(Originally posted at Muse Hack, I thought you Sanctumites would enjoy it as well)
I met Lillian Csernica at Con-Volution. She’s a professional author who’s written short stories and even warmed my worldbuilding heart with a guide to making magic systems. Of course I’m going to interview here, she’s one of us.
1) OK let’s ask the question – is your authorship enough to pay the bills? If it is, everyone wants to know how you make it work. If not, when will it be?
I hope to gain momentum toward that goal once my agent gets a publisher interested in my Japanese historical romance trilogy.
2) What is your philosophy of writing – what do you write?
I suppose my philosophy would be to push as hard and as far as I possibly can, be it plot twists or character responses or raising the stakes. I write fantasy, science fiction, horror, romance, and historical fiction. I also write nonfiction on worldbuilding and writing technique.
3) How did you get into doing this?
I’ve been writing stories ever since I could hold a crayon. The Little Golden Book of Fairy Tales gave me my first taste of fantasy. I still have that same book, over 40 years later.
4) You’ve been published in a variety of formats, how do they differ – and how do people get into each.
Short stories are just that — short. I suggest reading a whole lot and studying one’s favorite authors. People really do need to learn how to tell a proper story before they go plunging into plans for a multi-book series. Novels are much more demanding. It’s nice to have the larger canvas to work on, so to speak. I love history so building in all the details of fashion and culture and political intrigue make it a labor of love. Having the support of a writer’s group or at least two beta readers helps a lot with the creation of a longer, larger work. Nonfiction is a different kettle of fish. It’s much more straightforward in its organization and content. It still takes a lot of reading and writing and selling in order to have the credibility to write and sell a how-to book.
5) You wrote a book on magical worldbuilding. Why did you do this and what were your sources?
I wrote it because too much of the fantasy I was reading had inconsistent, illogical, and annoying magic. Example: The Harry Potter books are wonderful, but the magic system is a mess. I mention my sources in some of the chapters. In “Monsters Around the World,” I recommend starting off in the children’s section of the library where the older books on folklore and fairy tales can be found. (Yes, people can look it all up online, but I find being in the children’s section with a real book bolsters my sense of wonder.)
6) What is your feeling of the current state of literature – what is good, bad, and what is needed.
Literature in general? Or genre fiction? Either way, not enough people are reading on a regular basis. I write genre fiction because in it something happens. Literary fiction bores me. So much of it is downbeat and the characters seem trapped inside their own heads. Having said that, I must admit I enjoy the works of Edna O’Brien, Thomas Mann, Flannery O’Connor, and Carl Hiaasen. What is good? Authentic writing from the heart, writing with passion and commitment and a respect for language. What is bad? Writing that is ignorant of the basics such as grammar and punctuation. Writing that is pretentious and heavy with social or political agendizing. Writing that is false and commercial and talks down to the reader. What is needed? More emphasis on the classics in school from the first grade on up. Shakespeare, Lao Tzu, Jonathan Swift and Benjamin Franklin and William Butler Yeats. Murasaki Shikibo, Jane Eyre, Dorothy Parker and the women writers of the 19th Century. There has to be an antidote for the semiliterate slush being slapped together and thrown out into the marketplace.
7) What book do you want to see someone write? What’s out there that’ll send you that you can’t write yourself?
I’d love to see somebody write a book that would convince all the would-be writers that writing is both an art and a craft. Just because you can pick up a pen or type at a keyboard, that doesn’t mean you can be a writer. I’ve been at this for over 20 years and every day I read something that shows me I still have so much to learn, so much to practice. As for the second question, I refuse to believe there’s something I can’t write myself. The imagination is limitless. If I have to go and learn particular techniques, fine, bring ’em on!
8) You’re a writer,a dream many have. What is the best advice you can give to people to do that?
Somebody said there are Six Rules for Writing. “Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write.” Don’t just talk about it. Don’t just dream about it. Cover designs and online PR campaigns and marketing strategies won’t get you anywhere if you don’t follow Heinlein’s Rules, the most important of which is FINISH IT.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.