. I have a list taped to my computer desk that is 7 novels deep. I have another list that 8 deep set in the same universe, most of which does not overlap the first list.  I have lots of ideas for long fiction.

I would someday love to write a Doctor Who novel, a Star Trek (TOS) novel, and a Star Wars novel.  The first two I could handle, but I suspect there is so much non-cannon material for Star Wars that I would never be able to be consistent in that universe.

What are your hobbies outside writing?

Rick: More than I have time for. Probably the most visible is that I am a fishkeeper. Today I have 11 fish tanks set up for various species. Some for breeding, some just to have that fish around.  It can be a lot of work if you don’t keep up with the water changes, but if you stay on it, it’s not bad.  Benefit of so many tanks is if I have a health problem in one tank, I still have a bunch of healthy tanks so I don’t get as upset about it.

What’s your writing process like?

Rick: Fits and starts.  I don’t outline on paper–much of that happens in my head.  I pick benchmarks in the story and I let the characters get to them however they get there.  I like to write regularly but as long as I am being productive on some aspect of the business I’m satisfied.

For novels, I use a spreadsheet I got from David Gerrold to track my progress.  I find it helps to pull me through my word count for the day.  I enter my word count and time writing into the sheet at regular intervals.  Watching the daily tally add up (and how quickly it can add up) encourages me to add more.  It’s basically tricking myself into being productive,but it works for me.

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself going?

Rick: Distractions. I have a lot of them and it’s usually the writing time that is sacrificed to do other things–other people’s demands on my time.  Motivation has never really been much of a problem for me. I’m self-motivated and I believe in my work.  One of the benefits of making the decision to become an indie author is that I have no roadblocks to publication other than my own.  That has been a serious motivator to be productive because I control a lot more of the business. I have become the one who puts up the most roadblocks because when I’m productive, I grow a body of work.

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

Rick: Read and write, and do both a lot. Submit, submit, submit. Subscribe to Heinlein’s rules. don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp?

Rick: Neanderthal Swan Song is my first novel. It’s available all over. My website www.ricknovy.com, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & noble, CreateSpace.

Thanks to Rick for participating!

Neo-Pro Interview: Melissa Mead

Yes, that is right. The interviews are back.  I’ll be posting them every Thursday until I run out of victims entries.

Enjoy!

Who are you?  What’s your genre/history/etc?

Melissa: Hi! I’m Melissa Mead, writer of mostly fantasy, occasional SF, and even more occasional horror (usually on a dare.)

What’s your Race score?

Melissa: Aw, you caught me near the end of the month! I generally sub a batch of stories in the first week of a month. Right now, I’d say 12 “serious” points. (There are also some novel queries to agents who I’m assuming aren’t interested at this point.)

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?

Melissa: My seriousness has increased in waves. First, in 1997, I got serious enough to submit for publication. (Which happened in 1999) In 2002, I went to my first con, met Real Writers, and started sending to more than one or two places, and tracking my subs. In 2007, I started querying agents. I have a feeling that it’s about time to decide whether to catch the next wave or not.

What are your goals with your writing?

Melissa: Right now, I’d love to 1. Qualify for active SFWA membership. (This could happen soon!) 2. Sell a story to Realms of Fantasy, and 3. Sell a print novel to a major publisher.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Melissa: Depends if I catch that next wave of commitment or not. If I dare, maybe you’ll see that novel in a bookstore somewhere.

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

Melissa: I have a novel that’s been lurking in my brain for a few years. I’m not dying to write it just yet, but it hasn’t gone away, either.  It starts with Snow White, and gets odd from there. As far as tie-ins go, I don’t play well in other people’s yards. Although my husband and I once did come up with a Star Trek story involving Voyager, the doctor’s mobile emitter, and STTNG’s Moriarty that I would’ve loved to watch.

What are your hobbies outside writing?

Melissa: There are hobbies outside of writing? Oh, reading, of course. Going on picnics with my husband. Turning my not-very-impressive photographs into artwork.

What’s your writing process like?

Melissa: Get idea. Write like crazy. Realize I don’t know where it’s going. Stare at screen. Surf the Net. Get another idea. Write like crazy. Get stuck. Eventually, browse among the various stuck beginnings, realize where one is going, and FINISH something: hooray, at last, ‘bout darn time. Repeat.

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself going?

Melissa: Lack of self confidence.  And sometimes I don’t. (See the last question.) But there are always more ideas. If I don’t let them out, who will?

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

Melissa: Write flash. Drabbles, even. Write stories of 1,500-2,000 words, and distil them to under 1,000. It’s great practice for packing the most story into the least space.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp? 

Melissa: May I pimp my writers group? We’re here: http://carpelibris.wordpress.com/

Thanks for letting me do this!

Neo-Pro Interview #4

Here’s the fourth in my neo-pro interview series, as promised.

Today, please welcome David Steffen.

Q: Who are you? What’s your genre/history/etc?

David: I’m David Steffen, and I’m a writer. (Hello, David)

I’ve pretty much always known that I wanted to create, but the medium
has changed as I’ve grown older. When I was a kid I wanted to be a
cartoonist, and I still like to doodle cartoon animals in my spare
time, but I never really stuck with it long enough to get really
proficient. Around junior high I decided I wanted to make video
games, and that stuck with me for quite some time, and I chose to
pursue a bachelor’s degree of computer science toward that end. Then
I met some people who worked in the gaming industry and found out that
they worked 70-80 hours a week during a normal week, and I decided
that maybe that wasn’t right for me. I like to be able to leave work
at some point. But I kept on with the computer science degree and now
I write computer vision programs for traffic control
applications–automatically detecting vehicles in the turn lane to
activate the green arrow, for instance.

I’ve always liked to read, and my favorite genre has always been
science fiction and fantasy, simply because there the stories need not
be limited by little things like the laws of nature or the framework
of human history. But until 2006 I never really considered that I
could be someone who wrote those stories. Somehow, those writers had
always seemed like post-human entities who had always been famous. I
mean, I knew that wasn’t the case, but despite the rational truth
that’s sort of the feeling I had about writers. Then in 2006, I
talked to my buddy Travis, who told me that he was writing a fantasy
novel. I mulled over this for a while and in 2007 I decided I ought
to give it a try.

So I started writing, first on a novel. I finished it in June 2008
and sent it off to Tor. Their website suggest 4-6 months turnaround
so I started work on the next novel. 12 days later, I got the Tor
rejection and decided that if markets would respond so quickly I would
need to try short stories that I could write more quickly. I sent the
novel off to Elder Signs Press, who I never did hear a response from.
From there I visited writing forums and met the friends that I met.
More than anything else, Baen’s Bar critique forum was the greatest
step in my learning, as I posted and critiqued short stories and grew
in skill in leaps and bounds. My story would be very different today
if I’d sent that first manuscript to ESP first instead of Tor.

Regarding genre, I write whatever moves me on that given day. I
occasionally write mainstream, but I regularly write SF, fantasy,
horror, just whatever pops into my head at the time.

Q: What’s your Race score?

David: My race score is 34 at the moment, 31 short stories and one partial
novel manuscript.

Q: When did you “get serious” about being a writer?

David: Serious? I can’t afford to get too serious about it, or I won’t enjoy
it anymore, and then I may as well just quit. I write what I like and
I I try to make each story my best story yet. Like I said I started
in 2007 and I’ve been going ever since. I made my first sale to
Pseudopod in 2009 (“The Disconnected”), which was a huge boost in
confidence, and my first story hit the masses with “The Utility of
Love” in Northern Frights Publishing’s Shadows of the Emerald City
anthology. It seems like I’ve gotten a lot of “almost, but no” type
rejections lately so I am hoping that that is a good sign of my
chances in the near future.

Q: What are your goals with your writing?

David: Oh, I have lots of goals at varying levels of difficulty. Here’s a few:
–Make a SFWA qualifying sale. (Bull Spec may be qualified soon in
which case I have a story that would be grandfathered in).
–Submit to Writers of the Future every quarter until I win or until I
disqualify myself with pro sales.
–Make a profit. I keep a tally of all my writing expenses (postage,
instructional books, etc) and all of my writing income. If I were
paid for a couple pending sales today, I would come within a few
dollars of paying for my expenses. This is very exciting!
–Qualify for SFWA
–Break into certain of my favorite markets (F&SF, Fantasy, ASIM,
Necrotic Tissue, Drabblecast, etc…)

Q:  Where do you see your career in 5 years?

David: There you go using “serious” words again. :) I am no good at
predictions, and even less so in writing because so much of it depends
on random chance and on the whims of individuals’ taste in fiction.
All I can control is what I write, and I intend to keep at it. So, in
five years I intend to still be writing and I intend to be writing
better than I ever have before. It would be nice to have finished
another novel or two, but so far my Muse seems to prefer short stories
so we’ll see what happens.

Q: Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

David: I’ve got a few that I’d like to write that I haven’t seemed to
actually wrap a story around. In particular, I keep coming back to a
Pinocchio retelling novel but so far I haven’t pulled it off yet.

As far as established universes, there are no current ones that I’d
like to get into. My first published story, “The Utility of Love”, is
a horror retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Oz has always been
one of my favorite worlds and I was very excited to take it and focus
on the parts of the original story that really bothered me. I’d love
to do a Wonderland retelling too, but the original is so meandering
it’s hard to do a coherent retelling. And I’m not good enough at
nonsense to do Lewis Carroll’s story credit.

Q: What are your hobbies outside writing?

David: Oh, all things media, mostly. I love to watch movies, read
books/magazines, play video games. I’m trying a bit of sketching on
the side. Going hiking with or without the dogs is always fun.
Watching hockey.

Q: What’s your writing process like?

David: A lot of things vary about my writing process, but I try to keep at
least some constants. On work days I can get ready for work in about
30 minutes, usually. But I make a habit of getting up an hour earlier
than that and I sit at my desk for most of my time and write whatever
I can. That’s the time of day when my brain is the sharpest, and when
my wife and dogs are zonked out sleeping, so I can usually get a chunk
of writing time in there. I might get a bit more in at lunch on some
days, but that’s no guarantee. And then I do what I can.

Generally I only work on one project at a time because if I switch
projects in the middle I tend not to return to them. And I’ve learned
that on the first draft I’ve just gotta write it as fast as I can or I
will lose momentum. Plot holes, bad wording, that can all be fixed
later and once I type THE END on a rough draft I have never neglected
to go back and polish it, but if I agonize over every word choice as I
go I lose momentum and then I get frustrated and sidetracked.

Q: What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer? How do you keep yourself going?

David: For me I think the toughest thing is just trying to go with the flow.
So much of writing “success” is just plain out of my control and when
I stress out about it I gain nothing but ulcers. Everything hinges on
editorial choices. No matter how good you are, there will be editors
who just don’t dig your style. When you’re a relative unknown you
don’t have Name Fame working in your favor and you’ve just gotta live
with the fact that if you submit a story of equal quality to a Big
Name writer, your story will not be accepted. And probably won’t be
accepted even if your story is better (for some definition of better).
It sucks, but it’s true.

I also have learned that my “ideal writing conditions” seem to flux
every few months. Right now I am writing slow but steady, other times
in a frenzy, other times I may go a month without working much on
anything. My Muse is fickle and likes to change her pattern. If I
get worked up about it, I get nothing but worry. All I can do is make
sure that I sit in my writing desk every day and do what I can.

Q: Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

David: I have very strong feelings about point of view and how it is best
used in a story. Many of these feelings are outlined in this article.
The base of the ideas I got from the amazing book “Self-Editing for
Fiction Writers” by Browne and King, the only instructional book I
recommend. It’s not geared specifically toward speculative fiction
but is an amazing tool for learning some aspects of writing, with
concrete examples, excerpts from real books of good uses and bad uses.
I added some of my own stuff and my own examples but I recommend that
book for anyone who wants to write fiction.

Q: And finally, got anything you want to pimp?

David: I co-edit a nonfiction zine focused on everything related to
speculative fiction: http://www.diabolicalplots.com . I post
interviews of writers and editors, reviews, “best of” lists, website
recommendations and so on.

I have my second Pseudopod story coming up, a reprint of my most
well-received story “What Makes You Tick.” Watch for it some time
soonish.

If you want a full bibliography of my published work (4 short stories
in various formats plus some nonfiction articles), check out my biblio
page
.

 

Neo-Pro Interview #3

Interview with Gwendolyn Clare

Who are you?  What’s your genre/history/etc?

Gwen: I’m Gwendolyn Clare. I’ll write (and read!) any genre that falls under the speculative umbrella, though I tend to write short SF and long contemporary fantasy. I’m also a PhD candidate in biology, so I research and teach nonfictional science for my day job.

What’s your Race score?

Gwen: Right now, 12, which is low but I’m not stressing about it. After all, if a story is fattening up your race score, that means it isn’t selling anywhere. I do think it’s important to keep sending ‘em back out until either they sell or you decide to trunk them for good — I’m just not a particularly numerically motivated writer, I suppose.

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?

Gwen: 2006. I took a year off after college and wasn’t doing much besides working part-time and writing grad school applications, so I had some room to breathe for the first time in a while. It gave me the chance to examine my priorities and figure out that I needed to put the spec fic back into my life.

What are your goals with your writing?

Gwen: Back when I started writing seriously, I would have said my main goal was to get a story published in one of the Big Three. Well… check! My story “Ashes on the Water” appeared in the Jan ’11 Asimov’s. My next big hurdle as a writer is to publish a novel, and I’m toiling away toward that goal now.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Gwen: Pretty much where it is right now, only more so. It would be nice to keep selling short stories and start selling novels, but I don’t intend to quit my day job anytime soon. If I did, I’d probably spend most of the time engaged in “cat-waxing” activities and not actually get that much more writing done. Luckily for me, writing is one of those careers that doesn’t have to be performed in the 9-5 timeslot.

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

Gwen: I’m not much for tie-ins, but I do have much love for www.shadowunit.org, the greatest fanfic-inspired collaborative project ever. I’m drawn to collaborative efforts in general, and particularly those that explore creative uses of different media. I’d love to write a graphic novel someday, for much the same reasons.

What are your hobbies outside writing?

Gwen: I practice martial arts more-or-less seriously, my current style being I Liq Chuan, a Chinese-Malaysian style of kung fu that’s very subtle and challenging. I’m a lapsed artist in plenty of other forms — modern dance, acting, pottery, painting, photography, folk music — but it’s impossible to keep up with all of them. I’m focusing my energy on writing and martial arts for now.

What’s your writing process like?

Gwen: Like a tortoise. I write maybe one or two pages a night before bed. Sometimes on weekends, I’ll go wild and write a whole five pages in one sitting. I pick away at stories, always slowly, often with difficulty. I don’t wait for inspiration; I think “the muse” is a metaphor writers use as an excuse to not write. Not writing is easy. I could not write any day of the week (and sometimes do). Putting words on the page is work — enjoyable work, yes, but definitely work.

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself going?

Gwen: The toughest part, I think, is coming to terms with the fact that those first couple novels probably aren’t going to sell, ever, period. It’s easy to trunk a short story because the investment is much less, but it’s hard to accept that your novel — a labor of love that cost you months of time and effort — may be just not up to snuff. That’s part of growing as a writer, though. Most writers have to fight their way through at least one crap novel before they figure out how to do it right. The important thing is to not let past failures shake your faith in the awesomeness of your current project, and that’s something I struggle with.

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

Gwen: There’s a plethora of writing advice out there, so my tip is to only follow advice if it works for you. Everyone’s creative process is different. If a particular approach isn’t helping improve the quantity and quality of your finished products, toss it out the window. Take the topic of revision, for example: some writers swear by it, others swear against it, but the reality is that different stories require different amounts of revision to get where they need to be. Applying any one dogma to all situations not only runs the risk of failure, it will fail reliably at least part of the time.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp?

Gwen: Watch the Clarkesworld website for my recent sale, “Perfect Lies,” which goes live on March 1st. I also have a story in Ekaterina Sedia’s forthcoming anthology Bewere the Night (Prime Books, available April 19th).  I blog semi-regularly over at gwendolynclare.livejournal.com

Thanks to Gwendolyn for doing this interview.  I’ll try not to hunt her down in her sleep for getting a spot in “Bewere the Night” (I had a story held for it (for 5 months!) and then rejected at the last minute, but I’m not bitter.  Yet *grin*).  Be sure to check out her Clarkesworld story, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

Neo-Pro Interview #2

And we’re back! I’ve been letting blogging slide in the interests of finishing a novel (I’m about to mail query packages and would hate to get a full request and have to scramble, so getting this novel done is first priority). But now I have another neo-pro interview for you. Enjoy!

Brad R Torgersen Interview

Who are you?  What’s your genre/history/etc?

Brad: Brad R. Torgersen, full-time nerd, part-time soldier, and night-time writer.  I came into science fiction and fantasy through the usual routes: Star Wars and Star Trek, both on the screen and in novelizations.  In my early teens I got into techno-thrillers, but eventually drifted over to original fantasy in the form of David Eddings and Stephen R. Donaldson, as well as original science fiction like the “Sten” books from Allan Cole and Chris Bunch.  Ultimately, I read Larry Niven’s two omnibus volumes, “N-Space” and, “Playgrounds of the Mind,” at which point my whole fan paradigm got rickrolled.  I came up for air and said, “I want to be like Larry Niven!!”  That was in 1992.

What’s your Race score?

Brad: My Race score tends to hover in the teens, with occasional spikes into the 20s.  My goal is to try and drive it up into the “pro-zone” that Dean Wesley Smith talks about: 80 points or higher, but it’s possible I may sell too often to get it that high or keep it there.  Especially in the new universe of electronic self-publishing.  I liked your article you did on that with Amanda McCarter by the way.

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?

Brad: I got “serious” in 1992… the first time.  I’ve gotten “serious” several times since.  The best and most recent period of “serious” began in 2007 when I went back to work on my short fiction and begin to deliberately attempt winning Writers of the Future.  There were many stops and starts between 1992 and 2007, and if I had to advise anyone, I’d advise them to not be so herky-jerky about their effort, the way I was.

What are your goals with your writing?

Brad: To pay off my house, put at least $500,000 in the bank, and quit my day job.  In that order.  That might sound rather mercenary, but the truth is, part of what made me get “serious” in 1992 was that I realized Niven was getting paid to do what I’d been doing for free on the dial-up bulletin boards for a couple of years already: write science fiction (and occasionally fantasy) stories and books.  Once I decided that merely writing for fun was not enough, I switched over to looking at it like a business prospect.  Now that I am selling, the business aspect is very front-and-center for me, beyond simply finishing books or stories.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Brad: It’s tough to say because there is no single road to anywhere in this racket.  Just because I’d like a thing to be true by 2016 doesn’t mean it will be.  However, if past paths of Writers of the Future winners are any indicator, if I bust my tail and get numerous manuscripts written, in five years I should probably have some novels sold and/or published, additional short fiction sold and published, and be generally working as a new “mid-list” man in the genre.  Not a bad place to be.  Going beyond mid-list is almost entirely up to the market and audience taste.  No way for me to guess how that may shake out.  I could crash and burn, or wind up on the New York Times list.  Or maybe be an e-publishing breakout success?  It would be nice, but I can’t count any of those chickens yet.  I don’t even have the eggs!

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

Brad: Back in 1992 I daydreamed of writing a 5-book supernovel series in the Star Trek universe, detailing the exploits of Captain Sulu and Captain Chekov.  I’d written numerous chapters on a fanfiction along these lines.  Now?  Now, I’d love to dabble in Larry Niven’s universe via the Man-Kzin Wars, with Baen.  And I am currently collaborating with award-winner Mike Resnick, which is a whole unexpected but very welcome bit of fun.  As for original projects, I would very much like to write an original science fiction series with the audience penetration of “Ender’s Game” and those books, or perhaps a rigorous military fantasy series.  My imagination goes all over the place and I know I can’t write it all.  I just have to hope one of these projects, somewhere, connects with enough people to earn me a following and (hopefully) a decent amount of money.

What are your hobbies outside writing?

Brad: Hobbies?  I have given up many of them over the years, to be a Dad and to get “serious” about writing.  Now and then I find a video game I like, though I haven’t played anything more modern than the TRON 2.0 game (from 2004) or the MECHWARRIOR game from before that.  Once upon a time I used to scratchbuild starship models from paper, glue and cardboard.  That was a lot of fun.  Again, just can’t seem to find the time for it these days.  Maybe when I am a big famous published author guy?  But then, Kevin J. Anderson doesn’t seem to have time for hobbies either.  He he he.

*(Nobu sez: squee moment… Mechwarrior 4 is one of my all-time favorite games!)

What’s your writing process like?

Brad: I am still trying to form a process, actually.  Left to my own devices I am a “burst” person, with periods of intense writing and then long troughs with little or no writing.  This is my “hobbyist” writing habit on full display.  Currently I am trying to teach myself to put down words every single day, whether I want to or not.  I’ve arranged my schedule so that every night come hell or high water, I am doing one hour before bed.  Whatever words I can cram onto the page.  It’s not the most inspired way to go about it, but in truth, the stuff I write when not inspired and the stuff I write when totally inspired winds up reading more or less the same.  Hat tip to Dean Smith on that truth, as you well know.

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself going?

Brad: The toughest part has been ignoring the odds and the self-doubt.  The odds are terrible.  Just awful.  Anyone coming into commercial fiction because they think the odds are good is fooling themselves.  The odds are putrid.  Which is a big reason it’s always tough for me to keep my wordcount and morale up, even after breaking in.  Having climbed one “mountain” there is a whole Himalayan range ahead of me.  Do I really want to keep doing this??  Surely there are better and/or less crazy ways to make good money and have fun.  But I long ago consigned myself to this goal: of becoming a successful, well-paid science fiction and fantasy writer.  It’s been my deepest, most sought-after dream for almost 20 years.  Turning away or giving up is simply not an option for me.  So I slog on.  Not because I am especially inspired, but because I feel like if I quit now, I will be failing myself and my family, and I simply can’t do that.

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

Brad:  Best “trick” I can offer anyone is to just read frequently, and perk up when you see something you like.  Doesn’t matter if you think it’s what will sell.  Ignore that impulse.  When you read a story or a book, and you say to yourself, wow, I really, really liked that, PAY ATTENTION!  Try to figure out what it was in the story or book that hit your “cookies” and made you like it.  Examine these things and try to figure out how to apply them to your own stories.  My novelette “Outbound” in the November 2010 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact was like that.  I’d read a wonderful novelette called, “Arkfall” by Carolyn Ives Gilman, and I really sat up and tried to figure out what in that story worked so well for me.  When I sat down and did “Outbound” I had “Arkfall” kind of simmering in the back of my brain, as both template and inspiration.  Both stories are very different in specifics, but I think they have strong, shared themes.  I think new writers could do well to examine their favorite work by their favorite authors, and without copying per se, try to pick apart what it is those authors are doing — the size and scale of the stories, the emotional impact, the types of conflict — and bring some of that to their own work.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp?

Brad: If I can pimp anything it would be my on-line project the Emancipated Worlds Saga.  It’s a big space-opera war story that I’ll be doing all year, with an eye towards consolidation and e-publication to the Kindle and other platforms by the end of 2011.  (Here’s a link to the Prologue)

Thanks for the interview Annie!  This was a lot of fun!!

——–

Thank you to Brad! You can follow him at his blog: http://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/