I was graciously invited to join a blog tour by a new colleague and friend, Sandra Stephenson – a.k.a. Czandra. Please visit her blog here to read a bit about her writing and writing practice.
Below, for my 100th post on this website, is a bit of information about my writing, followed by links to the next stop on the tour. Enjoy!
What am I working on?
A few days ago I finished a novelette titled “The Storykeeper’s Daughter,” and I’m farming it out to readers to get opinions on it before I put the finishing touches on it and decide where to submit it. The story is set in a futuristic universe I created a couple years ago, which I’ve been gradually perfecting over the years.
At the same time, I’m finishing the draft of a novel set in that same universe, as part of a trilogy that I haven’t really figured out a title for yet. The novel is probably best defined as a space opera, or maybe soft science fiction; it’s definitely more like Star Wars than something like 2312. I also have several short stories in various stages of brainstorming, outlining, or submitting. So far this year I’ve had stories appear in On Spec and Encounters, and it’d be really cool to continue that trend with more publications.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I find that it’s really difficult to define a “norm” when it comes to speculative fiction, so the best answer to this question is: It’s my writing, and it’s not really like anyone else’s. When you look at popular spec fic novels, you know intrinsically that Isaac Asimov, Ernest Cline, Steven Erikson, Alastair Reynolds, and Kim Stanley Robinson are all unique in what they write.
That said, if I had to define my writing, I’d say that it’s primarily soft science fiction that focuses more on characters, relationships and adventure than high concepts. My work is set in fantastic locations, or a skewed vision of the present day, but I’d be outright lying if I said that the worlds I create are entirely unique. The trilogy and novelette I mentioned above, for example, are set in galaxy with a variety of features that I think are unique to my writing, but also incorporate elements that are common to this style of story: a galactic government, some form of interstellar travel, a variety of alien races, etc. When I write I focus more on how my characters deal with the challenges they face and try to present a story with a blend of intrigue, adventure, humor and heart-wrenching thrills that will entertain my readers.
Why do I write what I do?
I’ve answered this a little bit above, but at the end of the day my goal is always to write a story that people are going to enjoy. I’m not trying to present my commentary on today’s society or where I think humanity is going (though that tends to leak through), or reinvent the wheel of science fiction (and kudos to writers who are able to accomplish that). I invent characters that are as realistic as possible and throw situations at them, as part of an overarching plot that I hope will intrigue a reader. I realized recently that my long-form writing is a combination of developing an interconnected plot with a clear beginning, middle and end that I want to explore through my novel, but also letting my characters direct some of the action. When I think about where the story is going to go next, I know where I need my characters to end up, but I don’t always know how they’re going to get there; at this point I come up with a situation for them, and almost let them tell me what they would do. And if that serves the purposes of the story, then I roll with it.
The ideas for my short stories come from a variety of places. A lot of it is me observing a situation on the street, or listening to a friend’s comment, and then my mind twisting the idea a little and thinking, “Ooh, that would be a neat story.” On a few occasions I’ve read or listened to something that randomly spawns a new idea. The short story that just appeared in Encounters, “Storage Cylinders,” came to me while I was listening to Stuart Ross read his poem “I Open the Lid” at Queen’s. Basically if I’m interested in an idea or a character, I see what I can do to make an interesting or entertaining story, and keep going until I’m satisfied with the end product.
What am I reading right now?
I just started Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook, while I wait for a copy of The Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson) to come back to me from the library – I was six hundred pages through when I had to return it. Up next on my reading list, in no particular order:
- The Snow by Adam Roberts
- Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
- The Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
- SuperNOIRtural Tales by Ian Rogers
- House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
How does my writing process work?
This one’s an interesting question, since I’ve been reinventing my process for months while I try to find a system that works for me. Right now I’m on a weekly-writing-goal system inspired by a blog I read from Dean Wesley Smith, which I’ve been doing for about a month, and it’s actually paying off! I’m being productive in my writing!
When I’m working on a short story or article, I’ll write an outline and some character or idea notes in a notebook – yes, I do things by hand – before I write my first draft. Then I let the story sit for a while (usually a couple weeks) until I come back to it and see if I want to make any changes. Wow, this is starting to sound like a writing recipe. Anyway, I might repeat this a couple more times – my draft record right now is seven – before I finally decide I’m happy with the story. About a week after that, I start submitting.
My novel writing process is still coming together as I work on my first “real” novel. I find that I can’t focus on a long project in perpetuity, so I’ll write a couple chapters of the novel, take a break to work on a short story, and then come back to the novel. If I ever reach the point where I’m writing full-time, I might have to adjust this process, but for now it works for me.
Ron Collins – science fiction writer (http://typosphere.com/)
“Miss A” – high school Math teacher and blogger (http://somanytangents.tumblr.com/)
The Blog Tour
Here are links to the blog tours that led to me, as well as the names of the writers the tour was passed on to, if you want to check them out. This tour has apparently crossed over from the UK, and some very high-caliber writers have participated so far (which makes me incredibly lucky). I highly recommend Michael Casteels, Christine Miscione, Sandra Stephenson, and Stuart Ross.
Kim Moore –> Maria Taylor, Andrew Forster, Roy Marshall
Maria Taylor –> Jayne Stanton
Jayne Stanton –> Robin Houghton, Siobhan Logan, Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson
Robin Houghton –> E.E. Nobbs, Cathy Bramley, Abegail Morley
E.E Nobbs –> Rob Mclennan, Issy Clarke, Becky Gethin
Rob Mclennan –> Gary Barwin, Amanda Earl
Gary Barwin –> Christine Miscione, Stuart Ross
Christine Miscione –> Michael Casteels, Stephanie Noel
Michael Casteels –> Jason Heroux, Sandra Stephenson
Sandra Stephenson (aka Czandra) –> Julie Mahfood, Joanne Arnott, Me