Friday, 10 June 2011
The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter
> What's The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter about?
I always find this one of the hardest questions to answer. Literally, the book is about an aging queen who come to a realization about her life and life in general. But it's also about discrimination, creation, motherhood, and cities. There are a lot of characters, not all of them human, and a lot of settings, but primarily the story is about a woman's epiphany and her discovering the ability to improve herself.
> Is there a story behind the title?
The title for The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter grew slowly as I wrote the book. I had been reading Robert Burton's Anatomy at Melancholy, a massive tome about what makes people sad. Burton was a brilliant, obsessed man, but he wrote his treatise in the 1600's, when the general belief was that people had different compositions in their veins, called humours, and that their personality traits were dictated by these humours: some had a darker bile, doctors of the day claimed-- melancholy-- which made the patient's destinies pretty much miserable from the start. I imagined a city where this theory was true, and that in this city there would be a caste system based upon it. This was responsible for the 'melancholy' part of the title. The fecund-- a monster living under the castle where the queen lives, a narrator of sorts-- was named because it's constantly in a state of pregnancy and is responsible for much of the creation in the book's world. Without giving away any spoilers, there is an implication in The FMD that a certain major player was born with melancholy flowing through her body, and that the fecund was her mother. Hence, the title is a literal description of a main character. Plus, I wanted a long title, after the one-word title Filaria.
> Does working in the aerospace field help when writing science fiction?
Because my day job has nothing to do with writing-- except for the occasional e-mail-- it doesn't exercise the same muscles that writing fiction does. I've purposely steered away from any type of employment that involves writing for someone else. My science fiction has very little science in it, so there's no connection there either. So for me, having a job like I do helps my writing a lot, by being so separated from it.
> What made you want to be a writer?
I've always loved reading, and when I came across authors like Ballard and Delany, I realized the potency of words, and how incredible they could be when strung together in the right way. I wanted to affect someone out there the way these authors affected me. A tall order, but I wanted to try.
> Beyond the matter of length, do you find it easier writing short stories or novels?
Novels. I have a difficult time reining myself in. I like the expanse of a novel, the ability to scatter characters throughout geography and time, to meander and venture into asides, exploring nooks and crannies off the beaten path. Short stories don't have that luxury, but it's also good to write them once in a while, to balance things out, and practice restraint.
> In the books you’ve written, who is you favourite character and why?
I like most of the characters in my books- I think you need to like them, in order to get through the writing process. They all need to be treated fairly. I try not to have clear 'good' guys and 'bad' guys, so I don't set up certain characters as unlikable from the start, even by me. I suppose if I had to pick, though, it would be Phister, from Filaria, and the chatelaine from The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter. To me they are the most sympathetic. They were my principal avatars during the writing of the books.
> If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?
I don't think so. Some of them briefly do fun things-- go to cool places and meet odd people-- but ultimately the settings and situations would become a bummer. My books are much darker than I am.
> What was the first novel, published or unpublished, that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?
The first novel I wrote was a second-by-second description of a bombing raid in London during WW2, written longhand in pencil on lined paper. A litany of how the denizens died. Pretty gruesome. I'm not sure how long it took me to fill up all that foolscap. I was about twelve. Trust me, that's a long time ago.
> What was the hardest scene for you to write?
I struggle with action scenes. I tend to write introspection mostly, but car chases stymie me. In The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter, there are fight scenes involving sentient craft that needed to be buffed quite a bit before seeing the light of day.
> When and where do you write?
Mostly I write at my desk, at work, during my lunch break. This adds up to about fifteen minutes a day. I do editing at home.
> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?
The best thing about writing is holding a published book, or seeing a potential cover for the first time. Getting a good review or feedback from someone far away who likes your writing is pretty great too. The worst thing is running into snobbery. A lot of writers seem to believe that what we are all doing is more important than what other people end up doing. I can't abide by that.
> What is something you didn’t know about the publishing industry before you had your first book published?
To be honest, I had no idea that the whole process could be as painless as it was with my two novels. CZP are pretty ideal publishers.
> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?
Don't write for a particular audience or follow any trends. Develop strong discipline and, most of all, develop a really thick layer of skin.
> Any tips against writers block?
Sit there, even if nothing comes. Often the best passages are the one that hurt the most to write or the ones that take forever to gel.
> How do you discipline yourself to write?
By chipping away. A few lines a day adds up. Don't wait for inspiration - it's fickle, and can't be trusted.
> How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel or story?
I didn't send anything out until several rather bad stories and a rather bad novel had been completed. When I did start submitting, it was infrequent and I retired the works after a few failed attempts. I think the most rejections I ever got for one story was about seven. The novel that I completed before Filaria was rejected by an agent but never a publisher. Filaria was sent out to one place but I never heard back from them. Then along came CZP, and here we are. So zero is the answer, I guess.