Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Airship Ambassador: How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Everfair? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?
Nisi Shawl: I turned in a manuscript after about five years, then waited another year before I got suggested edits. I had to turn those around in a couple months. There was only one more round after that. I tell people six years—it’s a nice, round number, and close enough to the truth for most purposes.
After turning in my first draft, I was consumed with anxiety till Nancy Kress advised me to simply carry on with my career as if the manuscript didn’t exist. That meant I had commitments and projects in hand when Tor wanted me to focus exclusively on Everfair; sometimes my schedule was verrry tight because of that. But it did cut down on my frettage.
AA: Seems like feast or famine What was your publishing experience like?
NS: Lumpy! Everfair began life as the acquisition of one Tor editor, Jim Frenkel, and ended up in the care of another, Liz Gorinsky. And when I got the contract I sent it to Joe Monti, who became my agent. But after negotiation and signing I had to say goodbye to Joe, because he took a position as editor of a new SF line, Saga Press. I wound up with his boss, Barry Goldblatt, as my agent. It’s all great now, but getting here was by no means a smooth ride.
AA: That’s a lot of changes along the way. If someone likes “X”, then they’ll like Everfair. What is “X”?
AA: If Everfair were made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?
NS: No idea! I would hope that Chinese people would be cast as Chinese characters, etc. But I don’t have any more specific visualizations.
AA: Sounds like readers could chime in here and make some suggestions! If Everfair had a soundtrack, what would it be like?
NS: Well, maybe the soundtrack I wrote it to? I had a few Putumayo disks I used, chiefly Music from the Chocolate Lands and Acoustic Africa. I set up a Pandora station, too. Papa Noel, Kekele, and other Congolese musicians were in heavy rotation. I also played a capella French choral music by , and Toure.
AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to Everfair which you’ve heard about?
NS: So far no one has gotten a tattoo of the cover art or anything startling like that. It’s early days, though.
AA: What kind of attention has Everfair generated?
NS: This book has generated way more attention than I anticipated. Honestly! National reviews, academics writing chapters on it—30 people in the audience at my second reading, and 60 at the first!
AA: It has been very exciting to see review after review, and all of the touring you’ve done. How are new readers finding you?
NS: I’m not sure—social media? Reviews? Word of mouth? Everfair is included in a box of books put together by Fresh Fiction, so hopefully that will get me a few more strangers.
AA: Over time, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?
NS: My lessons on having an editor were learned via short stories and journalism, and my experiences around Everfair only served to validate them. My friend Eileen Gunn helped me understand when and how and why to push back against bad advice, and Mary Ann Gwinn, Books Page editor at the Seattle Times made me see how very important it is to have an astute editor’s eye on your work.
AA: Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that been like, and the fan reaction?
NS: This is my first book tour! I am so excited–I thought publisher-sponsored tours were so 20th century, but here I go! I’ve attended conventions for years, and I plan to keep on doing that. My first was a Midwest con in the 1980s where C.J. Cherryh was GOH, and she’s so fabulous and sweet and kind and smart that she set my bar for future experiences very high.
“Fan reaction.” Hunh. I guess that’s what’s going on, isn’t it? So far there’s been applause, and participation in the singalongs I more or less force on my audiences. I’m so gratified that anyone attends these events–I know there are a lot of other things going on, competing for people’s energy and time.
AA: That sounds like quite a testament to you and your work. What do you do to keep a balance between writing and the rest of your life?
NS: I have a cat. I exercise–in the pool, or some other convenient body of water. I take walks. I’ve combined the cat and the walking thing. But not the cat and the pool.
AA: LOL, I can just imagine a steampunk deep sea diving outfit for your cat. Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?
NS: That is so much fun! I belong to a long-running critique group called S.T.E.W., and I’m friends with lots of other writers outside that group. My mother adopted Eileen Gunn, and we hang out and do sisterly things like talk about research and representing nonstandard speech patterns and getting paid on time. Because of Clarion West I’ve actually become fairly well acquainted with a number of other writers. They’re like 90% of my tribe.
AA: That’s wonderful to not only have a writing support group, but also new friends and expanding family. Some people might say that writers need to be readers, too. What do you think about that and what would you say your ratio of reading to writing is/was?
NS: I think it’s very true. I read as much as I can. The ratio is maybe 50/50, but it fluctuates depending on deadlines, illness, and so on.
We’ll end the third part in our chat with Nisi here. Join us next time when Nisi talks about the connection between reading and writing, and other projects.
You can support Nisi and our community by getting your copy of Everfair here.