Q: You have just released the third book in the Dance of the Rings series, can you tell us a bit about it?
A: It’s probably more accurate to say RING OF DESTINY is the final book in the first Dance of the Rings story arc, which is a roundabout way of saying,there are more books about the Rhomandi brothers (and their offspring and ancestors) to come. DESTINY completes the majority of the threads introduced in RING OF LIGHTNING and RING OF INTRIGUE, but leaves a handful of small issues and one major one to bridge into the next book RINGS OF CHANGE. CHANGE itself is to be a bridge into another (probably) multi-bookstory arc about the next generation (if all goes as currently very hazily planned.)
Still, while the Dance of the Rings series is one I hope to keep adding to—it’s grown into a very rich and interesting world with a lot of history and future I want to explore—and while the Rhomandi family will continue to be a driving force in any subsequent novels in the series—these four books will complete the primary story of the Rhomandi brothers, Deymorin,Mikhyel, and Nikki, as well as settle the balance of power between the leythium-directing towers and the “static encapsulator” that is destined to tip the world over into the electronic age.
As to what it’s about . . . hmmm, if I could answer that in a sentence or two, I wouldn’t have had to write the better part of 600,000 words, but in the interest of at least tweaking some interest . . . here goes:
I like to think of Dance of the Rings as steam-age fantasy with an electronic twist. There is no ultimate good or ultimate evil, only a very powerful force subject to the character of the men and women calling on it.And if I had to choose one … theme, character, and the forces that shapeit, are what the books are primarily about.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to think there’s something for just about everyone who likes a chewy adult book: lots of action, politics, mayhem and romance—usual and unusual—but ultimately, it’s a story about relationships and perceptions, power and family.
Q: How did you first come up with the idea for the Dance of the Rings trilogy?
A: Desperation. Thanks to “too much research syndrome,” I had stalled out on a planned Roman/Celtic historical fantasy (that will still be written one of these days), and I needed to come up with an idea fast for my contract negotiations with DAW. I was sitting in my front room staring at nothing in particular … or so I thought. In reality, I’d become mesmerized by a little “perpetual motion” sculpture. It’s one of these things you find in a novelty shop: a bunch of concentric silver rings suspended around a central sphere. You put a battery in, start the rings spinning and they just keep going as they wind up the central string, unwind and wind the other way, the whole thing kept”suspended” and virtually frictionless by the magnetic field created by that battery.
I got the image of a larger-than-man-sized version of those rings in a tower and started asking questions. What did they do? Why were they in a tower?Who controlled them…
Before I knew it, I had the beginning of the world.
For characters…I knew, after the GROUNDTIES books, which center around a very disturbed and disturbing young man, that I wanted a hero rather like a Georgette Heyer Regency Corinthian. In short, I wanted an adult with his act together.
I also wanted to write a book about sibling relationships. I come from alarge family and I hoped to capture some of both the wonder and the frustration of being siblings in this set of characters.
I feel I should mention here that there is absolutely no direct correlation between the Rhomandi household and the one I grew up in, other than the most basic dynamics of sibling hood. I pattern my characters on no one. They take their own shape as I write, developing right along with the world and the story and their interactions with the other characters.
Also, please note, I say “some of the wonder and frustration.” The Rhomandi situation is no more “typical” than any good protagonist’s story, but I was delighted to discover, from the response of readers, that there is much that rings “true” for a lot of readers.
Anyway, within (quite literally) a handful of minutes, I had the beginnings of the story.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: At the moment, I’m working on a prequel to my SF series, GROUNDTIES, UPLINK,and HARMONIES OF THE ‘NET. I recently got the rights to the series returned from Warner and hope to sell the KNIGHTS OF THE WESTIBULE along with new editions of the rest of the series, and at least one more book that takes place after HARMONIES OF THE ‘NET. Mine were three of the many titles that got lost in the shuffle during the great upheaval at Warner in the early 90’s. It got disastrous distribution but has somehow managed over the years to find a very loyal following. It was my first series, and is the keystone for my entire SF “future history” as the Ring books are the core of my fantasy universe, and I hope to see the series find as perfect a publishing home as the Ring books have found at DAW.
Beyond that, I’ve got RING OF CHANGE to write, as well as the THREE-FOLDWAY. And then, frankly, I’d like to write some good old fashioned one-shot space opera. If the GROUNDTIES resurrection succeeds, it will provide a great diving board for those. I just had to write a story with the scope of GROUNDTIES first.
Q: When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
A: October 24, 1988. Seriously. When I was growing up, my older sister wrote,therefore I drew. (That sibling territorial thing.) Educationally-speaking,my sister went into biology, my brothers into marketing, geology and flying…that left me (not at all against my will) with math, physics and anthropology—interests which oddly enough set me up quite properly for a writing career, when I finally got around to trying it. (After my sister had deserted the playing field by going into teaching.)
Segueing less than smoothly to the mid-1980’s: I was working on a graphic novel adaptation of C.J. Cherryh’s GATE OF IVREL, penciling, lettering, coloring…and scripting. It was in the course of that scripting that C.J. claims she saw the seeds of a writer. I’d talked writing for years, in my teens with my writing sister, and later with friends many of whom were or became professionals. These same writers would frequently bring me their manuscripts for feedback.Without knowing it, I was being subtly twisted to the verbal side of the muse.
When Donning, the company who was publishing the graphic, folded their graphic line, C.J.suggested I try writing my own work. It was very close to my birthday and soI decided to give my book the same birthday. I asked her “How do you make story happen?” and she said “Write a one page outline and find a couple of characters and throw them together and see what happens.” I did that October 24, 1988, and on October 25, 1988, I went to her and asked, “How do I stop story happening?”
A little over a year later, I had a three book contract based on the rough draft of GROUND TIES.That’s true terror.
I’m a good artist, I’d never be a great one. I love to sketch. I love to solve the design problems of line and color, but I find the time required to refine a painting tedious. I found the daily pressure to develop and improve was taking the enjoyment out of the process.
On the other hand, I find the editorial process in writing to be endlessly exhilarating, and welcome the excuse to spend hours every day refining that particular talent.
This is not to say I’ve absolutely given up on developing my art—I still play with it when I have time, now that I’m free to do so at my own pace.I’m even beginning to enjoy it again.
Q: So many writers with unpublished manuscripts despair of ever getting that first book sale.What’s your advice?
A: This is a tough one for me to answer, in part because of the previous answer. On the surface, the hardest part of making a sale today is getting someone to look at the manuscript. With the advent of computers and the groundswell of writers’ groups, suddenly everyone seems to think he/she is a writer, and publishers, who already had slush piles stacked to the ceiling suddenly had rooms filled with them. I can’t blame them at all for using agents to provide the first cut.
Obviously, my association with C.J. was my “in” with my first agent. Those who know a published writer—well—have a similar opportunity. Those who don’t, either take the time to get to know one, or find another route. The plethora of how-to books and workshops by authors who have that experience in other methods can answer this question far better than I.
That initial viewing problem aside, I would say, look to the manuscript.Make certain that when that story gets in front of someone with the power to help you, you aren’t even tempted to explain to them what makes it different because you know in your head and in your gut it stands on its own merit. This remains, to me, the most difficult aspect of writing. The more self-critical you are, the harder it is, because you know it could be better. To that, I offer the following personal insights:
1) Know yourself. Strengths and weaknesses. If you write true to yourself,you’ll be finding out more. You need to know when you’re giving and when you’re holding back.
2) (corollary to #1) Write something compelling and different. There’s too much on the stands today that’s same old same old. There’s only one way to do that: Give the editors something that’s uniquely you.
How? No matter what you do, your work is indelibly colored by what you are, and what you are is heavily determined by what you’ve done in your life, far more than what you’ve experienced vicariously through books. Give yourself options. Live. Try things. Don’t just read about it. Even if you’re thirty and haven’t sold a book, it could be because what seem like revelations to you are still merely the common insights of youth and the editor/agent has read that flavor a thousand times. Sometimes you need distance to truly understand the ramifications of decisions and events.
I was, by the way, 36 when I started writing. Not necessary, but for those who live in the fear they have to be settled in a career by 35, there is hope.
I think of a story as a unique combination of answers to a handful of questions endlessly applied to a shifting mosaic of plot, character and environment: First: Why?, then:How?, then: Who(knew?) and: When (did he/she know?) The more options you personally have to answer those questions, the more options the characters you create will have.
Any single character is a natural subset of you… as characters can’t thinkof anything you don’t think of first, and their subset is further limited bytheir established personality/background/character and the need to beuniquely different from every other character you create. The more optionsyou create in yourself in a lifetime of solving real world problems the morechance you have of writing something different, because the sum total ofthose answers has that much greater chance statistically of being unique.
3) Learn your craft.
Spelling and grammar do count. Learn your grammar so well you’re ready to go toe to toe with the copy-editor over a single comma change let alone a word change. Study how story works,know why yours does and where its strengths lie. Confidence in your craftsmanship combined with confidence in the significance and value of the story you’re telling will show, I believe, both in the work and in your dealings with an editor.
4) Research matters, but don’t let it rule your writing.
5) Understand your motives.
I would advise: don’t write to be published. Write because if you don’t write, your head will burst from the contained ideas. Write to tell that story the best you can. Honor your characters. Strive to do their story justice, because someday “they”may be reading it. If you do your job well, if your characters are real,they’ll resonate with your readers. Hopefully, the editor you’ve sent the manuscript to will be one of those or will at least recognize the manuscript’s potential to resonate.
If you can honestly say you’ve done all the above, you’ve probably just not yet found the right editor.
Q: When you’re not writing, what do you like to do to relax?
A: Anything that won’t kill me. I like new experiences. I had horses for 35 years, but finally had to let them go. There simply wasn’t time. I play piano and guitar, and I enjoy singing. I’ve even composed a melody or two. I paint, draw, sculpt, stitch, sew, put together and refinish furniture, garden, play with my computer (I just assembled one from”scratch” for the first time.That was fun), I love to dance, have studied ballet, middle eastern, jazz,and anything else that came my way at one point, though my feet really objected to Highland dancing. I try to walk several miles a day, and for stress relief, that�s probably the best. I like to travel and meet people. When I sit down to relax, I enjoy watching sports of all kinds—I love it when the Olympics roll around! I still want to try ice skating and rock climbing, but I draw the line at sky-diving and bungee-jumping!
Q: What has the Internet meant for you as an author?
A: When I put up my webpage (www.sff.net/people/jsfancher) three years ago, I’d only gotten a handful of letters from readers. I was quite depressed over the fate of the GROUND TIES books, and just about ready to pack it in. I had no evidence that what I wanted to write was reaching anyone, and no interest in writing “down” in order to gain a larger audience. A month after putting up the page, I was so inundated with enthusiastic feedback that it literally ate up all my spare time, and the poor page languished. I found reason to continue writing, if not keep the webpage up (I finally updated it this New Years’ Eve.)
Also, the online stores like Amazon.com and BN.com could save the industry because they could save the mid list, which is where hard to categorize books like mine tend to fall. We fall into the advertising cracks, don’t get a lot of shelf space in the stores, and when the copies are sold, they’re rarely replaced. The online stores, and the used book finders, help give an author who truly does require word of mouth to build an audience the time and exposure necessary to build that audience.
What does the internet mean to me as an author? Survival.