Archive for January, 2006

Bloggasm Interview: Michael Jasper

You can find Michael Jasper’s blog over here.

Michael Jasper: I grew up in the small town of Dyersville, Iowa (home of “The Field of Dreams”), but I now live with my wife Elizabeth and our son Drew in Raleigh, NC. My story collection Gunning for the Buddha was released from Prime Books in January, and my pseudonymously written novel Heart’s Revenge is coming out from Five Star Books in June ’06. I also have a couple other novels out to various editors, and of course I’m working on a new novel. I’ve had stories published in Asimov’s, Polyphony, Interzone, Strange Horizons, Writers of the Future, the Raleigh News and Observer, and PIF Magazine, among others.

I’ve been keeping an online journal since 2000, and I have a sort of love/hate relationship with it. I always wonder why I’m sharing some of the things I share, whether it’s progress on my current piece of fiction, or bragging about my son’s latest skills. But if I go too long without an entry, I feel like I’m losing touch with the online community out there, and I just keep on hoping that there’s someone out there who’s interested in all this (Hi Mom!).

You can find my current entries at http://www.journalscape.com/mjjwrecked/, and the old version is at http://www.sff.net/people/michaeljasper/journals.htm.

Simon Owens: As a new father, how has having a baby affected your writing life?

MJ: This was a concern to me, before we had our son Drew, but even in the months leading up to his birth, I could sense a change in both my attitude about writing and my writing itself. On the one hand, writing and getting published were no longer the end-all, be-all of my life (as it was for a while there, let me tell you, while my wife was busy with grad school), but on the other hand, I felt like the writing I was doing was stretching me in new ways. I think I was writing with that unborn child as my future audience — what sort of fiction would I want Drew to remember me by?

Now that he’s born (and just turned one!), I’m more focused about my writing — I get up at 4:30 most mornings to write for an hour or two before he and my wife wake up. That gives me the rest of the day to spend with them (except for the days I’m at work, of course). Having a baby is great for resetting all of your priorities.

SO: You have a novel coming out from Five Star Books. How do you plan on promoting it?

MJ: Oh, you mean I have to promote the book, too? It’s not enough to just write the dang thing?

Seriously, I’ve got a couple things planned, as the release date approaches. Using the money I get from a recent story sale, I’m hoping to buy space in a group ad in Romantic Times next year (I like the idea of using money made from previous fiction to promote upcoming fiction). I’ll probably do some contests from my Web site, but I doubt I’ll do the whole bookmarks and postcards thing. Hopefully I’ll get some good reviews and generate some buzz, but my expectations are low, because Five Star sells mostly to libraries, though the books are available online at Amazon.com and Clarkesworld Books.

SO: Why did you choose to do a pen name for your novel?

MJ: I did this for a couple reasons, and I’m not sure I did the right thing doing it. I always figured that, due to the romance aspect of it, it had to come out under a female name, because I doubted many women would buy a romance written by a guy). Of course, there’s always Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller, and other guys who write what could/should be classified as romance. But I felt like my stuff was different from that stuff as well — this book is more of a mystery than a romance in a lot of ways.

Also, I didn’t want this book to be my “debut” novel as Michael Jasper. I have a couple other novels — one SF, one historical/fantasy, and my current novel, which is a contemporary fantasy — that I think would work much better as my “first” novel. I could be totally off-base on this. But I’ve been having some fun with the secret identity aspect of the book over at my other blog, which I set up for Julia C. Porter at http://juliacporter.blogspot.com/ (as you can see, I need to add some new entries over there).

SO: What are the five blogs everyone should be reading (besides your own)?

MJ: Well, I feel like I should be plugging informative, topical blogs like the Mumpsimus, Nick Mamatas’, or Gwenda Bond’s, but to be honest, I don’t really have time to surf that much any more and read some of their lengthy postings (plus their blogs just put mine to shame).

What I’ve been doing more of lately is just keeping up with journals by friends, most of whom I’ve met online first, and in person later (if at all!). What fascinates me is reading about other writers’ writing processes as well as their obsessions. This list includes friends like Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Greg van Eekhout, Haddayr Copley-Woods, and Jason Lundberg.

But I have been quite enjoying the food blog Belly-timber, which makes me realize I really need to learn how to cook.

Bloggasm Interview: Barth Anderson

You can find Barth Anderson’s blog over here.

Barth Anderson’s work has appeared in Asimov’s, Polyphony, Talebones, and online his work can be found at Strange Horizons, Fantastic Metropolis and Lone Star Stories. Barth’s novel The Patron Saint of Plagues is forthcoming from Bantam Spectra, and his blog, Daddio, mainly address matters of writing, fatherhood, and food.

Simon Owens: Why did you and the other Rat Bastards decide to start Rabid Transit?

Barth Anderson: Kristin Livdahl, Christopher Barzak, Alan De Niro, and I each had odd, misfit stories that we knew were rock-solid yet weren’t getting any love from editors, so in 2002, we decided to publish them ourselves in a chapbook called Rabid Transit: New Fiction by the Ratbastards. All four stories earned Honorable Mentions in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror that year, and Terri Windling later said she’d never done that before, never awarded Honorable Mentions to an entire table of contents for an anthology.

Self-publishing wasn’t the key to Rabid Transit’s success, of course. If the stories had been simply “good” and not also “off beat”, no one would have paid any attention. Plus, if Livdahl and DeNiro hadn’t had the smart audacity to send Rabid Transit off to Asimov’s where Paul DiFilippo then agreed to review it, I don’t know how anyone would have ever heard of Rabid Transit thereafter. So here’s the Ratbastardly Secret Equation: High Quality + Weird + Smart Audacious = Win Big.

(But for the record, I’m not involved in Rabid Transit anymore. The trifecta of fatherhood, day job, and novel writing pushed it off my plate, I’m afraid.)

SO: As someone who has been published in both online and print venues, which do you prefer?

BA: Depends on the story. Generally speaking, online venues can’t touch print for beauty, and print venues can’t touch online for accessibility. I’m glad Alchemy printed my story “Sand Dollars and Apple Halves.” I liked seeing it an such a luscious venue. On the other hand, I’m glad Fantastic Metropolis published “Lot 12A: The Feast of the Dead Manuscript” It’s my strangest story, so I’m glad it’s linkable and not sitting in a box in my basement.

That said, online venue The Journal of Mythic Arts did a superb job with “The Parade of You.”

SO: Now that you have a novel coming out, do you think that the marketing aspect of selling it will cut down on your writing time?

BA: Maybe I’m kidding myself, but I don’t think so. I’m fortunate to have an encouraging and supportive partner who believes in what I do. I also have a flexible schedule at my day job and I’ve been slowly building up my vacation time in anticipation of this spring, when The Patron Saint of Plagues will be released. So I have some options, but writing time simply can’t be sacrificed. My deadline for the next book, The Magician and the Fool, is soon after Patron Saint comes out, after all.

SO: What are the five blogs everyone should be reading (besides your own)?

BA: 14theDitch (Jeff Ford’s blog)
Bruce Holland Rogers (though I wish he’d post more often!)
Angie Reed Garner: Diverse Works in Oil
Talking Points Memo
Pharyngula

Bloggasm Interview: Jeff VanderMeer

You can find Jeff VanderMeer’s blog over here.

Simon Owens: You’ve had several books published by Prime Books, and one could argue that you’ve sold a lot more copies than the average POD author. What do you think you did differently than most POD writers?

Jeff VanderMeer: POD is a technology and that’s all. I’m not a POD writer. There is no such thing. I’ve worked with indie presses that use POD and ones that use offset. It’s just a method of printing that affects your business model. Why have I sold better than other indie press authors? I don’t know that I have, in the grand scheme of things. But what I did do is spend a lot of time doing PR for the books and exploiting the possibilities of the internet. City of Saints, for example, sold close to 8,000 copies in all editions with very little brick-and-mortar bookstore presence. This is why the majors became interested in publishing my work.

SO: You’ve worked in both the small press and with major publishers. As someone who is known for being really good at promoting your books, which do you prefer to work with?

JV: I prefer to work with whatever publisher is right for the project. I always thought City of Saints and Veniss and the disease guide would be respectable-to-good sellers for major presses. Now they’re put out by major presses. Other projects, like the Leviathan antho series, are tailor-made for the indie press. If I have a book out from a major publisher, I will focus on peripheral and secondary PR since the publisher will be focusing on the main stuff. If I have a book out from an indie publisher, I help out with the main stuff, too. Obviously, I want every project to come out from the publisher most able to get the most number of copies in front of the largest number of people who will appreciate the project.

SO: What do you hope to accomplish in the future as a writer?

JV: I try to push myself with my writing with every book. I don’t want to repeat myself. I don’t want to get stuck in a rut. I want to learn something new each time, hopefully while still entertaining the reader. Shriek: An Afterword is a 60-year fake biography set in my fantastical city of Ambergris and it’s coming out from Pan Macmillan in the UK in January, Tor Books in the US in August. It taught me a lot. The next Ambergris novel will be completely different from it. Basically, just keep learning and growing as a writer.

SO: What are the five blogs everyone should be reading (besides your own)?

JV: Five blogs for extended commentary, etc.
http://www.mumpsimus.blogspot.com
http://www.livejournal.com/users/14theditch/
http://brutalwomen.blogspot.com/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/nihilistic_kid/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/benpeek/

Six blogs for news and information
boingboing.net
bookslut.com/blog
www.emcit.com/wordpress/
http://maudnewton.com/blog/index.php
http://www.fpigraphics.co.uk/blogger/
http://bodhisattvafiction.blogspot.com/

And one non-blog to rule them all
http://www.locusmag.com/

Bloggasm Interview: Christopher Rowe

You can find Christopher Rowe’s blog over here.

Christopher Rowe lives in Lexington, Kentucky. His stories have appeared in publications around the world and he was a 2005 finalist for the Hugo, Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Awards. With his wife, Gwenda Bond, he edits a critically acclaimed lit-zine, Say… He maintains an online journal called UnCommonwealth that migrated around various servers for awhile before settling at christopherrowe.typepad.com.

Simon Owens: Your story “The Voluntary State” is arguably your most well-received published work. Since its publication, has your life as a writer changed at all? Do you find that more people recognize your name at cons and more editors are receptive to your fiction?

Christopher Rowe: I don’t know about name recognition at conventions. “The Voluntary State” was prose, less than novel length, and written within the last quarter century, which is three strikes against it in that particular context, but in terms of editorial “receptiveness” and so on, oh yeah, that piece has absolutely been a door opener. It’s been reprinted three times in English so far (with one and possibly two more reprints scheduled), and has been or will be translated into Japanese, Hebrew, Danish, Greek, Portuguese and Czech. So the critical reception the story received has definitely led to new opportunities and audiences.

SO: How does the editing of the Say… magazine affect your writing?

CR: Eh, I’m not sure that it has, really. I think I use two different parts of my brain for editing (other people’s) fiction and for writing, and I don’t think those two parts talk to each other very much. Other than at the big general meetings, I mean.

SO: What’s in store for for future writing projects?

CR: I’ve got a lot going on right now, actually. There are a couple of new short stories making the editorial rounds, though nothing’s scheduled for publication right this second. I’m working on a couple of stories in response to requests from anthologists here and abroad and doing some character development work for one of those “can’t talk about it yet” type projects. In terms of novels, I have a science fiction novel under way and a shorter horror/action novel simmering.

SO: What are the five blogs everyone should be reading (besides your own)?

CR: The five I follow most closely are Gwenda Bond’s Shaken and Stirred, Richard Butner’s GNAW (get an RSS feed, Richard!), the blogs linked off Justine Larbalestier‘s and Scott Westerfeld‘s websites and Cyclocosm, which comments on and aggregates bicycle racing news.

Bloggasm Interview: Alan DeNiro

You can find Alan DeNiro’s blog over here.

Simon Owens: On your blog, you often engage in literary criticism. Do you feel that examining literature from a critic’s perspective helps you improve your own writing?

Alan DeNiro: I don’t know if I’m much of a critic as it’s generally conceived. I’m usually working things out in my own head on the blog, not presenting findings. Often I’m just posing questions because I’m interested in what people have to say about them. But maybe “the critic’s” role in the 21st century will change to accommodate this open-endedness more.

I guess more specifically in answer to your question…it’s interesting in the way you phrased the question–that there is a differentiation between “criticism” and “writing.” It’s all writing. I do think that writing and thinking about poetics (in a very general sense) and the relationship between art and the political sphere, etc. has altered my fiction and poetry writing for the better. I have a LOT of catching up to do, and I’m open to my mind being changed about things, definitely.

SO: The writing I’ve read of yours has been very unconventional. Have you ever tried to branch off into more conventional writing?

AD: It depends what you mean by “conventional” and “unconventional” (sorry to keep doing this!). I have a recent story that I’ve written that is on one level straightforward SF, in that it has a recognizable beginning, middle, end–you know, that kind of stuff–is set in an extrapolated future, etc. But I wrote the story as a kind of “Alice Munro in the future” kind of story. The end–ok, maybe the end is open-ended in SF’nal terms. But cracking open, say, I don’t know, Prairie Schooner, you’re going to come across stories with that kind of slice-of-life ending. A more vignette ending. At any rate, what I’m trying to say was that I saw this loose framework as a way to push myself into something I wasn’t as familiar with. Also, I don’t know if I’m deliberately trying to write unconventional stories a lot of the time. I don’t know a lot of times what people will think is weird or not.

SO: Do you think that skills picked up while writing poetry can later be used to write fiction? What is the bridge between the two genres?

AD: Absolutely, for the first part of the question: skills regarding metaphors, pacing, knowing when to be concise vs. long-winded, etc. The bridge between poetry and fiction–at least the type of fiction I’m interested in–is pretty strong and fluid at the same time. They both can take stabs as the creation of worlds through language.

SO: What are the five blogs everyone should be reading (besides your own)?

AD: There are probably dozens of others that I could list here, but I’ll list 5 that might not be as familiar to readers of SF/F:

http://www.janedark.com
http://www.grandtextauto.org
http://samizdatblog.blogspot.com/
http://garysullivan.blogspot.com
http://www.writtennerd.blogspot.com/

Bloggasm Interview: Ben Peek

You can find Ben Peek’s blog over here.

Ben Peek is a Sydney based author who writes strange and odd things. His fiction has appeared most recently in the anthology Leviathan Four: Cities, edited by Forrest Aguirre, issue seven of the ‘zine Full Unit Hookup, issue four of the online zine Shadowed Realms, and in the first volume of The Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Next year his dystopian novel, Black Sheep, will be published by Prime Books.

He keeps a blog called The Urban Sprawl Project, named after a zine he created. It’s a free flowing thing where he tosses ideas about literature around, discusses film and tv, and occasionally talks to an Imaginary Jesus. Just because. His blog has been called honest and mean. The two go together, by all accounts.

Simon Owens: Many American short fiction writers complain about the constant decline of short fiction markets every year. How does this compare to the Australian short fiction market?

Ben Peek: It’s sort of like comparing an aging, healthy individual with a corpse, really.

The American short fiction markets are actually markets that Australians look at, simply because everything is so skint round here, so their decline also has an impact on us. However, the comparison can’t really be made between the two markets, since the bulk of Australian short fiction is published in backyard independent presses that manage print runs of three to five hundred. There are larger markets out there, but they’re usually part of something else–a short story in Woman’s Weekly, for example. Rarely dedicated, and there’s basically no large, professional paying short fiction market out here to sustain anyone. Instead, everything is done for love. So when the fiction markets decline in Australia, you can actually feel the physical loss of the publication, the loss of people, and the loss in content that is produced that year. In the States I’m sure it’s much the same, but over here the line between having a short fiction market and not having one is something you can see a bit more readily.

So, basically: Australia: a twitching corpse. America: healthy old person.

SO: Does it frustrate you that there aren’t many places that review short fiction?

BP: Not really.

I think people tend to view short fiction all wrong. Reviewing it more isn’t a problem, and the people you get to review it at the moment generally don’t know much about reviewing, so you get a bunch of people cutting their teeth on that. Which is fine, really, but I don’t it needs to be reviewed more. It needs, instead, new readers. That’s what it needs. Once you get people to read it, they’ll talk about it more. How do you get people to read it? That’s a trick, but I figure you might as use the mentality for sitting in front of the telly. So instead of watching some poorly designed and written show, you say, ‘Here’s something to escape into for thirty minutes. Skip the President’s speech. Fucker’s just lying to you anyway. Read this. Wrestling is in an hour.’

Fiction for your disposable time. Disposable fiction. People hate it when I call it that :)

SO: Do you ever fear that American editors won’t understand any Australian references in your fiction?

BP: Nah, not at all. We’re all one big happy world out there, and America and Australia are both Western countries. So I just don’t worry about it and, really, there’s plenty of reasons not to buy a story, even one of mine, before my nationality or the setting of the story comes into it.

SO: What are the five blogs everyone should be reading (besides your own)?

BP: Five?

I’m giving you one, because one is a rational, sane recommendation. Yes. That blog is PostSecret .

It’s quite a popular blog, so a lot of people have heard about it, no doubt. But what I like about it, is that here exists a global community art project. It’s primarily western, sure, but you can see non english cards appearing, and I can only hope that’ll grow as it goes along. The cards people make for it are funny, touching, sad, and odd, among other things. It’s the full range of human emotion, especially when related to the secrets you carry inside yourself.

So go check it out.

My secret is that I’m cooler than Jesus. It’s not hard. You just don’t do Easter.

Bloggasm Interview: Jay Lake

You can find Jay Lake’s journal over here.

Simon Owens: I’ve noticed that you’ve become slightly less prolific over the past months. Do you feel that your writing pace is slowing down?

Jay Lake: Not at all. My publication hit rate is a bit lower this year due to a combination of two things. First, my submission rate fell off late last year…chaos in my personal life and some rethinking of my market strategy. Second, I’ve been focusing more on novels. I’ve written two novels this fall and am working on another one right now. (The current one is under contract.) This cuts into my short story output, regrettably.

SO: Most writers I’ve spoken to say they prefer writing novels over short fiction, but out of all the genre writers out there, you seem the most enthusiastic when it comes to the short form. Now that you’ve had experience writing novels, which do you prefer?

JL: I don’t know that I’m the most enthusiastic about the short form, but I certainly enjoy it a great deal. And frankly, I still prefer it. Novels are a struggle for me. I have to do a lot of groundwork to write a novel, both psychologically and from a craft perspective. Short stories, on the other hand, flow like fire from my fingertips often as not.

Now, consider that I have written hundreds of short stories and sold well over a hundred. Whereas I have written five novels and sold one — plus one I sold on proposal, which will be my sixth novel when I have finished it. I’ve had *lots* of practice with short stories. Imagine doing weight work with only one arm for years, then suddenly picking up weight on the other arm. That’s sort of how I feel. It’s purely an internal issue of mine, not a literary or critical judgment about the relationship between the two forms.

SO: I’ve seen it said in some places that one can be too prolific. Do you think there’s any truth in this thinking?

JL: Not in the slightest. Everyone is as prolific as they are. For Ted Chiang, that means one short story every 12 or 18 months. For Elizabeth Bear, that means four to six novels per year. “Too prolific” is a defense against fear of failure, I think, an echo of the idea that fast writing cannot be good writing. There’s nothing inherently good about writing at any speed — the text speaks for itself — but complaining (or warning) about people being “too prolific” is another way of taking pressure off oneself for not writing more.

There are some other, marketing-driven answers to that question, of course, but the comment is usually made in the context of craft or quality.

SO: What are the five blogs everyone should be reading (besides your own)?

JL: Heh. Thank you, I think. Restricting my answers to blogs of writing interest…

eBear
Nihilistic Kid
Chrononautic Log
John Scalzi
Making Light

And thanks for the opportunity to raise my head above the ice and bark like a seal!


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