I’m always on the lookout for talented new sword-and-sorcery writers, or at least new to me, and I stumbled upon the work of Setsu Uzume in an issue of Grimgark magazine. Shortly after I invited Setsu to contribute to Tales From the Magician’s Skull issue 2, which will be available in print form any day now, and a few days ago we sat down, via e-mail, to discuss writing and fiction and all that good stuff. Without further ado, here’s what we had to say:
First, why don’t you give us a little background about yourself and your work.
I tumbled around a lot before winding up as a writer. When I was tiny, I wanted to be some kind of itinerant hero like Xena. I did a lot of theater, playing male and female characters, but when I auditioned for a specialized high school to pursue acting professionally, I didn’t get in. I figured, OK, I’m always doing bit parts and side roles so I’m either not cute enough or not femme enough to be a star. However, I had a strong martial arts background, so decided to do stunts instead. Then The Matrix came out and the shift to CGI didn’t bode well (plus, if you were gonna double for women in those days it was all rape scenes all the time), so I put that dream on hold while I went to college. Parallel to all of this was a love of story and storytelling, and I was starving for characters that looked and thought like me. So here we are.
During those long years when I was trying, and mostly failing, to get short stories published, there were a lot of writers publishing at the same time whose work I liked, but there was only one who I wanted to sound like. That writer was Chris Willrich. I’ve gone on to find my own voice for my fiction, one I’m pretty happy with, but I still admire the work of Chris Willrich an awful lot.
It was my pleasure to pick his brain a little recently, and today I’m sharing the resulting conversation.
First, why don’t you give us a little background about yourself and your work.
I’m from Washington State originally, though now I live with my family in the San Francisco Bay Area. Though I flirted a bit with science in college, I’ve been pretty much a book person — I was an English major who eventually ended up as a children’s librarian. There there were some interesting odd jobs in between, like working at a newspaper and as a harbor cruise deckhand. I’m writing full time now, for stay-at-home-parent values of “full time.”
I tried writing a little bit of realistic fiction in college but it’s been all fantasy and science fiction since then. I’ve had more success with fantasy, though I love science fiction equally. Those genres are like catnip for a compulsive daydreamer. I think I have an easier time finding a confident voice in fantasy; I haven’t quite figured it out for science fiction.
Because Gardner Dozois recently passed away, I’d like to say I’ll always be grateful to him for buying my first published story, and maybe even more for giving me encouragement and suggestions in some of the rejections I got from him. I think there are lots of people in the field who got their starts because of him, and who benefited from his advice.
I’ve known Nathan Long for many years and I happen to think he’s long been one of the finest sword-and-sorcery writers active today, which is why I invited him to submit a tale for the second issue of Tales From the Magician’s Skull, and why I’ve been telling people — for years — that they really need to read his Blackhearts books.
Nathan was kind enough to answer some questions about his work and the life of a writer, and I’m kind enough to share them with you.
Why don’t you give us a little background about yourself and your work?
I grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Los Angeles after college to be a screenwriter. Though I had some minor successes, the Hollywood life grew less and less appealing, and when I was offered a chance to write novels for Warhammer, I jumped at the chance. Turned out novel writing was much more my speed, and I had a blast working in that world.
A few years later I managed to sell an original sci-fi novel and a sequel, and I thought I was on my way to a career as a novelist, but I had difficulty selling anything else, so I sought out other opportunities. Now I have the job my twelve-year-old self would have wanted, had it existed at the time. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. I write stories, dialog, and other bits and pieces for computer games.
The only downside is that I don’t do as much of my own writing anymore, but when your dream was to make a living as a writer and you’re making a living as a writer, you can’t really complain, can you?
Recently the talented Aeryn Rudel was kind enough to answer a slew of questions from me. I met Aeryn when he joined issue 1 to Tales From the Magician’s Skull. Not only did I enjoy his story, I’ve enjoyed all of our interactions. He’s a friendly and insightful guy and has been a big help behind the scenes. Here, get to know him a little yourself as I ask him some questions.
First, why don’t you give us a little background about yourself and your work?
I’m a California kid currently weathering the rain and gloom in the Pacific Northwest and working as a freelance writer. I got my start in game design, writing for companies like Goodman Games and Wizards of the Coast. From there I switched to publishing, and I worked as a magazine editor and then as the managing editor for Privateer Press’ fiction line. So, I’ve seen the biz from both the editing and the writing side of things.
My writing tends toward horror and dark fantasy, and most of my work falls somewhere in or between those two genres, though I have been known to dabble with science fiction (and even mystery). While I enjoy writing long-form fiction, the short story is probably my favorite, especially flash fiction (stories under 1,000 words).
Tonight I’ll be dropping by Night Moves Radio to chat with hosts Josh and Ariana about sword-and-sorcery, its authors and its tales, and the writing and editing of the same. I hope you’ll drop in for a listen!
The show starts at 7:00 Central time and it’s going to be held live! I’ve been on plenty of podcasts before, but never a live one, so this should be different!
Last year I sat down with Ian Tregillis over at Black Gate to discuss his new book. Tregillis is one of the few modern writers I go out of my way to read, and I think my regular readers would really enjoy him.
Here’s a reprint of that discussion:
As John O’Neill wrote in November of 2016, the last book in Ian Tregillis’ new trilogy comes out this month (December 2016). I’m a big fan of Tregillis, and was fortunate enough to read The Liberation in manuscript. It was a blast, and you should buy it it. Seriously. Go buy the trilogy, and if you already have the first two, go buy the third.
Alright. Now that you’ve done that, Ian and I kicked back last and talked about his trilogy. Here’s what he had to say:
Howard: You’re on an elevator with your new book when Ringo Starr enters, sees the cover and says how fab it looks. He wants to know what the book’s about – what do you tell him?
Ian: OK. First of all, I’d probably be hard pressed not to lose my composure the moment he stepped into the elevator. I mean, there I’d be sharing an elevator with A BEATLE. I discovered their albums at just the right age, and I swear I listened to that music practically nonstop during high school. So keeping it cool would be a challenge, *especially* if Ringo asked about the book.
But assuming I could recover my composure enough to speak coherently without babbling, and assuming he wanted the long version, I’d tell him it’s an adventure story about a clockpunk Terminator apocalypse in a world where the industrial revolution never happened, disguised as a story about slave rebellion and Free Will.
If he wanted the short version, I’d tell him it’s basically Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots but with more swearing and stabbing.
The other week I had a chat with Robert Zoltan and Edgar the Raven, and we discussed Robert E. Howard, sword-and-sorcery, my own writing, and all sorts of other stuff as well. You can journey to the Dream Tower yourself and listen in through this link.
If you haven’t dropped by the Dream Tower yet, I encourage you to do so. The interviews so far have covered Edgar Rice Burroughs and J.R.R. Tolkien and have been with a couple of my favorite people.
I’ve been in the midst of a whole lot of spring cleaning over the last weeks and it’s time to get back to writing, although part of each day will still be devoted to some not-quite-finished projects.
At the end of each busy day I’ve been reading the Breckinridge Elkins stories of Robert E. Howard, something long overdue for me. The Robert E. Howard Foundation recently printed the second and final volume that collected all of the Breckinridge Elkins tales, along with adventures starring other similar characters.
Hardboiled Monday is temporarily on hold today so I can get all nearby reader attention to come to the Evansville, IN North Park Library on Wed. Nov. 12th!
My good friend and fellow writer Mark Rigney will be holding forth with me starting at 6:30, talking about all things books: craft, genres, publishing, the whole enchilada. Yes, we’ll have books to purchase, but the emphasis will be on a seminar-style chat. Questions will be welcome! And YOU, yes YOU, are welcome to attend!