Kelly Robson Interview – Writers of Fantasy

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This week’s interview in our Writers of Fantasy series is with Kelly Robson, author of Waters of Versailles, which won the Prix Aurora Award and was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Nebula Award.

We had a really great conversation about the ins and outs of writing, the life of a writer, and how the industry is changing its attitudes. Take a listen, or check out the key quotes below if you can’t listen right now.

[Listen here]

A M Dellamonica Interview

This week in our Writers of Fantasy series is our 91c2t4kdfrlinterview with A. M. Dellamonica, author of Child of a Hidden Sea, A Daughter of No Nation, and over thirty short stories.

She writes science fiction, fantasy, and alternate history.

We talked about how she has changed in her craft over the years, what it takes to build characters and worlds, her theatre background, and the importance of representation and diversity.

KEY QUOTES;

“It was an inspiration story in the sense that the concept kind of hit like a bolt of lightning. That’s always really pleasant. I think that’s something that happens more when you’re new because you haven’t built up the infrastructure in your mind for simply generating good stories weather inspiration strikes or not.”

“When I came to write The Hidden Sea Tales, I wanted to write about someone who was markedly different from me. So I looked at the people in my life who from my more button down point of view are – sort of – over sharing all the time. So I started there.”

ON DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION:

“There’s been a long, ongoing effort by a lot of writers to broaden the palette. Those of us who are gay in some variation have always included those characters, but I think we also tended to make more compromises to make more characters that a more general audience would grasp onto.

So the gay characters might be tucked in at the side or the people of colour would be secondary. They wouldn’t necessarily be as integral to the story. And that’s a sad thing, but it just seems to be slowly becoming the case that you can pick characters from the full range of options available and it doesn’t necessarily tank your chances of selling a novel.”

“I’m still honestly surprised when I see things that reflect my life on TV.”

ON CREATING HIDDEN SEA TALES

“I just started making this enormously long list of everything that I think is cool or fun and delightful.”

“I included court proceedings, because I’m a huge nerd. (Like all science fiction writers).”

[Listen here]

Kameron Hurley Interview

The latest interview in our Writers of Fantasy series is with Kameron Hurley, author of the Gods War series, The Mirror Empire, and her new book of essays, The Geek Feminist Revolution (which is pretty amazing).

We talked about how she develops her cultures in writing, explores gender and sexuality, as well as building characters around stories. She has a lot of experience and is well worth listening to!

gods-warYour books expand and explore numerous cultures in depth; what has been the most interesting aspect of developing them?

I wanted to come up with cultures that I really hadn’t seen explored in other fantasy and science fiction novels. I see so many novels that will take exactly one “big idea” and have that be the only thing that changes in the entire world of the novels, and it feels astonishingly lazy to me. So they’ll throw in faster than light travel, but military and social hierarchies remain the same, people talk the same, live the same, the social mores are the same. And that’s just boring to me.

I read science fiction and fantasy because I want to go places that are really different. If all you’re doing is picking up a piece of tech and throwing it into a status quo version of the world we see on TV every day, I’m just not interested.

What I love most about creating cultures is seeing how each aspect affects every other aspect. So if you have a polyamorous matriarchy, say, there are very different conversations that go on about property inheritance/distribution, and while there’s still plenty of social drama, it’s very different drama, as it’s no longer “I can only choose one man!” it’s “We can all choose each other but now we need to figure out how to get along.”

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Karen Miller Interview

falcon-throne-197x300Our Writers of Fantasy series continues with an exclusive interview with Karen Miller, best known for her epic fantasy novels such as the Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series) as well as her new book, The Falcon Throne.

She has also written Star Wars and Stargate novels and under the pen-name K.E. Mills writes the Rogue Agent series, about a wizard with special skills who works for his government under unusual circumstances.

SFFN: When you look back on your first books, such as The Innocent Mage, and compare them to something more recent, like The Falcon Throne, how do you feel you’ve changed as a writer? Has your process or method changed?

KM: Innocent Mage was a fairly uncomplicated, straightforward book. It doesn’t have a really big cast, or a challenging narrative structure, and the landscape is restrained. It was enough of a challenge for me to just to finish it, and polish it to the best of my ability, and then sell it, without burdening myself more!

But the first two books in that series (Innocent and Awakened) gave me the courage and confidence I needed to challenge myself a bit more, and so that’s what I’ve been trying to do with every book since.

The end result of that process is the Tarnished Crown series, The Falcon Throne being the first one, where the narrative structure, the landscape and the scope of the story are by far the most vast, complicated and challenging I’ve aimed for. This story is making me sweat! But that’s a good thing, even when I’m banging my head against the keyboard. *g*

The other shift, I’d say, is that the characters I’m working with are becoming progressively more layered, more convoluted, less easy to pigeon hole. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Asher and the rest of the Mage books cast, but they are all fairly uncomplicated, in terms of their motives and personalities. The Tarnished Crown cast still has good guys and bad guys, but the waters are muddier. Balfre, for example, is not a good man – but I think some of his actions are at least understandable, if not forgivable, because life has not been kind to him. I think he could have been a good man, if his circumstances were different.

Likewise Liam is a complicated person, someone whose basic nature has been distorted by events beyond his control.  Benedikt is a far sunnier, simpler man – but even he has his moments.  LIkewise Catrain. She’s a hero, but she has her flaws. And Izusa, who willingly embraces evil, and does terrible things, she’s actually motivated by love. I think that’s because to be human is to be complicated and multi-faceted. Even very good people have their very bad moments. And bad people are capable of selfless, loving acts. That can get confusing, and even confronting, but it’s also human. It certainly keeps me on my toes, as a writer.

I wish I could say, after some 19 books under my belt, that the process of writing a novel has become easier, but no. It’s not. Maybe if I didn’t keep asking more and more of myself it would be! But I still struggle with the doubts and the demons. I suspect most writers do. At the end of the day, it’s about you and the empty page (or screen) and the only cure is to sit your arse in the chair and apply your fingers to the keyboard and wrestle that story out of your head, then polish it until it shines.

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Martha Wells Interview

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Martha Wells is the latest subject of our Writers of Fantasy Interview series. She has been writing ground-breaking fantasy for over two decades now. Her Books of Raksura series in particular has challenged gender stereotypes and more in every way imaginable and she still has more coming! She has also been doing a Patreon for short Raksura stories!

We chatted about how she has changed as a writer, what her process is, and what she thinks of the industry at large. Even if you’ve never read a word of her books before, this interview is well worth checking out as she has great insights into the world of being a writer.

– When you look back on your first novels, such as The Element of Fire, and compare it to something more recent,like The Edge of Worlds, how do you feel you’ve changed as a writer? Has your process or method changed?

As a writer, I think I take more chances. I think I’m more in touch with the kinds of characters and relationships I want to write. My process has changed in that I write faster, I’m more productive,and I’m more confident in my abilities.

– Many of your works, Books of the Raksura in particular, explore gender and sexuality and there is great diversity within the cast. How important is representation and diversity to you?

It’s very important. Books that explored gender and sexual orientation were very important to me when I was was growing up, and helped teach me about the world in a way that I was not going to get from any other available source. And for me I think it’s an ongoing process and that I still have room for improvement.

– (Related) Is this something the genre as a whole needs to get better at, and have you seen it improving?

It definitely needs to get better. I think there has been some improvement, or at least more awareness of the problem. And some of the most critically acclaimed, award-winning, most exciting and original SF/F in the past years has come from writers who are POC, LGBT, and women,which you would hope would make a dent in the belief that only straight white men write SF/F. But you still see people saying things like “women don’t write fantasy” or “women don’t write SF” and believing it, which is depressing.It’s not encouraging to see the work of hundreds of women writers erased.

The popular, most visible bestsellers are just the tip of the genre’s iceberg, but for most people the rest of the iceberg doesn’t exist. It’s hard to be optimistic about it sometimes.But the other day on Twitter, Kate Elliott said “It’s hard to change the narrative when so many of the narratives that get the most visibility aren’t changing. But change is coming.” I think that’s very true.

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