Friday, April 30, 2010

Greg Bear on writing and City at the End of Time

Greg Bear has authored more than 30 books, won many Nebula and Hugo awards and was named “Best working writer of hard science fiction” by The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. I have read and reviewed several of his books. I love character-driven plots and he is a master. I just reviewed City at the End of Time at Mostly Fiction. You'll also find my review of Quantico there.

To read more about Greg Bear, visit his website.

AW: Your writing tends to cross genre lines. Do you think pigeon-holing novels into sub-genres helps or hurts their exposure?

GB: It’s a publishing quirk, designed to reach audiences with allegedly fixed tastes--or at least to avoid confusing them. I think the tastes of younger audiences are much broader than these categories allow, but modern bookstores rarely mix and match--and so we confirm both the conservatism and the prejudices. However, book sales in some formats have declined considerably in the last ten years, showing that many potential readers have been lost to other entertainments and media.

AW: What other genres or mediums would you like to expand into?

GB: I’ve thought about writing all sorts of fiction, and even non-fiction, but I’ll need to build a considerable nest-egg to continue expansion--though Quantico was quite successful, and Mariposa is selling as well. Quantico, and Darwin's Radio before that, caused me entirely unnecessary problems with one of my publishers. Now, however, I seem to have a good audience for suspense thrillers with a sf angle... It’s all about track record, I suppose.

AW: Your Foundation and Chaos was my favorite book in the Foundation sequel trilogy. Can you tell me what it was like writing a Foundation book?

GB: Very interesting and enjoyable. I read Gregory Benford’s first volume, of course, then re-read much of Isaac’s shelf of books, including his autobiographies and essays, and uploaded as much as I could of his amazing personality. Soon enough, I seemed to have Isaac sitting on my shoulder... A very charming presence indeed. I listened closely to his suggestions, and he gave a little on certain things I thought were interesting to explore. David Brin wrapped it all up for us! Janet Asimov was very supportive and helpful, and that made the project much easier for all of us.

AW: How do your ideas for novels begin? With a "what if," a world, a character, or a sociological concept?

GB: All of that at once! It’s difficult now to piece together exactly how a story pops up to be written, but it usually has all of those elements inherent in its premise and set of characters.

AW: In City at the End of Time, did you have drawings, paintings, maps or other visual aids to keep your descriptions consistent across chapters and POVs?

GB: I had a few maps and some quick sketches to work with, nothing extensive. I used to keep a notebook on each novel, but now, I mostly include notes and updates and such in the computer file, to remind me they need to be looked at and integrated. In a way, City at the End of Time arises from one of the first novels I sketched out in my college days, an early effort entitled Shannedar. Very little of that work now remains in the finished product--but the metaphysical implications of a universal library were already fascinating to me.

AW: City at the End of Time is complex with far reaching story lines and numerous POVs. Did you initially write it in sequence?

GB: For the most part, yes. The story expanded and grew more complex with time, and I kept discovering new questions and consequences, so some sections are folded in later, as usually happens with my novels--but the writing was mostly linear.

AW: How much tweaking do you do in rewrites? How many times do you rewrite a novel before you're satisfied with the result?

GB: Every day I look over work from the previous day and rework it. Every few days, I skip around through the manuscript both to correct and to reorient myself to what I’ve done, how characters develop and interact, how plots are moving along.

AW: What are you working on now?

GB: Main project at the moment: the first of three novels describing the origins of the Halo universe. There may also be some media and even “transmedia” projects in the near future that will also take up my full attention. Being three people would be handy!

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Awesome Lavratt app, back surgery, pink slip and possibilities

Just a week after seeing another specialist, I'm having back surgery. It's scheduled for this coming Monday. I'm actually looking forward to it. Or at least looking forward to the relief I'll feel afterward. It's really the pits not being able to sit for more than 3 min. or stand more than 10 without pain. And I'll be able to sleep on either side again. And go places and do things. In short, I'll have my life back.

Unfortunately, I won't have a job to go back to. I work for a small magazine that can't carry on without me for that long (6 weeks recovery). I've already been out since the 30th of March.

So, Monday, May 3rd, which happens to be my 25th wedding anniversary, is the day I have surgery and am effectively unemployed.

I trust that God has everything well in hand, though. This might be just the opportunity I need to have affordable healthcare (subsidized COBRA) while working on my own fiction and freelancing. It will take a while, of course to build my client base, but jobs are not readily available in this economy anyway. Rather than bemoan my lack of employment I can focus on starting my own business and use the time to work on the novels that I've had to backburner while working full time.


Now you can read my tongue-in-cheek space opera on the go for only $4.99.

See the description to the right on this blog. You can read the first chapter on my website.

After reading Awesome Lavratt on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, please consider writing a review for the iTunes site. And tell your friends. Even the ones not normally into SF. Awesome Lavratt is soft sci-fi with humor. Here's an article on why science fiction is good for us, "In Defense of Science Fiction," at The Mark, a Canadian online publication. You'll be doing yourself and your friends a favor, not to mention helping a starving writer.

Stay tuned tomorrow for an interview with Greg Bear and a link to my review of City at the End of Time.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

J.A. Pitts on writing and going long

John and I met on Facebook. We met in person at World Fantasy Convention last year, where he agreed to this interview. Subsequently, I attended his Birthday Party/Book Launch at Radcon.

I tried to find the time to interview him there, but it was a pretty full weekend. This interview is another first in that I came up with a compromise between calling him and recording the conversation, then transcribing the interview and the usual email drill. What follows is a cleaned up IM interview conducted with Yahoo Instant Messenger. We both had a ball. I think I'll do more of these. It's more organic, but saves me having to transcribe -- every journalist's most dreaded task.

John's a great writer, nice guy and a good sport (We both got roped into a skit for the opening ceremonies at Radcon).

And because I have a thing for firsts, I snapped a picture while John signed the first copy of his first book.

AW: When did you start writing?

JP: Twelve.

AW: Care to elaborate?

JP: Mainly poetry and tall tales, Jack Tales, adventure stories, WWII, mystery.

AW: Who inspired you to do something with your talent?

JP: I guess it started with my great Aunt. She was very country. She married at thirteen and never learned to drive. She worked her whole adult life at the Woolworths. She handed me Burroughs' Martian Chronicles as soon as I was reading chapter books. She would buy me notebooks and pencils when I came over to visit and encourage me to write my own stories.

When I was in 6th grade, a student-teacher took an interest in my writing aspirations. She made me a notebook filled with poetry and story concepts, a learner's guide, as it were.

AW: Nice. When you started writing for money, did you always have it in your mind that you wanted to be a novelist?

JP: Yes and no. I realized that the only way to make a living was a writer is to write novels. But I also thought it was probably too much for me then, so I stuck with short stories for the longest time. I always struggled with the short form: too many plot lines, too many characters for something little. My wife kept trying to convince me to write something that could contain the ideas I had in my head. It was good advice, even if it took me a long time to really hear it. :)

AW: Was it hard to transition from the short form to novels?

JP: Not at all. Quite the opposite. Once I started writing novels I felt like the shackles had been released for the first time. I suddenly had the breadth and freedom to flesh out the worlds I wanted to visit. It was liberating.

AW: When you wrote the story, "Black Blade Blues," had you already determined to write the novel, Black Blade Blues?

JP: No. I wrote it to spec for an anthology. It wasn't until it was reviewed by the editors, Denise Little and Dean Wesley Smith, that I saw the potential for more. I got both "this is a damn good story" and "I'd like to see the novel this will become." Beats what I usually hear, which is "Nice first chapter."

AW: That sounds really familiar. I'm still trying to make my novel ideas into stories. Will you continue to write short stories now that you have novels under contract?

JP: Yes. I have one short being considered at, and I wrote another one just recently. I'll never write shorts with the same consistency and quantity of Jay Lake, but I'll keep writing them. I love the feeling of having written. You get that much sooner with a short story. Quicker satisfaction moments.

AW: Yup. My sentiments exactly! How did you find an agent?

JP: Well, I sold the novel before I got an agent. When Tor called me (and after I told my wife), I called my friends Ken Scholes and Jay Lake. Jay called his agent and asked her if she'd be interested in reading my novel, and told her the situation at hand. She agreed, and I sent her the novel. She emailed me a few days later and said she was sorry, but that she couldn't get behind my characters, so she didn't feel like she'd be the best person to represent me. She offered me three choices in the email.

  1. There was an agent in her house that would likely love, love my novel.
  2. She knew people outside the house who would love it
  3. Or I could tell her to get bent.

I went for 1. She contacted her co-worker, who was out on maternity leave, and we connected by phone. I ended up working with her soon after. I'm very pleased with how it worked out.

AW: So you had subbed it to Tor yourself originally?

JP: Yes. I met Claire Eddy at Radcon several years ago. We talked a bit, exchanged a few emails, and I sent her my first novel, which she rejected (for very good reasons). When I had the second one ready, I emailed her if she was interested in seeing it. She said yes, she liked my writing, so I sent it over. They were looking for Urban Fantasy, and I'd sent them Urban Fantasy. Pretty good coincidence.

AW: What was your most memorable con experience?

JP: Tricky question.

AW: How about funniest and best. Is that easier?

JP: I think stepping into the elevator in Calgary to find Claire Eddy all alone, and having her greet me and ask if I wanted to chat. That was a stellar moment.
The funniest would have to be sitting in the hotel at WorldCon in Montreal.
I was with my friend Keffy Kehrli and we were waiting for our other friend, Brenda Cooper, to come down so we could go to dinner. Keffy knows Neil Gaiman and I'd mention to him how I'd love to ask Neil a question, in a far away world where I could have a real conversation with him. And who walks in, but Neil. He stopped to chat up Keffy, who turned to me and said, "Here's your chance." So, I got to have a fifteen-minute, private conversation with Neil. It was very awesome.

AW: Excellent! I'm jealous, of course. Which of the things you do when you're not writing most influence the content of your writing?

JP: Interacting with people. I think the biggest flaw I find in writing is unrealistic relationships. Not dating or sex, but typical conversations and interactions. I think meeting a diverse set of people, and learning about their lives really helps me write more believable and entertaining stories. And I read...a lot.

AW: What genres do you read?

JP: Mainly sf/f. Honestly. I will read some non-fiction from time to time, especially when I'm trying to learn stuff, but, I'll dabble in other genres from time to time: romance, horror, spy, thrillers and even some westerns. I'll pick up a book that everyone says I should read, occasionally, but I'm usually disappointed. So, I'd say 80 percent genre.

AW: What are you working on now?

JP: I just sent Honeyed Words, the second Sarah Beauhall book, over to Tor last week. I'm working on some short stories to get out before I start book three. I'm also working a lot of hours at the day job, and trying to clear the decks, so I have more time to write. I'm critiquing a novel for a friend of mine, Patrick Swenson, and will be critiquing two more in the next month. I'm tired a lot. :)

AW: What's the day job?

JP: I'm a computer consultant. Lots of brain energy in that job, lots of hours.

AW: Do you like it? Or would you rather not have to have a day job?

JP: Oh, if I could, I'd write full-time. Absolutely. But I love my job. It's challenging, makes me think and, frankly, keeps me on my toes socially and intellectually. Not so much physically, so I try to get to the YMCA to work out, and keep up with my taekwondo.

Visit John at

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Staying connected

Today I’m reminded of Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel series. In the second book, The Naked Sun, Detective Elijah Bailey and the humaniform robot, R. Daneel Olivaw, investigate a murder on a world in which people prefer to have no physical contact. People talk to their neighbors over some kind of vidphones. Why am I reminded of it today?

Today like yesterday and every other day this month and parts of last month, I'm confined mostly to my house and only venture downstairs a limited number of times a day. I have been laid out with a bulging disk in my back and subsequent muscle spasms and nerve pinches and pains. Going from working 8-5, running errands and doing my own writing, blogging and publicity in the evenings and attending meetings and conventions on weekends to this is a major bummer to say the least.

I'm hoping that the surgery the docs mentioned as a possibility will become reality. That's not the tune I was singing 20 years ago when faced with much the same condition. But I'm tired of being limited and now I'm disabled! No more! And yes, I've tried almost all the treatments you can name. I'm not looking for medical advice or sympathy here. I'm just using this situation as opportunity to discuss our dependence on connectivity.

I can remember complaining that my son lived on his computer and didn't get out and do things. Now it's me, though not by choice. I would love to get out and do things. Even the short walks I was taking are too much at this point. But, I digress. Now it's me depending on the internet for my social interactions. I'm also reminded of a movie. What was it? Where a woman needed help from a super-geek friend who she'd never met to defeat a powerful enemy. Turns out that though he had super cyber skills, he couldn't leave his chair and his only pleasure was living through his avatars in virtual realities.

A recent House episode showed a woman who blogged obsessively. She held nothing back, even detailing fights with her husband. She espoused the notion that you learn more about people through their blogs than you do when you meet them face to face. Not my blog, honey.

While the internet is no substitute for the real thing, I can't imagine going through this without having friends I can reach out to online. Even if I have insomnia, I can grab my Blackberry off my nightstand and there will still be friends posting interesting things on Facebook, either from distant time zones or because they can't sleep either. I also enjoy IMing with friends in other states. I'm lousy at keeping in touch by phone and snail mail, but love to stay connected online.

When I log in to Facebook, I'm connecting with my tribe. People I have something in common with. They're mostly other writers who totally sympathize when I post something like "My characters are not cooperating!" or "Doh! I forgot to take my own advice and torture my protag!" I may be stuck inside the same four walls for a while, but I'm not alone. And I can hang out at the cyber water cooler and never have to mention my back once. In the real world, that is the physical one, everyone I know asks me first, "How's your back?" I love that they care how I'm feeling, but I'm sick to death of talking about my back. I can go on Facebook and have the illusion that I'm just as able-bodied as anyone else.

I had to miss all Easter celebrations because of my back, but this Easter Sunday was also my daughter's birthday. Guess what she got for her birthday this year?

I couldn't be there for the birth, though I wouldn't have made it in time anyway(she squirted her out in 2 hours). But she brought her up to see us on Sunday. What a treat! And everyday she sends me pictures from her cell.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Town on ABC 4/28

Premiering Wednesday, April 28, 2010, on ABC – Happy Town

The quiet, rural town of Haplin, MN has enjoyed a respite from the annual disappearances that have plagued the town, also known as Happy Town, for years. Year after year one person would go missing – some old, some young, some affluent, some not. Local legend has it that the Magic Man is responsible. But no one knows who or what this Magic Man is.

Young Henley Boone moves to town, so viewers get the grand tour as given to her by her real estate agent. On the drive to the boarding house with the realtor, Henley notices a question mark with a halo depicted in graffiti all over town. The boarding house is also home to Mr. Merritt Grieves and four widows. Grieves is played by Sam Neil who does a very convincing impression of Vincent Price's trademark creepy serial killer character. He even owns a memorabilia shop called The House of Usher.

The landlady tells Henley that the third floor is off-limits. You know she's gonna risk eviction and go up there to investigate.

Happy Town's happiness is shattered when a man is murdered in an ice-fishing shack on the frozen pond. Murder, in that rural town is unheard of, let alone the bizarre method used in this case. I don't want to give too much away, here. Many people, you'll find out, have a hidden side, deliciously pregnant with secrets or mayhem.

Adding color to the whole small town atmosphere are the quaint little sayings. Things like, "Chin to the moon, son," and "Like she'd been eatin' hornets for breakfast."

The most intriguing element in the pilot is the sheriff's lapses in which he speaks of Chloe. His son, the Deputy, asks him who Chloe is, and he says he doesn't know a Chloe. He is unaware that he's been speaking about her.

The show promises a complex plot, so far. But don't take my word for it. And who's missing this time? Maybe it's me.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

The "season" part II

Just after posting the list for all those award winners and nominees, I read on Robert Sawyer's Facebook page that FlashForward was up for a Constellation Award. Doh! Those most certainly should have been included in my list.

The Constellation Awards honors Science Fiction works on the silver screen and the plasma (or HD or whatever kind of tele you have) screen. Nominees in the various categories are voted on by the Canadian public using either a paper or online ballot.

The TCON Promotional Society, the not-for-profit corporation who organizes the annual Polaris science fiction event (formerly known as Toronto Trek) organizes the awards program and have been doing so now for four years. Winners will be honored at a ceremony at Polaris 24 in July. For more information, and especially if you're Canadian and haven't voted, visit the Constellation Awards website.

And let's not forget the Science Fiction Writers of America's Nebulas coming up next month. You can see the nominees in all categories on the SFWA site. And last month SFWA announced the winners of the 2010 Solstice Award: Tom Doherty, Terri Windling and the late Donald A. Wollheim. Solstice Awards recipients will be honored during the Nebula Award Weekend in Cocoa Beach, Fla. (May 14-16).

You can read the full press release here.

I have interviews lined up with Greg Bear, Steve Hockensmith and Laurel Ann Hill and many more. Stay tuned.

Oh, and I almost forgot. You SOOOOO have to see this show! I stumbled upon this show on IFC while channel surfing. Have you seen The IT Crowd? It's not SF, but it's a quirky British sitcom.

And of course three episodes later, it poofed. There are three seasons on DVD. It's so on my Amazon wishlist.

I'm also expecting a press package from ABC on the new horror series, Happy Town. I'll tell you all about it as soon as I get it.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The "season" has begun!

I thought it was time for another photo. One in which I'm not hiding behind dark glasses and my hat. Photo by Patrick F. Wilkes

There is a new deal in the wind for Awesome Lavratt. More news later. It just received another excellent review at Amazon. Don't know who the reviewer is, but I'm thrilled with their review. You can read it for yourself here.

Spring has sprung, and with it we have trees and flowers in bloom, lovely pollen in the air to make us sneeze, shirt-sleeve weather, festivals and, for speculative fiction writers – awards!

Winners for the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards, the Philip K. Dick Award, the Bram Stoker Awards, Australian Shadows Awards and short lists for the David Gemmel Awards and the Arthur C. Clarke Awards and nominees for the Hugos, Campbell and Rhysling and Compton Crook and Promethius Awards.

2009 BSFA Award Winners are as follows:
Best Novel: The City and the City by China Mieville
Best Short Fiction: "The Beloved Time of Their Lives," by Ian Watson and Roberto Quaglia
Best Non-Fiction: Mutant Popcorn by Nic Lowe
Best Artwork: Cover of Desolation Road by Stephen Martiniere

Philip K Dick Award (for distinguished original science fiction paperback published for the first time during 2009 in the US):
Bitter Angels by C.L. Anderson (Ballantine Spectra)
Special citation given to Ian McDonald for Cyberabad Days (Pyr)

HWA and Bram Stoker Awards

  • Lifetime Achievement Awards: Brian Lumley and William F. Nolan
  • The World Horror Convention also awarded a lifetime achievement award. There's went to Basil Cooper.
  • The Richard Layman President's Award: Vince Liaguno
  • Silver Hammer Award (for volunteer work on behalf of the Horror Writers' Association: Kathy Ptacek (She's a Broad Universe member! Go Kathy!)
  • Specialty Press Award: Tartarus Press (Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker)
  • Bram Stoker Awards for
    • Best Novel: Audrey's Door by Sarah Langan (Harper)
    • Best First Novel: Damnable by Hank Schwaeble (Jove)
    • Best Long Fiction: The Lucid Dreaming by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)
    • Best Short Fiction: "In the Porches of My Ears," by Norman Prentiss (PS Publishing)
    • Best Anthology: He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson edited by Christopher Conlon (Gauntlet Press)
    • Best Collection: A Taste of Tenderloin by Gene O'Neill (Apex Book Co.)
    • Best Non-Fiction: Writers Workshop of Horror by Michael Knost (Woodland Press)
    • Best Poetry: "Chimeric Machines" by Lucy A. Snyder (Creeative Guy Publishing)

Australian Shadows Awards:
Long Fiction: Slights by Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot)
Edited Publication: Grants Pass edited by Jennifer Brozek and Amanda Pillar (Morigan Books) Jennifer is another Broad! :)
Short Fiction: "Six Suicides," by Deborah Biancotti (A Book of Endings)

Congratulate all the award winners, better still, buy their works.

And good luck to the nominees for the other awards mentioned above. If you're eligible to vote for any of them, please do so post haste.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jack Skillingstead on writing and evolving

I met Jack Skillingstead in the pages of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. His story so impressed me that I dropped him a note to tell him. I don't do that very often. Now it is my pleasure to not only interview Jack, but to review his first two books. Jack's frighteningly raw and gritty prose holds nothing back. He delves far into the future and deep into the human psyche.

When you're finished reading the following interview, don't miss the reviews of Harbinger and Are You There and Other Stories at Mostly Fiction later today.

AW: How long have you been writing speculative fiction?

JS: I knew beyond a doubt that I wanted to be a writer since the age of twelve. Nevertheless, I didn't complete a story until I was fourteen or so. And it wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I really dug in. It was always a fraught situation with me, and it seemed to take forever to achieve publication.

AW: How did you come up with the incredible scenario of human evolution in Harbinger?

JS: All I can say is one thing led to another. The book started out as a look into a troubled mind forced to interpret incredible experiences. As far as consciousness evolution goes, the idea doesn't strike me as too far-fetched. There are zillions of sf writers who seem to believe our computing machines will one day attain "singularity" and leap ahead of us. Why isn't it equally plausible to consider human consciousness on the verge of sudden expansion? I wouldn't be the first one to posit such a scenario. My starting point with the idea, as I've mentioned elsewhere, was Colin Wilson's new existentialism and his "outsider" cycle of books, beginning with The Outsider and continuing through Religion And The Rebel and so on. Later Wilson refined some of his ideas of consciousness and even concocted an ascending scale. He was, and remains, a born optimist, though, while I am not so much so.

AW: Do you always start your stories with a "what if"? Or do some begin with worlds or characters?

JS: Virtually none of my stories began with a "what if." No, wait, I think there's one, but I can't recall which. Mostly they've started in all sorts of ways. A persistent or otherwise intriguing image. Some small idea, like the Fairy light flirts in "The Chimera Transit." I once misheard a radio weatherman say we were due for a "human day." Of course, he said "humid." I got a whole story out of those two words. But however they begin, if I don't find a personal connection to the story pretty early on I almost always drop it.

AW: What sorts of writers groups do you belong to?

JS: I have never belonged to a writer's group. Back in college a friend and I used to trade manuscripts once in a while. He was very good. I was lousy. There was nothing in the way of critiquing going on. Eventually we stopped, because he was so much better than I was and I found that depressing.

AW: Can you tell me about your journey to that first published book, the process of finding an agent and or publisher?

JS: I was at Worldcon in Boston some years ago and Alex Irving and I were sitting at the Dell Magazines table, putting our hour in. We fell into conversation about publishing, of course, and Alex invited me to join him and his editor, Jim Minz, for lunch. We picked up a few more people on the way to the restaurant. One of them was Christine Cohen. At lunch the subject of agents came up, and I asked Chris if she was looking for one, to which she replied, " I am one." Later in the SFWA suite she found me and we talked about the novel I'd just finished. Eventually she became my representative at the Virginia Kidd Agency and she wound up doing the contract for my collection as well as four graphic novel scripts I wrote for the now defunct Realbuzz Studios.

AW: The stories in your Are You There And Other Stories anthology run very dark. Is this representative of most of your fiction? If so, why do you like writing about the dark side?

JS: It isn't so much a matter of liking the dark side. When I wrote most of those stories my interior life was dark, and so the stories reflected that. I was always interested in discovering some personal truths in my writing. My models for this were Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and a few others. I was, and continue to be, enamored of the idea that the ideal writer's voice is one that is instantly identifiable and inextricable from the writer's real life. Such a voice requires an unabashed commitment to telling the up-close truth about how you perceive the world -- a willingness to say anything so long as it is an authentic representation of who you are. People will say "I love Bradbury." Meaning they love his voice on the page, whatever he happens to be writing. They don't love him because he wrote dark stories earlier in his career, or science fiction stories later on, or Irish stories after he worked with John Huston, or whatever. Not that I'm comparing my own feeble efforts with Bradbury's incredible oeuvre. I'm just saying it's not a matter of writing "dark" stories or "sense of wonder" stories or whatever. It's about finding your own most authentic language during any given season of your creative life.

AW: What do you do when you're stuck on a plot point? Or when you find a character isn't working?

JS: Plot points are the worst. I don't like the hard thinking that sometimes goes into fixing a broken plot. And in fact too much thinking can just totally derail the thing past recovery. Usually it's better to sort out exactly what the difficulty is, you know: state the problem. Then try to forget about it for a day or two. If you've presented your unconscious with the proper question it will give you a response you can use. The unconscious is almost like a separate entity. Most good writers recognize this and learn to work in partnership with their unconscious. Damon Knight called his unconscious mind "Fred." Bradbury, again, is famous for his "don't think" approach. The literary writer John Gardner talked about it, as did Nabokov and any number of others. So you see, I'm absolutely not crazy.

AW: Do you do all of your writing at a computer? If not, what's the strangest thing you've written a story or story idea on.

JS: I alternate between the computer and notebooks. When it's notebooks I prefer a fine tipped black ink pen. The strangest thing I've written an idea on? You have to go back a ways. Two AM in a rented room in Portland, Maine. Howling winter outside. I was lying in bed when suddenly struck with an idea I needed to get down immediately -- and there was no paper! Except in the bathroom. So I did my own version of Kerouac's scroll, only mine was two ply. It ripped a lot, as you might expect.

AW: What are you working on now?

JS: Fourth draft of a novel based on my short story "Life on The Preservation." I know I've been talking about this thing for years. But I really am working on it, and it really is getting close to finished. At long last.

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