Ryan Schneider, Author, chats with Lisa Mason, Fantasy and Science Fiction Author, about Writing
RS: How did you get into writing?
LM: My mom bought me lots of great books when I was a kid. I loved reading and decided I wanted to be a writer. Stories and fantasies would pop into my head and I wrote my first book at age five. I’ve got it on my desk right now. It is 1¼ inches by 2 inches, hand-sewn, two chapters, lavishly illustrated by the author, and entitled, “Millie the Caterpillar.” Millie is despondent at being “a fat, green, hairy, little caterpillar.” Then spring comes, she breaks out of her cocoon, and “to her surprize, she found two beautiful red and black wings on her shoulders.” Happiness! The End. I’ve thought ever since surprise should be spelled with a z.
So you could say I got bit by the writing bug early on, but my life has taken some twists and turns and writing hasn’t been a straight shot for me.
RS: What do you like best (or least) about writing?
LM: I love publishing something and having readers tell me they loved it, were entertained by it, moved by it, couldn’t put it down. I’ll shamelessly admit readers have told me Summer of Love is their all-time favorite book. Readers’ responses make all the blood, sweat, and tears worthwhile. What I hate most is getting stuck, but that’s a blog in and of itself.
RS: What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?
LM: Oh, I’d love to write 5000 words a day, but that seldom happens. The main thing is to accomplish something seven days a week, if only making notes or working out a plot point you’re not sure of. I usually get a holistic concept of a book or story, sketch the general thrust of it, and break it open with the first scene. Often, I’ll have the first scene and the last, the story goal I want to accomplish. (You know the joke that every book has a beginning, an ending, and a muddle.) I don’t like outlining but the process is so important for keeping your narrative on track. I’ll often micro-outline what I’m working on and the material immediately after. Once I get through that, the next plot twists often reveal themselves. Then I do the same process again, step by step.
When a book gathers momentum and the world-building is set down, I’ll write every day for two weeks at a time, take a one-day break, then start again the next day.
RS: Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
LM: You know, lately I’ve been picking up classic authors. I just read Raymond Chandler’s Lady in the Lake. Marlowe is the original chain-smoking, hard-drinking, lone-wolf, sardonic private eye and Chandler is such a master stylist. I’ve got Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome and Joseph Conrad’s Tales of Unrest on my reading table. And I’ve been enjoying Rex Stout’s Nero Wolf mysteries from the 1940s. Urban fantasy employs the mystery trope, as does romantic suspense, both areas I’m writing within.
RS: Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
LM: Outside, of course, because the question mark punctuates the entire sentence, whereas the quotes indicate the word is, in the author’s opinion, a relative or subjective term.
RS: What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
LM: I’m totally freaked out by the Oxford Comma. What the hell is the Oxford Comma?
RS: What is your book about and how did it come to fruition?
LM: Please take a lookatmy bio below. How does any of that happen? Obsession-compulsion. Hard work. Late nights. Giving up a lot of time-consuming activities like television.
RS: What book(s) are you currently reading?
LM: On my To-Read list are The Night Circus and A Discovery of Witches because I’m working on the next book in my urban fantasy, The Abracadabra Series. Research books for a science fiction series I’m launching next year.
RS: Who or what inspires your writing?
LM: Oh, Life! Personal experience. Love, anger, vengeance. Joy. Beauty. A hummingbird landing on my feeder. Historical people I admire, like the women Surrealist artists in the story listed below, or Nikola Tesla, the great inventor and electrical engineer whom I wrote a screenplay about and who reminded me of my inventor-electrical engineer dad. Stage magicians. Real Magic. Being invited to contribute to a themed anthology always kicks me in the butt to dream up something new. I’ve written so many different kinds of books and stories, I’ll be adding blogs to my Goodreads Author Page just to talk about what inspired me, what I researched, and so on.
Quite a few redheaded or russet-haired or strawberry blond men seem to show up in my work, so I’m compelled to add to the list of inspirations my husband, Tom Robinson. But don’t tell him I told you so (his head is swelled enough already).
RS: Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
LM: Readers may not realize it, but traditional publishing is changing daily. Radically. Twenty years ago, there were twenty or thirty publishers. The big fish gobbled up the smaller fish, turned them into imprints, and subsumed everything to a larger corporation. Authors essentially could only submit to the Big Six Publishers. Just last week, the two biggest of the Big Six announced they’re merging. Now there is only a Big Five.
What does that mean for authors? Shrinking opportunities, smaller advances, longer wait times to get published–waiting two, even three years to get published is not uncommon these days—and getting yanked out of print before a book has had a chance to breathe.
What does that mean for you, the reader?
Fewer good books to choose from. More faddish, formulaic, cranked-out books by Big Names. Worthy authors, or entertaining ones, you will never hear of because they can’t get exposure in the Big Media.
That’s why the ebook phenomenon has exploded within two short years and shows no signs of slowing down. That’s why authors who have been published by the Big Six, like me, are rejoicing at the affordable opportunity of publishing worthy works brutally taken out of print and finding new (and former) audiences.
That’s why I urge everyone to invest in a Kindle or a Nook and search around for a great read. Yes, I love print books. Tom and I own 20,000 of them (seriously). But the ereaders are getting better, smaller, more powerful, and more affordable, and people who love print are saying they love ebooks, too.
Print books will never disappear, but ebooks are definitely here to stay.
Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Visit Ryan at http://authorryanschneider.blogspot.com.
About Lisa Mason
A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Literature, the Sciences, and the Arts, and the University of Michigan Law School, I’m the author of eight novels, including SUMMER OF LOVE (published by Bantam, a division of Random House), a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book and Philip K. Dick Award finalist, and THE GOLDEN NINETIES (Bantam, a division of Random House), a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book.
I published my first story, “ARACHNE,” in Omni and have since published short fiction in magazines and anthologies worldwide, including Omni, Full Spectrum, Universe, Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Unique, Transcendental Tales, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Immortal Unicorn, Tales of the Impossible, Desire Burn, Fantastic Alice, The Shimmering Door, Hayakawa Science Fiction Magazine, Unter Die Haut, and others. My stories have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.
I live in the San Francisco Bay area with my husband, the renowned artist and jeweler Tom Robinson. Visit me on the web at Lisa Mason’s Official Website.
Also available in affordable installments as THE GARDEN OF ABRACADABRA TRILOGY!
This just in from Goodreads! Alan writes: “I loved the writing style and am hungry for more.:D”
At her mother’s urgent deathbed plea, Abby Teller enrolls at the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts to learn Real Magic. To support herself through school, she signs on as the superintendent of the Garden of Abracadabra, a mysterious, magical apartment building on campus. She discovers that her tenants are witches, shapeshifters, vampires, and wizards and each apartment is a fairyland or hell. On her first day in Berkeley, she stumbles upon a supernatural multiple murder scene. One of the victims is a man she picked up hitchhiking the day before. Compelled into a dangerous murder investigation and torn between three men, Abby will discover the first secrets of an ancient and ongoing war between Humanity and the Demonic Realms, uncover mysteries of her own troubled past, and learn that the lessons of Real Magic may spell the difference between her own life or death.
“So refreshing. . . .This is Stephanie Plum in the world of Harry Potter.”
Fun and Enjoyable Urban Fantasy January 12, 2012
By D. Pflaster
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
This is a very entertaining novel- sort of a down-to-earth Harry Potter with a modern adult woman in the lead. Even as Abby has to deal with mundane concerns like college and running the apartment complex she works at, she is surrounded by supernatural elements and mysteries that she is more than capable of taking on. Although this book is just the first in a series, it ties up the first “episode” while still leaving some story threads for upcoming books. I’m looking forward to finding out more.
Nineteen five-star Amazon reviews
“Summer of Love is an important American literary contribution.”
“This book was so true to life that I felt like I was there. I recommend it to anyone.”
“More than a great science-fiction, a great novel as well.”
The year is 1967 and something new is sweeping across America: good vibes, bad vibes, psychedelic music, psychedelic drugs, anti-war protests, racial tension, free love, bikers, dropouts, flower children. An age of innocence, a time of danger. The Summer of Love.
San Francisco is the Summer of Love, where runaway flower children flock to join the hip elite and squares cruise the streets to view the human zoo.
Lost in these strange and wondrous days, teenager Susan Bell, alias Starbright, has run away from the straight suburbs of Cleveland to find her troubled best friend. Her path will cross with Chiron Cat’s Eye in Draco, a strange and beautiful young man who has journeyed farther than she could ever imagine.
With the help of Ruby A. Maverick, a feisty half-black, half-white hip merchant, Susan and Chi discover a love that spans five centuries. But can they save the world from demons threatening to destroy all space and time?
New! Summer of Love Serials are available for your holiday reading in seven affordable installments free exclusively on Kindle.
Summer of Love, Serial 1: Celebration of the Summer Solstice
Summer of Love, Serial 2: Festival of Growing Things
Summer of Love, Serial 3: A Dog Day
Summer of Love, Serial 4: Rumors
Summer of Love, Serial 5: Inquest for the Ungrateful Dead
Summer of Love, Serial 6: Chocolate George’s Wake
Summer of Love, Serial 7: A New Moon in Virgo
The year is 1895 and immigrants the world over are flocking to California on the transcontinental railroad and on transoceanic steamships. The Zoetrope demonstrates the persistence of vision, patent medicines addict children to morphine, and women are rallying for the vote. In San Francisco, saloons are the booming business, followed by brothels, and the Barbary Coast is a dangerous sink of iniquity. Atop Telegraph Hill bloody jousting tournaments are held and in Chinatown the tongs deal in opium, murder-for-hire, and slave girls.
Zhu Wong, a prisoner in twenty-fifth century China, is given a choice–stand trial for murder or go on a risky time-travel project to the San Francisco of 1895 to rescue a slave girl and take her to safety. Charmed by the city’s opulent glamour, Zhu will discover the city’s darkest secrets. A fervent population control activist in a world of twelve billion people, she will become an indentured servant to the city’s most notorious madam. Fiercely disciplined, she will fall desperately in love with the troubled self-destructive heir to a fading fortune.
And when the careful plans of the Gilded Age Project start unraveling, Zhu will discover that her choices not only affect the future but mean the difference between her own life or death.
“A winning mixture of intelligence and passion.” The New York Times Book Review
My thriller, SHAKEN,an ebook adaptation of “Deus Ex Machina” published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, republished in Transcendental Tales (Donning Press), and translated and republished in Europe and South America, is on Nook and Kindle.
Emma J for Joy Pearce is at her editorial offices on the twenty-second floor of Three Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco when the long-dreaded next Great Earthquake devastates the Bay area. Amid horrific destruction, she rescues a man trapped in the rubble. In the heat of survival, she swiftly bonds with him, causing her to question her possible marriage to her long-time boyfriend.
But Jason Gibb is not the charming photojournalist he pretends to be. As Emma discovers his true identity, his mission in the city, and the dark secrets behind the catastrophe, she finds the choices she makes may mean the difference between her own life or death.
A List of Sources follows this short novel.
The Story That Sold To The Movies. TOMORROW’S CHILD began as a medical documentary, then got published in Omni Magazine, and finally sold to Universal Pictures, where the project is in development. On Nook and Kindle.
A high-powered executive is about to lose his estranged teenage daughter to critical burn wounds and only desperate measures may save her life.
The ebook includes my blog, The Story Behind The Story That Sold To The Movies, describing the twists and turns this story took over the years.
New! HUMMERS was published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, chosen for Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 5th Annual Collection (St. Martin’s Press), and nominated for the Nebula Award. Free exclusively on Kindle.
Laurel, in the terminal stages of cancer, is obsessed with the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Jerry, her homecare nurse whose lover is dying of AIDS, gives her a surprising gift. A hummingbird feeder. As Laurel comes to grips with her own death, she learns powerful and redeeming lessons about Egyptian Magic from the hummingbirds that visit her.
New! THE SIXTY-THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF HYSTERIA, published in the acclaimed anthology, Full Spectrum 5 (Bantam), which also included stories by Neal Stephenson, Karen Joy Fowler, and Jonathan Lethem, is free exclusively on Kindle.
The year is 1941, and Hitler’s armies have swept across Europe. Nora, a budding young Surrealist artist, has fled to Mexico with B.B., a much older and acclaimed Surrealist playwright down on his luck. Hundreds of European artists and writers have formed a colony in Mexico City, and Nora befriends Valencia, a fellow Surrealist artist and refugee. Together the friends explore Jungian psychology and the power of symbols in their Art. But Nora is plagued by an abusive relationship with B.B. She embarks on a harrowing journey deep into her own troubled psyche.
The novelette was inspired by my favorite Surrealist artists, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. An Afterword describing Carrington and Varo’s lives and a List of Sources are included in the ebook.
New! EVERY MYSTERY UNEXPLAINED, published in David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible (HarperPrism), an anthology that included stories by Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, and Kevin J. Anderson, is free exclusively on Kindle.
The year is 1895, and Danny Flint is a young man living in the shadow of his father, a famous stage magician whose fortunes are fading. Danny is grieving over his mother’s recent accidental death, for which he feels he is to blame. He learns to reconcile himself with his grief and guilt and to assume his place at center stage as a magician in his own right with the help of a mysterious beautiful lady.
New! DAUGHTER OF THE TAO, published in Peter S. Beagle’s Immortal Unicorn (HarperPrism), that included stories by Charles de Lint, Karen Joy Fowler, Robert Sheckley, and Ellen Kushner, is free exclusively on Kindle.
Sing Lin is a mooie jai, a girl sold into slavery at the age of five to a wealthy merchant in Tangrenbu, the ghetto of her people in the new country across the sea. One lucky day, while she is out shopping by herself, she meets another mooie jai, Kwai Yin, a bossy, beautiful girl two years older. Kwai has a secret. Before she was sold into slavery, she had a Teacher who taught her about Tao Magic.
But Sing watches Kwai succumb to the terrifying fate of all slave girls in Tangrenbu.
Soon Sing is destined to go to the same fate. But will her invocation of Tao Magic save her?
New! For something fast and fun, U F uh-O, A SCI FI COMEDY, my script for a producer looking for the next “Galaxy Quest” or “Men in Black” that evolved into a novella, is free exclusively on Kindle.
Nikki and Josh really want a child but have infertility issues. Gretchen and Mike have the same problem. When Nikki meets Gretchen at the Happy Daze Family Clinic in Pasadena, they discover that they share a love of music and have asked for a donor with musical talent. Nine months later, they give birth to very unusual babies and, seeking an answer to why the kids are so special, they meet again at a pediatrician’s office. And the search is on: who—and what—is Donor Number 333?
For something different, TESLA, A WORTHY OF HIS TIME, A SCREENPLAY, which was read by the producer of “Aliens” and “The Abyss” and is currently under consideration at another L.A. producer, is on Nook and Kindle. A List of Sources is included in the ebook.
Genius. Visionary. Madman.
Nikola Tesla (1856–1943) was the pioneering genius who invented the AC electrical system that powers our world to this day, as well as radio, remote control, the automobile speedometer, X-ray photography, the AND logic gate that drives all our computer systems, and countless other devices and precursors to devices such as cell phones, television, and the Internet that we so effortlessly use today.
Strikingly handsome and charismatic, fluent in half a dozen languages, mathematics savant and master machinist, a reed-thin perfectionist who quoted poetry like a Victorian rapper, Tesla became one of the most famous men of his day. Friend of tycoons like John Jacob Astor and Stanford White and celebrities like Mark Twain and Sarah Bernhardt.
Yet Tesla was an intensely driven and lonely man, beset by inner demons, and cursed with a protean inventive imagination a century ahead of his time. He died in obscurity and poverty and, to this day, his name is not widely known. How did that happen?
Blending historical fact with speculative imagination, I explore the secrets of the Inventor’s inner life and his obsession with Goethe’s Faust set against the backdrop of sweeping technological changes at the turn of the twentieth century that have forever changed the world.
New! For a short erotic novel, try Eon’s Kiss by Suzanna Moore, exclusively free on Kindle Select. This has a paranormal hero who is not a vampire or a werewolf. If you’re looking for something sweet and steamy, check it out!
On the eve of what Jenna Coltrane believes will be Brett Becker’s marriage proposal, tragedy strikes her life—not just once, but twice. In the midst of trouble, she encounters Eon, a regal young man unlike anyone she’s ever met before.
With him, she enters the magical world of the Arbor, discovering love, passion, and beauty beyond her wildest dreams.
Jenna is swept up in a struggle for survival between human greed and the Arbor, a struggle in which her love for Eon and her very life are at stake.
I’m trying to persuade Suzanna to write the next two books of the Eon Trilogy. Stay tuned.
New! My romantic suspense, Celestial Girl, A Lily Modjeska Mystery, will be on Nook and Kindle for the year-end holidays. There will be an Omnibus Edition including all four books, which will also be sold separately in affordable installments.
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, a collection of stories published in magazines and anthologies worldwide will be on Nook and Kindle in early 2013. Also forthcoming is The Quester Trilogy, an ebook adaptation of my early cyberpunk classics, Arachne and Cyberweb.
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Thank you for your readership!