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.



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 »

The Hardest Part: Jeremy Whitley on My Little Pony: Friends Forever

When I started looking more seriously into the local comic scene in 2009 and 2010, I found some big names: Tommy Lee Edwards, Scott Hampton, Richard Case. And, thanks to Ultimate Comics’ Al Gill handing me a copy of The Order of Dagonet #1 I have been able to follow comics writer Jeremy Whitley for a few years now, through the original Dagonet run from Whitley and artist Jason Strutz’s Firetower Studios, the re-issue of the comic from Action Labs, and a similar path for Whitley’s next project, the Eisner-nominated Princeless. I interviewed Whitley and Strutz for Bull Spec #3, and published their 4-part graphic story “The Long Lives of Heroes” across issues 5 through 8. I’m a big Whitley fan, which is one reason I’m so excited to see his story for My Little Pony: Friends Forever #2 from IDW next week. Here, Whitley writes about getting to play inside the rules of the My Little Pony universe — a bit of a contrast from creating in his own stories.


(W) Jeremy Whitley (A) Tony Fleecs (CA) Amy Mebberson
“The Cutie Mark Crusaders have done everything they can think of to get their cutie marks. But there’s one creature of chaos who might have some ideas they would never think of… Discord! When our pint-sized heroines start working with the unpredictable trickster, the results are bound to get unusual! Will Ponyville be able to survive their friendship?”
In Shops: 2/26/2014

By Jeremy Whitley:

The hardest part of writing My Little Pony was accepting that I’m playing in someone else’s world.  A lot of writers only ever get to/have to write in worlds that are of their own making.  When I started working on MLP, I would make decisions, commit to them, and then be told that it was something I couldn’t do.  I’m a big fan of the show and I love the world they’ve created, but in something like that that’s constantly evolving both on tv and in the comic, you can hit walls you didn’t even know existed. Read the rest of this entry »


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