In April 2007 IROSF started a bold experiment—
Since our last interview, the United States elected its first black president, and entered a crippling economic recession. Life during the hard times is always a good source of a gripping narrative. It is time again to check on the narrative of our four writers as they maneuver their careers through the treacherous waters of the publishing world.
It's been (roughly) another year. Let's hear about the big successes, and the near misses, of 2008 and 2009.
Jennifer Pelland The big success is that I finally landed an agent, and he's currently shopping one of my novel manuscripts around. It's collected several "no thanks" responses, but there are still several editors who haven't gotten back to him yet, so there's still some hope. Beyond that, it's been a pretty quiet year. I've sold a few stories, and had a couple come out, but I still haven't cracked any of those really spiffy top-tier short story markets yet. And "Captive Girl" has been reprinted a bunch of times over the past year. It's been translated into Hebrew, Polish, and Swedish, plus it's in this year's Nebula Showcase anthology. So it's the story that keeps on giving.
Lou Antonelli My biggest success in 2008 was the publication of my short story "The Witch of Waxahachie" in Jim Baen's Universe. It was an extraordinarily satisfying sale, and the successful culmination of a story idea that has been rattling around in my brain for years. I had a slew of a half dozen sales at the end of 2008 and the start of 2009. They included some weird little stories that I was able to add to my bibliography, and then was able to successfully peddle a Texas-themed reprint collection with an even dozen stories to Warren Lapine's Wilder Publications.
Linda Donahue The biggest news is that my first novel, "Jaguar Moon" has been released as half of a Double Dog (#5) from Yard Dog Press. A Double Dog is like the old Ace Doubles, in which you get two novels back to back in a flip format. So far the book has debuted at one convention.
Patrick Rothfuss I've sold to a lot of foreign countries. That's been really nice. It's given me enough money to quit my day job...
Dream! Goal! Status! How has progress been on those? What percentage of your dream goal do you think you're at now?
I've summarized your previous dream goal percentages below:
- Jennifer P: (10%) 2007, (~10%) 2008
- Lou Antonelli: (<1%) 2007, (5%) 2008
- Linda Donahue: (0%) 2007, (unspecified, but "on the track" so... 5%) 2008
- Patrick Rothfuss: (0%) 2007, (70%) 2008
Jennifer Pelland: I'd say that having an agent has nudged me up to 25%. I'm feeling more hopeful about selling a novel than I did previously, if only because I now have the possibility of getting before so many more editors than I did before. I'm also no closer at meeting my goals of being published by any of the really big genre mags, alas. There's nothing like getting your 33rd career rejection from F&SF to leave you wondering if it's ever going to happen.
Lou Antonelli: Honestly, I realize now I don't have any goals in fiction writing. It's just a fun hobby.
Linda Donahue: I'd have to say I'm still at a low percentage. A few months ago, I made a pro sale to Esther Freisner for her upcoming anthology "Strip Mauled" which will be published (next year, I hope) by BAEN Books.
Patrick Rothfuss: I have to say I'm 100% there.
Project deadlines! Did you complete the projects you were hoping to get done?
Jennifer Pelland: Not really. I got a little bit more of a new novel written, but not much. And I didn't get nearly as many new stories into circulation last year as I wanted to. This year's writing time so far has been pretty heavily devoted to novel revisions for the agent, first for one manuscript, and now for a second one. It would be lovely to get lost in a new project, but I don't see it happening any time soon.
Lou Antonelli: I finished writing my first novel. It wasn't very good. I proved to myself that I could write something that long, but I also realized my flaws. It was a useful exercise. I did complete the edits and introductions for my reprint collection.
Linda Donahue: Not all of them. Sometimes the drive for a particular idea simply isn't there. If I could, I'd like to train myself to "work the muse" better.
Patrick Rothfuss: No. All the various ephemera of professional writing slowed me down. Working with the foreign translators, contract stuff, setting up a corporation, it all takes time. Plus I really want the second book to be perfect. That takes time too...
The larger goals (agents, sales, status). Where are you toward those?
Jennifer Pelland: See previous comments for agents and sales. As for status, I've apparently made enough of a name for myself that I've started getting anthology invites. Not a lot, mind you, but it's a step in the right direction. I'd hoped to lose a new award this year, but that's not looking likely at this rate. It would have been nice to be able to call myself a Hugo loser. I don't see myself being up for any awards next year, either. The stories of mine that have come out this year aren't award-caliber pieces. Two of the stories I have coming out next year, however, I have high hopes for.
Lou Antonelli: Essentially nowhere, I don't really care.
Linda Donahue: That's pretty much the same as before. I still have a manuscript that I co-authored with Julia S. Mandala sitting with an editor, but without an agent representing it, the process is much slower.
Patrick Rothfuss: Already hit the major goals.
There is a major global economic downturn gripping the world right now, it has shaken the publishing industry like a dog with a tasty sock. Has it had any effect on your writing? On your life in general?
Jennifer Pelland: I don't believe so. Yes, like most people, I have money issues, but not to a degree that I've had to take a second job and kiss my writing time goodbye. Thankfully, I'm not trying to make a living at this. So I'm still plodding along.
Lou Antonelli: No effect on my fiction writing. It's slammed newspapers severely, but I've made it through. I've been doing this 30 years.
Linda Donahue: It looks like a small press that I was fond of will be closing down the doors…so that's an effect on all of us as we'll soon loose yet another avenue of stories that readers might not otherwise find.
Patrick Rothfuss: Not really. I was so poor to start out with that I didn't have anywhere to go but up.
The convention circuit! I met most of you at sf/f conventions, will these troubled economic times mean cutting back on the convention schedule? What is the convention schedule for the remainder of 2009 (and for the first part of 2010)? Will you be hitch hiking to World Fantasy Convention in San Jose? Overall, do you find that conventions are really boosting your career goals that much? Is boosting your career goals even part of why you go to conventions?
Jennifer Pelland: I'm done with conventions for the year. I'd hoped to go to Gaylaxicon, but there's just no money in the budget for airfare and hotel right now. In early 2010, I'll be at Arisia and Boskone and Readercon. They're all commuter cons for me, which is damned handy for the pocketbook. And I always save my pennies for WisCon.
I honestly have no idea what conventions do for my career goals, but I do know that they help sales. I've had people come right out and say, "I loved listening to you on that panel you did, so I went to the dealer's room to buy your book!" It's a beautiful thing.
Lou Antonelli: I find conventions helpful in picking up tips and rubbing elbows with my "peers', as it were. I only go to three or four a year. I hate traveling, and I've had some very bad experiences when traveling out of town (car breakdowns, hospitalizations, etc.)
Linda Donahue: Conventions certainly help boost small press sales—
Patrick Rothfuss: I'm cutting down my convention attendance just because it eats up so much time and money. Last year I only spent 8 days of august at home, all the rest was out at workshops and conventions.
Let's take a moment to talk about The Process: How/when/where do you get "in the groove" to do your most productive writing? And, for that matter, what do you consider "productive" writing? And lastly, what knocks you out of the groove? What is the cat that you can't NOT wax?
Jennifer Pelland: Oh man, I'm terrible at the whole groove thing. Between the full-time job, the writing, the belly dancing, the husband, the cats, and that seductive TiVo in the next room, it's often writing that gets the short shaft. It really helps when I have an idea that I can get lost in. That's good for getting my butt in place. Other than that, I don't know. When a story doesn't work, it's so tempting to just walk away from it, and I often do. That's one of the beauties and dangers of writing short fiction—
What knocks me out is when I hear something that my brain can't ignore. I can't concentrate on the voices in my head if the voices around me are more tantalizing. A little while ago, I had to go into the next room to beg my husband to stop playing all the good songs from "A Colbert Christmas" at maximum volume so I could concentrate on the story I was writing. But it was too late. Having to beg for silence usually kills the mood. So I ran errands and finished the story once I came back home.
Lou Antonelli: I do my best writing in spurts; my creative battery seems to charge and discharge. I have no idea how to foster my own creativity; when I write, I feel genuinely "inspired" in the sense that I am filled with something. I am usually amazed as anyone at what I write.
Linda Donahue: Sadly, I'm often in the "groove" and really wanting to sit and write at moments when I can't. But I've found that when I just go sit at the computer and bring up the word processor, a lot of times that "groove" just hits. As for getting "knocked out"—
Patrick Rothfuss: My parents have a cabin up in the north woods of wisconsin. That's a good place for me to write. No internet. No cell phone. No girlfriend. No nothing.
What do you hope to accomplish between now and mid-2010?
Jennifer Pelland: Every year, I say I want to finish another novel. I hate sounding like a broken record, so I'm not going to say that again. I think instead that my goal will be to polish up my second trunked manuscript to get it into good enough shape to be shopped around. My agent's already commented on it, so I think I can pull off his requested revisions in these last two months of the year. We'll see what else I manage to accomplish after that. If only the TiVo weren't so damned shiny...
Lou Antonelli: I plan to flog the heck out of my collection ("Fantastic Texas") when it is published. It will be nice to have a book to peddle. I already have two stories scheduled for publication in Spring 2010, in Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), and Abandoned Towers.
Linda Donahue: A lot more sales would be nice. More pro sales. And I think I'd like to get back to working on another novel.
Patrick Rothfuss: Get book two finished and as good as I can possibly make it. Also, hopefully make a repeat performance of my Heiferu fundraiser from last year.