An interview with SciFi/Fantasy author, Anne Elizabeth Winchell

Welcome to the third interview in the series. This afternoon I am delighted to welcome the outstanding science fiction / fantasy novelist, Anne Elizabeth Winchell, author of a number of published works including; The Last War, Dystopian Galaxies: Visions of the Future and Moon of Lycca. It has been fascinating to discover Anne’s journey and I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.

eBookCover_LastWar

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

As a Millennial female writer, I specialize in science fiction and fantasy and try to prioritize representation of underrepresented groups in my writing. I earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Texas State University and I always have at least three writing projects on the go. This May, I published my first novel, a science fiction work entitled The Last War, and a collection of short stories and poetry, Dytopian Galaxies: Visions of the Future. My writing is constantly interrupted by my wonderful cat, who insists on sleeping on my desk and regularly rolls over on my keyboard.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m either teaching, creating digital art assets, or designing video games. For art, I create human figures and poses for artists and video game designers. I also create interactive stories, which are text-based video games available online. I’ll join the occasional protest march as well, and keep up-to-date on politics.

3. Do you have a day job as well? 

My day job is teaching English Composition and Video Game Studies at Texas State University, where I’m also the faculty advisor for the Video Game Club. I teach a variety of classes on how to use writing to promote social justice, and how to write for video games.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I started writing speculative fiction as soon as I could write and I finished my first novel in second grade: a thirty-page illustrated dystopian retelling of the Bible set on an alien planet. Drawing the illustrations was almost as much fun as writing the story itself! My first full-length novel was finished in high school, then revised several times and finally partially published as my thesis for my Masters of Fine Arts. I recently revised it yet again and self-published the novel as The Last War.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas? 

I’ve always been drawn to speculative fiction, though I veer back and forth between science fiction and fantasy. Most of my ideas come from dreams, and I keep a dream journal that I can refer to whenever I’m stuck and looking for new ideas. Occasionally I’ll have an idea for a story that just appears fully-formed and I scramble to write it out before I forget it.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block? 

Writer’s block can be debilitating, but sometimes it’s also a sign that I’m taking my story towards a dead end and I need to rethink things. I write a minimum of two thousand words a week, even if I’m just rewriting or writing something I’ll never use. Everyone has a certain amount of terrible writing in them and it’s best to get it out when the stakes are low. Sometimes, though, I’ll just stare at the screen and can’t think of a single word. I usually put my story away, do something to take my mind off it entirely, and come back a day or sometimes a week later. The time off gives me time to reconsider and regroup, and I’m usually able to return after a while.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write? 

My first draft of a novel is usually written very quickly, often in a matter of days, with no planning at all. But I revise every novel to make sure the overall structure works and I’ll use an outline when revising. Occasionally I’ll have a beginning and ending in mind but I’ll be stuck on the middle, and then I use an outline to help bridge that gap.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult? 

As a child, the Redwall series by Brian Jacques was very influential, as was Dune by Frank Herbert. As I grew older I started reading female authors such as Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, and C.S. Friedman, and I felt as though I had found writing that truly spoke to me as a female author.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published? 

Some challenges I faced in publishing started because I wanted to publish The Last War traditionally, with an agent and a publisher. I started writing to agents and attending conferences over ten years ago and while I received positive feedback, no one actually accepted the book. I took a few years to develop my writing and get an MFA, revised the novel quite a bit, and then chose self-publishing as a way to get my book out to people with fewer hoops to jump through and more control over the finished product.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change? 

The one thing I regret about my publishing experience is that I didn’t have enough confidence in myself and my writing. As I revised and rewrote my novel, I found that what I really loved about the novel was slowly getting written out and by the time I partially published my novel as my thesis, it felt as though the energy of the book had been drained. Once I gained more confidence in myself and my voice, I rewrote my book (again) but added back what I felt was missing and I believe it improved the book immensely.

11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre? 

I market my book through reviews and some advertisement on Amazon and Facebook. I had been using a wonderful advertiser that specialized in science fiction, fantasy, webcomics, and fanfiction; however, this advertiser just closed and I’ll be looking for new places.

12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published? 

One novel I adore but haven’t published is a dark fantasy novel with some of my best writing, but I’ve had trouble finding representation for it because of the primarily gay/trans characters, which makes it less desirable to some agents and publishers.

13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?

My recently published novel The Last War is set in a dystopian future sixty years after World War III devastated the globe. WWIII was waged by genetically enhanced superhumans who continue to rule the world with power is balanced between them. When a rogue superhuman appears, she threatens the balance that has prevented another nuclear war and she must work with an ex-revolutionary in order to keep humanity alive.

14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination? 

Quite a lot of my writing comes from my life and the world around me. My novel features genetically enhanced superhumans whose DNA has been supplemented with diamond, an idea I had when I first learned about scientists creating liquid diamond. In terms of timing, I set the events of the novel about fifty to sixty years after the last world war, which is about the same time that has passed since World War II. Based on current events, that seems to be when the lessons of previous wars are forgotten; this novel warns about the dangers of forgetting past tragedies and examines how personal choices can and can’t change the course of the world.

15. What project are you working on now? 

Right now, I’m completing an edit on a young adult fantasy novel tentatively entitled Invasion. It’s about a young woman fighting to save her continent after war has devastated her world. It will be a trilogy and I have the second book mostly written and large parts of the third book written as well.

16. Will you have a new book coming out soon? 

In addition to The Last War, I just published a new collection of science fiction short stories and poetry. The stories and poems are unrelated but share common themes of adaptation, family, and love – they are all very dark. The collection, Dystopian Galaxies: Visions of the Future, is now available!

17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with? 

I tend to get attached to my characters and my writing is rarely limited to stand-alone novels. I want to stay in my worlds and explore my characters, so I tend to write too much for a single novel and most of my new projects turn into trilogies. I have one unpublished space opera that is currently six books long (no end in sight) with two spin-off novels because I fell in love with some minor characters. While I doubt I’ll ever publish any of it, I enjoy working on it and I’ve been working on it for fifteen years between all of my other projects.

18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment? 

The worst criticism I ever received was from a friend. I gave her a draft that I was especially proud of and she started reading. A day later, told me she wasn’t going to finish because she just didn’t care about the characters. That was pretty painful, but spurred me to rethink how I introduced and developed my characters and ended with much stronger writing. On the positive side, I gave a (different) friend an advance copy of my collection of short stories and he skimmed through it, then sat down and read one story, and then kept reading because he was enjoying it so much. I love when people enjoy my work and can see themselves in my characters and worlds.

19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers? 

My best advice to writers is to keep writing! If you’re facing writer’s block, write about something unrelated. Write a description of the room you’re in, or what your cat is doing. It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you keep writing. Even if you’re not having any luck getting published, keep writing. If you can’t see a way forward on a book or project, put it away for a while, perhaps even years, and work on something else. And have faith in your voice and your writing. Losing faith in yourself and finding too much fault in your work can be devastating, so remember that you are unique and as long as your writing reflects you honestly, you are doing the right thing.

20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

To my readers and fans, I always love hearing from you! Please check out my website and get in contact with me through the website. If you have any feedback, comments, or suggestions, I love hearing all of them. I’m always working on new projects and love incorporating reader comments into my writing.

Please join me in thanking Anne for engaging with me and opening up with some revealing insights into the life of an author. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Anne via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out Anne’s work on Amazon:

Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/author/awinchell

Social Media:

Website: http://annewinchell.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lilaeris_9 

Artist Store: https://www.renderosity.com/mod/bcs/?uid=741174

Previous publications:

The Last War: https://www.amazon.com/Last-War-Anne-Elizabeth-Winchell/dp/1944969047/ 

Dystopian Galaxies: Visions of the Future: https://www.amazon.com/Dystopian-Galaxies-Anne-Elizabeth-Winchell/dp/1944969055/

Moon of Lycca: https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Lycca-Anne-Elizabeth-Winchell-ebook/dp/B00C0237S8/

 

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An interview with supernatural thriller author, Jon Clynch

Welcome to the second in a series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am thrilled to introduce the very gifted, Jon Clynch, author of the supernatural thrillers The Witch of Gallows Oak and The Chapterhouse Beast. Jon has chosen the self-publishing route and it has been interesting to find out his take on the what works and what doesn’t.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Yes! My name is Jon (Jonathan) and I was born in North London about half a century ago. I am an amateur archaeologist, a writer and a ‘crafter’. I love reading (obviously) and have a range of interests including history, folklore and all things of a weird or of an ‘alternative’ nature. I also have a very eclectic taste in music, ranging from classical to punk, metal to electronic.

  1. What do you do when you are not writing?

As a family we spend a lot of time together as I work from home and we educate our two boys here as well, so we often go out together to visit heritage sites, country parks etc. But most of the time I focus on my other work – running a small business called Jack In The Green crafts, making hand-crafted items from reclaimed wood.

  1. When did you first start writing and when did you complete your first book?

I have been writing for about sixteen years, but have not had the courage to let anyone other than my wife read my work, until I won a short story competition last year. This gave me the confidence to go ahead and write for real. I actually finished my first book, The Witch of Gallows Oak, in November last year.

  1. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?

I have always been interested in the paranormal/supernatural, I suppose partly due to my upbringing; I was raised in a Pentecostal/Evangelical Christian environment where, perversely, such things are frowned upon whilst encouraging the believer to accept things of a supernatural persuasion! Instead of reducing my fascination and curiosity, it increased it. That is not to say that I immerse myself in it too far or adhere to any dark belief system; I have a respect for it and limit my research to that which I find comfortable. My ideas often come suddenly when I least expect them, triggered by an experience or something said in passing. Either that or, as with my first book, I had the seed of an idea as I was drifting off to sleep one night.

  1. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Rarely! I can hardly get the ideas down quick enough. I have many, many notes on my laptop that relate to ideas for stories I will write one day. Some have been there for over ten years!

  1. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

Mostly I just sit and tap away, see what comes. Though I wish I’d written an outline for my second book, The Chapterhouse Beast, (just out in Kindle form a few days ago) as I changed the plot and some of the characters’ personality traits when I was three quarters of the way through! I made a complete mess of it and if it were not for my brilliant wife, Nelly, going through it word by word I’d still be sorting it out now!  As a result, my latest project, working title – And Still the Faer Folk Dance, is proving an absolute joy to write. I know it sounds cliché but it almost appears to be writing itself!

  1. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

I have a great affection for Terry Pratchett and his works, but as a child I was influenced by Ursula le Guin. It is amazing that I was allowed to read about wizards etc, as they were ‘forbidden’. As my tastes developed, I became a huge fan of Tolkien and remain so to this day. He was a genius of the highest order.

  1. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I self-published my first two books, the first being a huge learning curve for me! I struggled with just about every single step though the worst, for me, was formatting. The ebook/kindle version isn’t quite as challenging as the paperback but still has its issues. I found a lot of Amazon’s ‘help’ features and templates vastly unhelpful and uncooperative. But then that my just be my lack of knowledge re technology! I was very enthusiastic and naïve, rushing into it without much (any) research or prior knowledge, mainly as Amazon said I could publish a book without any capital in about 7 minutes. I believe that I may approach a traditional publisher for my third book, mainly to see what the experience involves compared to self-publishing.

  1. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

I think I would have given it far more thought and probably passed it to a traditional publisher. The people who awarded me the first prize in the short story competition had offered to help me but I wanted to go it alone, partly as I’m stubborn when it comes to getting help and partly as I wanted to see if I was capable! As for the novel itself, there is a danger of rereading and editing it to death. No doubt if I read it through now I would think “Why didn’t I say this, or make that happen?” or “That makes no sense, why did I do that?” I think it’s best to leave it as it is, you have to stop somewhere.

  1. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Out of necessity I keep the marketing costs down, mostly limiting it to Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. I admit I’m lousy at self-promotion and have struggled for seven years in that area with my woodwork business. I am always open to advice, but often find the whole world of marketing, with its trendy terminology, off-putting. With my writing I am still learning which is the best avenue. I joined loads of Writer’s groups on Facebook but find them, so far, of little value. There seems no point in thousands of authors all saying how great each other’s work is if the news isn’t reaching the buying public.

  1. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

Not yet! I like both the books I have written so far, though prefer the first one. My current book will, I believe, be a favourite of mine and (though I am my own harshest critic and hesitate to say this) I think that in the right hands it could be a pretty big deal. I will be massively disappointed if I can’t get this one published.

  1. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?

The one I published just last week is a paranormal mystery based around a bizarre murder within the chapterhouse of an old abbey, now a stately home occupied by an elderly peer and his manservant. The old man is an avid collector of occult objet d’art and the death is related to this, as well as local legends of a ‘black dog’. The detective sent to investigate this finds himself immersed in a nightmare world of spirits, demons and the ghost of his dead daughter who tragically died in a crash seven years previously, very close to the abbey. The idea stemmed from an image that came to me as I was drifting off to sleep one night!

  1. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Mostly imagination, though (whether I am taken seriously or not is largely immaterial as I know what I have seen) I have witnessed a number of ‘paranormal’ things, including ‘black dog’ sightings over the years.

  1. What project are you working on now?

My next project, And Still the Faer Folk Dance, is based partly on a dream I had as a teenager and is set at the start of WWI up in the northern border of Yorkshire. It is going to be written almost as the memoirs of two people; the first is a woman who was a young girl who saw her father go off to war and return injured in body and mind. She recalls her feelings, thoughts and experiences, including her meeting with the ‘faer-folk’ who appear to her from the old Round Barrows bear a stone circle close to her village. The second character is a Scotsman who writes books about faires but who loses all interest and belief having experienced the war first hand. I have not yet decided how the story ends, so I can’t give away too much more!

  1. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

I am a huge fan of Robert Rankin with his ‘far-fetched fiction’ and would like to explore a similar idea. I love the crazy humour, tinged with occult/conspiracy theory ideas. Other than that, I like some of the characters I have created and may use them in future. When I discuss them with my wife they sound like real people!

  1. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

So far I have not received any criticism and though I don’t look forward to it I would try to see it as a positive. Not everyone will like my work, I get that. There are many books I detest, that have received glowing accolades or been bestsellers. I wrote a blog on Goodreads called De gustebus non est disputandum. It means “There’s no accounting for taste” (or something very similar!) and this is very true. I have had some lovely comments and it is no lie to say I appreciate every single one.

  1. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Keep going, don’t give up, don’t listen to those who say it’s too hard or not worth it. If you are writing, you are a writer – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

  1. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Just, thank you. I’m not conceited enough to say I have ‘fans’ but I know people have read, and enjoyed, my work so far. I can’t thank those people enough for taking the time to read my books. It means a hell of a lot to me.

Please join me in thanking Jon for his honest assessment of the industry and for sharing his experiences. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Jon via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out Jon’s work on Amazon:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1?ie=UTF8&text=Jon+Clynch&search-alias=books-uk&field-author=Jon+Clynch&sort=relevancerank

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJonClynch/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JonClynch

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/jonclynch

An interview with thriller author, James McCrone

I am very pleased to announce a new initiative, alongside a few of my fellow pen wielding brethren, to create a platform which will allow readers to interact and get to know the authors behind the pages of their favourite (or soon to be favourite) books.

With this in mind I am excited to introduce the very talented, James McCrone, author of Faithless Elector and Dark Network, the first two books in the Imogen Trager series of political thrillers. It has been a privilege to hear from him and a great opportunity to discover not only how he achieved his dream, but also learn from the successes and failures he encountered along the way.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for the opportunity, Mark. I’m James McCrone, and as you’ve said, author of Faithless Elector and Dark Network, book one and two in the Imogen Trager series.
I’m writing the third book right now, working title Who Governs. I live in Philadelphia, PA, with my wife and two of our three children. I have an MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle. National Book Award winner, Charles Johnson (Middle Passage) was the chair of my committee. I’ve been writing (and reading) for as long as I can remember. Telling stories is how I make sense of the world, and it wasn’t until I was 10 or 12 years old that I realized not everyone was like that.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I work, I read my ever-growing TBR pile. Becoming active on social media has greatly increased my scope for reading. It’s a wonderful, unintended consequence! I love to cook, too. I’ve worked in restaurants for a large part of my life, both in the front of house and behind the stove. I have a play in mind-set in a busy New York City kitchen as my next work.
3. Do you have a day job as well?
I’m the part-time business manager for the South 9th Street/Italian Market Business Association here in Philadelphia. I love the Market, and it keeps me in touch with great food, great characters and some interesting stories—many I’ll never be able to tell!
4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I’ve always told stories, and I really started putting them down when I was as young as 10 or 12. As I said before, it came as a bit of a surprise to find that not everyone did that.
I wrote my first novel in 1990, a coming-of-age story called The Quickest of Us. I’m afraid I wasn’t able to interest anyone in it, and it remains a manuscript on a shelf in my office. I wrote the first draft of Faithless Elector prior to the 2000 general election, but again, couldn’t interest anyone in it. After the 2000 election, when the Electoral College vote was so close, I thought maybe it was time to try again. After being unsuccessful that time, too, I put it away for many years. It wasn’t until 2015, when my wife and I were in the UK, that I decided I’d work on it again and get it out there.
5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
This is an interesting question. It’s hard to admit, but for a long time in my twenties and early thirties (I’m 54 now) I think I was trying to be someone else in my writing, and the work suffered for it. The past 13 or 14 years have been a process of stripping away some of the artifice and mannerisms I’d allowed to infect my writing. Before, I was writing about things that didn’t matter to me because (I guess) I thought it was what others wanted to read, and my ambivalence came through on the page. There’s a hollow ring to some of the passages from that time that embarrasses and depresses me.
This is a long way around to saying that I went back to what I loved—thrillers, espionage, plausible conspiracies and whodunnits. I love the novels of John Le Carre, Frederick Forsyth, William McIlvanney and Graham Greene. I like that they combine a spare prose with engaging, intriguing ideas. Moreover, within the plot they’re not afraid to spend time on big questions or to linger over beauty. Those are the stories I’m drawn to, and those are the stories I want to write.
As to where my ideas come from, they come from real life. I’m intrigued by the other half of a story, the unspoken part of an official explanation.
6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes, and it’s brutal. Usually, it’s because I’ve lost the plot, or something I thought would be good has been exposed as unworkable.
7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I do both. I begin with sketches, ideas, and I just write. By the time I have about 25-30 pages written, I see what it is I want to do and how to get there. Then I outline. I find, however, that my outline usually has to be revised by about chapter four or five in the MS. Often, the plot I’ve sketched in the outline and the direction of the story begin to diverge. At that point, I have to assess whether I’m following some self-indulgent tangent, or whether the story is taking me in a new, surprising way. The outline is useful as background, but if the story and/or characters are taking the writer in new and surprising ways, it’s more likely a reader will also find it engaging and surprising.
8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I’ve mentioned Le Carre, McIlvanney, Forsyth, and Greene as early favorites; but I would say the work of George Orwell and Joseph Heller electrified me to the possibilities of language, its power and its subversive elements; of the need to see things from different perspectives.
9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
When I first started shopping Faithless Elector around, I had lovely rejection letters—far better than those that came with Quickest of Us years earlier. They would praise the timeliness, the setting, or the characters, but in the end they would say things like it was “too far-fetched,” or “no one knows or cares about the Electoral College.” I think they do now!
After failing for a number of years to get a traditional agent and a publisher, I seized the opportunity in 2015 when we went to Britain. My wife was at Oxford University on a fellowship leave, and I, being a foreigner, didn’t have a work permit. My days were my own. I had wanted just this situation for years. I decided, as the English say, to really “push the boat out.” I found an editor, and we reworked the book. It was in good shape by early 2016, and I hoped that publishing it early in an election year would help it stand out. It worked pretty well.
10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I have no regrets, and I try not to second-guess my choices—particularly since with both books I’ve spent a year or more going over it again and again. At a certain point, I think, you have to let it go and move to the next project.
11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Learning how to market my work effectively has been a long, painful process. I have limited funds, so I send to Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Midwest Book Review, book-bloggers and other writer friends looking for (good) reviews that can go into my marketing materials. For both books, I’ve done a Goodreads giveaway, which was somewhat effective, and I use Facebook and Twitter liberally. I have found that personal appearances are the best: book launches, readings, book fairs and the like. I also go around to local bookstores with my sell-sheets and collateral material. Independent bookstores are fantastic. It’s the rare bookstore that won’t agree to carry at least two copies of the book.
12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I love Quickest, but frankly I’m glad it’s not out there. I might one day be able to rework it, but for now, the shelf is the best place for it.
13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Dark Network (2017) is the most recently published novel in the Imogen Trager series. (Who Governs will be out next year.)
In Dark Network, Imogen Trager, the determined heroine of the “highly suspenseful” thriller, Faithless Elector, returns. Pushed to the edges of the investigation for her conduct during the Faithless Elector plot, she starts digging where no else thinks to look.
She enlists the help of a computer analyst, Trey Kelly. Together, by scrutinizing gaps in the FBI’s data, they find the backdoor no one thought to lock, uncovering the trail of a vast, coordinated group of criminal cells woven into a sinister dark network, with threads leading everywhere.
She’ll have to fight against time, the network, and even her own colleagues to stop a conspiracy bent on stealing the presidency. In the process, she’ll have to confront her own views on what the Constitution is meant to protect and who she’s becoming. Even if she and Trey are successful, what kind of America will remain?
14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Both books in the Imogen Trager series have their genesis in the quirky laws of United States, particularly as they pertain to election of the president. They are a trilogy, but they’re also written to stand alone (no homework required!).
15. What project are you working on now?
I’m finishing the first draft of the final book in the Imogen Trager series, working title Who Governs. Imogen and her team will reveal who the conspirators are, but will the revelation be in time to stop them?
16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Who Governs should be out in the Spring of 2019. The first two books, Faithless Elector and Dark Network are available now.
17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Imogen Trager is one character I keep coming back to. And I have an idea for a fourth book involving her. Earlier, you asked about outline vs. just writing, and Imogen is the product of the divergence of which I spoke. Pretty early on in the re-writing of Faithless, I realized it would be a trilogy, and at about the same time, I realized Imogen was the driving force. She had started out as something of a “bit player” in the outline, but she kept stealing scenes. Without getting too mystical about the process, I think it’s important, as a writer, to “listen” to what the story is telling you to do. I did, and I reworked the stories with her playing a much larger role.
As to themes, my work deals with issues of personal and social responsibility and political accountability. I’m also fascinated by the notion of path-dependence; that how you start something has an outsized effect on how you go forward. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with that idea, but it’s intriguing to think about how what we do might have been shaped by earlier choices. We think we’re acting, but in reality we’re following a well-worn path…
18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
My editor gives some of the most unvarnished, paint-stripper lethal criticism I have encountered. But frankly, I’d rather deal with it from him in the work-in-progress stage than when the book is out in the world. To be fair to my editor (and he’s not only negative), there’s no doubt in my mind he makes the books better, so I swallow my pride and work on whatever it is that’s put him in such high dudgeon. I’ve been fortunate that both books have been well received.
As to the best compliment, I’ll give you one of my favorites: it was when I was still at university, and a short-story of mine came out in a special fiction section of the school paper, the UW Daily. The short story was a comic love story, and a friend told me that two fellow students—a young woman and a young man—were sitting in the back of her class, not listening to the lecture, but reading different parts of my story back and forth to each other and genuinely enjoying it, laughing at all the good bits.
19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
I have done so much wrong that I’m not sure I can give advice, so I’ll say what I’ve found to be true: the writer is in service to the story and its characters.
That statement is in many ways a platitude, a cliché, but I’ve spent years trying to live up to it. Stripping away my self to get at what’s necessary to the story has been the hardest thing I’ve done, and the most rewarding. It’s also a continuous process, every time you sit down.
20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you for taking these stories and these characters to heart.

Please join me in thanking James for his candid and open replies. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact James via the following links.

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