Interview with Margaret Wander Bonanno

Q: When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

A: When I was 10, I wrote a story about a horse.  Not a very good story (Iwas a city kid and knew nothing about horses), but the afternoon I spentscratching those words in an old school notebook opened the door intoSomewhere Else.  The ability to go to a place where I couldn’t bebullied, where there was a reality better than the one I lived in, areality I could in some measure shape and control and share with others,was something I’ve carried with me ever since.

Q: How did you originally come up with the idea for the Preternatural series?

A: I’d been banned from writing in the Star Trek universe a few yearsearlier (still am, by the way), but many of the aliens in my novels areexponentiations of Trek aliens.  The Others in my *Others* trilogy werereally Vulcans without the constraints of the Paramount Thought Policeoverseeing every word.  The aliens in *Preternatural* were a what-ifexpansion of Kolos, the alien-in-the-box in the Classic Trek episode “IsThere in Truth No Beauty?”  The idea of two human characters who somewhat(though not enough to get me sued) resembled a couple of “real” actorswho once upon a time played a starship captain and his half-alien firstofficer started out as an in-joke for Trek fans (years before*GalaxyQuest*, incidentally), but turned into something Much Bigger.

By the time I got to *Preter Too* (and the third book, which I’m workingon now), I’d abandoned the Trek actors and gotten tangled up in Celticmythology, Nazi Germany, and alternate timelines which, since I don’tunderstand physics, has been something of a challenge.

Q: Can you reveal any info about the next and third book in the Preternatural series?

A: Without giving away too much of *Preter Too* for those who haven’t readit, I can tell you that my protagonist, Karen, disappears from the “realworld” of blockheaded editors, Day Jobs, and unpaid bills and chooses totravel a, for want of a better expression, Not-timeline in the company ofGovannon, the time traveler/shape-shifter she met in *Preter Too*.  We’llexplore the world Govannon came from, and dabble in terrorism on Earth.

One of the subplots is actually the idea for a thriller I tried pitchinga few years ago.  The aforementioned blockheaded editor, along with someof his peers, announced that a thriller was “too ambitious” for Little Meto (I mean, who do I think I am, Michael Crichton?).  However, what hethought was too ambitious for one novel was something he okayed as asubplot in another.  Go figure.

Q: In your latest novel “Preternatural Too: Gyre” we are taken to several historic places, medieval England, 1945 Berlin and so on… How much research do you put into your novels?

A: I’m a very lazy researcher.  The research seems to find me.  I alsoprefer to slog to the library and read things out of real books.  Thebooks would literally jump off the shelf, waving their arms and shouting:”Take me home!”  The whole Celtic story line in *Preter Too* was inspiredby a back issue of National Geographic (more about that in a minute) thatI bought for 10 cents at a yard sale.  And I don’t even go to yard sales.

Also, I’ve probably memorized every line of *The Lion in Winter*, so thePlantagenet stuff was easy.

Q: What are your plans for the future, are you going to continue on the “Preternatural” series or do you have other plans as well?

A: Management at TOR Books is soooo not interested in these books that, ifthere’s more story to tell when I get to the end of Book 3 (and I won’tknow that until I get there), I will have to try an online publisher orself-publish.

Q: Why this fascination for Bonsai trees and National Geographic?

A: The National Geographic obsession happened by accident.  About 15 yearsago, the librarian at my kids’ school was about to dump a pile of20-year-old back issues to make room for new books.  I lugged them homeand started looking for ways to fill in the gaps between them and mycurrent subscription.  Since then, my eye is automatically drawn towardthose bright yellow covers at garage sales, library sales, even recycledpaper dumps.  Once a neighbor gave me about 50 volumes a tenant had leftbehind.  Friends have bought me really old ones (my eldest is a 1917,with an article on “The New Russia,” and another written by HerbertHoover).  Now, of course, the whole thing is available on CD.  (If mykids are reading this, and they’re looking for ideas for Christmasgifts…)

As for the *bonsai*, I love growing things.  Dirt under my fingernailsmost of the time.  *Bonsai* are small enough to take with, regardless ofwhere circumstance leads you; when I moved cross-country recently Ishipped the trees I’d been growing on a windowsill in Brooklyn, NY to theWest Coast, where they’re getting used to direct sunlight for the firsttime in their small lives.  If I nurture them properly, they’ll outliveme.  They’re the only pets I’ve ever had that don’t upchuck on thecarpet.

Q: When you’re not writing, what do you like to do to relax?

A: Gardening, as I mentioned.  Biking, though it’s basic transportation, nottraining for a triathlon.  Reading (usually not s/f, surprisingly),listening to music.  Crossword puzzles, the proverbial Jim Kirk “beach towalk on.”  A good conversation with a close friend.

Q: What has the Internet meant for you as an author?

A: It’s the only marketing midlist writers get, the only place where mybooks are showcased (as on your site) so that readers know they exist,the only place where my books can be bought, through Amazon, Borders.com,etc. (just try finding them in a bookstore).  Thanks to the Authors’Guild and iUniverse, *The Others*, which languished on a shelf at St.Martin’s Press for nearly a decade, is finally available in softcover.

The internet is changing the face of the American publishing industry. And not a moment too soon…

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