Saturday, July 22, 2006

Interview With E. Sedia

I first encountered E. Sedia's work while reviewing Aeon Speculative Fiction #3, and I've been a fan of her writing ever since. In addition to being a great writer, she is also a fellow reviewer for Tangent Online. I am honored to give you the following interview:

*How does it feel to have a first published novel?

It feels good; of course, publishing a novel creates its own host of concerns - sales, reviews, promotion. But According to Crow got some good press, and I'm happy with it. So it is time to start obsessing about the next one. Unfortunately, it is always about your next trick.

*I noticed that family and ancestry are major themes in According to Crow. Josiah's need to learn where he came from is something many people can relate to. What first sparked your idea for the character, Josiah?

The Book of Judith, actually. You know the story - Judith, a virtuous Jewish woman, saves her city from the Assyrian attack by getting Holofernes, their general, drunk and cutting off his head. Holofernes planned to seduce her, but she outsmarted him. In According to Crow, the heroine does not achieve her purpose quite so easily, and Josiah is the result of her compromise. Both Josiah and his mother are ambivalent about his origins, and this is the driving force behind his attempt to find his place in the world. His mother's and father's people are at war with each other; is it even possible to come to terms with that? His skin color marks him as an outsider in one culture, and his background doesn't suit the other. And as a kid, he grew up knowing that his mother cut off his father's head. Hello, traumatic childhood.

*What were the hurdles you needed to overcome to get According to Crow published?

Obstacles? Just the normal work of writing the thing and sending it out until Five Star bought it. I don't know if these qualify as obstacles; they are more of a normal publishing process. I feel like I should be angsting about it more.

*How important are the short fiction markets for writers starting out?

I don't think they are essential, but they have been helpful to me. I like writing short stories - there's much to be said for instant gratification of finishing a story in a couple of sittings. Also, it is useful to learn brevity. I know people who started with novels and never strayed from them, so it can go either way.

However, if one decides to go the short fiction route, I would suggest being very selective regarding where one sends one's work. Some people rake up pages of bibliographies in 4theluv markets; these certainly don't help to get publisher's or agent's attention, and don't particularly increase writer's visibility or reputation. Markets that pay actual money might. There are exceptions, of course - a few small press zines pay very little but have a high profile.

*The publishing industry being what it is today, do you think that "small press" publishers have an advantage over the bigger publishing houses?

I'm not sure what do you mean by an 'advantage'. The big houses publish the vast majority of books, and small presses (at least most of them) can afford less promotion and distribution, so their share of the market is quite small. In terms of quality of content, smaller houses tend to take bigger risks and often make better books - look at Night Shade Books, Prime, Wheatland, Small Beer Press and Raw Dog Screaming Press in the US and PS Publishing, Pendragon, Sarob Press, Elastic Press and Telos Publishing in the UK. They publish excellent books, and receive plenty of critical attention and publicity. There's also Five Star, my publisher, which targets library market. There are many niche audiences that are not served by the big houses, and successful independent presses take advantage of these markets. So, I don't know whether it translates into a marketplace advantage, but I think it allows for greater diversity in books published today.

*What kinds of music do you listen to, and how much of it influences your writing?

While writing I usually listen to Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet, the Pogues, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Tool, stuff like that. Whatever suits the mood, but I prefer dark and melodious. I wouldn't say it influences the writing as much as helps to establish the atmosphere.

*How helpful do you find music in establishing the atmosphere? A little, a lot?

It's a difficult question. I would say it varies; it is more helpful when I write emotionally wrenching scenes, when I need to meld with the character. Music can facilitate this process to a great degree, and I usually select the songs that match the emotion I'm trying to portray.

*Any more novels in the works?

I finished another novel, and am currently looking for a publisher for it. It is quite different from According to Crow - even though it is fantasy, it is set in the real world. I'm also working on the next book, an urban fantasy novel, in between writing short stories.


Blogger Paul Abbamondi said...

Cool interview, Scott!

7:37 PM  
Blogger Scott M. Sandridge said...

Thanks, Paul!

9:02 PM  

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