The Hardest Part: Tony Daniel on “Islands”

Baen editor Tony Daniel has been a busy man of late. Since his 2012 novel Guardian of Night he has published 3 additional novels (Star Trek: Devil’s Bargain and two books co-authored with David Drake: Manly Wade Wellman Award-nominated The Heretic and just-published The Savior) and two short stories, and directed and hosted Baen’s Parsec Award-nominated podcast The Baen Free Radio Hour. He’s also been active on the convention circuit, both as a panelist and (of course) as a frequent host of the Baen Traveling Road Show. In March of this year, Daniel put out a casting call for “Islands”, his new radio play adaptation of a novella by Eric Flint, and would go on to guide the production through auditions, rehearsals, recording sessions, post-production soundtrack and sound effects, and, on Wednesday September 17, Daniel will finally present the premiere performance at a free screening at Living Arts College in Raleigh, where the radio play was recorded, ahead of its online debut as part of the Baen Free Radio Hour on Friday, September 19, in turn ahead of public availability at Baen’s online store.

It was a thrill and an honor to have had a small part in the production, and to be able to take in first-hand the amazing performances of cast members Tracey Coppedge, Paul Kilpatrick, Lex Wilson, Jeff Aguiar, Izzy Burger, Rika Daniel, Carter, Paris Battle, Gray Rinehart, Pj Maske, and Cokie Daniel. (Between rehearsal takes, the talent on display just ad-libbing around for fun by this group was wonderful to be around.) Both Tony Daniel and director Jerome Davis were likewise amazing to work with, and to watch work. Here, Daniel writes about his background in script writing, and how “Islands” came to be.

Islands Poster

By Tony Daniel:

We made radio plays back in 2000 and 2001. I got hired at Seeing Ear Theatre at SCIFI.COM by its creator, Brian Smith, who later became a good friend and writing partner, and we made many radio plays with wonderful, cinematic soundtracks, quite unlike anything that had been made before, because they, those who created and developed the form, and created its Golden Age, simply didn’t have the technology before. We had a wizardly sound engineering genius named John Colucci. We had a great budget to work with, so we hired stars to get more people to listen. For about two years, I was perhaps the only full-time audio drama scriptwriter and story editor in the world. At least in America. Then the dot com bust came along, and the whole thing, the whole web site, got shut down to ashes. Probably a hundred people laid off, poor kids suddenly out $65,000 a year and with no prospects except Starbucks, if that. To be laid off in New York City is no joke. You will quickly get eaten alive by rent.

Brian, by the way, took a job as an audiobook editor after Seeing Ear, and then quit and started an artisanal ice cream shop in Brooklyn. It has become a New York phenomenon. Ample Hills. You have to go there when you’re in town. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Lou Anders on Frostborn

In his ten years and counting tenure at Pyr, award-winning editor and art director Lou Anders has been on the other side of the desk from many fantastic fantasy novels and their authors, from James Enge’s Blood of Ambrose to Clay and Susan Griffith’s Vampire Empire and Allen Steele’s Apollo’s Outcasts, he’s made suggestions and fought for cuts and rewrites. As he writes here, he intended to (and in fact did) approach writing a novel with a willingness to revise to sell, but something happened along the way that turned the editing process into the hardest part of seeing his debut novel, Frostborn, published. Frostborn is the first book in Anders’s “Thrones and Bones” series for young readers, “a thoroughly enjoyable Viking-infused middle grade fantasy for boys and girls and their parents, with a winning combination of board gaming, frost giants, barrow mounds, and (of course!) dragons; fairly equal parts The Hobbit and (yes!) The Lion King with How to Train Your Dragon and The Black Cauldron flavoring atop a foundation of board games.” (Quoting myself, reviewing the audiobook elsewhere.) I’m already indebted to Lou for his kind words about Bull Spec early on, and for giving me the time for an in-depth, at-length interview in Bull Spec #4, and I hope you’re as interested here in what he has to say as I was.

Frostborn with Blurb

By Lou Anders:

When I wrote my first manuscript, the agent I was courting put me through an intense rewrite before he would agree to take me on and another one after he did. I told him I’d do anything to get it where it needed to be, and at one point we were debating having me rewrite the entire book to take it from third person to first person.

When I wrote my second manuscript, having already put it through several rewrites, I rewrote the entire thing to alter it from a young adult to a middle grade novel at the behest of an editor who thought she would be able to pick it up if I did.

My motto was “do what it takes to sell” and don’t be precious about anything. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Monica Byrne on The Girl in the Road

Durham author Monica Byrne‘s debut novel The Girl in the Road hit bookstores (and audiobook stores) last week, and both prior to and after publication the glowing reviews have piled up (from big names like Neil Gaiman, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Scalzi, and Helene Wecker, to blogs and ezines like Everyday eBook, to NPR and The Wall Street Journal). But it’s been a long, er, ahem, road for this writer, from dreaming of becoming an astronaut to “falling back in love” with her artistic impulses: writing, theater, improv. Her career as a playwright has already seen many accolades, particularly for What Every Girl Should Know, her 1914-set play in which “four young women in a New York reformatory adopt birth control activist Margaret Sanger as their secret patron saint” and which debuted in Durham ahead of a run in New York. Her latest play, the sex-and-diplomacy mingling Olympic Village-set Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo, is also garnering rave reviews (and selling out its performances). Sex and genderqueer themes are no strangers to Byrne’s fiction, either, and both play central roles in The Girl in the Road. A “twenty-first-century myth” of a near future of rising oceans and shifting economic and political power, told in two alternating timelines: Meena, fleeing India along “The Trail”, an energy-capturing pontoon bridge which crosses the Arabian Sea, and Mariama, fleeing slavery in Mauritania on an Ethiopia-bound caravan. Their stories parallel and entwine and collide in an intricate, beautifully-written (and line-after-line quotable) story. Here, Byrne writes not about the struggles with finding the right words or what to spare or grant her characters, but instead about having written the book and having a vision for it, and having the guts to wait for the right opportunity, not just the first one.

By Monica Byrne:

For me, the hardest part is knowing when to say no.

But it gets easier with practice. And it’s essential.

I first sent the manuscript of The Girl in the Road out to agents in January 2012. After a month, I got my first offer from Agent #1, a friend who’d just started working at a good agency. I was absolutely thrilled. Someone had read my manuscript and said “This is a Thing.” We talked on the phone. He was warm and enthusiastic and loved the book.

Though I knew he would be a great advocate for the book, he thought a small indie publishing house would be the best fit, while I felt the book had enough mass market appeal for a larger house. I knew I wouldn’t feel we had strived to reach the book’s highest potential without at least submitting to the larger houses, and the misgivings manifested as a sour feeling in my stomach. I felt like I was crazy—I had gotten an offer, which was the holy grail in and of itself, right?

I said no to him. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Jen McConnel

Durham author Jen McConnel is the author of the new adult novel The Secret of Isobel Key (out from Bloomsbury Spark and Audible for Bloomsbury) and most recently of Daughter of Chaos, a contemporary Durham-set young adult novel of witches and choices just released from Raleigh-based Month9Books [IndieBound | KoboKindle]. She’s also published in non-fiction, as we briefly touched on in a Carolina Book Beat interview last month, and has a few more novels already well on the way. For “The Hardest Part”, the prolific McConnel tackles the juggling act of pursuing shiny new projects versus the hard work of revision.

 

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By Jen McConnel: The Hardest Part: Writing After Publication

For me, writing is always my center. Whether I’m drafting, revising, or simply courting a shiny new idea, I often refer to my writing work as “play”. Perhaps because of this lighthearted approach, I wasn’t prepared for the hardest part of my writing journey: writing after publication.

Some writers have talked about the sophomore slump, the fears and joys and insanity that come with writing your second book after you make a sale, but luckily, that hasn’t been something I’ve experienced. The biggest reason I’ve avoided the sophomore slump? I took that old advice to heart, and kept writing and writing and writing, no matter what. I wrote so many “next things” that by the time I had sold my first book to a publisher, I had a substantial backlist of finished, polished, manuscripts just waiting for homes. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Megan Miranda on Vengeance

Charlotte-area author Megan Miranda‘s 2012 debut novel Fracture introduced readers to teens Delaney Maxwell and Decker Phillips, the frozen waters of Falcon Lake, and a supernatural mystery both of Delaney’s recovery from brain damage and her inexplicable ability to predict — or perhaps cause? — the imminent death of those around her. Written from Delaney’s point of view, Fracture garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly among a long list of other accolades, and she next published Hysteria, a standalone psychological thriller. With her latest book, Vengeance, Miranda returns to Falcon Lake, this time from Decker’s point of view. Here, Miranda writes about the difficulties in picking up where Fracture left off.

 Vengeance (Fracture, #2)

By Megan Miranda:

As a general rule, I find the middle third of every book the hardest part to write. The excitement of a new idea gets me through the first third, and the promise of seeing the end usually powers me through the last third—but that middle third, man, I usually have to force my way through it. But at least I’m aware of this pattern. I’ve come to expect it, even. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Alexandra Duncan on Salvage

I first heard about Asheville, NC author Alexandra Duncan back in 2011, when her novella “Rampion” (published in F&SF) starting generating a lot of buzz — it would go on to be selected by Rich Horton to appear in his annual “Year’s Best” anthology for Prime Books. Reading “Rampion”, a fairytale-infused historical fiction set in the Caliphate of Al-Andalus, I started following her writing, but… it appears she had something longer in mind, for which some serious waiting would be required. Luckily, I had her previous short fiction — published in F&SF since 2009 — to keep me company. Yesterday, her debut novel Salvage was released in hardcover and ebook [Kindle] by HarperCollins’ Greenwillow Books, as well as a highly-anticipated audiobook edition from Harper Audio. A YA title, it targets a younger audience than has her heady short fiction, but by no means without a literary sf sensibility, bearing themes of feminism and climate change. Duncan also sets her sights on the extra-terrestrial rather than the lush fantasies of her short fiction. But it wasn’t the change of age, or venue, or theme, which gave her the most difficulty. Here, as Duncan writes, sometimes life itself, our own neuro-chemical minds and bodies, can be our own worst enemy.

By Alexandra Duncan:

There are very few careers where you can make having an anxiety disorder work to your advantage. For a long time, I thought writing was one of those few.

When I started writing my first novel, Salvage, I had several short stories and a novella under my belt. I thought I knew what worked best for me as far as a motivation. Write every day. Feel uneasy and wrong if you don’t write – like you left the oven on – so make sure you write every day. Let your characters and plot take over your thoughts until the story is as perfect as you can make it. Send it off into the world. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Mur Lafferty on Ghost Train to New Orleans

Durham author Mur Lafferty already had a handful and a half novels out in the world when, last year, she both had her “debut” novel published by Orbit, The Shambling Guide to New York City, and she won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the Hugo Awards at the World Science Fiction Convention. Not a bad year, eh? Still, after all the books and the stories, she had to go back to the drawing board — again and again — to get a particular plot point right for book 2 in her Shambling Guides series, Ghost Train to New Orleans, out earlier this month.

 

By Mur Lafferty:

In Book 1 of The Shambling Guides, the love interest, monster hunter and plumber Arthur, gets bitten by a zombie. They find someone who can give him magic herbs to hold off the curse, so long as he takes the herb for the rest of his life. But heck, diabetics have to do something similar, only insulin isn’t magic, so it’s not a big deal, right? Read the rest of this entry »


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