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bear by san

March 2017

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oh god, I could do better than that

More questions! You can ask yours here.


52.) To what extent do the places you live/have lived find their way into your fictional universes? Do some places have a stronger influence than others? If you're writing a real-world or real-world equivalent location, how much research/visiting do you tend to do?

That's three for the price of one, really. Um. Fictional places are, really, fictional. I make them up out of whole cloth, generally speaking. (I don't do the "fictional version of Venice" thing--except in very specific cases such as contrafactual history, as in New Amsterdam or "Seven Dragons Mountains," where I am writing an imaginary-world version of a real city, such as New York or Hong Kong, respectively.)

However, when I write a real place in any depth, I try very hard to get it right--visit it if I can, and if I can't, I research it extensively, including reading books, looking for webcams, and talking to people who have lived or visited there. In a lot of ways, I am a New England writer: I like setting things here, and I love this landscape. I can bring a lot of nuance to it. But my only book that's about a place is One-Eyed Jack & the Suicide King, which is *about* Las Vegas. Where I lived for seven years, but did not grow up.

In some ways, I think one is more likely to write a book about a place (rather than set there) if one is a transplant to that location, because one has to learn it. If you have always lived somewhere, you take it for granted.


53.) I realize, of course, that the "F" in "FBI" stands for "domestic agency," but... would "Shadow Unit" ever follow the time-honored TV trope of sending the protagonists on an overseas field trip? Is there any sense of "well, we assume that the Anomaly is worldwide, but that's outside the scope of the show," or is the Anomalous geography actually limited?

There's been a fair amount of discussion in the character livejournals of the potential for worldwide anomalies, so I think it's safe to assume that the characters think it's not just America. But yeah, the FBI is a domestic agency, so if they went elsewhere they would have to be invited. And since they are currently (unhappily for them) a secret organization--


54.) Do you see yourself writing space opera sometime?

I have done--the Jacob's Ladder books are about as space opera-y as you can get, although admittedly they lack in blasters and massive space battles.


55.) How did you get into climbing? What draws you to it?

Hmm. It was research for a character, actually--in Shadow Unit. I enjoy it a lot: it's challenging physically and intellectually. Alas, I kind of suck.


56.) What would you tell someone (a beginner) who you know wants to write, but they keep putting it off? As in procrastinating it to end for various silly reasons.

It's really their lookout, isn't it? Nobody else is going to do it for you, and there's really no reason to do it, other than to get the voices in your head to stop yammering at you. I mean, writing isn't going to make anybody a better person. It's not something anybody should do, or has an obligation to do. If you do it, do it because you want to, because it gives meaning or pleasure to your existence. If it's a chore, and you're not being paid for it, and you aren't driven to it, then why not do something fun or useful instead?

Otherwise, it's schoolwork.


57.) I know you like Criminal Minds, but what other TV shows do you watch?

The shows that I will actually go out of my way to watch are Life, Hustle, and Mythbusters. This season, I caught a few episodes of Lie to Me and Leverage, because the casts and premises appealed to me, but the writing didn't hold my interest. I generally really like anything Alton Brown does. I've been known to watch House for the snark, but I'm not emotionally engaged with it at all--I wouldn't call myself a fan. Likewise, post-Ecclestone Doctor Who and Torchwood. I've seen most of it, but I haven't been able to force myself to pay attention.


58.) What are your favourite books? Which ones do you keep reading over and over, and which ones have you read only once and can't pick up again?

My favorite books are The Last Unicorn and Watership Down. I'm not a big rereader--I used to be, but these days I am always short for reading time and attention span.


59.) If you were to pick a fictional universe in which to live, which one would it be?

Jeff Smith's Bone universe. Totally. ("I'm Ted. I'm a bug.")


60.)  I was curious if the Shadow Unit work is going to come out in a book form or maybe a boxed combo dvd set.

If we got a decent offer on it, I suspect we wouldn't say no. *g*


61.) You said Blood & Iron and Dust were the 2 books you hated writing the most. Why?

Well, currently, it's B&I and Chill. Because they were hard and the work sucked like a sucking thing. *g*


62.) I haven't read A Companion to Wolves (I tried, but it was too dense for me), but from what comments and reviews I've read on it and the books I *have* read, I get the feeling that 'companion animal' books mostly fall into one of the following categories:

1) The majority 'teen angst/suffering justification' companion you described in your April 22 post, basically where Character X gets new best friend with a thin paint of 'animal'. (Dragonriders of Pern and Valdemar books would both be in this category.)

2) Something closer to a meeting of equals, as in Tara K. Harper's Cat Scratch Fever and Wolfwalker(? I'm not sure of the actual series name, as I've only read the former) novels. Those actually deal with *gasp* animal instinct and having to deal with them on the animals' terms instead of just having that thin veneer of 'animal' on a human in animal form, and communication is more empathic/image-based instead of telepathic.

3) A Companion to Wolves

4) Something sort of between 2 and 3, where the animal is the dominant partner, but instead of the animal instinct traumatizing the human partner, the human takes on the animal's instinct/behavior to the point where s/he is uncomfortable/has trouble dealing with other humans.

I've never actually read - or heard of - a #4, but I've played with it in fanfiction form; I was a member of several Pern writing clubs, and in one of them I had a character with trackcat felines and she was this category in spades.

I'd be very interested on your thoughts as to this kind of classification, and if you'd ever thought about pursuing a #4-type character/storyline.

I'm pretty sure there's something like that in something I've read, where people get more or less lost in their animal companions. Maybe it's in Jennifer Roberson's Chronicles of the Cheysuli books? There's also bits of something like it in A Companion to Wolves, actually, with the wildling pair.

It's not a classification I've thought overmuch about, but I'm a lumper rather than a splitter, as we say in paleoanthropology. I tend to see things as spectrums rather than categories, and don't usually spend a lot of time sorting them out into piles.


63.) If you had to choose one book as your "card," so to speak--the one that best sums up who you are as a writer, or where you're going--which would it be? (It doesn't have to be the best one, but the one you'd want to be known by, given a choice.)

I kind of hope I haven't written my signature work yet. It's still kind of early in the career! I'd hate to have to live with an iconic novel for the next fifty years and have everything I write be measured against it and found lacking.

However, if I got hit by a truck tomorrow, it'd probably (I hope) be The Stratford Man.

Comments

4) Something sort of between 2 and 3, where the animal is the dominant partner, but instead of the animal instinct traumatizing the human partner, the human takes on the animal's instinct/behavior to the point where s/he is uncomfortable/has trouble dealing with other humans.

The closest thing I can think of is the comic book series Elfquest (of which my favorite character can be seen in the icon). The premise is basically that these ain't your Tolkien elves; they were, but a disaster a long time ago left them struggling for survival, and the group the narrative centers on kept themselves going by telepathically bonding with wolves and becoming rather feral hunters. They've adopted various wolfy customs into their society (challenges, howling, yay raw meat is tasty), and kind of appall the more "civilized" elves they run into later.
I should add, though, that the wolves aren't the dominant partners in that scenario; their riders are. And there isn't a Pern-style "oh my companion went into heat so I must have sex NOW" element, at least in the books I read; the partners can communicate, and mourn deeply when one dies, but there's no terribly mystical unity going on between them.
Clearbrook! <3 <3
<hearts Clearbrook>

It's odd -- while I like a certain amount of broodiness in male characters, in females I apparently gravitate to the sane, stable ones. It's so much more interesting then when they snap . . .
Elfquest! I was a fan back in the days of the original series. Odd, that I'd almost forgotten about the animal-companion aspect (getting old, I guess!).

I've read your latest book: Midnight Never Come.

I adored The Stratford Man duology, so you can see why I'd have picked your book up...

... may friend you. Don't think of friending back, my LJ isn't about fiction/writing. I'm mostly here to read stuff!
Friend away! I don't object, and anybody who shares an interest in Elizabethan England and feral elves will probably find enjoyment in my posts. :-)
There's also an element of that in Robin Hobb's Assassin books (getting lost in the mind and habit of a companion animal, that is).
Was just going to say that. :)
other than to get the voices in your head to stop yammering at you.

This makes me nod my head, grin and sigh - all at the same time.
You said Blood & Iron and Dust were the 2 books you hated writing the most. Why?

Well, currently, it's B&I and Chill.


Blood & Iron and Dust are currently my favorite of your books; I'm not sure if there's any worrisome correlation there. I'm not sure I could look forward to Chill more than I am already, in any case.
"I'd hate to have to live with an iconic novel for the next fifty years and have everything I write be measured against it and found lacking."

Laurie Halse Anderson talked about this on Saturday at the Festival of Books (in response to a moderator question). She said she went through a period where she was very frustrated because everyone kept comparing her other YA books to her first book and deciding that they weren't as good. And then she decided that if the worst thing in her writing career was that she wrote such a memorable book that everyone couldn't help but think about it so much, she really couldn't have much to complain about. (or something like that)

Still, that's gotta make writing even harder sometimes; I'd imagine it creates a lot of space for self-doubt.
Re; getting lost in one's animal companion. Terry Prachett's witches can get lost when borrowing animal minds, but their bond is not much like the ones you mention.

I admit i am totally uninformed here. I never could get more then a few chapters into any Pern book.

I think i liked the Andre Norton Beastmasters books, which must have been the original fount of all that stuff, but it has been a mighty long time since i read any Norton at all. Not a whole half century, but close.

When i read them they were new.
My problem with writing is that the voices in my head won't stop yammering at me until the minute I sit down to write. Then the whole blooming cast starts walking off in different directions whistling innocently and apparently suffering from extreme retrograde amnesia. ("Storyline? What storyline? I said what? ME!?!?! No way...") Seriously. It gets so quiet in there I can hear my neural pathways fading.

If I could just jack my wetware into my hardware and download the entire gestalt into text-dump form, I could totally edit the results into something cool and fun. But try to filter it through my language centers, down my brainstem and out my fingers, and it's like trying to squirt cold sawmill gravy through an insulin syringe.

I guess, in a sense, it's working. Since it does quiet the ravening crowd. But only until I hurl the mouse at the couch and stalk away from das blinkenlights in disgust. Then suddenly it's free martini night at the convention center again.

"Dude! You would not believe the incredible shit I came up with while you were busy poking at that computer thing...c'mere..."

Argghhhh!!!
Texas makes a great landscape for fantasy settings LOL
Hey boss, what do you think about that question? Do you think I've been affected by my association with an animal?
Shut up, Loiosh.


*snrch*
Yeah, I've read those (and love them! I'm a sucker for 1st person POV and those were my second find). I forgot to shoehorn them in, but I think it'd be somewhere between #1 and #2 - just having Loiosh be able to *talk* and be understood with a broad vocabulary is sort of, I don't know, cheating.

While there might still be the whole instinct-bleedover-thing going on, there's also a much higher chance of being able to explain and perhaps mitigate the effects, at least to outsiders.

It *is* funny though.::grin::

Culture/instinct clash is one of my very very favorite story kinks, and almost always shows up in my own writing, too.
(Also _Hell and Earth_. The thing got split into two by the publisher.)
55.) How did you get into climbing? What draws you to it?

Hmm. It was research for a character, actually--in Shadow Unit. I enjoy it a lot: it's challenging physically and intellectually. Alas, I kind of suck.

I have always been very impressed when you talk of you climbing prowess. Don't disillusion me please!
In re #52...Oh, come on, this is so obvious: The rest of the world doesn't know about the secret unit, but they still might call the FBI BAU in to consult on a serial killer. The FBI people *do* know about the secret unit, and could call them in as "additional FBI people" without mentioning the secret. So, if you *want* to do it, it's easy ;-).

Besides, it's likely some other country has noticed the same thing we have, so there could easily be other "shadow units" out there, with different terminology and theories and so forth.
I'm.... suddenly wondering how two super-secret auxiliary agencies which technically don't exist would come into contact with each other over a case. In my head, it's turning into a sort of Monty Pythonesque scenario in a diner*, with lots of Secret Code Words between well-suited gentlemen who keep asking each other to pass the sugar in conspiratorial tones.

JD

*Glenicker Bridge at midnight is already occupied.
I can imagine both units deducing the existence of units in the other country from published news reports. At least, I could if it weren't that the Shadow Unit people are so busy they rarely think beyond the moment. I see no sign of their paying any attention to general news.
Other countries already have profiler-type units modeled after the BAU; these units do consult with each other (and with the FBI BAU) from time to time. One example is the German Bundeskriminalamt, whose "Operative Fallanalyse" (OFA) office even has a hotline listed on their web page (http://www.bka.de/kriminalwissenschaften/ofainter.html#OFA).

OTOH, as noted by trollcatz, the international cooperation tends to be wanting.
But yeah, the FBI is a domestic agency, so if they went elsewhere they would have to be invited. And since they are currently (unhappily for them) a secret organization--

*invites them over*

They could investigate my mother-in-law . . .
I'd hate to have to live with an iconic novel for the next fifty years and have everything I write be measured against it and found lacking.

you mean like william gibson does now? ::ducks and runs for cover::
Point of information: for incidents happening inside US embassies to other countries, FBI has jurisdiction & doesn't have to be invited. I think.