I met Julie and her husband a few years back, when she came to visit Green Bay. It was a fun afternoon of laughter and stories. She is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and her novels and short stories are extraordinary! We are thrilled to have her with us today. Please welcome Julie E. Czerneda to The Editing Essentials.
Canadian author and editor Julie E. Czerneda transformed her love and knowledge of biology into science fiction novels (published by DAW Books NY) and short stories that have received international acclaim, multiple awards, and best-selling status. Know of her Clan Chronicles series or a fan of Esen the Blue Blob? Just out is something completely different, Book One of her new Night’s Edge series, Julie’s debut (and really fat) fantasy novel, A Turn of Light. There are toads. For more about Julie’s work, events, and treats, please visit www.czerneda.com or find her on Goodreads or Twitter @julieczerneda.
Leaping Toads or a Leap of …?
In the fall of 2009 I remade myself. In a writerly sense. Not that I felt there was anything wrong with the original writerly me, but I was set to leap into my first full-length, no holds barred, give me dragons or no chocolate for you fantasy novel and, well, that would be different.
Should be different, in my estimation.
Elsewhere I’ve talked about building a scale model first and my research, but here I want to tell you more about how I changed the writerly me. For I did. An obvious place to start was my office. I like my office. I love my chair and clever footrest thingie Roger made me and all the rest. That said, what I could change, I did. Down came my wall collection (body parts were among them) and up went painted silk. (I can hear you laughing, Russell.) Away when the memorabilia from cons past — and bones — to be replaced with statuettes of dragons and horses. I’d had some of those since I was little, but they’d not been allowed in my office till now. I refused to use any playlist from a previous work. And yes, it’s true. I wrote the first few thousand words by candlelight, said candles being red and held in dragon claws. Any notes? Done using a fountain pen I’d put aside to use for this book and no other.
I didn’t want to write fantasy like a science fiction author dabbling at it. I wanted to be a fantasy author. A real one.
Okay, and there was also the hilarious fun of it all — which it was, trust me. Surrounding myself with toads — and rose petals — and little white pebbles. Being able to shout “I don’t do dishes anymore. I write FANTASY!” never got old. (On my side of it.) I’d walk away from the writing at whim, because, yup, “I write FANTASY!” and that entitled me to as much whim as I wanted. Especially gardening whim, because, hey, I might find a toad. There was wine whim, when going over notes.
Unlike my previous work ethic, I allowed myself to indulge in rereading favourite passages whenever I felt like it, which was often. Though I’d been ruthless before, now I deleted what I didn’t like without a care. Tens of thousands of words at a time. Pop! Gone. Looking back over my day-before word counts, there were weeks I’d write prodigiously yet have a negative sum. For some strange reason, I was happy about that. When I blew past my previous word length for a novel at less than half done? I did confirm that was okay with my editor, Sheila Gilbert, but really, I didn’t care. “I write FANTASY!” Muhhahhaaa With toads!
The result was A Turn of Light, of which I’m extraordinarily proud and fond. It’s long, lush, and full of my favourite stuff. And, in the opinion of those I trust to know, it reads as though written by a fantasy author.
Hurray! I’d remade myself!
Or had I?
Earlier this week, I read a very thoughtful review of Turn on Goodreads, where the reader (Karen) made this point: “Fantasy offers a writer the freedom to invent an entirely new reality, not dependent on the our (known) universe’s laws of physics and other constraints on our reality. But I think it also requires more discipline, too – the writer must then make sure that everything in the book conforms to the rules of the invented reality…Czerneda may have an advantage over some other authors going from science fiction to fantasy, because in her sf novels, she always creates aliens with a richly detailed, “invented” biology, and then bases their behavior and culture on the “rules” imposed by that biology. That seems to require a similar form of discipline.”
I’d considered my science fiction writerly-self to be an impediment, not a help, going to admittedly silly extremes to shed old habits. Hindsight being a lovely thing, I realize now what I actually did was use my training as a behavioural scientist on myself. I created a stimulating work environment and approach for this particular story, as I’ve done far less consciously for each and every one of them. As for the science fiction? The attention to detail in worldbuilding Turn is no less or more than I’ve given to Survival or Beholder’s Eye or Reap the Wild Wind or any other.
It seems I’d simply given myself permission to have blatant fun on the job. It shows in the work. A leap indeed and one I’m glad I made.
Now it’s your “turn,” fine folks. The science fiction writerly-me and the fantasy writerly-me, apparently the same person after all, are here and happy to answer your questions.
Giveaway: Post a comment or question today for Julie on the blog to win a copy of A Turn of Light.
Thank you, Julie, for being our guest today. Julie will be checking in throughout the day, so please feel free to post a comment or question for her. Thank you!