Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.
Airship Ambassador: As a reader, what has made you stop reading something before finishing it? How do you try to avoid that issue in your own writing?
Nisi Shawl: I don’t stop reading very often; I’m quite a dogged reader. But recently I stopped reading a novel because of a three-page (three-page!!) description of a ballroom. It’s really easy to get way too far into a setting you’re trying to convey to a reader. I avoid inflicting the results on my readers by balancing descriptions of static surroundings and descriptions of actions, and to write them from may differing viewpoints.
AA: What do you consider your first real writing experience?
NS: I’m not sure how to define “real.” I wrote poems in second grade. In ninth grade I wrote a dystopian story in which the protagonists visit old bridges and overpasses because they revered engineering feats their culture was incapable of. My first sale was to an anthology called Semiotext(e) SF, in a TOC with William S. Burroughs and Bruce Sterling. My first pro sale was to Asimov’s SF Magazine in 1995. Those were all first experiences, and all real in important ways. There are always new firsts, and I’m looking forward to many more.
AA: We are always growing and learning new things over time. How have you and your work changed?
NS: I’ve gotten to know how to do things I want to, in technical terms, in process terms, in terms of the effects I can achieve.
AA: In your experience as a writer, what have been the hardest and most useful skills to learn?
NS: I learned how to type in an Adult Education class at Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Pioneer High School. That has certainly proved useful. Hardest? I’d have to reserve that category for the things I don’t believe I’ve actually learned yet, like outlining and plotting.
AA: What story would you like to write but haven’t, yet?
NS: There are so many. I wrote three unpublished novels prior to Everfair, and they all have sequels. I’d like to write those.
AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?
NS: I have no trouble staying motivated to write. It’s a rewarding act. Writing in and of itself affords me deep pleasure.
AA: It’s always such a great thing when our ‘work’ is more like play. We are more motivated and excited to do it, and at least for me, more of a sense of accomplishment. How is Seattle, Washington for writing?
NS: Seattle is a fantastic location for writing! Here I have friends, I’m surrounded by beauteous nature, and wireless internet connections are ubiquitous. There are several colleges and universities with concomitant libraries and knowledgeable staff, faculty, and students. Plenty of other writers have discovered this, and there’s quite a community of us here and in the environs. Clarion West was founded here and has held over 35 consecutive workshops in Seattle, making this a wonderful place for science fiction and fantasy writers in particular because of the visiting faculty and students from around the world.
AA: In your experience, does it seem like readers prefer a print or electronic format? Do you have a preference?
NS: I have no idea which is preferred overall. Sometimes I need electronic books myself because I have to read a book immediately to meet a reviewing deadline. Or because of the costs of mailing a printed book internationally. I do love the physical feel of books, though, and will almost always try to get an additional print copy of anything I get electronically.
AA: Have you been affected by electronic piracy of your work? Aside from the loss of a sale, how does this affect you/make you feel?
NS: I have seen pirated copies of my work. As I’m one of a few writers with no day job, the possibility of lost revenue is a source of real distress to me. I do wonder if those who avail themselves of these pirated copies would have bothered to buy the book anyhow, though. Perhaps those “lost” sales are nonexistent. Apart from that consideration, my overwhelming takeaway is loss of control. I don’t control Tor or Aqueduct or Apex or any of the businesses publishing my work, but I do at least know what they’re doing with it–and when, and how. I have some say over the text distributed and the book’s graphic appearance with publishers who extend me the courtesy of a contract.
AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Everfair? What kind of reactions have you received?
NS: My family loves it! And old friends and coworkers rave! I’ve also heard there was a quite favorable review in The Romantic Times, and a couple of other non-genre publications have been interested in Everfair. It’s early days, though, to talk about widespread reactions. As I respond to your questions now, the book has only been out for 18 days. Ask me again in a year?
Thanks, Nisi, for joining us! This has been such a wonderful chance to catch up with you. We look forward to hearing about your next projects!
You can support Nisi and our community by getting your copy of Everfair here.