Monday 16 June 2008

R. Scott Bakker Interview

The Darkness that Comes Before
The Warrior - Prophet

The Thousandfold Thought


Pitch your latest novel.

My latest novel, Neuropath, is a technothriller that explores all the crazy things being discovered in consciousness research.

You are not what you think you are—and that’s a fact.

What are your favourite three books?

For social reasons, Cordelia Fine’s A Mind of its Own: How the Brain Distorts and Deceives. For aesthetic reasons, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. And for nostalgic reasons, The Lord of the Rings.

What character is most like you?

All of them are bits and pieces of me, even the bastards. But for some weird reason my favourite is Conphas from The Prince of Nothing. He just cracked me up too many times for me not to love him.

If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

Hell no! They have real problems. I bawl like a baby if my pop goes flat.

If you could live in your fantasy/sf world, would you? Would you live in somebody else's?

I would love to live in Hyboria, that is, if I could be Conan. Who wouldn’t want to be Conan? But then, that whole stinky loincloth thing might wear on my nerves after a while...

What was the first novel that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

The Darkness that Comes Before, which took approximately 20 years from conception to publication.

What was the hardest scene for you to write?

All the Kellhus scenes in The Prince of Nothing were exceedingly difficult. The scene at the end of The Darkness that Comes Before, where he lays the groundwork for his subsequent domination of the Holy War and all its principals—now that was a challenge, as much because of my inexperience as for its complexity, I think.

What is the strangest question you have ever been asked by a fan?

If I would give a seminar to occultists on the breakthroughs I had made in the metaphysics of magic.

What was the most fun book signing, convention, etc. you've attended and why?

It would have to be the World Fantasy Convention in Madison. It was there I had my first chance to meet my long time e-friend and fellow author, Gary Wassner. A whole crew of us held court in the hotel bar and laughed and partied all weekend long. Awesome.

If you still have one, what's your day job? If you don't, how long did it take before you could support yourself only on your writing?

I was actually a student when I was first published. After just a couple of years I was able to start writing full time.

What is your university degree in?

I have a HBA in English Language and Literature, a MA in Theory and Criticism, and I’m was ABD in my Philosophy PhD program, that is, until Vanderbilt University kicked me out.

Do you think it is easier to write fantasy or science fiction?

Science fiction is definitely easier, at least when it’s near future. In fantasy you have to build all your meanings from the ground up. You can’t simply write “New York” and count on the countless associations readers already have regarding that name.

When and where do you write?

At the crack of dawn, then at different times through the day. In my office. At the kitchen table. On the porch as much as possible when the weather permits. And at the café down the street. Whenever distractions seem to be getting the best of me, I pick up and relocate.

What's the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing, obviously, is that you get to make a living pursuing your passion. The worst thing, not so obviously, is that you get to make a living pursuing your passion. In the real world you implicitly rely on external motivators to get you going, things like a glaring boss or acute embarrassment at an committee meeting. In the writing world, all your motivators are internal. A whole different ballgame. Trust me, there’s a reason why writers tend to be so neurotic!

What is something you didn't know about the publishing industry before you had your fist book published?

That it’s still old-fashioned in so many ways. That there’s still plenty of people willing to take risks, and to publish works not because they will make money, but because they deserve to be published.

Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Keep your day job. Getting to the point where you can make a living writing fiction is a statistical long-shot. You need determination, sure. Talent, maybe. But without luck, you’re not going to go anywhere. I was exceedingly lucky.

Any tips against writers block?

You know how you always seem to remember the name of that actor or director several hours after you were wracking your brain? Most of the brain’s creative work goes on behind the scenes of awareness. The key is to get all that unconscious machinery working for you, not against you, and the best way to accomplish that, I’ve found, is to just sit in front of the damn computer, hour after hour, day after day, without succumbing to distractions (I have no web access on the laptop I use for writing). Put yourself in places/situations where there’s nothing else to do but write. Your unconscious will start towing the line soon enough.

Friday 13 June 2008

The Writer Behind the Words - Dara Girard

Subtitled, "Steps to Success in the Writing Life", Girard's book is a wake up call to people who think writing is a breeze, and an encouragement for those who know it isn't. If you're interested in getting into writing, I'd suggest this as a book that shows you the reality of the writing life. To give you an example, she lists six hard truths you have to understand if you want to be successful:
It doesn't get easier, Someone will always be better than you, Talent isn't what you think it is, You'll want to quit, You'll get criticism and There are no guarantees. The book also has tips on how to encourage yourself when the going gets tough (or when the rejection letters start arriving). The book ends on a positive note not to give up on your dream.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Sometimes the Magic Works - Terry Brooks

This is a great book if you're half way though a manuscript and starting to wonder if all the time and effort you're putting into writing are worth it. Half biographical, half instructional, the book is completly uplifting. It also reminds you that publication is as much about luck as it is about skill and makes you long for that time when editors actually had the time to, well, edit books.

Pros: lots of interesting anecdotes that illustrate the ups and downs of the publishing industry and encourage you to try regardless of your chances

Cons: not as much advice on writing as I personally would have liked, but an easier read than a lot of other guides out there

Sunday 8 June 2008

Writer's Resource Reading List

Again, I thought I'd do something different this month so instead of listing SF and fantasy books, I'm putting down some books you might want to read if your plan is to write SF or fantasy. This is by no means a comprehensive list. You can find shelves full of useful grammar books, thesauri, dictionaries and writer's guides. Here's just a sampling of what's out there. The ones with stars are books I've personally read and highly recommend.

The art of writing:
Elements of Style - William Strunk
Grammatically Correct: The Writer's Essential Guide to Punctuation, Spelling, Style, Usage and Grammar - Anne Stilman
The Borzoi Handbook for Writers - Frederick Crews & Sandra Schor
99 Ways to Tell a Story - Matt Madden
* 100 Things Every Writer Needs to Know - Scott Edelson
Author 101 - Rick Frishman & Robyn Freedman Spizman
The Frugal Editor - Carolyn Howard-Johnson

SF/Fantasy writing guides:
* How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy - Orson Scott Card
The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy: Alchemy with Words - Devin Park & Tom Dullemond, Ed.
The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy: Opus Magus - Tee Morris & Valerie Griswold Ford, Ed.
The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy: Author's Grimoire - Valerie Griswold Ford & Lei Zhao, Ed.
The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction: First Contact - David Law & Darin Park
Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy - Analog & Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction - Lisa Tuttle
Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy - Crawford Kilian
Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference - Writer's Digest
Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy Television - Joe Nazzaro
Writing the Fantasy Film - Sable Jak

On getting representation and being published:
* 2009 Writer's Market - Robert Brewer
Writer's Guide to Quieries, Pitches & Proposals - Moira Allen
How to Write Attention-grabbing Query & Cover Letters - John Wood
How to Get a Literary Agent - Michael Larsen
* How to Be Your Own Literary Agent - Richard Curtis
Be Your Own Literary Agent - Martin Levin
Calling All Authors - Valerie Connelly
Get Published!: Professionally, Affordably, Fast - Susan Driscoll
Contracts Companion for Writers - Tonya Evans-Walls
Copyright Companion for Writers - Tonya Evans-Walls

Encouragement / Enlightenment:
* Sometimes the Magic Works - Terry Brooks
On Writing - Stephen King
* The Writer Behind the Words - Dara Girard
L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest short story collections - these books are great. Not only do you get to see some winning stories, professional authors write essays about various aspects of the writing business.

Friday 6 June 2008

How to Be Your Own Literary Agent - Richard Curtis

This month I've decided to post reviews of some of the resource books I've read in regards to the writing business.

Most of us know that we need agents to get anywhere with the major publishers. But is an agent really necessary? Richard Curtis says yes. Then explains how you can do the job yourself, if you so choose.

Filled with tips on how to bargain for a larger advance (agents tend to get more as you'll be inclined to say 'yes' to anything, simply to see your book in print), lots of tedious contract information (did this convince you to get an agent?), information on how payment is made - and not made (helps to have someone who will pressure the publisher to give you some of that money your book made), and insights into the world fiction market (helps to have an agent who knows what different countries look for and can get sales that go directly into your pocket rather than to pay off the publishers advance), plus so much more. In other words, the book is a goldmine for all those tasks you didn't realize your agent would do for you, which you probably don't have the skills or time to do yourself. But it also teaches you what you need to know to be your own literary agent.

Pros: if you want to publish a book, with or without an agent, this book is invaluable.

Cons: it's already in its second edition and could use a third as some of the information is starting to go out of date again

Sunday 1 June 2008

Science fiction and Fantasy Books Coming In July


An Autumn War - Daniel Abraham
Ashes of Worlds - Kevin J. Anderson
Weaver - Stephen Baxter
The Magicians and Mrs. Quent - Galen Beckett
Harmony - C. Bentley
Laugh Lines - Ben Bova
Vicious Circle - Mike Carey
Reading the Wind - Brenda Cooper
A Darkness Forged in Fire - Chris Evans
Fall With Honor - E. E. Knight
The Time Engine - Sean McMullen
War Hammer 40K: The Killing Ground - Graham McNeill
Victory of Eagles - Naomi Novik
King’s Shield - Sherwood Smith
Dog of the North - Tim Stretton
Saturn’s Children - Charles Stross
Slanted Jack - Mark L. Van Name
By Schism Rent Asunder - David Weber
Veil of Gold - Kim Wilkins

Trade Paperback:

Dragon Lance: Worlds Afire (no editor mentioned)
Harm - Brian Aldiss
Night Bird - Catherine Asaro
Ink and Steel - Elizabeth Bear
Star Trek: Myraid Universes: Infinity’s Prism - Christopher Bennett, William Leisner & James Swallow
Hunters Moon - David Devereux
Year’s Best SF 25th Annual Collection - Gardner Dozois, Ed.
Escape From Hell! - Hal Duncan
Multireal - David Louis Edelman
Jimmy the Hand - Raymond E. Feist & S.M. Stirling
Best of Jim Baen’s Universe 2 - Eric Flint, Ed.
Lord Trophet - Gregory Frost
Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse - Victor Gischler
Infernal Sorceress - Gary Gygax
Spiral Labyrinth - Matthew Hughes
Deja Demon - Julie Kenner
Diablo: Archive - Richard Knaak
Bar None - Tim Lebbon
Elric To Rescue Tenelorn - Michael Moorcock
Pisstown Chaos - David Ohle
Wit & Wisdom of Discworld - Terry Pratchett
Inverted World - Christopher Priest
Mathematicians in Love - Rudy Rucker
Love in the Time of Fridges - Tom Scott
Son of Man - Robert Silverberg
Cry of Sorrow - Holly Taylor
The Voyage of the Space Beagle - A.E. Van Vogt
Risen Empire - Scott Westerfield

Mass Market Paperback:

A Betrayal in Winter - Daniel Abraham
The Sons of Heaven - Kage Baker
Star Trek: TNG: Greater Than the Sum - Christopher Bennett
The Devil You Know - Jenna Black
Cry Wolf - Patricia Briggs
The Elves of Cintra - Terry Brooks
Plague War - Jeff Carlson
Queen of Wolves - Douglas Clegg
The Gods Awaken - Allan Cole
Silver Ship and the Sea - Brenda Cooper
War Hammer: Horus Heresy: Battle for the Abyss - Ben Counter
Babylon Babies - Maruice Dantec
Darkness of the Light - Peter David
Other Times Than Peace - David Drake
Nightwalker - Jocelynn Drake
Infoquake - David Louis Edelman
Aliens: No Exit - B.K. Evenson
World binder - David Farland
Stealing Light - Gary Gibson
Sandworms of Dune - Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
The Dimension Next Door - Martin Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes, Ed.
Dark Warrior Rising - Ed Greenwood
Seaborn - Chris Howard
Beyond the Black River - Robert Howard
Soul of Fire - Sarah Hoyt
Mass Effect: Ascension - Drew Karpyshyn
Valentine’s Resolve - E.E. Knight
Guin Saga: Marches King - Kaoru Kurimoto
Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch
Dragonforge - James Maxey
Third Watch - Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Scarborough
The Mirador - Sarah Monette
A Companion to Wolves - Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear
Lord of Bones - Justine Musk
Making Money - Terry Pratchett
War Hammer 40K: Planet kill - Lindsey Priestley
Last Angel - Natasha Rhodes
Knight Moves - Joel Rosenberg
Night Shift - Lilith Saintcrow
Forgotten Realms: Orc King - R.A. Salvatore
War Hammer: Curse of the Necrarch - Steven Savile
The Last Colony - John Scalzi
Forgotten Realms: Sentinelspire - Mark Sehestedt
We the Under people - Cordwainer Smith
The Fox - Sherwood Smith
Angels of Darkness - Gav Thorpe
Ha’Penny - Jo Walton
Hell Hath No Fury - David Weber & Linda Evans
Exodus - Steve White & Shirley Meier
The Third Lynx - Timothy Zahn