4. What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Owning my own time. (That actually may have more to do with having recently graduated from motherdom, but anyway.) The validation when other people like, yes *really like it*. They really liked my tale/characters/plotting/themes/use of language/whatever, cool!
And, rarely, those extraordinary letters that go something like, “Dear Ms. Bujold, I want to thank you for the very great joy your work gave my husband during the last six months of his life...” That’s grace, for a writer; the un-earnable gift, beyond hope or deserving.
5. What’s the worst thing about being a writer?
Having to defend my own time. Paying a hefty sum for health insurance is a bit painful, as well, but that’s a problem shared by all self-employed persons in this country. Bad reviews are no fun either, but I suppose they’re attention of a sort.
6. What other literary genres appeal to you, and why?
7. What are you working on at the moment?
The fourth (and for the moment, concluding) volume in The Sharing Knife series, of which the second volume is about to be launched as I type this. The first, inadvertent duology having seemed to come out well, I elected to do a duology sequel on purpose this time, making a tidy tetrology of the batch. The third book is finished; my editor says she’ll be working on her editorial pass this very weekend. (What, you didn’t think editors were able to actually edit anything on company time, did you? Book editing is the only profession worse than school teaching for unpaid night labor, I swear.) So that will be waiting when I get back from the Legacy book tour next week. The last volume is up to Chapter 20 right now, well into the exciting action climax. Which is the worst possible place to have to set it aside, but it’s my own fault for actually being ahead of schedule, I suppose.
Titles have been a puzzle. The Sharing Knife started out as a single (albeit 217,000 word) volume. Splitting forced us to come up with a subtitling scheme, so the Beguilement and Legacy parts were added at the last minute. At the time, I thought I was done with that book and world for the moment, but that proved not to be the case. The sequel very definitely wanted to be called The Wide Green World, but it quickly became apparent that it, too, was going to undergo mitosis, and each half would need a name. The toss-up then became between naming it in the form, tWGW vol. 1: Word, and tWGW vol. 2: Another Word, or tying it more closely to its predecessor, of which it is indeed a direct continuation. Which gives The Sharing Knife, Vol. 3: Grace River and The Sharing Knife, Vol. 4: The Wide Green World for the current defaults. Stay tuned; my editor and I must wrestle the puzzle to the ground before the end of the summer.
The second pair of volumes are also rather more closely connected than “a book and its sequel”, but not nearly as tightly linked as the original pair, or faux pair. Vol. 3 ends at a good pausing point, I think. 3 & 4 each have internal plot problems that are solved within their pages; other wider problems run from one end to the other of that pair; and there is an over-arching plot/theme arc that ties together all four. It’s turning out to be a reasonably complicated structure, for what started as a simple tale that grew in the telling. That’s leaving aside the challenges of melding two different genres, addressed below.
8. How has the spec fic field changed since you joined it?
I don’t actually track it all that closely. More writers chasing the publication slots have made the competition and turn-around times even harder for the newbie wishing to break in, and I thought they were bad back in the 80’s. Fantasy and YA seem bigger at the moment, but there’s always a boom-and-bust cycle happening somewhere in the field, as something looks popular, too many publishers chase it, and the market collapses under the weight of the books piled on it, only to revive in another quadrant. Short stories are suffering in the paper magazine format, but may be working up to a resurgence on-line. Fanfiction writing has exploded on the internet, and may yield some interesting new fruit over time, coming up completely around traditional publishing structures. Manga and anime are hot just now, due to sudden increase in access through such services at Netflix and being carried in mainstream bookstore outlets; it looks to be a while before over-production will prune it back, though producers seem to be galloping hard to catch up.
9. What do you know about the publishing game now that you wish you’d known when you first started out?
Oh, lord, nearly everything. I was quite ignorant. And my ignorance made me unnecessarily paranoid or timid, at times. I’m pretty much over that now.
10. What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Almost everything Pat Wrede ever told me. Googling up all her old posts to rec.arts.sf.composition could give one a whole writing course all on its own. And then there was my old friend Lillian Stewart Carl, who in the summer of 1985 said, memorably, “Why don’t you try sending it to Betsy Mitchell at Baen? I’ll bet she’d give it a good read...”
11. What’s the best piece of writing advice you never received?
12. What’s the one piece of writing advice you’d like to pass along?
I don’t think there is just one; different writers need different care.
13. Who’s the most influential writer in your life?
There isn’t just one; there’s a host.
(To be concluded ...)