Monday 27 April 2009

Robert J. Sawyer - Author Interview

Calculating God
Factoring Humanity
Illegal Alien
Terminal Experiment
End of an Era
Golden Fleece

Series: Neanderthals: Hominids, Humans, Hybrids
Quintaglios: Far-seer, Fossil Hunter, Foreigner


> Pitch your latest novel.

WAKE is about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness. It's the story of a 15-year-old blind girl in Waterloo, Ontario, who gets a post-retinal implant that's supposed to give her vision but instead lets her see the structure of the Web -- and she discovers an entity hidden in the Web's background. She tries to connect with it, bringing it into contact with the outside world.

> What are your favourite three books (not by you, either in the field or out of it)?

GATEWAY by Frederik Pohl

>In the books you've written, who is you favourite character and why?

I think Caitlin, the blind girl in WAKE, is my favourite -- which is surprising, because she's so unlike me in many ways. But she's so smart, so feisty, so committed to her principles, and so curious about the world, that she's enormous fun to write; I particularly enjoyed writing her blog postings that appear in the novel.

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

The truth is, authors tend to make life pretty miserable for their characters: we put them through hell, even though we may like them a great deal. I think I prefer living in the random real world, rather than in a fictional world in which an author is always thinking of new ways to mess things up for me!

> If you could live in your fantasy/sf world, would you?

The world of WAKE is subtly different from our own. It's the very near future, but it is a future of basically good people. It's that future we're hoping we're all going to get as we come out of the current economic crisis, as the United States renews itself, and as Canada becomes a happier place. I'm not writing about a far-future utopia, but the kind of world we could have if we all tried a little harder to work together -- and yes, I'd very much like to live in that world.

> What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?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 END OF AN ERA. I outlined it in 1980, when I was 20, but didn't really dive into working on it until about seven years later. It took me a couple of years of part-time work -- and it did eventually sell: it came out as my fifth novel, in 1994 -- and is still in print.

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

I've written lots of gut-wrenching scenes over the years, and some of those have been very difficult to write emotionally, but the hardest scenes I've ever had to write creatively are in WAKE: much of the novel is told from a first person point of view by the consciousness that is waking up in the background of the World Wide Web. Making those scenes plausible and captivating was very difficult to do. I ended up using a lot of interesting linguistic tricks to pull it off, and I was delighted when my brother-in-law, David Livingstone Clink, who is a very accomplished poet, said that they read like poetry.

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

No doubt whatsoever: the World Science Fiction Convention when it was here in Toronto in 2003 -- I won the Hugo Award there for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year for my novel HOMINIDS; it was the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. The World Science Fiction Convention is back in Canada this year, by the way -- it'll be in Montreal in August, and I urge people to go; it'll be a blast!

> 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've been a full-time freelance writer for 26 years now, since 1983, and a full-time science-fiction writer for 17 years or so (my early career was mostly writing about business and high technology). It took about three years before I was making a decent living doing the nonfiction work in the 1980s, and, when I switched to mostly fiction writing, it took about five years for that to really take off. In 1996, I won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Nebula Award for Best Novel of the Year, and that was the turning point: shortly after that, my wife quit her job and came to work full-time for me as my salaried assistant.

> What is your university degree in?

Radio and Television Arts from Ryerson, class of 1982 -- I was in the same class as DAW fantasy author Tanya Huff, and we've been great friends ever since; in fact, we collaborated on our final big TV project together.

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

It's easier to write fantasy, because you can make up the rules for your universe, and you can have magical things happen, or not, at your authorial whim. In science fiction, you've got to adhere to the rules of our universe -- and, since our universe is governed by quantum mechanics and relativity and all sorts of other complex things, it really does require a lot of work to do it properly.

> When and where do you write?

I have a La-Z-Boy recliner in my living room, opposite the fire place, with two monitors hooked up to my computer, and I spend four or five hours every day sitting there, tip-tapping away on a cordless keyboard.

> What's the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing is when somebody tells you that you changed their life. I just autographed a book today for someone who is now studying neuroscience at U of T because he was inspired by my book MINDSCAN. The worst thing is the uncertainty: there is no job security for writers, and you're only as good as your last book. It's a risky profession.

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

That editors really do very little editing. Most of their job is meeting with the art department, the sales force, and so on; the romantic ideal of an editor spending months helping you craft a manuscript just isn't the way it works -- you've got to get it 95% of the way on your own; editors just don't have time to deal with authors who can't do most of the work themselves.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Write. Write. And write some more. Don't talk about it. Don't daydream about it. Don't wait for the muse to strike. Do it now -- right now -- and do it often. The only way to become a good writer is by producing a lot of material.

> How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel?

END OF AN ERA was rejected three times before it found a publisher. Rejection slips are a fact of life; every writer I know has them. But they're badges of honor -- they mean you went to war, and lived to tell the tale. Be proud of them.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Why posts are getting few and far between.

I don't generally like posting 'personal' things here, but I would like to explain why posts have gotten fewer over the past month or so and are likely to remain sparse for the month to come. I recently moved from Toronto (involving much packing and other chores) and got married (cue chaos).

Now that the wedding is out of the way I should have more time - theoretically. I'm in the process of settling into my new home and new life, so I don't have as much time to plan endcaps and set up interviews. I did anticipate this so I have a Robert J. Sawyer interview in the works coming soon. And I intend to do my Coming Soon list for June. But don't expect any book reviews for the next month or so. I seem to have very little time for reading at the moment. In addition to the above, I'm planning on attending Book Expo America in NYC in May and want to polish up (and hopefully finish) a few manuscripts before that time. So again, little time for reading and reviewing.

I'm hoping to post more often again starting in June. In the meantime, thanks for reading my blog!

Sunday 12 April 2009

Matthew Sturges - Author Interview

Novel: Midwinter

(He's also written too many comic books to list. Check out his website for more information about those.)


>Pitch your novel.

I've been describing Midwinter as The Dirty Dozen with elves, which is
more or less accurate as "high concepts" go. Mauritane, former captain
of Titania's Royal Guard, has been imprisoned for a crime he may or
may not have committed, and is offered the opportunity for a full
pardon in exchange for taking on a vital, secret mission for the
Crown. So he, with a few hand-picked fellow prisoners, embark on a
journey across the breadth of the Seelie Kingdom, meeting brigands,
monsters, former rivals and even some talking trees. Most dangerous,
however, are the treacherous Contested Lands, a swath of the country
bordering the Unseelie empire of Mab; filled with the leftover magic
of many wars, the Contested Lands are filled with unknown and
unimaginable dangers. But before Mauritane and his companions can
complete their mission, the threat of all-out war with the Unseelie
comes to a head. Now, Mauritane must decide whether to complete his
quest, or to unite the disparate factions of the kingdom in order to
stop a war that could tear apart the entire kingdom.

> What are your favourite three books?

I have lots of favorites, but there are some books that I come back to
again and again. Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, for its endless
depth of imagination and world-building. Frank Herbert's Dune series,
for its brilliant explorations of society, ecology, and human nature.
Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, simply because it is, in my opinion,
the finest science fiction novel ever written.

> In the books you've written, who is you favourite character and why?

My favorite character in Midwinter is Perrin Alt, Lord Silverdun. At
first blush, he's simply an aristocrat with a propensity for sarcasm.
But beneath this exterior lies a conflicted soul, a man who longs for
a life of authenticity, who wishes that he could embrace his mother's
religion and the comforts that would come from it. His inward struggle
is constant, but he never lets it show. Of all the characters in
Midwinter, I found him the most engaging to write, which is why he is
one of the major characters of the upcoming sequel, Office of Shadow.

> What is the strangest question you have ever been asked by a fan? Or share an interesting fan story.

I was doing a presentation about writing comic books for a group of
fourth-graders, since I'm most known as a comic book writer. Most of
the questions were what you'd expect from nine-year-olds: Who'd win in
a fight between the Hulk and Superman, that kind of stuff. Just as the
questions were dying down, a kid in the back raised his hand and
asked, "How much do you make?" I paused for a second and said, "I do
okay, I guess." He wasn't satisfied, "Can you give me a dollar
amount?" "That's an inappropriate question," said the teacher,
embarassed. "Why?" said the kid. "How can I tell if I want to do that
job if I don't know what it pays?"

> What is your university degree in?

I have a degree from a multidisciplinary liberal arts program at the
University of Texas called "Plan II"; as in, "I don't have a major,
but I Plan II." Meaning that it's regarded from the outside as
fostering directionless liberal artsy types in their
directionlessness. I studied everything from Shakespeare to
Evolutionary Biology to Postmodern architecture to Jungian psychology
to Topology and relativistic physics. And while I understand none of
those topics in any comprehensive way, having encountered all that
different stuff and engaging it critically was excellent preparation
for becoming a writer, even if it was utterly useless in getting me,
you know, a job.

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

For me, writing fantasy is easier, because I prefer doing research in
my imagination to doing it in the real world. If I need to know how
many miles it is from Estacana to the City Emerald, I just have to sit
down and look at my map and measure the distance between these two
utterly fictional places. Likewise, if I need to know what the High
Fae word for "cupcake" is, all I have to do is consult my Fae
syllabary and contruct the word from its particles (it would be
"parba-el", but the way -- literally "cake in a cup", not that they
eat them in the world of Midwinter). Which is not to say that I don't
enjoy reading about science. I do, quite a bit. But what intrigues me
more than trying to find a new twist on some interesting bit of
science is using science as metaphor for the magic in my own worlds. A
reviewer described Midwinter as part "science fantasy" and that's a
label I'll gladly accept, assuming it means what I think it means.

> What's the best/worst thing about writing?

My friend Bill Wilingham once quoted to me an adage that most people
who claim that they want to be writers don't want to write, they want
to have written. Having written something is defintely a grand
feeling, especially if it's something that you're proud of. But that
feeling is short-lived, sometimes painfully so. Better is the feeling
of being lost in writing, of being so connected with what you're doing
that you look up thinking minutes have passed and you realize that
you've been working for hours and you know that it's good. It doesn't
always happen, but when it does it's the best feeling in the world.

The worst part, of course, is when the thing you're writing just lays
there like a lump of sewage, refusing to be good or interesting or
manageable. I'm sure even the best writers occasionally have that
moment of looking over something they've just spent an inordinate
amount of time working on and saying, "Wow, this really sucks."

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

There's no magic to it. Read a lot, write a lot, get as much honest
criticism as you can. Understand, though, that if your goal is to be a
professional writer, you have to be utterly dedicated to it. It's not
a career you can approach halfway. Before I was able to make a living
writing, I spent every free minute (and even quite a few minutes in
which I was being paid to do something else) reading, writing, and
thinking about story. I think if this isn't how your mind naturally
works, you may want to reconsider how much you really want to be an

> Any tips against writers block?

Writer's block happens when you're overwhelmed by the task of writing.
When you have no idea what to write it's because you're mistaking a
very large set of small problems for one huge problem. Any novel or
short story is a collection of small problems that are relatively easy
to solve. It's only in the aggregate that they seem impossible to
overcome. If the problem is that you have a totaly blank page, no idea
what to write, no idea what your project should be, that's a different
thing from being in the midst of a project and having no idea where to

If you're in the "totally blank" part, that's really easy to deal with
because you've got the whole world to choose from. Think of the movie
that most disappointed you in the last year and set it in an entirely
different miliue and then rewrite it the way it should have gone
instead. Or just start writing about the first thing that pops into
your head. Or do one of the millions of writing exercises that you can
find in books and online. Note that you can avoid the "blank page"
altogether by keeping a list of ideas that come to you throughout the
day. If you have that notebook or document on your laptop or whatever,
just dip into it, take something that looks promising, and go for it.
If you like outlines, start outlining. If you don't like outlines,
start typing and see where it takes you. But DO something. Always be

If you're in the midst of a project and have no idea where to go,
write the "bad" ending. I forget where I first heard this advice, but
it works wonders. Proceed by writing the most obvious, cliched
Hollywood formulaic solution to the problem you're in. Once you've
gotten to the next part, where things make sense again, you can go
back and laugh at your bad ending and replace it with what it should
have been all along. It's always easier to rewrite than it is to

> How many rejection letters did you get for your fist novel or story?

I got a number of rejection letters for a story that I write in 1999
whose title was so oblique that I've now completely forgotten it. It
was set in the near future, which at the time would have been 2004.
One small part of the plot involved characters using PayPal to pay the
cover charge for a rent party. A very famous editor who I won't name
rejected the story, saying that "nobody will be using Paypal in five
years." So I was vindicated on that front, but in retrospect I realize
that if the story had actually been good, said editor would probably
have been happy to overlook that one bit of perceived misprision.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in May 2009


Torchwood: The House that Jack Built - Guy Adams
Diamond Star - Catherine Asaro
The Empress of Mars - Kage Baker
Flood - Stephen Baxter
A Grey Moon Over China - Thomas Day
In the Stormy Red Sky - David Drake
Felix Transcendent - Alan Dean Foster
Faery Moon - P.R. Frost
Cloud and Ashes - Greer Gilman
Fall of Light - Nina Hoffman
The Enchantment Emporium - Tanya Huff
King of Ithaca - Glyn Iliffe
Monster - A. Lee Martinez
War Hammer 40K: Courage and Honour - Graham McNeill
The City and the City - China Mieville
Torchwood: Bay of the Dead - Mark Morris
The Regional Accounts Director of Firetop Mountain - Stephen Morrison
Torchwood: Into the Silence - Sarah Pinborough
Hylozoic - Rudy Rucker
The Moon’s Prophecy - Jonathan Sparrow
Star Wars: Clone Wars: No Prisoners - Karen Traviss
Plan for Chaos - John Wyndham

Trade Paperback:

Slan Hunter - Kevin Anderson
Line War - Neal Asher
Santa Olivia - Jacqueline Carey
War Hammer 40K: Grey Knights - Ben Coulter
Tigerheart - Peter David
Adamantine Palace - Stephen Deas
Blood of Ambrose - James Enge
A Darkness Forged in Fire - Chris Evans
Two Hawks From Earth - Philip Jose Farmer
Space Captain Smith - Toby Frost
Ice Song - Kirsten Imani Kasai
Robots Have no Tails - Henry Kuttner
The Island - Tim Lebbon
Divisions - Ken MacLeod
The Human Disguise - James O’Neal
Fires of Freedom - Jerry Pournelle
Fall of Thanes - Brian Ruckley
Darkborn - Alison Sinclair
Bad to the Bone - Jeri Smith-Ready
Bring Down the Sun - Judith Tarr
The Burning Skies - David Williams
Far Arena - Lynda Williams

Mass Market Paperback:

Ashes of Worlds - Kevin Anderson
Killing With the Edge of the Moon - A.A. Attanasio
A Flash of Hex - Jes Battis
Magic the Gathering: Alara Unbroken - Doug Beyer
Xenopath - Eric Brown
Forgotten Realms: The Wilds - James Davis
Amazon Ink - Lori Devoti
Superhuman - Ian Douglas
Toll the Hounds - Steven Erikson
A Spell for the Revolution - C.C. Finlay
Star Trek the Movie - Alan Dean Foster
Turning the Tide - Diana Francis
Witch Way to the Mall - Esther Freisner
Terribly Twisted Tales - Martin Greenberg, Ed.
Forgotten Realms: The Sword Never Sleeps - Ed Greenwood
The Shadow Isle - Katharine Kerr
Mythos - Kelley McCullough
War Hammer 40K: The Killing Ground - Graham McNeill
Magic in the Blood - Devon Monk
Star Flight - Andre Norton
Victory of Eagles - Naomi Novik
Ghost Ocean - S.M. Peters
Endless Blue - Wen Spencer
Punk town - Jeffrey Thomas
Star Wars: Order 66 - Karen Traviss
Norse Code - Greg Van Eekhout
Wraith - Phaedra Weldon
Terra Insegura - Edward Willett
Empire Army: Reiksgurad - Richard Williams