Q: You have just released the third book in the Dance of theRings 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 thefirst Dance of the Rings story arc, which is a roundabout way of saying,there are more books about the Rhomandi brothers (and their offspring andancestors) to come. DESTINY completes the majority of the threadsintroduced in RING OF LIGHTNING and RING OF INTRIGUE, but leaves a handfulof small issues and one major one to bridge into the next book RINGS OFCHANGE. CHANGE itself is to be a bridge into another (probably) multi-bookstory arc about the next generation (if all goes as currently very hazilyplanned.)
Still, while the Dance of the Rings series is one I hope to keep addingto---it's grown into a very rich and interesting world with a lot of historyand future I want to explore---and while the Rhomandi family will continueto be a driving force in any subsequent novels in the series---these fourbooks will complete the primary story of the Rhomandi brothers, Deymorin,Mikhyel, and Nikki, as well as settle the balance of power between theleythium-directing towers and the "static encapsulator" that is destined totip the world over into the electronic age.
As to what it's about . . . hmmm, if I could answer that in a sentence ortwo, I wouldn't have had to write the better part of 600,000 words, but inthe interest of at least tweaking some interest . . . here goes:
I like to think of Dance of the Rings as steam-age fantasy with anelectronic twist. There is no ultimate good or ultimate evil, only a verypowerful 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 abouteveryone who likes a chewy adult book: lots of action, politics, mayhem andromance---usual and unusual---but ultimately, it's a story aboutrelationships and perceptions, power and family.
Q: How did you first come up with the idea for the Dance of the Ringstrilogy?
A: Desperation. Thanks to "too much research syndrome," I had stalled out on aplanned Roman/Celtic historical fantasy (that will still be written one ofthese days), and I needed to come up with an idea fast for my contractnegotiations with DAW. I was sitting in my front room staring at nothing inparticular ... or so I thought. In reality, I'd become mesmerized by alittle "perpetual motion" sculpture. It's one of these things you find in anovelty shop: a bunch ofconcentric silver rings suspended around a central sphere. You put a batteryin, start the rings spinning and they just keep going as they wind up thecentral string, unwind and wind the other way, the whole thing kept"suspended" and virtually frictionless by the magnetic field created by thatbattery.
I got the image of a larger-than-man-sized version of those rings in a towerand 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 avery disturbed and disturbing young man, that I wanted a hero rather like aGeorgette Heyer Regency Corinthian. In short, I wanted an adult with his acttogether.
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 thefrustration of being siblings in this set of characters.
I feel I should mention here that there is absolutely no direct correlationbetween the Rhomandihousehold and the one I grew up in, other than the most basic dynamics ofsiblinghood. I patternmy characters on no one. They take their own shape as I write, developingright along with theworld and the story and their interactions with the other characters.
Also, please note, I say "some of the wonder and frustration." The Rhomandisituation is no more "typical" than any good protagonist's story, but I wasdelighted to discover, from the response of readers, that there is much thatrings "true" for a lot of readers.
Anyway, within (quite literally) a handful of minutes, I had the beginningsof 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 returnedfrom Warner and hope to sell the KNIGHTS OF THE WESTIBULE along with neweditions of the rest of the series, and at least one more book that takesplace after HARMONIES OF THE 'NET. Mine were three of the many titles thatgot lost in the shuffle during the great upheaval at Warner in the early90's. It got disastrous distribution but has somehow managed over the yearsto find a very loyal following. It was my first series, and is the keystonefor my entire SF "future history" as the Ring books are the core of myfantasy universe, and I hope to see the series find as perfect a publishinghome as the Ring books have found at DAW.
Beyond that, I've got RING OF CHANGE to write, as well as the THREE-FOLDWAY. Andthen, frankly, I'd like to write some good old fashioned one-shot spaceopera. If the GROUNDTIES resurrection succeeds, it will provide a greatdiving board for those. I just had to write a story with the scope ofGROUNDTIES 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 andflying...that left me (not at all against my will) with math, physics andanthropology---interests which oddly enough set me up quite properly for awriting career, when I finally got around to trying it. (After my sisterhad deserted the playing field by going into teaching.)
Segueing less than smoothly to the mid-1980's: I was working on a graphicnovel adaptation ofC.J. Cherryh's GATE OF IVREL, penciling, lettering, coloring...andscripting. It was in thecourse of that scripting that C.J. claims she saw the seeds of a writer. I'dtalked writing for years, in my teens with my writing sister, and later withfriends many of whom were or becameprofessionals. These same writers would frequently bring me theirmanuscripts for feedback.Without knowing it, I was being subtly twisted to the verbal side of themuse.
When Donning, the company who was publishing the graphic, folded theirgraphic line, C.J.suggested I try writing my own work. It was very close to my birthday and soI decided to givemy book the same birthday. I asked her "How do you make story happen?" andshe said "Write a one page outline and find a couple of characters and throwthem together and see whathappens." I did that October 24, 1988, and on October 25, 1988, I went toher and asked, "Howdo I stop story happening?"
A little over a year later, I had a three book contract based on the roughdraft of GROUNDTIES.That's true terror.
Iím a good artist, Iíd never be a great one. I love to sketch. I love tosolve the design problems of line and color, but I find the time required torefine a painting tedious. I found the daily pressure to develop andimprove was taking the enjoyment out of the process.
On the other hand, I find the editorial process in writing to be endlesslyexhilarating, and welcome the excuse to spend hours every day refining thatparticular talent.
This is not to say I've absolutely given up on developing my art---I stillplay 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 gettingthat first book sale.What's your advice?
A: This is a tough one for me to answer, in part because of the previousanswer. On the surface, the hardest part of making a sale today is gettingsomeone to look at the manuscript. With the advent of computers and thegroundswell of writersí groups, suddenly everyone seems to think he/she is awriter, and publishers, who already had slush piles stacked to the ceilingsuddenly had rooms filled with them. I canít blame them at all for usingagents to provide the first cut.
Obviously, my association with C.J. was my "in" with my first agent. Thosewho know a published writer---well---have a similar opportunity. Those whodonít, either take the time to get to know one, or find another route. Theplethora of how-to books and workshops by authors who have that experiencein 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 whenthat story gets in front of someone with the power to help you, you areníteven tempted toexplain to them what makes it different because you know in your head and inyour gut it standson its own merit. This remains, to me, the most difficult aspect ofwriting. The more self-criticalyou are, the harder it is, because you know it could be better. To that, Ioffer the followingpersonal 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 whenyou're holding back.
2) (corollary to #1) Write something compelling and different. There's toomuch on the stands today that's same old same old. Thereís only one way todo that: Give the editors something that's uniquely you.
How? No matter what you do, your work is indelibly colored by what youare, and what you are is heavily determined by what you've done in yourlife, far more than what you've experienced vicariously through books. Giveyourself options. Live. Try things. Donít just read about it. Even if youíre thirty and havenít sold a book, it could be because what seem likerevelations to you are still merely the common insights of youth and theeditor/agent has read that flavor a thousand times. Sometimes you needdistance to truly understand the ramifications of decisions and events.
I was, by the way, 36 when I started writing. Not necessary, but for thosewho live in the fear they have to be settled in a career by 35, there ishope.
I think of a story as a unique combination of answers to a handful ofquestions endlessly appliedto 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 toanswer thosequestions, 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 gotoe to toe withthe copy-editor over a single comma change let alone a word change. Studyhow story works,know why yours does and where its strengths lie. Confidence in yourcraftsmanship combinedwith confidence in the significance and value of the story you're tellingwill show, I believe, bothin the work and in your dealings with an editor.
4) Research matters, but donít let it rule your writing.
5) Understand your motives.
I would advise: don't write to be published. Write because if you donítwrite, your head will burstfrom the contained ideas. Write to tell that story the best you can. Honoryour 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,theyíll resonate with your readers. Hopefully, the editor youíve sent themanuscript to will be one of those or will at least recognize the manuscriptís potential to resonate.
If you can honestly say youíve done all the above, youíve probably just notyet found the righteditor.
Q: When you're not writing, what do you like to do to relax?
A: Anything that wonít kill me. I like new experiences. I had horses for35 years, but finallyhad to let them go. There simply wasnít time. I play piano and guitar, andI enjoy singing. Iíveeven composed a melody or two. I paint, draw, sculpt, stitch, sew, puttogether and refinishfurniture, 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 thatcame my way at one point, though my feet really objected to Highlanddancing. I try to walkseveral miles a day, and for stress relief, thatís probably the best. Ilike to travel and meet people. When I sit down to relax, I enjoy watchingsports of all kinds---I love it when the Olympics roll around! I still wantto try ice skating and rock climbing, but I draw the line at sky-diving andbungee-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, Iídonly gotten a handful of letters from readers. I was quite depressed overthe fate of the GROUNDTIES books, and just about ready to pack it in. I hadno evidence that what I wanted to write was reaching anyone, and no interestin writing "down" in order to gain a larger audience. A month after puttingup the page, I was so inundated with enthusiastic feedback that it literallyate up all my spare time, and the poor page languished. I found reason tocontinue writing, if not keep the webpage up (I finally updated it this NewYears' Eve.)
Also, the online stores like Amazon.com and BN.com could save the industrybecause they could save the midlist, which is where hard to categorize bookslike mine tend to fall. We fall into the advertising cracks, donít get alot of shelf space in the stores, and when the copies are sold, theyírerarely replaced. The online stores, and the used bookfinders, help give anauthor who truly does require word of mouth to build an audience the timeand exposure necessary to build that audience.
What does the internet mean to me as an author? Survival.