Today, Mindy Klasky‘s new book–Sorcery and the Single Girl, a sequel to Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft featuring librarian and witch JaneMadison–is hitting the shelves, and fellow Penguin Group writer Kelly McCullough‘s latest Urban Fantasy, Cybermancy is also out. They’ve both been kind enough to put up some Frequently Asked Questions about their books, so check ’em out:
10 Questions and Answers from Kelly McCullough:
1. What was your inspiration for writing Cybermancy?
There are a number of reasons I wanted to write this. First, I wanted to write something else in the WebMage universe (this was before WebMage sold) because I really like hanging out with these fun, funny characters, and I love the world. Second, there was unfinished business left over from WebMage, most notably Shara’s injury/death which happens off screen. Finally, and maybe most important for the arc of this book, the Persephone myth has always made me terribly angry. Here is a young goddess who is condemned to be eternally bound to her abductor and rapist, Hades the god of the dead. It’s appalling and the injustice of it something that I found that I really wanted to write about.
2. Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?
I was raised on Tolkien and Asimov and Shakespeare, and I still love them all, particularly the Lord of the Rings, Richard III and a Midsummer Night’s Dream. I discovered Roger Zelazney and H. Beam Piper when I was a little older, and Zelazney is certainly one of my strongest influences. My favorite writer as a writer myself is probably Tim Powers. I always learn something when I reread him.
3. What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?
The fact that the genre puts no limits on my creativity. What I’m most drawn to as a writer is world. I love to invent whole worlds with their own internal logic and rules, and realistcally where else do you have to scope to do that? I also love both as a reader and a writer the sense of being taken completely out of the here and now.
4. Why did you decide to make Ravirn a hacker/sorcerer?
I started the WebMage series from the idea of a magical internet that tied worlds together like webpages and used code for spells. If I wanted to really explore that concept in depth I needed someone who could do more than just use the magical equivalent of web-browser, I needed someone who really understood how the coding worked. That meant a hacker and in the context of the world I was writing, that automatically made him a sorcerer too.
5. What (besides writing) do you do for fun?
Well, writing really is near the top of my list for play as well as being my job. I really enjoy sitting down to work every day. But I also love walking and biking with my wife. I’m an avid videogamer, mostly role-playing stuff like Final Fantasy, but also puzzle games and stuff like Ratchet and Clank, all of which I play with my wife. Like most writers, I’m an avid reader, though more non-fiction than fiction these days.
6. Ravirn loves hacking and cracking. Is that your favorite activity too?Actually no, I’m aware of programming and hacking (my mother’s a computer geek as are a number of my close friends), but I’ve never been much interested in the mechanics of how my computer works.
7. In Cybermancy, Ravirn finds himself breaking into Hades to bring back a dead friend in the mode of Orpheus. How do you put yourslef in situations like that as a writer to try to make them believable?
It’s tough sometimes. Ravirn is stronger faster and more durable than I am. Many of the things he attempts would pretty much kill me. On the other hand, since he’s a figment of my imagination and hence only a part of me, I like to think I’m smarter. I also get to manipulate the world he lives in to make things harder or easier as seems appropriate. The other thing to remember is that believable and real are not necessarily the same things. There are all sorts of things that happen in fantastic fiction that are completely unreal but believable in the context of the imagined world. There’s a shorter answer and maybe I should have given this first: I really like playing make-believe.
8. What are you writing now?Two things actively, with a third hovering off to one side. My main project is MythOS which is the fourth book in the WebMage series and will be out in 2009. I’m also writing the first book in a new contemporary fantasy series. I was really inspired by a recent trip to Halifax and this book is the result of that trip. I’m trying to get the first three chapters down while the experience is still fresh. It’s kind of a reward. Once I’ve got my WebMage done for the day (never less than 1,000 words) it’s kind of fun to play with some other characters. I’ve also got the second book in YA fantasy set in World War II that I’ve been playing with. The first book went to my agent a few months ago, and I really love the idea, but I promised myself not to start until I’ve finished MythOS.
9. Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?
No. If you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I was between the age of 11-22 I’d have said an actor or a stunt man or maybe set designer. My degree is theater and I grew up on and around the stage. But then I met the woman who I would later marry and realized that between the hours and the travel, theater wasn’t entirely compatible with having a happy home life. At about that same time I got my first computer. One day I was kind of trying to figure out what I could do with my life if I gave up theater, and it occurred to me that it might be fun to writer a novel. So I did. I’m no working on 12th and 13th and I’ve never looked back.
10. What is the purpose of fantasy/science fiction, if any?Two things really. One is true of both F&SF and Fantasy, the other is true of SF alone. The first, to carry us out of ourselves. I think one of the greatest services fiction does is to allow you to be someone else someplace else for a while. It allows you to transcend the day-to-day and that’s really important for the human psyche. The second, to explicate and advocate reason and science. The methodology that
is science is one of humanity’s most powerful tools and SF is the fiction of science. It can both generate a sense of wonder in the reader about subjects scientific and put those same subjects into story which can help a reader make sense of the ideas.
10 Questions and Answers from Mindy Klasky:
1. What was your inspiration for writing SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL?
When I wrote GIRL’S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, my theme song should have been “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. That book was completely light and fluffy, a fun escape from a busy work week, family commitments, etc. When I had the opportunity to write another Jane Madison story, I wanted to dig a little deeper – to look at the decisions that we make with regard to friends and jobs, the tough calls that force us to decide what is important to us. (I wasn’t willing to give up on the fun, though 🙂 )
2. Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?
When I was growing up, I read a lot of classic fantasy – J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Anne McCaffrey. I devoured Patricia McKillip’s books, and I practically memorized every word of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series.
Now, I read much more broadly, alternating between genre fiction for fun (my favorites in the past year have been Scott Westerfeld’s UGLIES/PRETTIES/SPECIALS trilogy) and literary fiction for musing(most recently, Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN). I also read a lot of non-fiction, especially popular non-fiction on narrow topics, like COD and SALT.
3. Why did you decide to make Jane Madison a librarian?
I work as a librarian in my day-job, managing seven libraries for a fourteen-office nationwide law firm. In the course of that job, I’ve met hundreds of librarians who live fascinating lives. Yet, in the eyes of the public, librarians are still the people who say “shhhhh”. I wanted to write about Jane Madison to make people realize that there’s a lot more out there beyond the stereotype.
4. What (besides writing) do you do for fun?
I spend a lot of time watching baseball – I married into Red Sox fandom. To justify the time I spend in front of the television, I quilt – entirely hand-pieced and hand-quilted wall hangings, with a bias toward traditional patchwork patterns.
5. Jane and her best friend, Melissa, quote Shakespeare to each other frequently. Are you a fan of Shakespeare?For years, I’ve held season tickets to the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C. They do a phenomenal job with their productions — even when the plays are not my favorite (and they present a wide range of classical theater, not just Shakespeare), their sets, costumes, and lighting design are spectacular. I used to stage manage plays in college, and Jane’s love of Shakespeare brings that avocation back to me.
6. If you were Jane Madison, and you discovered that you were a witch, what would you do?
I probably wouldn’t handle the situation a whole lot more gracefully than Jane does. She reaches out to her best friend right away. I would probably try to keep my powers a secret for as long as possible, because I’d always sort of worry, in the very back of my mind, that I was absolutely, totally, completely insane.
7. What are you writing now?
I’m hard at work on the third novel in Jane’s series, MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL (which will be in bookstores in October 2008). After that, I have a new series for Red Dress Ink, about a stage manager who discovers a genie in a magic lantern.
8. What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?I have a very difficult time starting a new chapter – the blank screen intimidates me, and I find a hundred and one excuses to keep from writing. (I have forbidden myself from playing FreeCell, and I had to remove Tetris from my computer entirely.)
I love editing chapters that are already drafted – I truly enjoy reviewing the flow of the language. On my final pass of editing, I read everything out loud, so that I can make sure the sound is as close to perfect as I can make it.
9. This isn’t your first book, tell us a little bit about what else is out there?
I have six traditional fantasy novels – SEASON OF SACRIFICE (a stand-alone novel about twins who are kidnapped from their medieval fishing village and taken to an inland town, where they are expected to participate in a terrifying religious ceremony) and the Glasswrights Series (GLASSWRIGHTS’ APPRENTICE, GLASSWRIGHTS’ PROGRESS, GLASSWRIGHTS’ JOURNEYMAN, GLASSWRIGHTS’ TEST, and GLASSWRIGHTS’ MASTER.) The series tells the story of Rani Trader, an apprentice in the stained glass makers’ guild who witnesses a murder and is accused of being the killer. She’s forced to go under cover in her society’s strict castes to unmask the true assassin.
I also have one other paranormal romance, the first of Jane Madison’s stories, GIRL’S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT. It’s about a librarian who finds out that she’s a witch. But you probably knew that already 🙂
10. What is the purpose of fantasy/science fiction, if any?
Different genre publications have different purposes. Some are truly written to entertain, to take us away from the cares and worries of our daily lives. Others are written as cautionary tales, to warn us about the dangers of politics, of science, of society, of whatever. Still others are written as elegies, reminding us of great men and woman, of leaders who may have never lived. The best genre fiction combines many (or all) of these functions.
Part of the purpose of the Jane Madison books is to raise money for First Book – www.firstbook.org – a national charity with the mission of giving underprivileged children their first books to own. I donate 10% of my profits on both GIRL’S GUIDE and SORCERY to First Book.