As many of you know, I commit to a blog schedule at the end of each year for the up coming year. In 2021, my twice weekly posts will continue to be divided between writing topics and delving into my books and writing life for my readers.
I hope you will find the content interesting, enlightening and fun. I will post every Tuesday and Thursday each week as follows:
Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday
Stories behind my published books and also from works in progress.
Update on events I will be attending – if possible physically, if not virtually in 2021
Glimpses at my current writing project.
Sharing short stories or poem’s I have written from prompts or workshops.
My book reviews
Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday
Special Interviews with authors from Creative Edge
Author Toolbox – once a month
Monthly Author Interviews (please sign up for one – first Thursday of every month.)
I will continue with my monthly newsletter, so please sign up when prompted. I hope we can develop a great relationship with this new venture – Sneek Peeks & Glimpses. Thank you in anticipation.
Not until I was a teenager when I wrote my first complete novel (“Caged-In World”—which later served as a very rough draft for my first published novel, “Darwin’s Paradox”). My first published work was my non-fiction article “Environmental Citizenship” which appeared in Shared Vision Magazine in 1995. My first fiction work was a short story entitled “Arc of Time”, which was published in Armchair Aesthete in 2002. However, I told stories long before I wrote them and long before any of them was published. I told stories in the form of cartoons. Since I was a small child, I wanted to be a cartoonist and write graphic novels (back then I knew them as comics). I created several strips with crazy characters that I drew, blending my love for drawing with my love for storytelling.
What made you decide on science fiction as a genre?
That goes back to my love for comics. I wasn’t much of a reader as a kid. While my older brother and sister devoured The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, I secreted myself in the back corner of Williams General store and read Superman and Superboy, Supergirl, Batman, The Fantastic Four, Flash, Magnus Robot Fighter and Green Lantern. I was obviously enamoured with the fantastic. When I earnestly started to read things other than comics, I came across the SF classics: Huxley, Orwell, Heinlein, Clarke, Silverberg and Asimov to name a few. Bradbury sent me over the moon and his “Martian Chronicles” made me cry. I wanted to write like him and move readers like he’d done with me.
The reason I continue to write in this genre is because of its ability to encompass the creative imagination and application of metaphor to story. Given its wide range of possibilities in creating a believable reality of the fantastic, science fiction provides a compelling platform for metaphoric storytelling. Possibilities for powerful archetypes abound. Where else can you make water an actual character?
Was the ecological aspect of your stories a gradual realization or your primary objective?
My primary objective was always to tell a compelling and meaningful story and hopefully to move readers. The ecological aspects slid in unannounced like a shadow character. It made sense: the environment and how we treat it (and ourselves by extension) has always been something important to me since I was a child. So, while I was writing science fiction, it was also eco-fiction. When the brand became more known, I realised that this was the kind of science fiction I was writing most of the time.
Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?
I love writing both forms. Each form challenges in a different way and each lends itself to a different kind of story. Since I was a child, I had wanted to write novels. But as I got older and became familiar with the publishing industry, I learned that one of the best ways to get exposure and credentials to successfully publish a first novel was to get known as a published short story writer. So, I started writing short stories. I didn’t write them very well at first; they read like novel-wannabies. And that’s exactly the feedback I got from the magazines I submitted to. Then I figured it all out and I started to sell my short stories. Lots of them. And reprints too. They’ve even won some awards! When I published my first novel in 2007, I didn’t stop writing short. While my love for the novel drives my writing (I have published nine novels so far), I love the short form for its challenges and need for discipline and its powerful platform of “short.” I am particularly proud of my two latest shorts: “Alien Landscape” in The Group of Seven Reimagined (2019); and “Out of the Silence” in subTerrain Magazine, Issue 85 (2020).
Does your teaching aid your writing or the other way around?
Both. I teach writing skills to scientists, medical students and engineers. I also teach creatives who are learning to write long and short fiction. What I find is that my writing and publishing experiences—both the successes and the failures—help me share more practical lessons with my students. Experiences with my students also help my writing. In fact, my latest non-fiction book—the third book of my Alien Guidebook Series on place as character (“The Ecology of Story: World as Character”)—came largely from my experiences with my students.
Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?
I love both forms for different reasons. If I had to pick one from passion, I’d pick fiction and its expression of my imagination; if I had to pick one from utility and general satisfaction, I’d pick non-fiction for how it responds to and communicates reality. Having said that, they are more like each other than many readers realize. Both tell stories. Both use compelling narrative with a tease or hook and final conclusion. Both require research. Both must create a believable “reality” and both dispense truth—in non-fiction truth is literal and in fiction it is metaphoric. But then there are hybrids out there such as creative non-fiction and diaries or journals. And finally my latest piece of fiction—“A Diary in the Age of Water”—that reports on real events and real people.
Can you tell us about your newest book “A Diary in the Age of Water”?
The book is essentially a journey of four generations of women, who have a unique relationship with water, during climate change and water shortage. The book spans over forty years (from the 2020s to the 2060s) and into the far future, mostly through the diary of a limnologist (someone who studies freshwater), which is found by a future water-being. During the diarist’s lifetime, all things to do with water are overseen and controlled by the international giant water utility CanadaCorp—with powers to arrest and detain anyone. This is a world in which China owns America and America, in turn, owns Canada. The limnologist witnesses and suffers through severe water taxes and imposed restrictions, dark intrigue through neighbourhood water betrayals, corporate spying and espionage, and repression of her scientific freedoms. Some people die. Others disappear…
How did you come up with the concept for the book?
It started with a short story I was invited to write in 2015 about water and politics in Canada. I had long been thinking of potential ironies in Canada’s water-rich heritage. The premise I wanted to explore was the irony of people in a water-rich nation experiencing water scarcity: living under a government-imposed daily water quota of 5 litres as water bottling and utility companies took it all. I named the story “The Way of Water.” It was about a young woman (Hilda) in near-future Toronto who has run out of water credits for the public wTap; by this time houses no longer have potable water and their water taps have been cemented shut; the only way to get water is through the public wTaps—at great cost. She’s standing two metres from water—in a line of people waiting to use the tap—and dying of thirst.
“The Way of Water” captures a vision that explores the nuances of corporate and government corruption and deceit together with global resource warfare. In this near-future, Canada is mined of all its water by thirsty Chinese and US multinationals—leaving nothing for the Canadians. Rain has not fallen on Canadian soil in years due to advances in geoengineering and weather manipulation that prevent rain clouds from going anywhere north of the Canada-US border. If you’re wondering if this is possible, it’s already happening in China and surrounding countries.
Is there anything else you would like to mention or advise your readers?
I’m often also asked why I chose to write the fiction book as mostly a diary. I was writing about both the far and the near future and much of it was based—like Margaret Atwood and her books—on real events and even real people. I wanted personal relevance to what was going on, particularly with climate change. I also wanted to achieve a gritty realism of “the mundane” and a diary felt right. Lynna—the diarist—is also a reclusive inexpressive character, so I thought a personal diary would help bring out her thoughts and feelings more. There’s nothing like eves-dropping to make the mundane exciting. The diary-aspect of the book characterizes it as “mundane science fiction” by presenting an “ordinary” setting for characters to play out. The tension arises more from insidious cumulative events and circumstances that slowly grow into something incendiary.
Where can readers find your work?
In the usual places: in the local libraries or book stores, on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and through the publisher. You can also go to my writing / coaching website www.ninamunteanu.me where I keep an updated publication list and a bookstore window to other bookselling outlets. Most of my books are available in several formats: print, ebook, audiobook.
Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and award-winning novelist and short story writer. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Nina’s non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. “A Diary in the Age of Water” is her thirteenth book.
1. Can you tell us why you chose science fiction & fantasy as a genre?
I think it kind of chose me. I have two older brothers, both of whom read it, so those were the books that were around the house. The first one I remember is Robert Silverberg’s Revolt on Alpha C, his first novel, written when he was nineteen. I was hooked, and read everything I could get my hands on. When I was eleven, I wrote my first complete short story, “Kastra Glazz: Hypership Test Pilot.” My course was clearly set.
What has always appealed to me about science fiction and fantasy is the unlimited opportunity it provides to give your imagination free reign. Every other genre seems sadly limited once you’ve experienced that freedom.
2. You have a series called The Worldshaper Series. Can you tell us how you got the initial idea?
I wanted a book series that could be open ended and that would allow me to tell any kind of story I wanted, in any kind of world, but with the same characters. My inspiration was Doctor Who, the greatest storytelling conceit ever: you can tell any story within that framework, anywhere in time or space.
My version: a series of worlds which are consciously Shaped by individuals who then live within those worlds, rather like authors living inside the books they’ve written. The worlds can run the gamut from fantasy-inspired to science fictional to historical to purely whimsical. So far, I’ve had a world much like ours, one inspired by Jules Verne, and one featuring werewolves and vampires!
3. Will there be another book in the series?
I hope so. If DAW Books decides not to continue the series, I’ll likely continue it myself and publish it through my own Shadowpaw Press. Book 4 is sketched out, so I’m ready to go!
4. Which character(s) do you like the best in this series?
Shawna Keys. She’s the first-person narrator of the bulk of the story, and she’s my opportunity to indulge in my own geeky sense of humour. She’s great fun to write.
5. Where can we purchase these books?
Everywhere! DAW Books is distributed by Penguin Random House, so anyone who sells books will either have or can order the Worldshapers novels. For autographed copies, you can go to my online store, www.edwardwillettshop.com. (I don’t have The Moonlit World yet, though, because of distribution issues related to Covid-19.)
6. Do you think the cover art plays a important role?
Absolutely. DAW books always have great covers, and the Worldshapers books are no exception. The artist, Juliana Kolesova, has used the same model on each cover. Since she’s based in Toronto, I wonder if the next time I’m there I might see Shawna Keys walking down the street!
8. You also write short stories, how is the process difference from writing a novel for you?
Short stories are typically more limited in time and space—but not necessarily. Really, the difference is the length, and in the amount of worldbuilding detail you can cram in. I’ve written relatively few short stories. I think I’m much more a novelist at heart.
9. How many books have you written?
Something over twenty novels and more than sixty in total, counting non-fiction.
10. How many anthologies have you contributed to?
A half-dozen or so.
11. You also write non-fiction – how is the process different from writing fiction?
I don’t get to make up stuff. Or, at least, not as much stuff. More research. Less dialogue. More footnotes.
12. How do you chose your non-fiction topics?
I usually don’t. Publishers or clients looking for a writer approach me and ask if I’d be willing to take on a specific topic. I almost always say yes!
13. You have also written under the name E.C. Blake and Lee Arthur Chane – can you share why?
Marketing reasons. My first books for DAW were science fiction (Lost in Translation, and the two books of what was later called The Helix War: Marseguro and Terra Insegura). They wanted me to try my hand at fantasy, which was selling better at the time, and suggested I use a new name because of the genre change and to attract new readers. So, for Magebane, a fat stand-alone fantasy, I became Lee Arthur Chane (the middle names of my two older brothers, Jimmy Lee Willett and Dwight Arthur Willett, and myself, Edward Chane Willett). Then I kind of switched genres again: the Masks of Aygrima trilogy was essentially YA fantasy, with a fifteen-year-old female protagonist. E.C. Blake wrote those. Then I returned to science fiction and to my own name with The Cityborn and the Worldshapers books. I’ve only used the pseudonyms with DAW so far—my novels with other publishers are all under my own name—but E.C. Blake may have a new one coming out soon from my own Shadowpaw Press, called Blue Fire.
14. Where can readers find your books?
As noted earlier, my DAW Books are readily available through any bookstore. Check out my page on Amazon, as well.
You can also find the books I’ve published through Shadowpaw Press at shadowpawpress.com. You can order print books directly from there, and download ebooks directly from there, as well.
Speaking of Shadowpaw Press, it’s just released the ebook of a major new anthology that I edited, with the print version to follow in mid-November.
Shapers of Worlds features short fiction by authors who were guests during the first year of my Aurora Award-winning podcast, The Worldshapers, where I interview other science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process.
I Kickstarted the anthology earlier this year. It features new fiction from Seanan McGuire, Tanya Huff, David Weber, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., D.J. Butler, Christopher Ruocchio, John C. Wright, Shelley Adina, and me, plus reprints from John Scalzi, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Julie E. Czerneda, Fonda Lee, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Gareth L. Powell, Derek Künsken, and Thoraiya Dyer. That list includes international bestsellers, plus winners of and nominees for every major award in science fiction and fantasy, so I’m very excited about it!
15. How can readers connect with you online?
I’m on Twitter @ewillett, on Facebook @edward.willett, and on Instagram @edwardwillettauthor.
Why did you decide to write an autobiography? For many years, existential questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” have haunted me and challenged me to go deeper into myself. My search for answers to these questions led me to journaling about life moments captured on the page; writing these short pieces called out for expression. Exploring poetry and essay, fairy tale and short life stories helped me find my “real writer” voice. Self-help books, spiritual retreats, talented mentors, friends and a personal interest in storytelling, psychology, image and myth fuelled my appetite for words. Gathering these stories together into an autobiographic novel took a long time. Now that my book is complete and ready for publication, I am more aware of the gifts and talents I can bring to the world through writing.
How long did it take you to write it? I began capturing moments of my life at a women’s writing seminar in 2004. When the instructor said I had an unusual story – growing up female in the macho world of the military – I was surprised; my upbringing seemed “normal” to me. Many of the stories in my book began back then.
What difficulties did you experience in writing it? Because of the transient nature of my childhood, I saw my early life as chopped into segments and filed in my memory by location. Recently when working with an editor, I began to see links and patterns in my life and finally, story connections were forged and fashioned into a smooth narrative. I had difficulty identifying the genre of these stories because they are based on authentic flashes of memory, and reimagined with fiction writing tools. My goal was to reveal my authentic emotions in short life stories and connect with other kindred souls through them.
How did you come up with the title? In my childhood, our family was in constant transition, and my tools for coping with goodbyes and hellos and consequently with loss and resilience. Alternate titles I considered included “Permission to Speak, Sir!”, “Nesting Places”, “Home and Away”, and “Finding Home Without a Map.” These titles spoke to my developing comfort with being at home in my heart and belonging in my own skin. At one point, the title was “Saying Goodbye is Easy – Letting Go is Hard”. The second half of this title was dropped because it became obvious to me that letting go of the past was getting easier.
As a child of a military family – what can your story teach others? The stories we tell ourselves and others influence what we believe about the world. The military has its own myths, my father’s story included World War 2 events, and my mother told stories connected me to generations of extended family and how the military influenced them and my own childhood. All the legends and myths to which I was exposed inspired my narrative of leaving the sanctuary of home and seeking independence. I believe that many women experience loneliness and isolation when they choose to leave their parents’ home and grow into their own lives. Reframing my life story allowed me to understand that it is a universal story.
The book is a collection of short stories – why did you chose this format? Short stories stand alone, and a collection of short stories are sometimes linked but not always; a novel-in-short-stories has a narrative arc even though the stories stand alone. It is not a memoir because that genre covers a set period of time. Autobiography is factual but many of my stories were imagined to make a point. My research revealed that short stories are more likely to be accepted by a publisher if the author’s stories appear in literary magazines or their writing is well known. This format seemed to work for me because it suited my experience in life.
Do you write in any other genre? I began writing poetry in the 1970s, and I was seeking inspiration for poems when I attended the women’s writing classes in 2004. With encouragement, I began writing prose and personal opinion essays for magazines. Poetry continues to intrigue me and I hope to add to my published books of verse but I also have a novel on the back burner (which is also told in segments!), two based-on-real-events historical fiction books and a non-fiction book. I do not write fantasy or romance and tend to lean towards literary fiction.
Do you have other books? Since 2004 I’ve created several handmade poetry chapbooks, and published two books of poetry. I’ve also self-published a book of essays and a volume of personal fairy tales. All of them are inner focused, and intended for kindred spirits who are interested in myth and metaphor.
Where can your readers find you on social media? On FB as Kathie Sutherland Author, on Twitter as Kathie.Sutherland aka wordpainterpoet, on LinkedIn, Instagram and on my website kathiesutherland.com where my books and writing companionship services are available. I offer Inner Child workshops, Reminiscence and Listening Services, a scuba diving-inspired workshop focused on going deeper into emotions and create “Portrait Poems” as personal gifts.
Do you have a blog? Since writing “Saying Goodbye is Easy”, I have gain clarity about the purpose of my writing. I want to give back through coaching and writing companionship. I have renewed my blogging practice.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this autobiography? The whole of my writing life has been about acknowledging and accepting myself. This autobiography has been narrative therapy for me. Each piece I worked on required me to come to terms with the theme of the story I was writing. One of my greatest strengths is my love of learning. That love brings me back to the greater life questions and my search for answers. I love learning through research. I love learning about words. I love inner work. I love writing to grow.
Short stories have always been a way for me to test the waters of genres and styles that I’m interested in but may not necessarily be ready to write a full novel in. I’ve used it to release things like pure science fiction or perfect prose-style writing, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. It really lets me stretch my legs.
2. Does writing short stories need a separate kind of skill set than full length manuscripts? What is the difference?
For sure. The biggest and most obvious difference is that you as a writer have very little time to get the entire message of the story across. Whereas a novel will let you build characters and settings, you need to be quick and to the point with what you’re telling in a short story. I started with micro-fiction, and studying things like Twitter for ideas on how to slam a story home in a small number of words. I’m still not an expert, but the experience has been invaluable.
3. Have any of your ‘shorts’ become full length novels?
No, nothing like that. I’ve actually had the opposite problem where I take a story idea I’ve had and convert it to a short story in order to tell the tale I wanted to tell as quickly and succinctly as possible.
The first story in my new book is called ‘A Conversation: Alive Again’, and it tells the origins of Nixon Ash, the imposing Scottish phoenix-man first introduced in my ‘Catching Hell’ duology. Originally I wanted Nixon’s origins to be its own book. I had it plotted out and ready to get started on. However, as I started writing the stories that went into this collection I realized that Alive Again fit so well into the style and structure I had laid out, so I converted it and came up with a way to tell that same story in significantly less pages. Nixon is interesting enough that he can carry that kind of story and tell what needs to be told without a hundred thousand words.
Between Conversations: Tales From the World of Ryuujin is live! Coming September 25th
4. What drew you to fantasy & science fiction writing?
It was the ability to create whatever I wanted. The freedom to tell a story and the only limits were my imagination. I don’t consider myself skilled enough to write the kind of deep, intriguing stories that win Pulitzers, and I’m totally alright with that as well. It’s not who I am. But I can just jump right into an epic fantasy with magic flying around everywhere, or the endless possibilities of technology or the universe, or both combined! I’m not limited, and that is a very satisfying way to write.
5. When writing the Catching Hell series did you plan the two books prior to writing, or did they emerge later?
It came after it was finished. When I pulled my head up from my keyboard and looked at what I had created, it was 225k words long. Impressive, but wholly impractical when it comes to marketing or trying to get picked up by a publisher or agent. Someone early on said I should consider making it a duology. I resisted the idea for a while, but realized they were right. I found a very natural split about half way through, tweaked some of the story, and added the prologue to Part 2, and that’s how it was born. One day I may rejig it again and make it one big book, but that’s the kind of thing we dream about and likely never do.
6. Do you have a favorite character – and why?
Although I think Nixon has the most potential as a character, who can shapeshift and summon fire and have a sense of humor, (not to mention the masochistic joy I get from trying to write a Scottish brogue) my favorite will always be Crystal Kokouo, who is a main character in Catching Hell but who has circulated through my ideas since I was a teenager. She’s an infinitely powerful woman who was one of the first people born into a damaged and destroyed world. Her father was a great man and hero to millions, and she has always tried to achieve the goals he never had the chance to complete and that pressure has molded her into what she is now. There’s a level of complexity with her that the casual reader misses because they only know her from the one story. There’s a depth there that I can’t wait to let the world see, but it will take time.
7. Where is your favorite place to write?
At my desk in my office at work. I write best surrounded by the low thrum of business and work going on all around me. I can’t work at home because there’s a million things I’d rather be doing if I’m there. At lunch, at my desk in my little cubicle there’s nothing to distract me, and I can spend 45 minutes to an hour just off in my own little world.
8. What is your usual writing procedure – planner or panster?
Pants! Pants pants pants, all day long.
I don’t go through the steps I know some authors do, where they lay out pages of plot details and character sheets and all of that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I let a story grow organically. I start with an idea of who everyone is, and I always know where I’m going, but I don’t always know how I’ll get there. It’s worked to my detriment, as shown with my 225k epic that was so large it needed to be cut in half, but its work to my advantage as well. My debut novel Death Dresses Poorly was smashed out very quickly because I had that general idea in my head right away, but when the comedy and heart started popping up unexpectedly I was just as surprised as anyone else. I still like to go back and re-read parts of it just to get that feeling back that I had when I first wrote it. I see a line and I remember coming up with it and the happiness I felt at making something I personally enjoyed so much.
9. Can you tell us about your new release(s)?
I would love to! My newest book is called ‘Between Conversations: Tales From the World of Ryuujin’. It is a collection of nine short stories (though calling some of them ‘short’ is a bit of a stretch. There’s some whoppers in there I admit) that take place in the same world as Catching Hell, however those books are in no way required reading to enjoy this collection. They all stand on their own.
The stories are a wide range of genres, going back to what I was saying about trying new things. There’s a pure-horror story, a YA-style adventure, a bar scene I like to call Tarentino-esque, a historical fantasy. It’s just all over the place, held together by the collective structure of the world. The stories are told chronologically, from the 1600s up to thousands of years into the future. I really want the reader to see the amount of fun I had putting this together.
10. Do you have a message for your readers?
I sure do: this is a crazy time where we are constantly inundated with news and scenes and images that shake our collective mental health. I don’t say this to sell my books or the work of my contemporaries, but when this world has you worse for wear, pick up a book and read. Escape for 5 minutes to someplace, or learn about something that interests you. Escape, and don’t feel bad about doing it.
Or, forget the book and garden, or go for a hike, or find your zen away from the things that are getting to you. Separating ourselves from the cacophony has never been more important than it is today. My motto is “Be a hero”, and that doesn’t just mean to other people. Be a hero to yourself as well.
Marc Watson is an author of genre fiction (primarily Fantasy and Science Fiction of all lengths). He began writing at the age of 15 with a pen and paper, and has never really stopped, even though until recently it was more of a background to him than his defining trait. He has been published on flash fiction site www.101words.org, as well as comedy site www.thecorrectness.com. Marc has been a student of the excellent writing classes at Athabasca University for a number of years.
Marc lives in Calgary, Alberta, and was spawned out of the depths of Southern Ontario. A husband, proud father of two, and can be sometimes found at an actual job. Marc is an avid outdoorsman, martial artist of some high repute, baseball player of very little repute, and lover of all Mexican foods. One day ‘World Famous Poutine Aficionado’ will be on his business cards.
You can also find Marc on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marcwroteabook, and on twitter at @writewatson. For public appearances and interviews, he is proudly represented by Creative Edge Publicity.