I’m just getting to know Jane Lindskold, because we both have stories in S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse anthology The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth. And so I’m finding out (because she tells me so, and I believe everything I’m told, and also because it’s true) that she is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of something like twenty-five novels and about seventy short stories. Honestly, she keeps losing count.
Jane lives in New Mexico, not with wolves, but with cats and guinea pigs. And a lovely husband.
Since these mini-interviews are all about heroine… heroineism? I asked:
Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess?
This is a really tough question for me, because the answer is “No. There isn’t.”
Certainly female characters existed and I read about them, but I never imprinted on Nancy Drew or wanted to be Trixie Belden or Jo March. I liked Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, but, again, I didn’t want to be Laura or Mary.
If you narrow the fields to SF/F, there were far fewer major female characters when I was a girl and none of those I encountered became role models for me.
Do goddesses count? I always thought Artemis was very cool… Athene had appeal, too, except when she got stupid over that golden apple.
If I “imprinted” on any fictional character, it was Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
What was it about Mowgli?
I think I liked Mowgli because he functioned outside of the social matrix. Early in The Jungle Book, Mowgli leaves the wolf pack to live by his own code. His “brothers” remain close to him and he certainly has friends, but he’s not interested in letting anyone else run his life.
The Artemis I liked was very much in the same mold. My attraction to her had less to do with any particular story/myth than the sense of freedom I got from her. When I was a girl, the three things I wanted most were a canoe, a non-kitchen knife, and a large dog. I never got any of them, though I did have a canoe on loan for a few years.
Of course, both Mowgli and Artemis associated with animals on a more or less equal basis. I have no idea why, but this has always appealed to me.
Would you say, then, that Mowgli and/or Artemis inspired any of the female characters in your work?
There are two who definitely belong to this lineage.
The most obvious would be Firekeeper, the central character in what – despite the formal series title, “The Firekeeper Saga” – everyone just calls “The Wolf Books.” Firekeeper is not Mowgli. For one, she never becomes the Lord of the Jungle, or the ruler of much of anything except her own life.
She cares passionately for those she takes as her own, human or otherwise.
My new “Artemis Awakening” series also owes an obvious debt to this lifelong interest. Adara the Huntress, the main female character, is definitely an “Artemesian” figure. Not a virgin, though, but then neither was Artemis originally…
About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Last week’s installment, with Martha Wells, was all about Erma Bombeck. Now that we’ve delved into Kipling and the Greek Pantheon, I think we can safely expect this series to cover a wide range of subjects, both real and imaginary!
Jane Lindskold has a web site here and can also be found online on Twitter and Facebook.
A (barely) belated Happy Book Birthday to Martha Wells, whose Stories of the Raksura: Volume Two came out yesterday! Martha has written over a dozen fantasy novels, and this particular series, Books of the Raksura, includes The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, The Siren Depths, and Stories of the Raksura Vo.l I as well as this new volume.
I asked Martha a few questions about her literary heroines. Here’s what she had to say:
Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?
Okay, this is going to sound weird, but it was Erma Bombeck.
What qualities of hers captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?
My mother had her books, Just Wait Until You Have Children of Your Own, I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression, and The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank. I remember the first one attracted my attention (I was probably around ten, maybe younger) because it had cartoons in it by Bill Keane. I know I liked it at first because it was funny stories about a family, and I was an extremely lonely kid. But it was also probably my first realization that authors of books were a) real people, and b) could be women. Here was this woman who lived a normal life in the suburbs and was a wife and a mother, but she also had a career as a writer. I think this was my first inkling that me becoming a writer was possible, that it wasn’t an impossible thing to want.
How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? What might your own heroines owe her?
I think her sense of humor made a huge impression on me, and probably helped form how I do characterization and humor in my own books, probably more than I realize. I haven’t re-read those books since I was in college, and I still remember lines and scenes from them. And she was the hero of her own stories, the one who had to deal with everything and who made mistakes but got things done. So Erma Bombeck probably is the literary ancestor of my female heroes.
About this post: it has been awhile since I did an interview series, and I’ve been wanting to ask some of my colleagues and friends about their artistic influences and their heroines. I’m planning to arrange for you all to see answers to these three questions, and variations on them, popping up throughout the summer from a number of terrific authors. Enjoy! (Or, better yet, comment, tweet, and repost!)
More about Martha Wells: She is the author of The Wizard Hunters, and the nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer, as well as the YA fantasies, short stories, and non-fiction. She has had stories in Black Gate, Realms of Fantasy, Stargate Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, and in the anthologies Elemental, Tales of the Emerald Serpent, and The Other Half of the Sky. She has also written the media-tie-ins, Stargate Atlantis: Reliquary, Stargate Atlantis: Entanglement, and Star Wars: Razor’s Edge. Her web site is www.marthawells.com.
Guesting today on the site is D.B. Jackson, also known as David B. Coe, the award-winning author of more than a dozen fantasy novels. His first two books as D.B. Jackson, the Revolutionary War era urban fantasies, Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry, volumes I and II of the Thieftaker Chronicles, are both available from Tor Books in hardcover and paperback. The third volume, A Plunder of Souls, has recently been released in hardcover. The fourth Thieftaker novel, Dead Man’s Reach, is in production and will be out in the summer of 2015. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.
I come from a family of readers, and so, perhaps not too surprisingly, I also come from a family of writers. But the thing is, neither my father nor my mother was a writer; on the other hand all four of us kids have written professionally in some capacity, which is pretty remarkable. The common denominator for all of us was books. My parents’ house was filled with them; every shelf overflowed with paperbacks and hardcovers, novels and biographies. When I reached a certain age — maybe I was eight — my father set up my own set of bookshelves in my room, fixing brackets to the wall so that I could adjust the shelves as I needed. He had done the same thing for my three older siblings before me. It was a rite of passage in our house.
My parents instilled in all of us a reverence for the written word. They didn’t spoil us; they limited gifts of candy or toys to our birthdays and Christmas. But they were always willing to buy us books. Always. And the truth is, I’m much the same way with my kids.
I didn’t read a lot of fantasy or science fiction early on, though eventually, with the help of a camp counsellor, I stumbled upon my first novel in the genre that would dominate my adult life. And I’ll get to that in a moment. But the first reading influences I remember were pretty standard kid fare. There were a series of books that I absolutely loved titled _____ Do the Strangest Things. Birds Do the Strangest Things, Fish Do the Strangest Things, Insects Do the Strangest Things, etc. They were essentially the written, kid-friendly equivalent of a David Attenborough nature special. I couldn’t get enough of them. I read every one of them, and then read them again. And again.
Though I remain a dedicated nature enthusiast, I don’t write natural history, and so it would be easy to assume that these books had little influence on my writing career. But I believe they had a much greater impact on me than one might imagine. They fed a deeply rooted intellectual curiosity and taught me — as my parents hoped they would — that books held answers, not only to all the questions swirling around in my young brain, but also to those questions I hadn’t yet thought to ask. I don’t think it’s too great a stretch to say that these books, and others like them, started me down the path to academia, which, in turn, steered me toward my writing career.
The other books that I remember gobbling up in my youth were the Hardy Boys mysteries written under the name Franklin W. Dixon. These were the Grosset and Dunlap re-imaginings of the series published initially in 1959 and popular through the 1960s and 1970s (which is when I was reading them). They weren’t great literature, they weren’t terribly challenging as kids’ reading went. But they were enormously fun. If Birds Do the Strangest Things, satisfied my burgeoning curiosity, these books fed my craving for adventure, danger, thrills — all the things my comfortable suburban childhood lacked.
And so, by the time I went off to sleep away camp for the summer as an eleven year-old, I was primed for a new kind of book that would be both engaging and exciting enough to allow me to move on from the Hardy Boys, which I was already starting to outgrow. Enter The Hobbit.
I didn’t actually encounter the book that summer. Instead, I tried out for a dramatized version of Tolkien’s novel. I had already discovered early in the summer that I had a flair for drama (no one who knows me now will be at all surprised) and when the opportunity came to audition for this newest production, I took full advantage. Yes, I was cast as Bilbo Baggins. It helped that I was short for my age . . .
I fell in love with the story, and more I was fascinated by the world revealed to me by the script. Elves, dwarves, wizards, dragons — what was not to love. It had never occurred to me that there were books like this waiting to be read; I certainly never dreamed that there were similar books written for adults that would allow me to pursue my new-found fascination with magical stories well past my childhood. But when the summer was over, I found the novel version of The Hobbit and devoured it. Then I read The Lord of the Rings, and after that Ursula LeGuin’s EarthSea Trilogy. By then, I was hooked on fantasy, and I have been ever since.
But I think it bears repeating that I’m not an author because of Tolkien. I wrote my first “book” when I was six; writing stories was always my favorite school activity. My early experiences with fantasy didn’t set me on the road to a career as a fantasy author; the sheer act of reading had taken care of that long before. The environment created by my parents and their exuberant love of all things book were the most formative forces in my childhood.
It would be pretty easy to imagine my own kids rebelling against my love of reading, which my wife shares. “Dad’s an author? Great. Hand me the remote.” But early on they discovered the same thing I did: Books are treasure boxes; they just beg to be opened. Their favorites have been the Magic Tree House and the Magic School Bus, Harry Potter and most recently the Hunger Games books. To be honest, I don’t care what titles they’re drawn to — as long as they’re reading, I’m happy. Sounds like something my Mom and Dad would have said.
David blogs, is active on Facebook and Goodreads, and Tweets. Give him some love here in comments or go forth and beard him in his lairs.
Corey Redekop, whose site describes him as a “maker up of wordy thinglets,” does conscious and unconscious interviews with writers as well as reviewing for Quill and Quire, and my conscious interview is here. This would be the more serious one… he asks about portal fantasy, and the magic in Child of a Hidden Sea, and the legal thriller angle.
I have been reading Linda Nagata‘s fiction since her mindblowing novel, The Bohr Maker came out and won the Locus Award for best first novel. She’s written any number of short stories and books since then, and her novella “Goddesses” has the distinction of being the first online publication to receive a Nebula award. Though best known for science fiction, she writes fantasy too, exemplified by her “scoundrel lit” series Stories of the Puzzle Lands.
Her newest science fiction novel, The Red: First LightThe Red: First Light, is a near-future, high-tech military thriller, just released under her own imprint, Mythic Island Press LLC. Here’s the back cover blurb:
There Needs To Be A War Going On Somewhere: Lieutenant James Shelley commands a high-tech squad of soldiers in a rural district within the African Sahel. They hunt insurgents each night on a harrowing patrol, guided by three simple goals: protect civilians, kill the enemy, and stay alive—because in a for-profit war manufactured by the defense industry there can be no cause worth dying for.
To keep his soldiers safe, Shelley uses every high-tech asset available to him—but his best weapon is a flawless sense of imminent danger…as if God is with him, whispering warnings in his ear. (Hazard Notice: contains military grade profanity.)
Today in Off My Lawn! she tackles the idea of ending your writing day before you’re ready, even if you’re on fire. And, in her way, I think she beats a nail into the coffin of all One Size Fits All writing advice. See what you think here, and let her know!
I’ve lived on the island of Maui for many years and I can say with fair confidence that this is not a “bookish” community. There are readers here of course, but compared to literary havens like Portland, Oregon, we don’t have a lot going on, particularly in the speculative fiction.
We do, ironically, have a large and thriving community of visual artists. Go figure. At any rate, around here writers don’t tend to be held in high esteem, and there aren’t a lot of myths about us. We are generally perceived as dreamers who don’t make money—and I have to admit that’s usually a fair assessment.
But myths about writing? Those are universal.
The one that annoys me the most has several variations:
* Stop writing for the day when you still have things left to say.
* Stop writing for the day before you want to.
* Stop in the middle of a sentence and pick it up the next day.
What? That’s insane! This is one of those rules made up by prolific writers who assume that everyone else’s muse operates just like theirs. May I say, “NOT!”
For some of us (many of us?) there exists the elusive “flow,” the “zone,” that place of writing nirvana where the words are simply there, in mind, waiting to be poured into the word processor of choice with only a few corrections along the way. When operating in the flow, the outside world retreats and even the Internet ceases to be a distraction. The page, the story, becomes the focus, and good things happen.
Some of us only occasionally reach this point of writing nirvana. Perhaps you’re not one of us. Perhaps you’re one of those writers able to slip into the zone and produce a thousand words a day, every day. Let me qualify that: a thousand of the right words, every day. (Because a thousand words of useless nonsense don’t really count.) Some of us find the zone elusive. We are faced with many days when cleaning the bathroom sounds like a delightful alternative to writing; when we have no clue what is going to happen next and who cares anyway? It might take us one, two, three days or more of forcing ourselves to write—during which time we produce mostly rubbish—before we find the zone and the words begin to flow.
To cut off that flow early, to reject the gift of it—sacrilege! ingratitude! If life calls us away, that’s one thing—if the kids are starving, or the dog needs to be walked, or we must be at work promptly at eight AM, well fine. But to reject the zone simply on the premise that doing so will help us find it again the next session—no! Because for some of us, it just doesn’t work that way, which is why I ride the flow as far as I can every time I find it.
Don’t hold back. Give everything you’ve got when you’ve got it. That’s my writing advice.
Although of course my advice is only good advice if it works for you.