Interview with author Tina Connolly. Part 3

Welcome back to the conclusion of our talk with with Tina Connolly, author of Silverblind, which is the third book in a series starting with Nebula finalist Ironskin and Copperhead.

Part 1 can be read here.

Part 2 can be read here.



Airship Ambassador: What do you do to keep a balance between writing and the rest of your life?

Tina Connolly: At the moment I have a 3yo and a baby, so there hasn’t been a lot of balance in the last few years! But kid #1 has just started preschool, and the baby is almost 1, so things are getting calmer. I was very glad that when I sold books #3 and #4 to Tor that #4 was one I had already written (Seriously Wicked, which is completely unrelated to the Ironskin universe.) That’s given me a bit of a breather this year while raising the baby!


AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

TC: I am so glad to be living in Portland – there are so many writers and artists living here! Even with the little ones, I get a fair amount of opportunities to get out and exercise my writer brain.


AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

TC: Heh. One very obvious way is that when I started out, I was only able to write 1500-3000 word stories, and that with very great effort. It took a LONG time to write a 4 or 5K story, and EVEN LONGER to figure out how to write whole novels. And now I love novels. My two favorite forms are novels and flash.


AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

TC: The last few years I’ve been on deadline, and had to get everything done during naps and after bedtime. So it’s been pretty easy to stay motivated. (Maybe one of these days I can catch up on my Netflix queue.) Pre-kids I often did a daily wordcount goal. I had two rules for this. One, set the wordcount goal small enough (given your other commitments) so you always feel like you can reach it. Pre-kids, mine was 500, but if I were to do it now, it would probably be 50. Even 50 words a day will get you down the track—and of course, once you get started, you usually end up doing more than your goal. Rule two is that you declare amnesty at the end of every day. Otherwise you get into a situation where it’s “oh, today I have to do double/triple/quadruple to make up” and then you despair and do nothing.


AA: How is Oregon for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

TC: You know, this is definitely different for everybody. The internet is a huge leveler in terms of ease of looking up anything you need to know—and then being able to interact with both writers and readers online, no matter where you live. But me, personally, I go stir-crazy if I can’t get out and actually TALK with writers from time to time. So for that reason (and more!) I love Portland.


AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Silverblind? What kind of reactions have you received?

TC: I work seasonally as a face painter, so sometimes when people contact me to face paint they will simultaneously discover the books. And when I show up to do a birthday party or festival they’ll let me know they’ve already read them or ordered them. So that’s been fun!


AA: If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?

TC: Well, the face painting thing is great fun and gets me out of the house in the summer and away from desk. And before I got into writing, my main focus was theatre and I was auditioning/performing 24/7. Probably if I were actually going to do a full-time day job again, I would go back to software, which pays the bills really well. But if I went back in time and forked onto a different creative career path, I think I would also enjoy working as a book editor or TV writer.


AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?

TC: Well, a month after I finally sold Ironskin + a then-unwritten sequel (Copperhead), I had my first baby. So the current day job has been full-time mom, and the writer job has been stuffed into all the other times that people usually do other things, like watch TV and shower. Luckily my husband works from home with his job, and he’s also incredibly supportive and a great father. There’s a quote from Ursula K. LeGuin about her family/work balance that says something to the effect of ‘1 person can’t do 2 jobs, but 2 people can do 3 jobs.’ Meaning 2 people, with 2 jobs, can split parenting equally between them and make it work.


AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?

TC: Basically I like theatre, art, and books. I was a reader—now I’m also a writer. I used to do a lot of acting—now I’m podcasting (and writing a play!) And even though I haven’t had time to go outside and sketch for ages, I fill that obsession with face painting.


AA: How do those interests influence your work?

TC: Oh! That’s a fun question. Well, I put a whole bunch of theatre people into Copperhead! I loved that. Helen meets up with a flamboyant theatre actress named Frye, and meets her whole set. Frye was just supposed to be a walk-on part, but then she took over. And then, Jack in Silverblind is an artist, so I enjoyed writing about her frustrations and doodling habits.


AA: There’s only so much time in a day – what interests don’t you have time for?

TC: HAHAHA oh what a long list. There’s a bunch, but some that are near the top, jostling to be let in when I finally have time, are learning Spanish, learning the fiddle, and getting back to the piano. Not to mention that I would actually like to be in a show again sometime, and of course it would be nice to go do some life drawing again.


AA: What other fandoms are you part of?

TC: I’m not sure if I qualify for any fandoms—I tend to get obsessed with certain authors more than a particular world/story. If there’s a Diana Wynne Jones fandom (actually there probably is) or Noel Streatfeild, sign me up.


AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

TC: I’d probably say my grandmother (to whom I dedicated Copperhead) for this question. She was pretty amazing—self-educated, witty, feminist, determined to learn and see everything.


AA: What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?

TC: The Clarion West workshop was invaluable to me for figuring out what I was doing and how to do more of it. Before that I was kind of floundering. I think there’s a stage where you’re doing some reasonably good things but you have no idea what you did or how to repeat them. CW gave me a start on figuring out what was going on. And for greatest challenge, I’d probably say the fact that I applied to CW the year before and didn’t get in—I was waitlisted that year. I was kind of at a crossroads where I was doing both theatre and writing and determining that I could only choose one to focus on. And I decided the rejection wasn’t going to stop me, and I was going to buckle down and go the following year. And I did. (And going a year later was FAR better for me, too, so it was completely win-win.)


AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite non-US TV show, cheese, and autumn outfit?

TC: Blackadder, I’m currently obssessed with Queso Cabra al Vino aka Drunken Goat Cheese, and boots.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

TC: Thanks for having me on the interview!


Thanks, Tina, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts. We look forward to hearing about your next projects!


Keep up to date with Tina Connolly’s latest news on her website.

You can support Tina Connolly and our community by getting your copies of Ironskin, Copperhead, and Silverblind.

Published in: on October 18, 2014 at 7:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Steampunk Author, Tina Connolly, Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of our talk with with Tina Connolly, author of Silverblind, which is the third book in a series starting with Nebula finalist Ironskin and Copperhead.

Part 1 can be read here.


Airship Ambassador: When people read Silverblind, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

Tina Connolly: Well, I like writing books about women who do things. And I like representing the positive change as people realize they’re capable of things—little things, great things, all kinds of things.


AA: What kind of research, and then balance, went into creating the Silverblind world?

TC: I finally got my hands on a book last year called Edible Wild Plants, by John Kallas. I say finally because even though this book hasn’t been out very long, this is exactly the book that everyone would come into the bookstore looking for when I used to work there. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, and Kallas is based in Portland, so it’s pretty local as well. It’s a fascinating book, and reading that helped inform Dorie’s foraging.


AA: What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the Silverblind history?

TC: So Tam has written a book that collects fey lore (fairy tales, basically), and the characters refer to that when researching. And he’s continually on the lookout for more information on certain topics, so he refers to paintings and books and historians in their world.


AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to Silverblind and the other books which you’ve heard about?

TC: I’ve been lucky to have a lot of positive reaction to Silverblind so far. It was written to be a standalone, and so you can jump right in even if you haven’t read the first two. Let’s see, I got some fan art for Ironskin—that was fun.


AA: How are new readers finding you – conventions, website, word of mouth, etc?

TC: I try to get to World Fantasy, Norwescon, and Orycon, as often as I can. I have an almost 4-year-old and an almost 1-year-old, so I haven’t been able to make it to everything the last few years, but I’m looking forward to getting out more again as the kids get older. I love getting to conventions to talk to readers. I’ve also been a workshop leader at places like Norwescon and the Cascade Writers Workshop, and those have been lovely for paying it forward and being connected with the writing community.


AA: What kind of attention has this series generated?

TC: I was really thrilled to have Ironskin be a Nebula finalist! Rachel Swirsky called me with the news and I basically ran around the living room whooping.


AA: Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What was your publishing experience like?

TC: I didn’t start writing until after college. I worked on it in between doing theatre and the day job, but I didn’t start making real progress till I went to Clarion West. After that I started publishing more short stories, but then it took me another long time to figure out how to write novels.


AA: How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Silverblind? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you? How did it differ from the first two books?

TC: Oh, goodness. I sold Silverblind the same week I found out we were having baby #2. So there was a pretty hard stop deadline coming up. Thankfully after writing the first two, I had confidence that I could do it in about exactly that timeframe, and I did. My typical schedule is: 6 months to the first (very messy) draft, take a month off while my beloved beta readers read it, then another month to clean it up thoroughly and send draft 2 to my editor. Later when she comes back with edits, I spend another 3 weeks getting draft 3, which I send to my dad (he’s a good plothole finder), and then a final week doing final touch-ups for a draft 4.


AA: For the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?

TC: I’m fond of getting good constructive feedback on things. Both my agent and editor are great in this department. My agent has helped me both times that we’ve shopped an entirely new project, by giving me broad notes like “make the ending clearer,” and so on. And I’ve been pretty well in step with my editor’s vision on all 4 books, so I’ve never had that problem where my editor (or agent) envisions a completely different book than the one I’m writing. (Of course, as I always tell people, I come from theatre, where the director stops you right in the middle of the creative process, and tells you what you did wrong in front of everyone, so writing critique has never been scary for me.)


AA: Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that been like, and the fan reaction?

TC: Yes! I got to go on a mini book tour for Ironskin (Baby #2 was born the same week Copperhead came out last year, so I didn’t even get to go to my own bookstore! But I’ll be there this year.) For Ironskin I was in Portland, Seattle, LA, and a couple places in my home state of Kansas. I also went to the local booksellers conference, PNBA. PNBA was particularly thrilling because I used to work in a local bookstore, and had been once before as a bookseller. So now I was there on the other side of things—and I got to see some of my old friends, too. AND I signed tons of books. So it was quite exciting.


We’ll pause here in our chat with Tina Connolly,

Keep up to date with Tina Connolly’s latest news on her website.

You can support Tina and our community by getting your copies of Silverblind, Ironskin and Copperhead.


Published in: on October 16, 2014 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Steampunk Author, Tina Connolly

This week we are talking with Tina Connolly, author of Silverblind, which is the third book in a series starting with Nebula finalist Ironskin and Copperhead.


Airship Ambassador: Hi Tina, thanks for joining us for this interview.

TINA CONNOLLY: Thanks for having me!


AA: Let’s start off with your latest book. It’s now 18 years after Copperhead, what is the story of Silverblind all about?

TC: Silverblind tells the story of a grown-up Dorie, the young girl from the Ironskin books. Dorie is an Indiana Jones-type, a field naturalist. All she wants to do is go find wyverns and basilisks in the forests and learn more about them. But when no one will hire a girl to do dangerous field work, she disguises herself as a boy . . . .


AA: Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel? And why the fey?

TC: The steampunk feel grew out of the setting for the first book, Ironskin. Ironskin is set five years after a Great War between the humans and the fey. I ended up doing a bunch of research on post-WW1 Great Britain, to help give the world of Ironskin a more solid foundation. Well, the fey had been supplying humans with clean energy—but trade is now completely finished. So tech was in advance of where we were in our timeline—but then it plummeted and was well behind. Humans are trying to regain all they’ve lost. So it was fun in Ironskin and Copperhead to try to find the technological balance as humans experiment with steam and gas and electricity. The tech has evened out a bit by Silverblind, and the research there is more of the biological/zoological kind.


AA: What was the motivation for creating Silverblind?

TC: When I was writing Ironskin, I thought in the back of my mind that someday I would like to tell grown-up Dorie’s story. However, when my editor at Tor bought Ironskin, she asked me if I had a sequel (because Ironskin ends, not with a cliffhanger exactly, but with it clear that Jane has a new mission.) So that sequel had to be the immediate sequel—Copperhead is set six months later, and follows Jane’s sister Helen as she helps bring about Jane’s goals. But I still wanted to tell Dorie’s story, and I’m glad I finally got to do that in Silverblind.


AA: What can you share with us about Dorie Rochart and Tam Grimsby, as the lead characters in this story?

TC: Right at the very beginning of Ironskin we learn that Dorie is actually half-fey. This has been a challenge for her, obviously, because postwar attitudes toward the fey are highly negative, like they’d probably lock Dorie up for good, just to be safe. Dorie has to keep her fey side under wraps. But being half-fey means she has some unusual powers. So when she disguises herself as a boy, she’s actually shapeshifting into boy form. This is great for getting to hunt wyvern eggs. Less great when she runs into her old friend Tam, whom she hasn’t seen in seven years, not since she did something unforgivable. And now here she is, and he doesn’t recognize her. . . .


AA: Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling the story? Ships, devices, etc?

TC: Well, wyvern eggs turn out to be important—and the wyverns themselves. Dorie ends up with a pet baby wyvern—Woglet—who won’t leave her alone. Wyverns are cranky and steamy and yodelly—and also darling balls of silver—so Woglet was great fun to write.


AA: What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of Silverblind??

TC: I particularly loved writing about some of the art history and scientific history that Tam discusses in the books. I mean, he gets worked up and excited over figuring out how many claws basilisks are supposed to have, and I really enjoyed that right along with him.


AA: Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way?

TC: Pocket-sized wyverns. College taverns with large murals. Boys hunting down rumors of old fey tales. Girls finding all kinds of different ways to fight the system.


AA: Authors often talk about how elements of their own lives, the reality and the dreams, make their way into their stories. How did this play into Silverblind?

TC: Let’s see—Dorie’s friend Jack is an artist, and I studied art for awhile (and am an inveterate doodler, like Jack), so it was fun to work that in.


AA: What kind of back story is there for Silverblind which didn’t make it into the final book?

TC: Well, because it’s set 18 years after the first two books, I did a lot thinking about what happened to the characters in between. (But some of that is revealed during the course of Silverblind, so I’d rather stay away from spoilers!)


AA: Are there any plans for a fourth book or spinoff?

TC: Currently, there are not. However, a lot of people have asked for a prequel (RT Book Reviews even called that out in their review!) so if I ever come up with a brilliant idea for a novel or novella set around that time I might write that. When I was writing Copperhead, I thought it would be fun to write a spin-off about Frye, a flamboyant theatre actress in that book. And in Silverblind, Helen has twin daughters, and I imagine that jumping forward another ten years and writing their story would be interesting.



We’ll pause here in our chat with Tina Connolly,

Keep up to date with Tina Connolly’s latest news on her website.

You can support Tina and our community by getting your copies of Silverblind, Ironskin and Copperhead.

Published in: on October 12, 2014 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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