Thursday, 4 April 2013

Author Interview: Julie Czerneda

Novels: WAY too many to list. She's written numerous science fiction novels one fantasy novel and several short stories. She has also edited anthologies


> What made you want to be a writer? 

I can't say I ever did. I've always wanted to be a biologist. There was a time when I passionately wanted to be a nuclear physicist too, because that skill set -- according to the movies -- guaranteed me a spot on the first starship to go forth and greet any aliens. Being of a family where the motto was do your best, whatever you do, with a hefty dose of anything's possible if you work at it, I did my utmost to figure out how to do just that, only to be stopped by the whole “astronauts must be test pilots” bit. (I did enrol in ground school, but that's another story.) Suffice to say, by the tender age of ten, I'd decided I'd best stick with biology and stay interested in everything else. In Case.

Being a writer wasn't remotely on my radar. Though it was about then I started typing out my own stories, but they were for my own fun. A hobby.

I was on maternity leave from the University of Waterloo when a job writing textbooks found me, through a friend who knew my “hobby.” After my surprise -- weren't published authors dead people? -- I realized here was something to keep my brain active, while bouncing a baby, while earning a living. Bring it on! Writing about science turned out, to my joy, to be something I was good at and thoroughly enjoyed. After all, I could stay interested in biology and everything else! Before I knew it, I was a professional writer and editor -- even a publisher.

As for my own stories, well, those were still in a drawer. It took a fair amount of convincing before I put one of them out into the world. That was A Thousand Words for Stranger. I haven't looked back since.

> You have a background in biology and have written quite a number of science fiction novels. What made you decide to switch to fantasy for, A Turn of Light?

Several things came together to make it happen. I'd been working, quietly, towards writing fantasy for many years. It's something I love, and I've many favourite authors who do it sublimely. At last, I felt I had a story worth telling. But when? I'd finished the prequels in The Clan Chronicles, setting the stage for the final trilogy. I knew I could use a change of pace and wanted to write something lighter. So the time seemed right. My editor at DAW, Sheila Gilbert, was willing to let me take the gamble, though she cautioned I'd be a “new” author again. (This is why Turn is in trade paperback rather than hardcover. I'm new!) Last, but not least, I had to see if I could do it. Could I develop a strong fantasy “voice” in my writing? Could I find the words, the cadence, the flow that, to me, makes fantasy stories come alive? The only way was to do my best and work at it.

> You've also edited several anthologies. How has editing others' writing affected your own?

It's made me humble. There are writers out there of astonishing ability and imagination. Whenever I read their work, I'm overwhelmed with delight that it's ALL MINE!!! Yes, I eventually share their stories with the world, but believe me, there's chortling and greedy sighs of joy first. Editing is a joyful occupation.

I do work with authors who need a wee polish or two, and that interaction is something I treasure, especially with new authors. MINE!!! (Sorry. My inner chortle at that never ends. Ask MY authors.) As for any impact on my work? I relish discovering how many authors, new and pro, are better than I am. It gives me confidence that I've more to learn and do. I love that challenge. Otherwise, there's no overlap. I was a professional editor for several years and it's a hat I don when required, then take off. Yes, I know what will make production's job a little easier and I try not to make the same mistakes two books in a row, but otherwise, as an author, I'm as much a quivering bowl of jelly as the next.

> When and where do you write?

I have an office in my home. I do the bulk of my writing there. In summer, I take a laptop out beside the pond, but I suspect that's more to sit by the pond than it is to really produce much. Bus and train stations. Airplanes. I write in those. The bathtub. As for when? Whenever I can. I'm a morning person, so early is my preference. That said, some stories insist on taking off just before supper, so meals can be late. Others are evening tales. Close to deadline -- or to a story's end -- I'll write non-stop unless reminded about the exercise/sleep/be social thing.

> Any tips against writers block?

I don't believe in it, so I'm not sure what help I can be. Writing is my job. Sometimes it's hard, sometimes ridiculously easy. If I catch myself fixated by a blinking cursor, i.e. not accomplishing much, I get up and do something else for a while. The brain needs a break and so does the body. I'll get dirty in the garden. Bike around the block. Play. Sometimes I'll take a pad of paper anywhere but my office, lie down, and scribble some other part of the story. After a bit (bit can be 10 minutes or a couple of days), I go back to my office, sit down, and write.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

Fear helps. Okay, maybe not fear but definitely a sense of responsibility. This is how I earn my living, after all, and has been since 1985. Deadlines matter. My readers matter. Doing my best matters most. The books I've yet to write are the only job security available. I like that feeling, but it's not for everyone.

But there's more. A long time ago, I heard Cory Doctorow describe writing a novel as a marathon. It's that. The finish line is beyond the horizon and you can't use it as a goal. You have to be satisfied by the innumerable steps along the way. This scene, that paragraph, those words. And every now and again, they work so well your heart pounds with joy.

You asked at the start what made me want to be a writer. That's what's made me stay one. Those moments. That joy. I wish it for everyone.

No comments: