This week’s guest is author Patty Jansen, as part of the Blog Tour she’s doing to promote her latest book.
Patty Jansen lives in Sydney, Australia, where she spends most of her time writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. She publishes in both traditional and indie venues. Her story This Peaceful State of War placed first in the second quarter of the Writers of the Future contest. Her futuristic space travel story Survival in Shades of Orange will appear in Analog Science Fiction and Fact.
Her novels (available at ebook venues, such as the Kindle store) include Watcher’s Web (soft SF), The Far Horizon (SF for younger readers), Charlotte’s Army (military SF) and books 1 and 2 of the Icefire Trilogy Fire & Ice(http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005TF1B9K) and Dust & Rain (post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy).
Patty is a member of SFWA, and the cooperative that makes up Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and she has also written non-fiction.
Patty is on Twitter (@pattyjansen), Facebook, LinkedIn, goodreads, LibraryThing, google+ and blogs at: http://pattyjansen.com/
ANTHONY: Hi, Patty! Thanks for stopping by to chat. You’re about to release book three of your IceFire Trilogy. Give my readers a little overview of the series so far, if you will.
PATTY: On a strange world in a land without a name, a relic of a long-dead society causes a lethal radiation called icefire. The people who live close to this thing, called the Heart of the city, have become immune to it, but the Imperfects, always born with parts of limbs missing, can bend it to their will. Fifty years ago, such a person became king and used icefire to cut out people’s hearts, turning them into ghostly servitors who terrorised the population in the king’s name.
This lasted until the Eagle Knights, flying on the back of giant birds, killed the king and ousted his family. But in the fifty years since, the Eagle Knights have led a cruel witch hunt against those who happened to be born Imperfect. Many families have lost children, and the tide is turning the other way.
The old king’s grandson, Tandor, has grown up in neighbouring Chevakia and he wants only one thing, revenge. His grandfather’s diaries tell him how to increase the beat of the Heart, and with the resulting higher level of icefire, he plans to re-take the throne.
However, to do so, he needs the help of the Imperfect children whom he’s saved from death, and the Eagle Knights have discovered their hiding place.
So starts a frantic rush to find the children, or to find other Imperfects, and without giving too much away, I can say that once you start meddling with icefire, it takes on a mind of its own. This is a destructive, evil force.
The rest of the series involves how refugees and people from the neighbouring country (who will die once icefire reaches certain levels) piece together the only way to undo the damage.
ANTHONY: Sounds exciting and intriguing! So many fantasy trilogies these days seem to grow into quadrologies or longer. Is IceFire a real trilogy, a “done in three” deal?
PATTY: It’s a complete story, so if ever there were any other books in this world, they wouldn’t be part of the trilogy.
ANTHONY: I recently talked to Andrew P. Mayer about his “Society of Steam trilogy.” We talked about how the first book was a mystery but the second book is more of an action-romance, and how the tenor of individual books in a series can change while still being true to the whole. How did you approach crafting the IceFire Trilogy? Is it one massive story told in three parts, like the Lord of the Rings, or does each book have its’ own personality and purpose?
PATTY: It is a massive story told in three parts. It grew out of me trying to write it as one book, and failing miserably. There are various aspects to it. Book 1 takes place entirely in one locality, until something dramatic happens at the end. Book 2 deals with the fallout from that event, and book 3 brings the threads together as the characters must find a way to deal with the disaster that is acceptable to all, and learn that every good is also evil, and every evil is also good.
ANTHONY: How did you plot/pace the Trilogy? Was it tightly-plotted from the beginning, or did you allow room for tangents and new ideas? (Isn’t that a nice way of rephrasing the “are you an outliner or a pantser” question? haha)
PATTY: I am a pantser extra-ordinaire. That said, I always knew where I wanted the book to end up. The bits in between are never clear until I write them, but the ending always is.
ANTHONY: In addition to the trilogy, you’ve got stand-alone novels and a plethora of short stories/novellas available through Smashwords. I know you’ve blogged about your love for Smashwords on your own blog, but I want to play devil’s advocate and ask: what are the pitfalls to electronic self-publishing?
PATTY: Doing it too early, before you have a clue about writing, about what’s hot and what’s not, before anyone who is not a friend or relative has read and commented (read: shredded) on your book. You should develop some writing chops before you wade into the giant self-publishing pool. Get a few short stories published. Submit to agents for a while. If you get regular requests for the full manuscript, that is when you can self-publish.
ANTHONY: Jay Lake often talks about an author’s “span of control.” What’s your most comfortable working length for fiction?
PATTY: I honestly don’t have one. A story is as long as it needs to be.
ANTHONY: As you know, I’m a bit obsessed with short stories. Do you approach the writing of a short story any differently than you approach writing a novella or novelette? What factors into deciding something will be a story versus a novella?
PATTY: A lot of my longer works started out as short stories. I think any short story can be made into a novel by adding extra layers or expanding the plot (the short story plot usually ends up being a secondary thread). This is what I seem to be doing a lot recently. The trilogy started life as a short story. The story covered a tiny part of the plot, and in the novel, I ended up turning it upside down.
ANTHONY: It seems like your standard short story page length is around 50 pages, which is about 40 pages longer than my average short story. I’m fairly new to the e-reader scene, but do you find that working at that length makes it easier to re-brand / market your shorter works for the Kindle, Nook, etc? What are the challenges of taking a story that’s been published (print or online) in a magazine or anthology and then putting it out as a stand-alone ebook?
PATTY: No, not really, but if a short story is less than 5000 words, I like to tack something else onto it. Also, some of my short stories (especially the freebies) have a sample chapter attached.
ANTHONY: What other projects, short or long, are you working on?
PATTY: I write a fair bit of hard SF, and once I finish the trilogy, I will be working on a novel in the same world as my novellettes His Name In Lights and Luminescence and the novella Charlotte’s Army.
ANTHONY: And my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to convince someone who hasn’t read it that they should?
PATTY: C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series. These books are social Science Fiction that describes relationships between aliens and humans living on a planet where humans are refugees, in the minority and not in power. The aliens are human enough for interactions, but alien enough so that you never really know what they will do next. The depth in these books is astounding, the immersion in the character incredible.
ANTHONY: Thanks, Patty!