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By Rob Bedford (2006-01-13)
RB: What form do you prefer, short story or novel?
TB: I prefer the novel. I'm sure its heresy to some, but the novel is a very mystical thing for me. My mother sat my down when I was four or five, and told me reading was 'like creating a movie inside of your head, but even better.' When I read I immerse myself into a world and carry it with me, and I read most books in one sitting, a handful of hours or less, so the experience of a novel is richer than the all-to-quick experience of a short story. I also never really encountered short stories until I first moved to the US. Until then I read SF in novel form, so that remains my preference.
RB: You’ve recently started up, http://www.SFNovelists.com, a community Web site for first-time novelists. Can you tell us a bit about the whos and the whys behind it?
TB: SFNovelists.com is a community website for readers and novelists. The public side is a group weblog. It's really just an aggregated republishing of all our members weblogs, but it's still cool. We have some very slick authors like Tim Pratt, Cherie Priest, Nalo Hopkinson, Jeff VanderMeer, and Charles Coleman Finlay, to name a few. About 20 of us have their blogs on the SFNovelists.com page, you can visit it and see their names there. There is a forum for readers, and my hope is that we'll spend time talking to readers there. The idea of the site is to provide a place for readers and writers to intersect. I'm not sure how else the public side of it will grow, but we're tossing around some ideas, we're barely over a month old, so forgive the growing pains!
The private side of SFNovelists.com is a password protected area for novelists to talk shop. A lot of it is traded information on all sorts of aspects of the trade. It uses a wiki, a page that any of our authors can markup, as the main engine behind the site. There is also a forum for regular discussion. There are just under 50 novelists at all stages of their careers collected there, though I admit we're slightly tilted towards young turks who have a lot of energy and who have a lot to learn. Like myself...
RB: One thing that seems quite evident is how well you are promoting the book. How important is your role as promoter of the book to your role as author of the book?
TB: Well, I've never thought of myself as a good promoter, though I seem to be getting that moniker. I really hope no one ever gets to the point where they think all I do is self promote and talk myself up. Mainly I just like adding value to the whole author/reader experience. I started my weblog years ago as a way to initially force myself to write and submit short fiction by being in the public eye. There's something to publicly declaring you goals that makes you try that much harder. Eventually, once I started seeing my work come out I started realizing that readers were following the weblog, and emailing me, and sometimes commenting. It was a very organic thing, not something I really tried to create.
For Crystal Rain we created a website at www.Crystal-Rain.com to showcase the book. The cover, done by the awesome Todd Lockwood, lends itself well to being used as the book's advertisement. Then I got to thinking that it would be cool to add some extras for the book, so in the 'extras' section of www.Crystal-Rain.com we'll be posting related short fiction, deleted chapters, alternate chapters, as well as chapter by chapter commentary. I just thought that if I were a reader I'd love to see that stuff myself, so why not make it so?
The other thing we'll be doing is posting the first third of the Crystal Rain up at that website, a chapter at a time, a new chapter each day. Again, I just though what I'd love to see as a reader, which is a sample of a book to tell if I'd like to read it. But a lot of samples are just a chapter or so, not enough to get me really hooked in. But the first third of a novel, I'd know for sure whether it was up my alley or not (and I understand how hard it is to risk hard earned money on some unknown idiot who has a reputation for tootin' his own horn, so I figured this would be putting up or shutting up!)
All this cool stuff starts January 15th, by the way!
RB: In the same vein, good literature can be seen as a connection between reader and writer on paper. Do you see the Internet as a extrapolation of this thought?
TB: I agree with this. I don't think I would have stood in line to have my favorite author sign one of my favorite books if hadn't been looking for some sort of connection above and beyond the words on a machine produced slab of paper, right? I think the internet is an extrapolation of this relationship, which is why I think so many writers have taken well to weblogging. It allows them to build on the author/reader relationship, and one of the reasons why I think its such a wonderful thing.
RB: Writers often state their job is very individualistic and self-contained, yet there are many writer’s groups and workshops. How important is feedback from one’s peers in the growth for one’s writing?
TB: You know, I think that depends on the writer. Personally I find being part of a community I can turn to very important. I have enjoyed workshops since my first, Clarion, in 1999. While I daily sit by myself in the basement to tap away at the keys, going to conventions or visiting other writers is a huge release for me. I get to bounce ideas off them, listen to their ideas, and grow a little. But certainly this stuff isn't necessary. I know John Scalzi (www.scalzi.com/whatever) who lives not too far away from me in Dayton, doesn't workshop or feel the need for writers groups, and he is certainly a successful author by any means you choose to look at it. There are many different approaches to writing.
Thanks for having me over, by the way. I enjoyed this chance to answer some questions and blab on a bit.