Category Archives: Interviews

Who’s your Buddy? S.M. Stirling picks…Hild!

Posted on September 3, 2015 by

animal-hugs-3

S.M. Stirling was born in France in 1953, to Canadian parents — although his mother was born in England and grew up in Peru. After that he lived in Europe, Canada, Africa, and the US and visited several other continents. He graduated from law school in Canada but had his dorsal fin surgically removed, and published his first novel (Snowbrother) in 1984, going full-time as a writer in 1988, the year of his marriage to Janet Moore of Milford, Massachusetts, who he met, wooed and proposed to at successive World Fantasy Conventions.

In 1995 he suddenly realized that he could live anywhere and they decamped from Toronto, that large, cold, gray city on Lake Ontario, and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. He became an American citizen in 2004. His latest books are The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth (June, 2015) and The Desert and the Blade (Sept. 2015); next is PRINCE JOHN (Sept. 2016), all from Roc/Penguin.

(I wrote about  The Desert and the Blade a couple days ago, if you’re curious.

I asked him: Within the realm of literary SF, who is the character you would most like to meet?

 Let’s see… Sophie from A Daughter of No Nation… no, just kidding, though that’s one who’s actually in the line; I don’t see why she’d want to hang out with me, though.  That does raise a point; virtually by definition, a character like that is going to be interesting.  I notice that writers are most interesting to other writers — it’s a bit like being a cop, that way — and to people who are deeply concerned with writing.
So, assuming that we’re not going to be creepy-stalkerish towards the character, who?  It’s a toughie.  A lot of the others are the sort of person who, like a tiger, are best admired from a distance.  Can you see actually having a beer with Conan?  One of Lovecraft’s, assuming they wouldn’t mistake me for an eldritch horror? Right now, my choices would probably be between Hild, from Nicola Griffith’s book of the same name (one of the most fascinating character studies I’ve read) and Maia from Jo Walton’s The Just City and its sequel, a Victorian bluestocking recruited by Greek Gods to help form the just city from Plato’s REPUBLIC.  That was one of the best examples of culture-clash I’ve seen in fiction.
If the two of you had a day together, what would you do with it? Money and logistics are no object. If you want to fly fighter jets, no problem.
A stroll through some places; Paris, I think, and maybe London (emphasis on libraries and galleries and museums), while talking, dinner and a lot of talking, and coffee or other potable of choice, and a lot more talking.  What can I say, words are my thing!  Both those characters are intellectuals, too, so they’d probably like to discuss history. 

Would the two of you bring along any of your fictional creations, if you could?

Any of my fictional creations?  Hmmm.  Maybe Juniper Mackenzie from Dies the Fire; I think she’d get along with both of them.  And Father Ignatius from the same series.  The rest are possibly too much of the headbanger type.

If, afterward, you brought the gang home with you, how do you think that would that go? Would they mesh well with your social circle? Lay waste to your family and neighborhood? Is this one of those friendships that must, by its nature, be compartmentalized?

Well, I don’t think Hild would fit in longterm; it’s too alien, and too much time would have to be spent learning the basics.  I think Maia would find the 21st century congenial; she had severe problems with her Victorian home milieu.  On the other hand, she had more commitments in Walton’s universe.


More on S.M. Stirling: His hobbies mostly involve reading — history, anthropology, archaeology, and travel, besides fiction — but he also cooks and bakes for fun and food. For twenty years he also pursued the martial arts, until hyperextension injuries convinced him he was in danger of becoming the most deadly cripple in human history. Currently he lives with Janet and the compulsory authorial cats.

More on Buddy Buddy: This is the inaugural post in this interview series, which simply invites authors to imagine befriending some of their favorite characters from a lifetime of reading. S.M. Stirling graciously agreed to be the guinea pig for me; I hope you’ve enjoyed imagining him, Maia and Hild parked in front of the Mona Lisa, talking up the Crusades.

Updraft author Fran Wilde gets into the heroine thing…

Posted on September 2, 2015 by

FranWildeAuthorPhoto2015 (1)Fran Wilde’s first novel, Updraft, debuted from Tor Books on September 1, 2015. Her short stories have appeared at Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, and in Asimovs and Nature. Fran also interviews authors about food in fiction at Cooking the Books, and blogs for GeekMom and SFSignal. You can find Fran at her websiteTwitter, and Facebook.

My Tor.com review of Updraft, by the way, is here.

Here are the questions, and her answers!

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?
I have several – two were not literary though: Alice Paul, the political activist, and Marie Curie, the scientist.  Literary Heroes include Menolly, Meg Murray, and the hero I’m talking about here – Helva from The Ship Who Sang.
When I met Helva, I was undergoing treatment for scoliosis and spending a lot of time in a lunky, uncomfortable, experimental brace. Nothing like what Helva was experiencing, nor what others with more extreme conditions experience every day, and yet, that feeling of being encased — a brain in an uncomfortable container — rang so true. I remember being shocked by the first line, and the dehumanizing nature of “She was born a thing,” and even more shocked by the fact that this was one of the first stories I’d encountered that began with the word “She.”
Helva’s altering of her environment so that she could sing, and her use of the tools and her ship-body to relate to others — and her perseverance in the face of later events she couldn’t control… all of that stuck with me.
Can you remember what it was she did or what qualities she had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?
Her reaction to an early compliment, “You have a lovely voice,” was to fully research the concept and find what she loved in the craft, then add it to her skills.  Her intellectualism, paired with her dedication to knowledge and completism (I was a bit of a completist myself… still am) captured my affections. The fact that her first partner, Jennan, spoke to her while facing where her physical form was kept cemented my affection for Jennan too.
How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?
Oh hmmm… Well the singing, which happens in a lot of my stories, except Kirit is terribly bad at singing. I think the main thing they share is grit and determination. “The only way forward is through.” That sort of thing.
How do you feel about the word heroine? 
I favor the word hero. The diminutive isn’t necessary.

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About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with (usually) female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will take you to all the other interviews, or there’s an index of them here. If you’re wondering about my use of the word heroine, I’ve written an essay on the subject here.

Heroine question vs. Marie Brennan

Posted on August 26, 2015 by

Marie Brennan is an anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material.  She is currently misapplying her professors’ hard work to the Victorian adventure series The Memoirs of Lady Trent; the first book of that series, A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.

I asked her:

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?
I didn’t realize it until I was in college, but apparently I imprinted on Cimorene, the heroine of Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons. I studied Latin, I learned to fence — though I can’t make cherries jubilee, so I didn’t copy her in all respects. (I also had a deep and abiding fondness for Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden . . . though fortunately for all involved, I never tried to imitate her!)
Can you remember what it was she did or what qualities she had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?
I think I’m very attracted to pragmatic heroines. I’ve never been the sort to get swept away by my passions or my dreams; I like the characters who feel quite strongly, but don’t let it overwhelm them. Those kinds of characters tend to be proactive problem-solvers, which is my kind of daydream; I want to imagine myself as a person who can get out of a sticky spot by virtue of skill and wits. I can’t say for certain that I would volunteer to be a dragon’s “captive” princess just to solve my marital difficulties — but as solutions go, that one seemed pretty clever to me!
How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?
Oh, I definitely write heroines in the vein of Cimorene. Heroes and heroines both, really; my characters all skew toward the pragmatic, so that I have to push myself to write more impulsive types from time to time. Lady Trent would get along great with Cimorene; they could swap stories of their experiences with dragons, and then vanish forever into the library, never to be seen again. <lol>
How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero? 
It does have a different connotation than “hero,” doesn’t it? I admit I usually talk about a book’s “protagonist” or “main character,” rather than using a gendered term. The word “heroine” evokes two particular connotations for me. One is a character who acts in a heroic fashion: Wonder Woman, Katniss Everdeen, women and girls who fight on a grand scale for the greater good. I would never call Mary Lennox a heroine in that sense, because her story operates on a more personal level, and Mary herself isn’t intended to be admirable. The other is the female half of a romantic leading pair, the counterpart of the story’s hero — I often see it used in that sense in romance genre circles. If romance isn’t central to the story, I don’t tend to think of the main characters as a hero and a heroine, even if they pair up like that. Outside of the story proper, I’ll use the word “heroine” if I’m talking about a role model (as you are here) . . . but on the whole, it isn’t a word I deploy very often.

 

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Marie  is also the author of the doppelanger duology of Warrior and Witch, the urban fantasy Lies and Prophecy, the Onyx Court historical fantasy series, and more than forty short stories. More information can be found atwww.swantower.com.

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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. Clicking the link will take you to all the other interviews, or there’s an index of them here. If you’re wondering about my use of the word heroine, I’ve written an essay on the subject here.

Alma Alexander on the Heroine Question

Posted on August 19, 2015 by

Alma Alexander's Wolf, out August 21, 2015

Alma Alexander’s Wolf, out August 21, 2015

Alma Alexander is an internationally published novelist, short story writer and anthologist whose work appears in more than 14 languages worldwide. She has written many different kinds of fantasy – high/epic, historical, contemporary, urban, YA – and occasionally detoured into science fiction when the muse strayed out amongst the stars.

When asked if she imprinted on any particular literary heroine as a child, she said:

I’m almost certain that for a lot of us the kneejerk  response to this is the same: Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. She was so iconic, so seminal (not to mention the only one of the sisters with whom I had a remote connection – Meg was the goody two shoes, Amy was a spoiled brat, and Beth was the ghost of a pretty kitten)… and she was a writer, and she pushed on her dream until she got published and many of us who did the same thing eventually ended up identifying with that because that was our dream also. That was something that we – that I – grew up looking up to, waiting to accomplish. But I didn’t want to be Jo. I just wanted to be a writer.

I don’t think that I ever “pretended” to be someone else. My best recollections point to my wishes being more aligned with being the best me I could be. Using the convenient metaphor of Narnia, I never wanted to be or pretended to be Lucy or Susan. What I wanted was to be found worthy of being a true friend of Aslan, who was Not A Tame Lion, when judged for myself, in my own right.

Can you remember what it was Jo did or what qualities she had, besides being a writer, that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

It wasn’t the pretty. It wasn’t the nobility. What always drew me in were strength and wits and smarts and the occasional spark of true wisdom.  That was what the best protagonists carried within them and  that was what I sought within myself if I ever thought about wanting to emulate them. I wept with them when hard choices had to be made, and they made them; I laughed with them in delirious joy when risks were rewarded; I held my breath as they did during the moments when outcomes were hanging by the thinnest of threads. Strength, wits, smarts, and wisdom. If they could shoot a straight arrow, all the better – for them – but it didn’t make me want to go out and buy a bow and start practicing archery (well, I shot a bow and arrow and I wasn’t bad at it when I did, but eh, you know what I mean). What I was looking for was… was resilience, an ability to bend in the wind like
a reed by the river if that was needed but to spring back up straight and true after the storm was over. I never thought vulnerability was a weakness, nor tears, nor taking a moment to draw a deeper breath – but they could not be allowed to be the last thing that was there. There had to be Strength. Wits. Smarts. And Wisdom.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

In terms of debts, in that context, everything – my characters owe everything to that philosophy. I have never been afraid to put them through the wringer in any story I ever wrote because any heroine who stepped forward had those qualities. I think of Xaforn of the Guard, from The Secrets of Jin-shei, who lived and died for honor and for love – and of her jin-shei sister, also; I think of Amais who returned to Syai four hundred years after the events of The Secrets of Jin-shei, and of her friend Xuelian, who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders in Embers of Heaven; I think of Olivia from Midnight at Spanish Gardens, and Anghara of Changer of Days, and Thea of the Worldweavers series and Jazz, my ‘youngest’, the protagonist of Random.  They were all shaped by those tenets, they all had to live according to those  criteria. They had to know the odds, and be willing to go against them if that was necessary; they had to know fear, and fly in the face of it anyway; they had to recognize the stinging nettle and reach out to grasp it anyway if the need arose.

Everything I have ever read has built up to these heroines and all that they are. My heroines may not be part of a better world, as such, but the things that they do and that they are help make their worlds better. That is all I can ever ask of them. So far, none have let me down.

How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?

I have no problem with the concept of a heroine, as such – but I think of the characters who carry my stories as my protagonists, as my people. I don’t know that I hold with “hero” as a solitary shining  figure standing off by him or herself anyway. We are all a part of the fabric. Some of us are just given a moment in which we shine harder than those standing next to us – and if we step into that light, we
are heroes.

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Alma lives in the Pacific Northwest, in the cedar woods, with her husband and two obligatory cats. Her website is here and she Tweets, is on Facebook, and has been even known to pin stuff.

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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. Clicking the link will take you to all the other interviews, or there’s an index of them here.

A.C. Wise bites into the Heroine Question

Posted on August 12, 2015 by

GlitterCoverFrontA.C. Wise was born and raised in Montreal, and currently lives in the Philadelphia area. Her short fiction has appeared in Shimmer, Apex, Uncanny, and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2015, among other places. Her debut collection, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, will be published by Lethe Press in October 2015. Aside from her fiction, she co-edits Unlikely Story, and contributes a monthly Women to Read: Where to Start column to SF Signal. Find her online at www.acwise.net and on twitter as @ac_wise.

The inquisition began, as it always does, with this: 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?

Anne of Green Gables is a tempting choice, because who wouldn’t want to be her? Plus I’ve always had a thing for red hair. But since Anne has already been covered, I would say Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time/The Time Quintet by Madeline L’Engle. Meg is much more like me anyway. Anne is a force of nature, and I love her for it, but Meg is a quieter kind of heroine. On a related note, I’ve always been quite fond of the Mrs. Ws (Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which), from a Wrinkle in Time, but despite being heroic, and otherworldly, and amazing, they aren’t quite the center of the story in the same way as Meg, who is the story’s heart in more ways than one.

Can you remember what it was she did or what qualities she had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

One of the reasons I was, and still am, drawn to Meg is the very fact that she’s a quiet heroine. She’s awkward. She doesn’t feel as smart, or talented, or confident as the rest of her family seems. Outwardly, they appear to have it all put together, and Meg is still trying to figure herself out, where she fits in the world, what she wants to do with her life. She’s caring and loyal and would do anything for her family – all good qualities in a heroine. Her bond with her little brother, Charles Wallace, is especially touching. I also appreciate the fact that she’s ‘the chosen one’ and the only one who can save Charles Wallace not because she has special, mystical powers gifted to her from on high, or because of any prophecy, but because of who she is and who she has always been. She loves her brother, and she knows him better than anyone else, and so she’s the only one who can reach him through the bond they share and bring him back home.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

I would say the ladies of the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron are the complete opposite of Meg Murry in many ways, and also very much like her in other ways. On the opposite side, they are far more flashy, outspoken, outwardly confident, and willing to resort to violence when it’s necessary to save the world. They’re all also older than Meg, so they’ve had more time to sort themselves out and figure out their places in the world. At the same time, they are also fiercely loyal, and love each other like family. At the end of the day, they would do anything for each other. Despite the fact that they have had more time to figure themselves out, they all still have their moments of self-doubt, questioning where they belong, and how to be the kind of people they want to be. Underneath all the glitter and glamour, they are still human after all.

How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero? 

I see hero and heroine as relatively interchangeable, but I would like to see the definition of both expanded to recognize there’s more than one way to be heroic. There’s frequently a tendency to equate strength with action. There’s nothing wrong with hero/ines who charge into burning buildings, or jump into a fight with swords-a-blazin’, but there is room in our narratives for quieter heroics, too. A parent protecting their child is a heroic act. A character standing up for what they believe in, even when (or especially when) that belief goes against the status quo. People like Meg Murray, saving her brother through love. Again, good action sequences and hero/ines saving the day in big, dramatic ways, are tons of fun, but I want to see the quieter acts of heroism from characters of all genders make it onto the page and screen. There’s room for both kinds of strength and bravery in our stories and they don’t have to contradict each other.

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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. Clicking the link will take you to all the other interviews, or there’s an index of them here.