The Hardest Part: Ryan Hill on Dead New World

Raleigh author Ryan Hill is the author of two books, both out this year from Curiosity Quills Press. In May, it was his debut novel The Book of Bart, a novel of angels, demons, Templars, swearing, and sarcasm. Earlier this month saw the publication of his second novel, Dead New World, which begins a new trilogy: “Zombies aren’t mindless anymore. Before the world fell into chaos, the undead existed only in the imagination. Now, more of them walk the earth than living. Zombies move about freely, while humans entomb themselves inside concrete barricades to stay alive. All that, while the leader of a powerful cult – known only as Reverend – becomes the next threat to the rebuilding United States. Believing zombies to be God’s latest creation, making humanity obsolete, he wants to give every man, woman, and child the chance to become one. With his combined army of humans and zombies, he may well get his wish. Best friends Holt and Ambrose went up against the Reverend once. Holt lost a foot and a zombie bit Ambrose…though he survived the virus, only to become a human-zombie hybrid, reviled by the living and unwelcome among the dead. When the Reverend kidnaps the woman Holt loves, the race is on to save her from a fate worse than death.” Hill has interviewed himself about the book and described his own idea of a zombie survival bunker, and here offers a short essay on the balancing act of writing a novel that remained true to his vision, while not potentially alienating readers.

Dead New World

By Ryah Hill:

The hardest part of writing Dead New World was the ending. Originally, the novel ended with the main character putting a bullet in the head of the girl he loved, and left the fate of other characters up in the air. Their fates would have been revealed at the beginning of the second novel (DNW is the first in a trilogy). Several people who read the novel remarked that the ending, as it stood, was entirely too dark. While it was my intention to create a dark zombie novel, I couldn’t risk potentially turning off readers, so I set about trying to create an ending that satisfied my desire for a dark ending, but wouldn’t leave people feeling like the world was a terrible place to live in. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part/Coming to Town: Beth Revis on The Body Electric

North Carolina author Beth Revis achieved fantastic critical and commercial success with her Across the Universe series, a young adult science fiction trilogy about “a love out of time and a spaceship built of secrets and murder” that has been translated into more than 20 languages. For The Body Electric, Revis once again offers a young adult science fiction novel, this time focused on memory, identity, and trust: “The future world is at peace. Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift, the ability to enter people’s dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother, to help others relive their happy memories. But not all is at it seems. Ella starts seeing impossible things, images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience, and influence, the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love, even though Ella’s never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing? Someone’s altered her memory. Ella’s gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn’t even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella’s head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings. So who can she trust?”

Here, Revis writes about the difficulties in revising what had been meant as the first book as a trilogy into one standalone novel. It — and the novel — makes for intriguing reading. I’d originally asked her about this “hardest part” for The Hardest Part guest column series, and then saw that she has 5 events scheduled across the Carolinas from November 1-5 including Quail Ridge Books, Flyleaf Books, Malaprop’s, Park Road Books, and Fiction Addiction, as part of the Compelling Reads Tour which also includes (among others) Meagan Spooner and Megan Shepherd. So! I’m including this in the Coming to Town column as well. I hope you enjoy!

By Beth Revis:

The hardest part of writing The Body Electric was the revision process. In its original inception, the book was going to be the first of a trilogy and heavily focused on a government subplot. My agent and editor, however, pointed out that dystopian was fading, and the government subplot was distracting from the main plot of the book–a more personal story about a girl whose memories have been altered without her knowledge and who is wrapped up in something far bigger than her. Taking out the subplot was a huge change–but not as huge as cutting the book from three to one. Taking out the strings that led to sequels made the story tighter and stronger in the end, but it was excruciatingly painful to revise!

Once the book was done and edited, the rest sort of…fell into place. I did have a set back when I learned it didn’t fit with my publisher’s catalog, but the actual decision to self publish was fairly easy, mostly due to my wise agent, who was behind me the whole way. I’d worked with a graphic designer before on other projects, and she was available to do the exterior and interior design of the novel. I had great friends (and the internet!) to show me the ropes of self publication, and a wonderful indie bookstore that helped with the launch of the book. After years of writing and three published novels, it was amazing that the hardest part of the book was in the writing process, not the publication process!

—-

Beth Revis is the NY Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series. The complete trilogy is now available in more than 20 languages. A native of North Carolina, Beth’s latest book is a new science fiction novel for teens, The Body Electric, which released October 6, 2014.


The Hardest Part: Jenna Black on The Gifted Dead

When I asked author Jenna Black, whose Nikki Glass books have been published by Pocket Books, Faeriewalker series by St. Martin’s Griffin, Guardians of the Night series and Replica by Tor, and Morgan Kingsley series by Dell, what the hardest part of her latest novel had been, I thought I knew what I was going to get. Black had elected to self-publish the first book of a new contemporary fantasy series, The Gifted Dead, and I’d assumed that making that decision had weighed quite heavily on her. Not so, I found out.

“Deciding to self-publish wasn’t hard at all,” Black wrote me in answer to my question on the subject. “I’d already written the book, and though numerous New York editors went to bat for me, none of their marketing departments was willing to take the risk with a book that is this particular breed of genre-bender. (More editors wanted to buy this book than any of the ones I’ve actually sold!) So, I had plenty of evidence that it was worth publishing, but no NY publisher to put it out. Doing it myself ended up being a no-brainer.”

It is certainly a genre-bender. But the fun in explaining exactly which genres and how lies at the heart of Black’s essay below, though what’s too fun not to share is this teaser, courtesy NY Times bestselling author Lilith Saintcrow: “Game of Thrones meets House of Cards, a terrific read!” (Also, it’s great to be able to share with people that a hundred+ words can be the hardest part of a 100K+ word novel.)

By Jenna Black:

In many ways, The Gifted Dead is the most challenging book I’ve ever written. The scope is broader than any of my other books, with multiple intertwining plot lines, and I had seven point-of-view characters to juggle. But if I’m being perfectly honest, writing the book itself was far from the hardest part. No, that honor falls to writing the back cover blurb.

How can an 130-word blurb be harder than a 130,000-word novel? And yet it was. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: T. Kingfisher on Toad Words and Other Stories

In early August, NC author T. Kingfisher published a new collection Toad Words and Other Stories, a “collection of fairy-tale retellings for adults. By turns funny and dark, sad and lyrical, this anthology draws together in one volume such stories as ‘The Wolf and the Woodsman’, ‘Loathly’, and ‘Bluebeard’s Wife’, along with an all-new novella, ‘Boar & Apples’.” While many of the stories had previously appeared in various forms on the author’s blog, having substantial new content and a trove of stories to pick from made for an interesting set of decisions when putting the collection together. Here, Kingfisher writes about trying to put together a collection that wasn’t too dark, wasn’t too light, but rather: just right.

Toad Words and Other Stories

By T. Kingfisher:

When I was trying to assemble my first anthology, Toad Words & Other Stories, I often felt like I was wandering a strange countryside without a road map.

I’m sure there are people out there who think that this is an ideal way to travel. These people probably throw their Lonely Planet guide in their battered rucksack, toss in an extra pair of socks and a power bar, and go off on a six-week backpacking trip through the Andes.

I sometimes wish that I were that sort of person. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


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