<Deep breath> When given the chance to interview author powerhouse and self-proclaimed, diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan Julie Czerneda? I had to remember that time the LA Kings beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime to go to the Stanley Cup finals and that Drew Doughty didn’t want to play hockey in Canada. Then I could breathe and smile. I could then avoid all hockey questions. Otherwise that would have ended up like Game one of that same playoff series.
I admit it. I am petty when it comes to hockey. I am a Kings fan, after all. After all the abuse (until approximately ten years ago)? Yeah. It is earned. Oh hey… look what I found. Yeah. Sorry. Not sorry. Ms. Czerneda is Canadian. She will understand and then come after me on Twitter without mercy. I’m sure.
Now that, that is out of the way- back to the business at hand…
1) For readers that are being introduced to your work through The Gossamer Mage, what would you tell them about your back catalog?
That what you read is who I am. Yes, I write different genres and very different stories, but I come at them from the same place. Curiosity. Wonder. A pride in who we are and can become. A healthy dose of silly along with an abiding passion for life. Which has led me, among other things, to write an SF series about an adolescent semi-immortal shapeshifter with good intentions and poor choices (the Esen books, including the Web Shifter’s Library), a generation-spanning SF series about aliens among us who are heading for extinction until one rediscovers love (The Clan Chronicles), a trilogy about a salmon researcher who finds herself tasked with saving the known universe, and, oh yes I’ve a pastoral fantasy series with toads and dragons (Night’s Edge).
2) For those that are not new to your work, what would you tell them to expect? Similarities? Differences?
The Gossamer Mage will be similar because, well, it’s still me. There are moments of wonder and themes of friendship and family. How is it different? It takes place in a realm called Tananen where people like us arrived and found a way to use the magic of the land. Yes, the mages pay a terrible price—shortening their lives each time—but they are free to create whatever they want. If they make a mistake, mind you, what they create is a gossamer, something wild and free and of no use, they believe, to them. I set matters in motion to consider what we want from magic and what we would do with it. Then I imagined magic itself had an opinion. My previous fantasy, starting with A Turn of Light, is hot cocoa and a blanket on a nippy afternoon. All the things I love and want from a fantasy novel are there, without anything grim or dark. Mage is more searching, more troubled and troubling, and in that sense might resemble one of my science fiction short stories. There’s also a twist. When you reread Mage, as I hope people do, you’ll see what you didn’t before. The story will feel different. How cool is that?
3) You have worn many different hats in your career. From writer to editor (Nebula). What perspective has this given you as a writer and on the industry as a whole?
It’s reinforced my first impression, that the SF/F community is the best. I’ve friendships going back decades that began at a con, or over a book or show, and many of those are writers too. Having worked in educational publishing, I can tell you it’s not the rule, that you keep in touch, with ideas constantly refreshed by your shared love of fun stuff. Having been an editor and publisher before dipping my toes into fiction, I can also say that the folks who work in science fiction and publishing (and horror, but I try not to write that), are insanely dedicated. They love the field and their authors. It’s a family. Sometimes dysfunctional, because we all hear those dreadful stories, but me? My experience has been nothing but positive. DAW Books and Sheila Gilbert are part of my life. I’m privileged to hug Sara Megibow as my agent. I can’t wait to write more and work with these people.
In a practical sense? My training in non-fiction meant I’d a solid professional attitude and work ethic. I was comfortable reading my own contracts, for example. It also led to laughs when, for my first novel A Thousand Words for Stranger, I prefaced my response to Sheila’s revision request with a vow to find words to cut in order to fit in the new. She paused, giggled, then said, no, you keep all the words.
The other side of it, editing? I love it. I love polishing my own work, and when I do anthologies? I love reading the work of other authors who are so much better than I (biologist, after all) that their work astounds me. Plus I get to buy and keep it. Especially new writers. To be able to offer that first sale? Wow.
4) Following up on the above, what advice would you give to writers that they might not realize/see because they haven’t had the range of experience you do?
Value yourself and your work. No one knows it as you do—and what publishers/readers seek is an author who cares passionately about their story. Be brave. Enter contests and grant applications (checking first on SFWA.org to be sure they aren’t scams). Submit your work to anthologies, if the theme fits. Get out there. Go to conventions and listen to people in the industry. We’re all approachable. But at the end of the day, alone at your notebook or keyboard, remember what brings you joy and satisfaction. That’s what we’re in this for, after all.
5) How has the arc of your work changed since you first started in 1997? How has your work changed you?
I never thought I’d write fiction full time, but I began to do so in 1998. That was amazing. If it’s changed me, I think it’s given me the courage to be up front, with complete strangers, about what makes me laugh, or cry, or exclaim with wonder. It’s all in my work. I may have been a tad shy about it earlier on. I did go through a brief period—as I think many do, when you hit a certain age—when it occurred to me to wonder how long I’d do this. After all, our friends with regular jobs have retired and they kept asking.
Then, well, I giggled to myself. Why on earth would I want to stop? What I do, what I write, not only keeps me in touch with science and history and everything I’m curious about (which is everything), but lets me meet new and wonderful people. Hello! #lovemylife is true.
6) Why do you keep fungi, feathers and shells in your pocket?
Because they get stuck in my wallet and pop out in restaurants, so the purse is out of the question. If I put them in my backpack, something will crush them, and when I tried just carrying the things, there was always something else to add. Now I’ve shorts with very many pockets.
If you meant why keep them at all? Nature inspires me. I take what is polite and non-harmful to remove home to stick on my bulletin board or on my desk. Touch and smell, look at closely. Ponder. There’s an immensity in the small.
7) Is there anything you have ever wanted to say or Express that either you haven’t had a chance to, or haven’t had the right question asked? If so…. this is your chance… the floor is yours….
Hmm. I’d like readers to know that once a story leaves me, to be a book they hold in their hands and read, it truly becomes their story, something new and different from what I read or wrote. Each reader brings another mind and experience to enrich the tale. I love to think about it, how my story changes, becomes personal and precious and unique to someone else. Way back, when I sent out my first novel and had yet to meet a stranger who’d read my work, I thought it mattered to be precise in my words, to cover all the points, to make sure the story would stay the same.
Silly me. As well try to grab a rainbow. How much better to enjoy it.
More about me? I love what I do. I encourage others to do what they love. I relish mornings and Mondays and learning anything new. I’m as optimistic and cheerful as I sound, since I firmly believe otherwise you get nothing done and can’t be happy. To quote a family member: ‘Julie’s the least scary person you’ll ever meet,’ which isn’t a bad thing to be, is it?
More? Goodness. I’m an ice hockey fan. Go Leafs! I still tuck fungi, shells, feathers and so forth in my coat pockets. I’m married to my best friend and love of my life and we have offspring who understand about the pockets. I carry more stories and questions and interests in my head than should fit and can’t fathom boredom. If I had my choice of things to do, I’d grab a paddle and head for the wild with Roger.
Where, might I add, there will be fungi, shells, feathers, and so forth. For my pockets