Tuesday was a big release day in the paranormal/SF universe. My friend and colleague Tim Pratt (writing as T. A. Pratt) also has a new book out that I think y'all might like:
What was your inspiration for writing Blood Engines?
There were multiple inspirations. I’ve been writing stories about the main character, sorcerer Marla Mason, for years, and finally decided it would be tremendous fun to write a whole novel about her. The novel is also something of a love song to San Francisco, and I had a lot of fun exploring that city and its history. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by Aztec mythology, so it was enjoyable to write a novel where the villain is a devotee of those bloody old gods. I managed to work in various other fascinations and obsessions, too: poison dart frogs, hummingbirds, Emperor Joshua Norton, snake gods, sex parties, oracles, and other nice things.
Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?
Stephen King is probably the biggest influence — I started reading his novels when I was eight years old! Charles de Lint and Jonathan Carroll are also huge influences. These days I like George R.R. Martin and Scott Lynch a lot.
What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?
While I enjoy reading some mimetic fiction, I get bored in my own writing if there are no gods, monsters, or miracles. I especially like contemporary fantasy, because I like the tension created by the juxtaposition of the familiar with the magical.
Why did you decide to make Marla the chief sorcerer of her own city?
In the early stories I wrote about her, Marla was dangerous because she had power without focus. In order to make her more vulnerable and sympathetic, I wanted to give her something to lose. Thus, I made her responsible for the well-being of her own city. The responsibility puts tremendous stress on her, but it also gives her a profound sense of purpose.
What (besides writing) do you do for fun?
I like to cook, read, play video games, spend time with my family and friends, take walks to the lake or the farmer’s market, and see movies. The usual things.
What sort of research did you do to write this book?/What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?
For this book I read a lot about Aztec mythology (The Codex Chimalpopoca is no beach read, either, I’m telling you), and wound up reading a fair bit about San Francisco’s history, too (I would especially recommend Tom Cole’s A Short History of San Francisco — it’s smart, accessible, and, well, short.) The only preparation I do for writing is making sure I’m sufficiently caffeinated.
Marla loves kicking ass. Is that your favorite thing too?
I haven’t been in a fight since junior high. I’d rather have a war of words than fists anyway.
What are you writing now?
I’m working on the fourth book in the Marla Mason series, Grift Sense — having already written book 2, Poison Sleep, and book 3, Dead Reign. The books are being released six months apart, so getting all the books written in time is sort of a marathon that’s also a sprint, and sprinting a marathon? That’s hard on the system. But I’m still having tons of fun.
Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?
I always knew I wanted to be a writer, for as long as I can remember. (I wanted to be other things, too — an actor, a rock star, an artist, a chef.) But writing was always there, and I’ve been doing it steadily since at least third grade. (I think learning to write in cursive was a turning point for me!) As for how I got where I am now… sheer persistence. I write, I send stuff out, I write some more. Writing, at this point, is as necessary and familiar as eating and sleeping.
What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?
I have no typical day. I have one day a week off from my day job — Wednesdays — and tend to do most of my writing then. In the morning I spend a couple of hours doing freelance non-fiction work. Then I have lunch, take a walk, think about my story, and come home and write fiction for a few hours. Though if I’m up against a deadline, I just write pretty much every chance I get — before work, after work, on lunch breaks, late at night.
Where do you write?
Mostly at my desk in my office, which is in fact a tiny little nook just off the kitchen. If I’m feeling stir-crazy I’ll walk down to a cafe and write longhand there.
What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?
I like writing first drafts, because that’s where the fun and excitement is, though in truth I’ve started to really enjoy revision in recent years — it’s not the white heat of creation, but it’s a fun and challenging exercise in craft. As for what’s hardest… all the business stuff. Copyedits. Proofreading a book I’ve already read ten times and am thoroughly sick of looking at.
What is the purpose of fantasy/science fiction, if any?
I’m not sure SF/Fantasy has a particular purpose that’s different from the purpose(s) of all literature, which are variously to edify, to entertain, and to illuminate the human condition. Though if pressed I might just quote G.K. Chesterton: “Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be defeated.”