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Happy impending book day, Kelly McCullough!

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
Kelly McCullough, a fellow SFNovelist, had the first novel in the WebMage series, WebMage, released by Ace in 2006 to considerable critical praise. A second, Cybermancy, followed in 2007. His newest release, CodeSpell, will be out May 27th 2008. And a fourth book, MythOS, is slated for late May '09. His short fiction has appeared in numerous venues including Weird Tales, Writers of the Future, and Tales of the Unanticipated. His illustrated collection, The Chronicles of the Wandering Star, is part of a National Science Foundation-funded middle school science curriculum, Interactions in Physical Science.

For more information and samples of some his short stories you can check out his website: http://www.kellymccullough.com/. Kelly blogs regularly on writing topics at http://wyrdsmiths.blogspot.com/ along with several other members of his writing group including well known authors Eleanor Arnason, Tate Hallaway/Lyda Moorhouse, and Naomi Kritzer. He also occasionally posts at http://sfnovelists.com/ – usually on the 9th of any given month.


Here's what he had to say on the subject of the new book:


1) Why this book? What made you want to write this story?

That's a surprisingly difficult question to answer. This is the third book of a series and certainly part of my motivation for writing it is that this is a fun world to play in and I like these characters enough to want to spend more time with them. Part of it is that I had what I thought was a fast fun plot that continued the story in a way that would be entertaining to write and to read. But probably the most important part of the equation for this book is that actions have consequences. The things that Ravirn did in books one and two have ongoing repercussions and I wanted to see how they played out and how Ravirn would have to grow to respond to them.

2) Which authors inspire you? Has that changed over time?

Different writers teach me different things at different times. Zelazney and Tim Powers are probably at the top of the list of writers who've affected my work most visibly, though Powers is less present in the WebMage stuff than he is in some of my other, darker work. Norton and McCaffrey and Tolkien are in my bones. Martha Wells is wonderful and so are Robin McKinley and Lois McMaster Bujold.

3) Why genre? Is there something special about science fiction or fantasy that draws you to write in the field?

I was pretty much raised to be a fantasy and science fiction writer, though that certainly wasn't the intent of the process. I'm a third generation fan of the genre and some of my earliest memories are of having the Lord of the Rings, Asimov's Foundation trilogy, and A Midsummer Night's Dream read to me. I learned very early to love story and genre and once I found out that I could maybe make a living by telling the sorts of stories that were told to me I was pretty much lost.

4) What do you find most interesting about Ravirn? Why write about this protagonist?

What I love about Ravirn is his combination of idealism and cynicism. He expects the worst of a situation but won't let that stop him from working toward a solution, even when he knows the attempt is probably doomed. That and his sense of humor. I come from a family where humor, particularly black humor and sarcasm, are fundamental coping mechanisms. Sometimes life hands you a situation where you have to laugh or cry, and given any choice in the matter I'll always pick laughter. It may not solve the problem, but it sure lightens the load.

5) You're a writer. What else are you? What are your interests? Hobbies?

Husband and cat-wrangler are probably at the top of the list for other self-identifiers. My wife and I are coming up on twenty fantastic years together and over that time two cats became three cats, became four cats, became five. I love to read and play video-games. I've got a Gaiman, a Pierce and a Blaylock on the active books pile and I just finished playing Portal and Drake's Fortune. I also like hiking and biking, and since it's spring, I'm at the front end of the annual garden madness.

6) Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you need to know in order to write it that you didn't know before? Do you have some special preparation you do for your writing?

I didn't have to do a lot of new research for this book. After finishing two novels set in the Greek gods plus computers reality of the WebMage I have a pretty good grounding in this world, and I really only needed to touch up my memory of a couple of the myths involved in this specific story. On a more general note, I read non-fiction voraciously. I just finished a great book on plants in traditional Hawaiian culture as part of a Hawaiian history and mythology kick. I read several science and technology magazines on an ongoing basis and I'm looking around for some good references on the Canadian Maritime provinces in general and on Halifax in particular.

7) I see a lot of computer and programming stuff in the WebMage series. Is that something that really interests you? Or is it more driven by the needs of the story?

Mostly it's the needs of the story. I love my laptop and the web and I tend to be a technology early adopter if I can afford it, but I'm not really much for programming or hacking. While I have been immersed in computer culture from a very early age since my mother became a bug-checker when I was about ten and has been working as an analyst and programmer ever since and because I've got a lot of close friends in IT, it's not something I'm much involved in outside of writing the books.

8) Ravirn displays a lot of physicality, constantly getting himself into life-threatening situations and back out of them in ways that involve all sorts of death defying action. I'm guessing that's not something you the writer have an enormous amount of experience with. How do you make that convincing? Do Ravirn's solutions reflect the sort of things you might do in a similar situation?

I'm much more of a thinker than Ravirn, especially as I've gotten older, but I've got to admit to a certain amount of speaking from experience when I have him do something big and physical and stupid like climbing a building and then jumping off. It's not the sort of thing I'd do now, but when I was in my late teens and early twenties I was something of an adrenaline junkie. I was into martial arts and mountain climbing and all sorts of things that are moderately safe when done responsibly and less so when done the way I did some of them. From fifteen to twenty-two I averaged two trips to the emergency room a year, and as I've gotten older that's led to things like a couple of knee surgeries and other corrective measures.

9) What are you writing now?

A couple of things. I just sent off book proposals for a fifth WebMage and for two books that I would like to write as a successor series to the WebMage/Ravirn books. I've also got a YA I want to work on–the second in a series that my agent is shopping around now–because I'm in love with the story and the world. That's the main front burner stuff. But I've got five complete novels and nine proposals out with various editors and any of those could get moved up the list if they sell. I'm pretty busy at the moment, and I love it that way. There's really nothing I'd rather be doing with my life than what I'm doing right now.

10) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you be surprise?

Short answer: I quit theater. Longer version. I set out at the age of eleven to be an actor and was well on my way when I met the woman I would eventually marry. At that point, I realized how incompatible theater was with having a long term relationship and I went looking for something else to do. On something very like a whim I wrote my first novel and fell head over heals in love with writing. Now I can't imagine myself doing anything else.

11) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?

I write between two and eight hours a day five days a week. On a typical day I get up around eight in the morning, stagger downstairs and collect a unit of caffeine–could be soda, could be tea, it doesn't really matter since it's a delivery system. Then I hop on the treadmill and websurf and read email and the like for an hour or so. At that point I'm mostly awake and I do things like respond to the email or other writing and life maintenance tasks. That can take anything between twenty minutes and two hours. Then I write. Less than a thousand words is a bad day. More than two thousand is a good one. Oh, and, I use a laptop so that I can work where the whim takes me.

12) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write? A favorite? How does the environment you write in affect your production? Your process?

In summer I write in a second floor screen porch. It has a gorgeous view over the park that abuts our backyard, and that sort of near outdoor setting is my preferred setting for writing–I'm hoping to have a more permanent solar built to replace the porch soon. Until then, my winter office is our upstairs sitting room which gets southern light and is a pretty comfortable substitute for my screen porch.

13) Is there anything you especially like to work on in a book? Anything you hate?

I love world-building and plot-twisting. Figuring out how a system of magic might work and then figuring out ways to game that system fascinates me. And yes, I was a rules lawyer back in my role-playing days, why do you ask? Likewise building a plot and then coming up with ways to add twists or bits of misdirection is a joy for me. I don't really have any hates. There are things that I used to find more difficult, character chief among them, but I'm getting a steadily better handle on the whole process and I just love writing. I even love rewriting, both the sentence level stuff and the bigger more complex story edits.

14) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there.

Well, primarily it's the WebMage stuff. WebMage, Cybermancy, and now CodeSpell with MythOS finished and forthcoming and a proposal in for SpellCrash after that. On the novels front, as I mentioned above, I've got five more books and nine proposals out, so that could change at any moment. I've also had a number of short stories published, including an illustrated collection as part of a big middle school physical science curriculum that's been adopted by several states. But that doesn't make an enormous amount of sense outside the classroom setting it was written for.

15) Do you see fiction as having a purpose? Generally? How about your own work?

Transcendence. I think that human beings need story. We need myths and legends and tales that lift us out of ourselves and that fiction supplies that need. That's another reason I do most of my work in fantasy-if I'm going to be a mythmaker for a living I might as well write the truly mythic.


Sales info:

Amazon:
CodeSpell: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0441016030/kellymccullou-20/ref=nosim
Cybermancy: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0441015387/kellymccullou-20/ref=nosim
WebMage: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0441014259/kellymccullou-20/ref=nosim


Barnes & Noble:
CodeSpell: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ean=0441016030
Cybermancy: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ean=0441015387
WebMage http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ean=0441014259

Dreamhaven (signed copies): http://dreamhavenbooks.com/mccullough.php
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Mindy Klasky has a new book out!

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer
In honour of the release of SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, mindyklasky (via the good graces of the SFNovelists group) has provided the answers to a few questions many people have wanted to ask.

Enjoy!


1) What was your inspiration for writing SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL?

When I wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, my theme song should have been "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". That book was completely light and fluffy, a fun escape from a busy work week, family commitments, etc. When I had the opportunity to write another Jane Madison story, I wanted to dig a little deeper - to look at the decisions that we make with regard to friends and jobs, the tough calls that force us to decide what is important to us. (I wasn't willing to give up on the fun, though :-) )

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

When I was growing up, I read a lot of classic fantasy - J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Anne McCaffrey?. I devoured Patricia McKillip?'s books, and I practically memorized every word of Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series.

Now, I read much more broadly, alternating between genre fiction for fun (my favorites in the past year have been Scott Westerfeld's UGLIES/PRETTIES/SPECIALS trilogy) and literary fiction for musing(most recently, Sherman Alexie's THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN). I also read a lot of non-fiction, especially popular non-fiction on narrow topics, like COD and SALT.

3) What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?

I've always enjoyed the sense of possibility in speculative fiction, the ability to explore other ways of thinking, other ways of being. Even as my own writing has shifted from classic fantasy (SEASON OF SACRIFICE and the Glasswright Series) to paranormal romance, I've continued to draw on the Sense of Wonder that first addicted me to reading.

4) Why did you decide to make Jane Madison a librarian?

I work as a librarian in my day-job, managing seven libraries for a fourteen-office nationwide law firm. In the course of that job, I've met hundreds of librarians who live fascinating lives. Yet, in the eyes of the public, librarians are still the people who say "shhhhh". I wanted to write about Jane Madison to make people realize that there's a lot more out there beyond the stereotype.

5) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?

I spend a lot of time watching baseball - I married into Red Sox fandom. To justify the time I spend in front of the television, I quilt - entirely hand-pieced and hand-quilted wall hangings, with a bias toward traditional patchwork patterns.

6) What sort of research did you do to write this book?/What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?

When I start a novel, I create a spreadsheet. One column lists, in a few sentences, what happens in each chapter. The other columns track the number of pages, the number of words, and the date that the chapter was last modified.

When I'm ready to start writing, I just roll up my sleeves and go. I conduct a fair amount of spot research as I'm working. My characters tend to be much more fashion conscious than I am; I often need to check the name of a designer or a color of make-up. I also find myself regularly tracking down the qualities of various crystals and plants -- the essential "props" for Jane's witchcraft.

7) Jane and her best friend, Melissa, quote Shakespeare to each other frequently. Are you a fan of Shakespeare?

For years, I've held season tickets to the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C. They do a phenomenal job with their productions -- even when the plays are not my favorite (and they present a wide range of classical theater, not just Shakespeare), their sets, costumes, and lighting design are spectacular. I used to stage manage plays in college, and Jane's love of Shakespeare brings that avocation back to me.

8) If you were Jane Madison, and you discovered that you were a witch, what would you do?

I probably wouldn't handle the situation a whole lot more gracefully than Jane does. She reaches out to her best friend right away. I would probably try to keep my powers a secret for as long as possible, because I'd always sort of worry, in the very back of my mind, that I was absolutely, totally, completely insane.

9) What are you writing now?

I'm hard at work on the third novel in Jane's series, MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL (which will be in bookstores in October 2008). After that, I have a new series for Red Dress Ink, about a stage manager who discovers a genie in a magic lantern.

10) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

When I was in seventh grade, my best friend and I decided that we would spend our spring break writing a sequel to the LORD OF THE RINGS. (Oddly enough, we didn't get it finished in nine days.) I learned, though, that I loved creating characters, building their personalities and then tossing them into challenging situations. I wrote off and on all through high school but fell away from writing in college. When I started law school, though, I was desperate for something to balance the dry cases that I was reading. I wrote my first published novel while I was working as a trademark and copyright litigator at a major law firm. Eventually, I quit practicing law to become a librarian (in part, so that I would have more time to write!)

11) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

In a perfect world, I wake up each morning at 6:00, work out until 7:00, write until 8:00, then eat breakfast, shower, and get ready for work. (I have to be in the office by 9:30.)

In the real world, I travel a lot for my day-job, and publicity and promotion tend to sponge up my weekly writing time. I usually set aside one or both days of the weekend to write for three or four straight hours. When deadlines are approaching, I forfeit a week of vacation from the day-job, using the nine days (work-week, plus two weekends) to pound out around 35,000 words (approximately a third of a novel.)

12) Where do you write?

I have a home office on the ground floor of my three-story townhouse. I sit at a desk that I bought at IKEA about 15 years ago; it looks like leftover hardware from the space shuttle, but it has the best ergonomics of any computer desk I've ever used. I use a five-year-old Dell desktop computer, running Windows XP, and I write using WordPerfect? 10. I keep an Excel spreadsheet to track my story outline.

(When I'm traveling, all bets are off - I write on a hotel bed, on a couch, on a chaise lounge, wherever I can find a surface to balance the laptop I'm using -- which might be my own, a friend's, or a loaner.)

13) What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?

I have a very difficult time starting a new chapter - the blank screen intimidates me, and I find a hundred and one excuses to keep from writing. (I have forbidden myself from playing FreeCell?, and I had to remove Tetris from my computer entirely.)

I love editing chapters that are already drafted - I truly enjoy reviewing the flow of the language. On my final pass of editing, I read everything out loud, so that I can make sure the sound is as close to perfect as I can make it.

14) This isn't your first book, tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

I have six traditional fantasy novels - SEASON OF SACRIFICE (a stand-alone novel about twins who are kidnapped from their medieval fishing village and taken to an inland town, where they are expected to participate in a terrifying religious ceremony) and the Glasswrights Series (GLASSWRIGHTS' APPRENTICE, GLASSWRIGHTS' PROGRESS, GLASSWRIGHTS' JOURNEYMAN, GLASSWRIGHTS' TEST, and GLASSWRIGHTS' MASTER.) The series tells the story of Rani Trader, an apprentice in the stained glass makers' guild who witnesses a murder and is accused of being the killer. She's forced to go under cover in her society's strict castes to unmask the true assassin.

I also have one other paranormal romance, the first of Jane Madison's stories, GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT. It's about a librarian who finds out that she's a witch. But you probably knew that already :-)

15) What is the purpose of fantasy/science fiction, if any?

Different genre publications have different purposes. Some are truly written to entertain, to take us away from the cares and worries of our daily lives. Others are written as cautionary tales, to warn us about the dangers of politics, of science, of society, of whatever. Still others are written as elegies, reminding us of great men and woman, of leaders who may have never lived. The best genre fiction combines many (or all) of these functions.

Part of the purpose of the Jane Madison books is to raise money for First Book - www.firstbook.org - a national charity with the mission of giving underprivileged children their first books to own. I donate 10% of my profits on both GIRL'S GUIDE and SORCERY to First Book.



Look for SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL in your local bookstore now!

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